We drove up to Jack's Creek campground north of Santa Fe Monday evening and slept in our vans over night. We were on the trail by 7AM yesterday morning with our sights set on the 12,500 feet peak of the East Pecos Baldy mountain. It's 9 miles from the campground to the peak with a 4,100 feet incline over those 9 miles. By the time we hit the Pecos Baldy Lake - which is a natural resting place before ascending to the peak - a storm started brewing in the east. We quickly ate and began our final climb, and as we did, the thunder began to roar in the distance.
When we were about 200 feet from the top, it began to rain. The storm was moving in fast, so much so that a group of hikers who were very close to the top decided to turn back. They passed us heading down, warning us of the high winds above. Pat asked me what I thought we should do. I couldn't tell him what I really wanted to do...die! By that time, I was hurting. The air was thin, the climb was getting steeper and steeper, and the trail was covered with jagged, shifting rocks. The thin air and steep incline forced us to stop to catch our breath about every 20-30 feet that we climbed. As exhausted as I was, we were so close to the top that I didn't want to turn back. So, I told Pat that we should go for it...and we did.
The boys scurried on ahead (oh to be 12 again!), and Pat and I forged on. When we reached the top, we were greeted by a monstrous cloud wall heading right toward us. It was quite surreal. Knowing that we were completely exposed to the storm at 12,500 feet, we quickly slapped high fives, took a few pictures, and promptly began our ascent back down. As we raced off of the peak, the clouds roared in and enveloped us. At times, we could barely see each other. It was truly "a walk in the clouds." Amazingly, we didn't get very wet, and once we were off the summit, the clouds seemed to roll around us but not over us.
I wish I could tell you some deep spiritual truth that I learned while walking in the clouds, but I really can't think of any. It was a bit frightening, but I really was fully aware that God was in control during all of it. I was actually more concerned about how bad I felt, knowing that the climax of conquering the peak meant that we were only half way done with the hike. We had nine more grueling miles to go to get back to the camp!
All in all, it was an awesome experience. Nothing like being with your son and some good friends on top of the world! However, I don't think I'll ever do that hike again! As I write, I'm lying in bed applying an ice / heat regiment to my left knee. I think I really messed it up yesterday, so please pray for me. I don’t know whether this is something that will get better as the rest of my sore body does or not. Please pray that it does.
I'm not opposed to trying to conquer some of New Mexico's other mountain peaks, I just want to find some that I can park a little closer to next time!