Santa Fe Baldy Loop

The forecast calls for warm weather, so we decide to risk another hike in the high country. This time we drive to the trailhead after work on Friday, with a couple of hours of light to get us started. I love hiking at twilight, but it doesn’t leave much time to find a campsite. After some wandering around Nambé creek we find one tiny spot under a big Engelman Spruce and snuggle in.

The morning is chilly and breezy. The breeze turns to an icy wind as we ascend. When we reach the ridge, it’s hard to stay upright. We make the summit along with a couple of other hikers, but we’re not inspired to spend much time there. Instead we continue along the ridge, and as we descend toward the melting Lake Katherine the wind becomes more tolerable. There’s a steep meadow to contend with, then a nice lunch break at the lake. Clouds race by above, ice melts into emerald green water below.

We lose the trail in snow below the lake, but find it again before too long. On this side the trail descends in big, mellow switchbacks that seem to go on and on. By the time we reach Spirit Lake we’re ready for an early dinner. I’m experimenting with stoveless meals. Ann had the idea that it might be more practical to eat cereal for dinner, then soak a bean soup or other dehydrated meal overnight for breakfast. It may just work.

Crazy gusts of wind start up from all directions. When the hail pellets start falling, we hastily pack up, making a mockery of donning a poncho. I’m fortunate the rain lets up a bit, so I can turn mine right side out.

We loop back to the nice meadows at Puerto Nambé to camp. The rain has let up, but we practice our drill for pitching the tent in the rain anyway. The key will be to assemble the poles first, we decide. When the tent is pitched I’m satisfied, but hopeful we don’t have to put this method to use too often.

Our final morning is the coldest yet. We’re short on water, but decide to go for the four mile route to the Santa Fe Basin ski area on what we have. The wind is really frigid today, and we encounter frozen snowdrifts that convince us to leave the trail. We wend our way up toward treeline, crossing drifts as infrequently as possible in our Chaco sandals. The bare ridge is a welcome sight when we reach it, but the wind is merciless. I don my poncho again for a windbreaker.

Once again we spend only a few moments on the summits of Penitente and Lake Peak. We don’t warm up until we’re well below treeline in the ski area, where a rock and water provide a warm sunny haven. The wind slowly becomes less intense as we make the final descent, but we haven’t completely forgotten it until we’re in the car where the sun can warm us without interference.

More mappiness at EveryTrail.

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