#24 Wheeler Peak, New Mexico (13,159 ft.)

The first day’s hike from the Taos ski area up to WIlliams Lake was the highest elevation to which I’d ever climbed on foot, so I have to give credit first and foremost to the intrepid Megan, who made the trip while four months pregnant and with baby August strapped to her back. I was hauling up a good deal of weight, but it didn’t squirm or demand water every minute or so.

As anyone who has been to Williams Lake will tell you, your first glimpse of this amazing basin is breathtaking. The rusty peaks looming just above turn a bizarre ocher in the afternoon light. And I swear the water takes on some sort of mystical air, as if a dangerous beast might impossibly lurk beneath it.


Karl, who had been up Wheeler several times earlier in his hiking career, knew an ideal spot to camp for the evening near the inflowing waterfall. Karl, Megan, and August set up camp on one side of the waterfall, and I pitched my little tent down the path a ways, in full view of Wheeler’s summit ridge.


It got cold during the night, and Karl and I were up before dawn to get a good start. We backtracked along the edge of Williams Lake to the trailhead up, and then climbed the switchbacks through the forest.


Honestly the surrounding terrain and the views are so spectacular that if the hike was hard I don’t remember. You’re above treelike before you know it, and you gain the ridge after a fairly civilized hike on a good-quality path through the scree slopes.The summit area is broad, and we had perfect weather for appreciating perhaps the finest panorama in New Mexico.


The register, which I always thought was some sort of cannon buried in a cement block, resembles a bronzed pneumatic tube that has been buried in a cement block. Unscrewing the lid creates a frisson not unlike, I would imagine, the feeling you would get opening a time capsule, which any register is, I suppose.

By the time we took our summit selfies and signed the logbook I was beginning to get a headache, no doubt from spending the night at 11,400 feet, but nothing debilitating. We hiked down, broke camp, and I went ahead to get a headstart on my long drive east to Oklahoma. But not before stopping in Taos for a well-deserved green chile cheeseburger and Coke at Blake’s Lotaburger. Burp...         

Dolley Shot: Wheelerama

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