Overnight at Hamilton Mesa

Hamilton Mesa is a beautiful place high in the Pecos Wilderness, one valley over the Sangre de Christo mountains from Santa Fe. Because it takes a while to drive and then hike there – and because I wanted to be there with evening and early morning light – I decided to spend a night. To save room, I just brought a hammock instead of a sleeping bag. Even so, with my cameras and tripods, plus water and some food, it felt like a significant weight on the hike in.

There was a little bit of a storm around, but the main one was supposed to be in a day or so, and I wanted some clouds as opposed to a clear sky. But it rained lightly off and on, and I had to keep my cameras covered, with one in a cheap waterproof housing so I could take photos without worrying too much. Occasionally I sheltered under trees waiting for the rain to pass, and then headed back to my hammock as it got dark.

I really thought I had it worked out. I had rain gear on so if it rained on me I wouldn’t mind, and a hat to cover my face. What I hadn’t realized, though, was how cold it got up there at night. Eventually, after shivering kept me awake, I built a fire and stayed by it’s warmth for the rest of the night.

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The path to Hamilton Mesa goes through a pine and aspen forest. In the distance is the valley of the Mora river.
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The sunset was pretty much obscured by clouds. One never knows what it will be like each time. even when it’s not perhaps the ideal lighting conditions, it’s always amazing up there. A forest bath.
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In front of the setting sun is the aspen forest on the slopes of the mesa, where my hammock was.
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This is just after the sun set, looking southeast. 
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Occasionally I would stop under a tree and wait for the rain to let up.
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Looking towards Truchas Peaks as rain blows over. Around this time i heard a very large group of coyotes; much more intimidating when you’re camping!
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Just as night falls in the aspen forest. The moon was pretty bright.
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Here’s the fire that saved me from being so cold! 
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Looking out from the forest as the moon rose.
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This is the light before dawn; things are just beginning to emerge from the darkness.
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Walking towards the peak of Hamilton Mesa as the sun was about to rise, about 4:30.
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Looking east as the sun rises.
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Truchas Peaks, just catching the sun, as is the peak that I’m on.
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One camera was going as I walked around with my other one. I’m wearing a LOT of clothes.
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Day beginning outside the aspen forest.
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Real morning now, and the sun is starting penetrate into the woods.
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This is a view looking southwest on the way back to the car. 

Spring Snow in the Mountains

Spring can be pretty unpredictable in Santa Fe, going from warm and sunny one day to snow and hail the next. I saw a storm coming into the mountains and thought it might be my last chance to spend some time in the aspens while they’re standing in snow. It was about 4:30 so I walked the dogs and headed up as fast as I could.

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It was lightly snowing and pretty deep snow on the ground when I started climbing – the trail is strenuous at first; but then when one comes to the where the ground is somewhat more level there is a tremendous sense of exhilaration at how beautiful and hidden it is. The snow got stronger to the point where it was difficult to take photographs – but really really beautiful – and I thought I better start heading down as it was getting darker all the time.

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I started back, and then suddenly the sun broke through and the snow stopped. It was as if the clock had turned back an hour. So I wandered around some more – everywhere I looked it was amazing. Finally as the sun set I slowly, somewhat reluctantly, headed back down to the car. Such soul food up there!

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The White Place

I spent an afternoon and night at La Plaza Blanca, made well known by Georgia O’Keeffe’s affinity for the place and her wonderful paintings. It’s not a place that many people visit, especially in winter, and it was wonderful to spend a very quiet night (with the coyotes for company) and early morning there.

It feels like the world that we all live in these days is very far away here, and there is a tremendous beauty; especially when the sun has just set or is just beginning to rise. I am very grateful to the Dar Al Islam mosque, on whose land it sits, for allowing people to appreciate it.

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Jemez River Canyon

So here’s the thing. I’ve been a few times to this beautiful place where the east fork of the Jemez river travels through this beautiful little meadow with volcanic rock formations along it. But the trail stops about 2 miles in, and the river goes through a steep canyon where there is no room for a trail, and very steep cliffs. There’s another way in from the other side, but that stops at the canyon as well.

So I went out and bought some waders and strapped my crampons on them and headed out the other day. It’s a really beautiful place, absolutely quiet and remote feeling. It’s a little hard to tell from Santa Fe what the weather is going to be like, so it was overcast much of the time, but still very worth seeing.

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This is the entrance from the west side, where I had to stop last time.
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Looking down from the first cliff.
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Heading into the canyon
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this was taken by a Russian drone that went by
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I had to climb to get past a steep ice covered fall – this is the view from up there
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Sun breaking through towards the end of the day
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Hillside in shadow and sun
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Here I was following a coyote’s tracks the rest of the way
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Looking east looking back towards the sun hitting the trees
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Late afternoon light
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Lovely little meadow towards the end of the hike