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Pecos Wilderness


John B
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My friend Ed and I decided several weeks ago (more or less on the spur of the moment) to head to the Pecos Wilderness about 40 miles NE of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Our goals were the Truchas group of peaks (Truchas 13,102/Middle Truchas 13,066/North Truchas 13,024) and Pecos Baldy (12,500) along with East Pecos Baldy (12,529).  As I live in Montrose CO (west slope) and my friend Ed lives in the Denver area, we decided to meet at my brothers house in Pueblo, stash my car and continue in Ed's vehicle this past Tuesday.  We arrived at the Jack's Creek trailhead at 5:30pm after a dinner stop in Las Vegas (NM).  Found a nice campsite and car camped for the evening.  I would not recommend counting on finding a site on a weekend, based on what we saw on our exit day (Saturday)--it appears this area gets a lot of traffic from nearby Santa Fe and Albuquerque.  We were up early on Wednesday, and set off to our targeted basecamp near Pecos Baldy Lake.  This would have been a hike of 8 miles and about 2700 vertical.  However, we made a wrong turn right after crossing Jack's creek at the five mile mark--totally missed a pretty prominent sign.  I will warn you that all signs in the area only indicate a trail number, and not a particular destination.  We were warned by the forest service that trail crews that deadfall would be an issue just below the lake as crews had not yet cleared the area; this was in fact the case--much deadfall that required "bob and weave" off the trail and around.  Highly recommend getting the trails illustrated map Paul Mags mentioned; we didn't have it for this trip, just some 7.5 minute maps and a topo printed from Caltopo.  In any event, we got some bonus miles and vertical, and arrived at PB Lake at 3:30pm, found a great campsite in easy walking distance to the lake.  Camping is not permitted in the lake basin area, but it's only a few hundred yards from good campsites to the lake--easily done with a water bucket.  We were introduced to the local family of deer that evening-three of them--they made a regular stop each morning and evening for the 3 days we were basecamped in the area--would get within 10 feet of us on numerous occasions--not much fear of us.

Thursday morning we slept in as the plan was to climb both East Pecos Baldy and Pecos Baldy peaks, and return to camp.  We found easy access to a saddle above PB Lake's SW aspect, found a defined trail to the summit from there.  Our entire trip was essentially snow free--a pleasant change from further north Colorado where the higher peaks are still snowcapped.  We first summited E PB, hung out and enjoyed the views--had a great view to the north of Truchas peak, and could easily pick out our proposed route and determine that it was totally snow free as it was south facing.  We did have a small (15 foot) snow bank to negotiate on our climb of EPB, but that was our only encounter with snow the entire trip.  After a snack, we continued westward on a 3/4 mile ridge to Pecos Baldy peak.  While relaxing with lunch, we were surprised by a good sized bighorn sheep ram who was ascending the same ridge we just came up (did get a picture of this dude).  He appeared a bit surprised to see us, and chose to skirt around us and continue westward--good thing as we didn't want to get in any dispute with the guy!  We relaxed at this summit for an hour or so, and reversed our route back to camp, arriving early afternoon, as total for the day was only 4 miles and 1700 vertical.  We saw a fair number of other hikers even though it was mid-week.  A group of 17 folks from a summer camp in nearby Glorietta NM stayed near us on our first night in (Wednesday) but after that only one other group was camped 100 yards or so from us.  Pretty peaceful area!

Friday, we were up early with a goal of the Truchas group.  We had decided that, if we climbed several it would be Truchas and middle Truchas as continuing to N Truchas appeared to involve a longer more technical ridge, and more importantly meant that we then would have had to drop into a tree covered area that could have involved significant snow and a much longer day.  The Truchas group was about 4 miles north of our basecamp at PB Lake.  Most of that distance was along a sweet alpine tundra ridge called trailriders wall.  Easy hiking, and a great trail.  We ascended via Truchas peak's south ridge. As we arrived at a high meadow/saddle at 12,000 feet we surprised a herd of (at least) 20 bighorn sheep.  They were encamped right in the middle of the meadow we had to traverse to continue on our route.  We carefully and slowly skirted around them, as the alpha male wateched us--he seemed to say "come on guys, just try something!"  After negotiating this truce with the sheep, we continued on to the summit--a steep but easy scramble to the top, arriving at 10am under clear skies.  We saw only two small clouds the first 3 days of our trip.  Hung out at the summit, enjoyed the views and had lunch.  From Truchas' summit, we could see the extent of a forest fire that we estimated had happened a few years back--we had hiked thru a portion of it on our way in to PB Lake but had not realised it's extent until this view.  As we reversed our route back down the mountain, arrived at "sheep meadow" to find our buddies still there!  We again skirted carefully around the guys and continued on our way.  Enjoyed the stroll back along trailriders wall, then back down to our camp, arriving 3:30pm.  We got plenty of hang time at our basecamp, which made the whole trip feel relaxed and unhurried.

Saturday, we were up even earlier as we planned to also drive back to Colorado--we hit the trail at 6am, were back to the trailhead and our vehicle at 9:30am, stopped for lunch in Las Vegas and arrived in Pueblo at 4am to retrieve my vehicle and part ways.  Were blessed with a temperature of 102 degrees there--quite a change from the pleasant nights of 40 degrees at our basecamp at 11,500 for the previous 3 1/2 days!  

We were amazed at how lush the Pecos Wilderness was--not what one would think about New Mexico!  Planning a return sometime in the near future!!

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Looks like a great trip. My trips to the Pecos were never long enough. I went around a dozen times and never saw half of the place. Would love to go back some day and finally do all 3 Truchas Peaks in a day and explore Rio Quemado.

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It's Mag's and reports like John's that has me penciling in time for the Pecos Wilderness and Bandelier Nat Monument, and the Sandia Crest  for this fall. THX to both you guys.

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