| Truckin' Up Truchas Peak
Truchas Peaks From E. Pecos Baldy summit (Zach photo)
The Truchas Peaks have always seemed a little out of reach for me. The easiest route begins in the heart of Rio Arriba County, New Mexico's largest. While its landscapes inspired the likes of Georgia O'Keefe, host the sacred Santuario de Chimayo,, and produce chile that Hatch can only wish it grew, there are reasons to tread carefully there. If the lowriders in Espanola don't get you on your way to the TH, you still have to be careful. This is the dominion of old-school Spanish families who've been here for 400 years or more, and a little haphazard moping around could reveal some other crops besides chile, growing hidden among the scenery. Rumors abound in and outside New Mexico about vandalism at this TH. While living in NM, I met two folks who'd had their tires slashed and/or windows smashed while hiking these peaks, and could find no one willing to drive a car there or who wanted to backpack via the longer two routes that leave from safer spots. Eventually, I moved to Colorado, where partners were no more easy to find. "Why should I hike a peak somewhere besides Colorado?" "How far a drive is it?" "It's only a 13er? I need to finish the list before I think about that." Etc. Etc.
Every spring, I make a wish list of peaks to hike. Every winter, I lament not making it back to the Pecos Wilderness for Truchas Peak. Fortunately, 2013 brought an end to all that. Chris (inAZ) and I finally made a plan to milk the Memorial Day weekend for a road trip to New Mexico. Jason (jsayrevt) was more than interested, and recruited his wife, Ashley, and buddy Zach (zxbraves). A shout out to Tom (Tommyboy360) brought us to a group of six, and we began chomping at the bit in early May, counting down the days until our huge road trip and my chance to introduce good friends to the magnificent Pecos Wilderness, where I began my explorations of the Sangres a decade or so ago. As Ash later shared around the campfire, "Truchas, Truchas, Truchas... That's all I've heard him say for weeks!"
Tom showed up at my place around 11:30, and we packed up the FJ, making a quick stop at Wallaby's for a couple bombers of Avery's 20th Anniversary DIPA before heading to pick up Chris in the heart of Nowheresville, USA (Rocky Vista College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker). We loaded up the future Dr. Chris, and hit the road. As usual, Chris hoped to study while we headed southward (pathology these days). We laughed, but promised to keep the music down... Our first stop? Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs. With 300 miles of I-25 ahead, I needed some Mak n' Bacon and a Flo IPA. Having satisfied (some of) our primal urges, we were back on the road. As we passed through Trinidad, Tom revealed that he'd never heard of its place in the annals of gender bending ("An addidictomy? WHAT?"), so we brought him up to speed as we motored on toward Raton Pass. Shortly after we crossed into the Land of Enchantment, the sky opened up and a deluge of golf-ball sized hail began to fall. People started pulling over. It sounded like a bunch of elves were hammering on my roof and soon, we could see tracks several inches deep in the road ahead. Impassively, I kept going, and things cleared up. Whew. About 20 minutes later, it started again. This time, cuties were falling from the sky and I really thought my windshield was gonna be a goner. Five minutes later, the hail was replaced by sunny skies. Ah, New Mexico. As Governor Lew Wallace said in 1881,"'All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico.'' I love this place. We stopped in Las Vegas, NM, hoping to find some groceries and maybe some dinner. Stymied by poor cell service, we finally found a grocery store on the map, and started heading over. We were slowed by a caravan of three cop cars, one of which was pulling a trailer. It's been a while since I lived there, so I failed to recognize the omen. We got our food and started to pull out of the parking lot. Immediately ahead was a brand-spankin' new DUI checkpoint (at 6pm). Fourth Amendment be damned! While I was sober as as stick, these things piss me off, so I did the unthinkable--I pulled a U-turn and headed the other way. Luckily, there weren't enough cops there yet to chase me down and ask why I didn't want to be stopped without any good reason, and we were back on the way to Pecos. We stopped at my old favorite Griego's Market for some "gas station pizza" and headed up NM 63 toward Cowles and the Jacks Creek Campground as the sun slipped away for another day. We found a site, set up our tents, and built a roaring fire under a full moon. It doesn't get much better than this.
The others rolled in around 12:30, and we hit the sack dreaming of peaks to come.
Hit me with those laser beams! (Tom photo)
Start at the Jacks Creek TH (8850') and hike to camp above Pecos Baldy Lake at around 11,429ft.
8.45 miles; about 3300' gain
Knowing we had an entire day to hike a long, but gentle grade to camp, we woke up around 8am and started hiking around 9:15am.
Trail 25 (Beatty's Trail) gains 1000' in a shady, forested first 1.5 miles before opening up in a gorgeous meadow and joining with Trail 257, the Jacks Creek Trail. Here, the views open up, and we took a little photo and water break before heading through grassy meadows with big views. Here are a few shots of the approach to camp.
Views open up past the forest
We shared the trail with Texan and Okie horsemen galore (Tom photo)
The Sayres were sporting some fancy dinner plans, and we dubbed them "Team Cup O' Noodle"
(Photo by Tom)
When Round Mountain came in to view, we dropped our packs and put our peakbagger hats on for a random 10er.
While the summit was treed in, we did find some bones along the way, Chris didn't care. Quite the opposite...
We think this was the remains of a cow...
Eventually, we made it to Pecos Baldy Lake and began to set up camp.
First view of E. Pecos Baldy and the lake (Zach photo)
Everyone got busy setting up tents, looking for firewood, etc. Tom and I cracked the beers we'd hauled up--the hallowed Renegade Elevation. While Jason struggled with the flow rate of his new ceramic water filter, Chris commented, "Watching Jason pump water is like watching an 80 year old man try and take a leak." I hope he learned what that's like in his urology courses...
A guy from Kansas came into our camp and mentioned that his son had done Truchas that day, but that the standard route, Trail 251 up to Trailriders Wall, was snowed in, requiring a detour around the lake and onto the wall. I took this as a good sign.
Chris, Jason, and Zach decided to use the rest of our daylight to make the quick 1100' jaunt to the summit of East Pecos Baldy. Having hiked this one before, I took a nap.
Down at the lake, we found all kinds of crazily contorted driftwood. One piece looked just like, well, like a whole lot of things to different people. To me, it looked like a Druid giving a speech. Too cool to burn, we made it our "Fire Mascot," and hope to establish this tradition on all our future backpacks.
Here's the Mascot in all its glory...
We stayed up late, late enough for conversation to get really silly. When Chris proposed "Truchas or Dare," everyone stopped. With only one (married) woman around the fire, this idea had to go nowhere fast, and, thankfully, we just laughed it off. I deflected this by telling the legend of the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch stalker... One night, not long ago, at about 2:30 a.m., a car pulled into this TH with three sober individuals and one who'd done some serious damage to a bottle of schnapps on the drive down. They intended to start hiking immediately and get Redcloud at sunrise. The besotted one got out of the car and started screaming at maximum volume, ""NATALIE! NATALIE, WHERE ARE YOU? I'M LOOKING FOR YOU, NATALIE!!!" This continued for some time until people not named Natalie got out of their tents/cars with a round of "Shut the Hell Up, Jerk!" among other things. This story amused our group to no end. BTW, this person just happened to both finish the schnapps on the way up the peak and be the first to summit. Legendary, indeed.
Eventually, people started hitting the tents. It sounded like everyone but myself and Tom were out, but I could hear Chris rustling around in his tent. All of a sudden, I hear, "NATALIE!" followed by a thud and scream of pain from Tom. He'd decided to give Chris a scare and paid for it with a backhand to the face. Tom came back to the fire with a grimace and a hand on his honker. Anyone who knows Chris should be as shocked as I was. He's the kind of guy who apologizes for killing spiders. Amazing.
8.5 miles round trip; about 2600' net gain
An alpine start at 7:15 a.m. took us around the lake, and up a steep slope (Chris photo)...
...to the first view of Truchas Peak.
Truchas Peaks seen en route from Pecos Baldy Lake
We rounded a corner...
Sidehilled on some talus...
Then found ourselves looking up at our first herd of bighorns for the day.
Bighorn sausage party
After the requisite gawking and photos, we headed onward, hitting Trailrider's Wall in no time. I like hikes where the goal is obvious. They're inspiring.
Trailrider's Wall on the right
Eventually, we had to drop a few hundred feet off the wall.
As we headed up the remaining grind toward our goal, some wild tundra flowers appeared.
We reached a flat, grassy plateau and another trip highlight.
A second herd of bighorns was not only in view, but directly in our path. While we scrambled to take more pics, their reactions varied. Most just sat there, especially the moms/babies, some headed away from us, but a few gutsy ones crept in close. This guy, who I nicknamed "Bug Eyes," was looking for a handout. He bit my hand the first time, but was content to lick the sweat off my fingers after that.
Finally, this stretch of grassy talus called our names.
Once atop that little knoll, the summit and remaining work were in view.
Zach checking it out (Tom photo)
We took a break, and I looked down at Jose Vigil Lake.
Then, we chugged up the rest of this talus stuff...
..to a glorious summit with incredible views of the New Mexican Sangres & Jemez Mountains, desert to the west, and plains to our east.
Photos don't do justice to the beauty found in the Pecos Wilderness, but we gave it our best shots. Here are a few.
Looking south toward Santa Fe Baldy and Sandia Peak (Tom photo)
Looking north toward N. Truchas Peak with the Wheeler group in the distance (Zach photo)
Here's Chimayosos Peak, 12841ft (Photo by Chris)
We had perfect weather, sublime views, great company, and nothing but time, so we hung around on the summit for a long time.
We found plenty to do beyond take this group summit shot.
The cornice pictured above became a target, as we became determined to knock it in by tossing big rocks onto its edge.
It held up well, but Jason tossed a huge chunk of summit boulder its way, creating a big hole and a new game: Cornice Hole.
Eventually, our arms tired and we surrendered to the cornice. It wasn't going anywhere unless someone wanted to walk out on it. We had originally planned to hit N. Truchas, New Mexico's third and lowest 13er, but the idea had lost its moxy. It looked a long way off, and our planned return route by Truchas Lake was buried in snow. We packed up and headed downward toward camp.
After about a mile, we saw two guys heading toward us from the direction of camp. Clad in shorts and gaiters, they approached and asked, "Ya'll coming from Truckas?" No, that's not a typo. "Truckas," as in F150, Silverado, or Mack. Everyone kept a straight face and offered encouragement without correction. They moved on. We gave them about a minute and laughter filled the air. We hoped the wind drowned it out. Truckas! That became the buzzword for the remainder of our trip. We hope you made it to the summit, you all.
Our hike back to camp was uneventful, and we decided that packing up, then hiking the 7ish miles out to the car and finding a campsite on a holiday weekend sounded a little much.
We built another roaring fire and enjoyed just doing nothing in a beautiful place.
Monday morning, Tom was hungry for green chile and set a blistering pace back to the cars. I slipped on the iPod and lost myself in the scenery and this classic show from 5/8/1977.
We were back at the cars in no time.
While the Sayres and Zach had to hit the road for home, Tom, Chris, and I had chile on the brain. A big part of this trip for me was introducing my friends to some of the amazing things found in the Land of Enchantment. Good New Mexican food was certainly on the menu. We headed through Pecos and made a beeline for the Horseman's Haven cafe in Santa Fe. Their carne adovada enchiladas with green chile are among my favorite meals anywhere. I wish there was food like this in Denver...
Green chile heaven at the Haven
Chris dove into his meal, eating like he was possessed by Takeru Kobayashi, then suddenly stopped. He looked up at Tom, face more crimson than his Arizona State t-shirt, rivulets of sweat making their way down his cheeks. "I need ice water... And napkins." Undaunted, he cleaned his plate. Impressive.
After stops at the Marble Brewing tap room balcony overlooking the Santa Fe plaza (best people watching spot ever) and the Santa Fe Brewing Company, I had a silly pair of passengers, and we hit the road for Denver. I'm already looking forward to my next trip down to New Mexico.
Thanks to "Team Truckas" for coming down to New Mexico, and thanks for reading.
Overall stats (not including E. Pecos Baldy): 24 miles r/t, about 5500' gain.
Summitpost Truchas Peak Page
LoJ Truchas Peak Quad
Scott Surgent's trip report
Cincybearcats' trip report
We searched Santa Fe for some tallboys of La Cumbre Elevated IPA. Without reservation, I'm calling this the best canned IPA out there and perhaps the best single IPA I've ever had. If you find yourself in Albuquerque or Santa Fe and like IPAs, you owe it to yourself to find some or, better yet, visit the brewery in ABQ. Here's my summer backpacking quiver:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):