Our house in St. Augustine stands 11 feet above sea level. It may not seem like much, but it’s proven high enough to keep coastal flooding from our front door. But at what cost? Leah and I wondered if marinating at sea level throughout the pandemic may have also made the two of us soft.
While we routinely took beach walks, cycled marathon distances and paddled local creeks and lakes during a year-long quarantine, we had some doubts about whether we were fully prepared for our first alpine hiking challenge of the summer.
From Taos Ski Village, we drove up a winding dirt road past residences and restaurants to Kachina Village (elev. 10,350 ft.), and found overflow parking behind Bavarian Restaurant. We thought our arrival was timely, but there were so many other vehicles parked at 10 am that we wondered if we were late starting out.
It was a brief hike to the the trailhead,
which we found just beyond the ski lift wheelhouse. I locked the scene in my mind for future reference. I believed this hike was clearly beer-credit worthy.
Already, a family had flocked to the snowmelt runoff to cool down from the heat.
Once we crossed the Bavarian bridge, we were on the trail.
It was a steady climb past rushing water…
until we reached the snowline, halfway through our trek.
We were mindful of taking plenty of breaks along the way to hydrate, catch our breaths, and snap some photos.
The second half of the hike was a bit steeper and more slippery, as snowmelt made the trail slushy and unavoidably muddy in places.
But we were almost there…
Finally, after climbing 700 feet over the course of 2 miles, we made it to our destination: Williams Lake (elev. 11,040 ft.)
“Any interest in hiking the rest of the way to Wheeler Peak?” I teased. “It’s only another 2 miles to the summit from here.”
“Not a chance!” Leah asserted. “Besides, it’s time for lunch and time to enjoy the view.”
We didn’t spot much wildlife at the lake–just a variety of unidentified birds and a hungry chipmunk who stole a Lance cracker when I was looking the other way.
A hiker told us of a hidden pond behind the lake, which piqued my interest, but it required a fair amount of rock scrambling to get there.
“Not for me,” sighed Leah, “but I think you should do it.”
That’s the only invitation I needed. Once outside the rock debris zone, I traipsed through knee deep snow, until I rounded the bend…
for a view of a crystal clear and frigid pond fed by distant peaks of the Sangre de Cristo. It was breathtaking, but this time it was not elevation-related.
Surprisingly, there were many hikers on their way up the mountain, as we were on our way out. When we emerged from the forest, I was hot and thirsty,
and ready to claim my reward.