Exploring and Creating on the Road… Jacks Creek, Pecos National Forest
Our escape from the desert heat brought us to the Pecos National Forest just east of Santa Fe. We camped at Panchuella campground last year and loved it! However, this year we landed there just before the 4th of July holiday weekend and the pickin’s were slim to none. We ventured higher to Jack’s Creek campground. Now, normally, we wouldn’t go for a campground but our water supply was very low and the dispersed camping available in that region doesn’t have water close by. We came across the last site available; complete with a welcoming chippie (chipmunk) perched on the picnic table. I took it as a good sign so we scooted into the space and started unloading our gear. Soon after, Grant, the campground host stopped by and gave us such a warm welcome that the idea of staying in a campground didn’t seem so bad. However, the next day, someone with a generator that sounded like an old lawnmower, started up at 7am for their RV. On the Brightside, that was how we met our first Ewok! Her name is Annie and due to the 45* chill that morning, she had donned her furry woodsmen’s hat. It just so happens that she and her husband, Lowell are artists, activists and love the outdoors as much as we do, if not more. What a treat!
Now, I could go on a rant about the inconsiderate parents that let their kids play with whistles all day long,(who does that???) or the boisterous adults that partied late into the night(3 nights in a row) but I’ll pass. We took delight in a really fast bike ride down the mountain road and wore ourselves out hiking and dragging our bikes up the hill. Thing is, we took refuge in the beauty of the mountainside, flirted with the hummingbirds and did a lot of deep breathing.
Once we felt we were used to the altitude, at 8500’, we decided to do our first major hike to Pecos Baldy Lake. The views were spectacular, the aspens woods were intoxicatingly fragrant and even the burnt wood forest seemed ethereal. While crossing one of the creeks, (probably Jack’s) with Alfredo in the lead, suddenly 2 dogs charged out of the woods, barking ferociously in an attack mode! Alfredo immediately became the BEAR which totally confused the dogs but they didn’t cower either. While I was yelling out to the owners to get their #&%^@#dogs, Alfredo grabbed some rocks and sunk one right on the shoulder of the alpha dog that sent him then scampering up the hill to his master with a whine. That will get your adrenaline going. The rest of our sojourn was peaceful and exhausting. It took us over 5 hours to reach the magnificence of the lake in the sky. Alfredo had energy enough to go for a swim. It was a bit muddy in the shallows but eventually gave him enough depth to swim out to the center of the lake and back.
. I, on the other hand, couldn’t move! I found a comfortable spot, on a rock under a tree, took some photos of a herd of some Big Horn Sheep on the top ridge, had a little snack and a snooze. Meanwhile, “ Mr Energy Man” went over to the spring on the edge of the lake, enjoyed a brilliant conversation with fellow hikers and drank a lot of the fresh clear spring mountain water. We hung out for a couple of hours before heading back. Everyone else, possibly 20 to 30 hikers, set up their tents sprawled across the SNOW laden hillside and accompanying woods and bundled up for a very cold night. What we found out later, that our friend, Lowell, hiked up to the area where the Sheep were hanging out and spent the night up there (no tent) in the saddle of the ridge and found it quite pleasant and not nearly as cold as ‘the bowl” of the lake.
It only took 4 hours for the return trip so the total was 11 hours on this 15 mile trek. It was a marathon feat for both of us. Along the way down this trail, recounting the meadows and forests in reverse, you would think that we were considering what we shall feast on, upon our return. Truth is, once I thought of a tub of cold water for our feet, it was, indeed, the first thing we did as we trudged into our camp.
The original plan was to pack up and leave the next day. No way Jose’! We slept in until 8am, made some coffee and laid back down again. Later, I strolled around the campground, dreading the slight uphill curve when I stopped to visit with Eva, Grant’s wife, who was sanding down one of the picnic tables while Grant was replacing some the wood. Most of the crowd left and the place was peaceful once again. We bid everyone a fond farewell the next day and headed northwest again and stopping in Abiquiu, New Mexico.