Breathe, Water. Breathe, Switchback. Breathe, Peak.

Escaping into a world where the only things you hear are: Your own breath, the babbling brook, and the songs various songbirds. These are some of the reasons one seeks wilderness. In order to best understand Wheeler Peak Wilderness and its respective summit I needed to be inside its boundaries.

Waking up one Saturday around 6 am at the Cuchilla Del Medio campground I sip my coffee and pour over a map and plan for the day. To enter the wilderness I find myself at the Bull of the Woods trailhead, just below the bull of the woods meadow and then gradually cross over the ridge and into La Cal Basin, a glorious alpine basin in the shadows of my prized destination Wheeler Peak.

Pausing for a moment to look behind and at this point a glimpse into the entire journey to this point comes into view, looking east along the gradual slope of Bull of The Woods Mountain. A sense of pride, joy and physical exertion all at the same time. These reasons and many others are why I choose to spend my day in Wilderness.  After this brief pause, it’s now time to return to the ascent.  

In addition to reflecting on where I came from, I can see Wheeler in the distance like a sentinel rising above all around with its jagged talus slopes, the state’s highest peak now is in direct sight.  At this point encounters are few, as this is the longer route to the summit and thus perhaps less traveled than my exit route of Williams Lake on the newest trail in the Wilderness, a short steep switchback filled exit route.

Moments later the main ridge a junction is reached. This junction where I have now departed the Bull of the Woods trail and am on the main ridge towards Wheeler Peak. Looking off in the distance I see, the appropriately named, Horseshoe Lake far down below this ridge and the summit of Wheeler Peak in very clear striking distance. 

At last, now the summit has been reached. Here amongst the tallest peak in New Mexico the crowds have increased dramatically and the views are unparalleled. There is something special about standing in the alpine zone amongst the talus and looking down and viewing a mosaic and patchwork of mountains and even the Rio Grande gorge and the high desert sagebrush landscape below. 

Dave JacobsRegion 3 Wilderness Fellow for the Columbine-Hondo and Wheeler Peak Wilderness Areas.

Dave cultivated his orientation to the natural world in the Green Mountains of Vermont.  His travels and work have taken him to work in mid-coast Maine, the backcountry of Olympic National Park and most recently the Cumberland Plateau of East Tennessee.  His constantly evolving sense of adventure keeps him busy on his mountain bike, road bike, skis; behind the camera lens; or thumbing through a field guide. When he’s not adventuring, Dave can be found reading books, bird watching, or making a deliciously strong cup of coffee.   Most recently Dave completed his master’s degree in conservation biology at Green Mountain College. In this graduate work his thesis focused on mapping and inventorying the plant communities of the Tennessee River Gorge.  Above all else Dave enjoys taking in a good day outside.
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