Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Spent the weekend backpacking in the Pecos Wilderness of northern New Mexico, a place that I've visited pretty much every year for a good while, now. I mostly take short backpacks into the wilderness area and do a bit of fishing and looking around. Like many beautiful alpine wilderness areas, the Pecos is "heavily loved". Even so, it is a fine place to see some of the best mountain scenery in the Southwest.

Got rained on halfway to the first day's goal, something you don't expect in June. A few hours under a tarp watching lightning march up the canyon is just part of the game in July, but a bit of a surprise this time of year. Moisture is always welcome, though, whether rain or the still extensive remnants of this past winters' snow pack, the first good one in a few years.

It is a continual wonder to me how just about every trip outdoors results in something of particular interest. This one brought about a couple of observations outside my previous experience. The first was a recent kill of a snowshoe hare along the trail. The young hare had been hit by an owl or a hawk, from the recency of the kill and the location (an open shoulder of the trail in fairly dense spruce) I'd bet owl. The bird had taken an eye, some meat off the head, and peeled back skin and some ribs to get to the heart and lungs. Prior to this, I hadn't realized that snowshoe hares extended this far down into New Mexico. I'd seen them up near the Colorado border, but never twenty air miles (and three thousand feet in elevation) from Santa Fe. The other was a close encounter with the bighorn sheep that live in the highest country up there. Despite a number of visits to their frequent haunts, I'd never run into the sheep in the Pecos. I've talked to people who have seen them, frequently at petting-zoo range, but never run into them myself until this trip. My previous bighorn sightings have all been at much greater distance and I was surprised at how tall they stand. With their rounded bodies, bighorns appear more compact from a distance than they do up close. Very cool.

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