Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taos Ski Valley - Hike to Williams Lake

Roger here....  WE MADE IT TO THE FINISH!!!!!  No. Not to the finish of the hike.  We just made it to the end of the steeply-graded gravel road to the parking area where the hike begins.  The fourteen mile drive to the Taos Ski Village began on a smooth, but curvy paved road.  The alpine scenery (as opposed to the dry areas around Taos) was scenic.  Our friend, Jay, would call it pleasing - mountain streams, fragrant pine trees, intriguing cliffs.  Chaplin was not thrilled with the ride (curvy roads can be added to the list of things he is fearful of), but it was scenic.

Good!  We reached the village.  The parking for the trail head to Williams Lake is just on the other side of the resort area.  There's the directional sign, just ahead!  Uh Oh.  What happened to the pavement?  And why are we now going up steeply inclined switchbacks?  And why is the road so narrow?  ORANGE ROAD CONSTRUCTION SIGNS!  A man in a back hoe.  Creeping along in first gear.  Hope we don't meet another car.  Miles and miles.  At least 50.  Well probably five, but it seemed like fifty.

OK.  We made it to the trail head parking area.  The tough times are behind us.  There's the trail head sign and information.  It said to beware of bears.  OK.  We'll make enough noise to scare them off.  It also said to beware of cougars and to make yourself look large. I am five foot six.  I am not large.  Oh well, we are not turning back after the drive to get here.  Let's go.  Besides, the view from the trail head was reason enough to continue, and the trail was advertised as moderate (for novices).  How hard could it be for two sixty-year-old humans and two dogs (70 and 56 years old in dog years)?

Jasper and Chaplin were in their element.  They love to hike.  Jasper was a particular help as he dragged me up the ever-upward (two plus miles up and two plus miles down) trail.  The scenery was amazing - mountains, pine forests, wildflowers, boulder fields, birds (a gray jay - new sighting for Dianne), and other friendly hikers (many with dogs).  It was also uphill all the way (900 feet), some of it scrambling up rock.  (Dianne here:  We started at such a high altitude that there was frost on the grass at the beginning of the trail.  We were glad we'd worn long pants and sweatshirts.)

  After a robust beginning, we began to fade in the high altitude.  After all, we are flatlanders from Indiana.  What do you expect?  We fell into the habit of stopping every hundred yards to catch our breath, often finding a boulder to place our derriers.  It was a little humbling, but we ran into several others who were doing the same thing.  We passed a lean-to on the way up.  Evidently someone decided to rest for more than a few minutes.

Up. Up. Up.  What?  What do you mean you have to go to the bathroom?  You went in the port-o-potty at the trail head!  If you know Dianne, you know that she must really have had to go if she left part of her clothing on a rock while I watched for other hikers.  (What do you expect when you take a 60-year-old woman on a hike in the morning after two cups of coffee???  -- D) 

Up. Up. Up.  What?  You have to go again? You just went!  There aren't any trees here.  It was all worth it though, as Dianne spotted her first gray jay while she was peeing.  She did find a tree a short distance away. (The grey jays were almost tame.  This one landed on a branch about two feet from my head and watched the whole procedure).

Are we almost there?  We're surely not going to turn back now.  The view had better be worth it.  Wow! It was worth it.  Williams Lake is in a valley completely surrounded by tall peaks.  By the end of the first half of the trip we had ascended more than 900 feet to an elevation of more than 11,000 feet, and had traveled two and a half miles.  What a magical place; also a sense of accomplishment.  We lingered with other hikers for about a half hour before psyching up for the return trip.

The trip back was a snap.  No surprise since we were going down all the way.  No bathroom breaks. No breaks to catch our breath.  Our only concern was falling on loose gravel, which did happen to me, but only once.  We did not see any wild life larger than squirrels, birds and a mouse.  No bears.  No cougars.  There were enough hikers on the trail to scare anything larger than that to a quieter place.

We passed by the Bavarian Inn at the end of the trail, an appealing log structure that did indeed look Bavarian.  (This place obviously is a hangout during ski season.  The chair lift was right across the parking area.  There was a sign on the side of the restaurant:  "No seating - avalanche area" due to the steep slope of the roof line.)

 People were eating lunch on the deck, and we were famished.  The waitress, dressed in a German costume, told us that we could eat on the deck with the dogs if we sat away from the other people.  Deal.  We both ordered the "house" salad and a German beer.  You might ask why we would order a salad after all that exercise.  Look at the picture.  The salad was topped with brauts.  It may sound strange, but it was delicious. (They were the leanest brats I've ever had -- no gristly fat at all).

 It was also fun to watch the other hikers as they finished their hike and ambled onto the deck for refreshment and nourishment.  

What a great morning in New Mexico.  We left Taos the next morning, traveling 60 miles to a Corps of Engineers campground on the Abiquiu Reservoir.  Oh my gravy, what a gorgeous place.  We are liking New Mexico.

In case you missed our last post, we have posted two days in a row.


Nancy and Bill said...

You two are toooo much!! Thanks for taking us up the trail. We loved the views and the commentary.

Can't wait to go on your next adventure. New Mexico is really special. We're filing these locations for our future travels!!

Margie and Roger said...

Great posts from New Mexico. You certainly got to see some beautiful scenery. I love the New Mexico sunsets.