Thursday, November 2, 2017

Mount Taylor Summit - It's hard to breath at 11,301 feet!

As we were driving down the interstate close to Grants, New Mexico, we couldn't help but notice the mountain to the north. It was taller than anything around it, and we started to wonder if we could get to the top. We found there is a trail to the top, and on our last day of camping at Bar S RV Park, we headed for that trail head.

We're not sure why the trail to the summit of Mount Taylor is called the Gooseberry Spring Trail, but the backpack is packed with a picnic and we're ready to go to the top. We're very familiar with the standard trail head sign, signified by the side-view of two hikers. We look like those two hikers as we started the trail today.

It's almost four miles to the top, and we started at an elevation of over 9,000 feet. That means we're already in the altitude where aspen and pines grow on this beautiful morning.

In more than an hour we have climbed up well over 10,000 feet in elevation, and the trees have definitely thinned. So has the air, and this section is steeper than it looks.

There are fewer trees, but they seem to have a bumper crop of pine cones this year here on Taylor Mountain.

This time of year the mountain top is covered with golden grass, that looks lovely against the bright blue sky. We're approaching more steep switchbacks, and we are struggling with the altitude. When it gets tough, we go another 100 steps before we stop and catch our breath. We had a lot of 100-step breathers as the trail turned steeper.

After 2.5 hours, we made it to the summit--all 11,301 feet of Mt. Taylor. Whew! We haven't seen another soul on the trail today, and we have this mountain-top all to ourselves.

We enjoyed beautiful vistas around us while we ate our picnic lunch. Again, we have wandered (uphill) into more of God's wonders. From here we can see into Colorado to the north and Arizona to the west.

To the south we can see many of the mountain ranges of New Mexico. But what's that lump in the grass in the foreground?

We don't know if it was the thin air up here at the summit, or if Denisa is still recovering from the lava tubes hike. But after lunch, she was tired. So she laid right down in that soft golden grass and took a nap. Warning: If anyone tries to nap, Mark will take a picture.

After that rest time at the top, it was time to head back down-hill. We definitely prefer mountain hiking to canyon hiking. It's so much better to work hard during the first part of the hike, and then enjoy the easy down-hill walk when you are most tired. You can see the z-shaped switchbacks across the grassy face of Mount Taylor. It's so much easier going down!

Have we mentioned how wonderful the weather is? We love fall hiking when you don't need a jacket, but it's cool enough that you don't sweat (too much). We are blessed.

In the brochure describing this Gooseberry Spring trail, Denisa had read that the bark of a ponderosa pine "has a pleasant vanilla scent." So once we got back into the ponderosa forest zone she checked it out. Warning: If anyone tries to sniff a tree, Mark will take a picture.

As we hiked back down to the aspen elevation, we have to think that the only thing that could have made this hike better would have been if these trees were topped with those golden aspen leaves.

We got back to our car, still all alone in the parking lot. We didn't see another person during the entire hike, so we had Mount Taylor completely to ourselves. Aside from a few birds, we didn't even see any wildlife today. It was a great day--and the views at 11,301 feet literally took our breath away!

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