It was Day 2 in a trek through the alpine forests of the Kit Carson National Forest. We’d gotten up a little late that morning for breakfast before heading out on the trail from Lost Lake to the summit of Wheeler Peak.
This was the first time for the group to be in this place, but I’d been here before. For most of them, every new bend in the trail and majestic vista created a new memory. My wife, Becca, was among the group and found countless flowers of various shades, all bright and healthy from a steady dose of daily rain the region had received all summer.
As we began hiking up toward the lip of a basin above us, tall pines obscured what I knew was on the other side. To everyone else, the expectation was probably more trail, more forest, more of what we’d hiked in for the past couple of days. But I knew better. I didn’t stop and tell them what was coming. Instead, I stayed quiet and let the landscape do the talking.
Once we cleared the lip and emerged form the trees, an immense amphitheater opened up before us. At the basin was a crescent-shaped body of water called Horseshoe Lake. On three sides were the vertical walls of Wheeler Peak’s immense summit ridge. And to our right was a grand overlook of the surrounding mountains and forest below.
Words and pictures don’t do it justice. Wheeler Peak is New Mexico’s tallest mountain. It is not hard to climb; there are certainly plenty of mountains in the Sangre de Cristo Range that are much more difficult. But its views from the lake are among the most grand in the Rockies.
I think about that day often and can only hope the rest of the group had the same appreciation for what they saw. The only way to find out was to take them there and let them see such wild places for themselves. The hope is that being there and soaking it all in will give people a new appreciation for the country’s wilderness areas.
It was — and still is — an eye-opener to me. Anything from the grandeur of the scenery to little things — like bighorn sheep nonchalantly walking through our campsite — make for an experience you don’t find in the manicured environs of the suburbs and the nightlife of the city’s entertainment district.
So I guess what I’m saying is this: If you love nature, take some friends out there and share the love. And if you haven’t seen the wilderness yourself, get out there and feel the love.