Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Trails End" - Grand Enchantment Trail

This trail has lived up to it's name highlighting all that is Grand and Enchanting in Arizona and New Mexico. It has also challenged us in ways we have not experienced before. This past week we hiked through the "Apache Kid" and "Withington" Wilderness areas. Both reach heights of over 10,000 ft. We kept an eye to the sky watching for predicted thunderstorms. After visiting with Richard, the fire lookout on Grassy Peak who entertained us with cultural information on the area, we hurried to drop elevation. As we descended from the ridge thunder and lightning cracked all around us. Soon the skies opened up and the rain poured down. We were able to set up camp before the worst of it. it was thrilling to be sheltered safely in the tent while the storm sat directly above us. The thunder and lightning caused us to jump involuntarily. We knew it was a high storm activity area because our maps showed us passing the Langmuir Lightning Lab in the Magdalena Mountains. The storms continued the next afternoon but abated in time for our climb to the lab and the Magdalena Ridge Observatory at 10,400 ft. The Magdalena Mountains are dramatic and diverse with sheer knife ridges and rolling traverses.

While our hiking past has included many miles through cattle country, we have been overwhelmed by the public lands ranching in New Mexico. Beef is King here and it is evident everywhere. The impact is alarming and disheartening.

We reached the town of Magdalena over the Memorial Day weekend. Much of this small town was closed up tight for the holiday. Danielle at "Bear Mountain Coffee House" was our saviour. Not only was she open but she offered tasty food options the likes we have not had much of on this trip. She also offered us the chance to do laundry at her house. As this trail becomes more popular I can see her become a legendary trail angel.

Magdalena is also known as "Trails End". Historically ranchers drove their cattle to Magdalena where they were loaded on trains. The town represented the trails end for those cattle drives. As we reflected on this, we both decided that the idea resonated with us and Magdalena will be our "Trails End".

GET photos - Monticello to Magdalena