A Night in the Pecos Wilderness
Last week, Sonia asked if I wanted to go camping and I said yes, of course! Then we remembered we had plans on Saturday night and we’d only have Friday night. We pulled out our calendars and realized that with her work travel, our trip to Chicago for a wedding, my painting show opening (at Show Pony next week!) and related events, the weekends didn’t look very open. Only two weeks previous it was the beginning of the Summer and it felt endless and full of opportunity for adventure, and then suddenly the weekends got crowded and it felt almost over. Maybe you’ve felt this way too. So we decided, yes we are gonna go to the Pecos just for the night. If we don’t go camping we won’t go camping.
After work on Friday, we packed up our camping gear, (Sonia did most of it, she loves camping gear) and hit the road. It’s a little over an hour to the Pecos Wilderness from Santa Fe, so it was getting late when we finally got there. We had read online that there was water at the campground, but we realized that the campground we wanted to stay at was not the one we remembered the name of, and there was no water. It’s fine, I said, we have enough for tonight and for a little coffee in the morning. Let’s make sure there’s a place for us to camp before we worry about that.
We took our tent and went to check out the spots. I was shielding my eyes from the setting sun when someone started waving at us from a picnic table. Did they think I was waving at them? They got up and came over and we realized it was our friend Margaret, who was also here just for the night! We found a spot to pitch our tent next to theirs, and after pitching our tent and eating a quick dinner, joined Margaret, her husband Jake, and their friend who was visiting Santa Fe for a campfire. Somehow, in the busyness of the Spring, we hadn’t seen each other since Christmas, so it was great to catch up. How wonderfully random to run into friends in the woods. It was also very fortuitous for us as they had a water filter, so we filled up on filtered water from the nearby creek.
So close to the Solstice, the sun sets quite late. There was light in the sky till almost 9. With the fading light, the temperature began to fall, and the smoke from campfires drifted in and out of the trees, creating a misty, almost spooky and ethereal feeling in the forest.
There’s a creek that runs along the campground, and it creates a lovely background noise. In our tent, falling asleep, we saw light from flashlights bounce around the tent and trees, but couldn’t hear anyone walking past, only the sound of the creek.
In the morning, it was quite chilly and there were campfires again, with some morning smoke drifting in the trees as the sun rose and the day grew warmer. Sonia made us coffee on her little camp stove, and we sat in our camp chairs, bundled up, and wrote our morning pages. I’d been having an awful week. I still wasn’t sure what to do about some challenges that had come up, but everything felt better in the woods that morning.
It certainly helped that there was zero cell phone reception where we were. I have a hard time not checking my phone constantly, so heading off to the woods where there’s no signal is often the only way I take a break.
We packed up camp, and headed onto a nearby trail to look for some rare wildflowers. Pictured above, our friends had told us about the yellow lady slipper, and how it rarely blooms in New Mexico. The yellow lady slipper is in the orchid family and while more commonly found in the Rockies and further north, they were blooming like crazy in the forest near where we were camping.
We decided to go look for the caves that were nearby. We had hiked this trail last summer, but somehow missed the caves, so this time we kept our hiking book at an easy reach the whole time, determined to find them. The wildflowers, not just the yellow lady slippers, were blooming all over, and I kept slowing us down to take a picture.
Look out for a cairn on the left side, and then there’s a short trail to the creek where you can see a cave across the way. Then head back onto the main trail and look out for a cairn on the right side. There will be a small clearing and a path to the caves, our guide book told us.
We found it just after another couple did, so we hung back to let them explore them on their own. While we perched on a rock across the creek from the caves, it started to rain. We got our chance to cross the log bridge to the caves, and finally got to see inside. The creek runs into the cave and there are three entrances. It was pretty wet and we didn’t have a headlamp, so we didn’t go back too far, but it was fun to see them. A large group arrived and they all started to cross over and their wasn’t enough room for all of us, so there were some very awkward moments while we waited to try to cross back.
The rain was light at first, and to be honest, it was welcome. Despite being super cold in the morning, it had gotten really hot in the full sun, and we were discussing the possibility of jumping in the creek at some point. I was less for this as the trail was pretty crowded. But the rain picked up and stayed steady, so we were thoroughly cooled off (and wet) on the way back. It was light enough to pull my camera out on the walk back, and I couldn’t resist getting some rainy forest and wildflower photos. It was so beautiful.
Some weeks it’s hard to get out to the forest, or desert for a hike, or even a visit. But whenever we do, the rewards are so worth it.