ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Eye Level with a Vulture - 10.5K Montezuma Pass

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Joe's Canyon Trail
Distance: 3.1 miles (5.285 KM)*
Montezuma Pass (with thumb)
Trailhead Elevation: 5,300 feet
Top Elevation: 6,864 feet
Time to summit: 1:41
Time to base: 1:11

Total Time: 2:52.10
Total Distance: 10.57 KM

Total Calories Burned 1108

My GPS watch is set to kilometers. This is actual distance from my watch and is probably where I took a wrong turn. (Device-Suunto Ambit 2S GPS Watch)

CLICK ON PICTURES TO ENLARGE THEM

I've been street level with a thug before, but never eye level with a vulture. When I began hiking up Joe's Canyon Trail this morning, that all changed. I'm not sure if it was tracking me and hopefully waiting for me to die, or if it was tracking something else, but it spent a good deal of time with me as I ascended 1500 feet on the thin winding trail up Smuggler's Ridge to Yaqui Ridge, then to Montezuma Pass. At times it was below me, coming within a few arm's lengths. I tried to snap a photo with my cell phone, but the phone isn't a camera but rather my social media communication device. If I'd only had my wife's Nikon.  Maybe next time.

I was eager to make the hike because I had brand new Altra Superior 1.5s. I felt a little achy this morning and had already made excuses not to go. But then my desire to get out of the house and embrace nature kicked in. And did I get nature. It was beautiful. From the views of Montezuma and San Rafael Valleys to the bubbling spring fed streams, to the rocks, to the wide sweeping expanses of desert that WASN'T Afghanistan, this was just what I needed.

 I had trouble finding the lower trail head. I knew it was supposed to be at a Ranger Station, so I drove all the way up to the pass looking for it. I saw the upper trail head. I could have taken that, but with just me and only one car that meant I would have had to run down and walk up, instead of walking up and running down. So once I got back down the mountain I saw a side road to a picnic area and asked a border patrol agent who was fitted out in tactical field gear.

He knew and I was on the trail within moments after that.

The first mile is steep but on a well-maintained path with enough switchbacks to help you rise 1000 feet in that first mile. About half a mile in I heard water and soon was greeted with a microclimate of evergreens and a bubbling brook with waterfalls. How awesome!

About a mile and a half in I saw the saddle for Smuggler's Ridge covered in golden wheat against a blue sky. Extraordinary. I took a wrong turn near the top. The trail splits and it's not marked. Had I continued on what must have been the Yaqui trail for a mile, I would have been in Mexico. But I backtracked and soon found myself at Montezuma Pass.

Wow. To think that Francisco Vasquez de Coronado brought conquistadors through this very spot in 1540 looking for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. That's some history for you.

I spent ten minutes on the top, adjusting my shoes and getting a lot of water. I'd brought a pack with a camelbak, but I saved that for on the move drinking and drank out of the other water bottle I packed. I was wearing brand new Altra Superior 1.5s. They're fairly minimal with zero drop and made for trails so I was eager to break them in. I was going to wear ankle socks, but these shoes eat them. I've had shoes like them before and they cause the sock to come off the heel. So I did it barefoot and cleaned out some sand that had gotten into the shoes. High on the heel of my left foot I had loose skin which was preparing to become a serious blister, so I made sure to tighten both shoes. The right foot was just fine. The shoes were terrific. Lots of stability. Although minimal, the stoneguard rock protection was just awesome. 

After ten minutes, I was back on the trail, this time running when I could. Some of the path was too rocky and I just didn't want to run. But where it was a dirt path I was hauling and cut thirty minutes off the descent.

This was a great hike. 

I'm definitely going to do it again.

And as a reward I grabbed two Adobada Tacos and ate them in the park.


Water and my new kicks!

Babbling Brook

Looking back as I ascend

Babbling Brook

San Rafael Valley

San Rafael Valley

Lichen on th erocks.

The Saddle on Smuggler's Ridge - Looks so far away

Looking down

From the saddle on Smuggler's Ridge

A rare flat point

For Mom

Looking back as I climb

Spring Water Cave

Reward Tacos!

2 comments :

  1. Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing. I prefer to hike through reading your posts. =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. HAHA. Come on down and we'll go hiking, then make something cool for dinner.

    ReplyDelete