HS Spring Experiences – Hermit Peak | by Eric Mahoney and Evan Wiebe

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Hermit Peak, #1

A group of ten high schoolers, accompanied by two teachers and a parent, ventured to New Mexico for a backpacking trip offered by the Shining Mountain High School’s spring experience program, which allows students to pursue a chosen activity for a week of the school year. Led by Dr. Mathews, we arrived at the campground excited for our upcoming adventure, but moving out the next morning, our excitement was dampened from the cool morning temperatures and the daunting route ahead of us.

That first day, the trail covered around four or five miles and climbed almost three thousand vertical feet. We felt very rewarded when we finished, pitching our tents as close as we dared to the sheer drop that made up the east face of Hermit Peak. For many of us, myself included, the top of Hermit Peak was, quite literally, the high point of our trip. Sitting on the edge of the cliff with our feet dangling, we could see for miles around.

When we packed in the morning and began our next day of hiking, we looked at that spectacular view one last time. Our journey also brought us in contact with many other beautiful sights, such as lush green meadows and rushing streams. Through the next few days we meandered into the valley, finally making our way, after many frigid stream crossings, back to our first campsite where the waiting bus was a welcome sight.

At the end of the trip we were sad to look at the majestic Hermit Peak for the last time, but we were also looking forward to returning to the amenities of our homes. The experience for me was very positive, and I can attest it was the same for everyone else in our group. It goes to show that we really don’t need anything other than a sturdy pair of boots to have a fantastic time.

Eric Mahoney, Class of 2019

Hermit Peak, #2

500 feet away and we are trudging through the pine trees. 400 feet, and still no sign of the peak. 200 feet, and a glimpse and hint of sky. At 100 feet, the trees open up, revealing what looks like our destination, possibly the top of a cliff. At 50 feet we can see that it is definitely a cliff we are on top of, and when we reach the edge the ground stretches out below us like a carpet of rolling green, occasionally punctuated by towering rocks jutting high above the pine trees. To the east lie rolling hills all the way down to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and beyond that it is flat plains and an occasional mountain range. To the northwest lie more mountains, and to the south the valleys roll on and on. How did we get to such a beautiful location, you may ask. This is how.

It all started with a six-hour bus ride going south. At the little town of Las Vegas, we turned west and took a winding road into the mountains of the Pecos Wilderness. We arrived at an almost empty camping ground where we spent our first night. The next morning we started the first, and arguably hardest, day of hiking of the whole trip. The hike was only five or so miles in length but had close to 3,000 feet of elevation gain to the top of Hermit Peak. We spent the night soaking in the views from the broad meadow on the top of Hermit Peak and the next day made our way down to the river valley that would lead us back to where we started.

This second day was filled with challenges, from minor injuries due to treacherous footing in the snow on the north-facing side of the peak, to finding a suitable and big enough campsite. This day we accidentally took an unplanned shortcut and shortened our route. We camped next to the river, surrounded by its steep and rocky canyon walls.

The last day had fewer miles due to the short cut of the previous day, but offered new difficulties. The path down the canyon snaked back and forth across the river, crossing and re-crossing the icy water. We hiked this portion of the trail in the early morning, when it was colder out, so that by the third river crossing you could barely feel your toes. We arrived back at the campground by midday and set up our final camp. The next morning we could see the beautiful Hermit Peak as we drove away, back to Colorado.

Evan Wiebe, Class of 2019