Bull of the Woods up, Williams Lake down

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      [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
      [By: StevenMW on July 5 2004 at 12:59 PM]

      Excerpt from journal on June 28, 2004

      Wheeler Peak, New Mexico

      At 4;15AM, we began the long day at the trailhead for the Bull-of-the-Woods pasture route. The first hour and a half was in darkness as we were guided by flashlights. The trail was an old dirt mining road for the first mile or two. At the break of dawn, we reached the Bull-of-the-Woods pasture itself. Here, the trail narrowed and continued on through the forest. Some views towards the ski valley were beginning to open up at this stage. Towards the sunrise to the east, there were some clouds already in place below the mountains. However, the weather continued to hold up, and we pressed on as the day became warmer. We reached the area that overlooked a small high valley called the La Cal Basin. Here, there was the first view of the summit of Wheeler Peak just barely sticking out of the ridges in front of it. We still had a ways to go. The air was getting thin for Texans like us as we ascended the mountain. At the La Cal Basin, the trail descended back into a grove of trees. It was hard to descend knowing that you would have to make up the altitude again. Also, we realized that this would hold true in both directions-ouch! Eventually, we reached timberline again and it was on towards the ridgeline now. The views of the Southern Rockies were getting better. I could see the mountains in almost all directions now. The huffing and puffing continued as we ascended the switchbacks to led up the ridgeline. As we climbed higher, a yet higher bit of ground seemed to appear ahead. Then, the summit of Mt. Walter was reached. It looked like we would be climbing a pair of “thirteeners” today. Just beyond Mt. Walter was the top of Wheeler Peak. A final push led to the summit. We now stood on top of New Mexico-the Land of Enchantment. The view was great. Even above 13,000 feet, it was warm enough to take a nice break on top, eat a little snack, drink some water, and enjoy the expansive views. There was only one other person on top at this time. We would encounter a couple of dozen people attempting the summit on the way back. Clouds were building up, so we were thinking about heading down. None of us even thought about trying to locate the register in the “cannon”, so I guess the pictures will have to prove the accomplishment. The descent down the mountain would also be challenging for us. Instead of going back the way we came, we would descend to Williams Lake below us on a much steeper slope. It would drop us about 2000 feet in less than a mile. The loose rock would make the hike a little tricky for the footing, especially near the top. Gradually, we worked our way down the very steep slope. At one area, some marmots were seen close to the trail. Earlier, we had seen Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and elk from a distance. The marmots came up very close to us. The trail was steep all of the way down to the lake itself. Then, we hiked another 2 miles along a much easier trail. A lot of people were using this trail to go to the lake for the day. Then, we reached the road near the Bavarian restaurant and had to walk all of the way down from there to get to the original parking lot for the Bull-of-the-Woods trail. After a 7 hour workout, the climb was complete.

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