A great day trip in New Mexico
I like Las Vegas… New Mexico that is. The Las Vegas area is a great day trip waiting to happen. In fact, I managed to enjoy such a day on my last trip there. We got up early and drove into Las Vegas with plans to hike to the top of Hermit’s peak, relax our aching muscles in the Montezuma Hot Spring, and try out a local restaurant called The Mexican Kitchen.
To find the Hot Springs and the Hermit Peak Trailhead, head west on NM 65 and follow it up into the Sante Fe National Forest. At the "Y" take the right leg and follow it until you find the trailhead. The hike was pleasant, but arduous climbing 2700 feet in 4 miles. We hiked several miles through a pine forest. It took awhile to reach the base of the mountain, but it was nice, the weather was perfect. Climbing up the east side where the sun had melted all the snow was no problem, but when we reached the top and had to follow the trail up to the east summit, we ran into some thigh deep drifts of snow. We tried slogging through them to stay on the trail, but it was impossible. So we headed east using a compass and kept climbing up the hill until we found what we came for, the magnificent view of northeast New Mexico from over 10,000 feet up. We stumbled out of the trees and startled a couple of ravens in mid flight, they croaked and dove from the easy glide they were in, apparently they had never seen anybody staggering and gasping for breath as badly as we were. They seemed embarrassed, and I wasn’t sure if it was from losing their cool, or if they were embarrassed for us for being so badly out of shape. We had lunch, and drank water, and took in the never ending view. It was great. I usually don’t get freaked out by heights, but sitting on the edge of the cliff and watching the rocks we threw over seemingly falling forever, made me more nervous and cautious than I usually am. This nervousness never helps you when you are clinging to a high pitch, usually, it makes your muscles tight, and your grip slippery, it makes you uncoordinated, increasing your chances of a mishap. I hate that feeling.
We headed back down, and our muscles began to feel heavily fatigued and it took us a long time to get back to the van. We drove back east out of the mountains, slipped on our swimming suits and stopped on the roadside at the Montezuma Hot Springs. Instead of taking the nice gravel walking path to the middle pools, I eagerly jumped the guardrail and worked my way to them over them figuring the going would be easy. It wasn’t, and we found ourselves slipping and falling into the cold, slimy muck that surrounds the pools. Ev lost her sandal, and I slipped and fell to my knees in 3 inches of muck. As we struggled through, we saw how nice the actual trail looked with it‘s wide gravel path not more than 50 feet away. Sometimes, I’ve got to slow down and think. We got the concrete pool to ourselves and slipped into the HOT, soothing waters, for a refreshing soak after a hard day of hiking.
After our soak, we changed and went back into town and stopped to eat at the Mexican Kitchen. It had the feel of a small town diner, no pretensions, just a nice quiet place for dinner. We were starving, and I ordered Chile Rellenos with red and green chile sauce, refried beans and sopapillas. The food arrived quickly, and we got after it, no talking, just eating. I ate systematically and efficiently, and soon my plate was empty, and I was happy. It was great, I love Rellenos. Cheese stuffed peppers that are deep fried, how can you beat that!? The waitress was impressed with my eating efficiency, commenting that she never seen anybody eat that quickly before. I took it as a compliment. We drove off into the night, exhausted, full, and happy. I considered this day seized.