Saturday, March 21, 2009

The high point

Today we hit our highest elevation. We left Silver City and 7 miles out of town, headed for Emory Pass. From there we were to go down to Kingston. The first miles were hilly with lights and some light traffic. As we turned off to head into the mountains, we had a long steady gently climb. It didn't really feel too gentle, but we knew it was. We had great views and at the first SAG saw the "Kneeling Nun" a rock formation that resembled a kneeling nun, if you REALLY used your imagination. We continued on and after mile 22 had some real climbs and some screaming descents. The first of these was perfect, mostly straight with a wide road, so you could spot oncoming traffic. These are SUCH fun to take. At the bottom was a beautiful valley with some farms, a stream running through it. It was so peaceful, Once again we climbed and climbed and then we had a descent with curves. These are also fun, but of course, if you know me, I take them with caution. As we were climbing it was great fun to see the vegetation change from the low lying plants, to some deciduous trees and finally to wonderful tall evergreens. As we took the last climb to the pass, it was filled with tall pines. The delicate pine scent was enveloping us. The rocky walls rose about us, and the climb took all my focus to do. At one switchback, the slope increased and I will admit to walking about 75 yards, but then was back on. This reminded me of some of the great hikes in Virginia that I did, but bigger. There were few cars, and the quiet was great.

When I was almost at the top, I heard our SAG driver calling out that I was almost there, and I could hardly believe it. We had climbed to 8828 feet. The total climbing for the day was a little over 5000 feet.

After putting on some warm clothes, we began the 8 mile descent. This I took pretty slowly, I was fatigued, more just as importantly, I wanted to stop a couple of times to enjoy the views, and they were indeed, fantastic.

At the 8 mile mark there was a little sign for Kingston and then for the Black Range Lodge. Kingston was a mining town in the past, but now is a very small town that is one street and has a population of 20. The lodge is at the end of the street, and the owners are interesting folk, who have built additional buildings with sustainable materials (straw bales that are covered with plaster). The main lodge had lots of rooms and beds upstairs, and most of us stayed there. The had a delicious turkey dinner for us and then in the morning had quite a spread.

Our total mileage for the day was 48, with 5000+ feet climbed.

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