Fast forward to November 17th, 2017. I had an off Friday from work, the kids were in school, and I could tackle any number of geocaching adventures for the day. I had been eying the Sangre De Christos all week, wondering if there would be too much snow up there to pursue some of the higher elevation caches. while there was some snow, it didn't seem like much so i decided to reutrn to Trampas for an adventurous day-hike.
My overall plan was to hike up to the end of the trail at Trampas lakes and search for all the caches along the way. One cache in particular, GC64JX9, still had the FTF up for grabs and I was hoping to score that and add to my Lonely Cache Points for the year. Another cache, GC6PG39, was my stretch goal. This was also an unfound cache, but getting to it would mean an arduous trek over the ridge-top... and back again. The snow and ice could be a problem for this, as well as my time deadline. I had to complete my hike and be back at the car by 3:00 pm in order to drive back to Santa Fe to pick up my kids from their after-care program. Deadlines, deadlines... always make for some added fun.
I stopped a bit longer at GC64JX9 which I happily found and traded items. The only other person to attempt this cache was WOLF11469, and he got stymied by both spotty coords and deep snow. The CO had since posted spoiler pics, extra coords, hints... I had a much easier time than him in finding the cache. Kind of unfair of him to lose out on the FTF, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I reached the lakes in good time, right around 9am. In fact, my time was good enough for me to entertain crossing over the high alpine ridge to go after the new cache at Quemado falls. I picked a chute on the ridge above and made my way up it. The going was very slow. Not only is it a steep ascent, but there was a layer of snow covering the terrain making it more difficult to get footing. The snow wasn't deep enough where I could kick steps up it (or make an avalanche danger), but not shallow enough to completely disregard. So it was a slow slog. I did see tracks from what i presume was bighorn sheep, taking the same route up over the ridge.
|My route was up the right-hand chute|
|Looking down the chute at Trampas lakes|
Once on the other side of the ridge, the South facing slope was much easier. No snow at all, an an open woodland slope to traverse down. At the top of the ridge, I was actually quite close to a geocache I had found in the summer of 2016 when i hiked the Truchas Peaks for the first time. I considered stopping by to check on that cache, but decided that I had to save my time for the descent and return trip. I did have a deadline after-all. I made quick time down to Quemado falls and enjoyed an early lunch at the frozen waterfall.
A long time ago, I would have been super keen on ice climbing this fall. In fact, standing beneath it, i felt that itch again. What would it take to break out my tools and give this ice a climb? Well... first I'd need to hook up with a climbing partner... then I'd have to make sure my gear is still in usable shape... then I'd need to actually figure out how to get to the Rio Quemado trailhead. This was my second time at the falls, but I have yet to hike to it by the actual trailhead that gets here. Maybe another day...
Despite being pretty tired, I made good time back up and over the ridge to Trampas lakes. I made one more slight detour on my return hike, taking a side trail to hidden lake in order to grab the last geocache in the area, GC5DDBY. The trail to hidden lake had no footprints in the snow, meaning I was the first person to visit it in the last few weeks since the snows hit. Kind of cool. i wonder how many people come up here for winter hiking? I bet this trail makes a fine snowshoeing destination. And I know that alpine skiers come up here from seeing trip reports online. Hidden lake was nice, but not as nice as Trampas lakes in my opinion. If I were to come back up to this area in the summer and backpack, i would shoot for one of the gorgeous campsites around the Trampas Lakes. maybe next summer with the family?
The rest of the hike down was quick and easy, and I was back to the car by 1400h. Plenty of time to drive back to Santa Fe and get the kids. Not a bad day's hike for a little late season high altitude geocaching.