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Trip Report

Backpacking in the Latir Peaks Wilderness, July 2009

Below Latir Mesa
Below Latir Mesa

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Jennifer and I drove from Amarillo to Red River, NM on Tuesday, July 14. We stayed at the Alpine Lodge where we organized and packed our gear. We barely managed to stuff our gear into our small ultralight packs. The next morning we drove to Questa, then up Cabresto Canyon to the turnoff to Cabresto Lake. The last 2 miles after the turnoff are a winding, rocky road that requires a high clearance vehicle.

Jennifer in Camp
Jennifer in Camp

The trailhead is at Cabresto Lake. From there, we hiked 5 miles to Heart Lake gaining 2400 feet of elevation. It was hot and muggy as we walked through the lush riparian surroundings on the lower part of the trail. As we ascended, the surroundings became more alpine. We took a little over 4 hours to reach Heart Lake.

Jennifer on Latir Mesa
Jennifer on Latir Mesa

We camped along the western edge of the lake. In retrospect, probably the best campsites are just below the lake around a large meadow. Taking advice from some fellow campers, will filtered water from a spring draining into the lake about half way up the west side. The lake water itself was full of debris and would rapidly clog a filter. The lake seemed complete devoid of fish. I never saw any fish in the water or surfacing to feed despite watching for quite a while at various times of the day. The bugs, flies, and mosquitoes were quite thick around the lake. We escaped into the tent at times to avoid their wrath. After the sun went down we enjoyed sitting around the fire.

Elk Skeleton
Elk Skeleton

The next day we hiked up to Latir Mesa. At the top, we had incredible views of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. To the north, we could see the Blanca Peak / Mount Lindsey group up by Great Sand Dunes National Monument. We could see Red River Ski Area and Wheeler Peak by the Taos Ski Valley. In the far distance south, I saw a large peak that I think was Truchas Peak down by Santa Fe. We saw a herd of elk grazing high up on the tundra. We came across a bleached skeleton of an elk.

The next day we walked out with a brisk, non-stop pace. It took about 2 1/2 hours to reach the trailhead. We stopped in Red River for lunch and then drove back to Amarillo capping off a nice two-night backpacking trip not too far from home.