By Laura Dugas, for the Chronicle
Everyone told us “You are crazy! You can’t hike Wheeler, there’s too much snow.”
When you say that to hikers like us, we just become more determined to prove them wrong… and we did.
Eric Welch of Taos and Rachel Lang and I (both of Red River) started the hike at 11:30 a.m. Sunday (Oct. 25) from the Williams Lake/Bavarian trail head. The trail was well packed but icy and slippery. Our packs were full of gloves, hats, mittens, layers of warm clothing, ski jackets, food and water.
Our first stop was Williams Lake two miles in. The ice had formed intricate circular patterns on the lake surface and the mountains in the background were mottled with patches of deep snow and bare ground.
It was the first of many breathtaking views.
We then struck out for the summit. Above treeline the trail became steep and the snow deep. The only things we ended up needing were our food and water as the temperature rose and the strenuous grade enabled us to be warm enough to hike in T-shirts.
We encountered four other hikers who had the same determination as us but when we arrived at the summit, we had the mountain to ourselves. It was indescribably beautiful and we could see for a hundred miles. We even passed two bighorn sheep basking in the sunlight just below the summit.
After lunch and countless efforts to take lasting mental pictures (along with some real photos too) we headed back down, begrudgingly.
The trip down was even more fun.
Waist-deep snow covering jagged rocks made the footing fairly challenging and we failed to stay upright a good portion of the way down, which was quite comical. We reached our car at 4 p.m. with sopping wet boots and socks and huge smiles on our faces.
What an awesome way to spend the day!