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April 2005

Magellan, Muir, And Me: Backpacking the Pecos Wilderness

Invent your own hike, and go where no one (well, almost no one) has gone before.

Like most hikers, I find something irresistible about the idea of starting at one point on a map and walking to another. The conceptual appeal of such a trek is what gets thousands of people to bypass the rat race for six months to attempt the long-distance paths every year, but most of us working schmoes don’t have the resources for that sort of magic. Creating my own shorter route would bring about the same good vibes, minus the bankruptcy. But when my buddies and I finally spread out the topos, I realized a week was optimistic. The Pecos Megatransect is about 50 miles long and runs up at least 23 mostly nameless peaks. Total vertical gain and loss: close to 50,000 feet–a good 50 percent of it off-trail.

Given that we had only a long weekend, we downsized. By the time we set out the next night for a 4-mile hike to Serpent Lake by headlamp, we were calling this trip the Minitransect-though we’ll find there’s nothing diminutive about it. The route will rarely dip below 11,500 feet, and we’ll spend plenty of time at 13,000 feet or so on trailless mountains like Barbara, Chimayosos, and the three Truchas peaks. Connecting the summits is only 12 miles or so-plus about 10 more to get in and out-but we suspect the terrain will be loose and rocky.

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