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Black Mesa

Little Costilla

AdventuresDusty GilpinComment

This last weekend I got to go on a really wonderful camp-cation. Six my friends loaded up and headed toward northern New Mexico. We didn't want to drive straight through, so we decided to pitstop at Black Mesa on the way and stay the night. While at the Mesa, we swung by 3 Corners and took a look at the dinosaur footprints. Black Mesa is a must-see, the stars at night are incredible, and definitely worth the 6 hour drive. If you're headed that way, stop by No Mans Land in Boise City for some great beef jerky!

From left to right; Chumpy McChumperson, Kristen Vails, Cassidi & Wes Martin, Billy & Anna Wiginton, and Aaron Arneson (seated)

From left to right; Chumpy McChumperson, Kristen Vails, Cassidi & Wes Martin, Billy & Anna Wiginton, and Aaron Arneson (seated)

Black Mesa was the only night we had an opportunity to 'cook' dinner, so we prepared some hobo meals. If you aren't familiar with hobo dinners, grab a meat, some veggies, some slices of fruit, and throw them in a tin foil bag on top of a fire. Let them cook until the meat is done and enjoy! Doesn't look incredibly appetizing, but it's fantastic.

The next day we drove 4 more hours west until we got to Carson National Forest. No trail was provided, but Billy (with map in hand) guided us 2 miles deep in the woods between Ash Mountain and Little Costilla Peak where we would spend our next two nights.

As we approached our camping location, we happily started to notice a few flurries of snow. Within minutes we were hastily trying to set up camp in a thick fog of snow. As Kristen's dad, Tony, would say, "Welcome to springtime in the mountains!" The first night we camped the temperature dropped to 28˚. It was a very restless night as we had expected lows to be in the 40s.

Despite the snow, we arranged our campsite, built a fire and boiled water for our dehydrated dinners. Our cozy little home away from home would be at 10,000 ft. for the next two days.

The next day was our hike to 12,500 ft on Little Costilla Peak. With an intermittent 3 hours of sleep each, we slowly but surely made our way to the sub-summit at 12,000 ft. We rested, enjoyed the view, and ate a small lunch. Our ultimate goal was taunting us only 500' above, but with weary legs and lungs and an impending snow storm on the horizon, we decided to make our way back down to camp.

This photo pretty much sums up our hike on Little Castillo. It was steep, thick, uneasy terrain, surrounded with downed limbs. We hiked along a beautiful snowmelt creek that was our constant source of water.  Billy is pictured here scouting out a passable approach.

This photo pretty much sums up our hike on Little Castillo. It was steep, thick, uneasy terrain, surrounded with downed limbs. We hiked along a beautiful snowmelt creek that was our constant source of water.  Billy is pictured here scouting out a passable approach.

The summit of Little Costilla Peak to the left, Billy Wiginton (for scale) to the right.

The summit of Little Costilla Peak to the left, Billy Wiginton (for scale) to the right.

View to the west, our snow storm looming behind us.

View to the west, our snow storm looming behind us.

As soon as we got back to camp, chores had to be done; gathering and cutting firewood, building a fire, hanging bear bags, preparing dinner, filtering water. Simple tasks can quickly add up after a long hike and elevation change. We stoked a fire all night long to help push back the cold as we slept off the exhaustion.

We woke up the next morning and prepared for our trek back out our cars. This view is to the south with a distant Wheeler Peak in the background. I don't think we could've picked a better location for camping. We were surrounded by trees, had a beautiful view of a valley, and had a constant running supply of water 200 yards from our campsite.

We decided to head south toward Clayton Lake where we would make camp our 4th night. We drove through barren rolling hills for hours and out of nowhere was a beautiful, clear lake.

We dropped off our supply and headed into the town of Clayton where we enjoyed a hot dinner at the Eklund Motel. We enjoyed our hostess' stories of wild west shootouts and outlaw hangings. I wouldn't have wanted dinner anywhere else, as it was the perfect atmosphere for our adventure.

We also ran by the store and picked up some of New Mexico's finest. After setting up camp, we savored the warmth of our fire and restfully enjoyed our cool refreshments and cheerful company of friends.

On our way home we decided that there was only one place good enough for our on-the-road lunch, The Big Texan. The fanfare and pomp of this honored Texas establishment was the cherry on top of a wonderful weekend. We filled our bellies with steaks and beer and ambled down I-40 back to our homes and comfortable beds.

As a seasoned camper/hiker but very novice backpacker/mountaineer, this was an absolutely amazing trip. I have spent very little time mountaineering and anxiously look forward to the next opportunity to backcountry camp. In hindsight, I was adequately prepared for the distance but not the altitude change. No one of our party became sick from the elevation, but I was very surprised at how quickly we drained on our hike upward and likewise very surprised at how quickly we regained our energy on our decent from Little Costilla Peak. Other than that, I wouldn't have changed a thing about this trip. The scenery was incredible and the company was wonderful. Here's to the next adventure!