2008.07.02 Hiking at the Mutz Ranch


The base camp started stirring about 7:30 this morning. Everybody was up by 8:00, except Marissa, who slept in a bit. Erin treated us to biscuits & gravy and bacon for breakfast. After some discussion, we decided to split into two parties for the day: my family and KK were going to go hiking on the Mutz Ranch, and Scott, Erin and PK decided to drive into Angelfire and Taos to look around.


Stacking Dominos during breakfast. It is amazing how creative you can be with no television!


The day started with Miles having some fun with a purchase he made last night at the Five & Dime at the Plaza in Sante Fe. It was a U.F.O. Driver’s License (we are in the same state as Roswell, you know) featuring “Al Iean”. He went up to each adult in the house and informed them, “In the name of Aliens, you are under abduction!” We all had a great time with that this morning.


Steve, Marissa and KK beginning a hike up the mountain


It takes our group a while to get moving and it was 11:45 before we stepped out of the van and started our hike. The day leading up 11:45 consisted of a trip into town to upload the previous day’s blog, and sitting around the living room and swapping stories from the day before. Yesterday, even though all of us visited Bandelier and Sante Fe, we were probably only together for an hour or so, and most of that was at lunch.


Seeking shelter under a SHORT pine tree during the storm


KK was very keen on taking us on this hike, and showing us some of the places that he and his fellow hunters have shot their elk. (“They died of lead poisoning”, as KK’s friend Dave likes to put it.) We walked a little ways up the first incline and he pointed out several landmarks that we could walk to. One of them was an old abandoned gold mine, and that seemed to capture everybody’s attention. About 30 minutes into our walk, a storm passed through with rain and lightning (and cool temperatures). We found some very short pine trees to huddle under, which did a great job of being a wind break and sheltering us from the rain. After about 15 – 20 minutes, the storm cleared, and we continued our hike.


KK, Marissa and Miles standing near some old mining equipment


About a mile back into the hike, we came across our first evidence of the old gold mines, as we found some large mining equipment. We quickly moved on up the mountain and we found an abandoned shack and other assorted equipment, including a 5 gallon can that at one time contained cyanide, according to the description painted on the can (I didn’t touch it, but Stephanie did!). But the ultimate find was at the apex of our hike, and that was a large mill that was setup to process the gold that was mined. (Robert Mutz had explained to us several days ago that by the time they got these mills set up in this area, the gold had already played out, so this particular mill was not used very long.)


This rolling drum was used in the processing of the gold. It was over six feet tall.


After checking out the mill, we took a rest and snacked, and got hydrated. We then changed direction, and made our way toward the saddle of another ridge. We had to cross a dry creek bed and a mountain access road made of crushed rock. While crossing this road, a small rock caught my eye, and I picked it up. It sure looked like a fossil to us, so we were pretty excited about that.


Steve finds a fossil. This might be the Missing Link!


We finally made it up the last stretch to the top of the saddle. From the top, we could see Eagle Nest (about 5 miles away) and the town of Angelfire (about 17 miles away). The view was breathtaking. As KK put it, “When you get to the top of the saddle, you can hear the angels singing”, and we were all in agreement with that. We decided to sit down and rest for a few minutes, before we began our descent back down the mountain.


Mountain scenery with the abandoned gold mine


The walk down the mountain was uneventful except for the fact that Marissa appeared to get perkier and more talkative the longer the hike lasted. She wanted to play repeat games with me most of the way. She would say things like, “I will say ‘telephone’ and you say ‘number’”, and then we would each say our lines about a dozen times or until one of us got tired of it.


Taking a rest after hiking to the saddle


When we finally reached the car, we had hiked for 4 ½ hours. Later, KK looked up our route on some topographical software and he estimates we hiked between 5 and 6 miles. It was definitely a big day for us. We were very impressed with how well the kids handled the hike, and especially Marissa. She hiked herself the entire way, except for two very short piggy-back rides. And not only that, but her attitude was wonderful. Mallory had to endure a blister on one of her feet, so she did not have as good a time as I think she normally would have. However, she was a trooper and toughed it out. Miles spent most of his time on the hike right up next to KK, leading the group. As we were about three-quarters through our hike, and heading up the hill toward the saddle, Miles took off on a dead run up the hill. We were all in awe of that! Even the three adults seemed to handle the entire hike in stride.


KK teaches Marissa to use the binoculars


It was very interesting to hear the elk hunting stories that Dad shared with us, especially with him being able to point out areas that they were trying to track an elk, or get an elk back to camp before sundown. These guys have to be in good shape, and be very resourceful, to be successful elk hunters. They are very careful that they only hunt the elk in areas that they can actually retrieve them from. I especially liked the story of the day that he and several of his buddies hiked up the hillside and got to their chosen spot about 1:00. They decided they weren’t going to have much luck until the elk returned (normally about 4:00), so they all laid down and took a three hour nap! KK thinks that Miles has a good future as an elk hunter, especially given his energy level late in the hike.


Marissa and Mallory get a little help getting down the mountain


After the hike, we came back to the hacienda, showered, and started thinking about dinner. About that time, the rest of our party arrived from their trip to Taos. We all had dinner and then we set out on a quest for ice cream. (Perhaps an overlooked part of Marissa’s great attitude on the hike was that we bribed her with ice cream when we were done. This was met with great enthusiasm and she actually spent a lot of time on the hike singing about ice cream.) We drove into Angelfire looking for an ice cream store but could not find one. Part of the group opted to purchase some frozen pies at the local grocery store, while the Traveling Kings drove on to Red River and went back to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for treats. As we parked on the street in front of the hotel next to the chocolate shop, we saw two deer running through the parking lot of the hotel. By this part of the trip, seeing a huge herd of elk is becoming more commonplace, and again tonight, we saw a herd of well over 100 elk while we were on our way to Red River.

Once back at the base camp, a game of Phase 10 broke out, and we also made our plans for tomorrow. Plans include a road trip around the Enchanted Circle, a visit to the Taos Plaza and the Rio Grande Bridge.

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