This 3 day/2 night backpacking trip allows one to thoroughly discover a large, beautiful section of the Pecos Wilderness. This loop includes three pristine mountain lakes, a historical trail (Winsor), and the potential summit experience of Santa Fe Baldy. On day one we will begin our trek from an area known as the Cowles ponds. From here we will begin our gradual ascent on south-facing slopes, traversing in and out through multiple drainages. After a few miles of moderately difficult hiking through stands of spruce, boxelder, and pine our senses will truly engage with the unresisting energy of this beautiful quiet place. We will be hiking on the North ridge of Winsor creek. At times we will have views through the forest of the creek far below and the south ridge which we will be returning on. Wildlife is typically abundant in this area. Rocky Mountain Elk, Black Bear, Red tail hawks, coyote, mule deer, and Big Horned sheep make this wild canyon home. After approximately 5 miles of hiking, we will come to Winsor creek. The trail will lead us to the outlet of this serene New Mexico gem. This is where we will spend the next 2 nights making our basecamp somewhere in the vicinity of the lake respecting NM guidelines of not camping within 200 ft of the lake basin or streams.
This day will be filled with high country adventure! Best of all we will not be lugging our heavy packs along with us. If an attempt at Santa Fe Baldy’s rocky summit is in order then the earlier we start our day the better our chances will be for making it to the top. Afternoon thunderstorms dominate the Southwest during the Summer months and Baldy’s treeless summit is no place to be during a storm. Either way, once we leave camp we’ll climb approximately 2 and a half miles on the skyline trail (251) to the well-known Lake Katherine, a true Alpine Lake. From here we will contour around Baldy’s Eastern slopes to a pass. At this point, we will make our decision whether or not to attempt the summit. If so, we climb as we watch the trees dwarf and eventually disappear. There is maximum exposure to the elements up here so we best all be prepared for anything. It’s about one mile and 1,000 ft of elevation gain on a solid trail to the rewarding summit. Everything can be seen from up here including the entire Pecos Wilderness, Jemez, Sandia, and Ortiz ranges. Not to mention San Antonito mountain at the CO border. Once enough time has been spent to allow the senses to calm we will make our way back down to the pass. From this point, we will descend over the course of a couple of miles to Puerto Nambe-a gorgeous meadowed area. This will be a good place for a rest. At this point, we will branch off of the skyline and meet the Winsor once again. This time casually hiking through the subalpine forest to our last stop at Spirit Lake. Only a couple more miles of easy hiking will bring us back to base camp at Stewart Lake. This will have been a long day.
It will be time to say goodbye to this beautiful place that we called home for a few days. As we leave we will feel the effects and positive impacts of a couple of nights spent in the wilderness. We are better people for having experienced nature at this level. A rare experience indeed. We will trek back on the South ridge (North facing side). This side holds snow longer in the Winter and Spring months, therefore, creating a perfect habitat for the flora that thrives at these high altitudes. At times it may seem like a jungle in comparison to the other side. A New Mexico jungle that is. Our trek will eventually lead us down to the mountain stream of winsor creek. A short hike along the creek will bring us to a campground and back to the front country. To complete the trek we will need to road walk one mile back to our vehicle.