In 2006, the 57-year-old version of me had taken a circuitous route up the east side of New Mexico’s Wheeler Peak where I met a couple who were camped at Horseshoe Lake, just 800 feet below the summit.
The problem was neither of us had climbed Wheeler before and the trail forked ahead. One path ascended a peak to the southwest; the other, a nearer rise directly above us.
After looking at a Forest Service map together, they wanted to know what I thought. “Don’t ask me,” I said. “Besides, I have to start back.” I had already hiked nine miles and had to return to my pickup truck that day.
“But what is your guess?”
“Well, I’d choose that one.” I pointed southwest to a distinct hump at the end of a long, narrow trail along a steep ridge with severe exposure (read “sheer drops of 600 feet or more”).
They thanked me and headed toward what I now know as Old Mike’s Peak (aptly named, don’t you think—but definitely not Wheeler). On a windy day, Old Mike’s would be dangerous. I’m glad it wasn’t windy that day.
I’ve topped Wheeler over 20 times since then, and I still look for my couple. I want to apologize.
Which is why I stopped blogging. Just six months into retirement, I realized I still didn’t have a clue, and didn’t want to point you to Old Mike’s.
Now, I’m putting the finishing touches on the book I’ve written on the subject. Still don’t consider myself an expert, but I’ve read most of the experts, and I can point you to what they say.
And I can let you look over the shoulder of a fellow traveler on this journey, one who hasn’t reached the peak yet, who has been lost on the mountain as much as not, yet one who is enjoying the climb, and the company, including you.