All descriptions fall far short of the beauty and magnificence of these areas. Each is stunning in its own ways… Earth, Air, Fire, and Water weaving themselves together in infinite varieties of landscape… what’s temporal or eternal, personal or transcendent revealing and expressing itself in differing features, textures, and balances. We hope these short descriptions are helpful and speak to your heart and imagination as much as your reason.
(March) Immense, grand vistas, land of Gold Rush stories and geological oddities. Graveled washes in rocky canyons, sand dunes, silence, vast sky, sparse vegetation. Time stretches into the distance, stars brilliant in the wide sky overhead… the stillness punctuated by calls of coyote or raven…
Our group camp will take place in a lush oasis at the beginning and return from your solo quest in the vast, starkly beautiful panoramas of the desert called Death Valley. Clear mountain streams with the snow-capped Sierras towering overhead will bless our preparation and integration work … thermal pools offering their welcoming warmth a short distance away. Hiking: Easy to moderate. Campground fee for pre and post solo: $50/vehicle (More pictures)
New Mexico Quests
GILA AND ALDO LEOPOLD WILDERNESS, SOUTHWESTERN NEW MEXICO
(May and October) Mountain, desert, and river ecologies blend together in a rich and diverse intermingling. This is an area of stunning variety, once home to the Apache and ancient cliff-dwelling peoples who mysteriously disappeared 800 years ago.
Rugged mountains descend through dry grass and wildflower meadows to lush river-bottom land. Grand cottonwoods, oaks, and other deciduous trees line the rivers, while ponderosa pine forests and pinion-juniper cactus zones characteristic of high desert thrive close-by. Incredibly rich in animal life: deer, mule deer, turkeys, wild boar, and elk are common. Hot springs and geothermal energy abound. Hiking out includes a steep climb (900 ft. rise in a mile) — doable by an average person, but if you’re in poor physical shape we recommend another quest. No campground fees. (More photos)
PECOS WILDERNESS, NORTHERN NEW MEXICO
(July) The Pecos Wilderness is quintessential “high country.” Stands of aspen, ponderosa pine, and spruce weave through lush alpine meadows rife with summer wildflowers. The meadows offer sweeping views of high peaks and overlook deep cut valleys with mountain streams. Elevations range from 8500 to 10,000 ft. Summer brings dark blue skies with towering cumulus clouds building throughout the day. Deer and elk often wander by. Hiking assessment: strenuous. The trail climbs 700 feet in two miles… basecamp is at 10,000 feet.
CHAMA WILDERNESS, NORTHERN NEW MEXICO
(July) The stunning Chama River Wilderness embodies the classic mesa-canyon country associated with the Southwest. Vertical rock cliffs striped in Georgia O’Keefe pastels frame the river’s course as summer brings bright sunshine and brilliant stars, the singing of canyon wren and cicadas, and an occasional afternoon thunderstorm.
The canyons in this area are diverse… becoming more lush and forested the farther in one journeys, pinon and cedar giving way to tall ponderosa pine. Wildflowers thrust themselves up amidst fields of sage; barrel, prickly pear, and cholla cactus bloom. Night hawks plummet in noisy dives at dusk; owls call in the dark; coyotes howl in early morn. Pre- and post quest time takes place at a camp along the river. No campground fee. Hiking assessment: Easy
VALLEY OF THE GODS; CEDAR MESA
(April) Southeastern Utah is an immense area containing some of the most stunning canyon country on earth. The twisted, elaborate maze of red-rock passageways in the Escalante drainage system has been eroded and carved over millennia. Steep cliffs, natural arches and sentinels of stone tower over green river bottom land. Surprises or something to be astonished by waits around every corner… In spring, the wildflowers emerge.
(August, September) The fertile Earth reveals herself in mountains and rolling hills… in lush woodlands, streams, and lakes. Moose wander a forest thick with ferns, moss-covered boulders, beaver ponds, and glassy water reflecting mountain and sky. Owls hoot, and loons call across the distance. Geese honk, ducks quack… eagle and osprey dive for fish. Morning mist rises from the water… islands emerge from the fog. Leaves turn gold and crimson in the fall. Hiking assessment: Moderate — about 2-1/2 miles, rolling to mostly flat. No camping fees.