The Sangre de Cristo mountains are my happy spot. I spent quite a bit of time there when I was a teenager at a church camp, and now whenever I think about my favorite place on earth my mind transports me back. In particular, my mind takes me to this beautiful meadow on the top of El Cielo Mountain. El Cielo is pretty much an unknown mountain, very much overshadowed by her more famous next door neighbor – Hermit’s Peak.
Spanish for “The Sky,” you can see its domed shape just to the left of Hermit’s Peak. The hike up El Cielo takes you through pine forests and opens up into this beautiful meadow with a creek running through it. You can see its domed shape just to the left of Hermit’s Peak.
Some years I would sit by the creek and watch the clouds cast shadows on the very green grasses. Other years, I would climb the steep incline rising out of the meadow for a beautiful 360 degree view of the surrounding lands.
A few years ago, I returned with James to hike. El Cielo is an unmarked hike and I couldn’t remember how much private land we’d have to trek through. So I decided to play it safe and climb Hermit’s Peak.
It was the fourth time in my life to climb it. It is actually a pretty challenging hike, made even more challenging after the birth of two children. It was so much easier at 15. I wrote more about it here.
But as we drive through New Mexico, I can’t wait for my first sight of the giant sideways face of Hermit’s Peak. While it isn’t like the feeling I get when I smell the dirt and the pine needles at the mountain’s base, I feel a weird mix of peace and excitement when I can finally see it in the distance.
I feel like these are my mountains. More than anywhere else in the world, I feel connected to this place.