With Ski Season 2014 wrapped up our minds and bodies are turning to long hikes and backpacking adventures in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There are plenty of great trails in and around the Taos Ski Valley and the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa offers easy access to some of the best including Wheeler Peak, Gavilan, and, for the less adventuresome, Bull of the Woods Pasture.
It is recommended to begin your hikes early with the intent of coming down off the mountains before mid day as the winds can get quite strong and there is a high likelihood of afternoon storms.
Other things to consider include the health/fitness of the members of your party and what to bring along on your outdoor adventure. For longer hikes be sure you have the 10 essentials in your pack. We have compiled a list for you with links to some local shops that carry the items you need.
Taos Mountain Outfitters has a good supply of topographical maps of local trails as well as compasses* and other back country essentials. For long hikes it is always a good idea to carry both a map and a compass in the event that you lose the trail or your bearings.
*Learn how to use your compass before you take to the trail.
If your hike goes into the evening, you’ll want to have some illumination. Headlamps and/or flashlights (available at Mudd n’ Flood) are critical if you plan to be on the trail after dark. They not only illuminate the markers and obstacles on the trail but they can alert you to other dangers such as wildlife as well. It is a good idea to bring extra batteries along. Matches (in a waterproof case) or a lighter are lightweight items that can prove lifesaving if you find yourself toughing it out through the evening.
Repair Kit and Tools
No backpacking trip would be complete without a pocket knife or a multi-tool. A good knife is helpful for cutting string, shaving wood for tinder, and clearing the way through small branches, among a host of other things. If you’ll be bringing along items like a stove or a radio, it’s not a bad idea to have a gear repair kit with you.
Always apply sunscreen before you head outside, even when you’re going into the woods. If you’ll be under the open sky in direct sunlight, it’s also smart to apply lip balm and be sure to protect your eyes with a good pair of sunglasses! For long hikes bring the sunscreen with you and reapply every couple hours.
Whatever the weather, be sure to be properly dressed. Sports clothing is designed to be light weight and provide you with a level of insulation. Always bring a good waterproof jacket or vest, and wear pants, gloves, and a hat.
The woods are full of insects. Most of them are fairly harmless but, a nuisance none the less. Applying bug repellent to your clothing can help keep the pesky little bugs at bay. For a natural repellent try Taos Herb’s Bug Me Not Spray.
Never forget to bring a first aid kit on your backpacking trip. Timely first aid can prevent minor incidents like bites and scrapes from becoming bigger emergencies. For situations of extreme cold or when a thunderstorm hits, you’ll want to have emergency shelter, like a tarp, tube tent, or thermal blanket. It never hurts to have extra moleskin along as well.
As a precaution it is a good idea to bring an extra day’s supply of food on your hike, in case you lose your way or need to wait out a storm. Backpacker food supplies like freeze-dried pasta, wild rice, lentils, and granola are light weight and will help keep your body going.
Staying hydrated is probably the most important thing you can do on a backpacking trip. For shorter outings, you might just need water bottles. For a longer day, you’ll want a hydration pack. If you run out of water, filtration devices make water from streams safer to drink.
Take to the hills this summer but, remember to play it safe.