We started our 2-day “mini” vacation by camping overnight at Villanueva State Park, a small campground along a bend in the Pecos River about 60 miles downstream from its source high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My years of living in southern New Mexico had left me with the idea that the Pecos River, after it leaves the mountainous country of northern New Mexico, is flat and boring. I had never been in this section of the state and was pleasantly surprised to find such an interesting area hidden between high sandstone bluffs along the river.
We arrived at the park in time to take a walk before dinner on the trail on the northern side of the river that leads to overlooks of the valley and village of Villanueva. After dinner we hiked the trail on the opposite side of the river, where the bluffs were even higher with more impressive views. Recent rainfalls in the mountains had caused the river to fill up with muddy water, making its color not that appealing, but if one imagined it as a flow of melted chocolate it didn’t seem so bad.
Camping at Villanueva put us in a good position for the next day’s hike in the Pecos Wilderness. We had done a couple of hikes in this area before. It was nice this time to only have an hour’s drive from Villanueva campground on the Pecos River to the upper reaches of the river, instead of having to drive there all the way from Albuquerque.
The hike we chose started from Jack’s Creek campground and led us through forests and alpine meadows to a ridge with views of Pecos Baldy, a 12,500-foot peak in the Sangre de Cristos. The trail went much further than what we were wanting to do for this day hike. We hiked until lunchtime and then stopped in a meadow where we could enjoy the views as we ate our lunch. The clouds were beginning to gather and we had to get out our rain ponchos on the last mile back down. We knew we were heading back into the desert heat in Albuquerque so we didn’t mind the momentary chill as we changed out of our damp clothes and got into our car for the drive home.