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First Steps in the First Wilderness Part 11: Summer Solstice

Sunday, June 21st, 2020: Black Range, Hikes, Hillsboro, Southwest New Mexico.

The same day I was hit with the worst of my biannual back pain episodes, a lightning strike started a forest fire in one of my favorite hiking areas. While I was immobilized on pain meds, the fire grew to engulf the entire ridge, turning the beautiful north slope into a moonscape.

After two weeks the pain faded and I got back on my feet again, but, what with COVID-19, I wasn’t able to plan a solstice trip, or make any sort of plans for this special day. After another week of short walks and moderate strength training, I was anxious to find out if I’d lost any conditioning, so I returned to another one of my favorite trails, the ridge in the sky.

It was going to be a hot day and I hoped it would be cooler up there between 8,000′ and 10,000′. No such luck, but at the top, the trail passes through some shady groves of old-growth pine and fir, which provided some relief.

Despite the heat, the flowers were amazing, butterflies and other pollinators were everywhere, and it was great to be hiking again, on the longest day of the year. And I surprised myself by going up over the peak, down the back side, and returning the same way for 12-1/2 miles and 3,140′ of elevation. Not bad after 3 weeks off!

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