Ruminations on the Sangre de Cristo Arc
Salida, Colorado, sits at the very northern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, at a spot where you can see the extraordinarily towering summits of the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range to the northwest, the very beginning of the arc of the Sangres to the south and the rugged canyons of the Arkansas River Basin to the east.
The Sangres are an extraordinary range, arcing about 250 miles from here to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and rising more than 6,000 feet above the floor of the San Luis Valley. They harbor at least two of the most challenging fourteeners in Colorado (Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle), the fourth highest peak in Colorado (14,345' Blanca Peak), one of the most restricted fourteeners in Colorado to climb (Culebra Peak, which is on private land) and they cradle the Great Sand Dunes. In New Mexico, they're the home of 13,161' Wheeler Peak, the state's highest; the famous Taos Mountain, the trio of the 13,000'-plus Truchas Peaks, and, of course, the entirety of Philmont Scout Ranch (HOmE), where I spent five summers backpacking and teaching Boy Scouts how to avoid being eaten by bears. Good times.
But, more than anything, this is why the Sangres are extraordinary:
The Northern Sangres, which stretch from the Blanca Massif north of U.S. 160 north-northwest to Salida, form a truly giant and narrow wall of mountains scarcely 15 miles wide. In New Mexico, the range widens dramatically, and includes at least the western half of the Valle Vidal unit of the Carson National Forest, home to some of the tallest and unique bristlecone pines in the world.
So, with those thoughts, I return to work...