Keeping Up With Mini While Climbing Mount Wheeler


Mount Wheeler rises to 13,161 feet and is the highest point in New Mexico. Photo by Richard F. Fleck


We camped in Taos Valley on a cold

September night while Mini, my blond

cocker spaniel, danced around the tent

as we tried to get some needed sleep

before our tiring climb of Wheeler Peak.

At sunrise we fed ourselves and Mini and

perked some aromatic coffee on the fire

while tops of fir trees reddened, and mist

arose from Rio Hondo swirling over

submerged black-gray stones nearby.

Shouldering our packs, we and Mini

hit the trail lined with pearly everlasting

and bright pink fireweed. Mini dashed

ahead as Jonny and I trudged beneath

the lodgepole pines until we gained a

view so fine of the valley and the distant,

shining, dark-blue peaks of the Pecos.

Climbing over a long and rocky escarpment,

we, at last, reached the krummholz where

Mini chased tiny sparrows up and down

the tundra knolls with her little feet moving

as quickly as a harpsichordist plays the

notes of a Scarlatti sonata; she raced up

high and came back down to encourage her

tortoise companions to get a move on, and

wondered why we did not want to reach the

sky where bright yellow sunflowers awaited.

But it seemed we barely advanced at a sheer

angle on the browning tundra because we

paused so much for water and tasty trail mix.

At long last we rested atop a false summit

with Wheeler rising much higher, but where

was Mini? She pranced all over the summit

three hundred feet above, waiting, waiting

for two sluggish human beings to arrive

sky high and sit and stare at nearly all of

the turquoise mountains of New Mexico.