Las Vegas, N.M. – More than 130 Highlands University students, faculty, staff and alumni scrambled up Hermit’s Peak Aug. 27, a roundtrip hike of 8.5 miles that rewards the hikers with spectacular views at the 10,212-foot summit.
“For more than 100 years, incoming freshmen have hiked Hermit’s Peak as a rite of passage to becoming a forever Cowboy or Cowgirl,” said Juli Salman, alumni coordinator. “They get a chance to see some of the most breathtaking views from this beautiful tree-covered peak that is part of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and it’s only 20 miles west of campus.”
Salman said until recently, students organized their own Hermit’s Peak hikes. In 2015, the Alumni Office revived the tradition by sponsoring a hike.
Salman said students bond during the rigorous hike.
“Some lifelong friendships will begin on the trail. It’s a favorite memory for many of our Highlands alumni,” Salman said.
Freshman Jake Covington, 19, from Pasco, Washington, was one of the first students to finish the hike.
“It’s so exciting that we have this kind of natural beauty so close to Highlands, and this hike was absolutely phenomenal,” said Covington, an education freshman. “Where I’m from in Washington, we only have flatlands. The reward of the view from the top of Hermit’s Peak is stunning. It makes me want to get into the mountains more.”
Fine arts junior and Albuquerque, New Mexico, native Elicia Gallegos said she was motivated to reach the Hermit’s Peak summit for the views, also saying it was a good workout.
“The mountains here are lush and green,” said Gallegos, a 20-year-old sprinter for the Cowgirl track team. “It was really relaxing to hike through the woods, crossing streams along the way. The hike was a fun adventure and the panoramic views at the top were beautiful.”
Highlands bused the students to the Hermit’s Peak trailhead at El Porvenir campground, with the first group of hikers hitting the trail at 8:30 a.m. Time on the trail ranged from four to seven hours.
“It’s not about how fast you hike the trail, it’s about how much you enjoy the experience and sense of accomplishment,” Salman said. “At Highlands, we have extraordinary natural resources like Hermit’s Peak in our backyard. I hope that students see the outdoor recreation opportunities that are so close to campus and will take the initiative to explore on their own.”
The returning hikers were treated to a barbecue catered by the university’s food service, A’viands, and souvenir T-shirts and goodie bags
Salman said the Hermit’s Peak Hike was successful because of collaboration among university entities such as the First Year Experience Learning Communities in the Office of Academic Affairs, Office of Campus Life, Office of Academic Support, Office of Advancement, Geology Department and A’viands.