Backpacking Trip Report: Pruitt to Kyles Landing

Area: Buffalo River

State: Arkansas

Mileage: 17

Days: 3

Type: In and Out

We did this trip over Labor Day weekend. We started at Pruitt campground and headed back up river on the BRT (Buffalo River Trail) which is the trail that goes up and away from the river and is also limited to hikers only. There is a trail that stays on the river called the ORT (Old River Trail) that is for hikers and horses.As we started out we ascended a graudual climb up to an overlook. From there the trail passes several old homesteads and then winds up at Ozark campground. That leg of the trail is 2.6 miles. This is a great place to swim and relax. From there we headed on up river towards Erbie. We stopped about a mile short of Erbie to camp for the night. That was about 5 miles form Ozark and we dropped down onto the ORT to get to the river and filter some water.

There’s a great place to camp on down on the river here. It’s a gravel bar that has places where there are sand. We had to shrink the River’s snake population here by three so be careful when camping down on the river. There are some great holes here for fishing and swimming and just a great place to relax.

The next morning we set out for another day of hiking. We passed through Erbie and on to some of the coolest parts of the trail I’ve ever been on. There are several historical sites on this section of the trail. There’s the Parker-Hickman farm and an old cemetery just up the road from there with some stones that date back to 1796. From there we hiked along a ridge overlooking the river and saw some really great stuff. This is a pretty long span away from the river so if you go it make sure you take plenty of water. At this point we dropped back down to the river for some swimming and some lunch.

After lunch we decided to make it over to Camp Orr Boy Scout Camp to go through a cave there called Copper Head Cave. We got the cave and had to help get a guy out of the cave that couldn’t climb back out. This cave is a drop in and then goes for a nearly a mile. After getting the guy out of the cave we decided to head back down to the river set up camp. We ended up camping about .6 of a mile from our final destination on a gravel bar at Buzzard Bluff. It was awesome. The bluff walls here are over 300 feet tall and truly amazing. The swimming there is awesome too.

After a good night we headed the last .6 of a mile to Kyle’s landing and then over to the cave for the day. We were originally planning on making this a three day but ended up doing all but the last .6 of a mile in 2 days. We decided to stop there because of how awesome it was.

This was a great hike. I would highly recommend it! Be sure to check out the pictures.

Backpacking Trip Report: Woodswoman’s Glacier Gang Trip report

Area: Glacier National Park

State: Montana

Days: 5

Type: Loop

This is going to be a long trip report. What a trip it was! The Glacier Gang finally met up for the HOC, one that was planned for months and was much anticipated by all. We divided up into two groups – the Two Medicine Group and the Belly River Group. In the Two Medicine Group were The Fogduo, Burntfoot, Justdropin’, Coloradodcs, LiRM35, and Woodswoman. In the Belly River Group were Squilax, Eduk8er, Mtbackpacker, PJSaeli, MsKatieBear, Ardwick, and Hollowayb. The Two Medicine Group had one no-show; I won’t tell you who it was, but he gets the Grizzly Bear Poop Award for not letting anyone know he wasn’t coming.

Before I start my story, I will say this was the trip of a lifetime for me. Not only was GNP a spectacular place, but the Two Medicine Group was a great group of people to be with. We worked well as a team, and we got along famously. Friendships were made and bonds were formed. I want to thank the Two Medicine Group for the wonderful laughs, the sharing, and the memories we made while on our trip. As for the Belly River Group, even though we didn’t hike together, I enjoyed meeting all of you and hanging out together at the motel.

No s**t…there we were in Glacier National Park…
The Glacier Gang made their way to East Glacier Park by way of planes, trains, and automobiles. We met at the Circle R Motel in East Glacier, most of us getting there by Thursday, July 15. Squilax had some flight issues and then his backpack was temporarily lost. Eduk8er waited in Kalispell for him. They finally made their way to East Glacier in the wee hours of the morning of July 16. Justdropin’ was due to arrive on Friday morning via Amtrak. The evening of July 15 the rest of the Glacier Gang hung out at the motel, visited and got to know one another. We made our way to Blondie’s, a local bar near the motel, where we ate and drank an assortment of drinks (beers and sodas). Our excursion to Blondie’s is a trip report all to itself. There were 11 of us, and it was our waitress’s first night. We befuddled her and she in turn befuddled us. Food orders got confused, some food didn’t arrive for a long time, sour cream got spilled on Burntfoot’s lap, and Mr. Foggy was bonked in the head by the waitress. We survived the excursion, but we don’t know about the waitress. She probably quit after we left.

On Friday morning, we gathered and sorted out our groups and got headed on the way to our trailheads. Burntfoot was gracious enough to wait behind for Justdropin’, so the rest of the Two Medicine Group went on to the trailhead and began our trip. I think it was around 11:30 when we started out, and it was a hot day. The first day was an easy 4.1 mile hike in to Atlantic Creek. Burntfoot and Justdropin’ showed up not long after the rest of us arrived in camp. We selected our campsites and set up tents, hung food, and rested. After we ate our dinners, LiRM35, Coloradodcs, Burntfoot, and I decided to take a hike up to Medicine Grizzly Lake, just over a mile up the trail. It was well worth the short hike – was very pretty, and Coloradodcs did some fishing (he caught a few trout). I showed my clumsiness when I tripped and fell on the way up to the lake. I was impressed – none of the guys laughed at me, at least not then. That came later. At the lake, Burntfoot spotted a bull moose with antlers in velvet in the water really close to us. We all took pictures and oohed and awed at our good fortune to see it. After the moose left, the Fogduo and Justdropin’ showed up. Mr. Foggy joined Coloradodcs in fishing, and LiRM35, Burntfoot, Justdropin’, and I headed back to camp. The night was uneventful, other than it was hot and muggy and the mosquitoes were in fine form. The Fogduo shared a tent, Burntfoot and Justdropin’ shared a tent, LiRM35 and I shared his wonderful tarptent, and poor Coloradodcs was left all alone in his tent.

Saturday morning most of the folks were up early for a 3.1 mile hike to Morning Star Lake. “What’s wrong with those people?!” was my voiced thought (insert smiley face here). After breakfast, we headed out and made good time to Morning Star. Again, it was very hot. At Morning Star, we were treated to a beautiful lake that also just happened to be ice cold. Some of us had the notion that taking a dip in the lake would be a welcome relief from the heat, but we never made it past our ankles. Justdropin’ showed us who the real man of the group was. He jumped in the lake not once but at least three times! At this lake we had our first sighting of………THE HAT LADY! Yikes! What a sight to behold! This lady had a huge white, wide-brimmed hat, and was covered from head to foot in a mosquito net shroud. When we first saw her, we all wondered “What the heck is that?!” Her outfit was a pale yellow suit of some sort. All you could see was her face. I must admit, after a few days of fighting mosquitoes, any of us would have gladly offered The Hat Lady money for her outfit. On with the story….in the morning we woke up to the sound of Foggy’s flipflops flipping and flopping. She had been making her way to the food prep area and spooked up a moose. She came running back to camp to get her camera. Let me tell you, those flip flops were going to town! Poor Foggy didn’t get a picture of the moose, though. While at Morning Star Lake, LiRM35 gave knot-tying lessons to Foggy and me. I don’t think I passed.

Sunday morning we all got up early so we could get started on the Death March – a 8.6 mile hike that included a 3-mile traverse along the sides of some mountains. We had a 1800′ elevation gain ahead of us, and a 2100′ elevation loss. We got lucky that day – it was overcast and cooler than it had been the previous two days. When we left Morning Star Lake, the climb began immediately. We climbed and climbed; the views got better and better. We stopped at Pitamakin Lake and took a nice long break, and looked UP at where we had to go. Burntfoot and Coloradodcs took the lead here and made it to the first pass before the rest of us. FYI: Coloradodcs was a great “Hey Bear!” person. He led us most of the time and made sure no hungry bruins picked off any of us. After reaching this first pass (I can’t remember the name) we again rested and enjoyed the views. Then we started our final ascent up to Pitamakin Pass. This involved crossing a small snowfield, and I for one HATE crossing snowfields. It was a first for Justdropin’ and LiRM35. I nervously watched as everyone came across, and nearly had a heart attack when LiRM35 stepped on an icy patch at the end of the snowfield. I’m not sure which scared him most – slipping a little on the ice or me screaming, “DON’T STEP THERE!” Everyone made it across without mishap. Burntfoot and Coloradodcs were already the the top of the pass waiting for us slow pokes. As each of us reached the pass, we exclaimed “Oh My God!” at the views. All except LiRM35, that is. What he said can’t be written in the trip report for fear of getting banned. I’m telling you, the views were the most outstanding I have ever seen. It was like being on top of the world! We stayed there for a long time taking it all in. Justdropin’ took a nap up there while the rest of us took his picture. And then we saw it, a sight that struck fear in our hearts (well, in the hearts of some of us). It was scary, it was nasty. It was…..THE TRAIL. The trail we had to take. The Trail of Tears. The Trail of Death (we hoped not). The Trail of Heights. The Narrow Trail. And it went on for 3 miles! This trail was narrow and on a ledge. A couple of us knew we had a problem with heights before doing this trip. A few others developed a fear of heights while doing this trail. As we did this traverse across the sides of mountains, Foggy and I cursed hollowayb. He told us it wasn’t a big deal; it wouldn’t be a problem. Ha! We wanted to kick his butt. He is lucky he was with the Belly River Group or Foggy and I would’ve….well, we would’ve done something. As it was, everyone made it across this traverse, again without mishap. We were proud of ourselves when it was done – WE HAD DONE IT!! Finally we made our way down to camp at No Name Lake. We were a tired bunch of stinky backpackers. And what did we see at the lake? The Hat Lady! Some of the guys saw her after she had taken a swim. There she was, standing on the lakeshore, a siren wearing nothing but a mosquito net shroud. Later on she made her way to LiRM35’s tarptent to ask about the tent (she was dressed by then). She was very nice and explained her outfit to us and made us all drool with envy. During this time I again impressed everyone with my clumsiness when I knocked down the tarptent (insert blushing emoticon here). The tarptent is great, and I was very impressed with it, even though it was knocked down easily (it was a test, okay?). We all crashed pretty early that night ’cause we were tired physically and mentally from the Death March. Somtime in the night, though, something got into LiRM35’s hair. He didn’t scream or anything, and kept his wits about him. We were, after all, in Grizz Country. Then I woke up. It was ME in his hair. I was dreaming about my two cats at home (I really missed them) and reached over to pet one of them. Only it wasn’t one of my kitties, it was LiRM35’s head. I’m lucky I didn’t get a face full of bear pepper spray (again, insert the blushing emoticon here).

Monday morning we made our way to Upper Two Medicine Lake, 3 miles away. We arrived there to find day hikers eating their lunches in the campsites. Not a good idea in bear country! Foggy told them they couldn’t do that, so they moved out by the lake. We set up camp, then enjoyed looking at the lake. It was a pretty spot, even with all the day hikers. Clouds started moving in, so we decided to try and have dinner before the storm hit. We didn’t make it. We all were eating halfway rehydrated food, scarfing it down as quickly as we could while getting pelted with HUGE raindrops. We finally gave up, tossed food into the food bags, hung stuff up and made a run for the tents. It rained hard and there were gale force winds. Let me tell you, LiRM35’s tarptent held up like a champ. We stayed dry. Again, I am very impressed with this tent. While it was storming, LiRM35 regaled the Fogduo and me with stories and songs. He is a good story teller, and has a nice singing voice. Coloradodcs, Burntfoot, and Justdropin’ were too far away to have the pleasure of this entertainment. After the storm passed, we all made our way out of the tents and back to the food prep area. It was now a lake! You could’ve floated in it with a thermarest pad! At the real Upper Two Medicine Lake, we saw bald eagles, a treat.

Tuesday morning we got up, ate breakfast, then headed down the trail for the last leg of our hike. We hiked a couple of miles to the boat landing on Two Medicine Lake, and waited around for the boat. We all had decided to catch the boat back to the trailhead instead of hiking the last 4 miles. When the boat did arrive, the boat captain, a petite lady named Dabney, told us the engine was over heating but not to worry, she had worked on it a lot. She proceeded to take a bucket, dip it in the lake, and pour cold water over the engine. It worked because we made it back to the trailhead without having to swim.

We had it all on this trip – good weather (most of the time), mosquitoes, beautiful scenery, mosquitoes, lovely wildflowers, mosquitoes, good company, mosquitoes, lots of laughs, mosquitoes, cold lakes, mosquitoes, waterfalls, mosquitoes. It was really and truly a great trip!

Backpacking Trip Report: White Rocks Trail

State:

Virginia

Location: Shenandoah National Park
Type: In and Out

Mileage: 6
Days: 2

On a weekend late in June, a few other Shenandoah National Park Student Conservation Association volunteers and I decided to go for an overnight trip in the park. I had previously done a circuit hike on Hazel Mtn Trail to Hazel River Trail to White Rocks Trail and suggested this location. The circuit hike was about 9 miles with a bunch of elevation change, but for our overnight trip we decided to just head in on White Rocks Trail and find a campsite between the waterfalls and the White Rocks.

This overnight trip was a spur of the moment thing as we didn’t start hiking until 45 minutes before sunset. Each of us also had about 5-10 pounds of liquid weight to make sure we had a good time… The hike to our campsite was downhill the entire way and we made it to the waterfall spur trail without needing a headlamp.

The challenge now was to find a preexisting campsite to spend the night at. This area was significantly changed by the huge fire in 2000 and the understory was thick with brush and mountain laurel. Luckily we found a campsite just as we put our headlamps on. The campsite we found was tucked away in the mountain laurel 150 yards past the White Rocks – Waterfall trail intersection.

Shenandoah National Park’s camping regulations differ from many other parks since you can for the most part camp anywhere as long as you are 20 yards from a trail or 10 yards from water. However, fires are not allowed, which for a leisurely overnight trip is really a bummer. We made the best of it though using my whisperlite stove as a heat source and light. We sat up drinking beer around the stove for hours and finally made it into our bags at about 12.

I slept great during the night even though the winds picked up. I bet we had wind gusts up to 40 mph, but the beer probably helped out quite a bit.

The next morning we hiked down to the white rocks, which is basically a bunch of large boulders to climb up on. The views were fantastic as we almost had a 360 degree view. We sat up there for a good hour until the wind chilled us enough to make us want to move again. We then hiked the 3 miles back to the car and took the 20 minute drive back to the house to catch some World Cup Soccer action.

Spur of the moment trips like these really make me appreciate working in a National Park and living so close to a great resource. I’ll have to start posting some of my dayhikes now!

Hiking Trails

With the current changes in the economy, it is great to know that there are still ways to get out and have fun without having to spend a lot of money to do it. And one of the best ways to get out of the house is to enjoy a weekend camping trip or even a simple day hike. In fact, there are so many camping sites and hiking trails across the nation that you could experience a new one each time you set out on an outdoor adventure! No matter what your fitness level or hiking experience, there is sure to be hiking trails that will work for you.

When choosing which hiking trails you set out on, a little research can go a long way. Choose hiking trails that match your skill level and make sure to note how far the trails are and how technical the terrain is. The last thing you want is to get to a hiking trail and realize that it is not at all what you expected; a little research beforehand can help you avoid this problem situation.

And no matter what type of hiking trails you choose, make sure to come prepared with the proper foot wear and enough water to get you through the hike. Hiking shoes should fit properly, be comfortable, and give your feet the support that they need. You will quickly learn that the right gear can make the difference between a fun outing and a painful experience.

Backpacking Trip Report: Lost Lake

Area: Chugach National Forest

State: Alaska

Mileage: 15

Days: 2

Type: In and Out

I was recently building trail at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska for a month as part of a Student Conservation Association crew. On one of my weekends, my girlfriend and I went for a short backpacking trip to Lost Lake.

We began the hike from the Seward side and soon ran into a wind that just about knocked me over when we reached tree line. When I turned around the wind would smack the straps on my backpack against my face, but the view of Resurrection Bay was amazing. It was a crystal clear fall day in Alaska and was the peak of the color change. The mountains were covered with the red of fireweed and other tundra plants while the aspen gave the lower forests an awesome golden glow.

The trail was somewhat heavily used by locals as a common dayhike. We passed several trail runners and day hikers. I guess the lake was no longer lost.

We didn\’t end up camping on Lost Lake but stayed on a slightly smaller one to the east. My girlfriend and I tried our luck on fishing, but gave up after a while. We had the perfect spot to camp, out of the wind with a terrific view.

The next day we began hiking out but focused on berry picking for a solid hour. We collected nearly one gallon of high bush blueberries and probably ate many more that didn\’t make it into our ziplock bag. My hands and lips were stained purple for the rest of the day. The rest of the hike was a bit more peaceful than the day before; there were fewer hikers and much less wind.

It was a wonderful backpacking trip and I suggest the trail as a dayhike to any visitors to Seward, AK.

Backpacking Trip Report: Pyramid Peak

State:

Washington

Location: North Cascades National Park

Type: In and Out

Mileage: 10
Days: 2
After a few weeks of not getting to the top of anything, (tiger doesn’t count tongue.gif ) I was getting hungry for a summit. But where to go? To the North Cascades of course! I’ve been spending a lot of time in the n.c. this winter because I love the views. Unfortunately, the weather can be bad a lot of the time. Most times when it’s nice everywhere else, it’ll be bad in the n.c. To get around this issue, I figured if I went there nearly every weekend, my chances of good weather would improve! I had been fiendishly checking the weather all week, and it was not looking good for the weekend. On the other hand, it was not looking good anywhere in the state, for saturday anyway.Laurie and Katie arrived at my place at 5am on saturday morning. I wanted to give them the dire weather report, and give them fair chance to bail. Not that there was anything to bail to. We all agreed to go anyway, 100% chance of precip. be darned!

Medium rain had slowed to light mist by the time we left the car. We were on the trail to pyramid lake by 8:15am. (1100ft) We followed the trail until it became obscured by snow, after which we followed the creek up towards pyramid lake but never crossed over to the lake itself (not really worth seeing, IMO), instead we headed up steep timbered slopes until we reached an undefined ridge with an open area where we stopped for lunch(4500). It had been snowing lightly since 2000ft and there were no views at all. We were wearing snowshoes, but removed them for the next steep slope ahead. Two rocky, cliffy areas we encountered were bypassed to the right(north). We broke out into open alpine slopes at about 5200ft. I strained my eyes for views, but alas, all was obscured by fog and snow. We found a semi sheltered place for camp(5350ft) and set up the “baby”.

The “baby” was a 3 person, 4 season tent we had borrowed for this trip. Since I wasn’t familiar with this type of ‘suspended in the fly’ tent, I didn’t want to take it all apart to split up the weight between us for fear that I wouldn’t be able to re-assemble it properly in a snowstorm embarassedlaugh.gif We worked out a system instead, where we would rotate the baby every few hours so each of us could have the pleasure of carrying the whole tent (minus the poles, of course). After my turn with the baby, I handed it over to Laurie, who didn’t want to give it up once she had it. Katie and I couldn’t find a reason to complain about this situation up.gif

After some april tomfoolery with the tent poles, we had our palace set up for the night, and went to sleep to the sound of snow hitting the tent, and hopes for views and maybe even a summit in the morning.

All that was hidden the previous day was revealed in all its glory for us on sunday morning! But, we had slept in too long to make a real summit bid – or had we? We had some breakfast (can’t climb without coffee doh.gif ), and set off with day packs toward the col at the base of Pyramid peak, which was only about 20min. from camp. We were ready to have a look at the traverse we would need to do below the east face of pyramid peak to gain the colonial glacier. Our route would be a U-shaped one, and traverse below paul bunyans stump and Pinnacle peak in order to gain the easy south slope of pyramid peak. The traverse from the col to the snout of the colonial glacier was the crux of the climb. It was an exposed traverse, and would have to be done one at a time, quickly.

We stood at the col, sizing up the route ahead. We had many factors against us and few in our favor. The sun had been baking the slope for hours, and as we stood there, snowball after snowball rolled down its length. We had decided to leave the snowshoes in camp (a weird call, in retrospect) and were postholing and moving slowly because of it. We would have to re-cross this slope later in the day, which would make it even more dangerous than it was right now. We all decided it would be unsafe to cross, and climbed up and over the knob to the east of the col to get out of the wind, sit in the sun, and enjoy the views. About 10 minutes later, we heard the thunder of a good sized slide, and ran back up to the knob to take a look. The slope had released a good sized, long running wet slide right across where one of us would have been had we gone. eek.gif No foolin’.

We were happy with the decision we made, and made our way back to pack up the “baby” and head down. From a couple thousand feet below, we could look up and still see the slide path. A leisurely descent had us back at the car by 4pm with many hours of daylight left!! We almost had time for another hike…… wink.gif

Trip Report: Bandelier National Monument

Location: Bandelier Nation Monument

State: New Mexico

Miles: 8

Days: 2

Type: In and Out

Friday, March 11 – I worked until 3:30 and left for the airport. I flew into Austin by way of Dallas to meet up with eduk8er. He picked me up outside the baggage claim area around 11:30 PM and we hit the road, headed for New Mexico. We drove until about 3:00 AM or so and pulled off into a rest stop to catch a few winks before continuing the journey.

Saturday, March 12 – Awake at 6:30 AM, eduk8er started up the truck and we were “on the road again”. We stopped briefly for breakfast along the way and the miles started rolling by. After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived in Clines Corner, NM. We called power_hiker from there, around 6:00 PM or so, and told him we’d probably be able to make Juniper Campground in Bandelier by about 7:30. When we arrived, we were greeted by power_hiker and CuervoBravo. They waited for us to get there to light the campfire. CuervoBravo had driven up from Socorro, NM to provide us with transportation from the Bandelier Visitor Center to our trailhead (what a nice guy!). We ate supper and laid out our sleeping pads and bags on the ground, then sat around the fire getting to know these two new companions.

Sunday, March 13 – I got up around 9:00 AM and the other three were already stirring. They had made and eaten their breakfasts, so I made mine while eduk8er repackaged our food for the week. Once done and cleaned up, I dragged my pack out of his truck and we began loading up for our adventure in the backcountry of Bandelier. We left for the Visitor Center and once there, we transferred our gear to Cuervo’s van. Eduk8er went in to get the permit and the three of us wandered around, taking in some of the sights. I checked out the gift shop and books while we waited. When eduk8er had our permit in hand, we piled into Cuervo’s van and headed for the Apache Spring trailhead. When we got there, a ranger pulled up to make sure we had everything in order. We were finally on the trail! We hiked in about ½ to ¾ of a mile and met up with some pockets of snow. As we made our way further up the trail, there was more snow, crusted over enough to walk, at least for a few steps at a time, before post-holing – sometimes up to our knees. After following this snowy track for awhile, eduk8er suggested that maybe we should go back to the van and enter Frijoles Canyon by way of the trailhead out of Ponderosa Campground. That is what we did. The trail from Ponderosa was very easy going. It was great to be out in this magnificent forest on my way into a land I had never been to before. We reached the canyon rim and began our descent. Man! What a lot of switchbacks there were! Being from the east, I usually don’t encounter more than four or five switchbacks on a section of trail at any given time. On this descent, I lost track of their number. Each turn gave us a beautiful view. The day was mild with hardly a breeze, and I could smell the butterscotch scent in the air from the Ponderosa pines lining this canyon wall. We arrived at the bottom of the canyon and eduk8er remarked that he didn’t remember ever seeing so much water in Frijoles Creek. We sure wouldn’t be lacking water on this trip! We stopped to eat lunch at Upper Crossing Junction. It felt good to drop the pack, lean back against a comfortable rock and have something to eat and drink. CuervoBravo had accompanied us in but was going to head back home this afternoon, so we visited a while longer until he had to go. We packed up and hiked further down the trail finding a nice campsite to set up for the night. We strung tarps, laid out sleeping pads, sleeping bags, food and other necessary gear, organizing our site. Camp chores took up some of the time – filtering water, setting up the stoves, selecting food for supper and preparing our evening meal. Just before dark, I noticed a light sprinkling rain beginning to fall. During the night, as the temperature fell, the rain turned to snow.

Monday, March 14 – We woke up early to the sounds of eduk8er smacking the tarp to knock off the accumulated snow. There was about 8-10 inches of the white stuff on the ground already and it was still coming down – thick! We ate a hastily prepared breakfast, packed up quickly and headed down the trail toward the Visitor Center and our cars (where we would pick up the rest of our supplies and gaiters). I also discovered that I had left my gloves in the truck, so I improvised and used a pair of wool socks for mittens. We shuffled through the powdery snow, still accumulating on the trail, crossing the creek many, many times. Some of the crossings were quite easy, using the log bridges that were in place. Other crossings were done gingerly stepping from rock to log, to rock, to shore. Even though I was as careful as possible, I still managed to occasionally slip into the stream, a couple of times going in over my boot tops – OOPS! That was COLD water! When we reached the approximate halfway point to the Visitor Center, eduk8er found a nice, dry overhang/cave so we stopped and made something hot to drink and ate some lunch. After a half-hour break, we continued slogging our way to the VC and our vehicles. It ended up taking almost seven hours to go approximately 6¼ miles. The VC (and the entire Monument) was closed but there were a couple of rangers at the office. We got in our cars, warmed up, and headed into the closest town – Los Alamos. When we were close to the VC, power_hiker asked me if I would mind if we spent tonight at a motel – I told him I was going to suggest the same thing, but didn’t want them to think I was “wussing out”… LOL! We did just that – got a motel room, hung out our wet gear all over the room, took hot showers and went out for a hot meal. It was nice sleeping in a warm DRY bed that night.

Tuesday, March 15 – When I got up it was still snowing. We turned on the weather channel to find out that the northeast section of the state was totally shut down due to the weather. This ended up working to our advantage because we used this down time from the trip to work out the details for the Wind River trip in July. We went to the grocery store and I went shopping for a pair of waterproof boots. In the evening we walked to a nearby restaurant for supper and some local brews. You’ve got to try the Woodchuck Cider sometime. It was awesome.

Wednesday, March 16 – Feeling a touch of cabin fever by now, it was nice to finally see the sun. We packed everything up and went back to Bandelier. The contrast of the deep blue sky and the stark white of the snow on the ground was unbelievable! We took the loop hike from the Visitor Center to the village ruins and cliff dwellings, checking out some of the caves, wall paintings and petroglyphs. During our travels, we saw mule deer nearby. We decided not to go out to the backcountry because of the weather, so we ended up back at Juniper Campground where this adventure started. We sat around the campfire, made dinner and talked about everything that had happened. Tonight we slept out on the ground.

Thursday, March 17 – Got awake around 9 or 9:30. Not feeling in any hurry today, we had a casual breakfast. We decided to head towards home today – power_hiker going back to Colorado to hopefully beat another weather front moving into his area, and eduk8er and I headed south through Santa Fe and Albuquerque hoping to meet up with CuervoBravo for dinner in Socorro. We stopped at the REI in Albuquerque to check out a few things. While I looked at gore-tex bivy sacks, eduk8er picked up a few items, including a new Jet Boil stove. We made it to Socorro by about 4:30 and I was able to raise CuervoBravo on the telephone. We met up with him at a local steakhouse and had a great time together over dinner. He was heading up to Taos on Friday morning for the weekend to do some cross-country skiing with friends, so it wasn’t a late night. We ended up staying in Socorro.

Friday, March 18 – Getting a pretty early start, we left for Three Rivers to visit the Petroglyphs National Recreation Area. On the way, we passed through the Valley of Fires, a series of lava beds covering a fairly large area south toward White Sands. We spent about 3 hours searching the rocks and taking photos of various rock pictures we discovered. Leaving the petroglyph site, we headed over to the Lincoln National Forest where Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett once roamed and the home of Smokey the Bear. We stopped briefly in Capitan at the Smokey Bear Museum and looked around in a couple of souvenir shops, then got back on the road. The next stop was Roswell. Yes, the site of the infamous UFO crash in 1947. Almost all the local businesses were decorated in an outer space theme – even the streetlights resembled alien faces. After eating supper, we headed to Texas and stopped for the night in Big Spring.

Saturday, March 19 – We were up and on the road by shortly after 9:00 AM. Our final destination was the airport in Austin, where I was scheduled to catch my flight back to Philadelphia at 7:00 that night. It was a long day on the road and we got to the airport by 4:30 – plenty of time to check in. I arranged for an earlier flight to Dallas because a severe wind and rainstorm was blowing up. Eduk8er and I said our good-byes and I told him I was really looking forward to the Winds trip in July. My flight arrived in Philadelphia about 20 minutes later than planned – around 1:00 AM. From there it was about a two hour drive home.

We got a taste of the Southwest in more ways than one. There were lots of different weather patterns, terrific food and local microbrews, and we made a couple more new friends – power_hiker and CuervoBravo. I’d like to attempt this trip again next year on spring break – maybe the weather will be more appropriate for spring than this year was!

Trip Report: Wind River Solo

Location: Wind River Range

State: Wyoming

Miles: 40

Days: 5

Type: In and Out

Trip Background: Ever since returning from my NOLS backpacking trip, I couldn’t wait to get back into the mountains. A solo backpacking trip was the only solution as I didn’t have anyone to go with on such short notice. I also decided to return to the Wind River Range in Wyoming because of my familiarity with the area and so that I may visit some friends in Colorado.

Route: Middle Fork Trailhead to Pinto Park Trail to North Fork Trail to Cirque of the Towers and back. Approximately 45 miles over a 5 day trip. Late August 2005.

Pictures: I really didnt take many pictures. Some of the pictures were taken simply for comparison of camp spots from my NOLS trip in June.

August 19th: lots of people with horses on the trail, although I was still close to trailhead. feeling pretty good physically even though I had left WI less than 24 hours earlier and had only 2 hours of sleep at various waysides. already at planned first camp by 1:20 and will continue hiking to three forks park for a total of 11 miles. the weather is great. high 70’s with a cool breeze.

August 20th: got out of the tent at 9:30 and made breakfast. I was on the trail at 11:00 with the plan to hike 5 miles to Pinto Park. only saw 4 people total today, but was off trail and in camp by early afternoon. made some dough for pizza and cinnamon rolls in my spare time. definately notice the need to hike longer so that I’m not in camp all day long by myself.

August 21st: woke up last night to “animal noises’ at about 10 pm. I crawled out of my tent and saw a small herd of elk in the moonlight about 150 yards away. I really wish I could have taken a picture. woke up at about 9:30 and used the rest of the dough for breakfast.

I started hiking at about 11:30 and went approximately 6 miles to the base of Lizard Head Trail with an awesome view of the Cirque. I was planning on taking Lizard Head trail and changing my route to include a larger loop over to Dickinson Creek Park. a storm forced me into my tent later in the afternoon.

August 22nd: woke up at 6:00 to get ready for the longer day on Lizard Head Trail. noticed someone camped above me 300 yards back; they must have gotten in during the rain yesterday. also saw lots of nasty clouds this morning so I sat in camp until about 8 to see if the clouds would clear out, but it must have been a front moving through. decided against the route change because of how exposed the trail is and hiked back to the North Fork of the Popo Agie. didnt want to take too many chances while solo. the hike down reminded me how much I hate doing steep downhill sections.

I had camp setup by 9:30 near Papoose Lake along the North Fork of the Popo Agie River. at about 10:30 a storm blew in and dumped some rain on me. at about 11:15 I crawled out of the tent and went fishing for the next couple hours. at one point I was catching fish every other cast with a spinning rod and spoon. I really wished I had a fly rod though.

later in the afternoon I took a shower using my nalgene and washed all of my clothes out. I was still considering changing my route a bit at this point to make a loop near Shoshone Lake. I spent a long time today just sitting in camp…

August 23rd: something rubbed up against the side of the tent in the middle of the night. I just told myself it was a marmot(it was something smaller) and somehow fell back asleep. woke up at about 7 and made a quick breakfast out of powerbars. I started to get lazy with making nice meals a couple days in.

cleaned up camp and started hiking at 9. the plan was simply to hike as far as I felt like going today and camp wherever I stopped. three spots I had picked considered before setting out were pinto park, three forks park and sheeps bridge. at about 11:30, i had already passed pinto park on my way down to three forks park. i stopped at the pinto park trail and middle fork trail intersection around 1:00 to take a break and fix up my feet a bit. I actually had a couple blisters which were caused from hiking so much the first day and my feet not bing used to the work. at this point I had already gone about 11 or 12 miles and felt great besides the feet, so I kept on hiking.

by the time I made it near Sheep’s Bridge, I had decided I was going to test my physical limits and hike until 5 or 6. this would put me close to or at the trailhead. at about 5:00, I got a glimpse of the water falls above Sink’s Canyon and became determined to hike all the way to the trailhead. at about 5:45 I set my pack against my car and began the adjustment back to civilization. in all, I hiked 21 miles in just under 9 hours.

Summary: I had a lot of fun on my solo backpacking trip. It really didnt take me much adjustment to deal with the loneliness factor as I am already am a rather independent person. The scariest part of the trip was definately not when I was in the woods, but while I was driving. On the way out to Wyoming, I drove through a nasty storm in South Dakota and simply driving through RMNP while visiting friends in Colorado tested my nerves. I definately plan on backpacking again, but it will have to wait until next spring/summer unfortunately.

Backpacking Trip Report: Saddleback Butte State Park

State:

California

Location: West Mojave

Type: In and Out

Mileage: 6
Days: 3
This months trip was to Saddleback Butte, a state park just outside of Lancaster, CA.What a crappy campground. I do NOT recommend this place at all. The campsites are ok, with water, toilets, and the usual amenities, but the location is just terrible. Maybe this was nice 30 years ago, but now when you look out at the horizon, you can see houses, highways and telephone poles. I prefer something a little more remote.

Anyway, the hiking was OK. 2 trails lead out from the campground and wind their way up and into the butte. Relatively short, but fairly strenuous, you start by trudging through deep sand, and the final mile to the summit is pretty steep. Nice views from the top. We wasted a good 2 hours on the top searching for a geocache, which we finally found.

Not a whole lot of wildlife out here. Saw a few snakes, a rabbit, a squirrel. A few lizards, some ravens and swallows. The Kangaroo rats came out at night and cleaned up the tortilla chips we spilled during the day.

If you go, bring an umbrella and water sprayer. Its hot, and there is no shade at all.

There are some other interesting things to do within easy driving distance. The Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve is nearby, the Lancaster Indian Museum was better than I expected it to be. There is a challenging sand hill just outside the park for you offroad driving types.

This is probably our last desert trip for this season. Next month we will be in the mountains, above the heat and smog until the weather changes again.

Trip Report: Rainbow Bridge

Location: Navajo Nation

State: Arizona

Miles: 25

Days: 2

Type: In and Out

Rainbow Bridge–north trail–25-26 miles in/out–2.5 days

The start–
I follow a dirt road, watching the fresh tire tracks. I am surprised I am doing this, the Jeep seems to find its way to the parking spot for the north trailhead for Rainbow Bridge without my guiding it. I knew another backpacking party was in, had sort of invited myself, then disinvited myself on the trip, thinking I could not get up here in time. The weather looked not good, with big boiling clouds and some wind. Oh well–could get rained on here as well as up by Hite.

I park, glance at the sky, and swing the pack on. Feels heavy as I probably have not packed well. I start down the obvious trail at the end of the car park, and let my feet find the pace.
It’s beautiful here, quiet, and uncrowded. The trail is plain but I sense the remoteness, a few flowers appear to appeal to my senses. I have never seen so many brillant blushes to the Indian Paintbrush. Soon the wonderful Navajo sandstone appears, in close and distant towers. Navajo Mountain wears a cottony crown of clouds, with silvery snow streaking its flanks. The trail dips into several washes –the first being Cha, which has enough water to make for a boulder hop over the small stream. Nothing like the sound of running water in the desert–we are so lucky this year.
I rise to walk more on the benches and the views abound. The distant Henries and Little Rockies–snow topped; the straight cliffs with clouds hovering, the intriguing sandstone formations bounding this area, the expanse of Navajo Mountain–seemingly so close. The sun is out more and the clouds less thick. Such a pleasure to be walking with this weight on my back. I would be no where else right now.
I arrive at the top of the switchbacks for Bald Rock Canyon and love the view down this deep canyon. At the bottom the water runs over slickrock and forms shallow pools, gorgeous, with nice campsites nearby. A large alcove looms that I will explore on my return. Right now I wish to make some miles before dark, then get to Rainbow Bridge the next day and not have to rush. The long light of spring days is on my side.
More of a slickrock ramble up then down again to Nasja canyon, more intimate and as beautiful as Bald Rock. An old graffitied picnic table is at a killer campsite after crossing the rocky creek. Shortly I feel my eyes drawn away from the trail—its a small perfectly formed arch!!! The later afternoon light is nice for photos. I walk on, climbing out of this canyon surrounded by towering rock walls. Some sexy sandstone is nearby–I think its Entrada, super smooth and silky, I run my hand along the surface of this petrified dune, amazed at the textures I feel. I go into a little valley, a graben, the walls tighter and more varied–its Surpise Valley.
Here its wooded and cozy, no water however. It opens some; again onto the benchlands with extraordinary views of the north side of Navajo Mountain. I am tiring from the long drive, then hike, and start to seek a campsite. I cross over one more deep canyon with water. I am not sure it is Oak Canyon, as it is narrow and much smaller than the other canyons. I want to camp high, to get the warm morning sun’s rays, and to pay homage to the mountain. The bench is very rocky, discreetly covered in Sego lilies, a couple of varieties, and I find some white ones which I understand are a little rare to see. I finally find a sandy hummock off a small sleight of slickrock; and pitch my tent. Its’ after 6:00, still lots of light. I carried some unnecessary extra water, as I was not sure of the H20 situation, so had plenty for my dry camp. The wind is cold, but light. I keep my vestibule door open all night– to great stars and no rain. The morning is perfect, the sun flaming the towers of sandstone all around me and streaking the sides of the mountain right in front of my doorstep. It’s warmer, and no ugly clouds in sight, just nice fluffy fat pure white ones, a lenticular cloud coming off the mountain.

I start walking again, early, not sure how far my destination is. I dip into a narrow rocky crevasse, then a dry canyon with a few pools. Again, up and drop into a large canyon —is it Oak, I think??– I revise that as I keep walking in this incredible canyon with rising walls so familiar to me, a bit like the east side trending canyons of the Escalante. The running water, the trees, the green, the red walls, the blue sky. How could a place in time be so perfect. Yet it is. I do not know exactly where I am and that is ok. I have a trail and I will follow.
I have noted some fresh horse and donkey tracks more and more, at first I thought a day ahead but now closer. As I amble along I look across the canyon and see a pack train coming my way, a few Navajo horsemen mounted and the rest empty saddles. They ask me to stand off the trail uphill and I do so. They are very friendly and say “You are almost there!!”.
I must look blank and they point down the canyon and there is Rainbow Bridge! I hadn’t seen it yet. They were surprised I was alone (what is it about that???Is it because I am female—I’ll bet no one asks men that question!!).
I press on, note a split in the trail to what must be Echo camp and drop my pack there and walk around the old camp up the the spring and alcove. Noises do reverberate there.

I take my camera and my water to the bridge. I approach expecting voices, the party dropped off, people from the boat up from Lake Powell, the others in the backpacking party. There is no one. Ah, my beauty you are mine all mine!!! At least for a few minutes. I make my pictures, then sit along a stone wall in the shade, just looking, listening, dreaming. Perfection in an arc of stone. It is nature to make it that way, we can never touch that for all our vaunted technology. Why does the blue sky look more so through an arch, why does it seem so magical? I felt the whole time was magical so far.
I stay about an hour and want to be on the road again. To some campsite by water this time I think. I can read and dream some more. When I head back I bump into the group–two I know–Sredfield and Dave, the others I do not. I say my lines “Dr. Livingston, I presume” , chat briefly and head out as they go to spend time and take their own photos. I do not see them again.
My walk takes me to Oak Canyon for the night, I camp off the trail in a nice obviously used site, with water nearby and a good sized rock to lounge on. Insects and birds sing, no problem with mosquitos though. Another nice, warm night and another day of walking. The sun higher, in spots the blooming cactii and dune primroses make quite the showstoppers. I stop and eat a snack at ye old picnic table at Nasja, find the Navajo horse pictograph, then play at Bald Rock. Here I drop my pack, climb the little hill right after the trail crosses the creek and climb to the base of the large alcove, the bottom a dried pool in a hanging paradise garden. Getting into the alcove is tricky with a little ledge climb then up a very steep loose talus slope, so silty at times I’m in to mid calf. At the top, if anything was there it is buried under tons of debris. There was an old fire ring and some wood, it would be hard work to get up here but what a campsite, safe from weather and a view. I am fascinated by the crinilations in the rock roof where the rocks had spalled off. Such precise ovals, evenly spaced. I couldn’t begin to draw like that.
After I come down a different way I decide to take my boots off and walk up the slickrock stream bed, its soothing cold waters to tired feet. I find a spot and lay down for a nap, the rock curved perfectly to my body, my head and feet inches from the split stream, I drift off for a half hour or more. When I wake I can’t decide to stay or go. I am not far from the trailhead and lots of light left yet. More adventures north call to me. I hate to leave, its so beautiful here. Back on the trail, uneventful to the Jeep, I am refreshed. I drive on out, to spend the night at Mexican Hat, to get a shower and a meal. Then on to more the next day—