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—

Trip Report: Rattlesnake Lake

Location Econfina Section Florida Trail (Rattlesnake Lake Site)

State: Florida
Miles: 10
Days: 2
Type: In and Out

I just returned from an overnight backpacking trip to Rattlesnake Lake. This trip was an effort to reach other backpacking enthusiast in the area and get them together. I posted information about this trek and made some phone calls and ended up with three of us and K.C. along for the trip. The hiking was roughly five miles in and five miles out. The trip was a success.

I have scheduled another 18 mile trip for next weekend. At this point we have roughly six people tentatively signed up for the trek. This is a lot of fun and provides a venue for folks with similar interests and passions to get to know one another and gain experience. It also provides a venue for those with little to no experience to try out backpacking and to learn and gain experience by traveling with backpacking with some more experienced folks.

This past weekend’s trip did encompass some very cold temps. K.C. was not accustomed to the cold temps and I could feel him shivering in the tent next to me. I spent much of last night with my bag unzipped and my arm and a portion of my bag over K.C. I also took my fleece jacket and laid it across K.C. to give him as much warmth as possible. My bag is not very roomy and I spent a cold night myself with the bag unzipped trying to share warmth with my big ole shaggy red dog. My efforts seemed to help as he stopped shivering.

All in all the weekend was a great success. The two guys that accompanied me are both retired and seem to have both been seeking friends to backpack with. They both exchanged contact info and will probably be doing some extended hikes together as they are both retired and enjoy spending time on the trail.

The success and friendships garnered on this trip made it a rousing success for me. It is my goal to start a trekking/adventure club with open invitation trips of variable difficulties. I am hoping, and it looks like it is going to, that this thing will snowball with other members taking some intitiative to plan some trips too.