Wednesday, October 30 we needed to say farewell to our campsite and get all of us, including Rick with his hurt knee, out of Havasu Canyon and up to Haulapai Hilltop ten miles away and some 2,000 feet up. Although our time in the Canyon was ending, our trip would not actually finish until Saturday. We still had some Americana time coming at a Route 66 roadside attraction, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas on Halloween.Continue reading
Sunday morning, October 27, we had to be up early for our ten-mile hike into one of the most scenic parts of the Grand Canyon. We wanted to get an early start both to avoid the midday desert heat in the inner canyon and to ensure we got a nice campsite for our subsequent three nights in Havasu Canyon.Continue reading
Happy Birthday to me!
The morning of my fortieth birthday, November 12, 2018, dawned cold. Very cold. Single-digit cold. Sean’s and my plan was to complete our third and final day in the backcountry with a 7.6-mile hike down from McKittrick Ridge into McKittrick Canyon and then out to the trailhead at the McKittrick Canyon Contact Station, where Adam, Phil, and Sylvan would pick us up.Continue reading
Next morning, Sunday, November 11, I woke in our tent at Pine Top before sunrise. Sean and I had a full day of hiking ahead of us, some 7.8 backcountry miles to the primitive campground on McKittrick Ridge up closer to the Park’s northern boundary and the state line.
My phone was dead, but it must have been a little after six by the light. Sean was sleeping, so I climbed carefully out of the tent and pulled on my boots. I nearly yelped in pain as the boot slid into place on my right foot. The blister that had developed on the previous day’s climb into the mountains was no joke. Once outside, though, I gave the pain no heed. I peed downslope from our site and then settled into my backpacking chair to watch the pre-sunrise light change and grow on the low country below.Continue reading
On Saturday morning, November 10, Sean and I walked into the Guadalupe Mountains for a three-day backpacking trek that would mark, on the third day, my fortieth birthday. The nineteen-mile route from Pine Springs Trailhead to McKittrick Canyon Ranger Station is the classic route up into the Guadalupes, across the high country, and back down. It is a shuttle route from one trailhead to another, and the Park cannot provide transportation between the two. Happily, Adam and Phil had agreed to collect us early Monday afternoon when we emerged from the mountains.
Our goal for day one was Pine Top Campground, one of a constellation of primitive backcountry sites for backpackers in the Guadalupe Mountains high country. From the main trailhead at Pine Springs, it was 3.9 miles and 2,200 feet up to Pine Top.Continue reading
On Monday afternoon, November 11, not long after we began my big birthday backpack into the High Chisos Mountains Complex, we were switchbacking up Laguna Meadow Trail, still within sight of the lodge buildings, when Sean, who had been in front but was now behind since I’d requested a slower pace, said:
“There’s an insect on your backpack.”
“What kind of insect?” I asked.
“A butterfly,” he replied.
“Take a photo.”
We stopped. He snapped a few photos of the yellow-green butterfly. And we continued on, assuming like most times that a curious dragonfly or a shy moth landed on us during a hike, that it would soon fly away. Some forty-five minutes later, he mentioned that the insect was still there.
Up and up and up we hiked along Laguna Meadow Trail, growing wearier and warmer. Each time I asked, “Is it still there?” the reply came back, “Yes.” Even when we stopped to rest, munching on trail mix while sitting on the rock walls that the trail dogs had built to create the switchbacks, the butterfly was still there. Even when I’d stop at practically every switchback, bending over to ease the weight of my pack and to stretch my hamstrings and to catch my breath as we reached the high ridge of the Colima Trail near our campsite, the butterfly was still there.Continue reading
And then the clouds came.
In the growing light before dawn, we were awakened by a soft rain. We made sure that our gear was covered, and climbed back into our sleeping bags to doze for another hour or so. At 7:30, I woke up in earnest. Outside our tent it had stopped raining, but the mist had rolled in, making the world chilly and moody and destroying any visibility. It was my 35th birthday, Tuesday, November 12.Continue reading
After a morning spent exploring Burro Mesa and striking our camp at Cottonwood, we drove to the heart of Big Bend National Park: Chisos Basin. We had reserved our backcountry campsite the day before and planned to hike into the mountains for an overnight backpack trip. I wanted to wake up the following morning, Tuesday, November 12, on my 35th birthday in the Chisos Mountains.
Multiple times over the preceding days we had driven the park roads in a great arc north of the Chisos, but this time, we turned south onto the road that ran up into the center of the mountains. The road rose steadily up the northern slopes into a canyon called Green Gulch. A delicate set of power lines ran along the road providing electricity to the visitor center, store, and lodge in the Basin.Continue reading
Thursday morning we woke up and took stock. In our original itinerary, tonight would have been when we camped at Daisy Farm, but we’d already been here two nights. Already the regret of not having made it to a campground on an interior lake, with an increased likelihood of seeing more wildlife, was hugely mitigated by having been at Daisy Farm the evening before for Candy Peterson’s talk.
We decided to begin the hike back to Rock Harbor where, Friday night, we had a room reserved at the lodge. Our goal for Thursday, however, was Three Mile. We hoped to get the same lovely, harbor-side campsite we’d had Monday night, or at least the one adjacent.
Back in camp, we decided to relax and then have dinner early enough to make sure we were finished in time for Candy’s interpretive program at 8pm.