formats
Published on December 5, 2010, by admin in Adventure.

I just can’t get enough of Apache country. I spent last night at Chiricahua Nat’l Mon. again, and hiked a short nature trail this morning before heading into New Mexico.  Before that, I stopped at Colossal Cave below Tucson and had a VIP tour, I was the only one that showed up for the 3:00 group. 

Tonight I’m at a free campground in the Gila Nat’l For. I noticed some cliff dwellings on the map and I will take a look tomorrow. It is still cold at night with traces of snow both here and in Chiricahua where I stayed last night. I gathered up enough wood to keep warm for a while and then I will crawl in and pile the blankets on.  Tomorrow I will head east. 

 
formats

During the last month, Daryl, Donna, and I had been considering an overnight hike someplace in southern Arizona. It would be Donna’s first experience at backpacking and my first experience camping in a wilderness where rattlesnakes, scorpions, and coyote call home. Daryl has hiked in several areas around Phoenix and knows the climate and terrain we were likely to encounter, as well as having a vehicle that could get us to remote trailheads if need be. It seemed that everything was coming together as planned until an unusually, rare cold front moved into the Phoenix area and dropped nighttime temperatures dangerously close to freezing. We were beginning to think that our hike wouldn’t happen this year when Donna noticed that the weather for one of the areas we were considering reported a fairly mild night the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Two days later we were headed for Picketpost Trailhead and a section of the Arizona Trail just south of the Superstition Mountains.

Over the last few weeks, Daryl and I had searched for a trail in a forested area, but the altitude in the mountains of Southern Arizona where treeline begins also brings cooler temperatures. We wanted this hike to be fairly easy for Donna’s introduction into the world of backpacking, leaving out the long distance, mountain climbing, and arctic weather. This was my first time backpacking in a desert area and I have to say that I truly enjoyed it. The only drawbacks were having to carry a lot of water and wear long pants – it seems like everything that grows in the desert has needles sticking out of it.

The temperature for the first day was almost perfect. We hiked about 8 miles through rolling hills, canyons, and dry riverbeds (called washes out here because they only see water when it rains). There were several different kinds of cactus and innumerable plants and bushes, many of which Daryl knew their names. Daryl has a friend who is a botanist and they go hiking in the surrounding area and study plants. It was kind of interesting to learn the names of some of the plants and why they are called what they are.

Donna did great. In fact, I was the one usually lagging behind. I tried to lighten her pack by distributing some of the heavy items between Daryl and I, but by the time we divided up the water and food, she had a pack that weighed more than some of my overnight packs. Plus, she had to carry a whole bunch of makeup and her curling iron and blow dryer

newcamera 018

At about 3:30 we crested a hill and glimpsed a valley far below. There was an open area that looked like a good camping place, green trees near the edge of the valley suggested water nearby, and it looked protected from the wind. Our maps indicated that this place was called Spring Trough. The trail seemed to skirt the edge of the trough and it took us a long time to hike down from the hills and navigate a riverbed into the campground, but we all agreed it was a good place for our home that night. I began to gather firewood as Daryl scouted for water at the spring and Donna prepared spots for our tents. Apparently, this land is open range and cows also enjoyed this place. The ground was covered with cow pies.

newcamera 017

Daryl came back to report that the spring didn’t look like anything we would want to drink. We still had plenty of water for drinking and cooking but we would be careful not to waste any. After we set our tents up, we all gathered wood. The sun was beginning to set behind the hills and already the air had a chill to it. When we were sure we had enough firewood to last into the night, we made our dinner of Lasagna, chicken, and mushrooms – no, Donna and I did not like the mushrooms.

As we warmed ourselves by the fire, Daryl kept getting up to check the thermometer I had brought. By 9:30 p.m., the temperature was almost down to freezing and we were a little concerned that we would be able to stay warm in the night. According to the weather report we had so readily trusted, it should have been closer to 50 degrees at the minimum. Donna and I had tents but Daryl was sleeping out under the stars. None of us were prepared for below freezing temperatures, so when we crawled into our bags, we were wearing all our warmest clothes.

newcamera 029

I remember wakening in the night and listening to Daryl unfold an emergency space blanket. He asked me if I was still staying warm and I replied, “Just barely”. I never herd a peep from Donna in the night, but the next morning she said she was a little cold too. Clouds moved in towards morning and the temperature rose a few degrees. By the time daylight broke over the hills and Donna and I crawled from our tents, Daryl had a nice fire going and we breakfasted on oatmeal and coffee.

The hike out followed an old forest road for most of the way. At times it would rain and once we were pelted with hail. It was chilly but we stayed warm with the exercise of walking. We met a group of horses and riders that talked with us briefly, and when we were almost back to the car, two young day-hikers were in awe of our rugged accomplishment. The only other people we met on the trail were two motorcycle riders that Daryl reminded should not be on the trail.

newcamera 033

I had a great time on our desert hike. It was wonderful to spend time with Donna and Daryl. Maybe next summer we will be able to hike in the forests and mountains and get more relatives to come. Donna and I agree that one thing that definitely could have made this hike better was to have Karen with us.

 
formats

I took a long weekend break from National Park sightseeing and explored the region of desert east and south of Phoenix. Donna is willing and able to try a short backpack hike and I’ve been looking for someplace that would be fun but not too extreem. I don’t want her first hike to be freezing cold, or a struggle up a mountain carrying a heavy pack.  I’m not saying that she will have a hard time backpacking – she walks two miles everyday and is in better shape than I am – just that to see what it is all about dosen’t have to involve marathon distance and mountain climbing. 

I found a nice loop trail south of Superior, AZ that follows part of the Arizona Trail for a few miles and winds along the Alamo Canyon on one side.  It should be warm enough this time of year, and the terrain is relatively flat. Even though the landscape is void of forest, the canyon and unique vegitation should make for an interesting place to hike. 

I continued on to Catalina State Park where I paid too much for a place to park. I’m thinking of getting an electric heater to justify the price Parks are gouging campers in this economic portal. And I could have used one – the temperature in Tucson this morning was 38 degrees. 

I spent most of the day Saturday at the Pima Air and Space Museum.  There is so much to see – almost every plane made in the United States was represented – it would have taken several days to see it all. A lot of the information people around the displays were pilots and it was kind of neat to talk with them. 

Right now I’m in Kartchner Caverns State Park for the night. I’ll take a look at the cave tomorrow and see if it is anything I would be interested in. Then it will be off to see Saguaro NP and look at a lot of big cactus. 
    

 
formats

Daryl and I awoke just before dawn at our campsite in Grand Canyon National Park. We breakfasted on oatmeal and granola and prepared our backpacks with the lightest gear we had.  I was using my ultralight pack and Daryl left his tent behind in order to save a couple of pounds. Today was the start of our lifetime, adventure hike from the canyon rim to the Colorado River, returning the next day on the grueling 4400 foot climb back from the depths of the canyon floor. 

We drove to the backcountry parking lot where a shuttle bus took us to the South Kaibab Trailhead and deposited us along with about 20 other hikers at the start of our backpacking adventure. It was sunny and cool with a forecast of warm, dry weather for all but the tail end of our hike. All the hikers, including us, swung packs to shoulders and paused for photos before decending on the narrow path that leads into the canyon. The date was November 7, 2010.  

There are two main trails that lead into the Grand Canyon, and surprisingly, both paths are quite different.  Most people hike down on what is called the Kaibab Trail and return on the older – more famous – Bright Angel Trail, forming a semi-loop of sorts.  The 8 mile Kaibab Trail follows the ridges of the canyon, traversing open cliffs and exposed walls.  The views are always expansive and panaramic.  The drawback to this trail stems from the fact that hikers in summer weather will find little shade and no water along the entire route. The Bright Angel Trail, on the other hand, follows a natural side gorge along the Indian Garden River and most of the scenery is limited to the walls that tower above the trail. Both routes are quite beautiful, abundent with breathtaking views, awesome in shear expanse,  and formations even the imagination cant rival.

Going down is hard on the knees. Both Daryl and I had our knee braces on and I think they helped. I use treking poles to take some of the shock of downhill pounding away from my knees and I think that helped also.  My leg muscles are sore today from the workout, but that will go away in a few days with no lasting effects. It was a good workout and nothing near as streanous as the Sierra Nevada hike. I’ve decided that never again will I go backpacking with the premis that we need to get done and be back by a certain time.  

I had imagined the campground at the canyon floor to be a quiet little area of a few tents and hikers, but it was more like a mob of humanity, mostly young people, a little roudy but polite just the same.  Hikers seemed to trickle in all day until every campsite was occupied and the daily quota of 90
campers was reached. Rangers told us that before the days of permits, there would be as many as 800 hikers all compressed into this small campground. The impact was just too great. Now they are very strict and check permits religously. 

Daryl and I chose a campsite with a little isolation from the rest and made our beds for the night. Daryl was just sleeping under the stars, but I can’t do that and need a tent for protection from things that crawl around in the night. It was still early afternoon so while Daryl took a nap I put on crocs and waded in Bright Angel Creek. Afterwards, we sat and watched hikers dribble in to the campground.  It was interesting to me that a few of the backpackers were young females hiking alone. You hardly ever see that in the wilderness. I guess this would be be considered a community hike – like the AT – where there is more comfort with a lot of people around.     

Later that evening, we listened to Ranger led programs about the CCC and Bats. They were quite informative and interesting. In between times, we enjoyed a fine Mexican backpack meal which we devoured with great gusto. Both of us were quite hungry.

The night was fairly warm. The low altitude and protection from wind kept us snug in our camp.  Early the next morning, rude flashlights and banging pans from the camp next door, woke us to pre-dawn darkness.  We cooked some oatmeal for breakfast, competed for a turn in the restroom, packed up, and were on the trail by 7:30.

It was a tiresome hike back out but we both expected that. Our packs were lighter with less food and water and for a couple of miles the trail followed the river, sparring us the assent until our legs warmed to walking. The miles slowly fell behind end eventually- after quite a few rest for me – crested the rim at about 2:00 pm. There we were met with a cold wind and swirling ice crystals. 

It was a great hike and a wonderfun experience, something I had long desired to do but never imagined I would have the oppertunity to do. Thanks Daryl.             

 
formats

The Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of the world, beautiful, awe inspiring, take your breath away magnificent… blah, blah, blah. Now, take that same canyon, put on a backpack and hike from the rim to the Colorado River, decending along a narrow path that drops almost a vertical mile to the canyon floor – then you’ve got something.  That’s Daryl’s and my plan for Sunday. Mondays plan is to hike back out. If I can’t make it, it wil one heck of an expensive helicoptor ride to the top. 

While visiting the park last week, I stopped by the backcountry permit office for some information. Amazingly, they still had a couple of spots avaliable for canyon hikes this weekend. It has always been something I wanted to do and the time seemed right. I was a little apprehensive to go down by myself so I called Daryl to see if he could fit it into his schedule. Everything looks good for our attemp. 

I have been hanging around Flagstaff for the last few days, exploring the sights and staying at camps in the National Forest. Today I saw Meteor Crator and Walnut Grove National Monument. I enjoyed both places. Tonight I will drive back to GCNP and reserve a campsite for the next part of my adventure. Stay tuned.   

 

CyberChimps gives you the tools to turn WordPress into a modern feature rich Content Management System (CMS)