Sprocket and I woke up at Bog Springs Campground in Madera Canyon and then headed up to the Mt. Wrightson trailhead. (Madera Canyon did not have a wealth of stealth camping options). I’d decided to go up the gently graded and more east and south facing Super Trail and then to come back down the Old Baldy Trail. Sprocket and I started up in the half-light of morning and quickly sped our way up to the Josephine Saddle. (We did not hike as fast as we had on Mt. Baldy a couple days earlier though.)
Thirty seconds before he flushed some quail and then looked at me like “I did a good job, didn’t I?!”I made him come pose for his obligatory “Sprocket entered a wilderness photo” I guess somewhere in that lazy dog there is a wasted bird dog.
Although the Super Trail had an easy grade, it was LONG. We just kept winding around the mountain and it almost felt like we weren’t making any progress at all. (The offtrail peakbagger in me looked up at the summit multiple times and thought, “Wait, I’m not just hiking up that gully?”)
Finally, we reached Old Baldy Saddle then climbed to the summit. The wind was a little bit brisk but the views were pretty expansive and great.
Mt. Wrightson used to have a lookout on top and its foundation made for a great place to hole up out of the wind and enjoy the views, some water, and a little snack before heading down Old Baldy Trail.
The Old Baldy Trail is significantly shorter (but steeper!) than the Super Trail and we made pretty good time hustling down the mountain. I ran into several groups moving up the mountain, and was complemented on doing a “good job.” I always feel a little weird when people tell me (or Sprocket) that we’re doing a “good job” on mountains. I live at 7000′ and try to spend a significant amount of time on trails so it doesn’t feel particular impressive, or like something I should be complemented for.
Mt. Wrightson was a pretty fun hike. It was long but doing the figure-8 of trails the way I did was pretty easy. It’s a great way to get some elevation in Arizona while using a trail and not needing to do any scrambling or climb particularly steeply (unless you want to do the Old Baldy Trail up).
Arizona, overall, has a pretty high caliber of county highpoints. Thirteen of the fifteen highpoints are summits higher than 7000′ and of those two below 7000′ one is Signal Peak, one of my absolute favorite hikes ever. Few of the highpoints are not either a striking peak or a prominent rim point with a great view (Black Mesa, Myrtle Point). Unfortunately, Greenlee County Highpoint, is not one of those.
After climbing up twisty US 191 from Alpine and passing through Hannigan Meadows, I pulled off into a small, unmaintained Forest Service road. We just got away from the road, and hiked up the track climbing over a not-insignificant amount of deadfall. Then we left the track and bushwacked our way to the small knob of a highpoint.
In this photo, Sprocket is looking at the highpoint cairn like, “Really? This is it?”
After our little highpoint adventure, we continued south on 191; if you’ve ever looked at the road on the map it is twisty. We stopped to check out a view point known as “Blue Vista” before heading down the tight curves of the rest of the road. The highway mostly stayed close to the ridgecrest as we traveled south and stayed above 7000′ most of the time before dropping down sharply at Morenci, home to a heartbreaking open pit mine (I’m not going to make you see photos because our lives already have enough sadness these days).
“I need solitude. I need space. I need air. I need the empty fields round me; and my legs pounding along roads; and sleep; and animal existence.”
Last spring, I devoured Muriel Marshall’s Uncompahgre: A Guide to The Uncompahgre Plateau in just a few evenings. I had put off writing a review of it hoping to have some time this summer to drive the plateau from north to south along the divide road from Whitewater to Highway 62 as described in the book. And then I started working all the time…
Sadly, that drive never happened this summer (although I did make a rather hair-raising muddy drive across the Plateau from Montrose to Nucla this fall) but I did want to return to this book before it faded into the recesses of time.
Marshall does an excellent job in this book of blending history, geology, and a travel guide all into one. The guide starts by describing the drive up to the plateau from Highway 141 near Whitewater. Heading south down the Divide Road, the reader learns more about Fathers Escalante and Dominguez, about Fort Uncompahgre, and Antoine Robidoux.
As major side routes are encountered, Marshall describes where they go and why they came to exist (and make me realize that I have tons of exploring to do along the Plateau).
Driving the length of the Uncompahgre is still on my list. And you can bet when I go, I’ll be taking my copy of Uncompahgre with me. Just reading it without even driving the route really helped me to make sense of how the far West End fits in with the rest of the Uncompahgre Valley. For anyone curious about the history of Western Colorado this would be a good read and for anyone who has spent some time between Grand Junction and Moab it’s a great one.
“I think it an invaluable advantage to be born and brought up in the neighborhood of some grand and noble object in nature: a river, a lake, or a mountain. We make a friendship with it; we in a manner ally ourselves with it for life.”
After dealing with #RuthXJ’s minor maintenance issue, I hit the trail about four hours later than I’d hoped. Facing down a long hike, Sprocket and I set out from the West Baldy Trailhead maintaining a nice stiff pace. The first few miles of the hike were fairly flat paralleling the West Fork of the Little Colorado River and we were cruising. I knew that I was probably going to pay for this since I’ve been focusing on other life goals over staying active but between the impending early fall sunset and purse joy at being outside, we just kept at it.
I should have taken a lot more photos along the river as it was simply gorgeous as the trail wound from tree sheltered groves to open meadows surrounding the meandering river. The trail started to climb a bit more stiffly around three miles. I was a little bit worried about Sprocket since he’s been a even more lazy than me; I didn’t need to. That pup just seemed to get happier the longer we hiked.
Finally, we reached a split in the trail where one could hike either off trail towards the summit or continue on to the East Baldy Trail. I can’t say exactly what we decided to do. What I can say is that I had a huge smile on my face and Sprocket finally decided to let me cuddle him instead of being mad at me for being a lazy mommy.
Continuing down the East Baldy Trail, I was struck by the sweet rock formations (that again, I didn’t slow my pace to take photos of) and by the care that Sprocket seemed to take of me on the way down. Sprocket has always been my loyal companion in the mountains. He’s sat on my feet when the wilderness released feelings about my dad’s death, he’s struggled down peaks when I pushed him too hard. This time, as I was tired but we were hurrying down the mountain, he lead me the whole way but always paused to look back and make sure I was still there.
When we reached the junction with the connector trail for another 3.6 miles back to the car, I looked at my tired pup and realized that the best option was actually to exit at the East Baldy trailhead and either walk the road back or to hitch a ride the couple of miles back to the West Baldy trailhead to save us both some elevation gain and loss and a few miles.
We made it back to the Jeep and headed back into Springerville before heading south of town to make camp along Highway 191. It’d been a long 16+ miles but it was definitely needed and appreciated.
School got out Friday afternoon and I could hardly wait to hit the road for Arizona. My plan was to camp somewhere near the trailhead for Mount Baldy (if not at the trailhead). Sprocket and I made good time down through Cortez, on to Shiprock, and then to Gallup. Before we knew it we were passing through St. John, Arizona. Somewhere just south of St. John, the battery light signal came on.
With just 30 miles to go to Springerville, I figured I should be just fine. I turned off the radio, didn’t use my brights and continued on. (This is where I should point out that #thehelpfulex suggested ages ago that I find a set of non-dummy gauges for RuthXJ and I said I didn’t need them…I would have noticed the issue way sooner if I could have seen the voltage drop rather than relying on the light to come on.) As the headlights started to dim, I was pretty sure the alternator was the problem. Then the clock went out and I was even more sure. Fortunately, this is a totally parking lot fixable problem for a #damselNOTindistress so I stayed nice and calm.
Google maps showed a couple of auto parts stores in Springerville that were open on Saturday so I had a destination: I was going to make it to Carquest to be there when they opened at 8am.
At the junction of US 60 and US 191, I felt the first sputter. I was less than 4 miles from town and really hoped that I could make it. Another mile and a half down the road, however, the fuel pump stopped getting enough voltage to work. I coasted into a ranch driveway with room alongside to camp just off the highway and crawled in the back.
In the morning, I flagged down the first car I saw which happened to be a Eagar Police animal control officer. He hung out with me for ten minutes charging up the battery so that I could drive into town and followed me to make sure that I got there.
Carquest had the alternator in stock and charged my battery while I swapped out the alternator. First I had to loosen up the power steering pump to remove the belt (it was a lot more cramped than my experience with the FSJ one!)I made it harder than it needed to be by trying to take it out without loosening the bracket but eventually I got it all sorted out by being smarter not stronger. I even changed out my belt since I had it loosened up although I certainly paid a premium for it.
While it sucked to be delayed a bit, it felt really good to know that I was capable of handling the problem on my own (including telling the men who passed by me on the way into the store that I really did have everything under control).
I’m still here. I know I haven’t posted about a hike, a run, or even a Sunday Sermon in weeks. I’ve been sprinting towards both Thanksgiving Break (yay! it’s here!) and towards actually breaking ground on a house in the spring. The funny thing about being stubborn and wanting to do everything yourself is that you actually have to do everything yourself.
I’ve had just a couple days off since I went exploring in Utah over Labor Day weekend and I can feel it. I hiked Saturday and am still feeling it a little bit on Monday morning (of course it didn’t help that Sprocket and I averaged 19 minute miles for 16 miles on that hike…). Despite trying to keep up a regular running schedule, I’ve had to forsake that much needed run more that I would like to keep up on grading, driving to Ridgway to meet with potential builders, on top of working at the day job (teaching) and being a barista (at Mouse’s).
One of the hardest parts of being an adult is finding balance. Whether that is work-life balance, balance in your workouts (flexiblity? strength? cardio?), sleep-good book balance, or anything else you can think of it’s hard. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much energy in the tank. I know that working out spiced with hikes is key to my happiness but I also know that stressing about where to live in a mountain town also takes a toll. I’m on a path to where that would be less of a concern in the future and that’s probably a great sacrifice to make but it also just sucks when you’re just tired.
I headed out for Saturday’s hike later than I’d like (more on that soon) but I needed to move along the trail quickly. I needed to feel the elevation straining my lungs (which, even though we made it up over 11,000′ wasn’t too bad). I needed to feel my quads and my glutes burn. I needed very desperately to remember that I’m someone who loves hiking and exploring. So we went and we went fast.
But that’s all there was in the tank. Week after week of working 7 days a week caught up with me and yesterday I was tired. So we drove a lot yesterday. We drove roads new to me and just were. Thankfully, the weather gave me a bit of an “out” today and I’m sitting in a coffee ship in Tucson blogging, writing, planning future trips, and shopping for appliances.
Tomorrow I’ll set out on another hike, perhaps taking it a bit slower, looking around and drinking in the scenery.
“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only though love.”
“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”