Local Adventure: Hayden Trail, North Trailhead

I almost didn’t share these photos. This little adventure on the Hayden Trail didn’t seem all that “worth” posting. It wasn’t grand, it didn’t go for miles and miles (I think we did three miles round trip?) but it was a joyful hiking adventure after work with my buddy.

The views of the peaks over in the Sneffels range in the dramatic raincloud influenced light didn’t disappoint. (Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever been “disappointed” with a San Juan hike.)

Corkscrew, Hurricane, California Passes + Mineral Creek

Earlier this summer, my friend Molly asked if I would pilot her Jeep up Yankee Boy basin while her mom was visiting. Molly drives a JK with a pretty good size lift but wasn’t really comfortable driving it off-road herself. A girl needs to know how to drive her own Jeep so we decided to take a little adventure so she could get that experience.

Cruising around the San Juans is always such a delight:

On The Page: Wilderness Wanderers

After I’d finished reading about Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco and the Pueblo Revolt, I wanted to know more about Dominguez and Escalante and their explorations that had been the basis for my favorite Miera y Pacheco map. I knew that Western Reflections Publishing had a couple of books about the expedition so I headed to my local bookstore to pick one up. Turns out the book I was picturing was the actual journals (which they didn’t have) so I ended up with Wilderness Wanderers: The 1776 Expedition of Dominguez and Escalante by Ken Rehyr.

I ate up this slim volume.

Dominguez and Escalante were both Franciscan friars charged with finding a more northerly land route to the Californian settlements (essentially avoiding the el Camino del Diablo, I think?). They also set out to convert as many of the Native Americans along the way as they could (while recognizing that this would be a first contact and that more missionaries would be needed for more long term conversion efforts later).

As it turns out, Dominguez and Escalante’s route remarkably overlaps with my home range. They traveled from Santa Fe up to Durango, then north through Dolores, Egnar, and Nucla before following a Ute guide over the Uncompahgre Plateau to Montrose. They continued over Grand Mesa from Hotchkiss to Battlement Mesa (all these places I know!) before turning west down the Colorado. They headed north through the Book Cliffs to what is now the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. They continued on to Utah Lake, near what is now Provo.

 

Leaving Utah Lake, they headed down what is today the I-15 corridor. Along the way, near Delta, the missionaries decided that they needed to head south to Santa Fe instead of trying to find their way to California. The weather was turning cold and they were not prepared.

They struggled their way across the Northern Arizona deserts finally finding a crossing of the Grand Canyon at Crossing of the Fathers (submerged under Lake Powell). Once across the Colorado, they managed their way across northeastern Arizona reaching the Oraybi pueblo on Third Mesa where they obtained enough supplies to reach the western most Spanish missions.

I found the story of Dominguez and Escalante incredibly inspiring. Lewis and Clark seemed to have much more of an idea of what to expect than these earlier missionaries. I can’t wait to dive into their journals … but I should probably put a pause on my book buying binge.

I recommend checking out this book while meandering around the greater Four Corners region, especially if you’re not overly familiar with the area. I really enjoyed my visual imagery of each of the places they passed through. I was also super inspired by how the author of the book had visited and rode his horse on much (all?) of the friars route. How cool is that?

Ouray Hiking: Old Horsethief Trail

When we got back from Oklahoma City, it was time to do some hiking! Sprocket and I parked at the Old Horsethief Trail near the Hot Springs Pool and headed up-up-up. Unfortunately the day was really windy so we only got up to the junction of Old Horsethief and Horsethief Trail. Instead we contented ourselves with just being happy in the mountains. It wasn’t hard.

Sorry not sorry for the obnoxious string of selfies.

WCWS Road Trip: Capulin Volcano National Monument

After dropping Stacia and Andrea off at the airport I headed west immediately; it was time to get back to the mountains! I’d hoped to be able to hike New Mexico’s Sierra Grande, Union County high point but as I entered New Mexico the summer afternoon thunderstorm clouds began to gather.

Understanding that hiking it just wasn’t a good idea, I continued on. The storms had brought in some afternoon cooling so I decided to check out Capulin Volcanic National Monument along the way.

Since the visitors center was closed for renovation, I quickly perused the temporary gift shop and headed up the mountain. While the ranger at the top said that I could hike the rim trail, she did point out the gathering clouds “about 11 miles away” and asked that if it got much closer that I come down.

The rim trail was only a mile long so I knew it wouldn’t take me long to hike. Because I hadn’t had a chance to check out the visitors center, I was really excited to see the interpretive signs along the way. Capulin Volcano is only 60,000 years old!

It was a really different set of views than I’ve had in the past. I could see Black Mesa, Oklahoma’s state highpoint, off in the distance:

My views of Sierra Grande were excellent but the clouds continuing to gather around its summit confirmed to me that I’d made a good choice in taking a pass.

Back at the car, I grabbed Sprocket and walked him around the parking lot while inhaling a sandwich. My pup is one patient dude.

WCWS: Chimney Rock National Monument

The places nearest to where you live always get ignored. As I left Durango, I saw a sign reminding me about Chimney Rock National Monument. I’ve driven by the sign several times but never actually stopped. In fact, I wasn’t even sure why the Monument existed…

I debated for awhile and by the time I reached the turn off just shy of Pagosa, I’d resolved to stop. Unfortunately for my happy pup, the main part of the Monument can only be visited on a tour and dogs are not allowed. They do have a three dog kennels near the cabin where I signed up for the tour. Sprocket, as you might expect, was sad to be left but he was resigned to his fate. I waited until the last minute to put him there and then hid from him…

I hopped in the Forest Service van to head up to the ruin site (yes, this is a Forest Service National Monument!). We started at the lower site. Our tour guide, Rick was great and did an excellent job of tying the story of Chimney Rock in with Chaco (spoiler: they’re very closely tied!).

Since Rick was also a geologist, he was sure to point out cool geological features like these shrimp burrow fossils:

The hike to the upper part of the ruins was slow going since most of our crew was slightly older than me (as one might expect on a Tuesday!) but I was definitely into the improving views of the South San Juans (including Summit Peak that I summited a couple years ago!).

Finally, we reached the Great House near the top of the mesa. The very impressive rock work is Chacoan in nature and even more fascinatingly, is in signalling distance of a mesa that stands above Chaco.

At the very top, we discussed a proposed (and mercifully failed) proposed hotel project for the top of the mesa. (Thanks Peregrine falcons that nested here!) Our guide gifted us these nifty “I made it to the top” cards that made me laugh.

After the tour, I headed back down to the visitors center and retrieved my only slightly grumpy pup before we headed back down the road.

I’m glad I paid the $12 for the tour. After being in the region for a few years I’m starting to piece together the parts of the Chacoan story and every place I visit helps out a lot. Be sure to support all of our National Monuments these days; they matter. A lot.

Uncompahgre Plateau… Peak Undisclosed

It was the last week of school and I might have bought a bottle of wine. My roommate might have “stolen” a couple of glasses from me which lead to a second bottle being opened. This might have hatched a plan for evening hiking the next day.

We might have tackled a 10+ mile hike after work. These might be the photos from a site that might be on the Uncompaghre Plateau.

Aw, we’re always hiking alone so Sprocket and I never have great summit photos!

There’s no might about it, that’s my little town in the valley:

 

Spring Break 2017: Moab, Utah

2017 has been more of the crazy busy that 2016 was. I did take off some time recently to hike Mt. Peale and Black Mesa but other than that, I’ve been head down working hard on making a house happen (and on that front, I’m waiting around on an “as built” appraisal right now…).

Last fall, my friend Kelly moved to California and left her van at my place until she could figure out how to get it moved out there with her. I volunteered to drive it out over Spring Break. My roommate, Katherine, was starting her break in Moab so I joined her and her friends for a couple of days.

On my way out to Moab from Ridgway, I discovered, when I was pulled over in Norwood, that the tags on the van were expired. This lead to some handwringing between Kelly and I as we tried to figure out what our best course of action was. Since the courthouse in Ouray was closed on Fridays, we decided I should just go for it and we’d deal with potential tickets when and if they came. Because of this delay, I reached Moab a little bit later than I’d hoped but it was Thursday night and I had more than a week of freedom ahead of me.

We’d hoped to get permits to hike Arches National Park‘s Fiery Furnace on Friday morning but alas, all of the permits were gone until Sunday but I’d need to head west before that. Since Katherine’s friend Brittney had never been to the park we hiked to Delicate Arch and then out to Sand Dune Arch. The weather was windy and cold so it wasn’t until we got out to Sand Dune Arch that I finally started to feel like it was break. Scrambling around sandstone makes me grin like a fool and that really helped kick off some vacation!

 

I mentioned that I really wanted to go to Back of Beyond Books and Katherine wanted to go to Gear Trader. Out of character for all of us, we went shopping. Much to Katherine’s surprise, I spent money: I bought books, a (super sweet) hat, and a new MSR pot since mine seems to have disappeared. The sun came out and the weather warmed up so walking around town felt awesome. Once we were done shopping, we started floating ideas about where to go next. I suggested Cable Arch but that wasn’t getting much response. Katherine suggested visiting Castle Valley so I suggested that we go out there and taste wine at Castle Creek. We caravaned out of town, pausing to get water at Matrimony Spring, and headed for the winery.

Tasting at Castle Creek is only $1 for 4 tastes (thanks Utah law, you can only do 4 tastes but if you plan with your friends you can taste them all). Since we’d stopped at Red Rocks, we visited the Utah Museum of Film and Western Heritage. I’d never stopped before but was pretty fascinated with all of the movies and commercials that had been filmed out there! I knew about a lot of them but there were several that were total surprises!

Back in Moab, we grabbed dinner at The Spoke and then headed to the brewery to pick up some beer and have a pint before heading back to camp. The blustery weather had returned so we were happy to not have to return to camp yet. It seemed to be outdoors social media weekend in Moab so I was able to finally meet Dave W. and catch up with Mike R.

After a couple of beers we headed back to camp, where much wine and beer were drunk and campfire smoke inhaled and we all headed off to sleep. It poured overnight making getting the van out of our sandy camp spot somewhat interesting but it was time for me to be heading off towards California!

MLK Day: Uravan Hiking

I actually had a day off for Martin Luther King Day. I wasn’t needed at the coffee shop and school was out. I’d pretended to create some grand plans for hikes but I just wasn’t motivated. I was a little burnt out after a week of shedlife and some extra work after Christmas and I was just ind of coasting on fumes. So rather than having a grand plan, Sprocket and I took advantage of some warm weather and headed towards Uravan to see where we could hike.

I was sure all of the roads would be muddy and that we’d wind up just hiking a canyon directly from the highway. Instead, right at the site of Uravan, I noticed that the road climbing the cliff to the east looked pretty dry and decided to give it a try.

Our hike was just a few miles of meandering around. I hadn’t loaded Uravan onto any maps on my phone so we were just wandering around. We drove past some old mines on the way up. We scrambled down small muddy washes, we shimmied up little ledges, we found our way back down the cliffs towards the Jeep.

My handsome old dog was all about the sniffing and being outside. I don’t think the hike was long enough for him but that was okay.

There were pretty rocks and lots of just being happy to be outside.

My views out towards the La Sal Mountains wasn’t too shabby either.

I needed that. A lot.

Bluebell Knoll: Wayne County High Point

Once #RuthXJ, Sprocket and I made the descent from Mount Ellen, I realized that there was still a lot of daylight left but I had no idea what to do with it. I contemplated reading but the weather still seemed a bit unsettled and not great for basking in the sun. I thought about heading to Hanksville, finding some internet and working on this little blog and then I decided if I were going to spend money I’d better do it the good old fashioned way: at the gas pump.

I’ve checked into most of the Utah county highpoints over the last few years, aimlessly clicking around Peakbagger, SummitPost, and the like learning which ones are drive ups and which ones require large amounts of hiking. Wayne County’s Bluebell Knoll (also known as Boulder Mountain or Boulder Top) popped up as being not too far from Hanksville (ahem, if 60-ish miles counts as not too far). Fortunately, Utah’s Highway 24 passes through Capitol Reef so the drive was pretty much gorgeous.

When I arrived in Bicknell, there were some clouds sitting ominously over the Aquarius Plateau (again, also known as Boulder Mountain) but there didn’t appear to be rain falling from them. I figured I’d come this far and the only way to know if the forest roads were too muddy was to actually go check them out.

I’m so glad I went! The roads were only barely wet in places and mud wasn’t really an issue at all. I found that the route was in really good shape. It was, true to name, a bit boulder-y on top but nothing that really needed high clearance, just patience to pick a less bouncy line.

Bluebell Knoll

Everything about this drive and short walk (it was less than a quarter mile from the road to the “top”) reminded me a lot of Grand Mesa. I guess that makes sense because both Grand Mesa and the Aquarius Plateau are uplifts on the uplifted Colorado Plateau.

View from Bluebell Knoll

The only bummer of the hike was that I noticed Sprocket had split a nail sometime during our Mt. Ellen adventure. I couldn’t find a nail clipper in the Jeep (gotta fix that!) but Sprocket let me use a pocketknife to clean it up a bit so it wouldn’t split further. This was a huge bummer because it meant that the big black dog was mostly out of commission for the rest of the weekend.

View from Bluebell Knoll

After we were done, we headed back to Hanksville. The weather for sleeping the previous night had been AWESOME so I basically wanted to back and do it again.