WCWS Roadtrip: Santa Fe, New Mexico

After I finished up in Los Alamos, I made the short drive down to Santa Fe. It was really hot so it was clear that this was going to need to be a dog friendly adventure (aren’t they all?) but fortunately Santa Fe was super welcoming. I’m always a bit hesitant about walking into shops with Sprocket but honestly? no one has complained yet. (He usually just lays down and goes to sleep.)

I’ve passed through Santa Fe before but I’d never just wandered around the Plaza. The park in the middle was really pretty and I loved the old architecture. Unfortunately, I’m not super excited about either turquoise jewelry (or really any jewelry) or Native American art so most of the shops didn’t really strike my fancy.

We wandered up to the area around the St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral but I was afraid to go inside with Sprocket. (Yes, I appreciated the irony even in the moment.)

Next we explored a side street sort of randomly. I didn’t particularly have a game plan for this adventure so we were just wandering! Fortunately, it took me to the oldest church structure in the USA and the oldest house in the US!

While I was looking for a place to eat lunch with a patio and some good New Mexican food, I stumbled across 109 East Palace, the Santa Fe base of the Manhattan Project where arrivals visited before heading up “The Hill” to Los Alamos.

It took a little deciding but I finally sat down for lunch at La Casa Sena. Sprocket and I were treated excellently, I greatly enjoyed my jalapeño-cucumber margarita and my lunch was fantastic. It was nice to sit in the cool patio and enjoy my book!

I was really drained after lunch. I’m not sure if it was the heat, the driving, or just the residual school year catching up with me but when we headed up into the mountains near town to find a camping spot, I promptly climbed in the back of the Jeep about 4:30pm and fell asleep. I managed to rouse myself about 8pm to take Sprocket for a walk and went back to sleep for the night. I guess I needed a vacation or something, ha!

Arizona County Highpoint: Greenlee County

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?”

Greenlee County Highpoint

Greenlee County Highpoint

Highpoint Cairn

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).

US 191 AZ Viewpoint

Blue Vista

Colorado County Highpoints: Northern Plains

After saying goodbye to Bart, Leigh, and Boone, Sprocket and I headed north from Burlington making our way to Yuma, Colorado. There was snow on the roads but it wasn’t icy (or as it would be later slushy).

Blizzard aftermath

Normally, one would be able to pretty much drive right to the Phillips County highpoint but the north-south road was drifted with about 4-8″ of snow so Sprocket and I jaunted north from the intersection just to the south.

Phillips County highpoint

After Phillips County, it was just a short drive to Sedgewick County with its short hike out to the highpoint. There was some pretty deep drifted snow on the way out past the abandoned barn but after that the going was fairly easy and the snow was already starting to melt rapidly!

Sedgewick County Highpoint

Sedgwick County Highpoint

We made our way north into Nebraska, grabbing lunch in Sidney, before making our way to Colorado’s Logan County highpoint. By the time we arrived, the snow was almost gone!

Logan County Highpoint

Logan County Highpoint

We tried to visit Panorama Point but unfortunately the snow was really drifted on the last mile to Nebraska’s highpoint. I wanted to drive all the way home that night so I was aware of time constraints, plus the landowner’s sign warned that because of bison in the area hiking wasn’t allowed.

Baby cows

Instead, we headed south through Pawnee National Grassland to Shannon Benchmark, the highpoint of Morgan County. On our way out to the highpoint, Sprocket was reminded of his hatred for prickly pear. (He used to almost refuse to walk across the field of the Log Hill property.)

Tagging Shannon Benchmark Shannon Benchmark Beth at Shannon Benchmark

I briefly debated spending another night in the area and trying to arrange a visit to the Terry Bison farm for the next day but after the blizzard adventure, I decided to put it off for another time but in the space of three days (including one mostly weathered out!) I’d added 9 Colorado County Highpoints to my total bringing me to 45 of 64 (70.3%)!

 

P.S. Ruth was the best ever: we had a tank of gas going over the mountains where we got 30mpg! (XJs love 45 mph and elevation; there’s a reason we make a good team.) I can’t imagine a better vehicle for someone with a county highpoint hobby.

Logan County Highpoint

Colorado County Highpoints: South End of the Plains

Last December, I headed to the central plains to collect a few more highpoints before the end of 2015. As I start to think about attempting to finish the Colorado County High Point list before the end of 2016, I really wanted to finish out the plains highpoints. Sprocket and I started out our loop with the southern most points of the plains.

Dry Bluff Southweste

Appreciating the plains points takes a little bit of extra attention. I studied the cholla and the yucca plants. I poked around small towns and stopped at view points and informational markers:

Exploring

The highways were lonely and many of the dirt roads were even lonelier.

Plains

Ruth even summited a couple of the highpoints along with Sprocket and I:

Carrizo Mountain East Slope

Dirt roads

My ascent of Two Buttes (Prowers County HP, 4711′) came on Day 2 in some crazy winds: sustained 24mph with 51mph gusts at the time of my hike kicking up white caps on Two Buttes Reservoir. We were there, though, and it was only about 400′ of ascent to the summit so Sprocket and I decided to tough it out and get ourselves to the top.

White caps

Two Buttes

Two Buttes selfie Beth

Sprocket on Two Buttes

XJ Cherokee: Sleeping Platform

Last summer while we were traveling around in Francis I never bothered to make a sleeping platform. The FSJ has a really ample cargo area once the seat is removed so it never really became a high priority for me (also, my living situation last year never really was conducive to building one). When I brought Ruth home, I knew that I would need to build a platform in order to have well organized road trips. The platform didn’t get built before my Thanksgiving trip to Arizona but that mostly just proved that a platform would be key to being happy—packages of bagels rolling around on the passenger floorboards and weird lumpy unlevel futons are cool for a couple of days but SP and I sleep in the Jeep often enough to justify something better.

Sunrise XJ mountaintop

The first iteration of XJ platform I used was on my first big US road trip in 2010. F and I made it out of 3/4″ sanded plywood. We didn’t want it to sag or be unstable but we later realized that we’d way over built it. F passed along to me some measurements for a more streamlined platform out of 5/8″ OSB. His new version had made some cool improvements that increased access underneath the forward part of the platform and I decided to mostly copy his plan.

Lowes I picked up a sheet of 1/2″ OSB and had it cut to length in the store (Lowes and Home Depot will both do this for you) as well as twelve 1 1/2″ L-brackets (they came in packages of 4). Back at home, I cut the remainder into supports: three lengthwise supports and a cross-brace for the front. I rough fit everything together inside the jeep to confirm placement before screwing things together. I decided to trim the back corners to 45-degrees for ease of reaching things that might fall to the sides of the platform and to nestle the platform as far back against the tailgate as possible. (I’ve got long legs and drive with the seat just one click forward from all the way back.)

Test fitting
Fitting the main piece
Redneck sawhorses
Cutting the remainder for supports

I decided to leave the plastic trim at the bottom of the tailgate opening on, although in the original and F’s recent version, it was removed for ease of removing plastic storage containers. (I can always decide to remove mine later if I decide.) My outer supports rest right against the base of the wheel wells and the middle support is aligned with the tailgate latch. The front cross member is centered and rests on the narrow lip that the front of the back seat bottom rests on.

Supports

Everything was assembled with the L-brackets and put back into the Jeep to check for fit. Once I confirmed everything was in the right spot, I took the platform out one more time and used my angle grinder to remove the points of the screws that were protruding. Coats and sleeping bags don’t play very well with sharp pointy things so it’s time well spent.

Sprocket ready to load up to the platform

The platform only took me a couple of hours to build and really affordable:

◊ 1 sheet 1/2″ OSB: ~$10

◊ 4 packages of 4ct. 2 1/2″ L-brackets (the Stanley ones I got included screws): $13.27

Platform total: <$25!

(I also bought four plastic totes from Home Depot to organize my storage for another $20)

Depending on your desires you could purchase thicker OSB or even plywood if you desire a smoother surface. I’m going to test this out for the summer and see how it goes, the rough surface might wind up collecting more Sprocket dirt than I want but if I change my mind, I can disassemble this and reuse my brackets so it’ll be a good experiment.

XJ Sleeping Platform

Sprocket says "Thank you, Mom."
Sprocket says “Thank you, Mom.”

Arizona: Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Hubble Trading Post

Traveling south from Canyon de Chelly, I stopped at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Located in Ganado, the Trading Post is still “operational” selling sundries in addition to visitors center like merchandise.

Hubbell Trading Post

Hubble Trading Post

I poked around in the rug room and browsed the trading post, picking up few jars of salsa and jam for myself and a handful of small trinkets for Christmas gifts.

Rug room

Gun collection

The visitors center was closed for lunch so I spend some time wandering the grounds checking out the sheep, the fowl, the bread oven, and poking around.

Hubbell Trading Post

Hubbell Trading Post grounds

Sheep at Hubbell Trading Post

When the visitor center reopened, I paid my $2 to take a tour of the Hubbell residence. I didn’t take any photos inside but I found the house really compelling. It passed directly from the family to the Park Service so the furnishings are all original to the house and they even have the family china! It was just me on the tour so it was really informal but my guide was great and I really enjoyed it. (I was even a bit inspired by the hallway-less design of the house!)

Arizona: Southward Bound!

One of the bonuses of being a teacher is that a lot of school districts seem to have gone to week long Thanksgiving Breaks! This actually makes a lot of sense considering the number of families that travel for the holiday and missed some school anyway. Last year I took advantage of the break by spending some time in Denver and then flying to Connecticut to celebrate Lucy and Franz’s wedding. This year, I decided to return to an infant holiday tradition and go to Arizona to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with a dear friend from high school who had been kind enough to invite me to Thanksgiving in 2012 and 2013. I think she’s stuck with me now. 🙂

Thursday after school, Sprocket and I hopped in Ruth, made a quick stop at the gas station and headed out of town. I decided to take advantage of the long stretch of driving to run a fuel mileage test at about 55 mph so we weren’t making great time but I wasn’t worried about it at all; we were cruising down the highway listening to podcasts and simply enjoying the freedom of the open road.

XJ Selfie

I’d hoped to make it all the way down to Kayenta that night but I’d gotten a start about an hour later than I’d hoped plus it’s amazing what a difference driving 55mph for 200 miles compared to 70mph makes. (I think I drove about 40 from Monticello to Blanding…holy deer everywhere on the side of the road!) We made camp along the San Juan River knowing that it would be more difficult to find a good place to camp once we crossed the bridge onto the Navajo Reservation.

Camp near Bluff, UT

In the morning, we got our start just before the sun crested over the buttes to the east. It was lovely to cruise along watching the desert become fully light.

Originally, I’d planned to take the standard route to Flagstaff via Kayenta but, seizing the luxury of traveling alone with no real schedule, I decided to take US-191 south to Chinle and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument. I’d passed right by the monument in 2013 but it just so happened to be during the government shutdown so even though the park is run as a partnership with the Navajo Nation it was no dice on visiting.

Roadtrips are my absolute favorite. I almost didn’t take this one to try and save some money but I am so glad I did and I’m excited to share stories of the adventure with you all.

 

Road Tripping with a Dog: SW Colorado CoHPs

At the very beginning of the year, I declared that I was going to make it to 50% on the Colorado County Highpoint list this year. Because I’m moving to De Beque, the high points in Southwestern Colorado are about to be really far from me so I decided it was time to go on a bit of a mission to knock out a few, especially a group of three east of Pagosa Springs.

Sprocket on Ice Lakes trail

Sprocket, was more than happy to join me on this seemingly random adventure; the fact that he doesn’t judge my plans is one of the things that makes him the best road trip companion ever. Vermilion Peak was the point I was most worried about getting him to (but as it turned out, the weather intervened before we could find out) and the rest of the peaks I was sure he would love.

Sprocket in Jeep

We loaded up in the FSJ and set out for a few days of wandering around gravel roads, sleeping at trailheads, summiting mountains, swimming in lakes, and exploring high alpine meadows—all Sprocket approved activities.

Sprocket in FSJ

Throughout the week, I’ll be posting more about our specific adventures (an attempt on Vermilion Peak with an overnight backpack in Ice Lakes Basin, Summit Peak, Conejos Peak, and Bennett Peak) but the common denominator of each segment of our trip was being absolutely delighted to have my pup with me.

Sprocket on Ice Lakes trail

I was really worried last summer that Sprocket was reaching the end of his hiking days. He is only five but when we would go hiking, he seemed to just be in pain all the time. Happily, as fall approached, I realized that he was actually suffering in the heat and luckily, hiking at elevation in Colorado mostly avoids that issue. Not only has he bounced back from too many low elevation hikes last summer, he was game for two seven mile hikes on Saturday. I’m so glad that this is the case because there is nothing that can add to an already amazing alpine adventure like the sashaying of a happy laborador. (If you think I’m kidding, you have to come hike with us…sashaying happens.)

Happy dog

People always seem surprised that I travel so much with “such a big dog” but really, he couldn’t be easier. I pack him some food (Merrick Backcountry, lately), give him some water, and beyond that, I’m the lucky one. With Sprocket, I have a constant, patient, loving, cuddly companion. He’s game for hikes (and scrambles), relaxing in parks, sampling beer at breweries, and just driving backroads for hours.

FSJ Sleepign

 

Merrick Backcountry provided product and payment for this post. Merrick Backcountry meets my requirements for high quality dog food for my pup Sprocket and I adventure together always, with or without compensation, and all of my sentiments about him being the best dog ever are absolutely heartfelt. 

merrick

Colorado Road Trip: Amanda Summerlin Photography

Looking back about a month or so, I adventured throughout Utah and Colorado with Amanda of Amanda Summerlin Photography. Today, in lieu of a post from me, I’m just sending you over to her blog where she is sharing some photos of Sprocket and I that just kinda give me chills—she captured us so well.

Colorado Road Trip With 3Up Adventures

And here’s a sneak peak to convince you to mosey over there:

Amanda Summerlin Colorado Road Trip

Summer! Roadtrip!: Part 3

After meeting up with Amanda, we adventured in the Bookcliffs and then again on Pinõn Mesa. Since we were right by Colorado National Monument we needed to at least go and do Rim Rock Drive.

I’ve done the drive before but it was a lot of fun to do it with someone who got so excited about the views! Since my iPhone camera did so well with the gorgeousness, it’s going to be awesome to see what Amanda came away with!

Colorado National Monument

We ran down to get gas in Fruita and returned to shadows forming in Monument Valley:

Colorado National Monument

The decision was made to head back down for sunrise and while I’m not a morning person, it’s hard to ever regret spending sunrise in nature:

Colorado National Monument

After sunrise proper, I headed down to Grand Junction and spent some time blogging at Trailhead Coffee (it was a super chill place to hang out for a couple of hours!). Then it was time to head off to Grand Mesa! Unfortunately, Lands End Road was still closed so we had to go up and down the Mesa via Cedaredge instead of making it a loop.

Grand Mesa 3D Map

As of last Tuesday (June 2nd) there was still a lot of snow around. Sprocket didn’t mind and gave himself a fantastic snow bath!

Grand Mesa lakes

Roadtripping with Amanda

Sprocket on Grand Mesa

The views from the Mesa are always pretty darn fantastic:

Descending from Grand Mesa

Since there was so much snow and only one pair of snowshoes between us, we headed on to the north rim of the Black Canyon. More on that Monday!