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.
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:
I wandered into my roommate’s classroom after-school looking for some motivation to go running. She declared the 75-degree weather too hot to run. I disagreed with 75 being too warm to run but when she suggested heading out to Uravan for a hike followed by Blondie’s burgers and shakes, I wasn’t about to say no.
It actually turned out to be close to 85 down near Uravan which is a little hot for Sprockey-Poo so he and I spent most of our time in the very bottom of the canyon. It was lovely though!
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.
I get a lot of questions about what my life looks like these days. Most of them go something like “Wait, where do you live?” I get it, my life is a little bit complicated these days. It doesn’t fit into a nice pretty social media package that I can tie a bow on.
During the week, I am a teacher at a rural high school about 40 miles from Ridgway. I have a rental house in that town so I don’t have to commute back and forth everyday; it’ll be worth it from my house but paying Ridgway rents + commuting is just too much! I lease the house with a roommate that is also a teacher at my school. We have another roommate for the winter that teaches skiing at Telluride. Since we’re all sharing the house, this brings costs way down for all of us. We’re all busy with work and traveling on our weekends so it all works out. Sprocket really likes having more people around to love.
During the week, I try to keep up my workout routine, stay on top of grading since I’m a failure at doing it over the weekends, do my laundry, and get enough sleep. I don’t have internet at my house so I’ve been a little bit better about reading books and a little bit worse at running up my cellphone data.
On Thursdays, I pack up the Jeep so that we can leave directly after school on Friday. Friday is the only day of the week that I drive to school; the rest of the week I walk the half mile each way. I hit the road at 3:30 and head for Ouray. I usually have time to make a quick pit stop at the post office in Ridgway and take Sprocket for a quick walk before I start work at 5pm.
Friday and Saturday night routines are similar: I close the shop, go home to the shed and feed Sprocket. Depending on how tired I am, sometimes I will go visit a local establishment for a drink before I retire to the shed.
Saturday and Sunday mornings have gotten a bit more difficult in the winter. I want to make sure Sprocket gets some activity and time to move around since he’s so cooped up while I’m working all the time but it’s also been really cold! I’m taking my cross-country skis back down to Ridgway this weekend so I’m hoping to get in some exercise with him more frequently before I go to work at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday, after we close up the shop, I head back to the town where I teach to do it all over again.
Crazy the things we do in order to make dreams happen, huh?
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).
Abrams Mountain is visible from Ridgway, perched right above the town of Ouray. At 12,801′, it is disproportionately prominent in the skyline to its size when compared with other peaks in the Sneffels range. I’ve been up to the Brown Mountain ridge a couple of times but I’ve never hiked it all the way out to the summit of Abrams. (Abrams’s summit it hidden by the tree in the left third of the photo below.)
After work yesterday, Sprocket and I went to the river so that he could frolic and swim. I threw the stick for him and laughed as my retriever would get the stick out of the water but would not bring it back to me. He, on the other hand, would come dripping wet and look at me expectantly. Eventually, I noticed there were hardly any clouds in the sky and it only took me a second of deliberation before we were headed back to the house to get Ruth.
The climb from the Brown Mountain jeep road up to the saddle between 13er Brown Mountain and the ridge to Abrams is steep. It took me 25 minutes to attain the ridge in just a half mile (maybe I can improve on it another day when I head to Brown?). Our light was fading rapidly but there was still enough light to make our way along the sometimes rocky and sometimes grassy ridge.
The ridge was more complex than it had looked on a map and I made a mental note to stay on the absolute crown of the ridge on the way back to the Jeep. Heading downslope too early would be a huge mistake since only one drainage would take me back where I needed to go, any others would either cliff me out or drop me far from my car.
As we made our way out to the summit, I chuckled a bit at myself. I was functioning on four hours of sleep and by all logical measures, where I should have been was in bed. Instead, it was 9:30 and I was still hiking away from the car. I’d already decided, however, that addressing my mountain deficit was way more important than my sleep deficit.
Sadly, my iPhone was no help in capturing the beauty that was hiking the last bit to the summit in the almost total dark. We summited without headlamp and without a moon as the last streaks of sunset faded over the Sneffels Range and Log Hill Mesa. The wind was blowing but it was warm and I briefly regretted not having a sleeping bag to stay and wait for sunrise. Sprocket and I just sat together as the darkness became complete. I finally felt like I was breathing easy. We could see the lights of Ouray, Ridgway, and all the way up to Montrose. The Milky Way was coming out.
Knowing that I had plenty to do in the coming days and a long hike back down the ridge plus the drive down the mountain, we didn’t linger too long.
I regret nothing.
Sprocket is really bearing the brunt of me working a ton of hours so when I got off at 6pm one evening last week, we headed up County Road 9 to take a short hike on the Dallas Trail.
From the minute we pulled into Box Factory Park, this cheesy grin stuck itself to my face and didn’t go away for a long time. The air smelled absolutely amazing, the rain seemed to be holding off behind the Sneffels Range, and the wildflowers are out in force.
Sprocket loves our hiking runs where he sniffs his way up slopes and careens down the hills with his ears and tail whipping all over the place.
I think the two of us definitely needed that decompression time. I’m going to make a lot bigger effort to take advantage of all the hikes that are so close to me during these precious chunks of time.
To top it all off, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset on our way back to town: