Southwestern Colorado, driving the high-passes – Labor Day, 2012

For labor day week we decided to spend some time in the Southwestern Colorado area. Having gotten a bit of a taste on previous trips – spending couple days in Telluride and Durango, we wanted to explore a little more seriously.

We drove into Durango on Saturday, which was hosting a biker rally that provided some cool bikes to look at before dinner at Cosmopolitan. Sunday was a ride on Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which provided some amazing scenery. Silverton is terribly touristy, but the Montanya Rum Bar was a nice lunch and great drinks.

On Monday we began some of the offroading with a ride up XXX Mountain overlooking Silverton. It was a seriously vertical climb, over mostly scree but rewarded us with some amazing views from high over Silverton.

After leaving Silverton we continued up to Ouray, enjoying some short trails that more or less paralled the highway. We camped for a night in the Amplitheatre Campground overlooking the town. Unfortunately that campground while nice just wasn’t great and we opted to change up our schedule a bit so that we didn’t spend additional nights there.

Tuesday was a fairly long day on the trail – heading south from Ouray and eventually working our way over Corkscrew Pass, Hurrican Pass, California Pass and Engineer Pass on our way to Lake City. Again our plans for camping were foiled – this time by a recent bear attack in the area. We spent Tuesday night caming at a nice RV Park in Lake City – which made things easy.

Wednesday was back over the mountains towards Ouray, this time via Cinnamon Pass. A short spur up Eureka Gulch brought wonderful views and some great old tram stations left over from the old mining operations. We got into Ouray in time to enjoy sunset from the rooftop bar of the Ouray Brewery.

Thursday we headed out to Telluride over Imogene Pass – the highest pass we’d tackle on this trip and the most challenging trail by a fair bit – though still nothing a stock SUV couldn’t handle. The view from the top of Imgoene was stunning – probably our favorite trail of the trip.

Had a great dinner at Floradora Saloon, and a nice room at the New Sheridan hotel in Telluride. Had some excellent cocktails at the always fun Tomboy Tavern up at the resort.

Friday we headed out early to get up to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Pretty park, but we probably didn’t hit it at the best time of the day. As we got in later in the afternoon, much of the canyon was in shadow. we were a bit disappointed by the campground – which had no cover to speak of.

Saturday we headed home after enjoying a really nice week in the area. Still tons of trails we haven’t been able to explore – but getting to run the popular ones was a great introduction to the area.

Capitol Reef, Dinosaur and Colorado – May 2012

Took a trip over the Memorial Day weekend into Utah and Colorado. Not the best time of the year for travel – but needed to utilize the 3-day weekend to reduce the vacation days needed for a full week off.

Started on Saturday driving up to Capitol Reef and quickly found ourselves engulfed in a huge dust storm covering the bulk of the Southwest region. Conditions were terrible from Flagstaff all the way up to Capitol Reef with winds over 65mph and visibility down to feet in some sections. Passed on camping that night in favor a B&B in Torrey. The following day the weather was much improved and we were able to get into the Fruita campground in the park.

We spent Sunday touring the Waterpocket Fold area of the park – enjoying hikes into Headquarters Canyon and the Strike Valley Overlook. On our way back to the park via Boulder we ran into some folks stuck in deep sand just off the highway. Some bikers and another SUV had stopped to help but didn’t have the right equipment unfortunately. A quick, short pull with the winch took care of the situation. We returned to the park via South Pass Road – a 4WD trail that comes into the park via the south end of the scenic drive – very cool road that doesn’t seem to see much use.

Monday we toured Cathedral Valley, enjoyed a ranger talk on Fremont petroglyphs in the park and spend sunset at aptly named Sunset Point enjoying the twilight colors.

Tuesday we did a little more hiking in the park – visiting the Pioneer Register and Tanks in Capitol Gulch. On our way up to Vernal, UT we stopped in near Goblin State Park to hike Little Wild Horse Canyon – a popular non-technical slot canyon.

Wednesday we rafted a short, but spectacular section of the Green River – from Rainbow Park down to Split Mountain. The river flow was good and it was a small group with new guides getting some training in before the busy summer season really got started. Camping that night was at Echo Park – a very pretty campground down a very cool park road.

Thursday was a longer day than we wanted – touring the Yampa Bench road to enjoy the overlooks showcasing the Yampa River, followed by a trip back towards Vernal to check out the Dinosaur Quarry. And then down to Colorado National Monument.

Friday turned much hotter than anticipated with temperatures in the Monument easily topping 90 degrees.  So we spent the morning doing a tour of the Rim Road in the monument, followed by a miserably hot hike to Devil’s Kitchen and then headed for higher ground – moving down to Telluride, CO to get some elevation. After a quick shower we had a great dinner at Flora Dora Saloon and then took the Gondola up to Mountain Village for a drink at Tomboy Tavern.

Saturday we got up early to take a drive up Ophir Pass, which was very cool and well worth the trip. We’ll revisit this road in September as part of a Ouray-Telluride-Ouray loops. But on this trip we just got a little taste of the high-mountain passes in the area. The afternoon was spent rafting down the San Miguel River to Placerville. We had a great river guide and enjoyed the constant rapids and abundant wildlife and geological sights. Dinner was at the fabulous La Marmotte.

Sunday sadly brought the end of our trip – though we were able enjoy fabulous mountain scenery on the way south to Cortez.

White Pocket & Buckskin Gulch, May 2012

Took a short weekend trip to the Vermillion Cliffs area this past weekend. Long haul from Phoenix for just a couple days, but wanted to take advantage of the nice weather before it gets too hot in a couple weeks. We headed in through Marble Canyon and worked up through House Rock Valley Road, before turning off towards Poverty Flats and on to White Pocket. The area was fantastic – smaller than Coyote Buttes South – but no less interesting. Lots of amazing formations and colors. Probably should have shot a little later in the afternoon than we did – but still very cool. Had a minor disaster when the howling winds broke one of the support braces in the tent – due to my failure to guy it out. Fortunately we were able to use the guy lines to support the tent so we didn’t have to scrap the camping. Grilled up some nice burgers for dinner, and went for a nice walk through the formations when the full moon rose.

On Sunday we broke camp, drove through Pawhole and moved up to the Wire Pass trailhead for a short day hike. We hiked through the Wirepass Narrows and into Buckskin Gulch. While we only walked a couple miles into the Buckskin it was simply stunning. Huge sandstone walls rising up on either side with only a few feet between them. With the sun high in the sky, we got great colors and shadows.

Wish we had more than a couple days to hike and explore – but definitely worth the drive.

Harquahala Mountain, April 2012

Headed out with some folks to explore some of the area west of Phoenix, ran the Big Horn Mountains trail and then on up to Harquahala Mountain. We started in Tonopah, heading west on Indian School a few miles then heading off north on an unmarked track that took us under the I10. From there it follows power lines for a few miles before crossing into Humingbird Springs Wilderness Area. You’re restricted to the main road here (never mind the cattle tearing the land), but it’s a sceneic, mellow ride. We searched a bit for Black Rock mine which one of the group recommended but were unable to find it. After having lunch up near Big Horn mine, we worked our way up to Eagle Eye road.

We continued on up to the mountain – the staging area is about 4-5 miles down the road. It’s not a difficult trail at all, but very steep shelf road on the last 3rd and low-range is a definite must coming down. Had great views and dramatic weather up there with the wind whipping around and snow flurries coming down. We walked around the old Smithsonian solar observatory, disappointed to find all the placards removed though.

There are a bunch of microwave arrays up there and solar powering them – apparently the microwave gear is for controlling the various canals in the area.

Sheep Bridge, March 2012

Took a run out to Sheep Bridge with the Arizona Land Cruiser Association. Was a nice day for it – sunny, but not too hot. The road from Seven Springs up to Bloody Basin was in good shape – with little washboarding and we made good time. Pressed on to the bridge and enjoyed a nice lunch down the by the river. The river was flowing too fast to be fordable unfortunately – but we were expecting that.

Unfortunately one of the members of the group had a mishap on the way out and rolled his truck – fortunately despite the scene looking pretty bad, he walked away with only a few stitches. The club members made sure that he made it to the hospital, valuables were recovered from the truck and the truck itself recovered the following day.

Not exactly how things are supposed to go, but at least there weren’t any serious injuries.

Bulldog Canyon

Had a nice daytrip through the Bulldog Canyon area with the AZLCA. Wasn’t much in the way of a challenge, but was a beautiful day and the scenery was spectacular. Followed up the the trail, but a nice lunch at Tortilla Flat – which was crowded as always during high season.

 

San Antonio, ABS Expo – January 2012

Had a great long weekend in San Antonio. Primarily went to attend the ABS Expo. First knife show I’d managed to attend in a few years and picked a great show to go to. While not all the makers I was hoping to talk to were in attendance, was still a great show and I didn’t go home empty handed.

In between the show we spent some time on the Riverwalk enjoying the local restaurants and watering holes and also did the obligatory tour at the Alamo.

Nice city and absolutely great weather.

Death Valley

Spent New Years week wandering Death Valley National Park. Was surprised to realize just how large and diverse the park is. Ranging from -287 ft below sea level at Badwater to over 11,000 ft at Telescope Peak.  We drove through Vegas, past the beautiful Red Rock Canyon area to Death Valley on a Saturday. We camped the first few nights at Furnace Creek – which in retrospect was a bit of a mistake, given the crowds. The location did allow us easy access to some of the more prominent attractions including Dante’s View, Badwater and Gold Canyon – where we enjoyed some great hiking.

After leaving Furnace Creek we worked north to Scotty’s Castle to do the tours and hear the entertaining stories about the history of the mansion. We then moved on to the Racetrack Playa – one of the most talked about features of the park, including the famous ‘moving’ rocks. The ride down the road wasn’t nearly as difficult as advertised, though very washboarded. The playa was stunning, the ‘grandstand’ (a huge island of basalt rock in the middle of the playa) is just amazing. We enjoyed some great company at the campsite just south of the playa that night. Being the middle of winter, the road up to Eureka Dunes was marked closed and we opted not challenge it, given we were on our own.

We moved down to Stovepipe Wells (a terrible campsite – more of a parking lot) to enjoy some hiking on the Dunes and up through Mosaic Canyon. Really pretty attractions – just a bummer the campsite was so boring.

Also took a quick trip up to the Charcoal Ovens just below Telescope Peak and then worked over to Darwin Falls. Was pretty weird seeing a running waterfall surrounded by desolate desert.

A nice trip though if we go again it will be to spend time in the more remote areas of the park we weren’t able to get to this trip.

Canyonlands, Moab Area Trip

Had a great 12 day trip through the Moab area. We started leaving Phoenix early on a Saturday headed up to Valley of the Gods. Just past Mexican hat we turned off onto Valley of the Gods road, drove in a few miles and found a great campsite with an amazing view. The following day we headed up the Moki Dugway on our way to Natural Bridges National Monument for some hiking among the stunning natural bridges.

After some hiking we headed up to Moab for a nice bed before heading onto the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park. Unfortunately we knew the weather was starting to shift but the rangers thought we’d be find so we picked up our permits and headed down the Shafer Switchbacks onto the rim. Had a beautiful day, even seeing some desert big horn sheep – a ewe and a kid. We camped at the Airport campsite – which wasn’t the most stunning site but still very nice. The wind starting picking up really good late in the afternoon blowing the impending storm into the area. The following day we headed on to our campsite at Murphy Hogback. By the time we got there the weather had really started to turn and the rain started shortly after. Heck of a storm that blew through that night – thought it would take the tent down several times – but the OzTent stood tough and kept up dry and sheltered all night.

After exiting Canyonlands we headed over to Arches National Park for a few nights. We really enjoyed all the day hikes to the typical sites – Landscape Arch, Delicate Arch & the Windows. The highlight though was the taking the road over to Tower Arch and down past the Whales Eye.

We regrouped in Moab for a night, before heading down to the Needles area. Sadly we found out that the Horse Canyon area was closed due to rain, which put a crimp in our plans. We drove the road out to the Colorado Overlook which was very cool. After that we tried to head over Elephant Hill to the Devil’s Kitchen campground. The trail is a little rougher than Kim wanted to do though, so we turned back and headed to Durango for the night.

Had a great dinner in Durango, and visited Mesa Verde the following day. Part of the park was closed for the season, but did get to enjoy some of the more visited ruins without much of a crowd at all.

From Mesa Verde we worked down to Chaco Canyon National Historic Park to spend night and day learning about the site, the ruins and the various theories about what it was all for.

Aside from the storm and generally colder than expected temperatures,  it was a great trip and we’re looking forward to getting back to Canyonlands to conquer Elephant Hill and visit the remote Maze district.

 

Deer Hunting

Managed to get up to Wyoming again this year for deer hunting. Sandwiched the trip between two weeks of IT training, which made for a nice break.

Saw a bunch of whitetail and mulies as usual – but nothing particularly special. Did end up taking a nice 4×4, though if I’d had a little more time to think about it I might not have pulled the trigger – not quite as big as I initially thought. At any rate had a fabulous time and we managed to managed to get my grandfather a deer, which at his age was quite an accomplishment.