NM – Pecos Wilderness, Winsor Trailhead

WHAT??? Joan got waylaid on her way to Georgia and found herself still in New Mexico so guess what, yep we got to play together again. YES, that’s J&J adventure #3 for 2018! 

Neither of us had hiked in the Pecos Wilderness so we were anxious to explore. I’d gathered information on trail conditions from the Ranger Station in Pecos, at least the areas to avoid; NO is written on several areas of the map. After eliminating those areas we decided to start with a lollipop loop beginning at the Winsor Trailhead and hiking Winsor National Recreation Trail #254, to Lake Katherine on Skyline Trail #251, to Santa Fe Baldy, to Stewart Lake and finally returning on Winsor Ridge Trail #271.

At 11,742 Lake Katherine was still thawing from her long winter’s rest. 

That ice didn’t stop Joan, the ever intrepid swimmer. 

Are your teeth chattering or is your smile frozen? 

Nothing like a climb to find Santa Fe Baldy to ward off any chill from that icy swim. 

Boulder field and cairn route hiking is fun, right? 

It’s also fun finding your way through the snowfields. 

Oh but the rewards! 

12,622′ Santa Fe Baldy success! 

Or not, ha ha false summit. Come on Jan, you’ve got this. 

Joan looking down at Lake Katherine from Santa Fe Baldy summit. 

Stewart Lake (10,232) was a bit disappointing after Lake Katherine. I don’t remember if it was worthy of a swim.

I was happy to find these cheery marsh flowers. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 9-10, 2018
  • Hiking Stats:

Tips:

  • Plan to resupply at Santa Fe or Las Vegas; Pecos had slim pickings.
  • When near large population areas such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque, you can expect more regulations and consequences.
  • It’s always good to gather recent trail conditions reports from nearby ranger stations or visitor centers. Postings reinforce information when resource centers are closed. Many times information is not updated or available on their websites.

Resources:

Links:

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NM – Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

After spending a couple days hiking the northern end of the Manzano Mountain Wilderness, I stopped and visited the Salinas Pueblo Missions on my way to hike to Manzano Peak on the southern end of the range. 

The three missions are separated geographically by some distance as is the Visitor Center which is located in Mountainair. The history of these missions is interesting and worth of day of learning, absorbing, and wandering. Interpretative literature and signage is excellent. 

Quarai is 8 miles north of the Visitor Center. 

Abo is 9 miles to the west of the Visitor Center.

Gran Quivira is 25 miles south of the Visitor Center. This was my favorite maybe because of the use of limestone.

I’ll skip rattlesnake encounters. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 5, 2018

Tips:

  • There’s very little if any shade, so plan accordingly.
  • Take time to wander the Visitor Center as well as the Contact Stations/Museums at each site.

Resources:

Links:

NM – Manzano Mountain Wilderness

I found myself in Albuquerque after my recent trek through San Pedro Parks Wilderness with Joan. Oh how I love our J&J adventures! How will I go at least a year without another? The best antidote is more trail miles! YES YES YES! 

I stopped at REI to find new places to explore and decided to give this nearby wilderness a try. I spent a few days hiking from several trailheads. I found trails to be in varied conditions from well-marked smooth sailing, to cairn routes, to overgrown, deadfall and non-existent. This is an area I recommend having a good map and tracking app or GPS. The last printed map was from 1988 and very outdated due to fires, reroutes and no longer maintained trails. I found some decent intel in a hiking book at REI. 

Albuquerque Trail #78 / Fourth of July Trail #173 Loop

Date Hiked: 5/3/18

My Notes: 5.25-mile, 900′ elevation gain/loss loop. Really enjoyed the variety of trees, shrubs and gentle terrain. Nice switchbacks and soft trail. Pretty healthy forest. Saw one gal at campground but no one at trailhead nor on trail. 

The 2008 Trigo fire burned more than 21,000 acres including much of Manzano Mountain Wilderness.

I loved all the alligator bark trees. 

I didn’t see any significant wildlife but obviously bears roam these mountains. 

Cerro Blanco Trail #79 / Manzano Crest Trail #170 Loop

Date Hiked: 5/4/18

My Notes: 13-mile, 2,300′ elevation gain/loss loop. Trail was fairly well marked and reasonably easy to follow; although some areas quite overgrown. 

I loved finding this spring. 

The views from the Crest Trail (also part of the Grand Enchantment Trail) were open and dramatic. Look closely and you’ll see the cairn marking the trail. 

I wasn’t too excited about coming across this abandoned campsite. 

Nor was I excited about seeing smoke. 

Pine Shadow Trail #170A / Kayser Mill Trail #080 Loop

Date Hiked: 5/6/18

My Notes: 12-mile, 3,000′ elevation gain/loss loop. Trail was a mixed bag from decent to overgrown with deadfall to non existent.  Terrain went from nicely-graded switchbacks to loose slippery rock. 

I definitely needed to take a detour to Manzano Peak. 

Nice trail. 

There were lots of colorful rocks. 

Where oh where is the trail? 

Just say NO! Trail doesn’t exist after the fires.

But the road is right down there . . . maybe I’ll just cut down . . . 

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 3-6, 2018

Tips:

  • Carry a paper map. Although it was dated 1988, I found it a helpful supplement to my digital version.
  • Obtain trail conditions and water reports from Mountainaire Ranger Station.
  • Be comfortable with trail finding and navigation. These trails are not well traveled nor signed at least during my visit.
  • It’s a dry area and most seasonal streams were dry. Some springs were dry or inaccessible due to fires.

Resources:

Links:

2018 – Where Did Jan Jaunt?

Welcome to 2019, how did I spend my last 365 days?

This is an interactive map of the places I visited in 2018. If you click on an icon you’ll find the link to the associated blog post. As of this date, I have a few months of adventures to add to the map and blog. 

2018 Factoids:

  • 209 days spent OUTSIDE hiking, walking, snowshoeing, etc.
  • 27 nights spent in my tent (sadly prime backpacking season was disrupted by my accident)
  • 79 nights spent sleeping in my car
  • 10,000 miles driven
  • 1,500-2,000 miles hiked
  • 20,000+ blog visitors (WOW!)

Travel Summaries:

Popular Posts:

2019 Goals:

  • More time in Colorado, including possibly hiking the Colorado Trail
  • Late winter/early spring trip to include Southern California, Southern Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and possibly Texas.
  • Time in Glacier National Park is still high on my list
  • More shared adventures with new and old friends
  • More PCT and CDT adventures
  • Possibly fall in the Sierra; maybe early summer on the Tahoe Rim Trail if this continues as a low snow year.
  • MORE time OUTSIDE, MORE HIKING, MORE BACKPACKING, less driving!!!!

Backpacking Gear Choices:

Clothing Choices:

Specialty Gear:

Car Camping/Travel Gear:

Please let me know if any of the links are broken. THANKS!

Disclosure: Some items include Amazon Affiliate links where I might get a small financial kickback if you buy through the link.

 

 

Life Interrupted . . . Forever Grateful for the SOS Button

I’ve always prepared a bit more than the average hiker for emergencies. I promote and mentor risk mitigation. In fact my most popular blog post is specific to this subject, Dear Friends and Family. I live this philosophy and as a result felt better about my situation when I found myself in need of help. 

So what happened?

I was hiking northbound on the PCT. I’d camped at Mirror Lake in Three Sisters Wilderness the previous night.

After hiking about five miles that morning, I found myself falling down a slope. I have absolutely no idea what caused me to fall. The trail was in good condition, flat and wide with no real obstructions. My wrist took the full force of the fall. It was obviously dislocated. 

To Activate the SOS on my inReach or NOT?

My legs were fine. I hadn’t hit my head nor did I have any bleeding. The pain and discomfort was manageable. I had exit options involving less than 10 miles of hiking. I didn’t want to push the button but I knew I was in shock and shouldn’t be making decisions. Thankfully I didn’t have to. Hot Lips and Caveman became my angels. Although I was hiking solo, they were at the right place at the right time and ultimately sacrificed their day for me.

The Waiting Game

This is where I was so happy to have two-way communication via my inReach. I knew my SOS was received and help was on it’s way. It took four hours for an EMT to arrive. 

Just because a helicopter arrives doesn’t mean quick or easy extraction. In this case even though I had helicopter insurance, my condition didn’t warrant a ride. Furthermore, hot temperatures made lift challenging and as such the helicopter departed immediately leaving Jason behind to escort me to a trailhead. 

Jason’s job was to evaluate and stabilize my injury. A SAR volunteer was on a backpack trip nearby so he was solicited to help with this process. Why am I smiling? It might have been the pain medications I’d been given my Hot Lips. The EMT did not carry medications. I had some in my pack but Hot Lips was able to access her supply quicker. Word to the prepared: stock something stronger than ibuprofen for these situations.

The next to arrive on scene were two volunteers on horseback to carry out my pack. 

Once my pack was loaded, we began the 8.5 mile hike to the nearest trailhead. It was now about 7 hours since my accident and 5.5 hours since activating my SOS. 

I ended up with quite a large rescue crew with some coming from the west side, Lane County, and others coming from the east side, Deschutes County. We met up with a team of 5-7 volunteers who’d hike in about 4 miles from the trailhead. The team included a doctor who evaluated my condition and who had additional pain medication available. About 2 miles from the trailhead we met another horseback team who’d brought a horse which would have been used for my evacuation had I not been able to hike.

The ambulance was waiting for me at the trailhead. I arrived at 9pm, a full 12 hours after my accident and 10.5 hours after activating my SOS. One of the most helpful items I had with me to relieve stress and expedite care was a typed page with all my emergency, medical and surgical information so those helping could take a photo, copy or transcribe what they needed. It included my name, address, allergies, medications, past medical/surgical history, emergency contacts, medical insurance, etc. 

I landed at St Charles Medical Center in Bend at 10pm. They rushed me in, gathered vitals, x-rays and treated my dislocation. I was discharged at 1am. Thankfully I had my emergency contacts set up with inReach. Dispatch stayed in contact with them regularly and as a result my niece arrived at the hospital shortly after I did. 

A Different Kind of Nightmare

While I was scheduled to meet with a hand surgeon the next morning in Bend, my insurance had other plans. Since I travel extensively, I knew my plan only covered emergencies out of network. Once I’d been discharged from the emergency room, my condition was no longer considered an emergency. Thus I had to find my way back to California. Had family and friends not been available to help, this would have been a true nightmare. As it was I made it back to Redding just as the Carr Fire erupted, with 38,000 homes evacuated including mine, and 1,000 lost . . . thankfully not mine. The community was in the midst of a major crisis with most businesses closed including medical and surgical facilities. After a few more days of fighting with my insurance, I finally got an out-of-area referral to Sacramento where I had surgery at UC Davis. 

Sometime you just have to laugh about the ridiculousness of the situation. 

And give thanks to friends and family who understand, and who’ve gone out of their way to assist in my recovery. Let’s say I have a lot of pay-it-forward debt.

Shit happens. Life is full of risk whether I’m out hiking, taking a bath or driving a car. I choose to manage risk and prepare for it but I also choose not to let it rule my life. As soon as I’m able to hold a hiking pole, I’ll be back out there adding miles to my resume. Until then, I’ll be working to rebuild strength and dexterity in my arm, wrist and fingers. I was so happy the first time I could make a ponytail (the things you don’t realize takes two hands) and even more so when I could braid my hair. 

Good thing I have a lot of blogging to catch up on since typing is great therapy. 

Tips:

  • Wilderness first aid training is beneficial. A hiker who’d just taken the course made this excellent sling out of my rain jacket. He also soaked my buff so I’d have a cold compress for my wrist. 
  • If possible hike to water before activating SOS. We knew there was a creek and meadow a couple miles from my accident site. I immediately soaked my arm/wrist in the creek and then used my pack liner bag for soaking during the long four-hour wait. I couldn’t have found a better place to wait vs in the middle of a recent burn where I fell and where it would have been less likely I could have gotten a signal out. It’s also a good reminder of carrying sufficient water in case you’re stuck somewhere for a day or two awaiting help.
  • Know your emergency device. I’ve been using mine for about five years and had it paired with phone for easier texting and access to my contacts. I’d read the FAQ’s and had spoke with a couple of hikers who’d had to activate the SOS. I knew what to expect. Take time to set up your emergency contact online. Consider getting the helicopter insurance as it’s not always provided as a free service. Carry an external battery and don’t drain in case you need it to recharge your phone or inReach in an emergency situation.
  • Carry resources to help with exit options. While I was carrying Halfmile Maps which don’t show much beyond the PCT, I had also downloaded a much larger area to my Gaia app. The couple who helped with my sling also had a NatGeo map which we reviewed for exit options. 
  • Carry/wear a rescue color. By the time the helicopter arrived there were about 10-15 hikers around. My friend Ron’s shirt was the only one they could see. I’ve since been told that bright blue is the best as it’s not a color found in nature. Other ways to get attention are a signal mirror, a mylar emergency blanket or by taking flash photos.
  • Do the work in advance to help SAR help you. This will also help in the case of a medical emergency. Dear Friends & Family, If I become a Missing Person . . .
  • Make a donation to your local SAR, consider becoming a volunteer, and definitely make a donation to the ones who responded if you ever have to push the SOS button. If you want to make a donation on my behalf, here are the links: Lane County SAR and Deschutes County SAR.

 

 

NM – San Pedro Parks Wilderness

I couldn’t believe my luck. Joan decided to take a slight detour into New Mexico as she began her relocation travels from Moab to Atlanta. I’m all about opportunities and there was no way I was giving up this one. I may have said my goodbyes a month earlier after our week in Capitol Reef and the Henry Mountains, but I was more than ready to say HELLO again, lets play! I’d stopped at the Ranger Station in Cuba looking for ideas and thus learned about San Pedro. When you want to play, how can you say no to a park? San Pedro Parks Wilderness is known for high, moist, rolling mountaintops with numerous meadows and large grassy “parks.” Source: USFS 

My readers and friends know I don’t enjoy planning or rigid itineraries. I love that Joan embraces this philosophy. We prepared by downloading maps to our Gaia phone apps, which would supplement our paper map and trail descriptions. I thought this quote in a book I was recently reading was quite appropriate for this adventure as we had no destination in mind; how much food we carried would determine the maximum length of our journey.

We began our hike from the San Gregorio trailhead located in the southern part of the wilderness. I don’t have a photo at the trailhead so I’m assuming there wasn’t any signage. About a mile from the parking lot is San Gregorio Reservoir. I couldn’t talk Joan into going for a swim. Maybe on our exit? 

Time to find the parks. Will there be swing sets and slides? Maybe we’ll find ziplines and a concession stand with rootbeer floats.

At the first junction we decide to stay on the Las Vacas trail, saving the Damian for our return. 

We stay the course at the next junction also. I love having so many options for loops and variety. 

I loved this trail. Weather and temperatures were perfect. This was Jan’s definition of flat strolling trail; no bushwhacking required. 

We were soon reminded late April is early spring at 10,000 feet. 

We were excited to be on the CDT. “The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail climbs to the beautiful San Pedro Parks Wilderness area from Cuba, NM and then heads northeast to the Chama River and Carson National Forest. The CDT route follows the Los Pinos, Las Vacas, Penas Negras and Rio Capulin trails through the Wilderness.” Source: Continental Divide Trail Coalition

Well since we didn’t find any fun toys in the park, we decided napping in the grass (imagine it’s green with plentiful wildflowers and butterflies) would be an acceptable substitute. 

Of course we needed to summit nearby San Pedro Peak (10,952′).

Hey look, peak #2, Ped Peak at 10,523′.

Signage was inconsistent and confusing within the wilderness. We were glad we had multiple resources. 

Trail 31 is also known as Rio Capulin Trail. 

It’s wise to come prepared for rain. 

Umbrellas make such a difference, especially during hail storms. 

The next few miles on the CDT/Rio Capulin was trail in need of some maintenance with lots of deadfall. This sign represented the junction of trail #31 (Rio Capulin) with trail #30 (Rio Gallina) were we planned to begin the next leg of our loop. It was getting late so we decided to continue a bit further north on the trail and find a place to camp.

We slept on options. I wasn’t thrilled with our choices.

  1. Reverse direction on trail #31 back through known deadfall jungle gym
  2. Continue hiking north until the trail crosses Highway 96 or Road 103 and try hitching back to the trailhead
  3. Attempt unmaintained trail #30

Known or unknown? Joan left the decision up to me.

My ultimate decision was to give trail #30 five minutes. How much worse can it be than what we’d already hiked?

Soon 5 minutes turned into 15, 30, 60, 90 . . . there was no evidence of old trail. But by now it seemed better to continue forward.

Are we having fun yet? Well Joan loves this stuff, Jan not so much. 

See that smile? Yep Joan kind of fun. She’s even more relaxed since I made the decision to take this route. Oh Jan, what were you thinking?

We quickly gave up on trying to stay on course with our digital map and instead decided to visit a couple of interesting points of interest marked on the map like Red Rock Cliff.  Compass navigation was very helpful at keeping us moving in the right direction. This is Joan’s specialty; I have room for improvement.

Look we found ourselves some red rocks. 

Along the way we found some interesting sights. 

1930 graffiti

1937 cursive writing graffiti

At four hours in, I’m happy for breaks and butterfly distractions. 

We can’t believe our eyes. Someone else has been this way in the not so distant past. 

We see a cave on our map so once we locate on the ground, Joan goes in to explore. 

Then it was time to find the path of least resistance. 

The happy smile of finding our way out of the deadfall . . . ONLY eight hours into this day’s obstacle course adventure.

YES, the trail is in sight. Excellent job expert navigator Joan!

Yippee! Lets find a place to camp! 

Jan was plenty tuckered after this 9-hour day of off-trail, log hopping, bushwhacking fun. That was a long 6-mile day!

Why is Jan tuckered? Joan did a fine job capturing my challenges. 

Any regrets? Not when I’m sharing it with my friend. She makes me giggle, laugh and enjoy the crazy situations we find ourselves in. 

It’s a new day. Our plan is to complete a figure eight loop but after our experience with the non-existent Gallina Trail, we had low expectations of trail conditions. We camped near the junction of San Jose, Las Vacas and Los Pinos Trails. 

On the Los Pinos and Anastacio Trails, we found a mix of nice surface, snow covered surface, well-trodden trail, and post/cairn-marked trail. 

We liked the looks of the Palomas Trail. 

How does the Damian Trail look? 

Ha, I guess we might as well end this loop with more obstacles. 

Back at San Gregorio Reservoir I still couldn’t talk Joan into a swim. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 28-30, 2018

Tips:

  • Carry a paper map. Although it was dated 2006, it was a necessary supplement to our digital versions. 
  • Obtain trail conditions reports from both the Cuba and Coyote Ranger Stations.
  • Prepare for weather. Temperatures dropped to high 30’s both nights, plus we had heavy rain and hail.

Resources:

Links:

NM – Bisti Badlands Wilderness . . . it’s a new day

My attempt to spend a few days exploring the Badlands a couple of weeks earlier was somewhat thwarted by wind storms followed by a drop in temperatures and snow storm. However, my abbreviated first visit gave me plenty of motivation for a return (link to related post). With no home for the night after departing Chaco Culture National Historical Park, I headed to Bisti in hopes of catching sunset colors. 

It wasn’t WOW but I was grateful to experience without gusty wind and blowing sand. 

The next morning I headed out early hoping to catch the golden hour of light. A little surprise caught my attention instead. 

YEP a cow. What the heck? This is a protected area with gates and fences. Imagine my disappointment when I saw this cow followed by bike tracks. What a bummer. 

While the lighting ended up being far less than ideal I was thrilled to find large pieces of petrified wood. 

Yes, that once was a tree!

Incredible to see two exposed long logs.

One of the cool things you can find in the area if you keep your eyes peeled are giant bird nests; I found three on this day. There’s a shelf on the tallest formation housing one. Second photo is zoomed. 

Can you see the nest off to the right? It appears to have been abandoned and is slowly returning to nature. 

Lots of cool features and acreage to wander. There aren’t any trails thus best LNT practice is to limit steps to water channels, hardpan and sandy areas. Plan to turn around frequently when channels run out. In general I found the area in surprisingly good shape.

On my Gaia app the dashed line represents a suggested trail. The red is my wanderings. I strongly recommend using a compass and GPS or app if you are navigationally challenged like me. It’s really easy to get turned around as the sandstone features make you feel as though you are in a mini mountain range. You can see the times I turned around when I ran out of LNT options. The thin red line was from my first outing (link to related post).

It’s a magical landscape.

THE balanced rock at Arches National Park has nothing on this one. 

At the trailhead, BLM provided an overview map which shows some named features such as this one called cracked eggs. 

Remember the first photo of the cow? Sadly I found this incredible damage. Who let the cows in? So much for LNT.

This gate was closed each time I visited but with plenty of fence around perimeter I’m sure opportunity exists. I didn’t notice any cows in the area surrounding the wilderness.

Maybe the sign should have included warning about non-aggressive cows. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 24-25, 2018

Tips:

  • You don’t want to be in the area during time of heavy wind. My face was sand scrubbed and my eyes felt like sandpaper after getting caught in the wind.

Resources:

Links: