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.

 

 

Advertisements

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:

NM – Chaco Culture National Historical Park

After spending significant time visiting ancient sites in Utah, Colorado and now New Mexico, Joan encouraged a visit to Chaco, considered the epicenter of ancestral Puebloan culture and architecture. 

I wished I’d researched and planned a little better so I could have spent at least a couple days at this very interesting Park. I entered via the north entrance which was a very long slow bumpy 16 miles. I exited on the 20-mile southern road which took me a good hour. The campground was full and there aren’t any nearby dispersed camping options. After spending some time at the Visitor Center I drove the Chaco Canyon Road visiting the sites along the way. For the inquisitive, be sure to buy the very informative interpretive guidebooks.

There are around 500 rooms in this site including both excavated and unexcavated areas. An interesting factoid according to the interpretive guide, “There were an estimated 215,000-225,000 trees used in the construction of all the excavated great houses in Chaco Canyon.” Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is used to determine age of timber used in construction.

Treasures abound for those willing to search. 

The Park promotes quiet, respectful visitation of this outdoor museum. As I wandered around the word that stayed at the forefront of my mind was reverence, “deep respect for someone or something; a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe.”

I talk about regrets frequently, and my goal of doing what I can to minimize that feeling. Oh how I wish I’d visited this site earlier in the day when lighting was optimal. 

Other cool find, petrified wood! 

Life among the artifacts. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 24, 2018

Tips:

  • Prepare for lengthy time consuming drive. I highly recommend camping at the Park.
  • Morning light on the petroglyph panels is best.
  • Buy the interpretive guides.
  • Ask for the Backcountry Hiking Trail handout if interested in further exploration and hiking.
  • Trails and sites typically are open 7am to sunset.
  • I’m always curious about which structures are original as excavated vs rebuilt vs stabilized, thus one of the questions I’ve learned to ask.

Resources:

Links:

 

 

NM – Valles Caldera National Preserve

After learning about volcanic tuff during my visit to Bandelier National Monument and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, how could I skip the place responsible for creating these geologic marvels?

“Valles Caldera began erupting 1.25 million years ago. Once the eruption ended, the massive pyroclastic flow material inside and outside the caldera began to cool and solidify, forming a rock geologists refer to as tuff. Solidified pyroclastic flow materials from the Valles Caldera and Toledo Caldera comprise the Upper and Lower Bandelier Tuffs. Much earlier, 7-6 million years ago, Bearhead Rhyolite erupted in the southern Jemez Mountains sending debris flows over the area now known as Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.” Source: Valles Caldera National Preserve Guide and Map by High Desert Field Guides

At the time of my visit, this park was touted as the “Nation’s Newest National Preserve.” The Valles Caldera Preservation Act of 2000 signed by President Bill Clinton on July 25, 2000, created 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve. By the way, valles is pronounced VIE-yays or va-yes.

Beware of restricted access hours. I found myself at the gates saying OPEN, OPEN, OPEN. 

Little did I know a reward for my timely arrival was a road filled with hundreds of crazed prairie dogs racing back and forth creating a death-wish obstacle course. I wish I would have thought to video this frenzy. The rangers said it was the first time they had witnessed such an event. When I left later in the day all was quiet. 

As I looked around I noticed these porta-potty looking buildings. I learned they are used by grad students studying prairie dogs as part of John Hoogland’s Prairie Dog Project, which he began in 1974.

It was funny to see the prairie dogs labeled like race car drivers. 

Their homes were also labeled. JB will you come home?

Many roads had not been opened for the season so my options for exploration were fairly limited. Experienced anglers brought bikes as a way to reach more distant water features. Adjacent to the Visitor Center is the 1.6 mile trail around Cerro La Jara, one of many hills left behind after the caldera collapse.

Be sure to pick up a free interpretive guide at the Visitor Center. 

Cerro La Jara was not much to look at. I’m guessing it’d be nicer during green grass and wildflower season.

To gain a view of the preserve, the rangers recommended I hike the trail up Rabbit Mountain. 

You know how much I enjoy hiking through burn areas. Sigh! 

Good reminder of LNT. I met some hikers collecting antlers on a nearby road, so this seems to be a thing in this area. I heard collectors are paid well.

The aspen trees are sure to put on a show in the fall. 

I hiked up to Rabbit Ridge, about 5.5 miles round trip with a little over 1,000 feet elevation gain.

For some reason I don’t think I’ll be visiting Bandelier National Monument from this trail. Just say no to bushwhacking.

The views from the ridge were less than stellar but I’m sure better than before the fire. 

Chasing butterflies in honor of Joan was a good distraction. 

The trail was well marked. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 23, 2018

Tips:

Resources:

Links:

 

NM – Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

I wasn’t sure I wanted to visit Tent Rocks, afterall the features are created by volcanic tuff which was also the focus at Bandelier National Monument (link to related post). Although it was a Sunday, I was nearby and it seemed silly to not take a look. Since it’s near Santa Fe and Albuquerque, I was prepared for busy trails.

This is a BLM managed National Monument. I’m still a bit confused as to how agency management is determined. Some are managed by National Park Service, other by BLM. 

I saw several people spending significant time collecting Apache Tears even though signage clearly said otherwise. I actually reported one guy to a ranger who was filling his pockets and telling everyone around him to do the same.

Looking down into the canyon. As you can see the formations are significantly different than Bandelier thus I was glad I’d made the jaunt.

First claret bloom of the season.

Reminders:

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 15, 2018

Tips:

  • Parking is limited and there are staff directing traffic. Once full you are placed in a waiting cue. Early arrival and/or mid-week will minimize your chance of getting in without waiting.
  • Resources are limited. I don’t recall water being available but there are restrooms and picnic tables.
  • The slot canyon trail can be a bit frustrating when busy as lots of waiting for back and forth traffic. My notes indicate there were a few places a bit more challenging than expected.
  • Buying or borrowing the interpretive guide was worthwhile.

Resources:

Links:

NM – Bandelier National Monument . . . backpacking a loop

I spent a day at Bandelier hiking the popular sightseeing trails (link to related post), but then it was time to delve deeper into the backcountry. First stop was the Visitor Center to obtain a free permit and information about water sources and trail conditions.

Camping is by permitted by zones. On trail signage makes it easy to ensure compliance.

Recent fires and flooding have created challenges.

My plan was a 30-mile loop beginning with the Frijoles Canyon Trail to Upper Crossing to Stone Lions Trail to Capulin Canyon Trail to West Alamo Rim Trail to Mid Alamo Trail. Some sections of this loop require navigation skills and long water carries. 

Wildflowers were an unexpected pleasure. 

Water is a precious resource and requires careful planning. I was grateful the Visitor Center provided known sources. Finding unreliable water is a bonus.

Getting in and out of canyons can be fun. This is the Ponderosa Trail, one I was glad to avoid this trip. 

Stone Lions Trail leads to this shrine. 

For years, Zuni Indians from westernmost New Mexico have traveled from Zuni to a place near the Rio Grande north of Cochiti Pueblo, on pilgrimages to a shrine 200 miles from their village. Even within the past 3 or 4 years, Zunis have camped in Frijoles Canyon, on their way to this same spot. The shrine that draws the Zunis so far from home is a pair of rough figures of mountain lions, rudely carved on an outcrop of tuff, crouching side by side with extended tails. Each is about 6 feet long and 2 feet high, rudely done and in poor condition, worn and disfigured and scarcely recognizable as a lion. Indeed, they have been mistaken for lizards. They are enclosed by a low wall of unshaped stones. This shrine is on the Potrero de las Vacas, one of the long, high, narrow mesas of the Pajarito Plateau, in the rough, little-travelled southern portion of Bandelier National Monument, west of Santa Fe. It is one of the very rare instances of full-size sculpture in aboriginal North America north of Southern Mexico.

The Zunis believe that the stone lions guard the entrance to a place called Shipapolima, the dwelling place of the important supernatural being called Poshaiyanki. Why these rude statues in north-central New Mexico are so important to the distant Zunis is unknown. The ideas of the local pueblos about the lions seem to be entirely different.

The stone lions are important to, and venerated by, the Cochiti Indians who live only about 10 miles to the south. But to the Cochiti they do not represent, as far as is known, an entrance to the dwelling place of a god. The Cochitis call them the “sacred place of Mokatc”. Mokatc is the panther-fetich of Cochiti hunters, and is one of the most important animals in Cochiti ritual and belief. The shrine of Mokatc was used as a place of sacred pilgrimage by a secret religious society of Cochiti, probably the hunters’ society. The stone lions apparently are still objects of veneration to the Cochitis; tracks of unshod horses have been seen there within the past two or three years. The lions probably were made by the ancestors of the Cochitis who occupied the nearby ruin of Yapashi, which was probably occupied from the 13th to the 16th century. Source: NPS

Look carefully and you might find offerings. Please don’t disturb the offerings and be respectful of the shrine which is still in use. 

There wasn’t much remaining to see at Yapashi Pueblo; however, I read that this site has not been excavated.

Although the general LNT philosophy is to leave everything in place, in some areas it’s become acceptable practice to display findings. 

Expect to walk a wash and follow cairns on the Capulin Canyon Trail. The washes splits into a few side canyons so be wary of wandering into the wrong one. There are long stretches where finding a flat safe campsite is challenging. The water in this creek does not continue all the way to the West Alamo Rim Trail so I recommend being alert to the terminus  (around mile 16 into this trip) as there won’t be any water until you drop back into Alamo Canyon 8-10 miles from this point. I needed enough water for the night, morning until I’d reach the next source.

By far the highlight of my trip was Painted Cave. 

I was told by an unofficial source the artwork is repainted regularly by the local indians as part of a ritual thus the reason they are in much better condition than most rock art I’ve seen. 

Once a large population inhabited this canyon of Capulin Creek, but most of the evidences of habitation have vanished except for the extensive pictographs on the weatherproof back wall of the Painted Cave. The arch of the cave is shallow but wide, so that a smooth area over 50 feet long was available to the artists; several dozen drawings in a variety of reds and blacks adorn this surface. It is probable that many generations of artists used the cave, since space finally ran out and later drawings are superimposed on their faded predecessors. Moreover, evidence of historic, or post-Spanish, artistry is here—a sketch of a conquistador on horseback, another of a mission church complete with cross. Source: NPS

Wind continued to be an issue. Finding an appropriate campsite was challenging. Gale force winds in an exposed area or near burned trees is not my idea of living to hike another day. I’m always grateful I can check the weather report on my InReach. Wind was due to decrease significantly in the evening, making my campsite selection a little less worrisome.

I was even able to get enough cell signal to confirm the forecast. 

From my campsite I had a great view of the Rio Grande River. 

Crossing the Alamo Canyon was my biggest challenge of this trip. The switchbacks were technical and relentless. It took me 1.5 hours to descend into and out of this canyon.

But oh what a view. Look carefully in middle right of photo and you’ll see the switchback trail. 

The volcanic tuff in this area was an incredible geologic sight. Look at those formations! 

Gotta love the work that goes into trail building. 

Did I say steep? 

This section is shown as the dip around mile 26 or so on the graph below. 

I was so excited to reach trail again after hiking miles through the sandy wash, then navigating across the rim, and finally tackling the technical trail through the canyon. 

I liked finishing the trail looking down at the archaeological sites I’d visited a couple days previous. 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: April 16-18, 2018
  • Mileage (per Gaia): 30
  • Elevation Gain/Loss (per Gaia, tends to underreport): 4,004’/3,920′
  • Elevation Low/High (per Gaia): 5,353’/7,314
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: some due to recent fire damage
    • Overgrowth: some including poison ivy
    • Signage: adequate on the maintained trails
    • Terrain: varied between smooth freeway to rocky to steps to lumpy
  • Navigation Skills: Minimal for all except Capulin and the Alamo Rim trails which I’d consider moderate
  • Water availability: Only two reliable sources but both run for quite a distance
  • Camping availability: Minimal! It was challenging to find appropriate camping especially in wind gust conditions
  • Solitude: High! Saw a group of 5 day hikers on day 1, a couple of backpackers on day 2, and no one on day 3
  • Bugs: A few gnats and mosquitoes; however, I was told ticks can be a problem
  • Wildlife: The rare, Albert’s squirrel, lots of lizards, a couple deer, old bear scat, a dead elk, cat prints
  • Precip: None, very dry
  • Temp: One night it dropped to 28F. Days were probably in the 50’s and 60’s.
  • LNT: No problems
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 3+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • NPS maps, National Geographic maps and trail sign names do not match.
  • Be bear aware 
  • Be cat aware 
  • Lots of areas around Bandelier marked red indicating high security. You have to drive through a security checkpoint to reach Bandelier where they run your driver’s license. 

Resources:

Links: