The Cook and Green Loop is one of the more challenging (i.e., character-building) hikes in Northern California’s Red Buttes Wilderness (a wilderness more readily accessible from the Oregon side). The loop consists of the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Horse Camp Trail (USFS #958). It can be done in either direction. Clockwise it is a gradual 11-mile, 3,600 foot climb up the Cook and Green Trail and the PCT to the Horse Camp Trail junction, and then a steep 4 mile descent down that trail to the trailhead on Forest Road 1040. The other way is a stiff 3,600 foot ascent followed by a gradual 11-mile descent. I’d done the loop clockwise in January 2015, when there was only a miniscule amount of snow along the Siskiyou Crest (post). Plans for doing it counter-clockwise languished until the desire to see how much snow the very snowy winter of 2016-17 had left on the Crest overcame my reluctance to climb 3,600 feet (the LovedOne opted to garden instead). So a bright, sunny, and destined to be very warm, day found me starting up the Horse Camp Trail at an absurdly early hour.
Oregon’s Rogue River flows, from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park, generally westward for 215 miles to the Pacific Ocean near Gold Beach, Oregon. Hiking trails follow the river for approximately 100 miles. One of these, the Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034), roughly parallels the river for about 47 miles from near Boundary Springs to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside of Prospect, Oregon. It can be hiked in sections (USFS Guide). We hiked our first section, the northern-most, in 2012 and completed the southern-most section in 2016. Done and done, except for the possibility (per Sullivan) that there was a path from the North Fork Dam Recreation Area to the Peyton Bridge Trailhead at Lost Creek Lake. This would allow one to link the true Upper Rogue River Trail (#1034) with the “Rogue River Trail” that goes around the north and south shores of Lost Creek Lake and ends at Casey State Park. We conveniently ignored that “except” until the nagging malaise of incompleteness was too much to bear. So we dragged ourselves off the sofa and went out yesterday to finish the hike…
For our last day in the Southwest, we decided to visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. The Monument, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, a short distance off Interstate-5. It’s notable for the cone-shaped tent rock formations that are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Also visible are numerous hoodoos of various sizes, most protected by a precariously perched boulder cap of harder, less erodable rock. A potentially apocryphal story suggests that Doctor Seuss was inspired by some of these formations.
Our second day in Santa Fe dawned bright and clear but for some reason we couldn’t gather the enthusiasm for a hike. Perhaps that second helping of southwestern chili peppers at dinner – while delicious – was ultimately ill-advised? But what to do – other than air-out our hotel room? Fortunately, I’d been reading Hampton Sides’ excellent Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West (Doubleday, 2006) which recounts the history of Kit Carson, the Santa Fe Trail, and our appalling treatment of the indigenous peoples of the Southwest who got in the way of Manifest Destiny. So we thought it might be good to visit two extremes of this story along the Santa Fe Trail: Fort Union National Monument to the east and, a little closer to Santa Fe, Pecos National Historical Park.
After our hike in Great Sand Dunes National Park, we did a scenic drive through Chama, New Mexico enroute to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Along the way, we gave two Continental Divide Trail (CDT) thru-hikers a lift to their resupply point in Chama and stopped for lunch in Taos. The last time we were in Taos was when we came out (years ago) to climb New Mexico’s highpoint – Wheeler Peak. At that time a major utility outage reduced our meal choices to cold burritos and warm G&Ts, but we endured. Arriving in Santa Fe, it was a bit of a shock to see how much the city had sprawled-out over the years from the still walkable and interesting old town area around the Plaza to wide, treesless avenues lined with strip malls. Sadly, Oregon’s idea of urban growth boundaries doesn’t seem to have caught on here. Sigh. But we were here to hike, not comment of urban planning, so after some map pondering, we decided to visit Bandelier National Monument, just northwest of Santa Fe.
After our hikes at Palo Duro Canyon in West Texas, we roadtripped north to Alamosa, Colorado, gateway to Great Sand Dunes National Park. When we’d lived in Colorado years ago, we’d driven by this park several times enroute to climbs of nearby 14teeners, but never actually stoped for a visit. We were going to rectify that omission on this trip. You can hike on the dunes themselves – a la Beau Geste – but there are other hiking trails in the park. The most accessible of these – it starts almost at the visitor center – is the Mosca Pass Trail and that was the one we chose. It also tops out at around 9,800 feet and would thus be snowfree by now (unlike some of the surrounding peaks).
For our second hike at Palo Duro Canyon in West Texas, we zeroed in on what the March 2017 Backpacker article had said about the big views available from Fortress Rim on the east side of the canyon. The Rim is 800 feet above the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and from it you can see up and down almost the entire canyon. Unlike yesterday, with its constantly shifting mix of clouds and sun, today was utterly cloudless and clear. It was even a little cooler and less humid than the day before – perfect weather for taking in expansive views from the Rim.