Guadalupe Peak, Texas (May 1998)

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on 35mm slides. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the slides haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. The photos below are some of those old slides.

In 1998, we were starting our attempt to climb the 48 highest points in the continental United States. Guadalupe Peak (8,749 ft / 2,666 m) in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, is the highest point in Texas (Texans likely yearn for Guadalupe to be the highest point in the U.S. but it’s not o_O ). We were planning to do it in May when we learned that our long-time friends, Wayne and Diane, would be in New Mexico then and could join us. So we organized a four-day trip that encompassed a hike up Guadalupe Peak, a descent into Carlsbad Caverns National Park (complete with the deepest lunch counter and a massive swarm of bats at dusk), a guided off-trail hike in the caverns, and a hike to two old cabins (Pratt and Hunter) in McKittrick Canyon (also in Guadalupe Mountains National Park). This mountain range has to rank, along with Palo Duro Canyon and Big Bend National Park, as one of the most scenic places to visit in Texas. It was a great trip with good friends at just the perfect time of year with respect to the weather and other visitors. ūüėÄ

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Guadalupe Mountain (Rio Grande del Norte NM) 28-Jun-2018

Guadalupe Mountain Rio Grande del Norte National Monument New Mexico

After our family hike to Big Arsenic Springs, I (at least) wanted to do some more hikes – preferably in the shady heights of the Carson National Forest. Unfortunately, the managers of that forest had decided to close it the next day to all activities – including hiking – due to the very high fire danger. There was already one big wildfire burning south of Taos, so they were just being proactive in not wanting to fight another human-caused conflagration. Still, the Carson covers much of northeastern New Mexico (and all of the area around Taos), so it’s closure pretty much ruled out any further hikes at altitude. We’d never experienced a whole forest closed due to fire danger. Deep, soul crushing, sigh.

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Big Arsenic Springs (Rio Grande del Norte NM) 26-Jun-2018

Big Arsenic Springs Rio Grande del Norte National Monument New Mexico

After days and days of¬†art appreciation, some other family members were finally open to doing a hike.¬† Despite the allure of shady forests, climbing a peak or going to altitude weren’t in the offing, so we picked a short loop hike in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area of the¬†Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which was established in 2013 and is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The original plan was to descend the Big Arsenic Springs Trail to the river (at a well known fly fishing spot), go south on the River Trail, and return to the plateau via the La Junta Trail, near the confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grande.

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Williams Lake (Wheeler Peak Wilderness, NM) 25-Jun-2018

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico

After she’d had a day of art appreciation with other family members, I was able to persuade The LovedOne to join me for a short hike to Williams Lake, south of Taos Ski Valley, at the base of the highest peak in New Mexico (Wheeler Peak). Every area we’ve ever visited seems to have at least one short, easily accessible, and not too steep (and hence wildly popular) hike to big scenery. Judging from the size of its trailhead parking lot, the number of cars there on a weekday, and the width of its tread, the trail to Williams Lake, in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, is that hike in Northern New Mexico. We had last hiked it in 1993 during a fierce thunder and lightning and hail storm that caught us on the way back from an ascent of Wheeler Peak. We were looking forward to not having an experience like that again (we didn’t).

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Lobo Peak (Columbine-Hondo Wilderness, NM) 24-Jun-2018

Manzanita Canyon Trail Lobo Peak Columbine-Hondo Wilderness New Mexico

It took a day for everyone to arrive and get settled (and start adjusting to the altitude) and then it was time for another hike (for me at least). Up the road from where we were staying is the Taos Ski Valley and the trailhead to the highest peak in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak. We had climbed that one in 1993 from near Williams Lake, before the current short trail to the summit from there had been built (that was in 2011). But there are other trails to other peaks in this area, many with views equal to those from Wheeler. Lobo Peak (at 12,115 feet) is one of those, which you reach via the Manzanita Canyon Trail (USFS #58) from Highway 150. Despite my attempts to portray hiking as performance art, I was unable to convince anyone else to join me in a hike of a 12,000-foot peak (sigh). So while the assembled masses sought out “real” art in Taos, I headed out, in the cool of the very early morning, for a solo hike to Lobo Peak.

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Devisadero Peak Loop (Taos, New Mexico) 22-Jun-2018

Devisadero Peak Loop Trail Taos New Mexico

This year, our family round-up was in Taos, New Mexico. We couldn’t quite corral everyone but we got close. The LovedOne and I went out ahead of the rest, both to finalize housing and to get acclimated to the altitude (Taos is at 6,969 feet) with a starter hike. After consulting the hiking oracles, we picked this popular loop hike, which is in the Carson National Forest right on the edge of town. It offers views out across the Rio Grande Valley and seemed like the ideal place to start our acclimatization. We quickly learned to start all of our hikes, including this one, early to get ahead of the heat of the day.

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A Week in New Mexico 21-Jun-2018

Taos New Mexico

Our family is still scattered across the United States and still follows varying schedules and lifestyles, so arranging a get-together still involves multi-dimensional problem solving. ¬†Our animating criterium for selecting a locale was (and is) for one where we can all be together but still have different things to do (because, inexplicably, we’re not all hikers). ¬†Last year, we visited the North Shore of Lake Superior and that turned-out great.

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Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks (New Mexico) 23-May-2017

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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-25. 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 erodible rock. A potentially apocryphal story suggests that Doctor Seuss was inspired by some of these formations.

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Santa Fe Trail (New Mexico) 22-May-2017

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.

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Bandelier National Monument 21-May-2017

Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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 high point – 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, treeless 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.

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Around the U.S. by Train #1: Southwest Chief (March 2017)

Amtrak Southwest Chief Chicago

Our trip got started with a pleasantly boring flight on Alaska Airlines to Los Angeles International Airport, followed by a taxi ride to Union Station in the heart of downtown. Wayne & Diane wafted in on the Pacific Surfliner around noon, just in time for a nice lunch (from Traxx) in the station’s tree-shaded courtyard.  Then, after a quick walk through Olvera street, we hung-out in the Metropolitan Lounge until our 6:00PM departure on the Southwest Chief.

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