Rio Grande Gorge Bridge- and HOME

We finished Wheeler this morning, and headed home through the back roads of northern New Mexico. I wanted to show a few photos of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, seeing as it was the only stop we made.

Perfectly placed. 

It was beautiful- then we FINALLY were back in Colorado.

We still had quite a long drive, but it was least through well known terrain. There was SOME excitement when we were driving past our exit on C-470…something had lit the side of the highway on fire. We have had a lot of fires this year- and luckily this one was not lit by a person. I found out later that it was lit by a piece of trash flying out of a trash truck…and hitting the electrical wire- not even a joke.

It was amazing to get picked up by my human, and go home. I had missed him very much over the last week and some change.

When you go on a long trip, it’s always very nice going home. That being said- it was an adventure- not everything went exactly as planned- but I learned a lot about other parts of the county, and got to spend time with an awesome lady!

AND now- I eat, sleep, and shower.

Taos, Wheeler Peak, and Mount Walter, NM

Our initial plan was to get up at 5AM, and head for the summit- then hang around Taos for the rest of the day….we slept until 8:30AM. Rather than try to summit, we decided we’d wander around Taos- being tourists, then do a sunrise summit the next morning.

View from the Alley- Good food. Good Margaritas.

We got up around 2:30AM- and climbed back into the car and made our way up to the trailhead. We got a slightly later start than we had intended- but after finally finding the correct trail- we motored up the hill.

It was a beautiful sunrise, we also got to watch a crew of male bighorn sheep 1,000′ below us literally butting heads.

From the saddle looking towards the summit!

We were the first people on the summit- which was amazing– consider we counted about 50 or so people heading up as we were coming down.

Only Indian Paintbrushes I’ve seen like this!

Because were doing a sunrise summit we had expected it to be colder, but MAN was it windy!!!

Sarah heading towards the saddle. 

Once we hit the saddle, we decided– EHHH why not also get Mt. Walter as well- it is the second highest!

Looking at Wheeler. 

On our way down, we were fortunate enough to get better pictures of the Bighorns- though they were not butting heads anymore- they were still there!.

These were our final peaks on our trip- and it was time to head home. I must say I enjoyed everywhere we visited…but the Wind Rivers stole my heart right away. On this we both agreed.

Humphreys Peak, AZ

Due to being stuck in Lone Pine an extra day and a half- we has to skip Joshua Tree National Park, and drive directly to Flagstaff– this was about a 8-10 hr drive through the Mojave Desert. We finally hit Arizona around 6 or 7PM.

As the sun started to go down- we pulled of the highway to make dinner for the road– then continued on till we arrived in Flagstaff and our Trailhead.

We pulled up and saw 4 bright eyes, staring at us…took a few minutes to realize they were cows.

The next morning we woke up around 6:30, and made our way up to the Arizona Snowbowl trailhead. Now this was my first time in Arizona- and I had been expecting crazy red rocks, wild cactus…only to find out that near Flagstaff…it looked a lot like Colorado, maybe a bit more jungly.

We began our hike in the chill morning air- just slowly making our way up the beautiful wooded trail.

 

The trail was beautiful, with lots of trees, wildflowers, and other foliage- it slowly climbed up to a saddle between the San Francisco Range Mountains.

 

First Glimpse of Humphreys Peak

We made our way up the steep trail, making sure to follow the posts put in place so people don’t get lost.

The rock quality reminded me of the igneous rock we had seen at Fossil Falls, only it was red, brown, black, and many other colors. It had also gotten a bit breezier- but it was still beautiful weather.

Courtesy of Sarah Engel

We snacked for a while then made our way back down to the saddle…and down the trail…where we decided to walk down the road below the chair lifts…much quicker.

 

View from the summit
Looking across the way at Mount Agassiz

Once back at the car, we decided to eat and go to Mother Road Brewing- on the way down, asked folk who live there where to go, and this was suggested- it was amazing.

Courtesy of Sarah Engel

The beer was fantastic, AND we even got a show from the Fire Dept. Someone set the dumpster on fire, so we go to watch them put it out- it was an adventure!

I would absolutely love to go back to that area, and climb the full San Francisco Ridge Traverse, but that would be with more time– and not in a rush.

Near Gallup, NM. Courtesy of Sarah Engel

We finished or beers and got back on the road- heading towards Taos New Mexico…we arrived at the time share Sarah’s mom booked us at 11:50 PM. We were tired. It was late…needless to say we never woke up for our alarm.

Fossil Falls, CA

So after Sarah and I FINALLY escaped from Lone Pine, we stopped at Fossil Falls for a short break- it was about 112 degrees- so it was very short. But I wanted to share photos of this really cool geologic feature!

Also, here is the BLM write up for the Fossil Falls– taken directly from their website.

“Fossil Falls


AREA DESCRIPTION: Fed by the rains and snows of the last Ice Age, the Owens River once flowed from Owens lake down through this narrow valley between the Coso and Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges. Several times during the last 100,000 years, the discharge from the Owens river has been great enough to form a vast interconnected system of lakes in what are now the arid basins of the Mojave Desert. The rugged and primitive features of Fossil Falls are the produce of volcanic activity. As recent as 20,000 years ago, lava from the local volcanic eruptions poured into the Owens River channel. The erosional forces of the Owens River acted upon this volcanic rock, forming the polished and sculptured features that now can be seen at Fossil Falls.

The red cinder cone visible to the north is the result of the violent ejection of trapped gases and molten material into the air from vent in the earth’s crust. Cooling quickly when exposed to the air, the molten material formed a porous rock known as scoria, which built up around the original vent forming a cone-shaped hill.

EARLY CULTURE: Some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, the first human beings camped along the ancient rivers and lakes of the Mojave Desert. These prehistoric people harvested lakeshore resources and hunted large animals. By 6000 B.C., extreme aridity caused the last of these ancient rivers and lakes (including the Owens River) to disappear. The grasslands, marshes, and large mammals that had once flanked these lakes vanished. Prehistoric human populations may have partially abandoned low-lying desert areas in search of food and water in upland mountains areas.

WAY OF LIFE: Around 4000 BC, climatic conditions again shifted from the extreme aridity of the preceding period to the relatively moderate conditions that exist today. A cultural pattern was established that emphasized the use of a wide variety of desert plant foods that included both small and large mammals, reptiles, insects and waterfowl as well.

With only slight adjustments such as the additions of pottery and the bow and arrow, this way of life was still being practiced by the Little Lake Shoshone Indians at the time of the first European explorations of the Mojave Desert. Many of the archaeological sites at Fossil Falls are dated between 4000 BC and European contact in the 19th century.

ADAPTING: Most of the archaeological materials found in the Fossil Falls vicinity, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, reflect this unique cultural adaptation to the desert environment.

The rock-ring features directly adjacent to Fossil Falls supported conical brush or tule structure that served as shelter for only few weeks or month of the year. As mentioned previously, the need for mobility as various plant foods ripened at different localities made permanent structures unnecessary.

A number of rocks and boulders possess smooth basins on their upper surface. These rocks are called metates and were used for plant processing: hard desert seeds were placed on the metate surface and ground with a handheld cobble called a miano. Over time, this grinding motion produced the characteristic smooth concave surface of the metate.

The surrounding desert also contained the raw materials for a simple hunter-gatherer technology. The black scar seen on the dome-shaped hill to the east is a mile-long seam of volcanic glass, obsidian. Obsidian was used almost exclusively in the manufacture of stone tools such as projectile points, knives, and scrapers. The large scatters of obsidian waste flakes seen in the Fossil Falls vicinity are the byproducts of stone tool manufacture.”

 

 

Stuck in Lone Pine

Once we descended from Whitney- we found out that Jinxy had NOT been fixed…they said the part would arrive the next day. So Pam was a doll and let us stay with her for the night at the Dow Villa Motel- a historic hotel where all the old western movie stars used to stay during shooting.

We all went out to dinner at “the Whitney”, then we back to our rooms and slept.

The next morning Pam, Sarah, and myself went out to breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe, then went on a drive through the Alabama Hills.

Mount Whitney in the center, rising above the Alabama Hills. 

The Alabama Hills were used as the backdrop for a number of old westerns, and while driving through there are placards that tell the years and what movies were filmed there. It was actually really interesting!

We then decided to stop and visit the Lone Pine Film Museum! What I didnt’ realize is that Quentin Tarantino filmed Django Unchained in the Alabama Hills! Really Neat!!!

From Django Unchained!

After visiting the movie museum, Pam dropped us off at the Laundromat- our clothes were kinda gross. It was here that we got a call from the AWFUL- Millers Auto- the place that I wouldn’t even give a star too- telling us that the part never arrived and they wouldn’t have it for us till tomorrow. We found out that Napa sent the part to the wrong place, and it would most definitely be there the next day. Sarah’s mom, yet again was our savior- and booked us a room for the night at the Dow Villa.

We bought local beer, and watched 80’s movies. And closer to dark- and much less hot- we went for a quick swim, and a soak in the hot tub. Then spend the evening with the Golden Girls.

Millers Auto lied- and fucked us over- we were kinda pissed. We were supposed to go see Joshua Tree National Park, and the Petrified forest- these were now out of the question.

The next morning, we sat and waited patiently– or as patient as we could be….and they FINALLY fixed the car, by 1:30 PM– so we were outta there, and driving all the way to Flagstaff.

NEVER GO TO MILLERS AUTO– Sarah is still dealing with their stupidity- the  part died not even a month later.

Mount Whitney, CA

Mount Whitney is the highest point in the continental U.S. at 14, 505′, and on July 4, 2016- we set out to conquer!

The sun rose, and we rose with it. Making our morning coffee, and repacking all our food- we set out from the trailhead around 8:30AM.

Our plan was to hike up to Consultation Lake, set up our camp, and wake up early the next morning to summit. There were 6 of us heading up to the summit- and some were faster than others- I was… as always  towards the back of the group.

 

This trail was BY FAR one of the best taken care of, and easiest trails to ascend…considering how much gain we were doing…I barely noticed.

This trip was also my first hiking trip in California, and only my second time that far west- so it was exciting either way!

To climb Whitney you are required to have a permit- and we had a multi-day permit which are even more rare….but it’s important… when you enter THE WHITNEY ZONE.

Lone Pine Lake

 

Mirror Lake

 

The Sierra’s are very different from the Rockies- we experienced no storms- bright sunny totally bluebird days- I’m sure it’s because of the drought- but still. The rock is all granite, with pretty much the same flowers, a some large waterfalls– it was very pretty.

Consultation Lake, 300′ vertical below our camp.

We arrived at camp around 1:30PM, set up tents, and Sarah turns to me, and says “I’m feeling pretty good….want to do a sunset summit?” I sat there for a moment, taking stock of how my body was feeling, and I said…” SURE!” I mean, what’s cooler than a sunset summit of the highest point in the continental U.S. on the 4th of July?!

“dinner” before our hike

So at 4:30 PM the 4 of us, Sarah- 2 texans- and myself- made our way up the famed 99 switchbacks, to the trail crest. This section of trail was rather straight forward , with a surprisingly small number of people…which was AWESOME! I had expected crowds up the WAZOO- as it usually is on the 4th of July on any Colorado 14er- but due to the time of day chosen… we got lucky.

Whitney is the far point to the right. 

 

The view from Trail crest was AMAZING!!!Absolutely spectacular!

From this point the trail changed, there was a steep drop- and a well packed stone trail, following along the back of the jagged ridge.

Looking across the ridge towards Whitney

Following along the back of the ridge, I really tried my hardest to keep up with everyone…forgetting to eat- which wasn’t my best idea. I really should learn that I can’t keep up with faster hikers, when I was able to run- I was much faster…but since I was told not to…I have been so much slower, and it sucks.

Mount Whitney to the right!2

I finally caught up on the summit, super nauseous, I never get that kind of altitude sickness. It wasn’t until the last 200 vertical feet- but I made it. At 8:30PM on the 4th of July- we had hoped to see fireworks…missed them by a little bit.

I was an idiot and didn’t bring a warmer layer- puffy or anything with me.

Courtesy of Sarah Engel

So we sat for a bit on the summit in the shelter- ate snacks, and hurried back along the ridge.  The light continued to disappear over the horizon, and the stars came out.

At one point we stopped and turned off our headlamps, and just looked up- it was pitch black- a new Moon- which was absolutely incredible. I’ve never seen so many stars in my entire life- and seeing them from 14,000′ was even more amazing. I wish I had pictures to share- but we were so tired, and just wanted to head back to camp and sleep.

We finally hit camp around midnight- and carefully crawled back into our tents, crashed.

I would not trade that summit in for anything, it was beautiful, quiet, and on such a crowded mountain- it was so neat to be the only people on the summit! Now we have two more to go on our trip!

The next morning, we woke up and slowly got ready to head down to meet Pam- Sarah’s friend from Texas that decided to spend some time solo.

We soaked our feet in the creeks on our way down, and meandered back to the trailhead. It was relaxing, and so much fun.

To California- and Jinxy being Jinxy

So last night we rolled into Bishop, had a few beers with a friend of ours that decided to become a climbing bum in California for the time being. And then we camped the night in the Buttermilk Boulders, a well known bouldering area.

Waking up in the Sierras was a different feeling- it was really warm- but very pretty…not quite like home.

View from camp! Courtesy of Sarah Engel

We woke up way earlier than we had originally planned- so we took a slow easy morning- and made pancakes, went through gear, and repacked for Whitney. It was really relaxing.

Courtesy of Sarah Engel

We sat at a coffee shop in Bishop for a while doing some research, then made our way down 395 to Lone Pine. We though we’d drive up and check out campsites, half way up Mount Whitney Road- Jinxy started making this high whining sound…. it was the power steering pump. We got in touch with a local mechanic who told us that they could get it finished….by Tuesday when we got off the mountain.

Now this was great news, we had a ride for at least one  of the days- as we were meeting some of Sarah’s friends from Texas to climb Mount Whitney.  So we stopped, got a campsite at the Whitney Portal campground, then drove down to the place to pick up our Whitney permit- and meet up with everyone. We dropped off Jinxy and headed to camp/ dinner with Pam- a good friend of Sarah.  It was a great evening, and we had a beautiful campsite! The campground supervisor gave us a quiet spot right next to the creek, which was really kind of her!

Unique bathroom signs. 
Pam brought this to share. it was amazing. 
Creek next to our site!
Looking up at the granite walls!

I am so ready to go play on Mount Whitney!