Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2nd Annual Dude's Trip 2014 Part 3

 Here's Part 1 and Part 2.

We didn't get to the area where we planned to camp until nearly 8pm. It was cold, dark, and still windy in the Sacramento Mountains at 8650 ft elevation. The road trip there wasn't the most relaxing. A few leg cramps sprang up, so there were a few unscheduled stops to stretch out. We were also very hungry. So we moved on and the next stop was a restaurant just inside the village of Cloudcroft called Big Daddy's Diner. We ordered up a couple of burgers and fries and chowed down on the best grub we'd had in a long time. Granted, we were famished, crawling on hands and knees, and near death, but i'm pretty sure that would've been the best dang hamburger on any normal day as well. A real thick burger....seems to be a rare thing nowadays.
As we sat there shoveling food in our mouths, I could tell there was a shift in the original plans. I could see it taking shape. We discussed what was to happen next. We needed a place to sleep. We needed to rest our weary bones.
My son sits back, throws out a big stretch and with a halfway smile says, "Hey, did you see that motel back there?"
Yeah, I saw it, and I know what he was trying doing. He was trying to put the slightest bug in my ear. Maybe start thinking a little more about that place. Hot shower. Soft beds. Warm room. No wind.
I am hurting something awful....NO!!! i'm stronger than that. I don't give in that easy. We're outdoorsmen!!! 

 We woke up around 7am and started slowly stirring. The temperatures were in the low 30's and a slight breeze. So I checked to make sure the thermostat was still on 74 and got back in bed. :)  Don't judge me. 

 We left the motel about 9am and after a quick breakfast, headed towards our first hiking destination. We immediately knew it was going to be a tough day just getting to our car. My legs didn't want to work that well, and my calves were not showing good manners either, griping and whining with every step. We drove around a while and finally ended up at Bluff Springs. It was a beautiful place. Ahhh man, there are stairs...this is going to hurt.  

 Once we got moving around and stretched a little, things started to be less painful with each step. Remember, i'm 41 now, things take longer to heal up than they used to.
 We hiked to the top and enjoyed a large meadow lined with tall pines. We followed a stream from a waterfall back to the side of the mountain it was pouring out of. We walked all over the area and up a few mountainsides. We then headed down the Willie White spur and hiked for a few more hours. It was beautiful country and a lot less strenuous than our previous day. We didn't take the backpacks, just some water and my GPS.  

From there we headed up towards the Sunspot Observatory. We stopped a few times and walked parts of the Rim Trail, but never too far, just a mile or so then double back.  

 That's White Sands in the background. It's roughly 30 miles away. 

We walked around at the observatory for an hour or so. We've been there many times in the past and they have a really nice self guided tour that takes you through a big portion of the grounds and some nice scenic overlooks. We headed back down to Cloudcroft around 4pm, and from there decided to go down to Alamogordo for supper. That's a nice drive down. There are a lot of things to doin Alamogordo as well. They have a zoo, an awesome Space Museum, , and of course, White Sands National Monument. Here's one thing we won't be doing....
These fellas on the way down thanks. 

Overall the trip was another awesome experience. I pushed myself further than I have in awhile, and had a great time doing it. There were times on the trip that I will never forget. I don't know if my son will want to keep doing this through the years, but he does now, so i'm running with it for as long as I can. 

 Now it's back to the planning phase for a bunch of family trips we're wanting to do. And maybe start looking at next year's Dude's Trip too.  :)

Thanks for coming along,

back to Part 1

back to Part 2 


2nd Annual Dude's Trip 2014 Part 2

Here is Part 1.

  We got up and had a little breakfast. Lots of folks up and tearing down their tents. I knew it would be better to break camp at that point, but I really didn't want to spend the time and wanted to get up that mountain. We knew we wouldn't be back before the noon checkout, so we opted to pay a little extra to stay at the site. Fortunately we had everything ready to go from last night. So we grabbed our packs and headed for the trail head. It was 7:25am and away we went. 

The way up was difficult to say the least. I had heard all the stories about how hard it would be, and wouldn't you know it, they were right. It was tough going. The trail was well marked and maintained. It was rocky, steep, and had an endless supply of switchbacks. It became an ongoing joke to call out switchback, then we would both repeat it at the same time. It was fun the first 10, not so much the next 10, and even less the next 10. But regardless of the "not so" fun factor, we hollered it out with equal enthusiasm each time. 

 We were about halfway to the top. We had passed a few folks coming down that spent the night at the campground a mile below the peak and got passed by a few who had more endurance than I had. Pretty soon we were around the first mountain and headed to a much windier trail. It made it hard to figure out how to dress. We layered, but it got hot, then turn a corner and the wind would chill you to the bone. They say the wind can get up to 100mph on the peak, and it can get pretty bad along the trail as well. Still, we were heading up, slowly.

We had to take numerous breaks along the way. Just to catch our breath or to let my heart slow down to were I was. 

 We knew we were getting close when the bridge came into view. They claim it's the highest bridge in Texas at 8093ft. 

It seemed the closer we got, the narrower the trail was getting. 

After another hour or so, we looked up from another switchback, and there it was, the top of Texas. We finally made it. It was in sight and within grasp. We made the final push with excitement. The last few steps were an amazing feeling. We were there. After four and a half hours, we felt a feeling that was hard to describe. Exhaustion and the pain was pushed aside. A fist bump, a hug, and a whole lot of smiles were in order. Then we stood in awe of such a beautiful view.

Here is the info on the monument that sits on the peak as per wikipedia...A stainless steel pyramid marks the summit. It was erected by American Airlines in 1958 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Butterfield Overland Mail, a stagecoach route that passed south of the mountain. One side of the pyramid has the American Airlines logo. The second side displays a U.S. Postal Service tribute to the Pony Express Riders of the Butterfield Stage. The third side displays a compass with the logo of the Boy Scouts of America. A summit register contained in a metal ammunition box is located at the base of the pyramid.

I don't think i've ever seen so far, and all in a 360 degree view.  

The back of El Capitan.  

As amazing as the views were, the wind was coming in with force. It was cold up top. Colder than I thought it would be. It was kinda funny that I wore pretty much what I would on a regular cooler temp kayak trip. My Mad River Canoe wind/spray jacket, polar buff, costa sunglasses, and all the layering. Only thing missing was my life jacket and waders, which would have been cumbersome on the trail. :)

The Lost Kayaker
 We signed the log, and after about 30 minutes of a freezing 30mph wind relentlessly pushing us around, we decided to head back down to stay on schedule and not get back too late.

Just a few yards below the peak.

The way back down was pretty uneventful. It went fast but was still very difficult. After the first mile, my calves were screaming at me. After another mile, here comes the blisters. I'm glad we had good trekking poles. They really helped on the way back to relieve a little stress off our knees. We got back to the campground at 3pm. Seven and half hours after we started, we were back at camp. Totally exhausted and feeling ever muscle in my body starting a revolution, we begin to tear down and pack up. We were glad we were back, and glad we can mark this one down in the books as one of the most amazing adventures we have done to date. All that, and I got to do it with my son. I told him one day maybe he can make that trek again with his son/daughter. He said, "You better believe it. That was awesome. You'll be coming too though." I told him we'll have to see about that when the time comes, and if i'm not still sore from this time.
We finished up and off we went for the two and a half hour drive to the Lincoln National Forest, our third leg of the trip. 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park 2014

 Continue to Part 3

Back to Part 1

2nd Annual Dude's Trip 2014 Part 1

 This past weekend was our 2nd annual "Dude's Trip" for my son and I. It always corresponds with my birthday, which helped me when I ask for permission from the boss. We started this last year when it was decided my son was old enough to join me on some wild adventures and be able to hold his own. This helped in getting approval without all the guilt from my bride for leaving on another crazy adventure without the family. For the record, my wife loves the outdoors, just not to the extreme that I do, therefore..."Dude's Trip". But because of the June flash flood on the Pecos and the chopper ride out, my bride was not extremely excited about us going on a multi-day kayaking least not yet. So after much deliberation, we decided to dust off the backpacks and head for the mountains.
 We knew we didn't have all the time (or money) in the world, but we were going to make it work...and it was going to be memorable.
 We decided on the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I had never been there, but always heard about it from my friends. So with that, we started the planning phase. It changed quite a few times before we finally came up with what would be our final schedule, which was the night before we left.
 I have never been one to stay too long in one place when a vacation comes around. We'll usually split it up into two or more places, and run ourselves ragged until the day we get back. Sound relaxing? You better believe it, at least it is to me. I figure, why not see and do as much as you can with the time you have. You may never get another chance. So with that philosophy...I give you the "Dude's Trip 2014".

 We left at 6:30am in a tiny rental car that got 42mpg and pointed it towards west Texas. We were making good time even through the oilfields and all that traffic. We arrived at Pine Springs campground at around 11:30, checked in and proceeded to setup our camp.

Around the Visitor's Center.

We did a ton of research on the place and knew since we were there early, we could find a good spot. I wanted a spot we didn't have to walk a ways to. Some folks like the solitude of the sites a little further away, but come on, it's still a park campground, we know, and can hear, who is having trouble digesting their supper. Solitude in campgrounds like these mean 30 feet away as opposed to 20.  But still, we got a great spot.

Out our front Porch.

And the back porch.

It wasn't noon yet, so we went ahead with the plan. Off we would head to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We passed it to get to the park earlier in the day, but knew it would be better to get setup first and go back. I have been here a few times before, but Nick hasn't yet. I knew this would be a big eye opener. It did not disappoint.

This place needs to be seen in person to fully understand what it is and how big it is, so I won't go any further with the interior photos that can't do it justice. Just go see it.  :)

But we did get to see a remarkable sunset from the Caverns park.

Guadalupe Mountains in the background.

On the way back to our camp, I had to stop, since the sunset wouldn't give up. 

Once we got back, as predicted, the campground was full of people. Some getting set up, some still trying to find a spot, and some just wondering around. It gets dark before 5, so it was a bit weird with all the activity and it being dark. We decided to go ahead and eat a lavish supper of some kind of dehydrated peppered beef thing a ma bob...with rice. I was able to use my Jetboil that was saved from the Pecos trip. It took a little longer than normal to get to a boil, but it gave us time to get the camp in order. After we ate that...stuff, we finished up getting all our things together for the mornings trek to the top of Guadalupe Peak.

Even after all we did, it was still only around 8pm. So out came the tripod and camera.  

It was a full moon, which made it harder to get good starry night shots, so I improvised and used the moon on a few. 

As the night moved on, it started getting colder and the wind picked up. We were in bed by 10pm and pretty much asleep even though there was still plenty of movement in the campground. We had what we needed to stay we thought. Sometime a few hours later I was awoken by my son shivering. He couldn't get warm and was a bit unnerved by it. He had the right clothes, the right bag, and even a bag liner. I was toasty, what was the problem? Here is the only thing I could figure...he probably got hot, started to sweat, and instead of shedding a layer, he got out of his bag. After a while the temp started to drop and he's still out of his bag. He got chilled and his body started to try and warm him up. In come the shivers. We fixed him up and back to sleep, sorta. It seemed I woke up every ten minutes for the next however many hours it took for that sun to slowly get up. Long, long night.

We could tell the sun would be up soon because of all the movement in the campground. I peeked outside and saw light on the horizon. It was time to get stirring as well. I tapped my son, and told him it was time to get moving. He turned over and said,"Yeah, I know.
It's about stinking time. Last night was getting old." I had to agree. We had a great day before, and I think the anticipation of the hike up to the summit had made it hard to relax. 

Continue to Part 2

Continue to Part 3