We’ve always enjoyed travelling together. Whether to Sante Fe in the winter, Savannah in the spring, time living in Germany, racing in Oklahoma or New England or Scotland … travel has been something we’ve shared and been invigorated by.
But these adventures started at a distinct point in time … Paul and I decided to take a road trip in November of 2013. We have done other shorter adventures in the past, but this would be three weeks of traveling. We made up a loose plan to head down to New Orleans, make our way to Big Bend National Park in Texas and then wind our way back to PA. We filled our Honda Fit with all our gear, tents, running shoes, bikes etc.. and headed South. The trip went well and stirred up a desire in both of us to travel more. You can see the pictures from that trip.
Paul’s parents have been travelling around Europe for several years in a camper van, an idea which became more appealing to him as time went by. He turned 50 shortly after we arrived home and announced that he wanted to buy a Sprinter van and customize it for traveling. I thought he might be joking but he actually bought a van via e-bay and that was that. I am glad he measured our driveway first because the van barely fits in it. The winter and spring of 2014, and later the early winter of 2014/2015 saw a huge amount of work to outfit the van with solar power, cabinets, bedding and more. You can follow that continuing story over on the build thread at Sprinter-Forum.
There is nothing better than exploring a new place to make you feel alive and present. It could be running the canyon trails in Texas, cycling in Colorado, wading across the Escalante River, camping under the stars, eating local flavors, swimming with the fishes, hiking the Wonderland trail. These are the memories I want to remain with me. I feel grateful for the possibility.
Friends of ours from Philadelphia, Linda and Mike, invited us to their daughter Zoe’s wedding. Why not? We can drive the van out to California for the weekend. We left on a Wednesday from home and landed in Flagstaff for the night. We decided to sleep near Lower Lake Mary in the National Forest. It was starting to get dark and the forest had a bunch of campers in it already. We went a bit further and found the perfect spot. Quiet, woods on one side and marshy water on the other. In the morning it was cool and misty but we set out for a 6 mile run to explore. Great trails to run on, although one trail that we went on was a dead end. If you can get a map, do it.
Instead of staying on Interstate Hwy 40, we took a long detour on historic Route 66 through Oatman. You can imagine the cars and travelers going around these windy bends and feeling nostalgic.
We believe the old route went this way because there were already established mining roads. Pretty crazy drive though with the added free roaming burros to boot. The town felt a bit rough around the edges but you get a feel of what it might have been.
Paul found a pay campsite, Bonita Falls, near San Bernardino and we pulled in there for the night. It was an okay campsite with showers, plug-in etc. We did enjoy hiking up to the waterfall after arriving. Not very far and it was pretty impressive even with all the graffiti rocks. There were too many dogs barking at night to sleep well.
In the morning we did a 9 mile hike/run up Middle Fork Road to the Stone House Crossing Campground area. It was lovely and difficult at the same time. We got back and showered and headed to the Leta Hotel in Goleta. We parked in the back lot and after walking Billy Goat, dressd for the evening. Merriment with old neighbors and friends.
Wedding Day: We went for a run from the hotel down to Goleta Beach Park on a nice trail. Sadly I fell and hurt my shoulder pretty good. (not paying attention) Back at hotel we showered and dressed for an amazing wedding day for Dan and Zoe. We dropped Billy Goat off at a dog sitter and got on a shuttle to an event space. Lovely all around!
Beach day for people and dogs! We went to Campus Point beach to relax and enjoy the water with Mike, Linda, Zoe, Dan and family. Billy Goat loved this! Running around after Mello and other dogs. We were planning to drive inland for the night but got a late start and decided to sleep right directly on the Pacific Coast Hwy 1 just past Rincon Point. It was a bit strange to be parked next to big RVs but the sound of the ocean was worth it for a night. Mornings are particularly noisy with car traffic and for the high cost we probably wil not do that again.
Heading back to New Mexico we made one stop at the Lavic Volcanic Field to take a break, eat lunch and roast in the black earth. We actually picked up our dog a few times as we were worried about his feet. There are suppossed to be pretty cool cave here but we just hiked up the mound and down. Might be nicer on a cooler day.
BLM land for the night near the Wabayuma Peak Wilderness. Just off hwy 40 and pretty easy to get to, although you have to drive in about a mile or two to get the best spot. Fantastic!
My friend Gene Dykes asked if I would like to join him and some other folks on a run crossing of Zion National Park. We made plans to cross in 2020 but it was cancelled because of covid. Thankfully this year we were able to have the go ahead.
Paul and I left our home on Tuesday, May 3rd 2022. We offered our home for the week to fire evacuees that lost their home in the Mora area of NM. We stopped in ABQ to fill the van with food supplies and headed to Flagstaff. There we parked and walked around then met up with friends Shari and Paul for dinner at Swaddee Thai. Our friends offered their driveway for the night and we slept well. Billy Goat and I took a morning walk on the forest road before saying our goodbyes.
I love breakfast trucks so when Paul stopped for gas I jumped out to order a breakfast burrito at one in between the Circle K and Cinders Liquors on 89 N leaving Flagstaff.(Definitely recommend) We then drove on a bit and stopped at a favorite spot on Loop Road 545 to make coffee and eat. Continuing on 89 N is a lovely drive. We stopped on the Historic Navajo Bridge for a leg stretch and watched rafters below in the Colorado River.
We drove along the Vermillion Cliffs and stopped for lunch in the National Forest just past the North Rim Road to the Grand Canyon. It is hard to tire of this drive even though we have done it before. Our meet up place was La Verkin, UT at an airbnb. We parked in the driveway and Christine and Brent were already there. After the rest of the gang arrived, (Gene, Candy and Nicole) we had a meeting about the next day plans and headed to bed early.
Zion Crossing: Up before dawn and walk Billy Goat, breakfast, then head to Lee Pass where we start our journey. The sun is already rising so we don’t need a torch for long. Its cool, almost chilly but if we keep running at a slow pace I find it mostly comfortable. La Verkin creek trail winds along Timber creek then hits La Verkin Creek. This was my favorite part of the day, criss crossing the creek with the huge canyon walls on both sides. The sand slows us down and some have wet feet. We meet back up with Paul around mile 14 , Hop Valley, for our only aide station. The rest of the run was stops and starts, ooohs and aaaaahs. Very hard descent back into Zion to get to the Visitors area where Paul was waiting with pizza. 37+ miles and I am totally spent.
Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef: I have never been to Bryce Canyon before and was wowed immediately. After walking Billy on the ridge we hiked/ran a bit of the canyon. Gene had some other plans for the day so we made it quick.
Back on the road we turned right a little after Boulder, UT onto back roads of Capitol Reef. When I say back roads, I mean 4wd roads. Gene showed us some amazing spots though so it was worth the crazy, bumpy ride. After driving through Singing Canyon(Long Canyon) and eating some lunch, we headed to Strike Valley Overlook. We let Billy Goat do the short out and back with us, even though the sign said no dogs. He was so happy to be with the group for a bit. Afterwards we drove a long way back through the park to an airbnb in Teasdale where we parked in the driveway and slept to mooing cows.
Goblin Valley SP and Wild Horse Canyon: Breakfast, pack up and drive back through the heart of Capitol Reef and on to Goblin Valley State Park. Here we just let loose and explored the place. You can have dogs hike with you which made Billy Goat happy. He was jumping up on rocks and cliff formations.
Next we went to run in some slot canyons. We chose the Wild Horse loop which was about 9 miles. It was getting a bit hot but the shade and wind helped keep us mostly cool. There was some technical scrambling and we had to lift Billy a few times. Toward the end we took off running and searching for shade.
The wind picked up and dust covered everything. Glad to be back in the van and heading to Moab. Here the airbnb had a sweet pool so Paul and I cleaned up and went for a swim. Afterwards the whole gang met for dinner at Arches Thai. John and Jen came too and spent the night in the airbnb. Paul and I went to BLM land just North of Moab to snooze.
Canyonlands Needles Area: In the morning we could see clearly that we parked close to the Bar M trails where Gene and I did the Arches Ultra race in 2019. After a Billy’s walk we headed into Moab and had coffee and breakfast at Nuclear Bean Coffee in the Moab food truck park.
Yummy and a very tasty sauce for the breakfast burrito. We drive back to the gang and then meet up at Elephant Hill trail head for our day run/hike. It was already windy but we ran into the park and it was one of the best days on the trip. The running was easy and the caves, slot canyons and views were spectacular. It took us about 5 hours to do our lollipop loop and after saying goodbyes we started for home.
We only made it to Monticello before the winds and dust-filled sky made us find refuge in the National Forest. We went towards Lloyd’s Lake and continued on the forest road (5255)to park behind some trees for the night.
Making our way back home: In the morning it was much calmer. It was a pretty drive with a breakfast stop in Cortez at a little park on Denny Lake. We made our way through Durango, Pagosa Springs and stopped again for lunch at Heron Lake SP. The lake was pretty sad and the water level very low. No boats could use the ramp. We enjoyed lunch, paid the $5 and left.
We make a few more stops before arriving home safely. Whew!
When the start of a journey is as crazy as ours, I was wondering if we should postpone. We woke up at our home in Galisteo and it was 6F (-14.4C). The van did not want to start! I had an early morning appointment so by the time I got back, Paul had most things ready to go. We headed to Hwy 40 through ABQ and then hit a traffic jam and accident. No worries, we have time. But then…..our route gets diverted because of snow and we go all the way to Flagstaff before heading south. The snow is bad and goes down to a single lane for awhile. We make it to Fountain Hills and my cousin Kelly and Mark’s home. They waited to have a late dinner with us (so sweet) and we sleep parked in their driveway.
The next morning Billy and I hike/run up Sunrise Peak. Wow! So glad to finally do a trail here.
When we get back, Paul says there are more van issues and we head out after breakfast to an RV parts place and get a new water pump. Yes! It works. We head back on the road and try to find BLM land. We get stuck in some sand in California and Paul digs us out. We decide to find a better camp spot. Butterfly Dunes BLM Land has a flat camping area with pit toilets. Lots of ATV peeps there but its safe and quiets down.
Billy and I wake early while the stars are out. The dunes look shimmery and cool in the dawn light. When Paul gets up we head to the border crossing where there are no issues getting into Mexico. Head down Hwy 5 to San Felipe and stop at public beach. Billy gets his first taste of ocean water.
Going further we stop at La Poma, but directions took us the wrong way and again we are stuck in the sand. Luckily there are many nice folks who help us out. We park on the beach next to a palapas. We decide to have dinner there also and it was really good, fresh fish tacos and platters. The beach is excellent for shell seekers although too cold to swim.
Our next destination is Bahia de Los Angeles and Playa La Gringa. The views and access to water are perfect for free camping. (except no banos). Very windy but I do a short run with Billy on coastal trails. They remind me of the coast in Spain. We spend a good couple days exploring the beach, hiking and looking at star fish.
Paul bought a SUP board which was great to use in the bay. Billy got his first scary ride on the board but he was super brave. Paul makes pizza on the beach and we have a least one roaming coyote who likes the smell
Paul needs some brief internet connectivity so we head to Camp Archelon closer to the town of Bahia de Los Angeles. We camp really close to the other guests. I am not in love with this location but they do have some nice amenities like a photo show, small restaurant, wi-fi, showers (mostly cold) and banos. If you rent a hut it could be different.
Heading back north we arrive at Campo Tourista Puertocitas and I jump in the warmer water of the bay. There are natural hot springs in the rocks here. We enjoy a good soak before dinner. The town has a strange feeling. We saw an artist working on a mural and many sculptures scattered about. We heard that the economy and a hurricane caused the decline and many properties were destroyed.
We do a morning soak also and there are quite a few people there. I still would recommend if soaking is your thing. $34 dollars or 600 pesos a night. Pricey for Baja but gated, safe, nice people, and quiet in the night.
Again on our way North we stay one night at Betel Residence 2 which is a defunct and destroyed RV park that Rueben manages. At one point there was a shwanky club house and a swim up pool bar. Now the sand has reigned king and everything is falling apart. We were surprised that the toilets flushed in the camping area. We went on a beach adventure here to find hot springs we read about. It was a lot of fun but the springs were only tepid. Super quiet as hardly anyone was there.
The border crossing on the way back was a bit longer but not too bad. Extended drive day so we got to Picacho Peak SP late where we stayed in the over flow area. A sunset to die for! We showered in the am and shopped in Tucson before heading out to Kentucky Ranch where the race starts the next day. Super windy and colder than I would like.
Gene Dykes meets me in the morning and we head out on a 50 mile adventure. The Old Pueblo Trail Race is the oldest in Arizona and it is way harder than we both expected.
We try and run together but in the end we are separated. I wait at the mid point and when Gene shows up he is bloodied but ready to head back out even after I try and talk him out of it. I again go faster and try to beat sunset which I don’t. I did manage to be the last female and Gene the overall last finisher so hooray! Paul and I sleep at race site again.
Next day we pack and head not too far over to BLM land – Las Cienegas. There are many camp sites but most are filled. We pull into one and go for a walk. You can actually go through the cow gate at the end and reach more dispersed camping. That also looked nice and a bit more private. We visit Empire Ranch and view some of their artifacts, history and trails. Paul fills the van up with water there too.
I am in the mood for a dip in water. We hoped to camp at Patagonia Lake SP. but dogs are only allowed in day area. We have lunch and use the SUP board there. Billy goes for a ride and scares some of the birds hiding in the marshy inlets on the side of the lake. So many birds!!
In Patagonia Paul talks with RAAM legends Susan and Lon Notorangelo, still leading PAC Tours (this one seemed to mostly off-road in the surrounding part of southern AZ). Cute town and the only one “on” the Arizona Trail (the actual trail crosses a road a couple of miles out of town). A local tell us about Harshaw an old ghost town. We end up camping there for the night next to a cemetery and one old adobe home.
It was fine in the evening but a mining company, South 32, is working on the Hermosa Project right now and they started driving by early. Controversial in the area because of water rights, traffic, pollution etc.
Next we stopped in Tombstone, really a tourist place but tacky and could be fun with a bunch of friends. We didn’t stay for a gun fight show.
Bisbee has been on my radar for awhile now. An artsy old mining town that was revamped in the 60’s and is still going through changes. We loved the stairs, art, shops and interesting people.
Paul looked up an Ardour user and we had a delicious Vietnamese dinner at Thuy with Jordan, his wife Nila and two sons Sequoia and Tanha. We park our van outside their home for the night. Steam Punk design and some really cool trailers in the back yard that they created and were shown at the Eclipse Festival. Lots of dogs and two puppies for Billy Goat to play with. Good conversations and budding new friendships.
Wake up a bit late a do a short morning walk. You can see the border wall in the distance. Boo. More morning conversation and a yummy breakfast. We say our goodbyes and head to Chiricahua National Monument. Paul and I do a short 3.8 mile hike on the Echo Canyon loop. Spectacular rock formations and that glowed as the sun was going down through the canyon.
No more available camping so we go just outside the park and down a forest road (very washboarded) about 5 miles and camp next to a dry river bed. Many dispersed campers.
Not wanting to drive (bounce) out the 5 miles, Billy and I do a morning run and meet up with Paul at the end. Now to journey home, but not without a soak. Riverbend in TOC is completely full so we go back to Faywood Hot Springs near City of Rocks SP. Paul enjoys the drive on a long dirt road called Whitewater, that cuts out going up to Silver City.
Arriving in early afternoon, Paul soaks most of the day while I soak, nap, hike a bit with Billy. Very funky place, clothing optional, peacocks, stone ring and star chair and places for tents, RVs, vans, and cabin rentals. The whole place could use a bit of polish but we appreciate its tenacity.
Heading home was uneventful. A quick stop in ABQ for late lunch at Poki Poki Cevicheria an interesting Asian fusion place. Paul shops at Whole Foods, one accident on I25 north with a delay, and then the quiet roads heading to our home in Galisteo. Ahhhh….
Paul and I have always wanted to drive the length of 55O in Colorado. Our daughter Rachel invited us up to Palisade, CO. for her 30th birthday so we figured, why not? We started in the late afternoon and only made it as far as some BLM land in NM. Nice thing is that there are plenty of places to pull off and sleep when you get tired, and it is usually pretty scenery.
We planned a hike on the Ice Lake trail outside of Silverton. It had just reopened because of a forest fire the previous year. Most of the fire happened down low on the trail so only a small portion of the trail was affected. The trail was a challenging climb but very doable when slow and steady.
When we reached the top it was much cooler and we were treated to some spectacular views and aqua blue lakes.
Going down was much quicker and we even ran some segments.
After our hike we headed north through Ouray and then looked for a place to stop for the night. We thought maybe Ridgeway SP but it looked uninviting as the water was so low. Paul spotted a sign and we drove into Billy Creek State Wildlife area. They have designated spots for camping but we were thrilled to find a beautiful, free place in quiet, open land. The wind kicked up for a bit but then settled down in time for sleep.
The next morning we finished the drive to Palisade. Maps took us through the Escalante State wildlife area which was lovely and marshy looking. We met up with the kids at the Palisade Farmers Market on Sunday around 10 am. Very impressive for such low population but Grand Junction is only 10 minutes away. The wine festival was underway at 11 am. so we ate breakfast and headed to Liat and Brandon’s place to park. We all rode bicycles to the Wine Fest and sipped, danced, and bought some stuff till 4pm.
Paul and I checked into the James. M Robb S.P and showered, rested etc.. then we met up with the kids for dinner in Palisade. Everyone a bit sleepy, we called it an early night.
Rachel wanted to go on a hike for her birthday so we headed up to the Grand Mesa. Liat knew a sweet out and back that showed the beautiful Fall colors of the aspen trees, next to running water and the valley below.
We drove out to Land’s End afterwards and then Ozzy did some impressive driving down a windy gravel road for 18 miles.
Paul cooked a yummy dinner for everyone. We had wine, cake, songs, and a full moon to boot.
The next day we traveled back the same way we came although turning at Durango.. We did one stop for a crazy hike at Mill Creek and I don’t recommend the outback part. Stay on the road! Although I did see a porcupine face to face, which was cool.
After that whole experience, we needed a soak so Paul drove all the way to Pagosa Springs and we sat in the free Nathan’s Hippy Dip hot springs. The warm/hot water felt so good and you can cold plunge in the river. Driving on with the night creeping in, we pulled over on 285 and the Continental Divide to eat dinner. Then Paul sailed us all the way home by the light of the moon.
Paul and I have been making many trips to Wisconsin and back and find it hard to change our route much. We normally spend one or two overnights in the van. This trip was for my father’s memorial in August. We started out on the evening of Aug. 16 and slept in the rest area outside of Las Vegas, NM. Quiet enough and gets us on the road early. On this trip we decided to check out Manhattan, Kansas. We pulled into Tuttle Creek S.P but it didn’t look like a good lake to swim on that side. The Big Blue River that flows into the Kansas River was damed to create a large recreation area. It was starting to get dark so we moved on until we found a sweet spot. Brown’s State fishing lake is in the Northeastern corner of Kansas. Free camping and porta potties plus a quiet except for frogs, birds and crickets chirping. We did a little walk around in the morning when we awoke.
After spending a really nice time in Wisconsin, swimming in lakes, eating corn on the cob, and singing sweet songs, we headed back home.
Somewhere on 151 outside of Dubuque, Iowa, Paul and I hit a crazy storm. We listened to the radio which scared us with alert sirens. We pulled over by a corn field and waited until it mostly passed. I think there where gusts of winds around 80 mph. I was pretty freaked out. We got a late start traveling so we ended up in a rest area on I80 outside Omaha in Kansas for the night. (way too warm)
We decided to drive through Denver the next day on 285 and camp for the night in some cool mountain air. We stopped at a National Forest Park on the Kenosha Pass. Paul did some daring off road driving but we ended up in a legit spot for the night. Super pretty and chilly night air.
The way back on 285 is pleasant. We stopped for coffee and walked around Salida, a cute, artsy mountain town that is worth a visit.
The rest of the way we have traveled before but it was nice to change it up a bit.
My good friend in Philadelphia, Gene Dykes, asked me if I would like to join him and his daughter Hilary on a running trip in Yosemite. I have never paid money for a organized running trip before but I also have never been to Yosemite and wanted to experience the park the best way possible. The trip exceeded my expectations.
Paul and I left New Mexico and headed to Flagstaff on July 4th. We had planned to park in the National Forest overnight but found all forest access closed due to fires. We found a quiet spot on Lake Mary Rd. near a trail head where rain softly lulled us to sleep.
Up early in the morning, we drove to the next town Williams. Williams is a gateway to the Grand Canyon and is a cool historic looking town. There is a train that runs from the town to the Grand Canyon. Many hotel, motels, and places to stay. Route 66 shops, restaurants and places dating back to early 1900’s.
We drove west on I-40 and did one bypass on Historic Route 66 going through Peach Springs, Valentine etc. Sounds nicer than the actual places but a good diversion and quiet road. Next up on I-40 was the Mojave Desert where temperatures reached 108 degrees, according to the van thermometer. In Bakersfield, CA. we took 65 which had less traffic but was probably slower. There was oil drilling at first but then the farms began to line the roadside.
We booked a night stay at Millerton Lake S.P. near Fresno. The place was still a little busy after the 4th of July weekend and pretty hot until the sun went down. I took an evening dip in the lake and had a proper swim in the morning before heading to Yosemite.
Aspire Running Adventures is the group that organized my trip. I met up with everyone at a cool place called Flying Spur which you had to go through the park to get to. It is an old property that John Muir once had a cabin on. The owners were gracious to have us all park there. After a meet and greet and a yummy salmon dinner, we talked about our itinerary. There were a few people who wanted to get up before dawn and run to El Capitan to watch the sun rise. Of course Gene was game so Hilary and I said yes too. That meant getting up at 2 am!!!
Day 1 of running: Big Oak Flat to Porcupine Creek
So I did not sleep much. I said good-bye to Paul who would have his own adventure, and got into a van taking us to the trailhead. Trent, Nick (our photographer ) and Frederic (a very fast runner)started running ahead of us. It was completely dark and mostly wooded. We had our lights to guide the way and had a goal of reaching the top of El Capitan by sunrise. It was all up, up, up and Gene was starting to fall behind. Hilary and I decided to keep going and we made it there to see the sun cresting in the distance. Gene arrived not to long after and we all had a good break up top. The rest of the day we enjoyed a slower pace taking in views at Eagle Peak, dipping in Yosemite creek, and heading out to North Dome. The day was long, beautiful, exhausting, stimulating, all at the same time. How alive do you feel in the wilderness and in nature? I feel truly alive.
After getting back to our new camp at Tioga Lake, we set up our tents, swam, ate dinner and went to bed early. I slept well because I basically passed right out.
Day 2: Lakes Basin
Not so early of a start today. A smaller group opted to do the whole run. Frederic and Brittany lead the way but those speedies soon dropped us. Gene, Hilary, Shaun, Kara and I went a bit slower. I loved the water and views of this loop. Shaun and I tried to out run the swarms of mosquitos in the woods. We took a break and let the others catch up. I decided to go off on my own in order to get to the lakes earlier. After a hard switch back climb in intense heat, I had a memorable swim by myself(and the dragonflies) with mountain tops, clouds and nobody around. Magnificent! I ate my lunch and was finishing up when the group came by. Yeah! We all enjoyed the rest of the lakes and a pretty easy downhill to finish off the day.
Day 3: Cloudsrest
I did not sleep well at all. My nose was stuffy, Brittany makes loud mattress noises, and Gene snores. Not much I could do and we had another early start in the dark. I managed to get moving and stayed with Hilary, Brittany, Frederic, and Nick for the beginning of the day. Nick took a lot of gorgeous photos as we went off trail to climb Tresidder Peak and watch the sun rise on Cathedral Peak.
It was actually fun scrambling to get to the highest view points. Hilary and I climbed down together and met back up with Gene on a pretty meadow area of the trail. There were a variety of trails on this particular day. We headed into the woods and then near the bottom it opened up with lots of water ways by Sunrise Creek and scratchy shrubs. My legs got cut up a bit on those. We met up with Brittany and Shaun and ran to a trail intersection where we would head up to Cloud’s Rest. We rested, filled up our water bottles and had a bite to eat. Brittany lead the way and Shaun and I followed behind. Gene and Hilary came after us. It was a hard climb and at some points when looking up, you thought “I am going up there???” But again, it was beautiful with gorgeous views of Half Dome and the surrounding area. When you actually reached the summit it was full of people who came from another direction (easier I presume). This was probably my favorite view spot of the trip. Getting close to the edge was tempting but very scary. Lunch at the top and then mostly a down hill with Shaun running along side me. Tenaya Lake beckoned at the finish and I jumped in to clean off all the dirt, dust, and sweat of the day.
On arriving to base camp, I was surprised to see Paul parked there. He had an ordeal and decided to camp at Tioga Lake. It was much cooler there and we even had a short hail storm, rain and a huge double rainbow over the lake. After a dinner of ? I gave up my tent to Trent and slept soundly in the van that night.
Day 4: Vogelsang Pass to the Valley
I wasn’t surprised when everyone wanted to get an early start today. The whole group unanimously agreed that it was going to be a hot, long day and we should get out there asap. In the dark we headed out on the Pacific Crest trail toward the Vogelsang Pass. It intersected with the John Muir trail for about .7 of a mile then turned onto Rafferty Creek Trail. Hilary, Gene, Jess and I made our way up to Vogelsang Lake. It was a beautiful morning with marmots and critters enjoying the daybreak. I went ahead and spent some time trailing Jess. We saw Nick, Brittany and Frederic at the top of Vogelsang Peak. This was pretty much the end of climbing for the day. We headed down into wooded areas and stayed close to the Lewis Creek where the pleasing sound of gurgling water filled your ears. We had plenty of places to fill up our bottles. Jess and I met up with Jeff and Theresa who wanted to stop for lunch at Merced Lake. I continued on by myself while searching for a good spot to take a dip. The water is pretty fast and the current can be dangerous. Nick ran by and we spotted a good place. I stopped and Frederic and Nick carried on. It was nice to submerge in the cool water, eat my lunch and be still for a bit. Brittany found me and we decided to carry on together. It was a good thing because we needed support getting through a fire burned area that was super hot and had no shade. Once through that we went on a hunt for water and ended up taking a break near the top of Nevada Fall. Cooled off we headed down the steep, slippery and harsh stone steps all the way to the bottom of the Mist Trail. We stopped and took a few more photos by Vernal Falls. We ran into so many tourists at this point it was strange and sort of out of place in this wild kingdom. But nevertheless, Brittany and I flew by so many people heading down toward our goal of finishing the day. One mistake was passing our last turn and we ended up doing a bit more running, jumping into the river and finally heading toward the crew at Upper Pines Camp Ground. Tacos, beer and margaritas were on the menu for dinner (Too bad I was doing dry July). As a group we decided to go back to our base camp at Tioga where it is much cooler for the night. The ride took a long time though and by the end I felt car sick. Thankfully I just had to climb into our camper van and nod off.
Initially the next morning, Paul and I signed up to do volunteer work in the park. It was cancelled because of the heat. After breakfast and saying goodbyes to everyone, we headed east. We decided to stop in Bishop for some chille cheese bread at the famous Erick Schat’s bakery.
Bustling town with lots of tourists. We did a quick grocery store stop and continued on. We drove 6 North to Ely then onto 50 where we pulled over on BLM land in Utah. Quiet night with a small sliver of a moon in the sky. There was some smoke from fires in the air which got worse as we traveled on the next day.
We stopped at the welcome center in Grand Junction which was pleasant. Paul and I were amazed at the long line of cars at the Chic-a-fill drive thru, Crazy!!! We had to take an alternative route on 92 through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. It was a windy road with no hardly any barriers and a big drop off. We stopped and checked out the views more than once. Wow! Fabulous.
After driving through Gunnison we went south on 114 to connect with 285 S. We took another byway to go through the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. I went to the Mt. Blanca fudge company for a chocolate shake while Paul filled up with gas. Quirky owners but friendly enough to me. I also got a vanilla orange coke for extra caffeine. The drive down 285 was pretty and also uneventful as far as traffic. We made it back by dinner time and Evan even had some leftovers for us. Our home felt cozy and welcoming.
I was encouraged by my good friend Gene dykes to run my first 1OOk. It was about a 10 hour drive from our home in Galisteo, NM to Littlefield, Arizona where the race took place. We felt pretty safe driving, sleeping, and eating in our van.
We left on a Wednesday with a quick stop in ABQ for groceries and headed on a familiar stretch of I40 West. We have gotten used to sleeping in rest areas on our trips but were surprised to find our Arizona spot closed for construction. We pulled in anyways and there was room to park plus port-a-potties. We had dinner and slept well.
The traveling got better once off I40 heading north on 89. There was hardly any traffic plus beautiful views all around. We stopped for breakfast looking back at the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff.
Continuing North, then West on Alt. 89 we encountered beauty everywhere. Marble Canyon where we crossed the Colorado river on the Historic Navajo bridge and then The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Wow!
We climbed a bit and saw some snow where you turn off for the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Campgrounds closed for the winter. It was a very pretty forest and quiet. We ate lunch in the parking lot of the Pipe Spring National Monument. No time to explore though. Up and over through St. George and then down again through the slot canyon along the Virgin River.
Parking overnight at the race start was pleasant enough. Grandmasters Ultra 100 miler and 100k began at 8 am Friday, Feb. 5th. Gene is a pro at these events now so he was schooling me through the first half. I felt confident but midway was pretty hard mentally. After a break and change of shoes, I felt better and more energized. I must say I enjoyed the second half of the race tremendously. Watching the sunset glow on the cliffs, stopping and staring at the stars in the sky and the cool night air refreshing my now tired legs. Gene and I got separated but he was never too far behind and a much better down hill runner. We finished 1st and second place!
The next day the race site became a lawn mower race site too. It was interesting for a bit but then just felt noisy and dusty. We left mid day to get on with our drive back this time taking a route through Zion. Paul and I have never been to Zion NP before and just driving through makes us long to return. Fantastic! Sleeping came easy parking on BLM land with views of The Grand Staircase and listening to a Steve Roach concert. Plus a couple glasses of vino.
The rest of our journey home was back down 89 but turning left to Tuba City and the taking 264 through Navajo and Hopi Land. Some of the land looked very pretty and you could see some farming plots being developed. There was a lot that looked impoverished though. Paul and I both talked about how COVID19 has hit all tribes even harder.
Back safe and sound in Galisteo without much contact with people. (except Gene) and an overall feeling of being grateful for these small journeys.
We’ve been in New Mexico for over a year by now, and although we’ve been up in the mountains quite a bit for trail running and day hiking, we’ve not yet done any overnight backpacking trips. It seemed like it was time to change that, and after quite a lot of reviewing, we decided to explore part of the Pecos Wilderness. The main trailheads for the Pecos are just over an hour’s drive from home, and we decided to head up to Cowles and then do a 22 mile “loop with side arms” that would take us to 4 of the larger lakes on the east side of the main Sangre de Cristos ridge.
After getting a flat tire on the way out of Galisteo, we arrived at the trailhead by about 10:30am. It didn’t take too long to get our packs on and walk onto the clearly labelled Winsor Trail.
A navigation error (aka “Paul thinking he could remember the route, so he didn’t bother to look at the map”) less than a mile in took us onto a very rough and tricky “boot trail”, with lots of low trees and tricky areas. Although it seemed to be a real trail, after about 1/2 a mile or so, it petered out, and we were forced to look at the map and realize that we were in the wrong place. We backtracked a bit, crossed the creek, and scrambled maybe 50 yards up a steep slope to get ourselves onto the real Trail 261. This is technically closed right now, although for no apparent reason: it is well maintained, free of downed trees and a nice steady grade. We climbed about 1800′ to meet the Winsor Trail (which takes a more circuitous route to reach the same spot), and then continued along it to a larger creek crossing and the intersection with the Skyline Trail. Another 600′ of climbing and another missed turn finally took us to our first lake – Spirit Lake – and our first campsite, at 10,809′.
We were entirely alone at Spirit Lake for the night, but only after a couple arrived at the lake with their German Shepherd (off leash). The dog saw one of the many deer that seem to like to spend time near the lake, and took off in a crazy chase. It’s owners eventually got it back, fortunately uninjured. As a city dog, I suspect it had no idea what it was up against chasing a bull deer with significant antlers. They splashed in the lake for a bit, and then headed back.
The next day we packed up, and started walking up towards Lake Katherine, the high point of the trip at 11,742′. We didn’t know that the trail was technically abandoned, which meant there were a lot of downed trees to cross over or walk around. After a mile or so, the trail got much steeper as it climbed up to meet the newly-named Skyline Trail, and then we switch-backed up some more to finally get to the lake. And what a lake it was! Crystal clear blue waters rimmed by steep mountain slopes (the back of Santa Fe Baldy).
The water was very cold but both Julie and I took a full plunge and I even “swam” a little. We sat around on rocks in the warm sun afterwards, ate a snack, and then headed back down. We loved it so much that we plan to come back with wetsuits, doing a somewhat easier hike from the Santa Fe Ski Basin on the other side of Baldy, and actually enjoy a “real” swim in this magnificent lake.
This time we took the Skyline Trail down, which was steeper and much less shaded than the route we had taken up. Eventually we met back up with the Winsor Trail, and after a very short section, were back at the junction that allowed us to turn north towards Stewart Lake.
Stewart Lake (10,232′) was pleasant enough. We found a nice campsite overlooking the lake (though probably closer than the official 200′ distance). Julie swam in the lake for a bit, and chipmunks kept threatening any and every food item that we had with us.
The next day we packed up and hiked a very pleasant and easy half mile to so to the junction with the Winsor Ridge Trail. We turned north, dropped our packs in the trees (removing the food and hanging it up, to discourage animals from trying to get into them), and continued with just a small day pack for the walk up to Thompson Lake 11,091′).
This turned out to be very nicely graded steady ascent all the way up. We met a woman with two young children who had been camped up there for 3 nights, now heading back to where we had started from. Thompson wasn’t particularly remarkable, but after we found a warm spot in the sun was a nice place for a mid-morning snack and talk with the mountains as our backdrop.
We headed back down the way we had come up, and about an hour later re-united with our packs to begin the long descent down the Winsor Ridge Trail. This was initially much flatter than I expected, and we soon reached an area with magnificent open views back to the main ridge of the Sangre de Cristos, with Santa Fe Baldy as the high point, and where we had been just the day before at beautiful Lake Katherine.
We trudged down the Ridge trail as the day warmed up. There was a lot less shade on this south-facing slope than we had coming up Trail 261, and we were glad to be descending rather than ascending (there was very little water along the 5 mile, 2000′ elevation change). Eventually, we began to see a few houses (mostly summer cabins) in the Pecos Valley in front of us, and sometime after that, could see the green-roofed cabins that we knew were on the road to the trailhead. A final descent to the road took us by a forest service campground, which was quickly filling up on this Friday afternoon. We started walking the mile or so back up the road to the trailhead, but quickly decided to drop the packs in the shade, leave Julie to filter some water from the creek (we were very thirsty), and I walked back up to get the car.
On the way home, as we turned right in Pecos village, we could finally see the huge column of smoke from the Medio forest fire that was burning on the other side of the Sangre de Cristos. It was remarkable, and a bit scary. 30 minutes later, after picking up some fresh Colorado peaches and a couple of plums, not to mention a cold beer, we were back home.
One of the reasons Paul and I chose our new home was location to nature and our ability to travel. When we finally got programmable heat put into our home we could leave on a short van trip at the end of February. On Day One: we headed south stopping only in Albuquerque to stock up the van with healthy food and a bit of vino.
Right off of Hwy 25, we did a trail run in Sevilleta NWR. It was Sunday so nothing was open and no one was around. Easy, well marked trails with some nice views, birds, and arroyos. Perfect place to stretch our legs.
We ended up sleeping at Elephant Butte, SP. We found a nice spot up high with views of the lake. Very quiet. Day 2: In the morning we ran some trails in the park. The trails are lined with rocks, not too difficult but a bit sandy. It was almost hot so we became sweaty in our shorts and t-shirts. Sweet!
Truth or Consequences: A town with natural hot springs. Both of us were excited to try a hot spring so we chose River Bend. It did not disappoint. River Bend has many pools to soak in located right on the side of the Rio Grande. Lots of birds to watch while in the tubs. At night they put some laser lights on foliage that makes it look like a whole different magical place. The spa was originally a fish hatchery and you can sit in the fish tub still today.
Day 3: we did a short run in ToC which went up to a veterans home on windy trails and back. We enjoyed one more soak before departing. Lunch at our neighbor Deirdre’s suggestion at La Posta in Mesilla was tasty. The place is so colorful, plus birds and piranhas in the lobby are over the top.
We sleep next to mountains at Oliver Lee SP. after a long ride and not altogether pleasant.
Day 4: we have one spectacular run in the Lincoln National Forest. An old train line was turned into hiking trails. The grand view looks out at White Sands in the distance. A waterfall was another stopping point. Driving was also pretty nice in this area.
Next we headed to 3 Rivers Petroglyph Site where we walked around then camped for the night.
Day 5: Early morning White Sands NP run. A bit cold in the early am but as the sun rose in the sky, we were glad to have arrived before all the other people. What a bizarre landscape. Not to hard to run on because the sand was pretty cold and firm in most places. We got a lot of sand in our shoes.
After running we had coffee and breakfast in the van. We then drove to Las Cruces and had lunch from a food truck called Luchador. Full stomachs we headed west to Rock Hound SP. Nice spot nestled in the hills. We sat outside for awhile. I painted some rocks for fun.
Day 6: I explore and collect some rocks in the morning. The park is known for its abundance of agate and quartz crystals. You are allowed to take some home with you. We do a short run on the Spring Canyon Trail. Very steep and impossible to run in some places. We were hoping to see the Ibex that were donated by Iran but we never saw any. Another day for a soak! We camp at Faywood Hot Springs. Peacocks, nude tubs, smells a bit like weed around camp. Rustic in a good way. We find a remote, quiet spot to camp. Beautiful sunsets.
Day 7: Ride our bikes to City of Rocks, SP. Lock them up and do a wide run around the park and up the biggest hill. Cool rock formations and great view of surrounding area up on top. Sleep and soak at Faywood one more night.
Day 8: Drive towards Silver City. Run Dragonfly Loop. Fairly easy trail that winds around to a river and back. Dragonfly petroglyph on a stone plus a few more.
Next we explore Silver City. Check out a new mural with mosaic and tiles going up. Lots of art galleries. Paul buys a piece of art. Chai tea and music at Tranquil Buzz coffee shop. Paul food shops at local Co-op while I look in Space art gallery. Weird, eclectic art.
After resupply we drive up very windy route 13. There are plenty of free national forest camp grounds on the way up. We decide to pay for a view (and bathroom) at the Mesa Camp ground. It over looks Lake Roberts and had only one other camper. We took a short walk to explore. Must be a nice place to cool off in warmer weather. Dinner in the van and another lovely sunset.
Day 9: Wake early and drive to Gila Clif Dwellings National Monument. check the visitor center for trail map and information. Small museum with artifacts and a movie. Hike the loop to the cliff dwellings which was very well maintained. The dwelling is well protected so it is mostly intact. A small village under a rock ceiling with outstanding views and a river below.
Next we decide to do our daily run in the park on Little Bear Canyon Trail. The trail starts out in the open but then changes into a slot canyon opening onto a larger river. Peaceful, majestic, and breathtaking. If god created a church, it would look like this.
After the run we drive back down the mountain and on 180 north. We sleep in NF Cottonwood Campground right off the road. Very dark and quiet.
Day 10: We wake and walk around a bit. Trail goes off from campground and a little stream. On our drive back we stop and see the Very Large Array, a famous astronomical radio observatory. Driving towards hwy 25 we see small towns and a good amount of poverty. Sad. Our daily run was to be simple so we pulled off at Bernardo WR. Mostly dirt roads but there are bird sanctuaries and lookouts. Farm fields surround the area which attract the birds. We drive 60 all the way to 285 which was mostly very pretty. Back at home in Galisteo, New Mexico until next time.
This post is written mostly for Paul’s mother, who isn’t going to be travelling much any more and will certainly never see the landscape close to where we now live. Sometimes, you can (and must) travel from a bed instead of a van.
This morning we went out on a short 4 mile run, mostly on trails around Galisteo. The weather wasn’t particularly sunny, but the photographs below capture some of the details of the neighborhood as well as a few broader landscape shots. Sorry that the photographs do not link to larger versions, but even the larger versions where not really worth viewing due to graininess and the odd morning light.
The two shots above come from the edge of a property owned by a British couple. The husband is a fairly famous architect who grew up in Woodford and like me used to ride his bicycle into Epping Forest as a child.
Above are examples of the different way that color and a particular kind of botanical beauty occur here in our semi-desert climate.