Small Town Nevada

I decided that there were too many question marks for my liking so Sprocket and I headed out for a nice training hike around the historic town of Belmont.

We summited a few minor peaks around town before dropping down to check out Belmont Courthouse. Unfortunately, I was not there when the Friends of Belmont Courthouse were doing tours, but the work they’ve done to make the building stand for another hundred years was impressive.

After leaving Belmont, we headed north enjoying the scenery. When I reached Kingston, I saw a sign advertising Jack’s Lucky Spur Saloon. Stopping to check it out was an excellent decision: they had Icky and I made some awesome friends who invited me and Sprocket to their house for dinner! Traveling solo(ish) is fantastic sometimes.

After School Canyons

I wandered into my roommate’s classroom after-school looking for some motivation to go running. She declared the 75-degree weather too hot to run. I disagreed with 75 being too warm to run but when she suggested heading out to Uravan for a hike followed by Blondie’s burgers and shakes, I wasn’t about to say no.

It actually turned out to be close to 85 down near Uravan which is a little hot for Sprockey-Poo so he and I spent most of our time in the very bottom of the canyon. It was lovely though!

MLK Day: Uravan Hiking

I actually had a day off for Martin Luther King Day. I wasn’t needed at the coffee shop and school was out. I’d pretended to create some grand plans for hikes but I just wasn’t motivated. I was a little burnt out after a week of shedlife and some extra work after Christmas and I was just ind of coasting on fumes. So rather than having a grand plan, Sprocket and I took advantage of some warm weather and headed towards Uravan to see where we could hike.

I was sure all of the roads would be muddy and that we’d wind up just hiking a canyon directly from the highway. Instead, right at the site of Uravan, I noticed that the road climbing the cliff to the east looked pretty dry and decided to give it a try.

Our hike was just a few miles of meandering around. I hadn’t loaded Uravan onto any maps on my phone so we were just wandering around. We drove past some old mines on the way up. We scrambled down small muddy washes, we shimmied up little ledges, we found our way back down the cliffs towards the Jeep.

My handsome old dog was all about the sniffing and being outside. I don’t think the hike was long enough for him but that was okay.

There were pretty rocks and lots of just being happy to be outside.

My views out towards the La Sal Mountains wasn’t too shabby either.

I needed that. A lot.

Arizona County Highpoint: Greenlee County

Arizona, overall, has a pretty high caliber of county highpoints. Thirteen of the fifteen highpoints are summits higher than 7000′ and of those two below 7000′ one is Signal Peak, one of my absolute favorite hikes ever. Few of the highpoints are not either a striking peak or a prominent rim point with a great view (Black Mesa, Myrtle Point). Unfortunately, Greenlee County Highpoint, is not one of those.

After climbing up twisty US 191 from Alpine and passing through Hannigan Meadows, I pulled off into a small, unmaintained Forest Service road. We just got away from the road, and hiked up the track climbing over a not-insignificant amount of deadfall. Then we left the track and bushwacked our way to the small knob of a highpoint.

In this photo, Sprocket is looking at the highpoint cairn like, “Really? This is it?”

After our little highpoint adventure, we continued south on 191; if you’ve ever looked at the road on the map it is twisty. We stopped to check out a view point known as “Blue Vista” before heading down the tight curves of the rest of the road. The highway mostly stayed close to the ridgecrest as we traveled south and stayed above 7000′ most of the time before dropping down sharply at Morenci, home to a heartbreaking open pit mine (I’m not going to make you see photos because our lives already have enough sadness these days).

De Beque Canyon Project: Running Wagon Track Ridge

Last Friday, I headed out V 2/10 Road towards the Wild Horse area looking for a spur road that I could go explore on my run. I settled on the road heading down Wagon Track Ridge and got in a great almost six mile run. The only downside was that the whole return run was uphill but I figured that it all equaled out.

I was a little bit bummed that I only made it partway down the ridge but some pretty solid elevation gain and an unknown precise mileage was a little bit more than I wanted to bite off so I simply enjoyed the sunshine and headed back to the jeep.

At home, later, I started studying the map and realized that I could access the base of the ridge at the river baring any crazy washouts or mudholes so Saturday, Sprocket and I set off to run the lower part of the ridge and hopefully meet up with where I left off the day before.

We parked Ruth just above the Colorado and then the road pretty quickly started climbing up the ridge. The very bottom of the climb was pretty washed out and I might have been able to maneuver the XJ up but I was happy to be running up instead.

Once we reached the high part of the ridge, we trended upwards as the road went up and over what seemed like many small hills. The weather was excellent, however, and I had absolutely no complaints.

One of the things I really like about running here is that I almost never see anyone so it’s quiet and relaxing. We did run into a couple people in ATVs today, one of them assumed that I must be broken down somewhere—I don’t think they see a lot of runners around here.

At almost four miles, we reached the point where I’d turned around the day before and headed back. I’m loving that my mileage is starting to stretch out which lets me do some of my exploring on foot: jeep + run = amazing exploring.

De Beque Canyon Project: Oh, Hey Shoulder Season

Towards the end of last week I could feel my anxiety levels creeping up. I spent a couple of days simply just feeling sorry for myself because of things that I can’t control and in general I was a giant blob of bummer. And then I started thinking…when was the last time I was outside? I’d had a little bit of snowy fun with Sprocket on Halloween but mostly I’d been freaking out about the website being down, about my school work, about teaching, about relationships (or lack thereof or my inability to even contemplate one right now), and so on.

Sunday afternoon, I took a break from cleaning the house and doing work to do some exploring and hiking. My exploring was not quite as thorough as I would have liked because the roads were pretty muddy. I drove quite aways up South Fork Dry Creek Road before calling it good; the spur roads all looked to treacherous to have fun exploring alone (especially without a winch) and even the main roads were showing the effects of recent snow and rain.

While it might not look like it, this road was muddy, Sprocket and I both had mud absolutely caked to our feet. The sunshine couldn’t be beat however and we wandered around in the sage for awhile soaking it in.

Eventually, I had to call it since I still had some work to do. We hopped back in the Jeep and Sprocket made it clear he wasn’t really happy with my decision to head home.

While I was driving, something caught my eye. The sun was shining on the rock in the middle of the picture below just right and it showed that something wasn’t quite normal about it. It looked like there might be an arch (or natural bridge depending on your personal nomenclature preference).

Sprocket and I set out to investigate it. This photo from above the bridge doesn’t do a very good job of showing that there is a substantial hole right at the center of the photo and it was in fact an arch!

Sprocket and I scrambled down to stand below the arch. My pup is such a trooper for navigating terrain like this and trusting me so much!


For fun, we worked our way back to the car via the watercourse. Sprocket looked at me skeptically but made his way down falls like this quite handily!

De Beque Canyon Project: Garfield County Road 204

After our goal was foiled on County Road 207, Sprocket and I returned to Roan Creek and headed further west. We were greeted by a herd of cows walking down the road which Sprocket found both exciting and a little terrifying. They’d snort and he would run to the back of the Jeep until curiosity would get the best of him and his head would be sticking out the window again!

As I drove up the canyon, I poked around up all the open and non-posted spur roads. I always love to see what’s just around the corner, up the hill, or in the canyon. Our explorations on Roan Creek were a perfect easy Saturday afternoon adventure:

Most of the spur roads lead to less than scenic oil and gas wells. At least there is usually a lot of room to turn around when you reach one!

Eventually, we reached a gate at the end of the county road and traced our steps back to Carr Creek and further east to the entrance of Kessler Canyon.

Thanksgiving 2014: Connecticut Peak Bagging

Thanksgiving morning I headed for the airport bright and early. After grabbing a spot in the second to the last row of the economy parking, I watched the sunrise from inside the DIA terminal and let myself feel a little bit sad that I wouldn’t be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with some coffee and Bailey’s. All things considered, I was super excited to be headed to see Lucy and Franz get married and have a bit of an adventure.

Adventure? In Connecticut?

Yeah, I’d decided since I was spending all the money on a plane ticket and rental car that I might as well create a bit of a challenge for myself. I decided that I would try to hit all eight Connecticut pseudo-county highpoints along with the wedding in the 48 hours I’d be in the state. (They’re pseudo-counties because Connecticut dissolved them as governing bodies in 1960.)

After landing at Bradley, I got my rental car and immediately headed for South Johnson Hill, the highpoint of Hartford county. I arrived at the trailhead around 6pm, donned my headlamp, put on my snowpants, and headed out for a dark and snowy walk. The quiet and peacefulness was really appreciated after a long day of travel. (Seriously, this post can be summarized as “snowy selfies.”)

I’d been pretty lucky with my travel plans as the state had gotten pretty hammered with a big winter storm the day before. The storm had left a lot of people without power as trees lost branches. As I walked back to my car, I saw flashing lights near the trailhead. Initially, I was pretty sure that I was going to be ticketed for parking at the end of the road even though it was clearly plowed out as a trailhead parking area. Turns out it was just a power company truck fixing some lines.

As I drove towards the trailhead for Mt. Frissell, I started looking for food. At about 7pm on Thanksgiving night in rural Connecticut (and Massachusetts) I wasn’t really sure what I would find. Fortunately, I located a Dunkin’ Donuts and snacked on a bagel and cream cheese as I continued out to the trailhead. It occurred to me that there was a good chance that the snow would be more than I wanted to tackle without boots or snowshoes but I put the decision off until morning. Once I arrived at the trailhead, I crawled into the back of my rental car and got to sleep.

In the morning, I got out of the car to investigate the conditions. It was a really hard decision to make but faced with four mile postholing hike without appropriate footwear when I had a wedding that promised a fair amount of awesome dancing coming up that night I decided it was best if I put aside my adventure goals to be sure I was more fresh for the real point of the trip: the wedding.

I headed out for the next high point in Fairfield County. The drive took me into New York State and was absolutely gorgeous. It was a bright, bluebird winter day and cruising around and seeing the small towns was making me so happy.

The Fairfield County Highpoint:

From there it was off to the Southwest Lindsley Peak Hills of New Haven County:


After that quick jaunt, I decided I had time to squeeze in Middlesex County’s Bald Hill Range. It created a little backtracking for the next day but I was worried about time before catching my plane. I’m so glad I did. Friday had better weather than Saturday and it was a gorgeous walk through the woods!

Then it was wedding time! After a quick sponge bath in a McDonalds bathroom (seriously, I guess I’m still a dirtbag at heart), I made myself presentable and headed out to celebrate with my friends. Congratulations you two. You’re an adorable, awesome couple. And you threw one heck of a dance party.

I got a late start the next morning. Since I’d already blown the goal of hitting all the highpoints for the weekend, I figured it was way more important to spend some more time relaxing at Lucy’s parents with the newlyweds and their families. After a leisurely morning, I drove off to Gates Hill, a rather unimpressive roadside stop:

I reasoned I had time for one last stop, Windham County’s Snow  Hill. I wasn’t sure what the snow conditions would be like and if I’d be able to drive my rental car up near the summit. As it turned out I had to park near the highway and hike a mile each way. I start to get antsy on days that I’m flying about getting to the airport on time and it was reaching that point. I started up the rutted icy road fretting a bit about making this happen. I decided that my mood would be drastically improved if I turned it into a bit of a run. I was wearing my TurboDown so I’m sure that my plane-mates for the rest of the day didn’t really appreciate it but sometimes you just need to go for it!

All in all, I made it to the wedding, danced my face off, and got 6 of 8 county highpoints. I’ll be back for that slope point on Mt. Frissell and also for little Burley Hill!

San Francisco Mountains, Part 1

As we pulled out of Alpine, it was time to start looking for a place to camp. We turned down a small Forest Service road looking for a flat place to pull over before continuing down US 180 the next morning. We weren’t having too much luck finding a place to camp.

It was an awesome stroke of luck.

The little road we were driving met up with Blue River Road. Blue River Road reaches deep into the San Francisco Mountains towards Blue, Arizona right at the edge of the Blue Range Primitive Area. The gravel road travels south through the canyon carved by the Blue River. Although the road continues south beyond Blue, since we were headed to New Mexico we took the winding Pueblo Park road to the east.

Since we lack a detailed New Mexico map we weren’t really sure how to plan out the rest of our route but once we made camp, we discovered we had a 3G signal! After playing with CalTopo for awhile we were finally able to make some plans for the Land of Enchantment!

The next morning we headed north along Saddle Mountain Road (FS 209) until we found a side road to explore. We unloaded the quad and set off exploring. Although we didn’t find any antlers, it was a lovely brisk morning to be out hiking! We got some great views of the Blue Range and back towards Arizona’s Mount Baldy.

Not Invincible… And That’s The Point

“The good of going into the mountains is that life is reconsidered.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

When I was growing up, my mom used to say, “Oh teenagers, they think they’re invincible. Someday you’ll understand that you’re not.” She meant this in the “Please don’t drive too fast and take chances” sort of way. Rarely did I drive fast or take chances—my identity in high school was wrapped up in being the “good kid.” I thought this was just something that moms like to say so I just smiled and kindly ignored her.

As I entered my 20’s, she would occasionally ask me, “Do you still think you’re invincible?” I’d sigh and shake my head because I didn’t think I was invincible. Death was a long way from my mind but I knew that it was possible that I could die. However, doing risky things was still not part of my lifestyle. Sure, I’d found a boyfriend who took me on motorcycle rides which was something I swore I’d never do (although my now-husband would counter that they’re less risky than I thought). I also realized cars weren’t quite as safe as I’d always thought when I was in a car accident (that was entirely my fault) where I was extremely lucky to have not been seriously injured or killed. I understood that my life could easily be extinguished but it was something I only thought about when she asked.

When we climbed Mt. Washington in 2009 perhaps we weren’t as prepared as we should have been and found ourselves sort of “rappelling” off the summit with only a rope and no harnesses. Our entire party made it down safely but, looking back, that was probably the first time I experienced the “I’ve got this but if I mess up, I’ll die” feeling. Eating ice cream at Dairy Queen following the hike I was happy and content. The risk had been worth the reward and lessons had been learned.

Embracing risk has become part of how I approach adventures. The heightened sense of awareness is part of what feels so amazing about being in the outdoors. Finishing hikes that push my endurance and fears leave me feeling singularly exhilarated and alive.  My conception of what a “long” hike constitutes has changed as as has willingness to tackle serious elevation gain. (One of the reasons I love peakbagging is that I can’t ever call it “good enough” until I’m on the summit; there’s no mental wimping out with a goal to push myself towards.)

Scrambling around a summit in Arizona, I found myself pondering my mother’s question once again, “Do you still think you’re invincible?” Just recently she’d asked the question again—I think her point was that I’m 28 and should have accepted my mortality and settled down by now and  instead there I was crouched above a cliff wondering if I could in fact make it down this way.

On that cliff, I paused in my thoughts to take a deep breath and evaluate whether the next move I was going to make was wise or worth making—it wasn’t. Instead, I headed back around the peak to find a different route down.

Back at the relative safety of the summit, I realized that the whole point of living the adventurous life was that I liked remembering that I’m not invincible. Traveling, hiking, climbing, exploring, and experimenting reminded me that my life is short and its up to me to make it one worth living.

To be clear, it’s not that I like to do horribly risky things. I like to be in control yet know how cautious I need to be. My favorite moments are those scrambling moves that aren’t hard, they’re just exposed and a little heady. They’re the moments that remind you that life is precious and short. They’re also the moments that remind you that really should be getting outside more often and that you’ll remember your adventure a whole lot more than your freshly cut grass, clean house, or whatever it is you thought you should be doing.

There are times when my own mortality is almost palpable. Sometimes it’s the last few feet to a summit that are really exposed and sort of scary. Other times, it’s simply when I’m walking down a pathless canyon or mountain ridge with my feet safely on the ground. I feel so small and so finite in comparison to the rocks and the sky. Being surrounded by things that will last so much longer than me and are so much more sturdy, my tiny place in the world becomes that much more clear: I’m just a speck on this big world and that is an absolutely amazing thing.

To my mother: no, I don’t think I’m invincible. I know it can seem like I must think that what with adventures on the mountains, in the deserts, the canyons, and in the back-of-beyond that I must think I am. Instead, I peruse maps and trip reports and am humbled and a bit saddened the number of places I’ll likely never venture no matter how hard I adventure. I stand on summits and scan the peaks around me making mental lists of how many more I want to climb. I’m not invincible or immortal: that’s the whole point.