Into the Gorge: Where the Red Meets the Rio Grande

At the confluence of the Red (left) and Rio Grande (right) Rivers

At the confluence of the Red (left) and Rio Grande (right) Rivers

On my way from Hermit Peak to the Rio Grande Gorge, I got crunched between the Land Rover and the Teardrop. Ouch. After a few days taking it easy on the long, flat roads that crisscross the east rim of the Gorge, I was ready to plunge headlong into that deep, dark river canyon.

The confluence from the La Junta Point overlook

The confluence of the Red and Rio Grande from the La Junta Point overlook

The Rio Grande River runs at the bottom of a 800 foot deep geologic rift that cuts down through the layers of black basalt that underlie north-central New Mexico. On the surface, the high desert is a sagebrush sea, cross hatched by dusty roads and antelope paths. But switchback down one of the steep footpaths that drop into the gorge and you’ll find a surprising green riverine paradise.

Big Ponderosas along the Rio Grande

Big Ponderosas along the Rio Grande

The Rio Grande Gorge runs for 50 miles, from the Colorado/ New Mexico border to just south of Taos. My favorite access point is the Wild Rivers Area of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument near Questa. This little-visited gem was just made a national monument last year but the crowds have yet to descend. I camped here on Memorial Day weekend and once I dropped below the rim, I had the place all to myself.

Big Ponderosas along the Rio Grande

Big Ponderosas along the Rio Grande

Dogs hate metal steps like these. Bowie's tackled them elsewhere and he went right down, but Dio threw a fit.

Dogs hate metal steps like these. Bowie’s tackled them elsewhere and he went right down, but Dio threw a fit.

Poor Dio really, really, really hated these stairs. Bowie went up and down them a few times, showing his little brother than he wouldn't fall through. I let him figure it out and he eventually followed us.

Poor Dio really, really, really hated these stairs. Bowie went up and down them a few times, showing his little brother than he wouldn’t fall through. I let him figure it out and he eventually followed us.

La Junta Trail Junction

La Junta Trail Junction

Camping shelter along the Rio Grande. Holiday weekend. Nobody here!

Camping shelter along the Rio Grande. Holiday weekend. Nobody here!

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Riverside Shelter Rules . These are free, no permits required.

Rio Grande Dogs

Rio Grande Dogs. After a few days on the hot, dusty rim, these boys were ready for a swim!

Rio Grande Self Portrait

Rio Grande Self Portrait

Rio Grande D.O.G.

Rio Grande D.O.G.

At the Confluence. See the demarkation between the two rivers?

At the Confluence

Washed out bridge over the Red River, no longer connecting to the Cebola Mesa trail.

Washed out bridge over the Red River, no longer connecting to the Cebola Mesa trail.

Om mani padme hum blessing in Sanskrit, carved in a boulder along the Rio Grande. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om_mani_padme_hum

Om mani padme hum blessing in Sanskrit, carved in a boulder along the Rio Grande. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om_mani_padme_hum

Opferkessels & Caterpillar

Opferkessels & Caterpillar

Looking up the Red River with La Junta Point above.

Looking up the Red River with La Junta Point above.

Bowie, my 11 year old trail dog extraordinaire, looking rightly proud of himself for having just climbed that ladder!

Bowie, my 11 year old trail dog extraordinaire, looking rightly proud of himself for having just climbed that ladder!

 

Back on top. I also hiked a a 4-mile loop down Little Arsenic Springs and back to this point.

Back on top. I also hiked a a 4-mile loop down Little Arsenic Springs and back to this point.

Love river confluences? Check out my post on hiking to the meeting place of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River. Up next: a journey back in time in the Valle Vidal!

 

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

High Points on My Horizons: Hermit Peak

In Granite, I Trust

In Granite, I Trust

For this, my third summer on the road with the Teardrop, I really have no plan. I think I’ll head in the general direction of Oregon – through Utah and Nevada and then circle back through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming but I have no idea if I’ll make it that far. I may get sidetracked or spun around or stranded somewhere between here and there. I figure I’ll wake up every morning and look at my map and decide where to go that day. I expect, a lot of days, I won’t go anywhere.

Moonrise over my trciked out Teardrop.

Moonrise over my tricked out Teardrop.

After a few days camped near Santa Fe, on the edge of the La Bajada Mesa, I set sail, south and east, to Galisteo and Lamy and then west and north to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Less than 100 miles on my new tires later, I ended up at the base of Hermit Peak.

This past December, from a distance, I marveled at Hermit’s sheer 2,000 foot granite walls, then in January, I spent a day exploring the base of those cliffs on an off-trail walkabout. Now on my first day on the road, Hermit called me to come climb it. So I did: me and Dio, 8.5 miles round trip, up to 10,212 feet, late afternoon to late evening. We had the place to ourselves, with one serendipitous exception.

Crossing into the Pecos Wilderness

Crossing into the Pecos Wilderness

Hermit isn’t an easy hike: the relentlessly switchbacking trail gains nearly 3,000 feet of elevation in 4 miles. The path is ancient, well-trodden, paved with fist-sized rocks. Ankle rollers, everywhere. But I cruised right on up. I have this theory that hiking uphill isn’t really any more tiring than hiking on flat ground. Uphill takes a different set of muscles, but once your “ups” are in shape, you should be able to climb as readily as strolling. I’ve been trying to convince myself of this idea for years. After a decade of daily hikes, I’m beginning to believe it.

The rocky, rooty trail up Hermit Peak

The rocky, rooty trail up Hermit Peak

Hermit Peak D.O.G.

Hermit Peak D.O.G.

On the flat, grassy summit, with dark falling fast, I couldn’t find the Hermit’s cave, where legend has it a reclusive Italian missionary lived for a few years in the mid 1800’s. People still pilgrimage here; the summit is marked by a number of makeshift crosses and I hear the cave is full of offerings. I assumed the cave was in the cliffs, but later I read it’s hand-dug in dirt, tucked back from the edge. Ah well, a reason to revisit, maybe for a starry night and sunrise from the east-facing cliffs.

Cross on Hermit Peak

Cross on Hermit Peak

Offerings

Offerings

On the way down, in the almost dark, Dio and I met another blonde woman, with another black dog, on their way up the mountain. She had an overnight pack and was clearly going to beat me to my future starry/ sunrise scheme on Hermit. Something about her was familiar and when she called her dog “Sammy” it clicked: I had crossed paths with this pair a few weeks ago, on Easter weekend, on Sandia Mountain, 100 miles to the south. On an eight mile out-and-back that day on the “10K” trail, she had been the only person I met on the mountain. When I asked her then where she was heading she had replied, “Up and over”.

Hermit Spring

Hermit Spring

I reminded her of our last meeting and she said, “Oh right, you’re the other New Mexican mountain woman.” I handed over one of my cards and wished her and Sammie a fantastic night; maybe one of these days we’ll share an epic. Paths that cross will cross again.

The trail climbs up through this impressive drainage cleaving the mountain.

The trail climbs up through this impressive drainage.

Enough Granite, time for Basalt! On to the Rio Grande Gorge! You can check out my previous “High Points on My Horizons” posts here: Camel Hump, Santa Fe Baldy, Tetilla Peak, Wheeler Peak and King Arthur’s Seat.

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 11 Comments

Repost: Memorial Day Weekend on the Loneliest Road In America

Heading West on Highway 50

Hey Everybody! I’m feeling much better and back on the road in northern New Mexico, hoping to come across another Memorial Day community BBQ in some small town. I’ll be posting soon about climbing Hermit Peak and hiking in and out of the Rio Grande Gorge. In the meantime, enjoy this post from Memorial Day weekend in Nevada two summers ago!

“Don’t you get lonely?”  is one of the most common questions I get from people curious about my life on the road. The short answer is no, loneliness is not one of my problems and never has been. I’ve been a loner all my life.

Occasionally, I can talk my friends and family into copiloting on my road trips, but if I always waited around for somebody to join me I’d rarely go anywhere. Besides, going solo is great for one of my favorite things about traveling: meeting new people. When you’re not insulated by what’s familiar, you’re more likely to seek out new things.

My Kind of Road!

Driving “the Loneliest Road in America” also known as Nevada’s Highway 50, I met all kinds of people: Great Basin tourists, veteran park rangers, genuine cowboys, life-long Nevada residents and even a few fellow vagabonds. How do I meet these people? I just smile and start talking and lo and behold, most people smile and talk back.

Starting conversations with total strangers is an art that I’ll probably never perfect, but I love hearing people’s stories. Everybody has one; the trick is getting them to tell it to you. The Teardrop is a great conversation starter. So are my dogs, so is my camera.

Once I tell people I live on the road, they’re usually hooked. They light up. My story seems to stir the fires of freedom that we all stoke or smother at some point in our lives. Conversations with total strangers quickly run deep, into dreams realized and dashed. A few people I’ve met have walked away with their eyes bright, their fires relit. Those are the conversations I love most.

As for the inevitable question – isn’t it dangerous to talk to strangers?! – in my experience, no, it isn’t. Sure, I’ve met some weird people and some creepy people, but in my seven years on the road, nobody has ever actually threatened me. Despite what the media and the authorities might have you believe, the world is not full of psychos. Use common sense and project self confidence and you’ll find that there are a lot of friendly, interesting people out there.

 

A Band of Wild Mustangs Along Highway 50

Check out those wild colors! I love a red roan!

Working Windmill! Old time windmills were used to pull water up from underground springs. You still see them all over the Plains and the West, but most are defunct. Very cool to see a wet one! Especially in such dry country.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I pulled over at a scenic overlook to check out a working windmill and started a conversation with three Nevadans. They ended up inviting me to a community BBQ up the road in the tiny town of Middlegate (Population: 17!). When I showed up, they were so pleased that they bought me dinner and we had a great conversation about vagabonding over all you can eat BBQ. You never know who you might meet on the road!

Small Town, Great People!

When’s the last time you had a meaningful conversation with a total stranger? Try it! Buck this awful isolating trend of only relating to other people you kind of sort of know through Facebook! Don’t let conversation – real, true, meaningful conversation – become a lost art. You never know when you’re going to meet somebody who tells you a great story, teaches you something new or inspires you to seek a little more freedom in your life.  :)

Posted in Cowboys & Horses, Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 13 Comments

Teardrop Trouble: Between a Rover and a Hard Place

Rolling down the original Route 66!

Rolling down the original Route 66!

Some lessons you learn the hard way. I’ve always wanted a vehicle that can take me all the way to the end of any road. Since getting my 1996 Land Rover Disco last summer, I’ve gotten a little cocky about where I take the Teardrop.  After some modifications, including a heavier axle and bigger springs and a lift, the Rattler is pretty rugged. The Rover barely knows the trailer’s back there and since it can go just about anywhere, I sometimes think the trailer can too. On a dirt track in northern New Mexico, I got a very painful, very humbling reminder that I should always scout out new roads on foot before I blindly drag my much beloved trailer down them.

Free site in Carson National Forest, near Angel Fire

Home sweet home in Carson National Forest, near Angel Fire

The directions to the base of the Questa Dome said the road was rutted, but passable to most vehicles when dry. The last half mile could be dicey, but there was room to park (or turn around) before it really went to hell. I don’t know how old those directions are, but at least one major flood has run down that road since they were written; the track went from bad to boulders. Fortunately, there was indeed a place to turn the trailer around. Learning to reverse a 10-foot trailer is a steep learning curve – the smaller they are, the more quickly they jackknife – but after two years of towing, I can just about thread any needle with my rig. I made the 90 degree turn in one try, and got the Rover turned around but the Rattler got stuck between the deep ruts and the steep bank.

Will Brake For Ruins: Bear Valley Cabin

Will Brake For Ruins: Bear Valley Cabin

I had to unhitch. Since the trailer weighs only 600 pounds, I can usually muscle it around by myself. But somehow I didn’t notice the slight slope to the road. As soon as I lifted the trailer off the hitch, it started rolling forward. I tried to stop it, but 600 pounds is still 600 pounds and it crunched me against the back of the Land Rover, pinning my hips between the bumper and the front of the trailer. I don’t think I screamed, but I gasped and gasped and gasped, and summoned just enough adrenaline to push the trailer off me in a Herculean move. I slumped to the ground under the back of the Land Rover, sure I had broken my pelvis. Forcing myself to keep breathing through waves of pain, I flashed back to the scene of my horseback riding accident at 18 and found myself saying “easy, easy, easy” out loud, just as I would to a runaway horse.

As soon as I could move, I began checking myself for serious damage. My left knee was injured; it wouldn’t bend, and the strap on my Chacos on that same foot had snapped. I was glad the sandal had given out and not my knee. Feeling carefully around my hips, I decided my pelvis wasn’t broken, just terribly bruised. So I made myself stand up. I walked slowly back and forth, making sure all my bones were still weight-bearing. Everything hurt, but nothing was broken. The trailer was stuck sideways across the rutted road, jammed up against the bank. Moving it would be an easy job for two people, but much harder for one injured woman with a bad back. Well, shit.

Teardrop self portrait with the new original art I bought from a street artist in Taos: the Rio Grande Gorge in ink and watercolor. Fits right in with the abstract of Hemisngway Playing the Piano that I bought from a street artist in Key West.

Teardrop self portrait with the new original art I bought from a street artist in Taos: the Rio Grande Gorge in ink and watercolor. Fits right in with the abstract of Hemingway Playing the Piano that I bought from a street artist in Key West.

The odds of somebody coming along the road to help me were slim; it wasn’t a well-used track. I could drive the Rover out to the main road and flag somebody down to help with the trailer, but I wasn’t keen on dragging somebody else into my predicament. I’m a stubborn solo traveler; if I get myself into a mess, I’d really rather get myself out of it. I set about chocking the trailer’s wheels and building a line of big rocks across the road, so it couldn’t roll into the back of the Rover again. Then I unloaded everything out of the trailer, which probably lightened the load by less than a hundred pounds (I don’t have a lot of stuff) and set about heaving it back into position. Each heave gave me a fraction of an inch and I had to spin that thing 90 degrees. On a break between efforts, I phoned a friend for a pep talk.

A good place to heal

Campsite in a Sea of Sage

It took me an hour of painful maneuvering, with an assist from my carjack, but I got the trailer re-hitched and reloaded and headed back down the road to a sweet free campsite on BLM land near the Rio Grande Gorge where I stayed last spring. I spent the next few days convalescing, taking long slow walks down the dusty roads that crisscross the plateau east of the gorge; I’m a big believer in healing by moving. I was gentle with myself, my bruises constantly reminding me to take it easy. Despite the pain, in that beautiful place that reeked of sage, a good medicine, I found it hard to complain about anything. Mistakes made, lessons learned, nothing broken. Onwards and upwards!

Bowie lovin' a good dust bath

Bowie lovin’ a good dust bath

Bowie Shake!

Bowie Shake!

Dust Halo. A dirty dog is a happy dog!

Dust Halo. A dirty dog is a happy dog!

Stay tuned for more dispatches from the road!

Posted in New Mexico, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Vagabonding 101 | 29 Comments

Into the Dark Canyon Wilderness!

 

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The path down Dark Canyon

Backpacking is the perfect recipe for misery: the majority of the trip you’re tired, sore, hungry and thirsty. Not only are you hiking long distances, day after day, over varying terrain, you’re doing it all with a 20 to 30 pound monkey on your back. Why would anybody put their bodies through such a wringer, on vacation, no less? Because despite all the aches, pains and annoyances, backpacking can take you some totally awesome places, places that aren’t reachable by any other means except your own two feet. Like Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness!

Into the Dark Canyon Wilderness! Just east of Natural Bridges national Monument in southeast Utah

Into the Dark Canyon Wilderness! Just east of Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah

A few weeks ago my trusty adventure pal Drew and I spent 4 days hiking a 42 mile loop down Woodenshoe Canyon to Dark Canyon and out Peavine Canyon. We saw two people the first day and none the rest. The only signs of humanity were three Anasazi ruins, some pottery and a set of barefoot human footprints that we followed for more than 20 miles.

Barefoot track! About my size, but with a long stride. They were cruising!

Barefoot track! About my size, but with a long stride. They were cruising!

Bobcat track. Lots of cat tracks in these canyons! Notice the lack of toenail marks, which help differentiate cat tracks from coyote tracks.

Bobcat track. Lots of cat tracks in these canyons! Notice the lack of toenail marks, which help differentiate cat tracks from coyote tracks.

The Bachelor Pad, tucked up under an overhang in Woodenshoe Canyon

The Bachelor Pad, tucked up under an overhang in Woodenshoe Canyon

A Room With A View

A Room With A View

Goat Petroglyphs above the Bachelor Pad

Goat Petroglyphs above the Bachelor Pad

Pottery! A very nice piece. I left it in a special place where I might revisit it someday.

Pottery! A very nice piece. I left it in a special place where I might revisit it someday.

The third set of ruins we found: two storage rooms under an overhang in dark Canyon, about a days walk from the first set in Woodenshoe.

The third set of ruins we found: two storage rooms under an overhang in dark Canyon, about a days walk from the first set in Woodenshoe.

Self Portrait as an Anasazi

Self Portrait as an Anasazi

Broken Room

Broken Room

Fingerprints in Mud Wall

Fingerprints in Mud Wall

For the first 12 miles in Woodenshoe, we were flush with water, the deep canyon fed by the fast-melting snow drifts we has driven past up on the canyon rim. As we hiked down canyon, springs appeared in rocky basins and disappeared under gravel. We drank our fill of water and pumped more with my mechanical filter; further treating the clear, cold water with Aqua Mira chlorine drops. Better safe than sorry! But as the canyon opened up, nearing the confluence with Dark Canyon, we didn’t top off our reservoirs, and when we hit the main canyon, we were two liters shy of our full capacity of 8.5 liters. Oops.

Water in Woodenshoe

Water in Woodenshoe

Limestone Basin

Limestone Basin

Water in Woodenshoe

Water in Woodenshoe

Two Toads!

Two Toads!

Sandstone Basin

Sandstone Basin

Lunch Break. Shoulda filled up here!

Lunch Break. Shoulda filled up here!

Day three was thirsty; Dark Canyon was bone dry. By the time we found water – a night and 12 miles after our last Woodenshoe source – we were down to a swig. The little creek was Salvation Water. Hallelujah! I nearly dropped to my knees and guzzled it raw. It was sparkling, clean enough to host several huge toads. We sat by that water for several hours, splashing our dusty faces and guzzling liters of lemonade-flavored toad water as fast as we could pump it and treat it. There’s no thirst like desert thirst; no water like Salvation Water!

At the confluence with Dark Canyon

At the confluence with Dark Canyon

Jasper Vein in Sandstone

Jasper Vein in Sandstone

Dark Canyon Self Portrait

Dark Canyon Self Portrait

We go thataway! At times, the trail was hard to track through the sand, but it stuck close to the arroyo.

We go thataway! At times, the trail was hard to track through the sand, but it stuck close to the arroyo.

Admit it, we make backpacking look cool.

Admit it, we make backpacking look cool.

After a long, fantastically warm winter off grid in New Mexico, I’m back on the road in the Teardrop! Stay tuned for some dispatches from Northern New Mexico!

Posted in Hiking!, Photography, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 14 Comments

Filly Lost & Found: A Mother’s Day Post

Lost filly near Hole in the Wall, Wyoming

Two years ago, in Wyoming, one of my childhood dreams came true. Somewhat lost on back roads, searching for Butch Cassidy’s Outlaw Cave in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, I happened to look off to the side of the red dirt road and saw something that made my heart stop: a tiny red foal, all alone, laying down among the red rocks, no mare in sight.

I immediately pulled over, left the dogs in the car and climbed up the bank above the road to get a better look. I grew up with horses, but I’d never seen one so new; the foal was no more than a few hours old. As I approached, slowly, talking sweetly, and holding my hands palms up and open in front of me, the baby whinnied and wobbled to her feet.

Mares will sometimes leave a foal if it is sickly or deformed, but this one seemed well enough and looked perfect. She took a few unsteady steps towards me and whinnied again, making desperate suckling motions with her mouth. Gently, I ran my fingertips down her velvet nose, the softest thing I’ve ever felt, and she latched on to my finger. She was alive but thirsty, hot and stressed. She needed her mom, fast.

Poor baby was hugging that pole like it might be her mother

Miraculously, I had an idea where her mom was. A few miles back down the road, I had passed a field of mares and foals and noticed one mare running back and forth, calling frantically. At the time, I thought, poor thing must have lost her foal. I never dreamed I’d find it!

Quickly I ran through my options. She was too weak and wobbly to walk back to the field, even if I could get her to follow me. I could try to put her in my car or in my Teardrop and drive her back down the road, but I didn’t want to stress her, especially with the dogs in the car. So I told her I’d be right back, ran to my car, unhitched the Teardrop, drove back to the ranch and tracked down the owner, an older man with a big hat and a bigger moustache.

The Hole in the Wall Ranch, Barnum, Wyoming

Sure enough, one of his mares, a first-time mom, had gone off to give birth overnight and returned in the morning without the baby. He assumed it was dead and seemed incredulous to hear that she was on her feet. He asked if I would go wait with the foal while he hitched up his trailer.

The filly was still standing where I left her. I grabbed my camera and sat on the ground in front of her, talking sweetly, assuring her that help was on the way. Her newborn baby softness was astonishing. Even her tiny hooves were still soft and curled from the womb, not yet hardened by life on earth. I looked into her big brown eyes and she looked back at me, the first human she’d ever seen and it was love.

Filly Love. Those eyelashes! Those ears! That crooked star! What a doll.

In my childhood fantasy, I find an orphaned foal and she’s mine and I’m hers, forever. I raise her by bottle, teach her everything I know about being a horse and she teaches me everything she knows about being a horse mother and the two of us grow up together. Now, 31 years old and tied to nothing but a couple of dogs and a Teardrop trailer, I’m glad to know her mom’s just down the road, hopefully eager for a reunion. Watching over this foal for a few minutes is as close to motherhood as I want to get.

When the rancher arrived, he looked her over, and told me he thought she’d be all right. The mare was still looking for her, hadn’t yet forgotten and hopefully they’d be happily reunited. He guessed the steep bank above the road might have been their undoing; if the mare gave birth up here, the baby may have been unable to follow her home. With that he picked her up, carried her down the bank and loaded her into his trailer.

Goodbye Filly, Best of Luck!

As he was driving away, he leaned out the window of his truck and asked me, “Hey what’s your name?” I told him and he said, “It’s a filly. I’m going to name her after you. Thanks again.” I’ve never been so honored by anything in my life.

Dedicated to all the moms in my life: my mom and her mother, Meg and Meg, Amy and Ashley, Courtney and Reinhild. You ladies are amazing. Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted in Cowboys & Horses, Photography, Road tripping!, Teardrop Trailer, Vagabonding 101 | 22 Comments

Earth Day Love Letter from the Arroyo

Arroyo Self-Portrait

Arroyo Self-Portrait

Arroyos are the great gutters of the desert. As dry as this place appears much of the year, its shape is dominated by the rare running of water. Before I came to New Mexico, I had never even heard the word arroyo. I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch farm country and I had no concept of what a dry river bed might look like; all the rivers I knew were wet. And even if I had tried to picture such thing as a dry river bed, with its intricate erosive layers, twists and turns, treasures and debris, I never would have imagined the Earth’s basement to be quite so beautiful.

In celebration of Earth Day, my favorite holiday, here are a few of my favorite shots from the arroyo in my big backyard. Enjoy!

 

Into the Arroyo

Into the Arroyo

Erosion is Beautiful

Erosion is Beautiful

Erosion is magnificent!

Arroyo Window

Natural Bridge: Erosion is improbable.

Natural Bridge

Arroyo Dogdoor

Arroyo Dogdoor

 

Watch Your Step!

Watch Your Step!

Desert Sandstorm: Erosion is happening all the time.

Wind Between the Walls

Shale Spillway

Shale Spillway, Filled With Tumbleweeds

Spillway Self Portrait

Spillway Self Portrait

Desert Dogs Bruce & D.O.G.

Desert Dogs Bruce & D.O.G.

Four Dog Hike

Four Dog Hike

Blue Eyes Bruce

Blue Eyes Bruce/ Salty Dog

Desert Seep

Evaporites

Desert Seep

Desert Seep

Desert Treasure: A giant bivalve from the deep blue sea

Desert Treasure: A giant bivalve from the deep blue sea!

Desert Seashell

Desert Seashell

Here was once an ocean

Here was once an ocean…

Swirly Juniper

Swirly Juniper

Epic Taproot!

Two-story Taproot!

Chimesa Bruce

Chimesa Bruce

Desert Denizen

Desert Denizen. Notice the cactus stuck to his face. I wanted to pull it off but I chickened out.

For more on water in the desert, check out my previous posts: Desert Snow, the Weight of Water and Flash Flood! Thanks to WordPress for featuring the Blonde Coyote on Earth Day!

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Science Writing, Sustainable Living, Vagabonding 101 | 14 Comments

EARTH Magazine: A New “Travels in Geology” Collection!

Burgess Shale Trilobites in Yoho National Park, BC

Burgess Shale Trilobites in Yoho National Park, BC

My favorite beat at EARTH magazine has always been the Travels in Geology column. Now EARTH has published a collection of travel pieces that includes six of my Travels in Geology features: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch, Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, California’s Death Valley, Oregon’s Crater Lake and British Columbia’s Burgess Shale. The collection is available for Kindle. One of my photos even made the cover! I don’t get any royalties or proceeds, but it’s nice to see some of my favorite stories all in one place! Go here to check it out.

U.P. D.O.G.

U.P. D.O.G.

Becky limbs the chimney up to Kitchen Mesa in Ghost Ranch, NM

The chimney up Kitchen Mesa in Ghost Ranch, NM

Sky Pilot in Blodgett Canyon, MT

Sky Pilot in Blodgett Canyon, MT

Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, CA

Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, CA

Crater Lake

Crater Lake’s Bluest Blue

Stay tuned for a brand new Travels in Geology on Ireland’s Northern Coast!

Posted in Beyond the USA, Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Science Writing, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 15 Comments

Climbing Cabezon

Cabezon Peak

On clear days, looking west from the summit of my backyard cliffs, I can just make out what looks like a giant haystack on the horizon. If I were to hike due west from my house, across the Rio Grande Valley, over the Jemez Mountains and into the Rio Puerco Valley, in about 100 miles, I would find myself at the foot of this massive mound of rock.

The Stackmaster & Cabezon

The Stackmaster & Cabezon

Cabezon Peak is an eroded volcanic neck, all that remains of a now extinct volcano. Millions of years ago, hot molten basalt shot up through the central pipe of this volcano, but instead of erupting, it solidified inside the mountain. Over millions of years, erosion removed the surrounding layers of rock, leaving behind a vertical spire of columnar basalt. Shiprock in northwest New Mexico and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming are both famous examples of volcanic necks.

Northside of Cabezon

East Side of Cabezon

Rising more than 2,000 vertical feet from the surrounding landscape, Cabezon is the largest of more than 50 volcanic necks in the Rio Puerco Valley, a region known as the Mount Taylor volcanic complex. Cabezon means “big head” in Spanish. The name is believed to be derived from Navajo legends about a giant slain on nearby Mount Taylor, whose head rolled down into the Rio Puerco Valley and became Cabezon Peak.

Overlooking the Rio Puerco Volcanic Field

Overlooking the Rio Puerco Volcanic Field

The closer you get to Cabezon, the more impenetrable it looks: sheer walls of vertical basalt columns are surrounded by an exhaustingly steep talus slope. But there is a chimney to the top: a scalable passage hidden somewhere in the rock face. Several years ago I tried and failed to find the path. I was hiking solo that day and every route I spied looked far too dangerous to attempt without a spotter.

The Way Up

The Way Up

Cabezon is considered a Class 3 climb, with two short Class 4 sections. The Yosemite Decimal System defines the five climbing classes as such:

  • Class 1: Walking with a low chance of injury.
  • Class 2: Simple scrambling, with the possibility of occasional use of the hands. Little potential danger is encountered.
  • Class 3: Scrambling with increased exposure. A rope can be carried but is usually not required. Falls are not always fatal.
  • Class 4: Simple climbing, with exposure. A rope is often used. Natural protection can be easily found. Falls may well be fatal.
  • Class 5: Technical free climbing involving rope, belaying, and other protection hardware for safety. Un-roped falls can result in severe injury or death.
Heading up the chimney

Heading up the chimney, just below the class 4 crux

We didn’t use a rope or harnesses and made it all the way up to the summit! The dogs made it about half way up before they were stopped by the first Class 4 section, below the beginning of the chimney. My dogs are experienced rock climbers and I let them decide what they’re comfortable doing. I left water and my jacket at the base of that tricky section and told them I’d be right back. They stayed there like good, loyal dogs, until we got back down. Never, ever, ever tie up your dog in coyote country!
Where we left the dogs

Where we left the dogs

Heading into the cleft that leads to the summit

Heading into the cleft that leads to the summit

Rod photographing the photographer

Rod photographing the photographer just below the summit

Summit Spiral

Summit Spiral!

Summit Register Sketch

Summit Register Sketch

More Summit Register Art

More Summit Register Art

The King of Cabezon!

The King of Cabezon!

Cabezon D.O.G.

Cabezon D.O.G.

At the trailhead. Please! No money! How often do you see that? The best things in life are free.

At the trailhead. Please! No money! How often do you see that? The best things in life are free.

Click here for more pictures of our climb up Cabezon and visit Summitpost.org for detailed  route instructions. It’s a beautiful day here in New Mexico and I’m off for another hike!

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping! | Tagged , | 7 Comments

On the Road, Again: Southern NM & AZ to Joshua Tree!

The Teardrop meets a Joshua Tree

The Teardrop meets a Joshua Tree

This winter I’ve mainly been traveling from home, exploring the desert on foot in my big backyard. But for years now, I’ve been saying that I’m due for a winter road trip across southern Arizona, one of my last big blank stretches of the Southwest. In the two weeks before my birthday I hit the road on two back to back voyages with two of my favorite copilots through southern New Mexico west into Arizona along the Mexican border all the way to Joshua Tree National Park!

La Ventana Arch in El Malpais, New Mexico.

La Ventana Arch in El Malpais, New Mexico.

Along the way we hit El Malpais and El Morro National Monuments, Pie Town, Truth or Consequences, and City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico and Chiricahua National Monument, Cochise Stronghold, Bisbee, Saguaro National Park, Biosphere 2, Organ Pipe Cactus and Tuzigoot National Monuments in Arizona. With all those National Parks and Monuments, I bought myself an America the Beautiful National Parks pass, which will pay for itself many times over in the next year. Here’s to seeing more of the world!

Big sycamores in Mogollon, New Mexico

Big sycamores in Mogollon, New Mexico

Revisiting one of my first childhood loves: climbing sycamore trees!

Revisiting one of my first childhood loves: climbing sycamore trees!

Camped at City of Rocks, New Mexico

Camped at City of Rocks, New Mexico

Lone Boulder Crack Climb, City of Rocks, NM

Lone Boulder Crack Climb, City of Rocks, NM

CR1-Panorama OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Table Mountain Sunset

Table Mountain Sunset

Cochise Head from Sugarloaf Mountain

Cochise Head from Sugarloaf Mountain

Climbing Chiricahua

Climbing Chiricahua

Chiricahua Sunset

Chiricahua Sunset

Cochise D.O.G.

Cochise D.O.G.

Happy Mary in Cochise Stronghold

Hiding out in Cochise Stronghold

Bisbee Self Portrait

Bisbee Self Portrait

Rotary Gas Pump

Old School

7 Miles from Mexico!

7 Miles from Mexico!  We passed through a dozen checkpoints but were waved through all of them with few questions and no searches.

Beware Coyotes

Beware Coyotes. We didn’t have any problems traveling and boondocking along the border. I left  a couple of gallons of water outside the Teardrop every night so that if somebody did sneak by us they’d hopefully get what they needed and keep going.

Saguaro Teardrop

Saguaro Teardrop

Cholla Teardrop

Cholla Teardrop

Biosphere 2!

Biosphere 2!

Inside Biosphere 2. The Earth is Biosphere 1.

Inside Biosphere 2. The Earth is Biosphere 1.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Such an incredibly lush desert landscape!

An Organ Pipe Cactus

An Organ Pipe Cactus

Home Sweet Home in Joshua Tree

Home Sweet Home in Joshua Tree

Following a hand and toe route up to a lookout

Following a hand and toe route up to a lookout

Life is Good

Life is Good

Joshua Tree D.O.G.

Joshua Tree D.O.G.

Check out my post How To Plan A Killer Road Trip for tips on how to put together your very own road trip. For lots more pix, check out my Flickr. I’ll be in New Mexico for another month or so before I hit the road for the summer. This year, I’m thinking Wyoming, Idaho & Montana! Stay tuned…

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 17 Comments