Pacific Crest Trail Southern Terminus – Campo, CA 6/1/17

 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

 

Pacific Crest Trail Southern Terminus – Campo, CA

Mile 0 – Mile 3.0 (6 miles round trip)

Ian solo

Clear, sunny, mid 70s

 

 

Today was a big day and I’m betting this blog entry will be pretty long.  Courtney had a conference in San Diego and I tagged along, as neither of us had been to San Diego before.  I rented a car one morning while she was at the conference and drove the hour or so down to Campo and the Southern Terminus of the PCT.

One day I hope to thru-hike this entire trail.  For today, I had to be content with the first three miles.  I have been looking forward to this for several years now and the experience, as short as it was, did not disappoint.

 

I got out to the monument at about 10am.  It wasn’t hot, which was nice, considering it’s the desert in June.  There’s not much to Campo, as you would expect, and it was strange driving through town to the border.  At first I drove up to the border wall and to the back of the monument, but there is now a chicken wire fence between the wall and the monument, so you have to approach on foot from down the hill.  There’s no real parking area, just a bunch of intersecting dirt roads, so I improvised and it turned out fine.

Parking spot

Monument is at the top of the hill

 

There was a man parked right next to the monument when I got there and I thought at first he was part of the Border Patrol, but it turns out his name was Dave and he had driven down just to see the monument.  He is in his mid-60s and lives somewhere about 400 miles north of the border in California and just loves the trail.  He said he plans to do some trail angel-ing later on in the season up around Walker Pass, Seiad Valley, and several other places.  Trail angels are people who go out of their way to help out hikers on the trail, whether that means stocking water caches, leaving coolers full of food and drinks at strategic places, or sometimes so much more.  Some take hikers into their homes, provide meals, showers, laundry, and rest.  Trail angels are amazing people.

I signed the trail register and Dave took my picture at the monument.  I was pretty starstruck at the beginning and the whole situation was pretty surreal for a while.  According to the register, there was actually one other person who had started the trail that morning, who I believe was a thru-hiker.  June 1st is generally a pretty late start date for a North-bound thru hike, but there is record snow this year in the Sierra, so I think some people may be trying to let it thaw out a bit, hence the later start.  The first hikers in the register were from April 16th, which is usually right at the peak of when the majority of hikers start.  Usually there are a lot that start during the first two weeks of April as well, but not this year.

Trail register

 

I also got to use the demo version of Guthook’s PCT app, which worked fantastically.  It is super easy and essentially shows where you are in relation to the trail as well as elevation profiles and also has tons of points of interest (water sources, road crossings, campsites, etc) that are very helpful when hiking a 2,655 mile long trail.

 

The trail starts a bit ambiguously.  Many hikers apparently start out going the wrong direction (more on that later), but I had researched the path and knew where to go.  Another thing I was not expecting was that the monument actually is at the top of a big hill at the border and the first quarter mile of the trail is going down that hill.  I had always assumed it was just kinda flat, but that’s not the case.

There are two orange cones about 100 yards in that serve as the first official trail markers, kind of like a starting line.  The trail was sandy and dry with multitudes of rabbits, ground squirrels, and lizards constantly darting hither and thither.

Start of the trail

These remind me of Dr. Seuss plants

 

As you enter Campo, the trail goes right alongside the road and actually joins the road for a stretch, so you are immediately hiking through town next to people’s houses.  It then turns off and starts to go up into the desert hills.

Trail sign in town

More traditional trail sign

 

The Mile 1 sign is a PCT hiker tradition as well and is strategically placed just on the other side of a boulder at a turn in the trail, so it catches you by surprise.

 

Again,  I expected the beginning of the trail to be a lot flatter than it turned out to be and it actually is somewhat tough right off the bat.  There are some decent elevation changes and you get into the wilderness pretty quickly.  The first road crossing is at Highway 94, about 2.3 miles in.

Thru hikers try to get close to Lake Morena on Day 1

After the road crossing the first water source is at a wooden bridge in a slightly wooded section.  It’s not great, but I suppose if you somehow have gone through a ton of water in the first couple of miles, it would be useful.

 

The trail winds up through the hills where it reaches a railroad and this marked the farthest I would go today.  I hung out for a couple of minutes contemplating what it would be like to just keep going to the end.  One day.

I turned around and headed back the way I came.  I averaged about 3 mph, which is a relatively quick pace, so I was actually somewhat tired when I got back to the monument.  On the way back I ran into the only other hiker I would see.  I asked where he was headed and when his reply came “Canada” I wished him good luck.  He seemed a bit green, but there’s a steep learning curve out there.  I hope he does well and reaches the border.

Back at the monument, Dave was still there, hanging out in his truck just enjoying the day.  He told me that the hiker had initially started off in the wrong direction (walking parallel to the border wall) and when he got to the top of a hill, a Border Patrolman picked him up, explained his error, and drove the hiker back down to the monument to try again.  This apparently happens a lot.  We both had a bit of a chuckle at this, but to be fair, the monument is oriented in a way that it gives the impression that’s the way the trail goes.

I talked with Dave a bit more and then walked back down the hill to where I had parked my car and ate a sandwich I packed in for lunch.  This was quite the experience for me, despite being so short in length, and I can’t wait to do other sections of the trail and eventually, hopefully, the entire length, border to border.

Border wall

 

A couple of different map angles:

 

 

Lost Maples 5/13/17

 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

 

Lost Maples State Natural Area

warm, sunny, mid 80s

Ian solo

5.1 miles

 

 

This was actually going to be an overnight, but I finished the hike much faster than anticipated and didn’t want to sit in the woods by myself for 7 hours until the sun set, so I bailed and drove home.  The hike was still very pretty and well worth the 6 hour round trip drive.

I had a full pack, including the Marmot Limelight 3 person tent and Enlightened Equipment double quilt, despite being a solo trip.  I had no choice, as I haven’t bought my solo shelter or quilt yet.  All that said, my pack weight, including food and water was just under 25 pounds, so not too shabby.

 

I intended to hike the remainder of the trail that we hadn’t finished on our first overnight back in 2015.  This meant doing a counter-clockwise loop on the west side of the park.  There was a steep climb that got me to some good views.  Unfortunately, they don’t believe in switchbacks in this park, so it’s basically just a straight up climb for a quarter mile on scree.  I was winded, but the breeze up top was nice and I took a short break.

Views

Some flowers still hanging on before the summer heat

 

After a short walk through Mystic Canyon (which I will say is neither mystic, nor a real canyon), I got to the junction where I was to do another steep climb.  There were three hikers at the junction who had just come from where I was headed.  They told me horror stories of not only steep trail, but spiders everywhere as big as your hand.  I was already thinking of skipping this section and their warnings made it an easy decision. Instead I headed to my intended campsite and passed some nice springs on the way.

 

When I arrived at Camping Area C it was just barely 2pm.  There were several groups camped already and I wasn’t sure if they were still waiting to pack up from the night before or if they had gotten out earlier than me and set up.  Either way, I didn’t feel like hanging around by myself all afternoon, especially when I was just about a mile from the trail head.  So I continued on and headed back to the car.

Pond at Camping Area C

 

However on the way I found a nice waterfall that I had to scramble down a small cliff to really see, but it was well worth it.

 

 

Cub Lake Loop – Rocky Mountain National Park 5/7/17

 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

 

Hike: Cub Lake Loop – Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Weather: cool, mid 60s, overcast

Hikers: Ian, Court

Length: 6.2 miles

 

This was my first time to Rocky Mountain National Park, though Court had gone when she was a kid.  I obviously expected mountains and beauty, but the amount of wildlife far exceeded expectations.  We were there early in the season, so the higher elevation trails were still snowed in, but that also means the animals are still at lower elevations.

I also spent a lot more time than normal on this entry, playing with photo editors and map tools a lot more, as I’m trying to up the quality of the blog a bit.  It will be a work in progress, but it has actually been a lot of fun.  I’ve tried to edit the length and number of photos, but it’s tough on beautiful hikes like this.  I had over 100 photos to start.

We only had one day (really a half day because of incoming weather), so we did a relatively short loop around Cub Lake and linked up with the Fern Lake trail to head back to the car at the end.  This was a great choice because of the multitude of different terrain which included meadows, forests, creekside trails, waterfalls, and sandy washes.  Not to mention the ever-present Aspen trees.

 

Starting at the Cub Lake trail head, we followed the edge of a huge meadow called Moraine Park.  There were a couple of fly fisherman angling for trout in the small creeks near the beginning of the trail.  We saw lot of elk lounging in the meadow as we followed the path and eventually turned and started to climb towards Cub Lake.  A quick rabbit as well.

Car at the trail head

Didn’t see any of these, unfortunately

Fly fishing

 

Courtney spotted some geese and some tiny fuzzy goslings just off the trail near the Beaver Ponds.  The mother goose watched us closely, but we kept moving.

 

As we continued we started to get into the burn zone from the 2012 Fern Lake fire, which lasted 2 months and consumed nearly 3,500 acres.

Burn zone

Mallard in Beaver Ponds

 

Just before Cub Lake we came upon a group of four elk that were within 50 yards of the trail.  We were very quiet and they definitely saw and smelled us, but didn’t seem to mind.  There were several other hikers around as well and the elk seemed like they were used to seeing people on the trail.  It was windy and I had to talk quietly, so audio is not the best.

 

Cub Lake was beautiful and stark.  Snow was still present on the upper hillside and in small patches of shade on the ground, but none on the trail.  There was a moose on the other side of the lake wallowing in the water and I tried to get a good photo, but it was far away and still.  Luckily, when we got to the other end of the lake it decided to get up and wander back into the woods, giving me a better shot.  I’ve always thought the plural should be meese, by the way.

Cub Lake

Moose!

 

Just past Cub Lake at the junction with the Mill Creek Trail was the high point of the hike, around 8700 feet.  From here we descended down with great views to The Pool.

Snow

Mount…I don’t know

A friendly hiker took this shot of us

 

We headed back towards the car on the Fern Lake trail which followed the Big Thompson River all the way.  We saw plenty of chipmunks and birds (several Rocky Mountain Magpies), along with one little snake that Court spotted alongside the trail.

The Pool

Big Thompson River

Artsy rock pic

Rocky Mountain Magpies

 

We ended at the Fern Lake trail head, which meant we had about a one mile road walk back to the car, but it was more dirt than road.  We also saw a few more elk grazing near the road.

End of trail

Elk in the meadow with people probably getting too close

 

We got in the car and drove over to Bear Lake, but it was pretty crowded and we decided just to enjoy the views from the car.  On the way out of the park the weather started to turn and when we got to Estes Park it started to hail on us.  Luckily we were in the car and it was kind of a slushy hail, but it just showed how quick the mountain weather can turn.

I wish we had more time to explore, but we knew this was going to be a really short trip.  Next time we will stay in Boulder, Estes Park, or Grand Lake, but we wanted to check out Denver on this trip as well.  This was a very enjoyable day and we hope to catch a quick flight up to Colorado again sometime in the near future.  Click the maps to enlarge.

 

Reimer’s Ranch – Lower River Trail 4/30/17

 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

 

Reimer’s Ranch – Lower River Trail and Turkey Loop

Sunny, breezy, mid 70s

Ian, Court, Biff

3.9 miles

 

 

A cool front came through on Saturday night and dropped temperatures back down to more hiker-friendly levels, so we headed out to Reimer’s Ranch again to check out some new trails.  Court was also testing out another pair of shoes (La Sportiva Bushido’s) before we head to Colorado next week.

First, we made our way down to the Pedernales River and the beach.  The water was extremely warm and we made a note to come back when it’s 100+ degrees and go swimming.

 

Then we followed the Lower River primitive trail, which was much more well maintained than the last trail we did here near the main rock climbing area.  The trail went along the river for a mile or so and we watched the vultures and hawks float along on the thermals above the trail.

river views

Turkey Vulture or Black Vulture – too far up to tell, but there were plenty of both

I love wooden bridges on trails

 

There were also several lizards out basking in the sun and one of them allowed me to get quite close for some photos.

 

The trail then climbed back up to the plateau and we transitioned onto the multi-use trails that cater to bikes as well as horses, though we saw neither.  The Texas Firewheels and several other flowers (Brown Bitterweed?) are still in full bloom.

Firewheels

 

About halfway through the Turkey Loop section, we realized that our shoes were full of spear grass and Biff was starting to get poked as well, so I picked him up and carried him a little way until the trail cleared out again.

Biff view

 

After a short rest and water we took the interpretive trail back to the parking lot.  This trail paralleled the Lower River Trail, but was higher above it on the plateau and had markers every quarter mile or so detailing different plants and wildlife of the area.  The county has done very well with this park since taking it over several years ago and we still have some more trails left to explore.

Cactus living on the cliff edge

River view from the plateau

Bauerle Ranch Trail System 4/23/17

 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

 

Hike: Bauerle Ranch Trail System

Weather: nice, sunny, mid 70s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: 3.3 miles

 

Court had never been out to Bauerle Ranch and we were looking for a hike semi-close to town, so we loaded up and hit the trail on a beautiful Sunday morning while the weather is still cooperating.  Any day now we should start into summer temperatures.

The trail system is surrounded by a neighborhood and Slaughter Creek and Bauerle Creek flow through it, though I am yet to see water in Slaughter Creek.  We started off on the Slaughter Creek portion of the trail, but it quickly became overgrown, so we crossed over the dry bed and continued on a more well worn path.

 

We wound up through the neighborhood to the other side of the park and went by the turtle pond.

Both times I have been out here it has been really green and lush.  We didn’t do all the trails, so our distance ended up being just over 3 miles.  This is a nice little easy hike that is often overlooked.

Biff rolling around like a dope

 

Westcave Preserve Uplands and Violet Crown Trail 4/15/17

 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

 

Hike: Westcave Preserve Uplands and Violet Crown Trail

Weather: sunny, pleasant, mid 70s

Hikers: Ian, Court, and Sara

Length: about 3 miles combined

 

We had planned to go out to Westcave Preserve, near Hamilton Pool and Reimer’s Ranch, to take the guided tour to see the grotto.  Guided tours are required because of the fragility of the area.  However, on beautiful days like this, apparently you have to show up more than 10 minutes early for the 10am tour, as we just missed the cut off (30 people).  It would have to wait for another day.

However, since we were already out there, we did a quick 1 mile loop in the “Uplands” area of Westcave, which is a nice, flat prairie loop.  It starts out with a short boardwalk, but quickly transitions to gravel, dirt, and grass.  We are at the end of wildflower season, quickly approaching hellish broiler season, so there are only a select few flowers left, but it was still very pretty.

Old cabin on the trail

Last of the bluebonnets

Sara getting in her bluebonnet pic before they are all gone

 

The trail was only a mile and we all wanted to hike more so we came back into town and hit the Violet Crown Trail down to the Greenbelt and back.  We hiked down the switchbacks and crossed dry creek beds several times before we got down to Barton Creek, which was flowing well.

Violet Crown Trail

dry creek

not dry Barton Creek

 

We lingered shortly before turning around and making the trek back up to the trail head at 290 and Brodie Lane.  There wasn’t much length for the hikes today, but it was good to get out on the trails nonetheless.

Westcave Preserve

Violet Crown Trail

 

 

 

Please Help Wildlife Rehabilitation NW Tucson Rebuild After a Devastating Fire

Tragic. Please help if you can.

Sirena's Wanderings

I am absolutely heartbroken. I hiked out of the Grand Canyon last week to find out that Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson had a fire while I was away. Other volunteers have put together a fundraising effort to help rebuild the facility. Please donate and share this campaign at https://www.generosity.com/animal-pet-fundraising/help-wildlife-rehab-of-nw-tucson-recover-rebuild–2.

IMG_0005 Aftermath of the fire outside – photo by Chris Bondante

IMG_0007 The bird room after the fire – Photo by Chris Bondante

Our bird room and adjacent outdoor habitats were completely destroyed, along with food, equipment, and other items. The good news is that 86-year old owner Janet Miller is OK and most animals survived and are receiving continued care. Some of the birds lost had been educational animals for over a decade, they will all be missed.

Elfie and Cleo Both of our educational Elf Owls perished in the fire. Elfie and Cleo brought joy and wonder to all who met them.

Please…

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