So I just got back from a nine day long extravaganza of outdoorness. I managed to visit three of our glorious National Parks in this time, including one that is among my favorites. Mostly we did hikes that Garrick would have hated but Kerry would have loved. I had a total blast and I am now depressed to be back home. For all of its charms, Austin is still a city and unlike Santa Barbara there is no way to pretend it is not. You can’t even see the stars at night. Here is how the trip went down.
Friday: I woke up at 5 AM and was on the road by seven with Michael and Patrick. We reached the Chisos Basin Campground of Big Bend with enough light to set up camp. We spoke with Bob, the campground host, about acquiring a site the next day. We made arangements with a funny man for a site for the next day.
Saturday: Michael and Patrick and I went on a couple of day hikes. We first walked the paths around the campground. We then went down to the Rio Grande Village area of the park and hiked the short but effectual Boquillas Canyon trail where we walked around the banks on the river. We saw at least four border patrol guards on this trail. Two of them were mounted. We then traveled down a rough and tumble, unpaved road to make the hike up the Gateway trail. The rest of our party, Tony and Sierra and Ana showed up at about Ten O’Clock that night.
Sunday: Michael and Patrick and Ana and I went on the Window trail out of the campground at Chisos Basin. This lead us down the only outlet for water in the Chisos Basin. It was very pretty and the end lead us out to a precipice that was at the bottom of a water carved canyon whose walls were maybe 20’. The overlook out onto the desert was certainly one of the best on the trip and definitely the best view per mile needed to attain. We then went to the Panther Gap visitor center to procure a backpacking permit which had its own intricacies which I will explain later. We then traveled to the Rio Grande visitor center, ostensibly to see a ranger talk about the Agave family. However! I totally misread the location and the talk was actually at Panther Gap. Since we were in Rio Grande though, we just decided to walk part of the Hot Springs trail until sunset. It was very nice.
Monday: Backpacking! So we decided to do the Blue Creek trail and got to know it quite well. However, all of the primitive sites were taken by the time we arranged for a permit. But never fear, they gave us something else which turned out to be actually much cooler. They allowed us to do a thing called zone camping. This basically meant that we were given a whole area of the park (along the Blue Creek trail) in which we could camp anywhere as long as our site couldn’t be seen from the trail. This meant that Patrick and I got to run a scouting mission for the rest of the party to find a suitable campsite. We hiked as far in as we could and remain in the zone.
Tuesday: The negative part of the zone permit was that we had to eat all of our food each day since there was no bear box, but you know you live and you buy a bear barrel. This meant that on Tuesday Patrick and Ana and I did a speed run back to the cars. Ana needed to go to the store so we took her. We got back to base camp the same time that Michael and Tony and Sierra were packing out. After Patrick and Ana and I broke for lunch we continued on our day hike. Our goal was the highest point in the park, Emory Peak at an elevation of 7825 feet. for starters we set out to finish the climb up the Blue Creek trail which became significantly steeper nigh immediately after our camp. The end of the blue creek trail meets up with the last mile of the Laguna Meadow trail and ran us right into the middle of the Chisos forest after climbing out of the remnants of a fire from fifteen years prior. Finishing off the Laguna Meadow trail wee took the Colima trail to cut off the rim trails and go straight to the end of the Pinnacles trail. About a mile down the Pinnacles trail we met up with the Emory Peak trail and hike to the top in a last grueling leg of the journey. We reached the peak at about 5:45 pm or about five hours we left base camp. Believe it or not coming down off the mountain was more difficult than the ascent. Patrick hadn’t brought enough food so was nearly feinting and after the sun set was having trouble retaining his body heat. He wore an emergency blanket for most of the way down. Ana had forgotten to pack a coat so I let her borrow mine. Luckily everyone remembered their flashlights. The going was slow, however, and we didn’t return to base camp until 10 O’Clock. All in all, this day had a grueling 18.6 miles covered with a total elevation change of 3700 feet over 14 hours of hiking.
Wednesday: Ana and Patrick and I packed out and drove to Carlsbad, New Mexico! We rented a room at a Motel 6. I recalled a very tasty Italian place from my prior trip and we did find it. However the establishment was for sale! I nearly cried. The restaurant, Pasta Cafe, was closed due to bankruptcy. Word on the street was that the owner was a cocaine addict. This night, drinking ensued.
Thursday: First we went to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and were lucky enough to find a campsite in the Pine Springs campground, which is the only one in the park. We then went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park for a change of pace. This visit was particularly neat. Since the bats were not around at this time of year, the visitors were allowed to hike down into cave through its mouth rather than being forced to take the elevator. A group of cave swallows greeted our descent. Returning for the evening to Guadalupe, Patrick and Ana and I saw went to a ranger talk about the Butterflies and Moths of the park. The ranger, Anne Marie, had taken some of the most beautiful pictures of wildlife I have ever seen. She was a very skilled photographer. Patrick and her had a pleasant talk afterwards where they compared cameras and methods.
Friday: This ushered in the last major hike of the trip. Though we got a late start due to some possible car trouble, we did fully accomplish the Guadalupe peak trail. This trail hikes you up 3000 feet to an elevation of 8749 feet in 4.2 miles to the top of Guadalupe Peak, which is the highest point in Texas. We were leisurely and tired about our way and the trip took something less than seven hours. Much of the time spent at the peak was doodling in the log book. One former hill-topper had written about how he and his party were feeling Mexico and escaped the Zapatistas and were staying there for the moment before hopefully completing their delivery (vital to the revolution of course) to Santa Fe. Patrick responded by writing an entry that describe how his party had hunted down the rebels using a tip off from the Zapatistatas. I wrote down the definition for the Mandelbrot set. Ana wrote “I feel free”. The peak itself had some amazing views. One could see out over all of Texas it seemed and really understand how it had all been under water. Luckily we made it back for anger Dave’s talk entitled “Island in the Desert” which was all about the three areas of the park. These areas are namely the desert and the forest and the strange region in between.
Saturday: We packed up and drove home. The trip is over.
Now that I am back in Austin I feel oddly depressed. The city is not for me. I can’t see the stars at all. I can’t really go hiking. For all of its charms in the human world, Austin is distinctly lacking in those charms of nature. Not that it isn’t beautiful in its own right. I do not feel safe here; I do not feel at home. I do not feel that I could disappear. The City has gone on without me. Society continued and left me behind. The Street didn’t care. The Frost Bank didn’t care. I was here and then I was gone. Upon my return, nothing noticed. I am not needed here. School.
A temporary link to the pictures I took follows http://scopatz.com/pics/newtmp/SpringBreak2007/