Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rocky Mountain High

 view from the beginning of Piedra river trail

We learned about rock climbing at the Piedra river from a nice guy at the local gear shop. The climbing here is rated a bit stiffer than New Mexico so we were humbled a bit the first day. We climbed three 5.8 climbs the first day. Part of what made it difficult was just different rock. It is sandstone and the way it has formed is just different from what we've done so far. By the third 5.8 climb we were doing better and getting used to it.

 First climb

Matthew rappelling down the last climb

The next day we did about a 10 mile hike along the Piedra river. It was a beautiful day in the 60's and we saw a bunch of Mountain lion tracks! That was pretty exciting. I'd love to see one in the wild. The evening we found a phenomenal campsite with a view. We sat at the edge of the cliff looking out at the landscape, watching and listening to a nearby falcon, and observing whatever wildlife we could. It was a great way to spend an evening.

Mountain lion track! Confirmed by referencing Matthews tracking book

view from our campsite

We went back to climbing the following day but tried something a little harder. The first climb was a 5.9 and the longest we can do with our current rope, 80 feet. It was a fun climb but dirty and a tricky location. The base of the climb is so steep I couldn't stand in a place to see Matthew climbing so belayed blindly, by feel and limited communication. We discussed a strategy knowing it would be hard to hear once he got to the top. Oh, and we were top roping, no lead climbing. Once he made it to the top, he belayed me from the top and we were able to communicate better. We then did a 5.8 climb and he completed a 5.10a, which I started but did not have it in me to complete.

The long 5.9 climb

I hoped to return to try the 5.10a, because I felt I could do it when not worn out. It was not meant to be. We went to town and ended up talking to a very informative older gentleman at the ranger station. He made a lot of recommendations for places to see. We then enjoyed a hot spring at the edge of the river running through town for a little while. From there we did some coffee shop time and headed towards wolf creek pass, stopping along the way at a cool campsite by a river. It is odd seeing so much water after being in the desert for several months.

great little hot spring in town

The next day we did a hike along Windy pass trail. It is an out and back hike that we planned on doing for as far as we could. The gentleman at the ranger staion warned us it would be mucky and higher up very snowy. We did walk through a lot of muck. I was glad to have my gortex boots and gators on. We made it to the snowy part and kept going only for as long as we were certain of the trail. Even then on the way back following our tracks we lost it once.

Love his fashion sense

After the hike we drove along amazing views to Creede, CO. Creede was once a mining town. After the silver boom subsided it shrunk to now a small town having about 300 year round residents. At 8,000 feet it is cold a lot of the year. The intent was to explore the mining museum, then walk main street but the museum was closed. We walked main street, stopped in a gear shop and learned they were having a sale due to memorial day weekend and suggested we come back the next day. They also informed us that weekend a lot of fun stuff would be going on. We found a nice campsite for the night and settled in.

Matthew slept out with his non plastic gear to test out a new system (800 thread count sheet as a tarp shelter, alpaca fur blanket as a sleeping bag, wool poncho as a liner for extra warmth and duck canvas ground cloth.  Here's a link he wrote about it - http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2017/05/a-wool-poncho-and-working-sleep-system.html). It turned out to be a really good test evening as the temperature dropped to at least 23 degrees. I felt the chill and I was in the car with my down sleeping bag and the windows closed. I woke to seeing Matthew dancing around the car in his wool poncho. The experiment went well and he was a very happy camper.

We went to town learned about the history of mining in Creede, I bought a pair of socks at the gear shop sale and we had a long chat with a nice guy who owns the music shop. He was obviously very proud of Creede, almost felt like he was selling the town and made Matthew think he wants to live here. Later we realized how cold it is at that elevation most of the year and thought we'd keep looking.

It was only midday so we took another scenic drive to a hike we learned about from the local music shop owner along North Creek river. He said there was no official trail but the locals have kind of made there own and it's a little rough but you end up at a beautiful waterfall. We got lost a bit but found the spot. The walk in was along a road that was blocked to cars, not far in we came across a pipeline. We don't know what kind but guessed oil. We unfortunately did not get a photo but we then walked along train tracks that cross a rushing river. It was safe but still eerie. there was a slim metal walkway along the right side of the track and a thin wire you could hold on to. After that we scrambled on rocks along the left side of the river until we made it to the falls. Did I mention to see the falls we could have just driven to the top? This way was a lot more fun. We sat on a large rock enjoying the view then scrambled up to the parking lot. We walked the road back instead of traversing back across the rocks.

North creek falls

scrambling to the top

That evening we slept in a small green meadow covered with newly bloomed yellow dandelions, surrounded by aspen trees. It was a great spot. We returned to Creede the next day for 'Taste of Creede'. It was much smaller than expected, they shut down main street and had a few vendors out... I shouldn't have had too high of expectations for a town with a population of 300 people. Aside from the vendors there were artists painting at one end of the street and it was fun to see them work. Our favorite was a woman who seemed to be painting on wood and it was all vibrant earthy colors with natural scenes.

From Creede we ventured towards Lake city. We never made it into Lake city proper because we took the Alpine loop towards Silverton. The Alpine loop requires a 4x4 vehicle and was a long drive just to do half of it. We would have done the whole thing but the northern part of the loop was not cleared yet. It was a fun drive with some eeek moments when we were a little closer to the drop off than I liked. Still it was amazing and we said wow about every 5 minutes. We made it to the highest elevation we've driven so far at Cinnamon pass which is 12,640 feet, and what a view.

Cinnamon pass

a lot of the drive was close to a drop off

We camped out near Silverton and in the morning stopped in the town to walk around. Again we met a local guy who raved about his town, how he left L.A. to move here 4 years ago and is so happy he did. Silverton is another small town with some fun character to it, all the buildings were painted different fun colors from pink, yellow and baby blue to fuschia. We kept on our drive and stopped at Molas pass to do some hiking. We ended up on part of the Colorado trail, doing a lot of switchbacks down to a river and back up. It was a 7.6 mile hike and much easier for the first half down... but man the view. Oh, and we saw a train! It was cool to see a train choo choo down in the valley.

making breakfast at campsite in near Silverton

 getting tired of beautiful views yet?

the view while doing switchbacks down to the river

We then drove to a campsite near Durango. We moved a lot faster than we would have to get near Durango, for yet another car appointment. Hopefully that will be taken care of and we will be on our way to Steamboat springs to see one of my best friends! I'm very excited to see another friendly face and dole out some hugs.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Leaving New Mexico Enchanted

I'm happy to report I finished the climbing week by leading a 5.8 climb with no problem! It was a really good week of growth in climbing for both of us. Matthew ended by leading a 5.10a/b which I couldn't even climb. Having a boyfriend who is just a little better than me at climbing is a great motivator to improve. I'm a little competitive and it irks me to not climb at his level. At the end of the day I satisfy myself with the fact that I am better than me before.

Entrance to Sandia man cave

We had an interesting time in Albuquerque. The first day we drove to the Sandia man cave and did some exploring. A description from Wikipedia:  First discovered and excavated in the 1930s, the site exhibits evidence of human use from 9,000 to 11,000 years ago... The site is open to the public, up a difficult half-mile trail. I find it amusing they described it as a difficult half mile trail since we ran the trail. We walked a little way down the cave and it just kept going! I kept trying to convince Matthew to turn around. This was my first time going into a cave that deep. I was worried about breathing in the dust, but Matthew, the experienced caver, said it was fine as long as we weren't crawling. It was a bit creepy walking in the dark unknown, but really cool too. In the end we didn't go all that far since we only had our cellphones for light and no proper equipment. 

 Just beyond what you can see in the first photo..

 After we went in and crawled down for a little while.. gotta love the graffiti

This shows the spiral staircase to get to the entrance of the cave. We are continually wondering how they used to get to some of these places.

The next day we went to Petroglyph National Monument. They have around 20,000 petroglyphs created primarly by Native Americans, with a few by Spaniards. There are several trails you can walk to see them. First we watched an interesting video that conveniently glanced over the controversial stuff, but was otherwise good. Then we headed to the trail recommended by the ranger. It had about 500 petroglyphs for us to oohh and aaahh at. As it goes.. I had a mixed feeling of how cool it all was and how sad the reality of the past (and present) is. To exemplify this, some of the petroglyphs had bullet holes from being used as target practice.

 I'm standing in front of what is very likely a metate, used for grinding things ie corn

 There were many, I just thought this was especially cool looking

this is the one with the gun shot holes..

From there we decided to do something a little different and wandered the galleries of the Albuquerque Art and History museum. It was really fun to look at the different artwork and learn just how diverse Albuquerque is. They had several galleries displaying different things. A few I remember were the Southwest in Hollywood (I haven't seen most of the movies they mentioned), Youth photography (obviously angsty teenagers), Native American Modern art and the Albuquerque History section. It was fun and informative, I really like this city minus how crowded it is... and how 'city' it is, heh.

Unfortunately we started to have some car issues. Short version: It was a headache and we still have the same issue just not as bad... sigh.

Needing to wait on the car to get work done we had three days to kill. The first day we did a 14.4 mile hike along the La Luz trail. Obviously a popular trail as it was well worn and felt like we should just run it. We didn't. It was all well and good until the last 2 miles. They were tricky for two reasons, it got rougher from rocks and patches of snow, and the elevation at that point was around 9-10,000 feet (meaning difficulty breathing). Happy news is it's the highest I've hiked and although I slowed from having trouble catching my breath it felt good overall. We ended that day by going to the Pueblo Harvest cafe for all you can eat tacos and pizza, a beer and live music from a peruvian band doing cumbia/reggae style music.. doesn't get much closer to my roots than that!

 about midway up the hike

 On the way back down

 It was only towards the end we remembered to take photos..

Pizza and tacos!

And even better, Beer!

We didn't want to drive too much not knowing what exactly was up with the car so the next two days we hung out at camp.

Matthew projecting in camp

The day we had the car worked on we ended up walking around Albuquerque, doing about 14 miles. On our way out the next morning, doing our good deed of the day, we helped a couple with car trouble.  Driving along route 4 we went through Jemez Pueblo, stopped at Soda Dam for photos, did lunch at Battleship rock picnic area, hiked to Spence hot springs and jumped in for a short time, hiked to Jemez falls, ended up going to Bandelier National Monument browsing the museum, getting info then camping out for a very windy night.

 Soda dam

 Bad shot of Battleship rock, forgot to get the photo until we were driving away..oops

 Spence hot springs! There was a mini cave (no photo, sorry) that we crawled into, it was much warmer and as rain came in we were sheltered and happy.

Jemez falls

Following morning we did the main loop trail at Bandelier which is a walk in history learning about the Ancient Pueblo people that lived in cliff dwellings as well as stand alone structures. The cliff dwellings run along the southeast facing wall of the valley for at least a mile. It is believed the highest population was 500 people. They carved into the soft tuff but also built into them, you could see the horizontal row of holes from wood beams being used for a roof. There is a river that runs through the valley and it is a beautiful place, it was easy to see why they chose this location.

 Shows the horizontal wholes from posts for the roofs and to make multiple levels


 Alcove house, a cave that is 140 feet up

 up top

 Inside one of the caves

 View from inside the cave

Matthew demonstrating how they might have carved into the tuff

The next day we ended up doing an 18 mile hike around Bandelier, it was beautiful! We climbed in and out of Los Alamos Canyon twice along the route, it was tough but amazing. At one point we saw an un-excavated site called Yapashi. We also got a good view of the cliff dwelling from the top of the canyon on the opposite side. I was again surprised at how good I felt after that much mileage.

 Someone has some serious cairn making skills

un-excavated Yapashi site

Ramen and cheese lunch with improvised utensils as we BOTH forgot them. They worked really well. I did a flat piece of wood and he went chopstick style.

 Last mile of the trail with the cliff dwellings in the distance

The following morning we woke to some light snow. By the time we ate breakfast and were driving out we had full on heavy snow fall. Thankfully that day we were heading to Los Alamos to explore two museums, the Manhattan Project National Historic Park visitor center and the Bradbury Science museum. It was interesting to learn some more about the project, what it was like for the scientists and their families at the beginning. The Bradbury science museum was... a propaganda machine for the Los Alamos national lab. It went over the atomic bombs and what they are up to now. It was pretty obviously nationalistic. There was one area where they displayed two opposing views of dropping the bombs in Japan with a blank book for people to give their opinion. It was interesting to see what was written. I don't know... it was a hard choice to make and it did end the war, but it is also important to acknowledge the damage done to people both here (from testing) and in Japan.

We liked the little town of Los Alamos, it is in a beautiful setting. I am probably saying a lot how beautiful it is here, because it is. We then explored the ancient ruins of Tsankawi pueblo, it was a short 1.5 mile walk around a mesa, very cool. That evening we had our last meal in NM at the Rancho de Chimayo per the recommendation of a good friend. The food was amazing! We also were serenaded by two older gentlemen with a guitar and a trumpet, it was wonderful.

view from the mesa

 remnants of the structures

 pot shards and such... that they specifically asked people not to move or pile...deep sigh

 There were many petroglyphs but this was the best, in my opinion

 Sopapilla with carne, rice, beans and green chili
beans, posole, tamale, enchilada and adovada with red chili... drooling thinking about it

Today is our first day in Colorado. We are in Pagosa Springs and already falling in love. Tomorrow we are rock climbing and then... ?