ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
We did our annual backpack in the Weminuche Wilderness at the end of July, but gah, I have so many photos to go through and so much to write about that I haven't even started trying! So instead have a very short write-up about a mini-trip we did last week to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico.

As you probably know, the Perseid meteor shower peaked last Wednesday night/Thursday morning, and as it was expected to be an "outburst" event with many more and brighter meteors than usual, we decided we ought to spend that night in the desert, where we could sleep outside far from city lights. For previous celestial events we've camped at Valley of the Gods near Mexican Hat, Utah, and originally we'd been planning to head out there, but at the last minute we decided to go south rather than west. Neither of us had been to the Bisti Badlands, and it's about the same driving distance, around two hours.

We headed out after work, following Google Maps. When we got there, we found a nice flat spot to park the Sportsmobile, with room to lay out a tarp and sleeping bags nearby, not far from the main parking area. Two other vehicles were parked not far away, and as we surveyed our spot we noticed a group of people with packs heading into the hoodoos. Clearly others had the same idea!

After a brief hike down a wash through some of the formations, we returned to the van for drinks and dinner. Then, as the sky darkened, we took out a pair of binoculars for each of us and looked at the various planets: Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus were all visible near the west horizon, while Mars and Saturn were in Scorpio near the moon - a five-planet night! (Mercury was particularly cool to see since it's rarely visible.) I saw an amazing meteor slash across the sky even before it got fully dark! We went to sleep around 10 and woke up around 1:30 am, after the moon had set, and watched the Perseid display for a couple of hours. There were only a few really bright ones, but the frequency of meteors was impressive - sometimes we'd see one after another, four or five within a minute.

(Alas, no photos of the light show - our camera wasn't good enough, and we were too busy using our eyeballs.)

When we could no longer keep our eyes open, we went back to sleep. The sun woke us after we'd had far too little sleep, but we got up anyway, because we wanted to hike around the badlands before it got too hot. This is seriously a wilderness, in that there are no trails and no water sources: hikers are advised to bring a GPS (we had a GPS app) and plenty of water. A map at the parking area indicated several areas of interest, and Britt had grabbed the coordinates of a few others from people's web pages.

So what did we find? Wild and wonderful pillars:

Pillars

The "Cracked Eggs", oval rocks with reddish layers peeking out from under the pale tan sandstone (no doubt they hatched dinosaurs!):

Cracked Eggs

Eerie arches:

Bisti Arch

And other strange landscapes, weirdly-shaped rocks, and petrified wood that looked exactly like someone had just split a few logs and left them there with the woodchips scattered around them, and it had all bleached in the sun. Then we tried to lift them.... It was like a practical joke played by nature, "Haha, you think this is wood, but it's NOT!"

Petrified wood

The best of our photos are on Flickr. We definitely need to go back at a better time of year (spring or fall) and explore further!
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
We went down to Tucson late last week, as my husband's company was holding board meetings on Thursday and Friday at the fancy Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. The plan was for me to work from the hotel room during his meetings, and then we would have a micro-vacation over the weekend.

On Thursday I got miserably sick (maybe the delicious food at the fancy resort restaurant had issues? It tasted good, anyway!) but by Saturday I was ready to vacation. We drove our rental car (a Ford C-Max hybrid, which we both liked very much!) to Kartchner Caverns State Park and took a tour of the Big Room. These caves were kept secret after their discovery in the 1970s, so when they were finally developed after the land was purchased for a state park, the formations were in nearly pristine condition, unlike most tourist caves (even in National Parks!) where casual use over the years has destroyed a lot of the delicate ecology. Development was undertaken with extreme caution, so that now the caves remain in exceptional condition; we've taken quite a few cave tours over the years and were very impressed! No photos allowed, but the website has a video tour.

Afterward we went to the Pima Air and Space Museum which is the largest privately-funded aerospace museum, with over 300 aircraft of various vintages. We took the (free with admission) "Highlights of Aviation" and "World War II" walking tours, and lucked out with an amazing docent, Don McLean (no kidding!) who told us many more stories than were on the placards in front of the planes.

Sunday (all of it) was spent hiking the Ventana Canyon trail to The Window, 6.4 miles and 4260 feet each way. Britt had gone to school at the University of Arizona here many years ago and had fond memories of this hike - I figured it must be good if he still remembered it after 40 years. It was pretty cool: we started out in Sonoran desert, with saguaros all around, and by the end - a natural arch in the rock - we were hiking through the snow among pines!

IMG_20160131_142321

We should have got going earlier than our 9 am start, though, as we ended up hiking out the last half hour in the dark. Still, it was a great hike, and I definitely felt it the next day. The best of our crappy cellphone photos are on Flickr: Ventana Canyon.
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
We came out of Yoho NP just to the north of where we'd gone in to Kootenay NP a couple of weeks ago, so we drove by the same lakes and mountains we'd seen on the way in. But when we got to the intersection where we had come in to Canada on Rt. 93, instead of continuing south we turned northeast. We drove through Fernie, which looked like a great little ski town - kind of like Durango! - and we would have liked to have spent more time there, but we could see the end of our vacation looming in the distance and needed to keep moving. We camped at Crowsnest Pass between British Columbia and Alberta, which was beautiful, though ridiculously windy. Again, we drove by lots of interesting historic towns, but made the decision to maximize our time at Waterton Lakes NP.

The interesting thing about Waterton Lakes is that it's right at the juncture between the Alberta prairie and the mountains, thanks to the Lewis Thrust Fault. It makes for a very cool contrast as there are high mountains in one direction and plains in the other. And in the middle there are great big beautiful lakes!

View of Upper Waterton Lake

Read more... )

More photos, fewer words at Flickr.
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
On the morning of August 3rd we packed up our camp and headed back down the Icefields Parkway to the intersection of Canada's Rt. 1, then headed west into Yoho National Park. Just before the town of Field, we made the sharp turn to the right and up the steep Yoho River Valley to the Takakkaw Falls trailhead. "Takakkaw" means "wonderful" in the Cree language, and this huge waterfall certainly is, tumbling 830 feet from a glacier down a nearly-sheer rock wall.

Takakkaw Falls

Read more... )

More photos, fewer words (at Flickr)
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
Our original plan was to go to Yoho National Park directly after leaving Lake Louise, but we hadn't realized that our departure date from the Chateau was the Friday before Canada's August Long Weekend. (That's what they called it. I asked the concierge what was being celebrated, and she shrugged. "It's just the long weekend holiday! It's not for anything!") The fancy lodge in Yoho that we wanted to stay at was booked up, as were all the advance campsites. So we made a reservation for later that week, and decided to take our chances at the larger campgrounds in Banff NP along the Icefields Parkway.

Despite driving up before noon, we found no room at the campgrounds. Fortunately, the Canadian National Parks have fairly nice overflow campgrounds available; the one we went to, Silverhorn, was basically a big parking lot with picnic tables around the edges, but there were nice tent sites, a pretty creek, and the view was incredible.

Cocktail hour along Silverhorn Creek

Read more... )

Flickr album with these and more pictures

Next stop, Yoho!
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
After a week of camping we were ready for a little luxury. Instead, we got a lot of luxury! Britt had made reservations at the four-star Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, right on the famous glacial lake. It's ridiculously expensive, but staying there, right on the lake, meant we wouldn't have to drive up the crowded access road or find parking, since we wanted to do several well-known hikes that begin at the lake.

Since even the cheapest room was pretty pricey, Britt had splashed out for "Concierge Level" service. We took the elevator straight up to check in at the 7th-floor lounge rather than waiting in line in the lobby. This lounge also had an amazing breakfast spread every morning, and a huge array of appetizers and an honor bar from 5-7pm (you could easily make a dinner out of it, which we did several nights), and our 8th-floor room had a dormer window seat looking out to the lake.

P1040059<P1040060

Read more... )

A lot more pictures, a lot fewer words in the Flickr album

(sorry this is taking so long to post! I hope to get going on this again!)
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
We crossed the border on Saturday July 26th, and it was a bit of an ordeal. Well, not compared to the officials tromping through our boat and hinting for bribes in the Dominican Republic, and the long forms that need filling out in St. Vincent, but still, we were Americans going into Canada and we thought it would be trivial. Alas, the customs and immigration officer immediately directed us to park and get out of our van while it was searched. I guess he saw our Colorado license plate and figured we were either liberals and therefore had weed, or conservatives and therefore had guns - and both are illegal in Canada. (He did ask some leading questions about marijuana!)

But they let us into Canada, and so that evening we rolled into Kootenay National Park and got one of the few remaining campsites at the National Park's Redstreak Campground. It was less than ideal due to the extremely loud extended family that partied all night next to us, but had the advantage of being hiking distance to Radium Hot Springs, where we soaked and enjoyed.

The next morning we drove into the main entrance of the park, waving the annual pass we had bought at the campground. It's a real no-brainer - unlike US national parks, which charge $10-$20 per car good for the week, Canadian parks charge by the day and by the person, and if you are going to spend a week or more in the parks, it costs less to just buy an annual pass (for slightly more than $100 US), so we did. It also means you can just wave at your pass and drive through while other people wait in line!

Mostly just a lot of photos )

These and more photos with captions but no other text at Flickr
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
We headed out of town, finally, on Sunday afternoon July 19th. The fastest route north actually started with a westward leg toward Moab, Utah, so we made for the campsite at the Canyon Rims Recreation Area we'd been to on a previous trip to Utah, and enjoyed our first evening of vacation with some adult beverages and a beautiful sunset.
Canyonlands sunset

Then it was north through Utah and into Idaho. In Idaho Falls we talked to a tourist desk guy who recommended we take the slight detour on the scenic route to Mesa Falls, and we did, and it was fantastic. Two enormous waterfalls!

More photos and text! ) The next day, Saturday July 25th, we crossed into to Canada!
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
For the last several years we've done a summer backpacking trip in the Weminuche Wilderness with more or less the same core group of friends. This year, because we'd had little snow, we'd planned on hiking a route in the high mountains east of Silverton, but then May happened, with near-record precipitation and more expected. Instead we decided to do the prudent thing and choose a lower route: the length of the Pine River from north to south within the wilderness area. Britt and I have hiked (or ridden on horseback) every bit of this ~30 mile route at different times, but never as a continuous route, partly because the northern trailhead is quite far away by car, as one has to drive around the wilderness. Fortunately, Frank and June, who had wanted to come along but were not able to spend the whole week backpacking, offered to drive us all up and hike part of the first day with us, and Steve and Ryan, who usually join us at the weekend, would drive to the southern trailhead with our van, and then hike in and meet us.

Route map )

You won't find the Pine River on the map. That is, it's there, but it's Los Piños on the map, as well as on the little signs at every highway bridge crossing; but there is no surer way of branding yourself a tourist or a newcomer than calling it by that Spanish name. All the locals call it the Pine, and there are many businesses named for it as well, e.g. the Pine River Bank and the Pine River Library.

Our route started at the Thirtymile Forest Service campground just below the Rio Grande Reservoir and contoured along the bank of Weminuche Creek about five miles to Weminuche Pass and the headwaters of the Pine. At just under 10,600 feet, Weminuche Pass is one of the lower points on the Continental Divide. Weminuche Creek falls steeply into the Rio Grande, and with all the recent rain, it was very high, nearly undermining the bridge over the waterfall a few miles in, where we ate our lunch. But on the Pine side, the valley is broad and flat, and shortly after we crossed the pass we set up camp at a small established site.

More trip report, with lots of photos )

All 83 photos that didn't suck (more than in this post) plus a map, few captions, in a Flickr album
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
I'm still getting over the cold I got while in Maryland (my third this spring, gah!) and my back is still giving me grief. But I'm trying not to let my stupid body prevent me from having fun.

This past weekend Britt and I went to a climate conference thingy in Paonia, a small town about 3.5 hours north of here. We have good friends who live there, so we stayed with them, which was nice. We headed back on Sunday and decided to stop more or less halfway home, in Ouray, which I think is the most beautiful setting for a town in Colorado (and the second prettiest in the US, behind Seward, Alaska). As you can see in this picture we took from our hike above town:

Looking down on Ouray

Ouray is famous for many things, including its natural hot springs. We checked into a nice small motel, the Wiesbaden, which features not just hot pools but also a vapor cave under the building, which used to be a sanitarium for treatment of arthritis. Despite the dicey weather we went for a hike; sure enough, we got rained on on the way back, but we warmed up in the hot spring water!

The trail we climbed (and I do mean climbed - my map-corrected GPS track claims we ascended over 2500 vertical feet in 2.6 miles before turning around) goes to the upper Cascade Falls and the Chief Ouray Mine, but we had to turn around less than half a mile from the end because the trail hit a deep snowbank on a steep slope, and proceeding would not have been safe. But we did get some good exercise as well as interesting photos.

More photos! )

Anyway, good preparation for this summer's first backpack trip which will be in just five weeks!
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
I need to write up my Imogene report (spoiler alert: it did not go very well) but I am behind! I still haven't written up anything about our Labor Day Weekend vacation (which was a little longer than planned - we got home Wednesday morning, and then I left for Ouray on Friday afternoon, thus the backlog)...and I don't think I will get the chance. But have some pictures of the trails around Crested Butte, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
Last week I was in Boulder to take a class on the climate model we use. I didn't think I'd be able to get a lot of running in while there, since I would have to catch a shuttle bus at 7:45 each morning, but it turns out that when I'm on my own I am pretty good at waking up early early, rolling out of bed and into my running clothes, and hitting the path. I ran between 5-8 miles each morning, got in another 4-miler on Wednesday evening (I ran to West Flanders Brewery on the Pearl Street Mall for beers and dinner, then took a bus back to my hotel), and did 11.5 miles on Saturday morning since I didn't have to go to a class that day. I wasn't much of a runner when I lived in Boulder, but it was nice to run on the creek path where I used to ride my bike.

Britt drove up in the Sportsmobile on Thursday, carrying our bikes on the back rack, and on Friday after my class we biked up the path to our old house at the mouth of Boulder Canyon, where we lived from 1987 (well, Britt did; I moved there in 1990) until 1999. It broke our hearts a bit to see that it's now a rental, and the guy who lives there now didn't want us to go inside or even walk around the yard, but he moved in three weeks before the Great Flood of 2013, and he told us all about the damage the house and yard sustained when the irrigation ditch at the top of the hill behind the house failed.

We got together with old friends on Friday night and Saturday morning, then headed out of town to take the long way back home. Where US285 turns south, near Buena Vista, normally we head south for Poncha Pass and the San Luis Valley; instead we went north and then west toward Cottonwood Pass. For our first night of camping we took the side road to Cottonwood Lake, but we had not realized it was a major 4WD/ATV camping destination and pretty much every spot that could be camped in, WAS camped in. We finally found a tiny but acceptable pull-out spot four miles past the lake. Fortunately we'd bought a bottle of wine in Buena Vista, and could drown our sorrows as we ate dinner. (And yes, we DID remember the lighter this time!)

In the morning we returned to the main road and drove to just short of Cottonwood Pass, where there is a trailhead for Brown's Pass and Mt. Yale. As Yale is one of Colorado's Fourteeners (mountains 14,000 ft high or taller) and it was Sunday morning, the trailhead was, predictably, very crowded. But we turned off at the junction for the pass, and saw only a few people.

It was a lovely hike. After having lunch at the pass, we followed a trail to the ridge above, and when the trail crossed to contour around the side, we left it to strike out straight up toward the nearest high point. This turned out to be the cleverly-named Point 12,955 (wanna guess how high it is?) which gave us excellent views of Mt. Yale and the surrounding peaks.

Mt. Yale from Point 12,955 cool rocks above Brown's Pass

Britt atop Point 12,955 Ilana on the rocks

We also saw a whole family of ptarmigan (including adorable chicks!) but unfortunately their gray-and-white color scheme blends into gray-and-white rocks so well that I couldn't actually find any birds to point out in any of my or Britt's photos!

A lot of thunderbooming accompanied us on the way back down, but we didn't get rained on, and we stopped here and there to pick some mushrooms we'd seen on the way up (boletes and hawkswings). Then we drove over Cottonwood Pass and down past Taylor reservoir, camping for the night off a dirt road close to the intersection with the road that continues on to Crested Butte. The next day we continued south through Gunnison, then veered off onto the road to Cochetopa Pass, which rejoined our usual route between the Front Range and Durango in the San Luis Valley. And now we are home again, home again....but Labor Day Weekend's coming up soon - which means, time for another road trip!
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
Some people choose the peaks they want to climb by their position on a list: the Colorado 14ers, say, or the highest 100 in Colorado, or the highest point of every state. We choose our destinations because they look cool. In the past years, we've climbed a lot of mountains just because we've seen them from the other places we've been. So it is with Lone Cone, which at 12,618 feet is not a very high mountain at all by Colorado standards. But standing alone at the western edge of the San Juan Mountains, it's a distinct landmark, and after seeing it in the distance countless times on drives to and from Utah, we figured it was time to get out and climb it.

"trailhead"

We left town early Friday afternoon. Easy highway miles to a turn-off past Dolores led to a narrow road through remote mountain valleys to the ghost town of Dunton, now a breathtakingly expensive hot springs resort. Here we turned off onto a Forest Service road which we followed on a combination of GPS waypoints derived from Google Earth, and old maps with old roads, until we reached a point pretty much directly under the Lone Cone, where we pulled off the road, popped the top of the Sportsmobile, and started making dinner. There was just one tiny little problem...

Read more... )
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
As we did last year, we got together with friends for a backpacking trip in the Weminuche Wilderness over the 4th of July holiday weekend. This year we headed for the Poison Park trailhead northwest of Pagosa Springs, which is a good access point for the upper Pine River and Rincon La Osa, where we'd spent the same holiday weekend in 2008. But this time, instead of sticking to the main trail, we bushwhacked along game trails up the west side of the Pine River valley until we picked up an old and overgrown trail leading to Elk Lake; from there, continued up and over Mesa Lato and then down into Rincon La Osa from the south, where we laid over a day before heading back down the valley to the Pine, then up to the bench above Granite Lake, to rejoin our inward path.

route and camp topo

across the meadow Wilderness boundary

Six days in the backcountry )
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
Chesler Park camp area

As you may remember, in mid-March I ran the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah, and Britt came out as well and ran the associated 5-miler. We'd arranged to keep our hotel room for the night after the race, and on Sunday we headed home by way of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, along with my online friend Mike from Reno, who'd also run, and his wife Dorothy. Britt was the only of us who'd been to this part of Canyonlands before, and that a long time ago; after a too-short hike into the Chesler Park area, we all agreed that it was worth a much longer visit.

So as soon as I got home, I got online and applied for a backpacking permit. Pretty much all spring dates were full up, but I snagged the only consecutive days at one of the Chesler Park campsites (backcountry camping is by permit only at assigned sites), Sunday and Monday April 6th and 7th. Our plan was to head out at midday Saturday in our Sportsmobile, camp on public land nearby, then hike in on Sunday morning. Our assigned campsite would be only a bit more than four miles in, so we would have time for a dayhike that afternoon and a longer one on Monday before hiking out on Tuesday morning. To our delight, our friend (and frequent backpacking companion, most recently on last summer's Weminuche Wilderness trip) Shan would come with us, though alas his wife, also a fun person to have along on a hike, was out of town.

Read more, and look at way too many photos... )

These and more photos (57 pictures plus a video which...sometimes works?) at Flickr

Turret Peak

Sep. 4th, 2013 05:41 pm
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
Britt and I always get out of town during Labor Day Weekend. This year, we decided it was a good time to climb Turret Peak, at 13,835 feet the 89th-highest mountain in Colorado, which we have often viewed from our local ski area and on other backpacking trips. It sits next to the slightly higher Pigeon Peak, which we climbed in 2008. These two mountains are often climbed together, but we hadn't had the time or energy to go up Turret on that trip. No big deal; we'd really enjoyed camping in the beautiful meadow below, and had decided that we'd just have to come back for the other peak, and enjoy it again.

approaching the summit massif

Read more! See more photos! )

All the photos at Flickr, none of the jibber-jabber
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
entering the wilderness

The Weminuche is the largest wilderness (note to my non-US friends: this is a management designation) in Colorado, and it's pretty much directly outside our door (for certain values of 'directly outside'). Britt and I try to get there at least a couple of times a summer for backpacking or hiking. On this trip we were joined by our friends Mike, Shan, and Reggie.

We started from the Endlich Mesa trailhead, which is probably around 15 miles away as the crow flies, but 30 miles by road - and the last 10 are on a squiggly rough dirt road that takes an hour and a half to traverse. Luckily, our friend Jeff had come with us; he would hike with us a couple of miles, then hike back out and drive our van back. The rest of us would return on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train.

Endlich Mesa is a long ridge that runs roughly south to north. We stopped for lunch at a place we could look over a saddle to the east and see the smoke of the West Fork Complex wildfire.

on Endlich Mesa smoke to the east

Mountains, lakes, trout, mountain goats, and more! )

These and more photos at Flickr, 36 in all
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
We always get out of town for the long Labor Day weekend, since there are several motorcycle rallies in the area which attract the kind of rider who likes to make his or her bike as loud as possible. Next weekend I'm running the high-altitude Imogene Pass Run (more on that in another post), so I wanted to go backpacking at relatively high elevation. We decided to head for Endlich Mesa, sort of on the southwest end of the Weminuche Wilderness. We've done a number of hikes there; this time, we hoped to climb Sheridan Mountain and get to an unnamed lake on the flank of Emerson Mountain, which Britt had visited many years ago.

Ilana hiking

More... )
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
This past weekend, Britt and I headed out on a backpacking expedition to climb the Rio Grande Pyramid (13,821 ft, the 97th highest mountain in Colorado - or possibly the 30th, depending on how you define 'mountain'). I've wanted to climb it for some time; it's a distinctively-shaped peak (the name gives a clue!), much higher than anything else around it and thus visible from most of the high summits of the San Juans, and in 2008 Britt and I attempted to climb it but were rained out.

on the Rincon La Vaca trail

Adventure! Wildlife! Pain and suffering! )

Photos only

skunked

Jul. 9th, 2012 09:00 pm
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
We were going to go backpacking in the mountains above Silverton, but the forecast was pretty awful - 80% chance of rain on Saturday, 60% on Sunday - so instead we went to Utah, to do the Fish Creek/Owl Creek loop we did back in August 2010. We figured that now that the rains had begun, it should be okay to do a desert hike in the summer.

Except that it wasn't. We (me, Britt, and our friend Shan) drove out to the trailhead and paid our permit fee, hiked and scrambled down the steep, rocky canyon wall, and found that the rains didn't do diddly-squat. The springs were still running, but the dry winter had failed to fill the pools, and the places we'd swum two years ago had only a few inches of scummy water.

See? )

When we saw this, we decided it would be too risky to continue on the loop, as there was a good chance we would not have enough water further downcanyon. Instead we backtracked to the spring, where there was a decent pool we could swim in, as well as enough running water from the spring for filtering, and set up camp. The next morning we explored upcanyon a bit, and then hiked back out. Phooey.

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ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
Ilana

April 2017

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My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

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