Phield Notes

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.” — “Cactus” Ed Abbey

TR-Guadalupe Mountains NP Backpacking Feb-March 1986 (working Draft)

I believe this was my first backpacking trip ever. I’ll have to go through my notes and photos to recollect exactly what I did, and will update this post accordingly.

Pretty sure the route was Pine Spring TH up to Pine Top for first night; thence to Tejas backcountry site after exploring over to Hunter Peak, then maybe back along Tejas Trail and over to Bush Mountain, then back to Pine Top again for the last night.

GUMO permit feb1986

TR-Guadalupe Mountains NP Backpack Sept 1986

Trip report written some thirty-four years after the fact, relying on photos, map notes, and memory.

GUMO permit Sept 1986

Starting from Pine Spring Campground, I got up to the crest at the trail junction near Pine Top where I met Ranger Craig. Turns out he was doing a backcountry stint, and we hiked together for the next two days. He was quite the naturalist and helped me identify a lot of flora and fauna.

We stayed one night at Tejas backcountry site, then over to McKittrick Ridge for the next night. Somewhere along the McKittrick Trail we came across an angry rattlesnake.

Rock rattler that surprised us along the McKittrick trail
1983 Trails Illustrated map of GUMO with notes from three 1986 backpacking trips. Lower section. Note that the park HQ was still in the old shed at Frijole. There are a couple of errors in my hand-written notes there; please hold your calls. The plane site says “B-29” and not “B-24” and it’s in the wrong location.
McKittrick Canyon
Above McKittrick Canyon

In the morning, Craig left for elsewhere, and I returned back toward the Tejas trail.

Now the details get a bit foggy. Having three different backpacking trips in the GUMO highcountry that year, one tends to misremember some things. Although my permit indicates Blue Ridge for night three, I’m pretty sure I’ve never camped there. My photos show I stayed in the Mescalero site that night. I also think this was the trip I tried to solve the “no backcountry water” problem by making a side trip to Dog Canyon to replenish my water supply.

1983 Trails Illustrated map of GUMO with notes from three 1986 backpacking trips. Middle section.

Looking back, I think Craig had convinced me that my original plan of going to Dog Canyon to refill my water bottles then overnighting at Blue Ridge was untenable, and what I ended up doing was overnighting at Mescalero instead. I think I dropped my backpack at the Tejas/McKittrick trail junction, took a fanny pack to Dog Canyon (said fanny pack was terribly uncomfortable for hauling water), then returned and set up at Mescalero. Looking back, my original plan seems pretty silly, as it’s a four mile (eight round-trip) hike to Dog Canyon from the trail junction.

The only vivid memory I have from the Dog Canyon water run is from the return hike, up near the Lost Peak summit, I got hit by a thunderstorm with lightning crash nearby and I tried to make myself small by crouching down along the trail.

1983 Trails Illustrated map of GUMO with notes from three 1986 backpacking trips. Upper section.

I got to the Mescalero backcountry site later that afternoon and set up camp. Nobody else was there. I was anxiously watching a large thunderstorm build out to the East, but finally realized it was much farther away than I had originally thought. I did get rained on later that night, though.

Campsite at Mescalero site
From Mescalero backcountry site
From Mescalero backcountry site
Mescalero backcountry site

I don’t recall now which trail I took on the return trip. Possibly sidetracked through the Bowl, but my few photos don’t indicate that. When I got to the rim near Pine Top I took a break and played around with my telephoto lens, at one point focusing in on the Guadalupe Peak trail across the way.

Guadalupe Peak trail from across the canyon

When I finally go to the trailhead I snapped a photo (you won’t find it this deserted these days) and headed off to points West.

Pine Springs trailhead

TR-Big Bend NP Backpack South Rim Feb/March 1999

This is a trip report copied almost verbatim from what I wrote in 2000.

I took this trip on what I figured to be the last non-busy week before Spring Break; however, it was already getting crowded in the campsites (the Basin was full). I had arrived the night before around midnight; seeing that the other campsites were full I simply napped in the cab of my truck. It was fairly chilly, probably around 35-40, so I bundled up pretty well. I did see a coyote exploring the trash cans once early in the morning.

  • Trail distances for Pinnacles Trail to South Rim, return
  • via Laguna Meadows (from Basin trailhead): 
  • 3.5 miles to Emory Peak trail 
  • 4.5 miles to Boot Canyon campsites 
  • 4.8 miles to Boot Spring 
  • 5.3 miles to Southeast Rim Trail jct. 
  • 6.3 miles to Southeast Rim Trail jct. at the South Rim 
  • 8.0 miles to Colima trail jct. 
  • 8.8 miles to Blue Cr. trail jct. 
  • 12.1 miles to Basin trailhead

A bit after sunrise I went on into the Chisos Mountains to the Basin and the ranger HQ to get a backcountry permit. The nice older couple behind the counter, apparently camp hosts, pulled out a notebook with photos of the various campsites in the backcountry to help me to determine where I would go. Seeing the full campsite status, I was more concerned with getting away from crowds than a scenic site, but finally decided on Boot Canyon #4 and SW #3 just off the South Rim.

Continue reading TR-Big Bend NP Backpack South Rim Feb/March 1999

TR-Big Bend NP Family Trip April 1968

I don’t have any notes saved from this trip. I was only nine years old. I really fell in love with Big Bend during that trip; actually, with the whole idea of deserts and mountains. I’d been to Colorado on a family trip a few years earlier and recall being amazed at the mountains and the abandoned mines we saw high up on the slopes; and the scary drives over the unpaved roads along the mountainsides. But for some reason, on our trip to Big Bend something clicked.

I know this trip was around Easter Sunday, in 1968. Looking at a calendar I see that fell on April 14 that year; I’m guessing we were there for the week prior. I don’t think we got spring break in those days, either at my elementary school or for Dad’s job at UT.

I don’t remember the long drive out there on highway 290, although I can assume I was probably getting bored. But to this day I have a vivid recollection of the drive approaching the Chisos, as we began to ascend up The Basin road, past some drums full of water for overheated radiators. I kept staring at the rugged cliffs and thinking “Wow, I wonder what it’s like up there! Wandering around up there would be the greatest thing ever!”

Turns out I was right!

Cabins in the Basin (April 1968)
Continue reading TR-Big Bend NP Family Trip April 1968

TR-Guadalupe Peak February 2000

This is mostly a stub, holding a spot for a more complete trip report later. I don’t have all the photos from that trip digitized yet but am in the process of doing so.

After two previous hikes up to the summit of Texas’ highest point, I realized that the spectacular vista from the top of Texas was not that spectacular under the midday sun. So I resolved to make a summit trip that was a backpack, including a night at the backcountry site “near” (a mile away from) the summmit and spend the dawn hour photographing the views.

New Gear: Tent MSR Hubba Hubba NX (2019)

Hubba Hubba NX (2019)

$299 from Enwild (formerly Backcountry Edge)

This was a really good price on a pretty much state of the art tent. It’s not super light, but I thought I’d give it a try. If I want to go really light and am confident in the weather, I’ll just use my bivy. The Hubba Hubba will be for times when I really want to bring a tent.

I seam sealed the fly myself. I set it up a few times to familiarize myself with it. It was a little confusing because the instructions included refer to the previous version of the tent which had a bit different looking tent pole spoke and also color coded webbed straps; this one has NO color coding, which is fine, except I kept comparing the instructions to how my tent looked and finally asked MSR support about it; whoever handles the MSR social media support link had no idea what I was talking about and kept telling me “No, you don’t need color coding!” (The instructions shouldn’t say so then, if you ask me.)

New Gear: Cookset

I recently bought a couple of new cooksets; one more for camping, one for backpacking.

MSR Trail Mini Duo

MSR mini duo

From $49.95.

I was looking for something strictly for backpacking that would meet my specific requirements/preferences. Light and functional and easily packable. My current ones are 15-20 years old, one is stainless one is titanium, but neither are quite what I want. (I use the titanium non-stick for my car-camping nowadays.) I almost never bring a white gas stove any more. And I haven’t cooked anything (in the backcountry) that required more than simply boiling water in over twenty years.

So I saw a decent review on outdoorgearlab for this MSR Trail Mini Duo, and snapped one up. It’s designed to hold everything internally, including pressured gas canister and stove. One user complained that the synthetic upper ring melted. I’ll update this after trying it out in the field.

Bugaboo Base Camper (Large) from GSI

GSI Bugaboo Basecamper
GSI Bugaboo Basecamper

I got this more for car-camping. And a easy to pack frying pan with a lid that fits; all I have otherwise is a heavy frying pan and a very heavy glass lid, both awkward to tote around, even for car camping cooking.

Although I haven’t used it yet I can already report that I broke the little folding handle on the top of the largest lid the first time I took it out of the box, so yeah it’s pretty flimsy.

UPDATE: The local REI replaced the cookset with the broken orange plastic handle. But beware; the “new” set they gave me didn’t have the included potholder. Good thing I double-checked before leaving the store.

TR-Indian Peaks Wilderness August 24-25, 2000

traillog of backpack from Rainbow Lakes TH to 4th of July TH
Track of backpack from Rainbow Lakes to 4th of July trailhead.

Flickr album for this trip is here:

This was a little backpacking trip in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area of Colorado. I’d already hiked much of the same area the previous year, that is the area up to and including the summit of South Arapaho Peak from the 4th of July trailhead. I would leave my truck at the 4th of July trailhead previous to my trip, then make a loop from Rainbow Lakes trailhead up to Arapaho glacier, then down to the 4th of July trailhead. Basically up one side of a mountain range and down the other. I assumed this would be rather easy since the hike looked fairly short on the map, and not too much elevation gain/loss. I planned to overnight above timberline for a change, just to do it, and hike around and photograph from the summits of Arapaho Peaks North and South.

Most of these photos were scanned years ago and are in low resolution

On Wednesday afternoon, I drove the long unpaved road to 4th of July trailhead, parked my truck, got my bike out of the back and rode it all the way back through Hessie, then to the cabin near Nederland.

The ride was a beautiful one, about five miles or so mostly down hill. At the cabin, I checked my pack and equipment. I was going relatively light this time; a small pack, and no tent. Also, I had not gotten around to purchasing the dehydrated dinner as I had intended in Austin, and then to my surprise had not been able to in Nederland, either. (Nederland has a surprisingly good backpacking store at the Ace hardware.) Long story short-ended up with a full-sized can of Chef Boy-ar-Dee Ravioli for dinner. This is not the way I do things, and I was apalled at the idea of lugging a full can of food, and the mess it would make. But it seemed the simplest at the time barring alternatives, and that was that.

So, the next morning (early) my dad gives me a ride from our cabin up to the Rainbow Lakes trailhead over on the East side of the mountains. The forest road to that campground is fairly rough, but Dad’s a trooper and doesn’t complain. I pull out my Swiss Army knife (Super Tinker model) once during the trip to point out how important it is now that I need a can opener for my yucky dinner.

Dad let me out and I hefted my pack onto my shoulders and started up the trail. It begins in a wooded area, but then rises up and out of the timberline and follows an east-west ridge which is the southern wall of the drainage below the Arapaho glacier. Everything within the drainage is technically part of the Boulder municipal water system, and numerous signs warn of dire consequences to trespassers.

Along the way, glacier and Boulder water source to the right. Arapaho peaks behind.
Looking back.
Continue reading TR-Indian Peaks Wilderness August 24-25, 2000

Go outside! Go!