All posts by phieldnotes

Walking around in the desert and mountains since the 60s. Now in my 60s.

GEAR: Hydration Upgrade

After my somewhat unfortunate experience with water on my Shumard backcountry trip, I reconsidered my hydration options and decided to look into upgrading. Not only the technology/materials of the reservoirs themselves, but also strategy. E.g. is it wise to store critical water in a single point of failure reservoir, or spread it out in several containers? Or is it worthwhile sometimes to pre-cache emergency supplies?

My old Platypus 3 liter reservoir, which had performed admirably for years (including my 2002 John Muir Trail through hike) didn’t seal properly and dumped quite a bit of precious water in my pack. While it was fine technology-wise for ca. 2000, it is a bit unwieldy. old Platypus hydration reservoir

The material is stiff, and the press-together seal can be difficult to manage.

I’ve since acquired two more reservoirs–an MSR 4 liter DromeLite,

and a Gregory 3D (3L) Hydro Reservoir.

I’ve been using both on conditioning hikes and have a few observations:

Continue reading GEAR: Hydration Upgrade

Grand canyon camping January 2011

(There is a separate Trip Report for my backpack to the bottom that trip here.)

Work in progress…

I headed out to Grand Canyon National Park in January of 2011 to camp and do an overnight backpack to the bottom of the canyon. Why January? Well, less crowded. I had overheard a Ranger telling another visitor seeking a backcountry permit on that 2007 trip that aside from New Years’ Eve and New Years’ Day, it was very unlikely they’d have a problem securing a first-come first-serve permit for Bright Angel campground (at the bottom). Hmm, I thought at the time, I’ll come back. And I did.

Continue reading Grand canyon camping January 2011

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.

To-Do hikes

Marcus/Bush Mtn Trail

I really want to finish up all the hiking trails in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I’ve never been up the Permian Geology trail to the Wilderness Ridge BC site. I’ve never been up/down the Marcus trail, nor the northwest corner of the Bush Mountain trail.

I want to do the loop of Marcus trail/Blue Ridge/Bush mountain to finish up that corner of the park. It’s the least used bit of trail in the park I believe. I actually did do the Blue Ridge section back in the 1980s; even have a backcountry permit for Blue Ridge backcountry site but I didn’t use it. I just hiked out from I think Mescalero to Blue Ridge to Bush Mountain and back to Pine Top.

I will start in Dog Canyon, thence to Marcus, and the only question is whether to do the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise.

  • 3.5 mi. –Dog Canyon CG to Marcus Trail jct
  • 0.2 mi. –Marcus Jct to Marcus BC site
  • 3.7 mi. –Marcus BC to Blue Ridge Jct
  • 0.5 mi. –Blue Ridge Jct to Blue Ridge BC site
  • 1.2 mi. –Blue Ridge BC to Marcus Jct
  • 3.8 mi. –Marcus Jct to Marcus Jct
  • 3.5 mi. –Marcus Jct to Dog Canyon CG
  • 16.4 miles total loop

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.)