Death Valley National Park

Welcome to California….it’s beautiful (and also hot)

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Boulder City, Nevada –> Death Valley National Park, CA –> Onion Valley (Eastern Sierras, CA)

(290 miles)

This is the blog where you will begin to understand the immensity of driving/activity-ing I did in a 24 hour period.  This is the day I realized the amount of driving/activity-ing I did in a 24 hour period.

Disclaimer:  I have A LOT of energy.  I would recommend staying in places for a longer period of time.  There was a lot I wanted to see in a short amount of time, so this is the hyper-lapsed version of everything. Also known as, an epic road trip. 

File Aug 11, 5 02 11 PMDeath Valley lures its visitors in with places like Chloride City, Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, the Funeral Wilderness Area, and the Last Chance Mountain Range. If you ever go, the naming system will make complete sense; Death Valley is an incredibly inhospitable place.

I left the Quality Inn before the sun rose, armed with a cheap thermos of coffee and a few bad ideas.  It was 150 miles to my destination which was just south of Furnace Creek on 178 a.k.a Badwater Road.  I began around 8 a.m. at the Golden Canyon TH and completed a 4.5 mile loop called Gower Gulch.  It was already 96 degrees. There are no words to describe this kind of heat.  It makes you wish you were dead. Perhaps that is how Death Valley got its name.


you will most likely die

File Aug 11, 3 22 25 PMI wasn’t scared though.  I had dehydrated myself right into the ER just a few days prior. Actually, I was somewhat concerned with my shaky health so I chose not to run which equates to better photos.

The loop begins up a large wash.

File Aug 10, 8 20 12 PMFile Aug 10, 8 21 35 PMThere are lots of colorful sand-rock-dirt mountains to look at.File Aug 10, 8 23 07 PMFile Aug 10, 8 24 10 PMAt this sand-dirt-rock mountain ^ go right and begin steeply climbing underneath Zabriskie Point.  The trail is not well marked and everything looks exactly the same so, good luck. File Aug 10, 8 38 26 PMFile Aug 10, 8 39 32 PMFile Aug 10, 8 40 23 PMI briefly stopped to contemplate the meaning of life as sweat leaked out of every pore in my body.

File Aug 11, 3 20 55 PMAnd also Zabriskie Point, which I was far to lazy to climb.

File Aug 10, 8 41 23 PMAnd then I continued walking.

File Aug 11, 3 21 58 PMFile Aug 11, 3 23 26 PMFile Aug 11, 3 24 10 PMFile Aug 11, 3 25 22 PMNow, I had NO idea there are actual mountains in Death Valley, there are.  Had I known at the time, I would have climbed 11,050 foot Telescope Peak in the Panamint Range, which I stared at off to the southwest for most of my hike.  I wrote it down in my steno pad…I’m coming back for ya baby! (in the winter).  The crazy thing is Telescope Peak towers over Badwater Basin which records the lowest elevation in the US at 282 feet below sea level.  Can you imagine the gains?! It makes me hungry.

File Aug 11, 3 26 50 PMThe backside of this hike is absolutely gorgeous and the sand-dirt-rock mountains are gloriously colorful.  I always kind of wondered if I was on a trail but every now and again a sign would reassure me.

File Aug 11, 3 24 48 PMFile Aug 11, 3 26 22 PMThe trail continued through a wash with a short down climb and a sharp turn to the right (north) to avoid a dry waterfall.  The last half mile is completely exposed and parallels the road.  It was 9:30 a.m. and reaching temperatures of 105 degrees.  I no longer felt like I existed.  There is a 100 mile ultra trail race that runs through this area…in the summer…how?  Just how?

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if you look up heat stroke in a medical dictionary, this is the definition

After playing with fire I headed to Artists Drive, a ten mile single lane, one way loop that weaves in and out of some beautifully painted mountains.  It was gorgeous to the eye but I absolutely blew my manual camera settings.  I mean it when I say I did not get one viable photo.

Next, I went to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to buy stickers and be talked down to by the female rangers.  They were not friendly, nice, or helpful.  But I got the message loud and clear, “don’t hike after 10 a.m. and don’t go to Darwin Falls (because it does not exist).”  In the words of Eric Cartman, “I do what I want.”

Darwin Falls popped up on my radar a few days in advance, completely on accident and immediately aroused my curiosity.  How could there be a magical waterfall in the middle of this barren wasteland?  I was to pass right by the “trailhead” on my way to the Eastern Sierras, so why not grip the horns of adventure and buck my way to this elusive waterfall.

I drove 190 towards the west side of the park.  To prevent my car from overheating I had to roll down my windows and drive with the heat blasting.  I had entered the second dimension of hell and it looked a lot like this:

File Aug 11, 3 22 51 PMIt was at this point that my water ran out and I needed to refill.  While driving, I reached for my larger jug to fill up my smaller jug.  Before I get a lecture, these roads are incredibly wide open, I was on cruise control, and there was no one around for miles.  However, I am not that talented and ended up spilling 68 ounces of water all over myself and my front seat.  I didn’t even flinch.  It was like sweet heaven was putting out the flames.  See….everything happens for a reason.

There is no sign for Darwin Falls, it is Death Valley’s best kept secret.  There is a completely hidden dirt road on the left hand side after the small tourist town of Panamint Springs.  I am not going to give the coordinates because I feel if someone happens to stumble across my blog, discover Darwin Falls exists, and finds themselves in Death Valley National Park then they should find it the old fashion way, trial and error….. just like I did.

Now Lola (my Honda Civic) has been to hell and back.  It’s not her first rodeo. Last summer I took her down some of the gnarliest roads Colorado has to offer and ended up cracking all four of her engine mounts.  For months I drove around in a car that shook like a magnitude nine earthquake at stop signs and stop lights.  The road to Darwin Falls is one of the worst Lola and I have experienced but we worked together to make it within .3 miles of the start of the “trail.”  I was fully convinced I would return to a car that did not start, had a flat tire, or both and that I would die on that horrible road in the 110 degree summer heat trying to go for help that did not exist (absolutely no cell service).  As well, by this point everything in my car had melted and all cold beverages were the same temperature as hot tea.

But I was going to see this damn waterfall..or was I?

There is the beat up remnants of what used to be a trailhead sign and several overgrown social trails leading away from it.  It was like a scene from a horror movie, only day time, with no shade, and 115 degrees.  There is no trail nor trail markers so I used the compass and Topo Maps ap on my phone to guide me.  I focused as I worked my way south.  No time for photos as the birds of prey circled over head waiting for my meaty bits to weaken and fall to the ground.  Just as I convinced myself it was all for nothing I began heading west and BOOM in front of my exhausted eyes a real life oasis appeared.  I pinched myself, it wasn’t a mirage.

As I approached I reached the shade of beautiful large luscious green trees, overgrown grasses, flowers, and shrubs.  There was water dribbling down, seemingly out of know where.  And where there is water, there is life.  Mosquitoes began to bite me, grasshoppers jumped into my cleavage, colorful dragon flies collided with my head, and frogs croaked, loudly recognizing the presence of something that did not belong.

And still…I took no photos, even though my phone was right there in my hand.  I continued in a westerly direction, bushwhacking my way through gnarls of grass, a widening creek, and up and over slippery rocks until I heard the distant sound of, what? What was it?……DARWIN FALLS!

As soon as I found it, I stripped naked and went swimming in the cool deep pool at the base.  It was a most enjoyable thirty minutes.  No photo will ever do this place justice, mostly because of what it is in the middle of (nothing) but here are a few:File Aug 11, 5 02 37 PMFile Aug 11, 5 03 32 PMFile Aug 11, 5 04 25 PMFile Aug 11, 5 00 06 PMMy recommendation: don’t plan, always go with the unknown because nine times out of ten it leads to an amazing place like this.

I returned to a car that started with all four tires intact and began the horrendous drive out.  And so the story of Death Valley was written and all before 2 p.m.

From Darwin Falls I headed straight to Lone Pine, California where there is a VERY helpful, very busy ranger station/visitors center.  They do climbing and camping permits for Mount Whitney.  I stopped in, bought stickers, and asked some very attractive and very helpful man ranger about Mount Langley (California 14 plus thousand foot mountain), my next objective.  From there I drove to Independence, California and up to Onion Valley where I camped.  My next blog is where my story is really going to pick up, because, well, the Eastern Sierras are other wordly…………

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whatta tease

“My suspicion is that, like me, most of you reading these pages are drawn to extremes.  Moderation bores you.  You seek challenges and adventures that dwell on the outer edges.  The path of least resistance is not a route often traveled.” ~Dean Karnazes

Valley Of Fire State Park, Lake Mead, and The Hoover Dam

Nevada… hot……

6/24/15 – 6/25/15

Zion National Park –> Valley of Fire State Park (135 miles)

File Jul 02, 2 43 39 PMI woke up at 5 a.m. to get a head start on the drive.  The summer time heat in this part of the country is the real deal.  Some where along the line I went through a time warp and it was an hour earlier.  I enjoyed the sun rising over the desert and arrived at Valley of Fire State Park around eight a.m.  Valley of Fire is located just south of the thriving metropolis of Overton, Nevada, on the northwest edge of Lake Mead.

Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park.

The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.

Other important rock formations include limestones, shales, and conglomerates. Prehistoric users of the Valley of Fire included the Basket Maker people and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers from the nearby fertile Moapa Valley.

The span of approximate occupation has been dated from 300 B.C.E. to 1150 C.E. Their visits probably involved hunting, food gathering, and religious ceremonies, although scarcity of water would have limited the length of their stay. Fine examples of rock art left by these ancient peoples can be found at several sites within the park.


self explanatory

DSC_0195I drove all the way to the back of the park and did a short run of the White Domes loop. It was beautiful and hot as the “trail” wove in and out of red sandstone walls, sandy flats, and up and over large limestone rocks.  There are signs everywhere (and for good reason) warning against hiking after 10 a.m.

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this sand burned my feet through my shoes

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File Jul 02, 2 46 34 PMWhile I was running I noticed some curious looking mountains to the south.  I stopped at the visitors center to ask a ranger what I was looking at and found out about the Muddy Mountains.  There was a rather attractive long ridge line I gawked at and this would be a cool place to run/climb in the cold Colorado winter months. For me, road trips double as recon missions. I carried a steno pad with me and noted all the places I would like to return and things, like the Muddy Mountains I would like to do.

Valley of Fire State Park –> Hoover Dam (68 miles)

Next I took scenic 167 through Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the Hoover Dam.  It was an absolutely gorgeous drive but so hot my sweat was sweating.  Even with the AC on full blast and being in the airiest, most comfortable dress I have, I was over heating.  I was also starving so I stopped at Callville Bay and jet boiled myself some soup.  Odd choice for 105 degree weather?  Yup.

File Aug 09, 6 55 44 PMAs I passed Boulder Beach about 25 miles west of the Hoover Dam I decided to stop and swim in Lake Mead.  The water was warm but still refreshing.  However, the relief was short lived.  As soon as I stepped out of the water and onto the rocky shore line I was instantly hot and sweaty.

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File Aug 09, 7 07 31 PMI suppose everyone should see the Hoover Dam at least once in their lifetime…especially if it’s right there, but I must say I don’t agree with damning. It is incredibly harmful to riparian ecosystems and very unnatural.  Wanna know why? Watch this documentary.  That being said I went and saw it.  Between funneling through a massive car check security line, then parking, then waiting in line for 20 minutes to take an elevator (I eventually figured out there are stairs), to the heat, the wind, the masses of people, and the enormity of it all, it’s definitely an experience.  I am glad I saw it, would I ever go back again? Probably not. This kind of thing really isn’t my scene.  But hell, I got some rad photos.File Jul 02, 2 45 46 PM  File Aug 09, 7 42 40 PM

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The last order of business was to walk across the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which is an arch bridge that spans the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada.  You can see the bridge in almost all of the photos above.  But here are some views from my walk across.  The winds were whipping so strong most people were deterred from crossing.  I had it all to myself.  It was pretty neat.

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DSC_0310I worked my way 20 miles towards Boulder City, Nevada to spend the night in the finest Quality Inn room money could buy (cheapest hotel in Boulder City).  Once again, it isn’t possible to camp in this part of the country, let alone car camp.  I stopped at the Boulder Dam Brewing Co and had a beer and a veggie burger.  Both food and beer were yum.  I went swimming again at the hotel and left my bathing suit behind, never to be seen from or heard from again.

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And that’s all in a days work….

Next up, Death Valley.

“Have less. Do more, be more.”




Zion National Park – Utah

Hello my friends and welcome to the summer of 2015 according to halfpint.  Most of you know I hit the open road 17 days ago and began exploring our countries crown jewels. Well, I wrote checks I can’t cash and promised I would blog through it all, but an incessant amount of activity has prevented that, until now.  So savior this minuscule morsel because I don’t know when I will be writing again.

6/22/15 – 6/24/15 

Golden, CO –> Zion National Park (640 miles)

I left Golden at the butt crack of dawn and terrorized my way down I-70.  First stop, Mount Garfield just outside Grand Junction.  Several days before I embarked on this journey of a lifetime I landed myself in the emergency room.  It is still a mystery why? Food poisoning, dehydration, an electrolyte imbalance, a rogue virus?  Either way, I was “walking like an Egyptian” (meaning it was coming out both ends) to the point of total collapse. Thanks to my best friend Caitlyn and an IV bag of fluids, I came back to life.  It took several days into my trip and 20 bottles of Pedialyte to fully recover, but who am I and what do I do?

When I say this mountain is hard to summit, I truly mean it.  In 1.8 miles the trail climbs 2,118 feet to the summit.  There is absolutely no shade and it is about 105 degrees by 9 a.m.  It’s also hella-confusing and I ended up scrambling the north side because I blew it several times.

Here’s to never climbing you again Mount Garfield.

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the only flat part

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the views are nice though

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a girl and her selfie stick

So thankful for not passing out face down in the desert I continued to Utah.  At a gas station I made friends with a Hawaiian girl doing the road trip thing. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and high-fived a lot.

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i’m a winner

I air-bnb’d at a fantastic Victorian home in Hurricane, Utah.  I know, I know, you’re thinking…that’s not very hardcore but the alternative was frying to death in my trunk so……

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it was every bit as glorious as it looks, (33$) a night

One day in Zion, no problem, I’m a runner.

I woke up early and caught the first shuttle to the Weeping Rock trailhead.  From there it is 8 miles round trip with 2,200 feet of vertical gain to the summit of Observation Point. Go early in the summer or the heat will punish you.

The trail is easy to follow, absolutely spectacular, and the only people I saw were a group of rock climbers who I hung out with for a bit.

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sunrise in the park

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starting up

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neat slit

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getting higher

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deep canyon

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almost summit

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and deep contemplation summit

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i’m bringing sexy back

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File Jul 02, 12 28 47 PMI returned to the trailhead with thoughts of The Narrows swimming in my head.  I bought a sweet ass pair of Keen water shoes to forge rivers in Yellowstone and I wanted to test them out.  Zion National Park is majestic, until you hop on the shuttle early afternoon and get all gnarled up in the general public.  Fear not, I survived.

The Narrows begin at the last shuttle stop, Temple of Sinawava.  A pavement walk dumps right into the Virgin River where the real adventure begins. This hike is entirely in the water. The first few miles, while beautiful, are over crowded.  I partnered up with a guy named Jason from California and we feverishly maneuvered our way through the masses. Eventually you can out fitness most and get some privacy. It’s worth it.  Oh and the Keen shoes, five stars.  Most people spend way too much money on rental gear.  I used my Keen’s and a pole and made out like a champ.  In other words, don’t rent the clown shoes and walking stick.

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come on now

File Jul 02, 1 02 49 PMWe went about 4 miles in.  The water was chest deep in spots and I had to put my bag on my head.  On the way back I was in my own la-la land and some guy walked into me and called me an idiot.  I love people so much.

After The Narrows I went and ate a sandwich near the water until a foreign couple decided to show me how they tongue each other.

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make out rock, unless you’re a loner like me…then it’s peanut butter and jelly rock

I took the shuttle back to Canyon Junction and tried to be a photographer.

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File Jul 02, 1 16 02 PMAfter, I went back to the Victorian house and sat in the massage chair for an hour before heading out to Kolob Canyons to try and catch a sunset.  I did not plan on running or hiking so I wore my party dress and sandals.  I drove all the way to the end of Kolob Canyons road and ended up hiking about two miles where I had the most vain photo shoot of my life with myself.  I do love these photos, and myself.

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easing you in

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had enough?

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I didn’t think so

The last thing I did was drive down E Highway 144 and post up for sunset.  A ranger told me it is the best place to watch Kolob Canyons catch fire but I ended up being far more impressed with this field.

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File Jul 02, 1 53 18 PMAnd that’s the end of Zion.  I’ll try to write about Nevada soon ( :

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.” ~ Christopher McCandless

Mount Washington

Mount Washington is one surly mofo.  It is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288 ft and the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. He dominates the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The mountain is famous for dangerously erratic weather.  There is a pretty nifty traverse that covers every peak in the range boasting the kind of stats I love (23 miles with 10k of climbing).  Next summers visit to the moms cabin and I will attempt the iconic Presidential Traverse.

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I decided the day before that I would climb Mount Washington.  I was right there, I had to try.  This is not a mountain you F around with and I knew I did not have the proper attire (all cotton, all day).  I have no issue turning away from a summit and I feel I am good at accessing danger.  The issue is the weather turns rapidly and without warning on Mount Washington.  There is NO coverage once you hit tree line at 4,500 feet.  I studied the weather, talked to a ranger, and determined if I was fast I could do it.


9.5 miles RT

4,500 feet of gain

~Tuckerman Ravine trail to Lion Head trail to summit for the win and back down the same way I came

~Out and back to Hermit Lake, the emergency medical aid cache and the rangers cabin

~Crystal Cascade

~Glen Ellis waterfall

Tuckerman Ravine trail starts from the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center.  It is a very rocky but wide trail until the turn off for Lion Head.  The actual ravine was closed because of massive crevasses in a large snow field.  The first two miles went by quickly as I was able to mostly run them. The next two miles (Lion Head) were very steep, slippery, and required some hands and feet scrambling.

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a sample

Tree line came and the climbing continued.  I was very impressed with the gains.  After running up and down one hill twenty times in New York to squeeze out 1,000 feet of climbing I loved every single step up Mount Washington.

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I was perplexed that the terrain above 4,500 looked exactly, to a T, like the terrain above 11,500 feet in Colorado.  I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.  Some of these photos I would argue look just like a 14er!  The only difference is I did not get altitude sickness and was able to keep a strong steady pace to the summit.  My ascent time was 1:37, the unofficial record is 1:04, and the average is 4 hours, so I was pretty stoked.

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Tuckerman Ravine

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I hit the split for the Alpine Garden and Tuckerman Ravine and continued straight up the rocky trail running with water and into a giant cloud.  The wind picked up and the temperature dropped but it was warmer than the previous day.

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I can totally understand how people become disoriented and lost on this mountain.  The last three quarters of a mile is strictly cairns and they can be very hard to see in a thick cloud.

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The summit was anticlimactic.

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The rest of these photos were taken the previous day when I drove to the summit with my mother and step father.  It was sunnier then.

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I went in to the upper shelter and signed the register, ate a pb&j and laughed with a ranger about how terrible my outfit choice was.  I also learned that they will kick you out of the shelter and make you hike back down even in the winter because people get the mentality that there is a ride waiting at the top and will continue on above tree line in a raging ice storm.  Not gonna lie, I thought about a ride down.


The trot down was not as bad as I thought it would be and the clouds started to burn off which was great because I was pretty wet.

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Colorado 14eresque

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Tuckerman Ravine

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Wildcat Ski Area

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After I maneuvered my way around dozens of people who looked like they were dying I reached the Lion Head/Tuckerman Ravine intersect and did a quick up and back to Hermit Lake where I got a nice bottom view of Tuckerman Ravine.

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Hermit Lake

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I angrily picked up trash around the cabin before jogging out.

About .4 miles from the trailhead I heard the loud roar of water and went to investigate.  What I saw blew my mind.  I ran back down to the car, grabbed my real camera gear, and hiked back up to the gloriously beautiful Crystal Cascade.

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About a mile down the road I had noticed signs for Glen Ellis waterfall.  On my way out I decided to investigate.  It was worth it, it’s always worth it.

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I took the Kankamangus Highway back to my fathers house.  It gave me a million more ideas for places I want to camp and things I want to do.

New Hampshire is so freaking rad.

”Imagining what it might be like is a poor substitute for actually knowing.”

New new new England

East Coast represent.  I was born and raised in upstate New York, not western New York, not New York City, but the whole state that exists above it.  It’s pretty big, you should look it up sometime.  I have never loved going ‘home’ but as I grow, mature, and develop into a woman my relationship with the family I estranged myself from for so many years is growing strong, and this means more frequent and longer visits.  This was the best visit I have ever had and this post will document my time hanging with the fam.  I will do a separate post which will cover my climb of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  I visited New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine over the past two weeks and many an activity was had.

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making friends with the pilot

I flew into Albany, New York on a clammy Tuesday evening.  My father and his girlfriend Laura picked me up from the airport.  He brought me to his charming New England bed and breakfast.  The amenities were nice, although I thought the pool could use a bit more chlorine.


My father and I did a lot of straight up chilling.  He is a really fun person to spend time with.  He has a PhD in mechanical engineering from RPI and now that I am neck deep in engineering school we have even more to talk about.  We see eye to eye on everything including the big X on marriage and kids.  I am absolutely my fathers daughter, 100%, adult tantrums and all.  He will forever be my favorite human.

We explored the abandon house across the street from his house.  There are eight barn cats that I attempted to make friends with.  The house was super nasty inside.  Food was left in the fridge (which I opened) and a curious black fungus blanketed everything.  I wanted to sample it and bring it to the biology lab at school but refrained.

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the American dream

My brother came up from the dirty Jerz on a Saturday and we all went to Doc Browns, a bar on Saratoga Lake.  Saratoga Lake is so much fun and my father’s life long friend Karl has a house (dock included) right on it.  This is the center of all summer chills.  There is boating, kayaking, sailing, napping, and most importantly floating in a tube while drinking beer.  There’s no app for lake life.


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One of my favorite days in New York, my father and I whipped around his 86’ mustang and then he took me sailing on the sunfish he has had since he was fourteen years old.




I also ran a marathon.  It is called the E.B. Jeb marathon and consists of drinking PBR for 7 hours at The Mill (a biker bar) while listening to the greatest southern rock cover band my ears have heard.  I met some members of The Rolling Pride motorcycle club and learned all about The Hells Angels.  I also drank 15 PBRs and danced my face off.  As my father said, “all the mutants come out for E.B. Jeb,” and he was right.  It was one of the most fun parties I have attended to date.  And getting drunk with your dad is always better.  This is the only photographic evidence.

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Dad time is the best time.  Also, upstate New York is beautiful.  Never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I miss the humidity, the rain, the old charm, and the out of control greenness.

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My father let me drive my grandparents (now his) 1995 Honda Accord from New York to Maine where my mother retired to an absolutely gorgeous log cabin.  She has always had good taste and everything she owns is well thought out.  I had not seen my mother in a long time and I was incredibly excited to spend some good quality time with her and my stepfather Ty.

On the way I stopped in Willmington, Vermont and ran up Haystack Mountain in a down pour.

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I continued on through the back-wood roads of New England.  Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are old states.  There is a lot of history, a lot of trees, and a lot of charm.  The driving is enjoyable but goes from 55 to 30 and back up to 55 in a matter of seconds.

In New Hampshire I stopped and had a snack at Lake Winnipesaukee.

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no sales tax!

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I wanted to go for a swim but the moment was not right.  It took another hour or so of me falling into the deep driving trance to realized I needed to run.  I pulled down a random dirt road in Tamworth, New Hampshire and ended up at White Lake.  I ran two miles around the lake and realized I was completely alone.  I dipped my feet in the water and it was just the right temperature.  I was still alone.  I decided to cross skinny dipping off my bucket list.  It was the perfect moment and thirty minutes I will never forget.

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My visit with my mother was absolute perfection.  We had all the talks we needed to have and resolved all the issues we needed to resolve.  I feel like a piece of me has returned.  I feel whole again.  There is only forward and I see us developing the relationship we both always wanted to have.  My mother and stepfather are active and love adventure so they were eager to show me around.  My mother lives in a small town in Maine that borders New Hampshire.  I would retire to this area.  There is SO much to do.  There are SO many pristine waterfalls and creeks.  There is SO much wilderness and the White Mountains are in her backyard.  She picked the perfect spot to settle down.  I cannot wait to go back for Christmas and see it with snow.

Sabbatus Mountain is in my mother’s backyard so we all hiked it.  It was really nice to share something I love doing with my family.

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mommy and Ty

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The same day we did a beautiful hike to a place called Diana’s Bath in New Hampshire.  I had my hand at some water photography.

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The next day we drove up Mount Washington, king of the White Mountains, Emperor or the Presidential Range.  Mount Washington is iconic and the proud owner of the some of worst weather in the world.  The highest recorded wind speed (231 mph) was clocked on the summit.  All the buildings are chained down.  The road is super nasty and my mother and Ty said they would never drive it again.  This is the day I got the brilliant idea to climb the beast and I will write a separate blog with lots more photos on how I did just that.  It was about 40 degrees with howling winds the day we milled around the summit.


Next my mother and Ty showed me Jackson, New Hampshire, a favorite of theirs.  I nailed my head on the covered bridge trying to take photos.

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I wanted more water so they brought me to Kezar Falls (in Maine behind my mom’s house) where we saw a moose!

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Kezar Falls

On the final day, Ty took my mother and I canoeing on Kezar Lake in Maine.  It was my first time and I absolutely LOVED it.  This was my favorite day with my mom and Ty.

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Kezar Lake


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Residents of my mother’s town have private access to an exclusive beach.  We went and put our feet in the sand and observed a small child bathing in the water.  Gotta love people!

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They also treated me to two different breweries; Moat Mountain and Seacrest which both had vegan options and delicious beer.

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this is what gondolas used to look like

After some tears were shed, I left my mother’s and made my way to the base of Mount Washington which is where I will pick things back up….

I had a wonderful and necessary extended visit with my family.  I am so happy I grew out of my bratty younger years into someone they can be proud of.

“Time as he grows old teaches all things” –Aeschyuls

White Sands National Monument and Oliver Lee State Park (New Mexico)


Cheers to the end of a beautiful adventure.  The very last bit of my southwest exploration included White Sands National Monument and the neighboring Oliver Lee State Park (where I stayed).  It was a beautiful warm evening and I knew I wanted to sit on a dune and watch the sun go down.

At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies a mountain-ringed valley, the Tularosa Basin.  Rising from the heart of this basin is the glistening white sands of New Mexico.  These sand dunes have engulfed 275 square miles of desert creating the largest gypsum dune field in the world.  The dunes are next to the White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Airforce Base outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

There is not much to say about how beautiful this place is so I will let the photos do the talking.

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Lola my mobile home

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noodle time

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At sunset I parked my ass on top of a dune and listened to some guy a few dunes over play the guitar.  It was like something out of a fairy tale.

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glory rays

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stranger danger (I eventually got them this photo)

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After the sun kissed the sky goodbye I headed back to Oliver Lee State Park to pass out in trunk bed.

Driving into Oliver Lee I saw some super greasy hitchhikers and then some meth houses.  The park was deep enough in the canyon that I felt the chances of robbery or attack were minimal.  Still, the surrounding area did not feel that safe.

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I stopped and investigated an abandon meth house, it was gnarly.

I decided to hike Dog Canyon early in the morning before hitting the road for the long push home.


The entire Dog Canyon trail is 5.5 miles one way and climbs over 3,100 feet to Forest Road 90.  This would have been fun to do but my legs were dead, so I settled on an out and back to Line Cabin (6 miles/1,700 feet of gain nonetheless).

Because of the spring fed stream in the canyon, native people moved from the Tularosa Basin into the Sacramento Mountains using this trail for thousands of years.  The canyon was the site of several skirmishes between the US Cavalry and Apaches between 1850 and 1881.  After the settlers arrived, the trail was used to move cattle from winter basin pastures to spring and summer pastures in the canyon and on the ridge top.  The ruin of the Fairchild Line Cabin is a landmark at the box-end of the canyon.

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Even at 6:30 a.m. the temperatures pushed 85 degrees in the shade.

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The trail initially climbs 600 feet in .6 miles to the first bench which plateaus.  At 1.9 miles the trail climbs once again to the second bench and the typical desert shrubbery changes to lush grass with scattered alligator juniper.

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From the second bench the trail descends back into the canyon to the Fairchild Line Cabin.  Large juniper and cottonwood dominate the stream side habitat.  This riparian zone is beautiful and delicate.  There are some nice camp spots here.

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Here is where I turned around, headed back to my car, and drove back to Golden.

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Summary, Conclusion, and Advice:

I had an absolutely beautiful adventure.  I drove 1,786 miles in 16 days, explored two states, 2 national parks, 3 national monuments, 4 state parks, countless mountains ranges, and 4 new cities.  The bed I engineered in my car and all the small details I installed worked perfectly.  There are only a few minor tweaks I will make to the curtains and initially I will bring less food with me (on my big trip).

I had reserves about traveling and climbing alone.  I had reserves about whether or not I could actually live in such a small space.  I had reserves about doing ALL the driving myself, I had reserves about getting lonely, but….my father and I have a saying, “imagining what it might be like is a poor substitute for actually knowing.”  It is healthy and necessary to have a certain amount of fear (it is what keeps us alive), it is restrictive and sad to let it prevent an incredible life experience.

I found it difficult to return home but I have so much traveling ahead of me, not only this summer, but for the rest of my life.  I blog because it’s a way to relive the beautiful places I go and because it allows my family and friends a rare glimpse into the life I lead.  I do not wish to make a career of it.  This trip opened my eyes to the kind of job I DO want.  By earning a masters degree in Biochemical engineering from Colorado School of Mines and being single and without children (I never want them), I have opened the door to so many future possibilities.  I have the ability to say yes to a lot of opportunities most don’t.  I see myself as a traveling engineer working in the renewable energy or Bio-plastic field jumping from country to country, project to project.

Society puts a lot of pressure on humans (especially women) to get married and have children, but for a select few the “American dream” seems more like a nightmare (nothing against those who find happiness in marriage and kids).  People often assume I am defective because I choose to distance myself from red-flag relationships and because I don’t want to birth and raise another human.  And for a minute there, I was starting to think maybe I was.  The open road, the mountains, and the trails have a way of showing you truth.  I am exactly where I should be and I am honestly happy.

Simply put, this journey made me see that I could never exist in one place doing one thing.

What is the killer of adventure and romance?  Monotony and commitment.

If there is something you want to do, do it, right now.  There is no guarantee of tomorrow.

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“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water.  She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs.  ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against.  Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.”

Baylor Peak and The Organ Mountains

The Organ Mountains show up as a blurb of green on a map in the southwest corner of New Mexico right outside La Cruces.  From the summit of North Franklin Mountain they sit in the background as an ominous dark shadow.  My first thought was that I would visit and have my hand at night time mountain photography because it is SO dark in this area, but who am I and what do I do?  I’m always going to choose to climb.

The Organs are volcanic in nature and the name is derived from the fact that a major section resembles, you guessed it, the pipes of an organ.

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This range has two established trails; the Baylor Pass trail and the Bar Canyon trail.  The Organs have a reputation for being inaccessible, steep, and rugged.  In addition they are desolate, eerie, creepy, beautiful, and a new favorite.  There are four access points and I chose to start the Baylor Pass hike from Aguirre Springs recreation area (on the east side 32.37180N 106.56163W).  There is a beautiful campground, no people, and so many opportunities for climb-climbing.  I want to return with a partner and climb Rabbit Ears, Organ Needle, Organ Peak, and Baldy Peak.

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When I arrived at the trailhead I was pretty burned out from a huge week in the Guadalupe and the Franklin Mountains and it was already noon.  I made the decision not to run the peak but instead lugged all my camera gear to the summit.  Initially I had no intention of even attempting to summit but once I got to the top of Baylor Pass my curiosity took over and ran the show.

Baylor Peak (7,721’)

6.2 miles/2,400 feet of gain

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look at those topo lines!

Starting up the trailhead there are a few very reassuring signs.  If you don’t get eaten by a mountain lion or bitten by a rattlesnake, you’ll probably fall or get lost, so don’t travel alone. Sometimes I wish I had a partner who was willing to travel and run around like an idiot with me but then I remember how much I enjoy the freedom of being alone. 



The Baylor Pass trail is well established and smooth up to the top of Baylor Pass (32.3814N 106.57915W).  I am not sure where they came from but there was a family of cows that scared the s right out of me.

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my grandfather was a knight, his name was Sir Loin

Since I was in no rush at all, I took it all in and tried to muster up the patience required to take decent photos.

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This lizard flexed hard by showing me how many pushups he could do.  I was impressed since I’m up to five in a row.

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From the top of Baylor Pass I could see what I thought to be Baylor Peak.  My mind said, “well it’s just right there.”  There was a very faint path leading north to the “summit.”  It didn’t take much convincing to go for it.

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the illusion of Baylor Peak

The trail was not established and difficult to follow.  It became very steep and loose with intermittent sections of easy scrambling.  Every stabbing plant was out in full force and every stinging bug was looking for blood but I didn’t hear any rattle snakes and that is what kept me going.  Like Hansel and Gretel dropped bread, I dropped pins for myself on my topo map app and built cairns because getting off route would have been a pretty serious issue.

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It was not long before I realized what I could see was the false summit and the actual summit was higher and farther away.  I also grabbed a hold of a dead stick covered in small prickers.  That felt really good.

At least the views were nice as I de-thorned my hand.

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From the false summit I remained on top of the ridge until the summit.  There are a few sections to scramble and careful attention must be paid to the plants as they will stab and demoralize you.

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some scrambling

I was so excited to summit and partake in the late afternoon bug orgy.  Good thing I was completely immune to being covered in gnats, flies, and mosquitoes by this point.  I just let them eat me.

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there is a register!

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I am way better at climbing than descending, especially since my ankle injury.  I put my head down and navigated the steep loose sections without incident.  I did get off route once and had to climb back up to the last cairn I had built.  As I said before, getting off route is not an option.

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This is a beautiful area with plenty of challenging terrain.  I loved this impromptu climb.  If you are ever in the area check out the Organs!

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”Don’t be scared to walk alone.  Don’t be scared to like it.”

El Paso, Texas and The Franklin Mountains

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I added El Paso to the itinerary only a few days before I left Colorado and headed to New Mexico.  I was drawn to this particular corner of Texas because someone mentioned the Franklin Mountains.  What kind of mountains could there possibly be in western Texas almost Mexico I asked myself?  The kind that make you question your own sanity is the answer.

I decided to use Airbnb because A) It was far to hot to sleep in my car and B) I don’t feel comfortable sleeping in my car in a city.  If you don’t know what Airbnb is, check it out, it’s rad.  I ended up staying with a lovely couple (Donna and Carey) just outside the city.  Their home was immaculate and I had the entire upstairs to myself.  Donna made me coffee and fruit each morning and we would sit by her pool and chat.  In the evening she let me go outside and cut fresh vegetables from her garden (which is huge).  Anyone who knows me knows that fresh greens are the fastest way to my heart.  It was such a pleasure getting to know Donna and Carey that I extended my stay.

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you have my heart

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So the mountains…..

Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest urban wilderness park in the nation.  It is comprised of 24,000 acres of hot sweaty rugged terrain and encompasses an entire Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Range.

North Franklin Mountain (7,192’)

8.4 miles/2,628 of gain

North Franklin Mountain is the tallest peak in the park.

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I had the worst time ever finding the trailhead, so my brilliant plan to get an early start (which is mandatory in this part of the country) was flushed right down the toilet.  Since I don’t plan things, I rarely get bent out of shape when I find myself lost but this f’er tested my patience.  Iphone GPS failed yet again and took me to the entrance of McKinley Canyon.  In order to climb North Franklin Mountain go to the Tom Mays park entrance off Transmountain Road.  Once I figured this out I thought my frustrations were behind, right? Wrong.  There was no one at the entrance building, no envelopes to pay the 5$ entrance fee, and no trail maps.

After a short run in with some super creepers that came up to me and started asking me all sorts of questions while peering into my car, I decided to drive in and hunt the peak down.  ***Word of advice:  If you are a woman traveling alone and weird men approach you, stand your ground, act like you know where you are and what you are doing (even if you don’t), and have a weapon near by (I always carry mace and a knife).*** If I could carry a gun I would but there are laws against crossing state lines and what not.

Through trial and error I found the trailhead (31.91682N 106.50956W).  It is the first right after entering the park.  From there it is easy to follow.  I took the Agave Loop to Mundy’s gap to the North Franklin Peak trail which leads to the summit.  I started at noon so imagine 110 degrees, zero shade, and I was wearing long sleeve to prevent my skin from burning off my body.  The trail is extremely difficult steep loose rock, perfect for rolling an ankle.  This was one of the more trying mountain summits I have attained because of the heat but it is a dangerously beautiful range.

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On the way down I met three rangers and a police officer, all real cowboys.  We talked for a little while and I exchanged phone numbers with Xavier in hopes that he would climb Mount Cristo Rey with me.  Mount Cristo Rey caught my attention on the drive into El Paso because of a large visible cross on top.  I asked a few employees in Sprouts if it was climbable.  Some said yes, some said no.  After a bit more poking around I learned it sits in New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico making it all the more interesting.  I wanted it bad but was warned that people more often then not get robbed trying to climb it.  Ciudad Juarez is the murder capitol of the world and borders El Paso.  El Paso is safe but again because I am a female traveling alone extra precautions must always be taken.  I did find someone to climb it with but ultimately decided it was not worth it.  None the less the mountain has an interesting history.

After returning to my car, I went and had a memorial day picnic in the park and saw two more rattlesnakes.

I wanted some views of El Paso so I drove Scenic Drive.

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I went back to Donna and Carey’s house and did some pool side yoga before making dinner.  I returned to Scenic Drive to watch the sun set and give night photography a shot.  My camera tumbled down a mountain in New Mexico so the 18-55 mm stock lense I normally use is struggling.  I noticed the most issues with night stuff.  I need a new lense.

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trains everywhere trains

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Mount Cristo Rey

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The next day I returned to the sauna and attempt to climb South Franklin Mountain.  I never summited but I did stumble upon “The Window,” completely on accident.  Once again, no planning, sometimes leads to confusion, but always ends in satisfaction.

The Window (6,384’)

2.7 miles/1,400 feet of gain

I started from the Ron Coleman trailhead off of Transmountain Road.  I immediately lost the trail as there are social trails everywhere.  I am not sure when it happened but I found myself in difficult class 3 terrain with twenty pounds of camera gear.  There was some fear but I ended up topping out at the window which presented some nice views.  I could see South Franklin Mountain but could not locate a viable route up.  I had zero desire to do any more scrambling on the unstable desert rock.  The terrain in this part of the park is very dangerous and confusing, exercise extreme caution.  There is also a lot more trash and graffiti.  I took in the local art which included a fifty foot dick spray painted on the side of South Franklin Mountain.  

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look at those topo lines !!!

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the window in the distance

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South Franklin Mountain

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The Window looking at North Franklin Mountain and some toilet paper

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airing out

I wanted an El Paso tee shirt so badly that I spent the next 2 hours searching. Turns out the local Walgreens has the best selection and I got this little ditty for $2.99…boys size large.

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I then stumbled upon vegan pizza which was delicious.

File Jun 02, 7 42 41 PMThe last order of business was to explore down town El Paso.  Donna had told me about the digi wall at the Museum of History.  It is one of two in the entire world (the other one is in Copenhagen, Denmark).  I had to see it.

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The keeper of the digi wall came out and showed me its power.  He then offered to show me around El Paso and gave me a walking tour, history included!

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The last thing I did was walk to Mexico and lose my drivers license.

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I really enjoyed my time in El Paso, culturally it is very different than anywhere I have been in the US.  It is a city with character and the mountains are fierce.

Next, back to New Mexico and the Organ Mountains….


“Conformity is the enemy of growth and the jailer of freedom” ~~ JFK

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Day 3)

Ranger Mike not only knows his park but is incredibly passionate about the outdoors and protecting our planets wild places.  We had many wonderful conversations and his advice on where I should go and what I should see was priceless.  He suggested I climb The Notch via the McKittrick Canyon day use area.  This entrance is 7 miles north of the main park entrance and does not open until 8 a.m., but because I made friends with the rangers one of them came and opened the gate for me at 7:30.

The McKittrick Canyon trail is the best trail I encountered in the park.  It is mostly flat, wide, and rock size is consistent.  It crosses wash after wash after wash and then a pleasant stream until it arrives at The Grotto.  There is very little shade and it was one of the hottest days I experienced.

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this is what hot looks like

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The sun is a different kind of hot and bright in this part of the country making it very difficult to take photos that are not completely washed out.

At about 2.4 miles the trail arrives at a short out and back to Pratt Cabin.  It is worth a look.  In the 1920’s geologist Wallace Pratt bought land in McKittrick Canyon, and in 1959 donated his land to the National Parks service.  Thanks Wallace, sweet cabin!

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The trail continues until it hits The Grotto and Hunter Line Shack at 3.5 miles.  This is where most stop but I continued up McKittrick Canyon Trail to The Notch (6,376’).  The trail eventually leads to McKittrick Ridge (7,716’) and into some deep Texas backcountry. Someday I will turn this into a long run.

All of the 1,800 feet vertical gain comes in a short 1.3 miles.  At one point there are crazy steep steps built into the side of the mountain.  This part of the hike reminded me of Hawaii as it has a very junglesque feel.

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The Notch opens up to a picturesque view.  I could not take a photo that would accurately depict how beautiful it was from this small opening in the ridge.  It was difficult to set up a good shot because the area was steep and far to expansive.

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I continued up the trail a bit farther just because I loved the view so much.

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On the way back I made the short out and back to The Grotto and Hunter Line Shack where I had a snack.

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My favorite plant of the trip is this wiry fake Christmas tree looking thing called Ocotillo that produces pretty red flowers.  It is also a favorite of fist wasp.  Like a two year old, I like to touch things.  For example, I don’t like the taste of rice crispy treats but I love to squish them in my hands.  The whole trip I wanted to bend Ocotillo’s green arms into designs of my choosing, so I tried.  I was immediately stabbed a dozen times.  It is covered in daggers.  If you get the urge to play with this plant, resist….you’re welcome.

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As I drove out of the park a massively colorful stalk jetting out of the desert landscape like a sore thumb caught my eye.  At first I honestly thought it was a radio tower but then I saw multiples so I pulled over to investigate.  My eyes could not believe what lay before them.  That horrid Agave plant grows out a 6-8 foot stalk that produces the oddest looking flowers I have ever seen.  The dead ones are all over the place but this one was alive!

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As a complete and total Biology nerd I had to research how the Agave plant carries out its demon life.

Although it is called the century plant, it typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spread of about 6–10 ft (1.8–3.0 m) with gray-green leaves of 3–5 ft (0.9–1.5 m) long, each with a prickly margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce to the bone. Near the end of its life, the plant sends up a tall, branched stalk, laden with yellow blossoms, that may reach a total height of up to 25–30 ft (8–9 m) tall.

Its common name derives from its semelparous nature of flowering only once at the end of its long life. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth.

Well that wraps up Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  I spent the entire Memorial Day weekend in the park and it was void of big crowds.  This part of the country is overlooked giving it a super raw lawless vibe.  It matches my personality well.

Onto El Paso…..


When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.

When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.

When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.

When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.

When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.

When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.

When you’re feeling tired, dare to keep going.

When times are tough, dare to be tougher.

When love hurts you, dare to love again.

When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.

When another is lost, dare to help them find the way.

When a friend falls, dare to be the first to extend a hand.

When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.

When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.

When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best.

Dare to be the best you can –

At all times, Dare to be!”

-Steve Maraboli


Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Day 2)

There was one other mountain I wanted to climb in the park, Hunter Peak (8,368’) and that is exactly what I spent the morning doing.  In 2013 there was a massive flood event which closed down Bear Canyon Trail and access to the Dog Canyon park entrance.  Because I am a runner, Ranger Mike suggested several 19-25 mile loops out of Dog Canyon and for this reason, I must return once it re-opens.  The Bear Canyon trail closure restricted access to Hunter Peak making it 11 miles round trip with 2,800 feet of vertical gain via Tejas trail.  Per usual this deterred people and I had the whole experience to myself.

The morning began as most except I immediately got lost in a wash.  The Tejas trail starts out of the Pine Springs camp ground but the flood took out a nice chunk.  There are cairns that lead you across the wash but I missed them and ended up walking through a bazillion rocks to the visitors center.  I finally found the crossover (31.89810N 104.82517W) and the real fun began.  The Tejas trail is extra loose but the views are jaw dropping.  It was 90 degrees by 9 a.m.

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I had my running pack on so I was moving but so many of the Texas trails are un-runnable because my ankle is in kindergarten learning its alphabets.  My motto is you do what you can with what you have.

At the top of the Tejas trail there is an obvious junction (31.91574N 104.84496W).  Left goes to Bush Mountain, straight continues on the Tejas trail, and right starts up the Bowl trail which leads to the Hunter Peak spur.  There is no sign that specifically says Hunter Peak.  The Bowl is nice and meanders through the high country forest of pine and Douglas fir.  I welcomed the shade.  With a little effort I reached the sign that does say Hunter Peak.  The Bowl continues around in a loop.

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It’s a steep push to the summit which raged with some of the most extreme wind I have ever experienced.  But fierce wind produces action hair!

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In the southwest there are lizards everywhere.  They dart out and try to trip you, they rustle in the shrubs to scare you, and sometimes they do pushups and flex at you.  But they rarely sit still.  On the way out a very special lizard let me put my phone all up in his grill and snap a photo.

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When I was almost back to the wash I passed a group of backpackers and talked with them.  Mid sentence a rattler popped off.  It was in the cliffs above us.  Terrifying.

I went back to camp, ate lunch, and headed out to do a high noon run of the Smith Spring trail.  This short 3 mile loop with 500 feet of vertical gain starts out of Frijole Ranch which is two miles north of the main park entrance.  It was incredibly hot but led to a nice watering hole.

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At this point it was late afternoon but activitying was far from over.  I headed back to camp, packed my camera gear in my Lowepro bag, and set out to do Devil’s Hall.  I heard mixed reviews about this hike from my French Canadian neighbors.  The general consensus was “eh.”  I knew it was not runnable because 80% of the “trail” is the wash.  I really had no idea what to expect but it ended up being my absolute favorite part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  This one is a must do.

There is a definite trade off to carrying camera gear.  It would not be a big deal to most but I like to move it move it…I like to move it, MOVE IT!  I am a runner…we like to run and I cant with 20 pounds of camera gear on my back.  Having already had my fill of running for the day I treated this evening exploration as a casual stroll.  Much to my surprise, casually strolling is super lax. Perhaps it was the evening light, the cooler temps, and the night birds song, but I was the happiest I had been in a long time.


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The trail dumps into the wash at 1.2 miles and from there it is a really fun scramble.  Follow the cairns, or as they call them in Texas, “the zen rocks.”

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Eventually the wash leads to an intimidating set of natural stairs.  It is not obvious to go up them but if you want to get to Devil’s Hall, you must.

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Devil’s hall is a passage and there is a sign.  Although there are cairns beyond the hall they ask you please stop because it is a protected wild life area.

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On the way out I found a nice place to sit and try to take a decent photo of a Turkey Vulture.  Wild life photography is incredibly difficult and requires patience.

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The Devil’s Hall hike was 4.8 miles with 1,300 feet of gain bringing my total for the day to 19 miles with 4,600 feet of gain.

With day two successfully under my belt I had a beer and star gazed with my neighbors.  I probably should have tried my hand at star photography but sometimes I have to be present in the moment.  Some photos I only need my brain to take and my memory to process.

Next up…my last day in the park.

“Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling”