Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry Xmas from Arizona

The last minute plan was to head to Chiricahua for some nice winter desert camping. However, as our trips to Arizona often turn out, we hit a snowstorm. Chiricahua was buried under 6 inches of snow and hidden under heavy clouds. So we continued a bit further west to Cochise Stronghold, also buried under 6 inches of snow, but with clear skies.

The dogs love to play "King of the rock", but they're not match for Troy.

Eureka discovered a new game by jumping on frozen huecos to break up the ice, then fishing sheets of ice out of the puddle and eating that ice. (The butt in the air means she has something super special in her mouth).
After Cochise, we moved on to Madera Canyon for a couple of nights. Where we discover many great (but icy) hiking trails, and a good mountain bike trail. Near the mountain bike trail was an undeveloped camping area, but I can't seem to find any info on either the bike trail or that camping area. It's all along a dirt road called Prospect Road.

After that, we moved on to the big city of Tucson. Below is a photo of the San Xavier Mission just south of town:
We spent our last night in Arizona at Mt Lemmon where we enjoyed more hiking and biking. Then we started the drive back home (via the Gila Wilderness), and naturally found ourselves in another snowstorm. We stopped for the night at Datil Well campground near Highway 60 in New Mexico, and awoke to find the road out buried under several inches of snow!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dog Bouldering

I thought we were going for a hike, but the dogs wanted to climb rocks. In fact, they're such awesome climbers that I never caught any of the ascents, just the down-climbs.

Easy warm-up on a nice friction slab.


This is the boulder problem that separates the dogs from the puppies. Eureka made a couple of failed attempts before Vixen quickly showed her how it's done. Eureka eventually got to the top with some help from her spotter. But she wasn't willing to try the down-climb.

Eureka takes note while Vixen prepares for the toughest down-climb of the day.
Eureka enjoying a brief moment of victory on top of the rock.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rope Reincarnation

Operation climbing gear renewal has commenced! Step 1: admit that my climbing ropes (purchased 10 and 8 years ago) have become a danger to myself and my climbing partners, and therefore must be retired. I don't mind buying a new rope so much, but the thought of these two good-looking ropes sitting in a landfill really bugs me. They haven't been used heavily in those years, but honestly I can't remember how much they have been used, and everything I've read says that time matters as much as use anyway.

So, the ropes are not going to the landfill, but they will no longer be climbed on, and I will NOT keep things that will never be used sitting around in closets. The 8-year-old rope is now a doormat. This 9.8mm, 60m rope was purchased because my 50m rope simply wasn't long enough for El Potrero Chico. Needless to say, this rope has enjoyed some great adventures. Perhaps it would prefer a more glorious retirement than being a doormat, but this way, I'll get to see it everyday.

Find some excellent instructions here. If you can tie a figure-8 follow-through, then you can turn your rope into a fancy doormat. (It takes more time than a figure-8 follow-through, but really it's only a wee bit more complex).

Here's my test piece. Don't ask me why I thought crochet thread would be easier to work with than climbing rope, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

This is how the whole thing gets started:
And the (mostly) finished product. I still need to fix the bottom so it doesn't fall apart when picked up and cut the long end off.

As a foot note, this whole exercise was also excellent training for the puppy to learn proper rope etiquette. She quickly learned to keep her teeth and paws off the rope, all in an environment where there's no climbing to be distracted from.

Now for the other rope... I was hoping to make a hammock, but I can't find easy enough instructions. Any suggestions?

UPDATE: New and improved photos. I brushed the bottom-side of the mat with contact cement to help it hold it's shape. It worked great. Now that I'm able to pick it up and carry it outside, I have better photos.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Eureka is a 5-month-old puppy who joined our family last week. She's quite adventurous and is keeping Vixen busy. Supposedly she is a heeler/pointer cross.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sierra Blancas

On Thursday afternoon, we arrived at the Rio Bonito trailhead in the Sierra Blancas, near Ruidoso, NM. This is a little piece of the state where Texans outnumber New Mexicans 20 to 1. And horses are in equal numbers to people. Seriously, there were pairs of hunters with three or four horses. Apparently, that's what it takes to pack out a whole elk without ATVs.

Our goal was to do some backpacking, but there seemed to be numerous short loop hikes. So, we opted for a 13-mile or so loop that brought us back to our vehicle the next day. Then on Saturday, we headed out for another loop which brought us back on Sunday.

Fall is in full swing. We missed the aspen, but the oaks are still changing. On Thursday and Friday the elk were bugling non-stop. On Saturday morning, that stopped suddenly as people with rifles and camouflage arrived.
I found some enticing rock cliffs, but I couldn't find a way to the base (without ropes). In the distance, we were overlooking the Valley of Fires to the west. We could also see as far as White Sands and the Organ mountains. The views from this little mountain are spectacular since they are grassy rather than forested along the ridges.

My hiking partners enjoying the sunset at our first campsite.
On Day 2, our goal was that pointy peak, called Nogal Peak. We couldn't find a way up it through the scrub oak, but had fun trying. The other side of the peak may be more promising. Vixen is watching a bear in the distance, our second bear of the day.Speaking of wildlife, let me give you the list of what we saw in those four days in a small mountain range:
  • Countless elk
  • 2 bears
  • Several flocks of turkeys
  • Countless osprey
  • 1 golden eagle
  • A few deer
Below, Vixen and I are enjoying the view from Elk Point on Saturday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This morning

Hubbers opening up his birthday gift from his parents this morning:
Looking inside, it's just what he wanted... a balloon full of hot air. Actually, at this point, it's just air blown from two huge fans (not hot) and the crew is running around inside making sure it inflates properly.
Now it's starting to get hot enough in there to lift the basket.To begin our flight, we flew low over the bosque and Rio Grande where the cottonwoods were busy putting on their fall display.Views of the Sandias. We could also see as far as the Jemez mountains and Mt Taylor. Despite the clouds, it was a calm morning.
Bonus points to anybody who can name this intersection:
Deflating after a gentle landing:
In all my years of living in Albuquerque and seeing hundreds of balloons overhead, this is my first time in one. Definitely a worthwhile experience. It would also be fun to take a balloon ride while visiting another place to see the scenery. It felt like a different experience for us as locals than it did for the "tourists" in our basket.

You can see more photos at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wheeler Peak

Wheeler Peak may not be the fairest of them all, but Wheeler is the tallest of all New Mexico peaks at 13,161ft above sea-level. And hence, we walked up it last weekend. It was a gorgeously sunny day but a rather chilly night. We decided to take the longer trail starting from Taos Ski Valley and hiking via Bull of the Woods meadow because it was described as having a very scenic ridge walk. It's also a bit long for Vixen's short legs, so we hiked in 5 miles on Saturday and set up camp at the Middle Fork of the Red River, then continued the last 2 miles or so to the summit on Sunday before hiking out. Backpacking also gave us a chance to camp in a beautiful place, rather than camping at the trailhead in the ski area parking lot.

To orient you... Troy is standing on Frazer Mountain on the way up on Saturday. Our campsite will be in those trees toward the bottom left of the photo. Behind Troy, the tallest-looking peak is Walter. Wheeler is further back and looks shorter.

Our campsite next to the Middle Fork of the Red River. There seemed to be a shorter trail up from Red River here.

A whole herd of big-horn sheep whose horns were not as big as I thought they should be.

That peak behind him is not Wheeler, but Walter.

On the summit.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Laboring up a mountain

For Labor Day, we visited Hubber's grandma... but along the way we found this mountain that just needed to be hiked. It's Missouri Mountain standing at 14,067 feet tall in the vicinity of Leadville, CO. We started just after sunrise in the chilly 35-degree morning. The aspen were just barely starting to turn yellow. Bonus points if you can find the dog in the first photo.
This is really one of the nicest 14er hikes. It started in a forest, then proceeds up an alpine valley...
... and finishes with a good long ridge walk. You can't see them at this resolution, but there are people standing on the summit (the highest point in the photo below).
That's me just below the summit block. Those last few steps were pretty tough.
At the end, we're rewarded with a great view of mountains stretching into the distance. And gathering clouds, which can mean only one thing...
... hail on the way down. We were off the ridge before it hit, but still above tree-line. This was Vixen's first hike up a 14er and she still had plenty of squirrel-chasing energy at the end of the hike.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sidecar obsession

I've never understood this obsession, but if it means he can bike to the park with the dog, that seems worthwhile.