Sunday, March 6, 2011

Adventures on the Border

Holy smokes! So much has happened since Big Bend it's hard to know where to start (and how to prevent this from turning into ten pages of blahblahblah).

This was our route:

We've been following the southwestern border with Mexico because it's still a bit too cold to venture farther north.

And here are a few highlights from each place we've visited:

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas: Our hiking plans were foiled once by winds gusting to 80 mph. Nearly foiled again by a backcountry fire! We hiked Guadalupe Peak, elevation 8749 feet, the highest point in Texas. Also, I earned my Junior Ranger badge and patch.

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico: The caves are more vast and more highly decorated (stalagtites, stalagmites, the whole deal) than you could possibly imagine. We walked down the Natural Entrance and around the Big Room. Though there were facilities for throngs of tourists, we had the entire silent, eerie place to ourselves (yay February visit!).

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico: I thought this would be cheesy, but WHOA it's SO cool! It was so much fun to run up and down the dunes, throwing sand and ourselves into the air, enjoying the contrast between the pure white sand and the brilliantly blue sky.

Las Cruces, New Mexico: Shitty weather and a need to talk to someone other than each other led us to another fantastic Couchsurfing host. I helped her made "authentic" Southwestern enchiladas with mole, played with the three dogs, and chatted about outdoor adventures.

Franklin Mountains State Park, Texas: Our Couchsurfing hosts tipped us off to a little crag called Sneed's Cory outside El Paso. Dave got to christen his new rope, and I made my first sport lead outdoors (on Spirit, 5.6).

Gila National Forest, Wilderness, and Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico: A return to pine forests after three weeks in sandy scrub was refreshing... and COLD! Overnight temps fell to 15-25ยบ F. Chuck, our volunteer tour guide, made the Cliff Dwellings mysterious and exciting. We did an overnight trip up the Little Bear Canyon—a narrow, undulating crack—to camp at its junction with the Middle Fork of the Gila River under soaring, red cliffs. I accomplished 32 stream crossings without whining or anxiety to get from camp to the Jordan Hot Springs and back.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona: The saguaro cacti remind me of human-like trees, or tree-like humans, and they are delightful. In our wanderings around the Sonoran desert, we missed a turn and ended up in a dead-end canyon. Dave continued bushwhacking, while I tucked myself into a rock overcrop with my journal and my thoughts.

At the moment I'm in Tucson, a city whose highways and boulevards sprawl in every direction, a city with abundant sunshine and air but no water (like most southwestern cities, I guess). Today is our rest day, which means RESTING, and also straightening up the car, getting an oil change, putting together some food, internet time at the County Library, and catching up with friends and family.

From here, we're thinking of backtracking east a bit to Cochise Stronghold for a day of climbing, then continuing (surprise, surprise!) west to Joshua Tree National Park in California. We will be in Los Angeles by the 13th for Dave to fly to a job on the East Coast.

Those are the updates for now; library is closing so I gotta run!  I'll write again the next time I have internet access!

P.S. My best photos are posted at The albums from White Sands and Saguaro are my favorites.


  1. You went to Carlsbad, yay! (And other places in NM as well!) :D

  2. Wowzer, you guys have been all over the place.