Southwest Conservation Corps - Fourth Hitch October 16-27, 2010

This was our only "backcountry" hitch, doing maintenance on Major Creek Trail. We saw nobody on the trail until Friday rolled around, 5 days in). Photos start with organizing provisions on Sunday night before hitting the trail the next day. On Monday morning we broke camp, packed provisions, gear, and tools, and made our way to our first trail camp, 2.75 miles in. On Tuesday morning Mike, Paige, and I scouted out the full trail, hiking through last nights snow to treeline. Finding outfitter tents, open to public use, we moved camp at the end of our work day. The use of warm canvas tents with fireplace, lanterns, cookware, easy water access, and even an enclosed latrine was definitely a morale boost. On this trail we cleared about 4.5 miles of corridor, including the removal of about a dozen 8"-14" deadfalls. At the end of our last hitch we made our way to Salida and further on to Mountain Princeton for "graduations." Our final destination was unknown and there was grumbling about having to camp in the snow for no good reason, but we were delighted to discover that a large cabin had been reserved for us when the snow began to gather. Crews indulged in hot tubs, showers, pizza, ping pong, fussball, and movies for the night, gathering back at SCC in the morning for final de-rig.

Clare gets right to work on her rations

"Tools of the trade"

Scouting out the trail, going from the valley, up to snowy heights

Followed wolf tracks briefly

The first dinner in the outfitter tents

Trail-drunk, only a few days in

Where the hell are they taking us?

What?! A Cabin? You mean we're not camping in the snow?

And there is a hot tub and showers?!

A brisk morning

Taos - Rio Grande Gorge

I spent about 48 hours in Taos, during which time Claire and I went to the Rio Grande Canyon. The helix cloud photo is along Hwy 17, over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Vortex contrail over Sangre de Cristos

Mount Elbert

We arrived in the Half Moon camping area in time to gather wood, start a fire, and cook at tasty meal over it before nightfall. The following morning we would hike to the summit of the 2nd highest mountain in the lower 48. Our plan for an early start on the mountain was overcome by the disheartening chilly morning mountain air. Mike and Matt drove 20 minutes out for coffee.

We left our tents up, and head straight away to trailhead, starting up at about 10:30 am. We met Mike and Matt's friend from SCC, Genevieve, who had summited with a friend of hers. They were on their way back down. Further up the mountain, the 2-3 ft snow began to seem too much. We pushed through, loosing one out of every three or four steps to the slick slope. We spent several hours at the summit, making tea and heating up some of last nights dinner with Matt's Jetboil Flash.

We started down the dark side of the mountain, with the sun falling quick. We reached treeline just before dusk. The sun set, and we made the last 30-60 minutes of the hike by the darkness of night. One more night by the cool mountain stream, and I was ready for Taos!