Friday, September 21, 2012

On The Road Again

I wasn't home for very long before hitting the road again. I appear to be spending more time on the road than I am at home anymore. I go home to work and support my vagabond lifestyle. This life suits me well.

My buddy Jason and myself set out at 4 am on Thursday morning to do a little pre-fall Natchez Trace trip. Our time off finally matched up to where we could hit the open road. This is the perfect trip for seeing a lot of territory and not spending a ton of money.

We spent most of the day, yesterday, hiking sections of the original trace and checking out some historic sights. I finally got to see the Windsor ruins! I get extremely amped up about things like this. All that remains of the civil war era mansion are a number of massive columns.

Following the ruins we headed a little further into Port Gibson to visit Grand Gulf Battlefield. It was the sight of one of the Civil Wars naval battles.

The trace is fairly unused this time of year. We were the only campers at the large Rocky Springs campground last night. Today we saw very little traffic on our way up to Jeff Busby park. I think we saw more deer than cars.

The weather has been nice and cool at night. We laid out on the benches of the picnic table last night and watched the satellites pass overhead. Tonight, after dinner, we are heading up Little (tiny) Mountain to watch the sun set over this wonderful state and then do a night hike, by headlamps, back down to the campground.

I'll update as I have time to do so.

Until Next Time,

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Expedition Colorado: Blue Lakes Pass

The first time I remember looking at the clock, after falling asleep that first night, was 10:36 pm.  I thought to myself, "are you kidding me!?"  "Is it really only 10:30!?"  I felt like I had been asleep for hours, but unfortunately it appears that I had only taken a nap.  I did some research on sleeping after a big night of drinking some time back.  I noticed that I only slept for a very short time on those nights.  What I learned was that, following consumption of excess alcohol, the body falls immediately into deep sleep.  All of the much needed REM sleep is completely bypassed and that's why one wakes up early and feeling quite fatigued.  I imagine it was much the same reason that I had only been asleep for a few hours.  Following that hike in, I was so tired that I passed out into immediate deep sleep.

As I lay there on my back, in that tent, I started thinking.  I was mostly thinking about going back to sleep and my inability to achieve that goal.  I stepped out of the tent to walk around a bit.  Places like that are where stars are really seen.  There is no ambient light to drown them out.  I looked up in amazement at the arms of the Milky Way above my head.  I watched as satellites traversed the cosmos above me.  Seeing the stars like this conjured up the images of the few times  I have had such clear viewing as this.  The two times that came to mind were only a few months apart.  The first time was in March of 2005 while I was camping out in Del Rio, Texas at Devil's River State Park.  The fact that the park is so far from anything coupled with the clear desert sky, makes for some amazing star gazing.  The second time was in August of 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.  It is the only time I have seen the stars like that at home.  Without any power, there was nothing to drown them out.

I eventually fell back asleep off and on until the sun was finally shining in through the thin walls of the tent.  When I crawled out of the tent I could truly feel, for the first time, the extent of my leg soreness.  Apparently walking up a mountain is tough on the legs!  (please take heed to my sarcasm here)  I brewed a little bit of coffee and ate a bit of breakfast to try and motivate myself to get going that morning.  The plan, on this day, was to climb the three miles up toward the blue lakes pass and upper lakes then decide what we want to do from there.  

The trail to the Blue Lakes Pass turns immediately uphill soon after leaving the lower lake.  My legs were so tight that I didn't have much motivation, at this point, to do much of anything.  We stopped for a few minutes to stretch and I began to feel a little bit better.  

The views heading up the trail increased with the altitude.  The pure blue of the lower lake was intensely amplified from above.  I looked down and picked our tent out of the the trees near the shore of the lake.  

Apparently I decided to try and camouflage myself with the color of the lake!

The views only get better with the elevation.  It gave us a decent excuse to stop and catch our breath.  We would say, "we are just taking in the views!"  It was better than decent, it was a great excuse.  Looking across that mountain range was astonishing.  Where does something this huge even come from?  

We got our pace down to a science winding in and out of the trees headed up to the middle lake.  When I would start to get winded I would tell myself, "just slow down."  It's as easy as that.  When winded, just slow down.  When we broke the tree line we started guessing when we would encounter the next lake.  

The view back across the middle lake.

After another step up and a little more time on the trail we finally reached the upper lake.  The upper lake is situated at 11,720 ft.  Every step on the trail I find myself reaching the highest altitude my lungs have ever encountered.  

Myself sitting at the upper lake.  The blue lakes pass switches up the grassy 
patch beyond the lake.

As we looked up the pass we already had a bit of doubt.  It was high, steep, and intimidating, but we were willing to give it a shot.  We could see fellow climbers high up on the pass.  We did it like anything else, one switch at a time.  Higher and higher we climbed.  Eventually we got above the grass and that's where it got a little bit sketchy.  The switches stretched out with the increased steepness.  Without anymore vegetation the trail got loose.  Then what was once a level trail began to angle off down the mountain.  With tired legs I found myself unsure of my footing, but we pressed on.  At the top of one of the switches we took a break sitting on a big rock waiting for some of the descending climbers to pass.  Brandon looked over and said, "I'm not going to make it."  With the weight he was carrying and the fatigue in his legs, he wasn't willing to risk a fall.  He told me to press on and he would meet me back down at the lake.  About this time a group from Tennessee, that we had been passing back and forth all day, passed us again and let us know how much worse the trail is from here.  They turned back at the next switch.  I'm smarter than attempting a climb alone and headed back down the mountain with Brandon.  

Looking back across the two upper lakes from the pass.

Myself high up on the pass

Looking back up the pass.  If you enlarge this pic and look closely you can pick Brandon
out high on the pass.  Near the center of the photograph, above and to the left of where the 
grass ends, the little black dot is Brandon.  He had to head back up to find his sunglasses.

On the way back down to the campsite we started formulating new plans.  We didn't want to head back up the pass again the next day because we wanted to see new areas.  We decided that we were going to pack back out the next morning and head around to the other side of Mt. Sneffels Wilderness.  We would hike in from that side to see the land from a different angle, but this day wasn't over yet.

While we were hiking above the campsite we could see a smooth white patch in the rock slide beside the lake.  Brandon was convinced that it was "sand."  I wasn't so convinced.  I believed, or at least wanted to believe, that it was snow that was still hanging around from the prior year.  When we finally reached the campsite, we dropped our gear and started heading that way.  We picked through all the loose rocks, around the lake, and carefully made our way in the direction we thought the mysterious white patch was.  I'll just let the pictures explain who was right and who was wrong!

The mysterious white patch as see from above. (to the left)

What's the verdict Brandon?

That looks like snow to me!

Of course the guy from Mississippi would make snow angels!

It was a great way to end that day.  We stayed there and literally played in that snow for probably half an hour.  We looked like a couple of kids out there.  This is the closest I have been to anything resembling snow in a LONG time. We headed back to the campsite once we had our fill and called it a day early again.  

This day was over, but not the trip.

To be continued.

Until Next Time,

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Expedition Colorado: The Hike In

The trip actually started a day before we did any hiking.  I was up by four, the morning prior, to begin my trip out west.  I had an early flight out of Gulfport with a connection in Atlanta before finally meeting up with Brandon in El Paso.  We pointed the car north and began our road trip up to Colorado.  There is really not much to say about this trip.  One can imagine what goes on for ten hours of driving.  There was some general catching up and scanning through the radio until our late arrival at the trailhead around 12:30.

Brandon was up long before me that first morning.  He was stirring before daylight.  I didn't have that problem.  I've slept in my truck numerous times on road/camping trips, so I was quite content with catching up on a little rest before our hike in.  

I finally got up around 7:30 and started thinking about breakfast.  When I finally got out of the car I was, for the first time, able to take in my surroundings.  It was dark during our journey in, so the shadows were the only thing hinting to what was around us.  Looking up at the mountain range, we were about to hike into, was awe inspiring.  To a boy from the gulf coast of Mississippi, this is a huge change of scenery.  I've never seen mountains like this first hand.  The anticipation of what was about to come was at its peak at this moment.

The view from the car.

I signed my name into the registry at 8:30 that morning before beginning the hike up to the lowest of the lakes.  I did my fair share of training to prepare for this hike.  The only problem is, there is not any way to account for the altitude change that one will experience when coming from sea level.  That was the most intimidating factor for me when starting out.

3.3 miles to the lower blue lake.  That can't be too bad right?  Right???

Almost immediately, beyond the trailhead, the trail takes the turn up.  There are very few level or downhill sections on the way to the lower blue lake.  We kept mentioning the fact that when we are headed back out it will be all down hill.  About 15 minutes into the hike we both had to shed our jackets because we were quickly becoming sweaty.  We pressed on and continued going up and up.

The short hand of our climb:  We had to break at nearly every switchback to catch our breath.  I noticed that my respiratory and heart rates would elevate quickly, but at rest would also come down very quickly.  I started coughing somewhere around halfway up and then noticed an occasional wheeze when I was near 3/4 of the way to the lake.  It took us over four hours to climb the 3.3 miles to the spot where we planned to camp.  I know that is a crawling pace, but trying to adjust to the altitude was murder.

I didn't initially feel bad while we were setting up camp.  I was just hanging out eating a little lunch when the headache started to set in.  Before too long my head was throbbing, I was feeling a little nauseated, and I was overwhelmingly exhausted.  I did a bit of research on altitude sickness before I left, because I knew that this would be a real potential for me.  The best advice was to get rest, drink plenty of water, and pop a few Tylenol.  I did just that and sacked out for a few hours.  

I woke up feeling like a new man.  I was seeing the area through a whole new set of eyes.  The beauty was outstanding.  Just looking up at the mammoth mountains surrounding us was quite exciting.  This was the first time my eyes have gazed upon something this amazing.  I've seen plenty of pictures of the area around the lower blue lake, but like everything else the pictures don't do justice to seeing the area with one's own eyes.  The lake was ultimately clear and blue.  The blue was so vivid that it drew my attention away from everything else.  I didn't want to leave the banks of that lake, so I sat down and took it in for a while. 

Brandon and myself next to the lake

Brandon taking in the clear blue water.

Following my nap, I was finally game for getting out and checking out the area a little bit.

Home for the next few nights.

The stream where we filtered our water from.

I took it easy for the rest of the day after that nap.  I walked around the area for a little bit and did all the level area exploring I could.  I refilled my water bottles and cooked dinner.  That water was ice cold and so tasty, but i've never been one to risk drinking it untreated or unfiltered.  Following dinner I headed back down to the shore to chill out and write for a little bit before calling it a day, but I didn't last very long.  The exhaustion was just too much and I was out before dark.

to be continued...

Until Next Time,

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Expedition Colorado

The day has finally come.  I fly out first thing in the morning headed towards El Paso to meet up with Brandon and begin our adventure.  

My mess from last night....

....has officially become my finely tuned expedition machine!

I doubt i'll be doing any mobile blogging from the field this time, but if you want to keep up with any updates I may post you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter.  

A full update will be up when I return!  

Until Next Time,

Saturday, September 1, 2012

He's Got the Moves Like Jagger: Part 2!

My original Moves Like Jagger post was one of the most popular in the history of this little blog.  I have always hoped for an encore performance and until last night it hadn't happened.  Yes, you heard that right; until last night!  

I was extremely happy to be granted a bonus night off, last night, after our ordeal camping out at the hospital for Hurricane Isaac.  A couple of friends and myself decided to head down to our favorite local spot, Mezo's, for a night of entertainment and shenanigans.  The Captain Midnight Band was playing, so the good news was that we were at least going to listen to some great music if nothing else.  

I noticed something pretty early on in the night.  I recognized on of the karaoke "sensations"  from my original post.  I knew that I recognized the guy that was with her, but I still just couldn't put my finger on it.  It was only when I heard him talk that my suspicions were confirmed.  It was Jagger himself.  This was a pretty rough looking guy the first time I met him.  I'm not stepping out on any limbs by saying that last night he looked like generalized dog shit.  Whatever combination of pharmaceutical products and booze that Jagger is using is not working out for his benefit.  It's almost guaranteed that i'm going to run into this guy at some point coming into my unit at the hospital.

We didn't have any karaoke for Jagger to show off his moves this time, but when Captain Midnight started throwing out the funkiest of jams he had no more excuse to stay still.   He was instantly the most famous person in the room.  I saw phones going up and non-stop flashes for the first few minutes of his performance.  He was tossing his arms around as he was spinning about in senseless circles.  He was right up in the faces of all the band members attempting to sing along.  I was basically just waiting for him to get tossed.  Eventually he did knock over the lead singers mic stand and was pulled away from the band and shown a line of the floor that he was, now, no longer allowed to cross.  

He danced like a crazy person for a few more songs before I ended up losing track of him.  He was overly entertaining, but eventually the crowd showed up and he was washed back into non-existence.  I'm glad I got to experience this again.  It's always nice to see old friends!  

I got a present for all of you this time too!  Instead of taking pictures, I decided to just go ahead and take a video.  I knew he wouldn't care.  Enjoy!

Until Next Time,

On a side note:  It's less than a week before my trip out to Colorado!