All posts by phieldnotes

TR-GUMO Shumard backcountry site 11/16/2017

Gaiamaps link

Tracklog out to Shumard Backcountry site
Tracklog out to Shumard Backcountry site

CalTopo map

I spent most of a week in mid-November (2017) at GUMO. Camped 4 days/nights; at Pine Spring CG and in the middle a out/back overnight to the Shumard Canyon backcountry site. I don’t have a *lot* of info to add; i’ve done the El Cap/Overlook trail several times over the decades so didn’t take many photos. I had never done the Shumard Canyon stretch before so this was all new to me. It turned out to be quite challenging due to the trail conditions, and I took very few pics (even though i’d intended to do some night photography). That happens.

Peak color had just passed, it seems. I did Devil’s Hall on Tuesday morning and there was some, but most fading to brown.

Here is some info, I don’t think it’s on their website:

Pine Springs CG was moderately full. I got there Monday afternoon after a drive from Austin, several spots available (this is #6) but every day at sunset you could sense a panic of the late arriving campers staking out their claims. The one day I was around at midday, I walked around and noticed several sites available.

Double checking pack; that’s a new tent btw, but too big for backpacking I think. The tent I was going to use seems to have gotten wet in storage at some point and fly attachment point tore off. So I got a new one, the Marmot Tungsten 2P shown here, but then figured “what the hell” and took no tent on the backpack.

Started at dawn Wednesday, looking back at Pine Springs:

El Capitan (Texas version). My destination is around the bottom of that, then a few more miles, then down a canyon.

Salt Basin Overlook; I’ve done this hike this far several times over the decades so didn’t really spend much time photographing. I often recommend this part of the hike for people looking for a hike there.
The rest of the hike, particularly beyond the second horse tie ups, got gnarly to a degree.
After the overlook, the trail becomes terra incognita to me; and it (the trail) was in very bad shape. Barely maintained, overgrown with Cholla cactus, Prickly Pear, Mesquite …insert your favorite grabbing/poking/sticking succulent here.

Also in many places the “trail” was just an idea, little more than a game trail, six inches wide on the side of the mountain. I had spoken with an NPS worker the day before and he had said, “yeah, it’s bad in places… a horse fell off the trail over there.” I think I saw the spot and he didn’t fall so much as the trail just gave out beneath him. or her.

My ultimate destination is the backcountry site right at the exit of the canyon, just below center pic.

(cont. in part 2)
(part 2.)
A few hours later, after a 1,500′ or so descent, I’m there, and I’m ready to stop. Bed for the night had a beautiful view.

The trip had taken more out of me than I had anticipated, the rough trail combined with the rather short day meant i couldn’t take my time, although I certainly wasn’t making good time. So there was a bit of a sense of urgency when I got to camp. I began recalculating my water use/needs and thought “Damn, this may cut it close.” I figured I had three full liters plus what was left in my hydration pack inside my pack. I wasn’t that hungry so skipped using any water for supper (or in the morning) and figured i would drink out of my pack at night, which i did, and felt good in the morning ready to go. ( I ate gorp (of course!) and jerky).

Looking back up the canyon to Guadalupe Peak. Hmm, I have to climb back up there in the morning…
Oh well, enjoy the sunset.

As I was packing up to start the return hike in the morning, I transferred, carefully, the water from one of my 1.5L bottles to the hydration bladder. I had somewhat luxuriously swigged half of the other 1.5l bottle. A little later, as I hoisted the pack to my shoulders, I noticed a few drops of water on a stone near my pack. Obviously, drops of water ain’t normal to see on stones in that part of the county, and i had an “O Shit” moment. Put my pack down and stuck my hand in the sleeve that holds the water bladder and yeah, about an inch of water down there and running into the sand. I made a somewhat comical scened attempting to recover that water, (maybe got one or two cups into a bottle.)
So suddenly I realized i would need to ration myself on the return. Which I did; I had the now depleted bit left in my Platypus bladder, plus about .8-1.0 L in the other bottle (my reserve). I told myself I needed to get back out of the canyon first, thence on to the overlook hopefully without dipping into the reserve.

After the hike up to the top, still had a long way to go but the most difficult part physically was done.

I made it back to the overlook, after a lot of fairly slow going; as I limited my water consumption. At the overlook I took a couple of gluttonous long pulls on the hydration bag and on the second one heard the rattle of a nearly empty Platypus bag. Oh well, it was about how I’d planned it anyway. I pulled out the reserve bottle and rationed it over the next 4-5 miles, a finger at a time. So, I made it back. But it was unpleasant. And very slow. And educational.
My next step would have been to drop the pack. I was just surprised by how slowly i was going on the uphills, even the fairly mild ones on the return trek.
**I did have a Spot tracking device. I was loathe to use it but would have if absolutely necessary.

I hate to admit it but I do believe getting old has screwed up my mental calculations of how hard something to do is, how much effort it takes out of you.
For next time, I’m carrying an extra liter on top of any calculations I may make for water, and sticking in the bottom of the pack as a true reserve.
Also seriously considering the ramifications of catastrophic failure, such as the bladder rupturing (not just a leak at the top seal).

Ken Sleight-Seldom Seen Smith

Ken Sleight was an old river runner/desert rat who was the inspiration for Ed Abbey’s character “Seldom Seen Smith” in The Monkey Wrench Gang.”

I like that he calls Lake Powell “Lake Foul.”

“It was probably foolish and masochistic of me to have hung around and watched it happen. But I just had to. At first it would rise a foot overnight, and you saw things you loved go under. First it was Music Temple. Then it was Gregory Natural Bridge. Then Cathedral in the Desert. I’d think of those fools that said this was a good thing, that we needed this dam. Then I’d see Hidden Passage or some other lovely spot with no name go under…it was unbearable.

“And I’ll always remember the sign at Rainbow Bridge. There was a Park Service sign along the trail and it read: ‘God’s Work. Tread Lightly.’ The next week, the lake came up and buried the sign and the trail.” By late 1964, the reservoir had reached Hite and Glen Canyon was gone…for now.”

Here are historical data on the levels at “Lake Foul,” among other things…U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Martin Litton

Martin Litton was an uncompromising conservationist of the West, and another legendary foe of the Glen Canyon dam.

He was the movement’s Jeremiah — the crier in the wilderness who spotted the threats, condemned the desecraters and rallied the leadership to the defining preservation conflicts of the early 1950s through the ’80s.

David Brower, who as the Sierra Club’s seminal leader in the last half of the 20th century was compelled to make some of the compromises Mr. Litton fought, was known to call him “our conscience.”

–New York Times

NY Times obit

About Martin Litton

Roger Reisch-GUMO NP

I discovered his obituaries in the regional media websites (Trans-Pecos Texas, Southern New Mexico) when I was looking for info for  the NPS ranger I’d met way back in my earliest trip to Dog Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

(I include the NPS page here, but I’ve also captured the page to a PDF if the park service changes the link in the future.)

I’ll start from way back when. Continue reading Roger Reisch-GUMO NP

Wheeler Peak-New Mexico Highpoint

[Original date August 31, 1997]

Trip report from a hike to the summit of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico (13,161′) undertaken August 31, 1997.

Wheeler Peak is the highest point in New Mexico at 13,161′. The hike to the summit via Bull of the Woods is about 15 miles round trip, and has an elevation gain from 9,000 to 13,161′. This climb is non-technical during most of the summer. But extreme care should be taken during the thunderstorm season-July and August-since much of the Wheeler Peak trail is above timberline and exposed. Getting to and off the summit before thunderstorms this time of year will entail a near-dawn departure.

Continue reading Wheeler Peak-New Mexico Highpoint

Colin Fletcher

19fletcherColin Fletcher Obituary, June 19, 2007, New York Times

Chris Townsend Outdoors on Colin Fletcher

Thousand Mile Summer Revisited

Article from Adventure Journal, May, 2018

History of Backpacking Gear

The “History of Gear Project” site is remarkable!

This guy has, crudely in some respects, patched together an interesting series of pages and links on the historical roots of most backcountry gear and gear companies today. A lot of this information is not easily found even with today’s wide-reaching search algorithms.

From the origins of companies like Sierra Designs, legendary Berkeley-based Ski Hut,  little-known Oregon outfits…if you have any interest at all in how what you carry on your back came to be you’ll be engrossed in these pages.



Here are some of the tents I used back in the day:

You can just see the corner of this old canvas tent.197711_3_29


Photo 12 of 102 (1)
Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado, ca. 1997

Continue reading Tents