Combination Trip 2010
This was without a doubt the longest trip I have yet taken. Although it can be broken up into four separate phases, counted as a whole it lasted longer and covered more miles (and held more variety!) than any of my previous voyages.
This was also a learning experience. During this time, God spoke to me about issues in my life that I need to deal with—most specifically, seeking His will in these areas instead of relying on my own will and wisdom. I met more people—both new and old—and explored places both fresh and familiar. I watched two people I have known since they were children exchange wedding vows, and spoke in places about my work in Brazil.
Like in 2005, I had to spend unplanned time in a small town in Colorado while my car underwent repairs. I drove through a storm that threatened to sweep my car right off the road. And one time I sat in a Starbucks and configured a user on our network server down in Brazil (the wonder of modern communications!). And I returned yet again to Yellowstone, but this time sought new sights instead of the same old, popular geysers and trails. Overall, there were positive and negative aspects. This was the wettest trip I have ever taken, but I was able to adapt my camping style. I took around 1200 pictures and saw marvelous sights. I fulfilled dreams. In short, it was definitely worth it.
Will I do another trip like this? Five years ago I would have said “definitely!” Today, I do not know. It isn't that I no longer want to; rather, it is that I have come to realize that I must submit these decisions to the LORD, which is something I have not honestly done before. And I also sense that my future is far less certain than before. This is not a bad or negative thing. Rather, it is the natural result of deciding to really trust God with it instead of deciding it for myself. He has a far greater imagination than I do. All I can say is, whatever my future does hold, it will be greater and more exciting than anything I could have envisioned.
And so, with that in mind, I present Combination Trip 2010.
I departed from Tucson on May 24th. This was the first pleasantly cool morning in several days, and it made driving the freeway much more enjoyable. The first phase of this trip was mostly intended to visit friends on my way to Wisconsin to visit family, but I did start it off with a stay in a campground in New Mexico, at a place called Red Canyon in the Cibola National Forest. Here is a picture of my site.
Campsite at Red Canyon
The next morning I made my way north through back roads, intending to cut off the loop over to Albuquerque and get more quickly and directly onto I-25 north. While driving between I-40 and I-25 I noticed a “Ching! Ching!” noise coming from under the car. Finally, I stopped and took a look, and discovered that the tailpipe was hanging loose and banging on the pavement. A chintzy weld job done by Midas in Tucson had given way. I tried driving a bit further, hoping to find an auto shop (Midas, anyone? It was still under warranty), but in the end there was nothing. Afraid that I was about to lose the whole thing, I finally took a piece of rope and tied the end of the exhaust pipe to the frame of the car behind the bumper. I was concerned that heat from the pipe might melt or burn the rope, but by God's grace it held until I got to my friends' place in Colorado.
Tailpipe Tied in Place
I had visited my friends Jim & Julie back during Rocky Mountain High '05, and since I was passing through Colorado near where they live, it was only natural that I stop and visit them again. Previously, they had been living in Colorado Springs, but had now moved to the nearby town of Peyton. (Actually, they live closer to Falcon, but the Post Office calls it Peyton.) After an enjoyable visit (I had actually seen them in Tucson only a few weeks earlier, but it was still nice to see them again), Jim produced a roll of baling wire, which I used to replace the rope and tie the exhaust pipe firmly in place. After that, it lasted until I had it properly repaired at a Midas shop in Green Bay.
I left on a foggy Wednesday morning, intending to spend the night in Nebraska. However…
There is an organization called Wycliffe Associates, which is associated with Wycliffe Bible Translators. One service offered by WA is the hospitality roster, where WA members make their homes available to WBT members who are traveling. Before leaving Tucson, I had made arrangements to stay with four WA couples on this trip. The first one was in Lincoln, Nebraska. In our last communication, they had the correct date and were expecting me. Imagine my shock when I arrived at their door, waited until nearly 9:00 PM for them to return home—and was then turned away to fend for myself.
For what it's worth, I did receive an abject apology the next day when I arrived in Minnesota. But not knowing the area, and not wishing to spend upwards of a hundred dollars at a hotel (there was a nearby state park campground, but registration was closed for the night), I finally ended up parking at a rest area in Iowa and spending the night in the car. Fortunately, the seat leans back almost horizontal, and is actually quite comfortable for sleeping. And I also made the discovery that Iowa rest areas have free wireless Internet, so I was able to catch up on email in the morning before I continued on my way to Wisconsin.
In Minnesota, I also visited some friends that I had stopped to see in 2005, the Jores. Like Jim & Julie, they had also moved. I spent a night with them and worked on their computers until the middle of the next day, after which I departed for Wisconsin.
I spent a week in the state where I grew up, with my sister and brother-in-law near the small town of Pulaski. On the day after Memorial Day I took the car in to the local Midas shop, where they repaired the defective muffler installation that had caused the exhaust pipe to break free and hang loose. This time, they used the proper clamps.
Before I left I was able to catch up with email again, as well as send out a brief update about my travels.
Travel Trailer where I stayed
I left Wisconsin on Friday morning in a steady downpour. By the time I reached Illinois, the rain was ending, and I met a friend and her daughter at a local McDonalds, where we sat and visited over lunch. This was the first time I had seen her child. Her husband was working and I did not have the opportunity to meet him again. After lunch, I continued through Chicago and into Indiana.
I was planning to spend the weekend with a family in the city of Richmond. However, being a long drive from Pulaski, I ended up camping for the night at J. Edward Roush Lake.
Campsite at J. Edward Roush Lake
On Saturday I made my way to Richmond, where I spent the weekend with my friends Ron & Diane. I had known them before they were married in Tucson, and now they have seven kids. We had a great weekend, and on Sunday morning the pastor of their home church, Central Baptist, gave me 40 minutes during the morning service to talk about my work in Brazil. It is a small church, but well founded on the Word of God, and the people were excited to hear about what God is doing among the indigenous peoples of Brazil.
I left Indiana on Monday morning and drove south through Kentucky and into Tennessee. Here I began to discover that Easterners have no idea as to how to handle road construction. In the West, when one lane is closed on the Interstate, everyone moves over to the open lane, slows down a few miles per hour, and keeps going. In the East, everyone jockeys furiously for position, ignoring the warnings to get into the lane remaining open, and everything snarls up completely. I ran into a particularly bad example of this idiotic behavior around Knoxville.
However, in spite of bad drivers Tennessee has Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I arrived late in the afternoon and got a campsite at the Cosby Campground, in the northeastern corner of the park. I stayed Monday and Tuesday nights, then on Wednesday packed up and traveled to Asheville, NC, to visit some friends there for lunch.
View from Sutton Ridge in Great Smoky Mountains
My original intent after returning from Asheville had been to camp the next two nights at Big Creek. However, when I got there I found that the campground was both full and not too appealing, so I returned to Cosby. After two more days, I packed up and headed over to South Carolina, where two friends that I hand known since they were children were preparing to exchange wedding vows.
Just because I was going to a wedding did not mean that I would abandon camping in favor of a hotel, so I paid for two nights at Kings Mountain State Park and pitched my tent. The next day, Saturday, I took a shower, changed out of my shorts and T-shirt into something more appropriate to the occasion, and headed over to Harmony House Bed & Breakfast in the little town of Catawba, where the wedding was to take place.
The Bride and Groom
In addition to watching these grown-up children get married, I also had the chance to see and visit with a number of friends from Brazil that I had not seen in a while. It was definitely worth driving all the way across the country to attend!
It was at this point that I began phase three of my trip, my “mad dash” across the country. I had eight days in which to get to British Columbia. On this first day I made it as far as southern Illinois, where I stayed at Oak Point Campground in the Shawnee National Forest. The weather was still hot and humid, but I was soon to pass out of that and into the West.
Site at Oak Point Campground
The next day I left Illinois and headed into Missouri. That night, I stayed with a Wycliffe Associates couple who lived just northeast of Kansas City, out in the country. These turned out to be very nice people, and I had a good night's sleep in a real bed for the first time in a week and a half. The next day, however, I returned to camping.
I had stopped briefly in Badlands National Park during Camping Trip 2000, and spent a couple of nights there on my National Parks Tour '04. This year, I camped a single night, arriving around 7:00 in the evening. Upon arrival, I discovered that large portions of the park's roadway was under construction. Yet even though I needed to leave the next morning to continue on my way to BC, I nevertheless took advantage of the nice weather to hike the Notch Trail early in the morning.
View from Notch Trail
Afterward, I drove through the Black Hills and into Wyoming.
Another place I had stopped at in 2004 was Devil's Tower National Monument. (Since the devil didn't have anything to do with this place, I personally refer to it as “God's Tower”.) Because of bad weather and the fact that I was not feeling well at the time, I did not hike the Joyner's Ridge trail back then. This time, however, after making lunch at the Belle Fourche picnic area, I headed over to the trailhead and made up for that earlier failing.
View of Tower from Valley on Trail
Following this pleasant little side trip, I returned to the road and made my way up to Montana.
When I left God's Tower, there were thunderheads on the horizon. When I got into Montana, they grew into a huge mass that crashed down on me a little ways before I got to Red Shale campground. The wind was so strong that I expected the car to be blown off the road at any moment. I started praying, and after another few minutes I finally spotted an extended shoulder where I was able to pull over and park until it passed. Turned out that the guy behind me was looking for the same thing; as soon as I pulled over he pulled over in front of me and joined me in waiting.
Shortly after the storm passed, I arrived at Red Shale, in the Custer National Forest. This was a campground that I had visited previously in both 2004 and 2005. However, this time it basically never stopped raining. So after only one night of a planned two-night stay, I packed up and left, looking for drier pastures.
As I drove west that morning, it continued to rain. I was hoping to stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, which I had also visited in 2004, but really did not want to wander about getting wet and unable to take any good pictures. Fortunately, as I approached the Battlefield, a line of blue started to appear, and by the time I arrived, it was no longer raining, and the weather was nice enough for me to stop and visit. So I did.
Billiard at Little Bighorn Battlefield Cemetary
As you can see in the picture, it was definitely not warm that day. This was not a typical “go for a hike” outdoors park; this is a part of history. People died here. Someday when Jesus returns and men “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks”, war will finally become a thing of the past.
I had planned on stopping at Battle Ridge campground that night, but I missed the turnoff at Bozeman. Glancing at the mountain range, I suspect that I would have spent the night in fog and rain, since the clouds were down almost to the level of the plains. So it was probably a blessing. Instead, I ended up at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park that night. One added bonus was that I was able to get a shower the next morning.
After leaving the park I continued to the northwest corner of the state, arriving at Yaak Falls campground in the Kootenai National Forest. I had stopped here for a few days in 2004; this would be my second visit. I stayed two nights. This time I chose a different site, a much nicer site than the previous time. Like the last time, I went over to the falls themselves for some sightseeing. The higher rainfall this summer was quite evident in that the river and falls were higher this year.
Rapids upstream from Yaak Falls
Sunday morning I packed up and left for Washington state. I was due in British Columbia on Monday, and needed to keep moving.
This was the first time that I'd been in Washington state and did not go out to the Olympic Peninsula. I simply did not have the time. Instead, I returned to the Okanogan National Forest and spent the night at Lyman Lake campground. I had originally wanted to stay at Sweat Creek campground, which appeared on my road atlas, but when I arrived I found that it had been converted into a picnic area with no overnight camping. So I returned to Lyman Lake, where I had also stayed in 2000 and 2004. I stayed only one night, and since it was wet I did not bother pitching my tent, but slept in the car.
Lyman Lake seen from Campsite
The following morning I headed out and crossed the border into Canada.
This was the first time that I had crossed into Canada requiring a passport. No, it wasn't the Canadian authorities that demanded it; I needed it to return to the States. After a brief wait at the border for an identity check (and finding out that I couldn't bring my green onions with me!), I was allowed into the country. Seeing the signs marked in kilometers along the side of the road made me almost feel as if I were back in Brazil.
It took less than an hour to make it to Keremeos, the small town where I was to meet my buddy Stan, who works with me down in Brazil. Since his car had broken down, he took a bus over and I picked him up at the bus station. We then made our way out to Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park, where we took a private jeep up to the core area and camped for the next five nights. (We had talked about hiking up, but Stan convinced me that the 16 kilometers would leave us too wasted to enjoy ourselves for the first day or so.)
We had been told ahead of time that the snow would all be gone by the time we arrived. However, this was an unusually cold spring and early summer, and there was still plenty of the white stuff on the ground when we got there. We rejected several otherwise excellent campsites at Quiniscoe Lake campground because of snow on the tent pads, until we found a clear one. Here is a shot of our site.
Tent with Stan standing next to it
We added the tarp over the top of the tent for added protection against the weather.
While up there, we hiked along the Rim Trail, which goes all the way around the core area along the tops of the peaks. We also visited nearby lakes and did another shorter hike to a lake that returned us to the Rim on the way back. Five days of spectacular scenery…
Billiard at the Summit of Red Mountain
Stan at Scout Mountain / Red Mountain Saddle with Scout Lake in Background
View of Mountains while Beginning Descent to Core Area
After five days up in the wilderness, we returned to civilization. After putting everything back into my car, we headed over to the small town of Okanogan Falls, where we spent two nights with Stan's friends Garry and Jean. On Sunday we both spoke about our ministry in Brazil at Garry and Jean's home church in Penticton, and that evening we traveled to Summerland and spoke at another church. The next day I returned to the States, beginning the last leg of this journey, heading south.
My first night back in the States I returned to Yaak Falls campground, which was convenient since it is a freebie. I got in early in the evening and took the same site as the previous time. Since I was only going to be there one night and wanted a quick start in the morning, I slept in the car. There was nobody else that night in the campground.
The next morning I got back on Highway 2 and went east through Kalispell over to Glacier National Park. I had been there once before, during National Parks Tour '04, but had only stayed a couple of days as the weather was rotten. This time the weather was much better, although there was still a lot of snow up at Logan's Pass, even more than back in '04. This time I spent three nights.
I had originally intended to stay at either Logging Creek or Quartz Creek campground on the west side. However, when I started up the back road to get there, I found that the road was closed. So instead I went over to Avalanche campground and spent the night there. Since I arrived in the early afternoon, after pitching my tent I first made lunch, then hiked the Avalanche Creek trail up to Avalanche Lake. There were a lot of other people present—this was a popular trail—but it was definitely worth it.
Billiard at Avalanche Lake
The next day I packed up and headed east, along the Going to the Sun road. At Logan's Pass, I stopped and hiked the Hidden Lake trail, which I had also done back in '04. I had hoped to find it with less snow, but instead there was so much snow this time that even the Logan's Pass Visitor Center was not open. Nevertheless, I did not let that stop me.
View from Viewpoint on Hidden Lake Trail
Continuing east, I came to St. Mary's Lake and stopped for lunch at Sunpoint picnic area. Afterward, I took a stroll along the Sunpoint Nature Trail before returning to the road and heading down to Cut Bank campground, in the southern part of the park.
View East of St. Mary's Lake from Sunpoint
On my last day in Glacier, I packed a picnic lunch in my backpack and hiked the Pitamakan Pass Trail, which starts right next to Cut Bank Campground. This was an excellent end to my stay here (even though I needed plenty of insect repellant, since the mosquitoes came in vast hordes!).
Mountains seen from Pitamakan Pass Trail
The next morning I headed south to Battle Ridge campground, the same place that I had missed the turnoff for earlier. This time, I made it, and spent the Fourth of July weekend there. This campground, which I have had to myself at times during earlier trips, was absolutely packed solid, with trailers and tents spilling into various overflow areas. But the people were nice, and one family even had a little miniature weenie dog!
Battle Ridge campground from across Highway 86
Finally, on the morning of the 5th, I packed up and left Montana, heading south into Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park.
This was my fifth visit to Yellowstone, and I ended up staying four nights. The first two nights I camped at Norris campground, near the geyser basin of the same name, and the last two nights I went south to Lewis Lake campground, near the south entrance. However, believe it or not, I did not visit Norris geyser basin or any of the other main attractions. Why not? Because I had already seen them several times on previous visits, and I wanted to see some new sights this time.
So after pitching my tent, then going over to Canyon Village to take a much-needed shower and do laundry, I began checking out some of the lesser-known attractions in the park. The first afternoon, I hiked the Ice Lake trail. The next day I visited several small trails and other places, then spent the afternoon hiking out to Grizzly Lake and back.
Grizzly Lake from Northwest Shore
The following day I moved camp down to Lewis Lake, and after setting up I headed up near the Old Faithful area. But instead of watching Old Faithful erupt for the umpteenth time (including the numerous times I've seen it erupt on-line!) I went to the nearby Lone Star Geyser trail. Much of this trail was once a road, but the Park Service closed it to vehicles and turned it into a hiking and biking trail, which follows a river a couple of miles back into the forest to an out-of-the-way geyser basin, where the Lone Star Geyser erupts roughly every 3 hours. I arrived around a half-hour before an eruption, and stayed to watch.
Lone Star Geyser during Steam Phase
On my final full day in the park, I decided to hike out to Fairy Falls. Now this trailhead is not found at a parking lot; one must hike about a mile up another trail in order to get to the turnoff. Afterward, the Fairy Falls trail makes its way through moderate forest and open areas until you arrive at the waterfall itself, splashing down the face of a cliff.
As I was preparing to leave, I noted that the trail continued, and that people were heading out along the continuation. So I asked someone, and they told me that the trail continued on to Imperial Geyser, about a half-mile further. So I followed suit.
Imperial Geyser mildly erupting
To finish the afternoon I drove by Yellowstone Lake and took some pictures. The next day I headed south into Grand Teton National Park.
Thermal Area next to Yellowstone Lake
I did not spend any nights in Grand Teton this time. Like in 2000, I merely passed through, did some sightseeing, then went on my way. But I did stop and take some pictures.
View of Grand Tetons across Jackson Lake
View of Grand Tetons from Jenny Lake Overlook
North String Lake
After leaving Grand Teton, I headed into southern Wyoming, where I spent the weekend at Lost Creek campground in the Medicine Bow National Forest.
Campsite at Lost Creek
I had spent the Fourth of July at this campground during Rocky Mountain High '05, but at a different site. When I arrived, I found that although the fee had officially gone up, the Forest Service had cut it in half. Possible reasons include the large amount of tree cutting going on, plus the fact that the water had been shut off.
I noticed that the water was shut off in a number of Forest Service campgrounds this year…
The following Monday, I departed for Colorado, and unbenownst to me at the time, some serious car trouble.
I drove into the Rocky Mountain State on a mostly clear morning, along back roads instead of the Interstate. As I drove, I kept the window partly open for some fresh air. And as I drove, I was noticing the smell of gas. Now sometimes I had smelled gas in the past after filling the tank, but I had not filled the tank that morning. Furthermore, the smell got stronger as I drove. When I stopped at Rabbit Ears Pass east of Steamboat Springs, it was quite noticeable.
View West from summit of Rabbit Ears Pass
Shortly thereafter, I arrived in Steamboat Springs. I first stopped at the local Safeway, where I bought groceries and used the public wireless at Starbucks to catch up on email and upload my latest pictures to my on-line backup site. (I also added a user to our network server in Anápolis!) Then I asked where I could get a shower and do laundry and was directed to Steamboat Campground. When I finished washing my clothes and my body, I checked under the car, and found a small puddle of gasoline.
Now I knew that this was not good, so I asked where I could find an honest mechanic. The girl behind the counter recommended Repair Dynamics, which was actually within walking distance of the campground. I took my car over and found that they would not be able to look at it that day, but if I left it they could get to it the next day. Returning to the campground just long enough to pitch my tent and take out whatever supplies I would need, I took the car back to them.
The mechanic—a fellow named Rocko—took a look the next morning, and discovered that a rubber hose was literally disintegrating. The leak was spraying a stream of gasoline nearly two feet out from under the car. It was only by the grace of God that it had not yet caught fire or exploded, giving me an early ticket to Glory, or at the very least, costing me the car and everything in it.
At first they thought that they could get the part. Then when they called the distributor to confirm, they found that it was no longer available. So I started praying while Rocko worked. In the end he was able to remove the original hose without breaking the fittings (another answer to prayer, given the amount of rust on them) and literally build a replacement part using the original fittings, a section of high-pressure hose, and fuel injector clamps. And I drove away for under $300.
So if you are reading this and you ever find yourself in Steamboat Springs with car problems, I highly recommend Repair Dynamics. They are on the west end of town, just off the main street to the south. Anyone there can tell you how to find them.
While I was stuck there, on the third night we had the most powerful storm I have ever seen while camping. The rain was blowing horizontally at around 50 mph and coming down like Niagara Falls. I was sure that the interior of my tent was getting soaked and all my electronic equipment—computer, camera, digital thermometer, etc.—was getting sopped and ruined. But again the grace of God prevailed, and when I was able to return to the tent and look inside, it was practically dry, and all my equipment was fine.
Campsite at Steamboat Campground (which endured the Big Storm)
With the car repaired, I thankfully hit the road again and made my way to Bear River dispersed campground in the Routt National Forest. I had first heard of this place while researching for Camping Trip 2000, but in the end did not go. This year, I made up for that failure.
The website does not fully describe Bear River. I had expected a series of campsites all scattered along the road, with a couple of outhouses between a couple of pairs of sites. Instead, it was considerably more organized, with groups of sites on their own side roads, another complete campground (Bear Lake), a reservoir and a couple of lakes, plus several trailheads. Also, it was quite popular. I found one of the last sites available (though I have to admit it was Friday when I arrived).
View of campsite from across access road
My only complaint was the tremendous quantity of bugs. I had tried to economize by getting some cheap non-deet repellant, and it simply did not work. Fortunately, on my last day some neighbors took pity on me and let me borrow their repellant, and it made a huge difference. I'd love to go back someday—with the right kind of bug repellant!
People fishing in Yamcolo Reservoir at Bear River
After leaving Bear River, I drove down to the small town of Avon and stocked up at the Wal-Mart there. Then I drove 20 miles east on I-70 to the town of Eagle and took the back road up into the White River National Forest to the Yeoman Park campground.
I had originally planned to go to the Fulford Cave campground, where there was supposed to be an actual cave. But when I saw Yeoman Park, I went ahead and got a spot, not wanting to risk finding Fulford Cave full, then return to Yeoman Park only to find that it had also filled up during my absence. It turned out that Yeoman Park was a much nicer campground, anyway. And I was able to walk up to Fulford Cave, and discovered that the cave was not actually on-site, but that there was a trail. When I took the trail to the cave, I was disappointed to find that I would need equipment that I did not have in order to safely explore it. So overall things worked out for the best.
It was here that I first used my tarp to cover the picnic table and slept in the car. This turned out to be a very good arrangement, since the tent was not as waterproof as advertised and unlike in previous trips, I could not depend on sunny mornings to dry it out before packing it away. And on my third day, after returning from Fulford Cave, my choices paid off. It was raining and showed no sign of quitting, but I was able to cook my noon meal without any problem because the picnic table was under the tarp.
View up valley from Brown's Loop Trail by Yeoman Park campground
After I left Yeoman Park and stocked up again at Wal-Mart in Avon, I drove down Highway 24, the “Top of the Rockies” (Leadville sits at over 10,000 feet) to the southern part of the state, where I made my way back to Cathedral Campground in the Rio Grande National Forest. Cathedral was an old friend from my 2005 trip, which I had wanted to return to. So I did—but this may have been my last time there.
Cathedral has been known for years as one of the premier free campgrounds in the area, offering a wilderness experience with a minimum of development (outhouses and a water pump). However, in the name of “economic recovery”, the government is going to revamp the place in September, and start charging fees. At least one other camper I talked to, who has gone there regularly for years, stated flatly that it will no longer be the same.
View upstream of Embargo Creek from behind campsite
Nevertheless, I enjoyed my stay this year. The first day was wet and unpleasant, but after that it dried up enough to do some hiking, and cleared up enough to be able to take good pictures. I did the Cathedral Creek Trail, then on my last day returned to what I thought was the Fremont's Camp Trail, only to find that I had been mistaken for the past five years and that it was really the Embargo Creek Trail!
Open valley along Embargo Creek Trail
After leaving Cathedral, I headed over to the other campground that I had been itching to return to for the past few years, Deer Lakes in the Gunnison National Forest. Back in 2005 I had followed this same sequence. Like in '05, I stayed at Deer Lakes for two nights. This time, however, I did two things differently: I took more pictures, and I followed what I thought was the Calf Creek Plateau trail much further, to a goal I had set when following the trail on Google Earth.
One of the chain of local lakes stocked with fish
In '05 I had followed the sign to the Calf Creek Plateau trail, then followed the trial over the ridge and across hills, valleys and forest for a ways. Or at least I thought it was the Calf Creek Plateau trail. What I hadn't noticed back then was that the trail divided shortly after crossing the initial ridge, and that what I had really followed was the Brush Creek trail. So this year I followed the same trail—and found my error only after reaching a plateau a few miles up the trail and encountering some people with a map.
View North from peak of plateau along Brush Creek trail
Nevertheless, it was still a great trail, whatever its true name. And after this hike, I spent my last night at Deer Lakes, then started toward Arizona the next morning. Since it would have been a very long day, I did not go all the way. Instead, I spent the night at Snowslide Campground in the San Juan National Forest. But not before stopping at Wolf Creek Pass for some more pictures!
View of Highway 160 and parking lot from Wolf Creek Pass trail
West of Wolf Creek Pass there was a scenic overlook, which was also worth stopping and seeing.
View down valley from Scenic Overlook
Snowslide campground turned out to be a disappointment—overpriced and no toilet paper—but it was a place to sleep. There were no hiking trails in the area. That evening it poured buckets, but again I just slept in the car, then took off early the next morning for Arizona.
Finally, more than two months after leaving, I returned to Arizona. Of course, I did not head straight for Tucson, the city and hot desert. Instead, my first stop was at Lyman Lake State Park, up in the northern half of the state. Does the name sound familiar? Yes, I was at another “Lyman Lake” earlier in the summer, up in Washington state. But that was a National Forest campground, whereas this was a state park.
Lyman Lake is in the high desert, which means that although it is cooler than places like Tucson or Phoenix, it is still hotter than the forest and has desert vegetation. The main reason I stopped here before continuning on was that state parks come with showers included in the camping fee, and since I had not had a shower in nearly two weeks (yeah, phew!), I was really looking forward to scrubbing up. So I took a shower the day I arrived, and another one the following morning before leaving.
View of Lyman Lake as seen from campsite
That afternoon and evening, it poured buckets. The ground turned muddy and sloppy. I had intended to inflate my air bed and sleep on top of the picnic table under the ramada, but the wind was blowing so hard that everything on the table was getting wet, so I just stayed in the car and remained snug and dry.
When I left the following morning, I did not head directly for a campground. Instead, I aimed for the West Baldy trailhead, intending to get in a hike in the morning before the afternoon showers came. But before I even got there I ran into “the Road Construction from Hell” on Highway 273. The flag-woman said nothing about needing a high-clearance vehicle or four-wheel drive. Instead, she just pointed to the pilot truck, then left me to slide the belly of the car over mud for nearly a mile. It was so bad in places that if I had stopped, I would not have gotten moving again without a tow truck. By the time I reached the end of the construction zone (almost at the trailhead) my car was caked on all sides and underneath with a thick layer of mud, which suspect contributed to the problems I encountered with the shift mechanism when I got back to Tucson.
So I arrived at the trailhead, and found that although it did not rain in the morning, neither was the weather clear. On the hike out I got very few good pictures. It did clear up somewhat on my return, and I did get some better ones.
View of old West Baldy trailhead on return leg
When I left West Baldy, I found that the rest of the road all the way to the Big Lake Recreation Area was in excellent shape. Big Lake is in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and has 4 campgrounds, all named after species of trout. I'd been here before on numerous occasions—back in the late '80s I used to come here at least once a year, sometimes more. This time I stayed at the Rainbow campground, which had always been my favorite.
View of Big Lake from eastern shore
In the Old Days, there was a trail leading out of the campground to the nearby Big Lake lookout tower, which I had visited a few times. In the intervening years, a new trail sprang up, the Indian Spring trail, and now the portion of the old trail that leads out of the campground is merely a quarter-mile link, and there is another half-mile link further up the trail to the lookout tower itself. I arrived during operating hours when the tower was open to visitors, but the operator was busy and did not let me in.
Big Lake seen from base of lookout tower
Monday morning I packed up and left for my final campground. I had intended to check out the Hannagan campground, near the small town of Hannagan Meadow, but it was full. So I continued on to KP Cienega, which has long been one of my favorite campgrounds in the world, and was only a few more miles down the road. When I arrived, there was one site available, but it was lousy, because the Forest Service had recently cut down a bunch of trees, leaving this site with practically no shade. However, a family in the next site over was just packing up and leaving, so I waited and when they were gone I moved in.
View of KP Valley from gravel pit, looking toward campground
Although the first day was quite wet, with clouds actually rolling over the hills and filling the valley with fog, it improved dramatically by noon of the second day. I had originally planned to stay only three nights because that was all the food I had with me. However, the second day I had a headache and upset stomach and basically couldn't eat, so I ended up with an extra day's worth of rations. Rather than letting it go to waste, I decided to stay four nights.
Wildflowers in one of the bays in the woods at KP Cienega
On my last day, I hiked down the KP Trail. Normally a great trail, I was disappointed to find that it had not been maintained. Trees had fallen across it in a number of places, and finally I came to a point where so many trees had fallen that most previous hikers had evidently given up. Beyond the deadfall the trail literally vanished. I knew it was supposed to cross the creek, but I could no longer find where to go. Since I had already missed the trail a couple of times and had to look for it to get back on, I gave up myself and turned back. (One positive thing was that there were plenty of wild raspberries, and I had a feast along the way!)
So finally, on the 5th of August, I packed up and left my last campground. It had been a good trip, and I was sorry to see it end. Nevertheless, I admit that I was looking forward to a number of things that I would have access to in civilized Tucson that I did not have out in the sticks. Overall, it was time to return. I only stopped once more to take a few pictures from the Blue Vista lookout point, just down the road from KP Cienega. Then I drove home.
View from Blue Vista
So what does the future hold? Another road trip? A shorter one? One taken with a companion instead of alone? Or something completely different? Only God knows. And the truth is that He knows best. But whatever He brings, I can say with satisfaction that I have seen many marvelous sights and been in many marvelous places.
The trip was definitely worth it.
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