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Round the Bend in 14 Days

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Offline rocketman

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2016, 07:16:06 PM »
This is almost as good as a Tolkien story! Can't wait for the next installment!
Making ice cubes FROM THE SUN!!!

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2016, 08:00:37 PM »
DAY 2

"Sam, I can't do this." -  Frodo Baggins to Samwise Gamgee.

Maybe because of my rude awakening the night before, I slept unusually late on Day 2. By the time I opened my eyes, the sun was already rising above the eastern edge of Dog Canyon. It was probably 7:45am and the sky was no longer indigo, but moving on toward gray. I pulled my arms from within my sleeping bag and reached for my Sawyer bottle for a morning swig to rehydrate my swollen tongue. Nothing came out. The water inside was trapped beneath a neck of frozen ice. I grabbed my Petzl E-lite and took a look at the thermometer on the hip belt by my head. 27 degrees. Jesus. I really WAS hypothermic last night. Lows werenít supposed to dip below the low 40ís on this trip, at least not down in the desert. What the hell happened? This was my first clue that things would not be as I had hoped on this trip.

I was already in my fleece pants and sweater and hat, and my down jacket, so I squirmed out of my bag, slipped on my boots, and packed up my pack. Less than 10 minutes later, I grabbed my camera and binos and headed toward the mouth of Dog Canyon. Perhaps, in retrospect, not the smartest thing to do, but I really wanted to revisit one of my old favorite haunts. So I took maybe an hour and a half to explore Dog Canyon to its eastern end and back. Such a beautiful place. Such tortured geology producing such beautiful sculpture. And some particularly industrious hiker had filled the canyon with artisanal cairns. High falutiní stuff.

Sometime around 9:45am, I shouldered my pack and headed south and east around the hills toward the entrance to Devilís Den, where I hoped to find tinajas from which to replenish my water for the run through the Deadhorse Mountains. The morningís cold was long forgotten. The bright sun was rising in a cloudless sky and the day was warming fast. Soon I could see the jagged broken line of the Den. I swept right around the entrance and climbed the southern rim, but I could see no water below. Minute after minute passed but no water. Nervously I kept glancing down until suddenly I caught a glimpse of shimmer. Water in a pothole. Water in a pothole way, waay, waaaay below me, but water nonetheless. The farther I walked upcanyon, the more potholes I found filled with water. I was going to be fine. Then, down in the canyon, an explosion. A burst of activity as half a dozen javelina scattered in a panic. A few sows, then a juvenile, and after the juvenile was safe, a HUGE boar brought up the rear. I tend not to take javelinas too seriously, Iíve always found them manageable, but I wouldnít want to meet that guy face-to-face in a wash on a dark night.

I dropped my pack and grabbed my camera for some photos back downcanyon, and as soon as I turned that way, I spotted a couple coming up in the distance. Turns out they were experienced dayhikers, about my age, doing the Devilís Den Ė Dog Canyon loop. We had a nice chat and I told them of my plans. The man - a tall, wiry, tan hiker - looked me up and down and asked, somewhat politely, if I knew what I was doing. I said, yes, I thought so. He nodded thoughtfully, but I had the distinct impression that he was thinking that he and his partner would be the last people to see me alive. He looked like he was memorizing my features so he could describe them later. We parted ways, headed our separate directions Ė they northbound, me southbound. I dropped down the ridge through which Devilís Den cut, enjoyed a momentís afternoon shade under a giant dagger yucca, then dug out my water harvesting gear. I detached the top pocket of my pack, loaded it with the water gear and my emergency survival kit which I always take with me on dayhikes away from my main pack, and headed north toward the mouth of Devilís Den to look for easily accessible tinajas from which to pull my next water supply. I was down to one quart remaining from my original gallon.

The tinajas at the mouth of Devilís Den were full of clear, cold water. I took out my Sea-to-Summit water bucket, tied it onto my 6mm accessory rope, popped in a rock for ballast, and lowered the assembly into the nearest tinaja. I pulled a total of 3.5 gallons out of there, carefully pouring each into a homemade prefilter screwed onto the mouth of each of my MSR Dromedary bags. Then I pilled them. Things were going just fineÖand then the bees arrived. If desert tinajas have gods, they are jealous and angry gods, and their avatars are bees. Bees from above, bees from below, bees from everywhere descended upon me. I beat a hasty retreat from Devilís Den into the shade of some yucca and tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible before moving back to my pack. Iíd hoped to rig some ultralightweight shoulder straps for the dromedaries, but never quite made it work, so I improvised a forehead tumpline with my rope and carried the bags the 3/8 mile or so back to my backpack by that means. Not the most comfortable, but it worked. Along the way back I discovered (I think) a previously unknown spring. Iíll attach a picture. I tried to geo-tag it, but it was my first attempt with a new GPS-enabled camera and I inadvertently skipped the last step, so the coordinates never downloaded. But itís in a wash running parallel to the ridge and immediately south of the mouth of Devilís Den. I named it Sam & Jac Spring.

Back at my pack, I loaded the additional 3.5 gallons, and prepared to resume the hike south toward the point where I would intersect the Deadhorse Mountains and ascend onto the 14-mile ridge that I would run all the way to Telephone Canyon.  3.5 gallons is roughly 29lbs. 29lbs is roughly a whole lot of effing weight to add to your pack. My base pack weight was not quite 20lbs. I was carrying four days food, at about 1.8lbs/day. Add in 29lbs of water and my pack weight was somewhere around 56lbs. Piece of cake 10 years ago. Piece of crap today. Maybe not for a short hike, but for a day-after-day-after-day offtrail backpack up onto a mountain ridge, it was daunting. But, having made my bed, it was now time to walk on it. So off I went across Dagger Flats.

I thought Dagger Flats would be flat. Or at least flat-ISH. Hahahahahahaha. It was anything but.  A lot can be hidden within 40-foot contour lines. Wash after wash after low hill after low hill, broken only occasionally by salt pans and alluvial plains. And lots and lots and lots of spiny succulents of every possible variety. As the afternoon wore on, I fell farther and farther behind my daily target. Iíd hoped to reach the jumping-off point for ascending the ridge so that tomorrow I could head up into the mountains, but it was becoming clear that I would not be there tonight. I hadnít shared much of my itinerary with anyone, but Iíd mentioned this day to Mule Ears. Heíd warned me that my goals for this segment of the hike might be too ambitious, and he was right. The day was hot, my thirst was great, my pack was heavy, my legs were jelly, and the miles got longer by the minute. Maybe I really couldnít do this anymore. I was too weak, too out-of-shape, too mentally soft, too OLD. My best days were behind me. I began to feel like Frodo Baggins marching toward the margins of Mordor. ďSam, I canít do this.Ē The sun was falling behind the western ridge and it was time to make camp. I hiked 9 miles this day. 2 or so as a dayhike into and out of Dog Canyon, another six largely off trail and navigating, and about 1 more to and from Devilís Den to collect water. And now I was whupped and discouraged. I laid out my camp, cooked a quick meal, and hit the sack. At least it had been, and still was, a warm day. As I was falling asleep, I spied the Pleiades. Tonight I noticed for the first time that they formed the tail end of a string of stars snaking northward and westward, ending in a large diamond of four stars pointing westward. The string, I realized, was a snake with the western-pointing diamond being the crotalid head of a pit viper, and the Pleiades forming southern rattles.  My new constellation was a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, or the Rattlesnake for short. And with this happy thought, I drifted off to sleep to dream of carrying a backpack filled with heavy writhing snakes.

[to be continued]
« Last Edit: August 03, 2017, 06:05:07 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2016, 08:16:28 PM »
Western mouth of Dog Canyon, shortly after sunrise.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:40:25 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2016, 08:24:03 PM »
Artisanal cairns near western entrance to Dog Canyon.  ;)
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:43:15 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2016, 08:33:45 PM »
Tortured geology of the south side of Dog Canyon.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:49:48 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2016, 08:43:46 PM »
Loving the tale.  I can't wait to see if you make it :icon_biggrin:

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2016, 08:46:30 PM »
Loving the tale.  I can't wait to see if you make it :icon_biggrin:

The reports of my death are highly exaggerated.  ;)
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2016, 09:10:13 PM »
Back at camp, headed for Devil's Den.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:51:09 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2016, 09:23:01 PM »
Another artisanal cairn, approaching Devil's Den.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:52:36 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2016, 09:25:11 PM »
On the south rim of Devil's Den, looking down into the canyon.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:53:59 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #25 on: December 16, 2016, 09:32:05 PM »
Javelina.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:55:06 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2016, 09:35:27 PM »
Water in Devil's Den canyon.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:57:21 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #27 on: December 16, 2016, 09:42:34 PM »
After dropping down the ridge into eastern Dagger Flats, I stashed my backpack, loaded up my daypack (pack's detachable top pocket) and headed for the eastern Entrance to Devil's Den to pull water for the next 3-4 days.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:58:22 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #28 on: December 16, 2016, 09:46:44 PM »
Re-watering from the tinajas near the eastern mouth of Devil's Den.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 06:00:30 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 14 Days
« Reply #29 on: December 16, 2016, 10:26:23 PM »
Having trouble getting my photos of the possibly previously unknown spring to load here. It was in the wash that hugs the eastern edge of the ridge containing Devil's Den, just south of the canyon mouth. My camera geo-tag failed, but I'd put it around 29.6026, -103.1058. It was a small pool (4' diameter?) at the base of a small tree. I scooped out several handfuls of water but it always refilled.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 06:02:55 PM by RichardM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


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