Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trailwrights 72 Peaks in 6 Weeks

After returning from 6 weeks on the West Coast on January 31 and back in Vermont for the duration of winter, I desired a little goal on which to focus and ultimately decided on hiking/snowshoeing/spiking to the top of all the 4000 footers of New Hampshire during the remaining 6 weeks of calendar winter... but with a twist. My goal was to climb the 72 Trailwrights 4000 footers instead of the more commonly tackled AMC list of 48 peaks. The Trailwrights’ list has 50% more peaks because cols need be only 100 feet deep or they must have a name on the correlating USGS map. As a result of this clarification, some quality peaks are included such as Sam Adams, Clay, Guyot, Little Haystack, S Moosilauke & Hight. Sections of a few of the peaks are trailless: SW Twin, NW Hancock, M&W Osceola, & small bits of Blue, Sam Adams, JQ Adams & Lethe, & the Black Pond & Brutus sections of Owls Head. The Trailwrights rules also state that only one peak may be counted per hike. Each and every single peak to be earned on its own account. No ridgeline bagging allowed here!

Ten years ago, in March of 2003, I was the second person, behind consummate peakbagger Hiker Ed Hawkins, to complete the Trailwrights list in winter using their one-peak-per-hike rule. For this year's endeavor I did not follow the OPPH rule. One reason is that I do not own stock in big oil and did not relish the idea of driving 1-2 hours to the White Mtns. and back 72 times. Another reason is that I am a big girl and like making my own rules sometimes.  My goal was not to do them especially fast -- they certainly can and will be done much faster -- but rather to merely climb them all within 6 weeks.

The first peaks were Cabot and Waumbek on February 4, but with prior commitments the rest of that week my start was a slow one, with the next hike not until February 10. Still lacking 23 peaks on March 11, I wasn't so sure if I'd be able to pull it off. However, after much bordering-on-neurotic weather watching and with the help and companionship of some good friends, the last few hikes went off smoothly. The final 3 days were the only ones that felt a bit challenging, with 19 peaks, 56 miles, and 17,000+ feet of climbing, but my stars were apparently aligned.

What did I accomplish? Nothing much of significance to anyone but me, just a lot of fun completing another list. For the sake of perspective... with improved gear and the sheer numbers of folks out there packing down the trails, at least to the popular 4000 footers, winter hiking is (usually) much easier today than it was 20 years ago when I first started. On March 9 I had the good fortune of running across an old friend, Tim Kennedy, at Madison Hut, and we descended Valley Way together, chatting nonstop. Tim started winter hiking in 1971, barely 10 years after the Underhill-Collin generation of climbers, the first to do the winter 4000 footers, and he had some wonderful stories to tell about climbing the peaks in wood-and-rawhide bearpaw snowshoes lacking any kind of crampon, with heavy gear, crappy boots, etc. Except for a few years in the early 1980s, snowfall was generally more & deeper, and nothing was broken out, ever. It’s always humbling to think of the Underhills conquering the Hancocks in winter. Because the Kanc was unplowed, this was a multi-day undertaking complete with a box of food cached the summer before. This is something I often think of when climbing the Hancocks in winter, a hike that now rarely takes longer than ½ day.

Too, one of the biggest relatively recent changes is in the ability to communicate (usually) from the backcountry. On my solo hikes I was able to send text messages reporting my location and progress to my husband and a friend of ours. I could also text them if I decided to change plans on the fly. For example, after climbing the Tripyramids solo via Pine Bend Brook, I decided to descend Sabbaday Brook and was able to let them know that via text message. Point being, adventure is not dead, but milder weather, packed trails, better gear, ability to communicate and navigate with GPS do make it easier to raise the bar ever higher. Now then…

A few stats:
- Start date: February 4
- End date: March 17
- Total number of days hiked: 22
- Total miles covered: 299
- Approximate total vertical climbed: 90,450 feet
- Longest mileage day: Bonds/Guyot/Zealand (23.4 miles)
- Shortest mileage day: Tecumseh (5 miles)
- Most vertical climbed in a day: Wildcats to Moriah traverse (7200 feet)
- Least vertical climbed in a day: Tecumseh (2200 feet)
- Fastest hikes: Ones with Jeff, LRiz & Rob (Holy crap, 8:20 for a winter Wildcats-to-Moriah traverse... I'm still trying to catch my breath)
- Mellowest hikes: Ones with my Sweetie
- Unofficial trail that felt like an official trail: Firewardens Trail up Hale
- Official trail that felt like a bushwhack: Davis Path from North Isolation to Slide/Gulf Peak.
- Actual trailbreaking thru 6-8 or more inches snow: Franconia Ridge from Little Haystack to Liberty, Mt. Garfield Trail, Asquam Ridge Trail on Moosilauke, Davis Path from Isolation Trail north, Upper Bondcliff Trail to Guyot, & most of the bushwhacks.
- Peaks bailed on: Carrigain 4.5 miles in on February 17 due to extreme high winds.
- Fees spent on trails: $10 to hike up Wildcat D
- Times my alarm clock woke me up: Zero (Cats wake me every morning at ~4:30).
- Miles hiked in the dark: a couple on Liberty Springs Trail & a few on Gale River Trail & Road.
- Times I serendipitously encountered Hiker Ed or his truck at the trailhead: 6
- Most unnerving situation: Franklin to Monroe solo in quickly diminishing visibility
- Most surprising: "Bogus" Mt. Lethe has a wonderful view, & the short bushwhack is very easy in winter.
- Most disappointing: Encountering HUGE groups of hikers and too many postholing morons
- Animal/bird sightings: Pine marten atop Tecumseh & gray jays on Field, Tom, Garfield & Hale. Only one set of moose tracks seen, on Lowes Path.
- Favorite hikes: I enjoyed all of them! Sam Adams was especially cool because it was a beautiful Presi Day, there was a conga line going up Adams, & I had the equally beautiful summit of Sam Adams all to myself. Also really enjoyed doing Hale via the Firewarden's Trail w/Chris & observing his joy (having never been there before) at the winter wonderland conditions & the gray jays.
- Least favorite hike/section: Rollins Trail
- Most humorous text message sent:  "I do not heart the Rollins Trail.  Blowdowns & searching for trail. Ai yi yi... Stick a fork in me... I'm done."
- Number of peaks done solo: 24 (10 hikes)
- Peaks done w/others: All the rest... Thanks to the wonderful companionship of Cruddytoes, BikeHikeSkiFish, BernerBabe, NH Flyer, Scarpy, Dehydrator, Kyle, Hamtero, Freakish Calves, LRiz, Sasquatch, Jeff, Victoria, and Anthony and also to awesome trail dogs Tucker, Toby, and Lyle. But biggest thanks to Chris for indulging my endeavors... and for doing Tecumseh, Hale, and parts of Owls Head and Carrigain.

The full schedule:
2/04 - Cabot, Solo... followed by Waumbek w/Cruddytoes
2/10 - Lafayette, Truman, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, & Flume w/BikeHikeSkiFish, BernerBabe, NH Flyer, Scarpy, & Dehydrator
2/12 - N&S Kinsman & Cannon, Solo
2/13 - Field, Willey & Tom... followed by Jackson, Solo
2/14 - Pierce, Eisenhower, Franklin & Monroe, Solo
2/17 - Carrigain attempt, Solo. With Signal Ridge in mind, turned back 4.5 miles in by high winds.
2/20 - N, M & S Tripyramid, Solo
2/22 - Monroe, Washington, Clay & Jefferson w/BikeHikeSkiFish, BernerBabe & Kyle
2/23 - N&S Twin, SW Twin & Galehead w/Hamtero & Cruddytoes
2/25 - Owls Head, Solo
2/26 - Carrigain, Solo (Chris joined me on Sawyer River Road)
3/01 - Garfield, Solo
3/02 - S, N & NW Hancocks w/Freakish Calves & Tucker
3/03 - S Moosilauke, Moosilauke, Blue & Jim w/LRiz, Sasquatch & Toby
3/05 - Tecumseh w/Chris
3/06 - Whiteface & Passaconaway, Solo
3/08 - Hale w/Chris
3/09 - Adams 4, Sam Adams, Adams 5, Adams, John Quincy Adams, Madison w/Cruddytoes & Lyle
3/11 - E, Main, Middle & W Osceola, Solo
3/15 - Isolation, N Isolation, Gulf/Slide Peak & Boott Spur w/Cruddytoes
3/16 - Bondcliff, Bond, W Bond, Guyot & Zealand w/Jeff List
3/17 - Wildcats D, C, B & A, Carter Dome, Hight, S&M Carter, Lethe, N Carter & Moriah w/Cruddytoes, Jeff List, Sasquatch, LRiz, Victoria & Anthony

Onto the next adventure !!

Winter Recap - the First 6 Weeks

Winter is going out like a Lion here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.  On this day before calendar spring officially begins, it is snowing like gangbusters outside my window, with 12-18" predicted before the storm is over tomorrow.  Sure is beautiful - how I missed snow living in SoCal x 6 years.

Chris and I had an interesting winter.  The first 6 weeks were spent living as vagabonds out West, with the last 6 weeks at home in Vermont.  We left New England on December 19, driving all the way back to California in the Honda Element.  We've made the trip cross country so many times now that we're pretty good at knowing great places to stop and stretch our legs which feels SO good after being cooped up in a vehicle.  This particular trip we got runs in on Dickey Ridge in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia; Chimney Top on the Barkley course in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee; Pinnacle Peak State Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas; Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo, Texas; and Grand Canyon National Park, where we snagged a cabin at the Bright Angel complex on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning I got in a great run down the Bright Angel to Plateau Point and back.  What a special place to spend Christmas.  We also enjoyed spending a night with our good friends Steve and Deb in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

We closed out the old year and welcomed the new with a little Coyote runfest back in California: a few Ray Miller loops in Pt. Mugu State Park, a couple of days on Santa Cruz Island, and for me running the awesome course of the old Coyote Fourplay 40 miler on December 31st while a bunch of folks did variations of the fat-ass 24 Hours of Ray.  Not a bad way to close out 2012.

Our wanderings next took us on a big, circuitous route to Santa Barbara, Joshua Tree National Park, Sedona, Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park, Bishop, Sacramento, and back down the Central Coast.  We discovered more great trail running in Sedona as I tried to "redline" my local trail map, the loop around Cathedral Peak and the Hangover Trail being particular favorites.  At the end of one of my runs I was chased by a skunk -- though thankfully not sprayed -- a definite first for me.  In Vegas we spent a couple of days out at Red Rock Canyon but found even better running farther south on the Cottonwood Trails, where there was much more smooth, serpentine singletrack.  We spent all of 2 hours on the Strip, such Vegas people we are... NOT.  Death Valley has never disappointed.  We checked out some old favorite trails as well as some new ones, including the awesome Ubehebe Crater.  Such interesting territory out there in the Mojave Desert...

Next up was a couple of days in Bishop.  Since I didn't bring winter gear for the mountains, runs in the Buttermilks had to suffice, and they did.  For the next four days in a row, I ran on the pancake flat American River bike path in Sacramento while we stayed with Chris's brother and his wife.  My run the following day -- on the lovely Vicente Trail in the Ventana Wilderness of the Central Coast -- was pure bliss after 4 days on a paved bike path.  Aaahhh...  On January 31 we flew back to Vermont to finish out the second 6 weeks of winter...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hello again... from Brrrrmont!

Hello, hello!  A lot has happened since I last blogged over 6 months ago.  Most significantly, Chris and I have begun the next chapter of our lives by happily relocating - for most of the year anyway - back to Vermont.  Our new home is located in the bucolic (really, it is) Northeast Kingdom and is about a 20-minute drive from my folks’ house.  It's nice to be closer to them as well as to once again be living in that bastion of liberalism that is my homestate.  I knew it was time to leave California when that state seemed too conservative - and way too crowded - for me.  :)

Our real estate adventures constituted an emotional roller coaster ride, with the first 2 “buyers” bailing at the last minute and leaving us in a bit of a lurch (see below) - everything was already in storage, our 2 cats were in Vermont with my folks, and we were sort of homeless vagabonds for 3 months (not that we’re unaccustomed to living out of suitcases) -- but in the end it all worked out, and buyer #3 came through. In late September we rented a Penske truck and drove our worldly possessions across the country just in time for peak foliage season here in Vermont.

Our new home is a modified log home originally built in 1973, a fun blend of "rustic meets chic," with add-on living and sun rooms, updated bathrooms and kitchen, and a newer two-car, two-story garage. There are 5 ½ acres of land which is mostly pasture/meadow and a working dairy farm just down the road. We are now the owners of an outdoor hot tub which we are enjoying more than I’d imagined: it feels really good after a run or hike! Our town is quintessential Vermont, with a village green, small market, gas station, hardware store, wine & cheese shop, library, post office, doctor’s, dentist’s and veterinarian‘s offices, and bakery/coffee shop. We are just one mile outside of the village on a dirt road. 

Part of the, er, intelligence of basing out of Vermont is that we will spend the coldest months- or parts of the colder months - in warmer climes. To that end, we are some how, some way going to make our way back to the Southwest for part of the winter.  (Go ahead:  made snide comments about being Snowbirds.)

So, a quick update on the past 6 months:

Thinking our house was SOLD in early May (much to our surprise, we had offers within 2 days of putting the house on the market), the next couple of weeks were consumed with packing, cleaning, and wrapping my head around driving (SOLO) our 2 kitties, Fillmore and Url, across the country to Vermont. My mom and dad had kindly agreed to care for them until we closed on a place in Vermont. Chris got off scot-free by a 2-week business trip to Boise. All I can say about the ordeal is Yay for crazy internet forums, where I learned all the tricks of long-distance driving with cats in tow: get kitty relaxation drugs (read: tranquilizers) just in case, use a large dog cage instead of smaller carriers, and stop every night at a motel. Amazingly, surprisingly, the cats were angels and remained almost completely quiet during the entire 3000 mile, 5-day trip (okay, they were scared out of their minds), and I never had to resort to using the drugs although I contemplated popping one myself a couple of times. All that said, it is something I never want to do again. I arrived in Vermont only to find out that our “buyers” had backed out of the contract on the very last possible day!  Sigh...  Some people are real jerks.

I left the Honda and the cats in Vermont and flew back to LA on July 1. For the next almost 3 months we “camped out” in our now empty home, camped out for real in the Sierras, and enjoyed a combination work/play trip to Colorado, including doing the Virginius Pass aid station at Hardrock. I’m leaving out lots of pesky details, but suffice it to say wearing the same 5-6 outfits all summer and feeling like squatters in our own home got old fast.

The Sierra trips, however, were awesome.  The first trip was on the west side and some new territory at Mineral King and Sequoia National Park. I concocted a couple of longish run/hikes:  Paradise Ridge/Timber Gap/Mineral King and what I dubbed the "Tour de Florence," which was an almost 30 miler around Florence Peak.  It was pretty kick ass.  I finally did the popular ~40 mile Rae Lakes loop run, and Chris and I also did a couple of short backpacks to Pear and Twin Lakes, as well as spending 3 days backpacking around Franklin Lake with our buds Luis and Bev Escobar.  The second trip in early September was on the east side and included northern & eastern Yosemite, Lee Vining, and Bishop based hikes.  An almost 40 miler from Twin Lakes (near Bridgeport) to Tuolumne Meadows was the highlight run, but one from Tioga Road to Silver Lake over Parker and Koip Passes was pretty nice, too.  We had a lot of fun hanging with our Bishop friends, the Boyds, for a few days and got in a 5-day backpack from Taboose Pass (holy crap, what a climb) to South Lake, visiting Bench Lake, Palisade Lakes, and Dusy Basin on the way.  In between Sierra trips, we returned to Vermont for a week in August to house hunt and were lucky enough to find our new home. Yay!! FINALLY our California house closed for real, and we truly were homeless for a few weeks. I spent my last few days in California climbing 2 of the 3 “big mountains” in SoCal, Mts. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, both of which are over 10,000 ft. in elevation. (Mt. Baldy, which we’d aleady climbed a couple of times, is the other one.)

We arrived in Vermont on September 27 and have kept very busy unpacking, cleaning, and doing yard work - the previous owners were avid gardeners and left quite a project for us. My thumb is being coaxed green. We’ve snuck away for a few day hikes in the Whites and get out for a run most days.  The best trail network - for running, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and skiing - that I have found in all my travels, Kingdom Trails, is just a 20-minute drive from our house.  There are over 100 miles of trails there, in addition to literally hundreds of miles of quiet dirt roads.  The cats have settled in and seem to like their larger indoor roaming area here. We like the beauty and quiet that is rural Vermont, the generally progressive attitudes and, for me, being back HOME.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Missouri Miles - DONE

I must admit to being rather unexcited about accompanying Chris on his latest work assignment to the Heartland - that is, Kansas City - but that's because all my brain could conjure up was barbeque and flat row upon flat row of corn.  What I'd forgotten is that at a certain midwestern longitude, the air becomes more humid, the water becomes more abundant, and the predominant springtime color on the landscape is GREEN.  Such was the case with KC.

We found some great trails within a short drive of our accommodations:  Swope Park, BURP, Landahl Park, and Smithville Lake.  All the trails were smooth singletrack, playfully weaving back and forth through the hardwood forests with little ups 'n downs, and all the trails were built by the mountain biking community.  Thank you, thank you, thank you mountain bikers.  I was able to easily get in about 70 miles on these fun trails.  We also ate barbeque.  KC was pretty cool.

This is a short and sweet post because we have been super busy with "stuff" and hopefully will be in a position to relay some very good and exciting news in the near future ! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Florida Miles: DONE

We tacked on a couple of extra days on the tail end of a business trip to Jacksonville last week so that I could complete my 50 trail miles in Florida.

I chose a section of the foot-travel-only Florida Trail in the Ocala National Forest which showcases a unique habitat:  the sand pine scrub forest.  This is the largest remaining tract of this particular habitat, most of which has been destroyed by development.  This stretch of FT was the first section to be cut and blazed back in the 60s.

With a surface of sand, pine needles, and/or leaves, the trail was flat (duh), smooth, and "no-excuses" runable!  It was also extremely well marked.  The Juniper Prairie Wilderness was my favorite section.

"Prairies" here take on a different meaning.

At times the trail felt very tropical, at times more north woodsy...

Hopkins Prairie was the largest, and I was treated to sightings of 8 sand hill cranes (also 6 deer, 3 black snakes, lots of birdies, and ick:  TICKS).

Scrub Jays?
Saw a few species of flowers I'd never seen before.  Palmetto everywhere...

The Ocala has numerous natural springs and shallow lakes.  At the end of the first hot, humid day I appreciated a dip into 72-degree Juniper Springs.  Aah...BLISS!

With temps in the upper 80s and high humidity, taking 2 days to complete all 50 miles made for a more enjoyable, laid back experience.  Chris crewed me again (yes, I am a very lucky woman) and was able to meet me every 5-8 miles.  It was still hot and humid enough that I ran with a bladder full of water.
After a quick sponge bath, I am done... and about to be attacked by a clump of Spanish moss!


Friday, April 13, 2012

AT thru Shenandoah National Park... in One Swell Foop

Over 5 months in 1994, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, still the single adventure in my life I consider to be the best, most meaningful, in every way.  I had dabbled in ultrarunning pre-AT (JFK in '92 and '93) but got way more into the sport after my thru-hike and had a lot of fun revisiting different sections of the Trail by doing big chunks in one push as "training" for ultras:  the ~70 AT miles through the Great Smoky Mountains twice; the 40'ish Quad State Quad Buster (or 4 State Challenge), PA to VA thru MD and WV;  NY to MA thru CT in a day, about 50 miles; numerous long run/hikes on the AT/Long Trail in Vermont; the ~50 miles from Kinsman Notch to Hanover, NH, 4 times; and the 50'ish White Mtns. Hut Traverse (many but not all miles on the AT) 4 times as well.  The almost 100 miles of AT thru Shenandoah National Park had been on my radar for a long time, but I wasn't able to make it happen until last weekend.
When Chris was offered a work gig in DC a couple of months ago, I politicked for some extra days on the front end of the trip in order to finally attempt the Shenandoah AT section...  and also politicked for Chris to crew me.  Yay, he agreed!  Other runners I know have done the SNP miles in 2 or even 3 days, and the year Chris turned 50 he ran from the finish line at Mountain Masochist all the way to Front Royal, a distance of ~150 miles over 5 days...  but I wanted to do the entire section in one push.  Since the AT crosses or touches/abuts Skyline Drive about 50 times (for real), that meant I could go very light and was able to meet Chris about every 5 miles.

After some deliberation re start time, realizing that the nighttime hours were going to be long and, umm..., "contemplative" no matter when I started, I decided to set off around 3 p.m. on Saturday after a yummy lunch at Stone Soup in Waynesboro.  The first 20 miles or so before sunset went very well, with the Trail seeming somewhat easier on the southern end of the park, that sense undoubtedly complemented by fresh legs.  In the photo below I am not trying to make a fashion statement -- in fact, it's the first time I've worn calf sleeves while running -- but rather, after a nasty experience with a deer tick in the Shenandoahs a couple of years ago, I am *paranoid* of ticks and the horrible diseases they carry.  The sleeves and gaiters were there solely as tick armor.  (They worked.)
As darkness descended, I (smugly, I'll admit) thanked my lucky stars that I am not afraid of the dark and of being alone on the trail at night.  After all, I figured the only thing to "fear," other than ticks, is humans... and most of the perverts of the world aren't waiting at road crossings on Skyline Drive for lone female runners.  The nighttime hours were long, as expected, but thankfully sleepiness was never an issue -- I stayed wide awake and alert the whole night through without the aid of caffeine.  The full moon was spectacular!!  One unexpected occurrence was encountering a small fire atop Bearfence Mountain just off the trail.  (We reported it to the park rangers the next day.  They already knew about it and were sending crews up to take care of it.)  At about 4 a.m. a skunk appeared on the path ahead of me, and I cautiously followed it for about a couple hundred yards before it finally veered off the trail, thankfully without feeling threatened enough to spray me.  Wildlife sightings were an all-time low for me in SNP:  only 6 deer and no bear.  I did hear one whip-poor-will for just a few seconds which, stirring up fond memories of the nighttime hours at Massanutten, put a big smile on my face.
Easter sunrise was a welcomed sight -- it was absolutely beautiful.  The weather had been great throughout the night -- a bit cold (40s) if I stopped for too long but relatively calm and needing to cover my legs only from about 4-6 a.m.  Sunday was a slight bit cooler and quite breezy on the ridge but very nice for running.  Oddly, there were a couple of early afternoon hours where the temps actually got warm and, with the lack of full leaf coverage, I got a tiny bit of sunburn.  As the hours and miles progressed, my "run" became more and more of a fast hike, but I put little pressure on myself.  The main goal was to complete the miles, not set any records.  I did notice around the 24-hour mark that I'd made it to Elkwallow Gap which is about mile 80.  Woohoo.
After meeting me one last time at Jenkins Gap, Chris got us a room in Front Royal before driving around and picking me up at the foot of the Compton Gap Trail.  I'd scoped out the shortest escape route from the northern SNP terminus, and it was only 0.7 mile to the car.  And, just like that, I was done.  Yippee!  Having not done this kind of mileage since the Bear 100 in September of 2010, I really had no business attempting 96 miles in one push but was pleased with how well my body responded.  Only the balls of my feet were sore.  I blame that on the rocks of the Shenandoahs which I'd somehow forgotten about.  My Salomon Speedcross shoes and Drymax socks performed excellently:  not once did I take off my shoes or so much as adjust a lace, and I suffered nary a blister!

As we discussed dinner on the short drive back to Front Royal, I surprised Chris by saying "Screw it, let's just go to Burger King for Whoppers."  It was my second BK visit since college.  It tasted awesome!!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Five days in Death Valley

I spent the past week on a little solo foray to Death Valley while Chris was in Dallas on business.  (I don't do Dallas.)  My "A" plan had been 10,000+ foot Mts. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio in Southern California, but a couple of rainy-down-low/snowy-up-high weekends necessitated a switch to Plan B.  I love Death Valley for its quiet solitude and springtime warmth, and it had been over 3 years since my last visit so I figured it was time for another visit.  After driving some back roads to Mohave, I made my way through Ridgecrest and Trona, arriving at the Wildrose charcoal kilns in time for a Monday afternoon jaunt up Wildrose, elev. 9064 feet.

The 4-mile trail is easy, climbing just over 2000 feet.  It makes for a nice little acclimatization hike for nearby Telescope Peak, at 11043 feet the high point of Death Valley National Park.

After my hike, I drove around the northern end of the Panamints, through Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek en route to Shorty's Well, my starting point for Tuesday's excursion up Hanaupah Canyon.  My goal was to scope out the route up Telescope Peak from the east, a route that climbs over 11,000 vertical feet in ~15 miles.  I've been intrigued by this route for some time:  there aren't many mountains that can claim that kind of vert in one sustained climb!

I made it up to Hanaupah Spring, a sublime oasis in the desert, and spotted a coyote high in the canyon.  What a treat!  At this point I'd climbed about 5000 vert in about 11 miles.  The summit was only 5 miles further, but with another 6000 feet to ascend - and the reality that I'd have to return via the same laborious route (most who ascend this route take the groomed trail down and either get picked up or have a vehicle spotted at Mahogany Flats), I opted to save it for another time.  Okay, I wimped out.  The walk back down to Shorty's Well was sort of monotonous, but the temps rose as I descended.  This was a good thing - I like a bit of heat, and it got up to probably the low 80s, warm enough for a rinse from the solar shower anyway.  That's the Amargosa Range towering over Badwater Basin in the distance.

A quick reality check in Furnace Creek - I got 4 gallons, just enough to get me through the rest of  the week - and I was on my way to Emigrant Campground for the night.

After Tuesday's ~22 miles, I slept like a rock in the Honda Element, waking at 8 AM for a leisurely morning of reading (the excellent and appropriate America's Women:  400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins) over breakfast and coffee (REAL coffee with real half 'n half).  I spent late morning and early afternoon driving west to Panamint Springs and checking out Darwin Falls.  Having decided to do Telescope Peak via the easy trail the following day, I made my way back to Wildrose Campground for the night.  Thursday morning I was up at O'dark thirty for the 17-mile round trip jaunt.  The trail to Telescope is easy and runable, assuming one can properly breathe at 8000-11000 feet elevation.  Since I was carrying a down jacket, wind pants, mittens, food, water, and other safety gear, my pack weight was enough that I happily walked (vs. ran) the entire ridge.

With thankfully mild temps (30s-40s), only slight winds, and just a slight bit of tricky snow traversing, I made it to the summit by midmorning and enjoyed the view... especially the view down into South Hanaupah Canyon, further checking out the route up Telescope from that side, to be completed at a future date...

On the return across the ridge, I encountered 14 other hikers which seemed like a lot of people for midweek in the middle of nowhere.  That's Bennett and Rogers Peaks in the photo below.  I climbed them on my last trip up Telescope 3 years ago.

After catching up on email, texts, and voicemails in Ridgecrest - there is very little cell service in Death Valley National Park save for Furnace Creek - Thursday night was spent in Red Rock Canyon State Park which is about 1/3 of the way back home.  In a bit of an effort to put off the inevitable unloading, unpacking, laundry, and mail catch-up, I stopped for a short run on the PCT Friday morning.  This particular section of trail, near San Francisquito Canyon, was smooth and switchbacked, near perfect for running.  Yeah!!
Chris took the next 3 photos at Point Mugu State Park just this morning.  We had a nice 11 miler in the cool misty coastal air, quite a change from the previous 5 days.

It's nice to be back home.........