Well, today starts out with me slicing open some rather big blisters, leftovers from a very misguided effort yesterday.
I began that day with the thought of an easy exploratory up a canyon near my house. Even though the trailhead would be just 1.5 miles away, for some reason I drove my truck over there instead of just walking; very, very glad I did that. Instead of heading off up into the planned canyon (...if planning is what you can call it) I headed up the Alamo Canyon wash towards Deadman Canyon, a drainage I'd never hiked in, but had glanced down into from the Roundup Grounds last year. It just sounded easier and I was sort of looking for a lighter day.
Initially, it was ideal... very easy, everything sort of in miniature and it suggested a possible beginner's introductory hike for canyoneering. That came to halt with the first 20 overhanging waterfall. I skirted it easily, but the next 25 footer created a bit of a problem. I was 15' up it when my thoughts drifted to the worst case scenario potentials of what I was doing. I slipped foot, a rock breaking off in my hand, an unplanned for light headed moment... any of those and the fall would be very unforgiving. So, instead of completing the final 10', I decided to climb back down, discovering that the pack prevented that...hmmm... so, ditched the pack, dropping it back down to the base. Nice surprise when I retrieved the pack: I found my lost GPS unit tucked away in a side pocket. I thought I'd lost it in Colorado, but in fact when I'd loaned out the vest clip to a friend, I'd simply stuck the unit in the pocket and forgotten about it.
Next waterfall was more in the 40' range... probably climbable, but...
After hiking an easy couple of hours up the canyon I'd effectively exhausted the potentials, all that was left was the overly steep upper end that would terminate out in the cliffs overhead. The smart move would have been to traverse to an adjoining ridge or over to the Roundup Grounds trail, but for some odd reason I continued straight up the grade.
After a couple of hours of scrambling and traversing around cliffs, I topped out on the ridge, putting me in range of a very interesting landmark: the Steamboat. This is a huge outcropping that towers out on the front of the lower range overlooking the city. One of those points you always look up at and wish you'd been on top of. From the valley floor it looks formidable. oddly enough, once up here on the ridge it was an easy walk up...
Now, Six hours into what was supposed to have been a three hour hike I was hovering around the 8,000' mark and not liking the idea of downclimbing that ridge nor those waterfalls. I decided instead to loop hike back up to the forest road that would allow me to traverse easily over to Alamo Canyon trail, the trail I'd started out the day on.
Trail is a bit of a misnomer for T104... it is really just a route. It follows the canyon bottom from the city up to around the 7,000' level. Getting to it's upper end ended up being around seven miles of dirt road, after a very nasty bushwhack to get up to the road.
About now I began thinking about the issue of food and water. I had not packed for a long adventure day... really, just some fruit and a liter of Gatorade and three pints of water. Six hours into the day I sat down and ate an apple and orange, breaking fast. I do not eat breakfast nor even drink to start my day... I usually like to put in 4 hours first. Now, it was suggesting that food and water might become an issue for this effort. I had three apples and two oranges left, and a cantaloupe. I just kept moving and paused to eat the fruit every hour or so.
There were some interesting diversion during the tedious road hike. The Forest service had finally put up Trailhead signs along the lower end of the upper level hikes. Where before, hardly anyone would be aware that there were accesses to trails, now huge signs marked the spots. Interestingly, accompanying these new signs were closure orders prohibiting anyone from entering the trails. The ATVs had made such a mess of the upper meadows that the area trails and roads have been closed down for the remainder of this year.
Once onto the Alamo Canyon trail I realized that the heavy monsoon season had converted the upper mileage, normally a very nice meadow traverse, into a head high maze of thistle and flowers... no sign of path anywhere. No one had been through here this summer. fortunately, I'd done this route enough to manage to stay on the route. Underneath all that growth was the old service roadway for the Alamogordo Watershed... other than pushing through the heavy growth, the footing was easy.
I'd saved my last pint of water... thinking I'd refill bottles at the springs in the top of the canyon. I did not have filter or tablets, but If worse came to worse I could at least have water to drink. I settled into a nice flowing pool there, soaking some wornout feet, and enjoying that bottle of water. I refilled two pints for emergency use... and dropped down int the rocky canyon bottom.
I was down to the melon for food... and at 5:30pm finally took my first break of the day. It was one great melon. GPS unit told me that sunset was a bit over an hour away. I figured I was probably an hour and a half before getting out of the canyon, walking at a slower pace to conserve energy. I'd decided not to drink the unfiltered water; I was still sweating... any weird feelings were more likely associated with caloric intake (lack thereof). At my heavy bodyweight I burn over 800 calories an hour on the uphills and over 600 even moving down grade. I was likely going into a hard fat metabolism, which always feels a bit odd if I'm not trained up for it.
Sun set... canyon grew dark. Walking was not too bad save for the feet which were only in shape for about a six hour effort. 12 hours out had turned them to mush. Oh, well.
Finally, back to the truck I was really happy that I'd driven that 1.5 miles to the trailhead, cutting off 3 miles of extra walking from this day.
I drank over 100 ounces of water... 80 ounces of protein shake once home, and still got nailed with interesting leg cramps during the night.
Today.. well... wondering now what's up that south fork of Deadman's Canyon. Maybe I'll find out tomorrow?