The best thing about my new stuff is we left the very next day to try it out. I am super-impressed with my new tent. We came out west to New Mexico and had a delightful day sledding on the white sand in White Sands National Monument. We set up camp in our designated site and enjoyed the weird feeling of being in a snow field made of sand. In the middle of the night a gigantic wind kicked up. Kevin and I were in the Scout. The wind was hitting us square on the side, and Jay was in the Big Agnes UL3 Flycreek. At around midnight we heard that dreaded call: "Mommmmmm, Daaaaaaaaaad, HELP!." The Flycreek had flattened with bent tent poles. Kevin helped extract Jay and Utah from the Flycreek, and I found out the two person scout fit all three of us for the night.
We were surprised to find that you are allowed to sled on the sand. They even sell little plastic sleds in the visitor center. Don't we look like we are on an arctic trek?
Jay had a blast sledding off steeper and steeper dunes.
The park has a backpacking camp a mile from the parking lot. You are only allowed to spend one night and there are ten sites.
From White Sands, we headed to a brand new National Monument: The Organ Mountains National Monument in New Mexico. Here we camped in a very nice campground over Christmas. Jay slept in the Highlander while Kevin and I camped in my Scout.
Once again, the Scout stood the challenge. We woke up the morning after Christmas and wondered what was on the tent. I touched the side to hear a distinctive swoosh of snow sliding to the ground. Testimony to a good ten is waking up in the morning without even knowing it snowed.
Our campground sat high above a valley that holds Fort Bliss. I seem to be following my Dad's training in WWII without meaning to. He trained here in the 1940s to join the US Army's 1st cavalry. He was then sent to Leadville, Colorado to train ski troops. You can see that post in my CDT Colorado Posts.
We seemed to be on a National Monument sweep this winter. The first stop in Arizona was Tucson and its REI that politely replaced our Flycreek and replaced our pocket Rocket that stopped mating to the propane cans. Next we headed to Saguaro National Park where we did a two night backpacking trip. We hiked in to a camp that was six miles in but straight up about 2000 feet. Kevin did a big day hike the middle day of 12 miles with snowpack and serious elevation gains and losses. I only hiked up to the pass with him then hiked back to camp. Jay spent most of the day sleeping in the tent.
At the start of the hike there are thousands of these Western icons.
but there are many other cacti as well.
You never quite get free of Tucson
We hiked right up to that rock.
As we got into the higher reaches I got to see this old friend. My favorite Mojave plant on the PCT was this amazing shrub with its deep red bark and olive leaves. It's called Manzanita.
I just bought these shoes from Cody Lee on Bearfoot Hikers Gear Flea Market:https://www.facebook.com/groups/BearfootsHikingGearFleaMarket/
Jay trying out some moves at sunset
Kevin got back from his hike right at our sunset dinner.
We hiked out the next day and made it out for lunch. Next we were headed to Organ Pipe National Monument.
Jay was complaining we weren't doing anything for him so we went to this awesome Air museun:http://www.pimaair.org/
We camped in Organ Pipe Campground for New Years.
The campground is nicely divided between RVs and tent campers.
We did a long drive around the mountain part of the Monument. I was doing some fun birding, while at Organ Pipe, because the Rangers let me borrow some binoculars. Some of the prettier ones are the jays; out west they run to Blues. I saw a Mexican Jay, a Western Scrub Jay and a grey Jay. Two unique birds to the Mexican border are the Phainopepala, a black bird with a crest that we saw lots of at Organ Pipe, and the Pyrrhuloxia,
a bird similar to our Cardinal.I also saw a Crissal Thrasher, Spotted Towhee, Bohemian Waxwing, Gila Woodpecker. One bird eluded me, and that was the Cactus Wren. As we were driving back to the campground from the scenic drive, we saw two birds in the road. It turned out that one of the Cactus Wrens had been hit by a car or something. Its mate was trying to get it up. We stopped and found the bird was still alive, so we carried it back to the visitor center where a biologist would save him (or so we hope).
This is ice art: the opening to my water bladder one fine crisp morning.
After the desert we headed to Durango for the skiing part of our vacation. We got home finally last night January 10, 2015
Jay has been doing Junior Ranger since he was three years old. We find the workbooks help to enhance our understanding of each Park's natural world. Now some of the parks have "Not so Junior Ranger" programs. We completed a few of these. Most of the time the program is free.
Well that is our whole Winter break. I hope you liked the pix.
The Crazy Mattsons