Rattle Snake Gulch
Getting ready for the Winds in September.
Used today as a training day. I had to go to Boulder to sign a print for the upcoming Trout Unlimited Fund Raiser Auction and took advantage of my proximity to one of my favorite old haunts to get in a workout.
Years ago we'd ride Rattlesnake Gulch on our mountain bikes. I've gone over the handlebars a few memorable times with no helmet and no one around, only to get up and realize how fortunate I'd been to not have my brains splashed on the rock. This time I was on foot and carrying my LowePro Photo Trekker AWII, packed with 45 pounds of kit. I wasn't going for the photographs so much as just the workout.
It's not too strenuous: 1,200 feet of elevation gain over about 1.4 miles up, plus the .8 mile loop at the top, and the little scramble up to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks at the top, which I just had to do. All tolled, including the short Fowler Trail Spur at the end was just over 5 miles. It was cold at 38°, and extremely windy. But oh, so beautiful.
Usually the canyon is crawling with climbers. I've spent some time here in the 80's during my climbing days. Great rock and easy access make it a mecca for wall climbing. Rattle Snake Gulch is up off the main canyon and winds up the hills, past spectacular views of the canyon and eastern plains to the historic Crags Hotel ruin, 800 feet above the trailhead.
Gearing up for Zion last fall I finally picked up some GoreTex wind pants and I'll tell ya, they're worth their weight in gold. Between that and the new wind parka I also got for the trip, it can get as windy as it wants and I'm good. Nice n' warm. It was so windy I needed one hand on my Wind Stopper skull cap to keep it on my head. But most of the trail winds through the trees, so the wind only hammers you when you emerge onto an open ridge. Great fun.
Last summer after a good bit of forum reading and research I finally decided on the best way to carry a lot of camera gear: use the pretty good pack you already have and just do it. There's no perfect pack, there's no short cut, there's no way to make it "easy." It's hard. And you just need to be ready for it.
The year before I'd picked up the Photo Trekker for my spring trip to Zion and while it fit a lot of gear, it sure got heavy fast. Being used to full-fledged climbing backpacks designed to carry a lot of weight for a long approaches and ascents, I wasn't convinced I'd done the right thing with this Photo Trekker. Empty it weights 11 pounds, and it has gone largely unused for hiking trips opting instead to go light and throw gear in my unpadded, unsecured mountaineering packs. Invariably though, I'll find I don't have that one piece of camera gear I left behind to save weight. With the Winds in mind this September I'm focused on trimming my kit down to the ideal load. It's extremely difficult to do and will be the topic of more posts I'm sure. This day, though, I just filled the pack for the weight and almost didn't care what was in there.
It worked great. This morning in the shower I put the water on as hot as I could tolerate and just stood there with it beating down on my chaffed, red shoulders until I couldn't take it anymore. It felt great. Aside from that, no Ibuprofin or otherwise muscle med's needed. I'm encouraged.
The big question is, though, what will the pack look like for the Winds? In the past when I've gone my pack has been quite heavy- loaded with climbing gear and no photo gear to speak of. Now it'll be loaded with photo gear and the climbing gear staying behind. I will however have my fishing gear too, so I'll need to pack smart.
I've considered goats or Lamas for the trip, but haven't decided yet. While I like the idea of having an animal carry the weight, they top out about 60 pounds. That means the animal would carry some of the weight but not all, and I'd still be saddled (no pun intended) with some sort of pack with some amount of weight. I also don't like the idea of having he/she-whatever- tethered at camp while I'm off wandering during the day. Then there's the issue of how it (they) would get along with the dog. I've considered having a commercial outfitter horse pack me in but that seems like overkill. So for now I'm planning on using fitness to carry the weight and keep it simple. It allows more flexibility, fewer variables, and keeps the footprint smaller.
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