Monday, August 8, 2011

Storming the Castle

We spent the weekend tent camping and hiking. Are you a camper?  People either are or they aren't.  Or they've tried it.  It takes a certain breed to be a tent camper.  Kids love it.  What do you think?

Now I'll post some random thought and pictures about our most recent camping experience.  I'll just ramble on.  I know the grandparents will get a kick out of it.  Especially mine, since they don't camp.  Wait....they took my siblings and I camping once when we were young.  And I think I have a photo of them "camped out" in an air bed in a school gym when Biker Boy and I went on a week long bike tour with them.  A real photo...not digital.  Am I dating myself?

On with the camping....

On the day we arrived the weather was a little sketchy, so we decided to take a drive before setting up camp.  The asphalt road was nice and then turned to gravel.  We saw a sign that said "La Mosca Lookout" and decided to keep driving. The road then turned to dirt and then to an unmaintained dirt road and then to a single lane road with rocks and then it just turned into a mountain goat trail.  Luckily one of us is an experienced driver, although he said he could probably have mountain biked up the mountain faster than we drove up it.  Another one of us was wishing we still had our Subaru Outback that we traded in for our Nissan Quest mini van (cough, cough...that would be me).  Another one of us was demanding we turn around even though there was no place to turn around (that would be Scooter).  And the littlest one of all slept through the entire thing and asked when we got to the top, "Are we at the campground?"    That's a picture of the road we came up below.  The peak at the top of the picture is the one we hiked up to the next day from the other side.  I in no way advocate that just anyone drive a 2-wheel drive vehicle up these roads.  We had good conditions and my mountain biking hubby is a very good driver. 

We got lucky at the top.  The gate at the top of La Mosca Lookout was open only because the firemen were up there for a quick visit.  So we got a private tour of the top and a detailed explanation of the area.  And it didn't rain while we were up there.  We were told the gate isn't usually open because they don't want people partying up there and then falling off the cliff.  The picture below is Biker Boy's favorite.  The kids and I are sitting on the rock steps that lead to the lookout.

And here's another vantage point picture.  I took this one as we were coming down the road.  I also took a picture of a cow, but it seems I took a lot of pictures of cows.  More on that later.

After our drive up to the look out we set up our tent.  Then we ate.  Then it rained.  With lots of thunder and lighting. We got to spend a lovely 45 minutes in a steamy van with 2 kids full of energy.  Did I mention there was a lot of lightning and thunder really close by?  But it was hard to hear it all over the squealing of the kids.  It was like being in a cage with wild monkeys.  Sometimes I wonder where I got those children.  Chewy would tell me she came from the pet camper.  (That's where Ranger came from.)

The rain filled up the creek bed behind our campsite.  The creek bed was dry when we arrived.  It wasn't after it stormed.  So we played by the creek for awhile.  Scooter learned a lesson in not throwing rocks and sticks when people are below you.  I was the object of the lesson. 

We hiked a little around the campground before going to bed.  We had to cross the creek a few times.  Then we slept in our cozy little tent, just the four of us and the dog.  And good news....the tent stayed dry.  It was up during the downpour.  Good news....good news.  Otherwise I would have returned it.

The next morning we got up, ate breakfast, and took off on a drive to get to the start of our hike.  We came upon a "party place" in the National Forest where some people didn't put out their fire and left a bunch of litter. We did our civic duty and pulled over. Biker Boy had to use some of our small stash of water to put out the very smoldering fire. The forest had just lifted the no fire ban because of all the rain.  Still....some people aren't very smart.

We drove 5 miles down a road not recommended for passenger vehicles.  Our van barely does well in the city because of it's low ground clearance, but we made it to the parking lot on the rough dirt road. We only dinged up our muffler a few more times.  We parked next to a Nissan Xterra and a Subaru Forrester was next to us when we left.  We were the only mini-van.  Go figure. 

The kids were ready to rock our hike in the beginning. Especially since Biker Boy had each gotten them their own Camelbaks for hiking.  They were stoked to go.  You can find out tourist info about our hike here.

The photo below was taken right before we left and approximately 5 minutes before Chewy had the biggest melt down in a long time.  It was a tantrum to rival all tantrums.  I'm pretty sure the only other 4 people on the mountain ahead of us could hear her yelling and screaming.  She was a pretty good wild animal deterrent.  I was about ready to take her back to the van and sit there with her. But she got control and put that energy to good use to get up the mountain. I was too out of my mind to get a picture of her having a tantrum.

Our day was pretty much spent hiking up to the top of Mount Taylor.  We started in a grove of aspens, made it to the Ponderosa Pines, and then got up above the treeline where we zigzagged our way to the top.  Can you see the trail switch backing its way up to the top?

We stopped for snacks along the way.  We also found out that the dog will look at the camera when we set it up on the self timer.  He was mesmerized by the little blinking light.  He also liked the cows, but I'll get to that story soon.  I left my hiking poles where we took the photo below.  I didn't realize I had forgotten them until about the picture above when Biker Boy asked what happened to my poles.  We were able to recover them on the way down.

We did meet the Xterra driving people at the top and they took a picture for us.  Storms clouds were just starting to get bigger and we missed a storm.  We got lucky again.

The kids can now say that they have "bagged a peak."  They did awesome for a 6 and 4-year-old hiking that far.  We only had to carry Chewy a little bit.  Biker Boy more than me. 

We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the top for lunch.  In case you were wondering.

We signed the log book so we have proof we were there.  Scooter signed his own name.

We only saw about 10 people the entire day and about 50 cows.  Ranger attempted to chase and corral a cow.  Hilarious.  But we eventually stopped his fun because I didn't want a cow kicking him in the head.  Although the cows pretty much ignored the dog that was the size of their hoofs.  One cow did chase after Scooter...I had to yell at Biker Boy to save him.  It wasn't that close, I just might be a skittish mama.  Or the thunder in the distance had me on edge.  And that our only encounters with "wildlife."  Cows.

And here's my favorite picture.  It's one of Chewy and Biker Boy resting not too far from the end of our hike.  Not too long after I took the picture a huge old tree fell not too far behind us.  It was loud.  Scooter was attending to the call of nature and wasn't in the photo.

Biker Boy and I each took some photos of the beautiful wild flowers on the hike.  It was truly a beautiful hike.

It was also a tiring hike.  It was just over 6 miles round trip and took us 6 hours with stops.  There was also over 2000 feet of elevation gain.  We bagged the peak and then sacked out when we got back to the campsite.  The hike was worth it.  Worth all the pain.  And I cannot tell you how sore I am today.  I'm sore in muscles I totally forgot I had.  And the kids are back to bouncing around like kangaroos.  Oh to be young.  I can hardly push myself out of a chair.  My calves are burning.

We all had sore tootsies when we got back.  It felt good to take a seat.

 We were a POOPED out family.  Pooped with a capital P.  As Chewy said, "I'm pooped. (giggle, giggle) I just said a potty word." 

We built a fire and sat staring at it. We eventually made smores.

Oh, and this hike was only just a month after Scooter got the cast off of his broken leg.  He's quite the trooper! 

There was no running water at our campground.  But you know you want to see the pit potties.  Yep, these were great.  Until they ran out of toilet paper.

There was only one other person in the campground besides us, yet every human being in a 10 mile radius would drive through this small campground.  Some would picnic, some we assumed were dropping off garbage, some were partying (and kept me awake), and others we joked were selling "stuff."  There were about 20 cars that drove through the campground and left.  Weird. 

Ranger did well on the trip.  He hiked the whole way too.  Then he camped out in the messy van.  Did I mention he liked the cows?

I did take a movie of the cow chasing incident.  Maybe I have a photo of him with a cow.  This is the best it gets.

On our way home the day after our hike....the kids didn't sleep at all.  I have no idea why.  We were all tired. 

And that folks is our weekend camping.  Now it's your turn.  What did you do?  Or do you have any past camping stories?  Love smores?  Hate pit potties?  Spill it and have fun storming the castle.  ("Princess Bride" anyone?)

Have a great week! might like my "Tips for Camping with Young Kids." 

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