Travel Day

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 4.2mm, f/1.6, 1/4300 sec, ISO32
“Rest Stop” Arizona, 2021

Heading back to Texas, but stopping for the evening in New Mexico! Two bicycles along for the ride. 😀🚲🚲

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/3.6, 1/180 sec, ISO320
“Rear-View Sunset” New Mexico, 2021

Back in the Stands

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/4, 1/200 sec, ISO320
“Pitch” Los Angeles, 2021

Tonight my brother took me to go see our beloved World Champion (I love that!) Los Angeles Dodgers play against the Colorado Rockies. Dodger Stadium is open to limited capacity, with socially-distanced seating and masks being required. I was happy to see that the mask policy was strictly enforced, with stadium staff on the lookout for people who weren’t wearing masks, and them put them on. Our “pod” of two seats was distanced from other pods, and the transactions for food and drinks are all contactless. All-in-all, it was about as safe as going to the supermarket.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/3.6, 1/120 sec, ISO320
“Dodgers Win!” Los Angeles, 2021

The game itself was amazing (if you are a Dodger fan), with the lead changing a few times, a couple of home runs from the Dodgers, and the home team coming out on top. What an awesome night!

Overnight at a Highway Rest Stop

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO320
“New Mexico Rest” Deming, 2021

Today I am in the middle of a road trip from our home in Texas to my parents’ house in California. The trip will take two days of driving, but instead of staying at a hotel, I decided to save money and either find a free campsite or stay at a Walmart parking lot (yes, this is a thing!). The rest stop just east of Deming, New Mexico popped up in the map and the reviews were pretty good. I figured I’d check it out and, sure enough, it was pretty nice! I parked by one of the picnic tables and made it my home for the evening.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/5.6, 1/850 sec, ISO320
“New Mexico Sunset” Deming, 2021

I think there were about 4 other groups doing the same thing, either in their RVs or passenger cars, and I felt very safe. I’m used to camping so this was pretty similar, although I just laid out my sleeping pad and sleeping bag in the back of my car instead of pitching my tent.

I’d say that this is not for everyone, but I’m simply on a long drive to get from point A to point B and not sightseeing. I honestly just wanted to get some sleep before continuing the drive. That being said, I did get to catch a wonderful sunset, and I was able to have dinner (a sandwich I made at home) while video chatting with family. So, it was a pretty good night. 😄

The Hike Down

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/600 sec, ISO200
“The Boot” Big Bend, 2020

Today I broke camp and headed down Colima Trail to the Boot Canyon Trail. I decided to return to the Chisos Basin via the Pinnacles Trail, which is the same trail we hiked in January, but just in the opposite direction.

Pinnacles Trail is pretty steep towards the top, with some fairly large steps. I remember when we hiked up it, my thighs were burning since we were carrying all of our water. I think my pack weighed 43 lbs (19.5 kg). This time, I was traveling down (a trekking pole is very helpful) with a lighter pack (32 lbs / 14.5 kg) since I drank almost all my water and I was thoroughly enjoying it. Ideally, you want to finish your hike with no water left in order to minimize weight, and I did pretty good in that I ended up back at the car with .5 liters remaining.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO200
“Trailheads” Big Bend, 2020

On the way down, I passed a lot of hikers going up the hill, and a bunch of them were really suffering. I could fully empathize with them! On the first day, your pack will be the heaviest, but at least your legs are fresh. Anyways, I encouraged those hikers who looked most exhausted and kept on descending into the Chisos Basin. The trail went by quickly and after just ~2 hours I was back at the car.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO200
“Casa Grande” Big Bend, 2020

I really enjoy solo camping, and solo travel in general, and this trip to Big Bend National Park was a relatively safe way to satisfy my wanderlust during this COVID-19 pandemic. I’m so glad I went!

Relaxing Day Hiking in the Chisos Mountains

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/8, 1/400 sec, ISO200
“East Rim Trail” Big Bend, 2020

I woke up today looking forward to a relaxing hike around the East and South Rims of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. Compared to yesterday, my pack would be very light because I only would need to carry today’s water (not even tonight’s!) and also since I was staying at the same campsite again, I could leave my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and camp clothes in the bear box. The only thing I left set up at the campsite was the tent stakes which I didn’t think critters would mess with.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/4, 1/40 sec, ISO800
“Colima 2 Campsite” Big Bend, 2020

First, it was time for a bit of breakfast. I brought a Mountain House Breakfast Skillet for my morning meal, but I wasn’t very hungry, so I just had trail mix. But I was really excited to try out my new GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip coffee filter. Instant coffee is okay in a pinch, but real ground coffee beans are way better, and this lightweight filter makes fresh coffee on the trail super easy to prepare. It folds flat too, which makes it easy to store underneath the fuel cannister in my cooking pot. I ground some beans at home and put them in a Ziploc bag and my food bag smelled so good!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/4, 1/20 sec, ISO800
“Real Coffee” Big Bend, 2020

After breakfast, I packed the bear box with my excess gear and water, then hit the trail.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5, 1/90 sec, ISO200
“Bear Box” Big Bend, 2020

Last January, my buddy and I stayed one night on the East Rim at ER2 campsite, and the views from the rim were spectacular! But at that time of year, a large section of the East and South Rim trails was off-limits in order to protect the Peregrine Falcons as they nested. So I was excited to take in the parts of the trail I missed, and the views were amazing! I pretty much knew they would be awesome, but was happy to have very clear conditions. The South Rim is highly regarded, but I think I prefer the East Rim, especially the views of Elephant Tusk and then out towards Boquillas Canyon in the far distance.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/11, 1/950 sec, ISO200
“East Rim View” Big Bend, 2020
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/8, 1/180 sec, ISO200
“Elephant Tusk” Big Bend, 2020
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/8, 1/600 sec, ISO200
“East Rim Trail” Big Bend, 2020
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/8, 1/550 sec, ISO200
“South Rim Trail” Big Bend, 2020

While taking a little snack break on the South Rim Trail, I decided to take a self-portrait, but I didn’t like any of the photos of myself, so here’s one of my back as I went to pose. 😀

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/8, 1/680 sec, ISO200
“Self Portrait” Big Bend, 2020

It was interesting seeing the other hikers on the trail. There’s a big difference between day-hikers and backpacking campers. While almost everyone on the trail is friendly, the day-hikers tend to just say hello, whereas the backpackers are happy to stop and have a conversation. I guess there’s a greater sense of community since you are generally dealing with the same challenges and it’s fun to share similar experiences. Also, I like to chat (masked and at a safe distance of course) with the folks who have camera gear since they are always happy to “talk shop”. Then there are the solo backpackers like me who might be feeling a little lonely and are in search of a bit of conversation. 😂

I’m pretty knowledgeable about the different types of backpacking and camping gear so I find it interesting to note the range of gear and experience of the hikers on the trail. One one end of the spectrum are the ultralight hikers, who sacrifice some of the luxury items in order to minimize pack-weight. I chatted with one woman who was on the final day of her 5-day excursion, and she was definitely going ultralight. Her pack was tiny! On the other end of the spectrum was a group of young men who were hiking with inexpensive (and large, heavy) big-box sleeping bags, a cooler, and cups hanging of the backs of their packs. In the middle of the spectrum were those backpackers like me, who have mid to light-weight gear and some more “luxury” items. And by luxury, I’m talking about things like Kindles, a camp chair, and an extra set of camp clothes. One thing we all have in common, though, is our love for hiking and the outdoors. Like the saying goes, “Hike your own hike!” It’s all good.

If you care to see what my pack consisted of, here’s the list over at LighterPack.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO640
“Tent” Big Bend, 2020

After returning to camp, I decided to have another cup of fresh coffee (I need my caffeine!) before setting up my tent again. That coffee filter is great. Well worth bringing! Then it was time to have dinner, which I decided was going to be the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet. Let me tell you, the Breakfast Skillet made for a delicious dinner. I have to say, it’s my favorite Mountain House meal so far, even beating out the Beef Stroganoff. Delicious!

I read my Kindle until the sun went down and then I climbed into my tent and fell asleep for a couple of hours before waking up to take a few night photos. The sky was incredible and I was able to see a couple of shooting stars from the Geminid Meteor Shower as I was lying in my sleeping bag. It was one of those really cool moments… this is what camping is all about!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/2, 15 sec, ISO3200
“Camp at Night” Big Bend, 2020
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/2, 15 sec, ISO3200
“Stars” Big Bend, 2020

Here’s my Strava from today’s hike.