Taking it all in and rising above the challenges of life

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Organ Needle Trail, Las Cruces, New Mexico –  32.2015° N, 106.3529° W

Sometimes it takes getting out and rising above your challenges to figure out the answer. I have found through the years that the further i remove myself from civilization, the clearer I can think. Self reflection seems to come easier above 9,000 feet.

As I sit and ponder the complexities of life, everything seems so far away and considerably more manageable. Should you ever be faced with a difficult life decision, I recommend escaping into the mountains for a few hours.

Well, that’s my strategy anyway.

El Rito

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El Rito, New Mexico  – 36.4158° N, 106.1975° W

The beautiful conglomerate walls rise above the treetops of the Carson National Forest and welcome you to their scenic and technical climbs. An abundance of walls, with routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.12, are a short hike from an amazing dispersed camping area.

We started on a Friday night and climbed all day. There are literally hundreds of routes, both trad and sport to explore. An extensive list is available here. I recommend printing it out and taking it with you. It proved to be a wealth of information.

The weather was chilly, but warmed up nicely and made for perfect days of climbing. To this day, El Rito still remains one of my favorite climbing spots in beautiful New Mexico. We will be back.

Desert Dirtbags

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City of Rocks  – 32.5900° N, 107.9758° W

Life in the desert is a hot, dusty, desolate piece of beautiful earth. I am proud to wear the “Desert Dirtbag” moniker.

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Sandy tents and sleeping bags become an expectation with every adventure. Grit in your teeth and sand in every orifice makes spending time in the wilds of high desert a unique environment.

People either thrive in the harsh environment or become overwhelmed by baron landscape.

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We choose to embrace it’s beauty and recognize the thriving ecosystem here in the desert southwest.

Breaking Free to Escape into the Wild

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Peña Blanca – 32.1318° N, 106.3615° W

Today, we ditched work (Shhh. Don’t tell.) and escaped into the wild. When the stress builds to a boiling point, the only thing that makes it subside is to get lost into the wilderness.

We found our peace wandering around Pena Blanca. We hiked. We climbed. We let go of the crippling stress and cleansed ourselves in the beautiful majesty of the desert southwest.

Escape into the White Mountain Wilderness

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White Mountain Wilderness, New Mexico –  33.2657° N, 105.4516° W

North of the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico, lies 50,000 acres of beautiful land within the Lincoln National Forest. This was the backdrop for our latest adventure.

wpid-20140322_222530_1.jpgUpon setting up camp on Friday night, the first thing we noticed was how dark and cold it was. A cloudless sky let the warmth of the day escape leaving the temperatures in the mid 20’s. The warmth of the campfire was much appreciated. We have camped in cold weather on numerous occasions, but there was a definite bite in the air on this frigid evening.

The morning sun was a welcoming and slowly began to raise the temperatures, which would reach a warm 55 degrees. It also illuminated the beautiful surroundings which were not visible the previous evening. It reaffirmed my belief that the Lincoln National Forest is one of the most beautiful places in New Mexico.

Day one held 15 miles of hiking along a north-south trending ridge and canyon system, that forms the divide of the Sacramento Mountains. Toward the end of the day’s hike, the wide open vistas gave way to moderately-sloped, forested canyons and small streams, which led us to camp two. It proved to be an equally cold evening once the sun set below the horizon.

Day two contained ten additional miles of hiking, completing the loop back to the trail head. We were sad to see the end of the trail, and my vehicle which would lead us back to civilization. Times spend alone in the wilderness helped us escape the reality of the daily grind.

The wild is our solace, and returning from it becomes more and more difficult with each adventure.

 

Beauty in the Gila

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Gila National Forest –  33.0437° N, 108.2937° W

Several nights backpacking through the Gila National Forest is always a pleasure. The scenic beauty is an interesting contrast with the rugged landscape of this New Mexico treasure. The 17 mile hike was accented with the arching branches of ancient cottonwoods and white-trunked sycamore trees.

The evenings were cold, dipping down into the low 30’s, but the days were splendid with temperatures reaching the high 60’s. The beautiful spring weather was one of the many things that made this trek a fantastic trip into the wild.

Days spent hiking and nights huddled around a campfire, are what life should be about. Escaping into the wild and leaving behind  the stress of life recharges my batteries and gives me the strength to return to civilization.

Well, at least until next weekend.

 

Maps

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Willie White Trail, Cloudcroft New Mexico –  32.8219° N, 105.7492° W

There is something special about the feel of holding a paper map, identifying my location, and then plotting a course toward my next waypoint. It is scary to think that this piece of paper is my lifeline if satellite reception is lost on the GPS unit, or the unit itself fails all together. In fact, both scenarios have happened to me. Yet at the same time, it is even more empowering to know that I have the knowledge to comprehend, process, and then make rational navigation choices based on the information displayed on this same piece of paper.

In our digital age, and our WAAS enabled world, it seems that the art of land navigation is dying out. Sure it is great to pull out the handheld unit and within seconds know my exact location, altitude, and even the barometric pressure, but it feels inauthentic. The irony is that these connections through the device take away my connection from the earth. So, from time to time, I break out the map and compass and chart a course the old fashioned way. It feels good to utilize the skills instilled in me by the Boy Scouts so many years ago.

So let us not loose the art of dead reckoning, and pace counting. It may be old school, but but it is a tried and true method of making it out of the wild alive.

Exposing My Son to the Wild

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City of Rocks State Park – 32.5900° N, 107.9758° W

I am continuously amazed at the major disconnect between children and nature. As a child, I was pushed out the door and told not to come back inside unless I was bleeding profusely or the sun had gone down. Those were the things that shaped my appreciation of the natural world around me. Now, I recognize that times have changed. Video games, tablets, and the wonders of the internet have crept into our daily lives distracting us from the true beauty that awaits us outside.

For this reason, it is important for me as a father to ensure that I reestablish this connection for my son. He needs to know that true beauty exists outside of his 7.9” LED-backlit Multi-Touch Retina display. (That’s geek speak for his iPad.) Working in education, I see the toll that this disconnect has on our children every day. Struggles with obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder, and depression are just a few of the many adverse effects that result from not being in nature.

As a father and one half of the Adventure Boys, I have worked hard to ensure that my son knows the value of a good hike. He recognizes the fear of hanging off the side of a mountain supported only by an 8mm rope and his own forearm strength. He knows the apprehension of sleeping under the stars for the first time. He has learned to identify a venomous snake from a harmless one. All of these things will make him a better man, and will better prepare him for later life.

I am proud of him. I am proud of our adventures. I am proud to be his father.

Back to the Bike

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Texas / New Mexico state line – 32.0001° N, 106.3050° W

Recently I dusted off the old mountain bike and have been getting back out on the trails. For my two years in El Paso I have been so caught up getting on top of mountains that I have totally neglected the two-wheeled obsession of my previous life pre-El Paso.

With that said, I have ridden a variety of trails of all skill levels in the previous weeks. There have been leisurely rides on bumpy jeep roads, brutal uphill switchbacks that go on for days, and gnarly white knuckle screamers down rocky arroyo walls. All have lead me to believe that the mountain bike scene in El Paso is legit.

To mountain bike in the Franklin Mountains and surrounding foothills is extremely difficult for a number of reasons.

1. You are always climbing.

The screaming downhills were always welcome but are few and far between at times. In this environment it is not uncommon to have a large gain in elevation at a relatively shirt ride. On recent outings I gained 1,267 feet over 3 miles and 1,309 over 5 miles. Both proved to be difficult trails.

2. The rocks on the trail are completely unpredictable.

There are very few spots along any of the trails that I have passed that are smooth. There are baseball size and bigger rocks everywhere. Even once you have identified a line, one loose rock redirects you, and not always for the better.

3. Shin Daggers and Ocotillo

Anyone who has ever stepped off of a sidewalk and walked out into the Chihuahuan Desert will understand, but for everyone else, there are sharp pointy things designed to quickly alleviate your tire of its air and will most certainly burrow below your skin. On top of that, throw in over 35 varieties of cactus, and you have a recipe for a flat tire or bloody shins. Just a quick note, both will probably end up happening.

It should also be noted that I have quickly realized that I am behind the curve in bicycle technology. These writings are based in my experience with a Haro 26″ hard tail. Every other bike I have encountered out in the wild  is a 29″ super light weight something or another.

But for now, it is not about the equipment. It is about the thrill of being in the wild.

Born to Climb

IMG_20130902_173859_874_1West El Paso – 31.5116° N, 106.3222° W

I have made it clear that I have had a strong urge to climb on things since I was a child. With that said, it is no surprise that my son is equally as apt to climb as I am. He has demonstrated that he both has the determination and the ability to do so, and I have learned to embrace that.

The Challenge – We identified a wall on the west side that offered enough ledges to stand, while providing him a challenging route to the top.

IMG_20130902_182435_019_1Finding his line – He has a keen sense of what is stable, and what will see him through to the top.

IMG_20130902_175846_065_1Going for it – Once he identified his route, he was off.

IMG_20130902_173623_578_1Looking back – He only looked back once to see how high he was. Unfazed, he continued onward.

IMG_20130902_173614_057_1Straight to the top – In just a few minutes, he found his groove and took off. There was no stopping him at this point.

IMG_20130902_175234_981_1Soaking up the reward – At such a young age, I am amazed at how he appreciates nature and the world around him. As with every climb and hike, he takes his time at the peak soaking up the beauty. He recognizes his accomplishment and takes a short minute to celebrate and reflect.

IMG_20130902_181653_845_1_1After watching me climb for so long, I guess it was inevitable that he would gravitate toward the mountain. He recognizes the call of the wild and understands adventure’s place in our lives.

He is wise beyond his years, and I am proud to be his father.