Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wheeler Geologic Area

Julie and I decided that if we didn't plan weekends to go camping, the Summer would pass us by without getting into the Mountains much. It just so happened that the 4th of July weekend looked to be a great weekend for us to get away. It also means that it was a great weekend for everyone else in the state to go camping, so we had to pick a place that was remote enough to have some tranquility but still reachable for us.

Wheeler Geologic Area fit this bill nicely. The area itself is the result of millions of years of erosion on volcanic dust and ash from the San Juan volcanoes. To get to the area there are two options, to take a 4x4 road for 14 miles, but the descriptions of the road made it seem that it was above my level. The other option is to backpack 7 miles in to the campground they have set up there. This is the option we took, here is the picture at the trail head of our trail.

We arrived the Friday before the 4th of July, since Julie and I both took the day off, and Bill had the day off too. We got to the trail head right at lunch time, and started off in the heat and the dust. The trail was well marked, but hilly. The first two miles were downhill to a neat stream crossing. Unfortunately we had to hike up the other side of the canyon and up to the high rolling plains. We took a few breaks whenever we could find a tree for shade. After about 5 or 6 miles we made it to the road again, and hiked on it for around a mile or so, and made it to the campground. We set up camp, ate dinner, watched the sunset and went to sleep, ready for the next day.

Me in the middle of the the stream crossing:

Taking a break in one of the neat flat areas:

Action shot:

At the camp, we tried out all kinds of new gadgets, I used the new JetBoil stove and Bill tried his new tent and his new water filter. Fortunately all of these devices worked as expected, *phew*

After a nice rest we woke up in the cold, had some breakfast and set off for the area. Less than a mile in, we came to a trail junction and shortly after had our first great views of the area. Towering spires of carved sandstone, with lovely views of canyons and mountains behind. We did the 2.5 mile hike which included overlooks and a few trips into the canyons carved out over the years.

A neat tree with red pine cones along the trail:

Our first full view of the area:

Bill checking out the sights:

Julie posing in front:

Bill in one of the grooves in the rock:

We got back to camp, and realized that there wasn't much left to do there, so we took a nap, and headed back to the car after lunch time. We hit a terrible rain/sleet/graupel/snow/hail storm that we hiked through, oh, and it was up hill at the time:

The first five miles of the hike were much better the second time around (except for the flash rain storm), but those two downhill miles at the beginning were now uphill to get back to the car, and we were tired, it seemed to take longer than we expected. We eventually made it back to the car and began our nighttime drive home.

Finally, our group picture at the trail head:

We had a great trip, and are hoping we get to go backpacking again this summer!

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