GETTING TO TRAILHEAD

We rented a Dodge Caravan for this trip-- an unheard of indulgence-- but a necessity given that we had five road warriors this time.  Here we are just before leaving Dallas.

Incidentally, 95% of the photos here were taken by either Adam or myself, and hence we rarely appear together-- an accident of fate, and not the result of some vast right-wing conspiracy.  In many instances (such as this one), his photos were better than mine.

This is usually the first ritual mistake we make along the way: dinner at Bara's, which I believe is in a town called Quanah.  The longest stretch of consecutive road out to the mountains is 287 west, out of Texas.  As you can see, the sun is already setting, and we've just gorged ourselves on our last decent meal.  Somehow, Adam manages to stay awake behind the wheel after this.

Don't let these two civilized-looking men fool you; the bawdy humor and generally messiness of bachelorhood had already set in by this point.

We stopped for gas in Amarillo at the Wal-Mart at 2:00 a.m. on the off chance that we might be able to find a copy of Jeff Buckley's "Grace", which I forgot to bring.  As the night wears on, the music becomes progressively darker.  We usually try to squeeze in a little Fiona Apple as well.

Fast forward to breakfast.  By now, we had found Kenn's house and tried to get a little bit of sleep.  This was breakfast.  Of course, CO still in essence being the Wild West, everything is utilitarian and hence serves heterogeneous, multiple purposes, like the fact that the best breakfast cafe in Alamosa also doubles as one of its pool halls by night.

And before we know it, Kenn comes waltzing in from his week in the mountains, and we're off:  hauling packs (left), negotiating for equipment (below), and generally getting ready.

 

This is at the trailhead.  Driving up to Blanca is pretty striking.  Adam and I are accustomed to driving up into the hills, turning off the road at some obscurely marked point, and going from there; you're usually only remotely aware that you're anywhere near the mountain in question, which is lurking somewhere back in the forest behind you.  It's uncanny to literally drive up to a mountain that rises up out of the plain and say: Yeah, there she is.  In this case, as we approached, we saw a little road that jutted from the plain up the side of the hill, which looked for all the world to be too clearly demarked to be a hiking trail.  It was.

Notice the gallon water jug Ned is holding.  We really thought that we would be unable to camp on our first night near a water source.  Kenn recycles, and had eight of these lying about at his house, so we were literally hauling our own water up to low camp. 

Incidentally, Blanca has the lowest trailhead of any mountain in the state.  Before it was all over with, we would hike 28 miles over land, and up more than a vertical mile (6,300 feet in elevation gain).  The Volkswagen next to Kenn is his ride; precursor of the minivan.

Ringo is believed to be three years old.  Even he got a pack.  Here, he was mainly carrying his own food.  For the peak, we loaded him up with small supplies like sunscreen, human food, rain panchos, and extra water. 

Next: To High Camp