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Lincoln National Forest - Crest Trail - White Mountain Wilderness

Three hours of sustained rain is enough to make anyone quit. As soon as we pulled up to the Turkey Canyon Trailhead it started to rain. My friends and I pulled out the rain gear and strapped on our packs anyway. Nothing was going to stop us from spending the weekend in the backcountry. Three hours later, soaking wet and cold, we wondered if we had made the wrong decision.

Lincoln National Forest - White Mountain Wilderness
Our plan was to spend two nights in the White Mountain Wilderness of the Lincoln National Forest outside of Ruidoso New Mexico. I have heard a lot of good things about the 20 mile Crest Trail (No. 25) and wanted to spend some time on it myself. Although doing the whole trail wasn’t going to work out for us logistically, we planned to hit a large portion of the trails middle section. We started just east of the Argentina Bonito Trail Head on the Turkey Canyon Trail (No. 40). From here it is just two and a half miles to it’s junction with the Crest Trail where we would spend the night.

Turkey Canyon Trail
That night we cooked dinner and hung our bear bag in the dark. We stripped off all of our wet clothes and draped them out inside our tents hopping they would dry as we slept. We crawled in our sleeping bags, praying the rain would stop.

Our Campsite near Turkey Spring
Turkey Canyon lived up to its name. All along the trail, during the brief moments when the rain would let up, we could hear wild turkeys gobbling. We could tell they were close, but we never saw them. We went to sleep and woke up the next morning to the sounds of wild turkeys.

The morning was beautiful. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. A dense fog rested in the canyon below us. It looked to be a great day, but we knew more rain was in the forecast. We couldn’t take another three hour or longer rain when most of our gear was still wet. We talked about heading back to the car, but the morning was simply too perfect. We packed up our wet gear and postponed our dicsion. There was another trail heading back to the car that we could bail out on if the rain started again. So we set out heading South on the Crest Trail taking in the views of Turkey Canyon in the early morning. Before long we saw a heard of Elk across the canyon from us. At first there were four or five, then ten or twelve, and before long two to three dozen Elk were grazing across the Canyon. It was going to be a good day.

View from our first campsite
Elk in the Lincoln National Forest
Elk - Lincoln National Forest
With in a hour we had made it to the Junction of the Argentina Canyon Trail (No. 39). This was the trail we were going to bail on if the rain started up again, but it was still a beautiful day. We decided to keep going, knowing there were more options to get out of the mountains if we needed to.

Backpacking in Lincoln National Forest - White Mountain Wilderness
White Mountain Wilderness - Lincoln National Forest
When we arrived at the Little Bonito Trail (No. 37) Junction. We were running low on water. Our campsite the night before had been near the Turkey Spring where we planned to resupply on water. Due to extreme drought conditions the proceeding year, the Spring was dry. We knew if we didn’t find water soon we would need to head back to the car with or without rain.

Hiking on the Crest Trail - Lincoln National Forest
Argentina and Crest Trail Junction
Nogal Peak in the distance

Getting further away from Nogal Peak
Hiking on the Crest Trail - Lincoln National Forest

Horse Pen near the Argentina Trail Junction
The Spring Cabin Spring was less than a half mile from the trail junction. We headed over there hoping the spring would be flowing. Right where the spring was supposed to be we found a mostly buried trashcan. We assumed this was the spring, even-though no water was coming out. We opened up the trashcan to find a small puddle of rusty water. I wasn’t real enthusiastic about drinking this water, even with a good filter. The Spring Cabin was nearby so we headed over there to see if it was open to the public and if any water might be found.

The Spring Cabin and Spring Cabin Springs are along the Phantom Trail No. 29
Spring Cabin Spring - Lincoln National Forest

Spring Cabin Spring - Lincoln National Forest
When we arrived at the Spring Cabin we found it locked up tight with no water in sight. It was nearing lunch time and we were getting hungry. So we dropped the packs and pulled out our lunch. Setting there near the crest of the Sacramento Mountains we were able to get a good cell signal, probably from a tower near Ski Apache to our south. We decided to check the weather forecast. More rain was coming within the hour. Most of our gear was still soaked, but the sun was still shining. We pulled out the tents, and set them up to dry in the warm sun. We still had to decide if we were going to wait out another rain storm or head back to the car. We had been having such a great day, we really didn’t want to head home. Instead we gathered as much fire wood as we could before the rain came in.

Spring Cabin - Lincoln National Forest
The Spring Cabin has a small porch overhanging the entrance. We pilled the wood up under the porch to try to keep it dry. We still needed water, but with the rain coming we should have plenty before it was over. We staked down the tents and bunkered down ready for rain, but it never came. We still needed water, there was a small amount of lingering snow in the shadow of a fallen tree. We gathered up as much as we could and set it out in the sun to melt. It was hardly a liter. We knew we would need more, before the night was over. Spring Cabin Spring has another release point just a half mile from the Spring Cabin. We decided to head over there in the off chance it was flowing.

We pilled up wood and hung our packs under the Spring Cabin's very small porch
We decided to camp next to the Spring Cabin
We melted snow for water
As we hiked we could see storm clouds forming in the distance, but were distracted by the amazing view from the Crest of the Sacramento Mountains. We stopped to take in the views. When we finally made it to the other spring we weren’t surprised to find it dry as well. The drought had really done a number on the Lincoln's springs. We decided to hike down the small ravine and found a few puddles of water in the rocks. Normally I would avoid stagnant water, but I was confident these puddles were from last nights rain, and I trusted my filter. The few small puddles proved to be more than enough water. We filtered up all the water we could carry and headed back to camp.

Standing on the Crest of the Sacramento Mountains
View from the Sacramento Mountain Crest

Standing on the Crest of the Sacramento Mountains

View from the Sacramento Mountain Crest 
Standing on the Crest of the Sacramento Mountains
Finding water in the high altitudes and after such a prolonged drought was a challenge 
We filtered what little water we could find
When we got back to camp we could see the storm clouds coming in right on top of us. I had a small tarp that I strung between a couple of trees. This would be our dinner spot tonight. We brought all the dry wood under the tarp with us and started a small fire that we would try to keep going in the rain. Once the fire was going strong we started on dinner, waiting for the rain the whole time. It never rained a drop. We pulled out the cell phone and checked the radar. There were two big storms on either side of us. Somehow we had escaped the rain all the way till nightfall. We hung the bear bag again and climbed into our tents for the night.

Camp Fire under a small tarp, waiting for the rain

We strung a small tarp between two trees to try and keep us out of the rain - but the rain never came.
I woke up early and checked the forecast once more. More rain was in the forecast for the rest of the morning. We quickly packed up the tents while they were still dry. We were on the trail by seven AM. We would head back to the car on the Little Bonito Trail (No. 37). Our original plan was to continue along the Crest Trail to its junction with the Aspen Canyon trail (No. 35) and camp somewhere there along the trail. But the abundance and then lack of water changed our plans.

Little Bonito Trail No. 37
Little Bonito Trail

Little Bonito Trail
In the end we had a great time on our short hike along the Turkey Canyon Trail, Crest Trail, and then the Little Bonito Trail. We made it all the way back to the car with out a single drop of rain. Had we found more flowing water sources we could have followed our original plan without fear of rain.

The Hike:
Distance: 9-10 Miles Round Trip
Starting Elevation: 7,668 Feet
Highest Elevation: 9,120 Feet
Elevation Change: 1452 Feet

Map of our two night backpack in Lincoln National Forest
To reach the Argentina/Big Bonito Trailhead and The Turkey Canyon Trailhead from Ruidoso, take US Hwy 48 north approximately 5 miles past the Ruidoso Village limits, to the junction with Highway 37. Turn left onto Highway 37 and go approximately 1 mile to the intersection with Bonito Lake Road (Forest Road 107). Turn left onto Forest Road 107 and follow it approximately 9 miles to the Trailhead located at the end of the road. The road is narrow, but paved until the final 4 miles. The last 4 miles of road consists of improved dirt but is passable by car. About a mile before the Trailhead, the deteriorating road will lead you through the middle of a bunch of dilapidated buildings and pens. Do not let this frightful sight alarm you. Forge straight through the middle of it all and the Argentina/Big Bonito Trailhead is a mile down the road. 
I highly recommend the Map and Guide book featured below. The map is published by the Lincoln National Forest Service for the White Mountain Wilderness. I use it extensively when hiking in the Lincoln National Forest. Purchase it through this link and help support MyLifeOutdoors.

Should We Care About Trash?

Just imagine it, you are strolling along a beautiful trail, paddling along some clear river, or just enjoying the great outdoors we love some much... and then it you see it...trash. What can ruin the awesome natural scenes and experiences all around us so quickly? Trash can. Why should you care about trash?

Photo by Daniel Beach
Trash is the one thing that can bring us all together. From the climber, hiker, biker, kayaker, and everyone in between; we all have this one thing in common, trash. Whether we like to admit it or not we all have walked past that little piece of trash on the side of the river or trail that is like the 600lb gorilla in the room, did you do something about it?

Now, I would be the first to admit that although I’m an avid outdoors lover who climbs, bikes, hikes, paddles, and would rather be outside in the rain then anywhere else, I’ve never seen myself as that much of an environmentalist. In general I detest polluting like any good person with a conscience, but have we ever started really caring about the trash?

Why should you care about trash?

1. It takes away from the reason we love the great outdoors.
Why are we drawn outdoors to do what we do? Maybe it’s the adventure, the surroundings, the escape, but we know it’s just not the same with trash. A nice hike to clear the mind can turn into a depressing trot in the woods, all because of pop cans and candy wrappers. 

2. It’s just plain bad for the environment.
You don’t have to be an “environmentalist” to agree what this point. Common sense tells us all that trash laying around and piling up probably isn’t really part of the circle of life. Who wants their favorite spot turning into a mini landfill?

3. It’s bad for the wildlife that live and play in nature.
Another great reason we should care about trash is we love all the animals of Sherwood forest. Who doesn’t love birds, rabbits, squirrels, deer, bigfoot?, and fish? I’m not talking about animals walking around with plastic bags over their heads, but animals will be animals and trash is trash.

4. It can take a place we love to visit and make sure we never return.
Think about it, your favorite State Park, then imagine that same place with trash littering the ground. Not the same is it? I think we all take our pristine favorite places a little too much for granted. They will only stay the places they are if we all start caring a little bit more about trash. 

What should you do about trash.

It’s actually pretty simple, all we have to do is pick it up. You don’t have to put on a orange jacket and walk the highways with trash bags, all you have to do is make a difference one piece of trash at a time. Next time we are all walking along that trail and we see that wrapper or pop can, one little act of goodness can make a world of difference multiplied by 100 little other acts. 

Not only can we feel good about making a small little difference for the next person coming along, we are just doing the right thing when we start caring about trash. Heck, we all may get so carried about we just might join one of the crazy community cleanup events. Interested in carrying more about trash? Stop by Leave No Trace website to get a little more educated about outdoor ethics.

What do you think? Do you pick up trash when you see it? Is it worth it? Does it make a difference?

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Point Sublime - Grand Canyon National Park

What makes a great campsite? Location, solitude, view? I have spent the night at a few amazing campsites. The greatness of each site seems proportional to how difficult it is to reach. Point Sublime on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is no different. 
Point Sublime at Sunset
My family and I headed out to the Grand Canyon on Memorial Day weekend for my oldest daughters birthday. We knew the weekend would bring in the crowds, and we have seen some of our more popular national parks rival Disney Land on a busy weekend. We didn’t want to mess with the crowds and had heard the remote North Rim receives less than 15% of the park’s visitors. So we made the extra effort to access the North Rim of the park. We spent a few days enjoying the typical sites and points of this amazing park (more on that later). But quickly realized even a small crowd is still a crowd. So in an attempt to find some solitude on one of the busiest weekends of the year, we headed out to remote Point Sublime to spend the night. 

Point Sublime
Point Sublime is different than most backcountry campsites I have used. Most sites require packing in your gear on foot, something I enjoy quite a lot. Point Sublime, however, is accessible by car, but that doesn't make it any easier to get to. 18 miles down the poorly maintained Widforss Road. The sign making the way says “Rough Road, High Clearance or 4 Wheel Drive Recommended.” This “recommendation” shouldn’t be taken lightly. While we were at the park two people became stranded attempting to visit Point Sublime. One spent the night at the point only to find down trees blocking the road when they tried to come back. The other attempted to drive the rugged road in a small passenger car. The latter made it a surprising 10 miles to one of the toughest sections of road before eventually getting stuck. 

Widforss Road Grand Canyon National Park - High Clearance or 4 wheel drive recommend.
Down Trees are a common occurrence in the backcountry, The Park Service recommends carrying a saw and tow strap when venturing off paved road.
A small car stuck on Widforss Road - This car had no business being out this far.
We checked with the Backcountry Office to find out if the road was open. The ranger said he had been out multiple times that week clearing fallen trees off the road, and that a broken down vehicle was blocking part of the road, but we should be able to access it if we wanted to. He warned us to be prepared to spend extra nights in the event of more fallen trees. We were prepared for nearly every situation and looked forward to getting away from the crowds. 

Widforss Road - Grand Canyon National Park
Thick Aspens along Widforss Road - Grand Canyon National Park
Sign for Point Sublime
Parts of Widforss Road hugged the North Rim very closely.
After about 12 miles the Widforss Road begins to hug the canyon rim. There was a small fork in the road that led out to the Crystal Canyon overlook. We hopped out of the car to see this spectacular canyon, and stood on the rim for the first time with no one else around. 

Crystal Canyon - Grand Canyon National Park
Crystal Canyon - Grand Canyon National Park
Me at the Crystal Canyon Overlook
Another six miles down the road we arrived at our final destination just in time for lunch. One other person was occupying one of two sites out on the point. We got out and introduced ourselves to Mark, a nice gentleman from California. Mark showed us some ancient cliff dwellings deep in the canyon behind us. The dwellings were so high and so remote I stood there forever wondering how the natives ever reached them.

Cliff Dwellings in Grand Canyon National Park
We set up camp no more than five feet from the Canyon’s rim, and instead of circling around a campfire we all pointed our camp chairs at the view. As the afternoon progressed two more people joined us out on the point. Ed and Kevin had come out to see the Sunset. Kevin came towing a small Australian pop-up camper and planned to spend the night. This worried us a little. There were only two sites at Point Sublime with three people wanting to camp. Someone, either one of us or the park system, had made a mistake, but no one was going to tell any of the others they had to leave. so we made the best of it and everyone had a spot to sleep that night.

My first view of Point Sublime - Grand Canyon National Park
Point Sublime - Grand Canyon National Park
Our Campsite at Point Sublime - Grand Canyon National Park
The view from our campsite

For a backcountry Campsite, Point Sublime was pretty nice with a very clean compost toilet. 
Very clean compost toilet at Point Sublime, be sure to bring your own TP. 

We all gathered at the furthest most point to watch the canyon glow warm and red as the sun set below the horizon. We sat feet from the edge staring thousands of feet down to the canyon’s depths, watching as shadows slowly overtook more and more of it. The grander of the canyon cannot be expressed in words. And, although the canyon is very photogenic, pictures cannot capture its vastness. We were surrounded on all sides with deep, breathtaking views, that made you question your own significance. The Grand Canyon is truly something that has to be experienced. 

Point Sublime at Sunset - Grand Canyon National Park
Point Sublime at Sunset - Grand Canyon National Park
Watching the Sun Set at Point Sublime - Grand Canyon National Park
Point Sublime after the sun went down. 
I woke up early the next morning to catch the Sunrise. My family opted to sleep in and I expected to be the only one out on the point that morning. When I got there, I found Kevin up early cooking coffee. The two of us sat on the rim talking and watching the light play with the canyon’s shadows. Kevin proved to be a really nice guy, the kind you don’t mind sharing a nice view or remote campsite with. I would later come to need Kevin’s help in a tough situation. Today, I was happy to get to know him better before packing up to leave the Grand Canyon behind. Little did I know, that as I headed out that day my family and I would become stranded in the backcountry. 

But thats another story for another post... Read about it here

Point Sublime at Sunrise - Grand Canyon National Park
My new friend Kevin at Point Sublime
Point Sublime at Sunrise
Getting There:
From the Widforss Point Trailhead parking lot, travel west on the dirt road for .3 miles to an intersection and turn left to the Point Sublime primitive road. The road travels through forest and then eventually into a large clearing. At the clearing there is a road that branches to the left or right. Take the right. Continue through the long clearing which ends and the remainder of the trip will be in the forest. At 10.7 miles there is a pullout on the right which affords a nice viewpoint into Crystal Canyon. At 11.3 miles another intersection is encountered; a right at this junction goes to Firepit Swamp Point and a left turn continues to Point Sublime. 

GPS File of Point Sublime and Widforss Road (gpx) 

Widforss Road - Grand Canyon National Park
Maps and Books I used while visiting the Grand Canyon. Purchase them through the links below to support MyLifeOutdoors.