Seventh Annual Hassey "Goat Vacation"
Last night Phil and I embarked on our 7th annual Hassey "goat vacation" and today we hiked something like 15-17 miles (there is debate on this). Either way, it was a very long hike and Phil and I are quite tuckered out, as are Finn and Sputnik I'm sure. I'm only going to post one photo and let you guys guess where we are. ;-)
I dont know where you are at but 17 miles is a hall!!!  You and your goats are studs.
Looks like you're on the home planet of the dreaded pine beetle.
I don't drink beer, but if I did, I'd prefer Dos Equis.  Stay thirsty my friends!
(10-06-2018, 06:40 AM)Charlie Horse Wrote: Looks like you're on the home planet of the dreaded pine beetle.

Good guess! But the wonderful thing about the dreaded pine beetle (actually this was probably spruce budworm) is that it allows the aspens to grow where once were dense, dark evergreen woods. They attack primarily mature trees, and strong, young trees of all varieties have a chance to shoot up and take over very quickly. I'm amazed at how tall some of the young trees already are even though these woods only died about five years ago. Some of the new spruce trees are already pushing 20 feet high and look as healthy as they can be. And did I mention the aspens?? Everywhere we looked, under the old dead spruce trees, we could see blazing bits of yellow where a few aspens still clung to their leaves. I wish we'd seen it two weeks earlier. The mountains would have been pure gold shot with fiery red and orange. I can't wait to see what these woods look like in another 5-10 years when the aspens have completely taken over.
Seventh Annual Hassey "Goat Vacation" Day 1: 

Well, no one guessed our location from the photo I posted ten days ago. I was prepared to offer a large cash prize to the lucky winner, but you all missed out and I get to keep the cash. HA! 

We left late Thursday afternoon October 4th because our first stop was not very far--only about a 3 1/2 hour drive. Our destination was Wagon Wheel Gap, situated between South Fork and Creede, CO. Our cabins were only a mile from Pool Table Road, which would take us to our trailhead next morning. I was on a quest. Not only did I want to see Wheeler Geologic Area again (I hadn't been there since 2004), but I was scouting for a potential spot for a future NAPgA Rendezvous. In that sense, I was disappointed. The area was not as ideal as I'd remembered, and pine beetles have made it temporarily even less suitable until the dead trees fall and the new ones can attain some height. But it was a perfect day for a hike. 

The morning was clear but cold. We started off at 8:00 in the morning, and that was almost too early because our road was still in shadow at that hour. It was 12 miles from our cabin to the trailhead and the goats had to ride in the open truck bed with no sun to warm them. Luckily the 11-mile Pool Table Road had recently been graded. When I was there fourteen years before, it was a very slow, bumpy ride because of the terrible washboards. We parked where the 2-wheel-drive road ended. From there, you can 4-wheel to Wheeler, but it's a very slow, very rough 14-mile drive. The hiking trail is only 7 miles by comparison, and by all accounts it's easier and takes less time to walk. 

Phil and I had a lot of miles to cover, so we kept up a pretty brisk pace. It was seven miles to the Wheeler area, but another mile to actually get to the formation, and more distance still if we wanted to walk around on it. The first few miles of our hike were frosty. We were mostly in the trees and the sun was also mostly blocked by a high ridge. It's around 10:00 in this photo but there's still frost on the ground.        

Around noon, we came in sight of Wheeler Geologic Area. This was Colorado's first National Monument, declared by Teddy Roosevelt himself in 1908. Wheeler was a far more popular tourist destination 100 years ago than it is today. It was known as the "Bryce Canyon of Colorado" was the most popular tourist attraction in the state after Pike's Peak. Now a century later, very few people have heard of it and even fewer have ever seen it.  

And here we are on this bizarre formation of petrified and eroded volcanic ash. It's very difficult to describe because it rises out of the trees like an incongruous scar. In Utah, the land changes gradually to the point where you almost of expect this kind of thing around any corner. But not here, emerging out of a spruce forest in Colorado. Like Devil's Tower in Wyoming, you look at Wheeler and think to yourself that it just shouldn't be there. And it certainly shouldn't be that big.  

I love this giant stone torch. 
Phil and I had just enough time to climb to the top of the formation, but not enough time to walk the 2-mile trail around it. 

I loved this hollowed-out stump on the way up. 

It looks like a moonscape on top. I'd love to see this in the moonlight someday. 

Balanced rock! 
And before we wrap up this adventure, I must insert this blast from the past. Cuzco accompanied us on our trip to Wheeler in 2004. This was back when he still had two horns.

I was a lot skinnier and my hat was not yet faded. 

I loved the colors in the woods. Dead trees are eerily fascinating with their weird, twisted bare branches. And then there are the new ones bursting up all around with their thick foliage and rich, green color. It's as if they're trying their best to make up for the ones that died.  

Although it was long, the trail was not steep. A good stretch of it ran through an alpine meadow. We saw lots of elk tracks, and for an hour we heard so much bugling from the surrounding woods we thought maybe there was a national elk convention happening that day. But we never saw an actual elk. 

There was one last golden aspen that caught the fading light at the end of day and turned it to fire. Had we been there a week earlier, the entire hillside would have been aflame. 

Our trek ended right about sunset, and we arrived at our cabin close to dark. We were exhausted and our legs ached, but it was a wonderful day. We'd hiked a round trip of at least 16 miles with enough time in there to take some photos, eat lunch, and enjoy the scenery. What a wonderful place!
"Goat vacation" Day 2: 

The morning after our big hike to Wheeler, we finally got a good view of the place we were staying. I'd driven through Cottonwood Cove many times over the years when traveling to and from my hometown of Lake City, but I'd never stopped. It's a beautiful little spot nestled down in a narrow notch between big cliffs known as "Wagon Wheel Gap". I love staying in places like this with our goats because there are nice places to walk and for them to browse.   

We had a leisurely drive from Wagon Wheel Gap to Taos. We took the longer scenic route through Chama, NM and stopped in Carson NF between Chama and Tres Piedras to do a little exploring. 

I'ven ever seen an aspen tree like this before. Its trunk was burnt black and knobbly and it split into several trees further up--common in evergreens, but not so much in aspens. It obviously had been struck by lightning but lived.  

Not more than 25 feet away there was another lightning-struck aspen. This one was not so lucky. 

We discovered a weather station back in the woods. It had obviously gone through several technological generations. This thing was fascinating. I'm sure it has something to do with measuring wind, but have no idea how it works. 

We spent a good hour or more in this area and we think it might make a good Rendy spot. Hmmm...
"Goat Vacation" Day 3 

The ultimate destination for our goat vacation was Taos, NM. We rented a nice cabin through AirBnB which turned out to be perfect for bringing our goats. It was in a farming area with cows in the pasture next door, and there was enough area in our yard to tether the goats out when we weren't hiking. The cottonwood trees were shedding their leaves and had lost some branches in the wind, so Finn and Sputnik were very pleased with their surroundings. It turned out there were also several different hiking trails within walking distance of our cabin! 

Phil and I were still sore and tired from our long trek to Wheeler and back, so we decided to take it easy on our first day in Taos. We chose one of the trails up the road from our cabin which was described as having a waterfall and a cave. Well, the waterfall had dried up but the shallow cave was still there. 

Finn the showoff decided to do some exploring higher up where the rest of us were afraid to go. 

Sputnik says, "What are you doing up there? Are you crazy??"

He got pretty high!  

Both goats enjoyed watching me crawl clumsily back down the rock. "She's an idiot. Why doesn't she just jump?" 

Meanwhile, Finn somehow got himself turned around on that narrow ledge and climbed catlike down the face of the cliff. That boy is going to give me a heart attack one of these days! 

Sputnik says, "Are you done showing us how awesome you are, Finn?" 
The "waterfall" hike was so short that we decided to explore another trail. We ended up on the old Lucero Peak trail, which looks like it is barely used any more and hasn't been maintained in a couple of decades. So much for our plan to “take it easy”! This was a very steep trail and it never relented! It appeared to be well-worn at one time, but logs have fallen across it in many places now. Luckily that does not stop goats! 

We had a nice view of Taos on our way up.   

The trail eventually petered out and we scrambled up a very steep, rocky slope with slippery dirt footing toward a rock outcropping where I thought we might have a good lookout. Here's me looking out very nobly with my miniature packgoat looking out in the background. How did he suddenly get so small?  

Phil looks out at a thunderstorm brewing over a distant mountain peak. 

Finn looks out and then looks back.

And Sputnik says, "I'm tired of looking out. I want something to eat." 

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