Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Living on the Edge - Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015

AKA The Hike that Did Us In.

On our West Texas Trail Walkers Volksmarch weekend, our second "walk" is the Comanche Trail. Bob wanted to run the 20k (12.4 mile) trail by himself as part of his marathon training. The Volksmarch flyer describes this as: "the more difficult 20k includes the Rock Garden Trail up to the rim and along the Rylander Fortress Cliff Trail." Uh, Bob, do you think you can run that? The brochure also says: "Safety: PLEASE DO NOT HIKE ALONE." [Emphasis theirs.] So I made an agreement to hike the whole 20k with him. [NOTE: We did NOT run!]

Saturday morning was cool, but not cold. When we arrived at the Volksmarch start point at Chinaberry Day Use area we decided not to take coats. (Wise decision!) We had a backpack with six 16.9 fl. oz. bottles, two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grapes, and whole grain chips. (I had wanted to take two more bottles of water, but Bob decided to leave them in the car.)

At the start point, we found out mountain bikers were having an event on the same trails we would be on this weekend. Yikes! That is not a good mix: slow walkers and fast mountain bikers. Thankfully, this was not a big issue today.

The air was clear and we started our climb up the Comanche Trail. The trail climbed steadily, leveled out for a bit, then had a series of ups and downs. Looking out over the canyon as we climbed and watching the sun creep down the canyon walls made for a beautiful start to our day. We were fresh and energetic. This was new territory for us.

Starting to get panoramic views from the trail
Colorful strata - each color from a different time period
Palo Duro Canyon from Comanche Trail
Our view as we get closer to the top

A flat part of Comanche Trail
View of Palo Duro Canyon
Cliff erosion
Dramatic scenery
North end of Rylander Fortress Cliff
Rylander Fortress Cliff - We hiked the top from one end
to the other and back again
Part of our trail looks like it had been washed out recently
Overlooking the canyon colors
Early, still happy, still some shade
Me starting to be tired
We had passed the 10k checkpoint which meant were were at 5k, one-fourth of the way done. Just past the checkpoint I started to feel tired. This part of the trail finished the climb to the top. All told, the elevation from the floor of the canyon to the top is 600'. See photo below.

Switchbacks up and up
The Rylander Fortress Cliff Trail was what we had to conquer once we reached the top. The Rock Garden Trail came up in the middle of Rylander Fortress. The hike had us walk to one end of the Cliff Trail (where I ate half my PB&J sandwich), look at the view, then turn around and walk to the other end of the Cliff Trail (Bob ate half of his PB&J sandwich here) and check out the view before heading down the Rock Garden Trail to hook up with the Comanche Trail. After working our butts off to get up there, we took a few photos.

Bob on the edge of the cliff
Proof I was there. Squinting with the sun in my eyes!
Still feeling pretty good.
Trail to south end of Rylander Fortress -
NO SHADE
Bob enjoying the view before we head back.
Looking down at Mesquite Camp and
Equestrian Camp Areas
It was time to hike down. The sun on top of the cliff was relentless. I was hitting the wall and we had a long way to go. I finished my PB&J sandwich. Thankfully the trail was mostly downhill, or so we thought.

The views were gorgeous

Living on the edge
Precariously positioned. I won't sit on this one!
Too hot. I couldn't keep up with Bob.
On the way down, we passed the 10k checkpoint. It was hot. We thought the worst was over and soon we'd be back at the truck drinking lots of water. There was still water left in our backpack, but not enough. We had to carefully ration out our water. The outside temperature as we descended into the canyon was about 89 degrees. Purgatory. Hell. Dangerous.

You would think going down the trail would be downhill. Not so on this trail. It kept going up and down, up and down, up and down. We were exhausted. At this point we were stopping to rest and drink water frequently (maybe every 500'). I ate a few grapes which gave a little burst of energy, but not enough.

We weren't the only ones suffering. Quite a number of people did the 20k (12.4 mile) Volksmarch. Many were experiencing the same difficulties we were as they stopped and sat in any shade they could find, even if it was on the ground in the midst of weeds and cacti.

Mother Nature's adolescent sculpture
Bob heading down
No shade on the trail most of the way down
In the distance sirens wailed. Our imaginations considered the possibility that a mountain biker had taken a spill off the trail. We found out later that one of the Volksmarchers was having heat-related issues. Other Volksmarchers helped him out until the EMTs arrived. Two ladies in particular were Good Samaritans. One had a tarp in her backpack and was able to provide shade. Some people hiking the trail had extra water which they poured over him to cool him off. When the EMTs arrived, they were able to revive him on the trail with IV fluids and he was able to walk out on his own. We're glad he was okay.

Anyway, with all of our stops to rest and drink water, the total time for our 20k was seven hours... seven hours in the heat of the day doing strenuous hiking. We started our journey at 8:40 a.m. and finished about 3:30 p.m.

While the hike was beautiful, it was also very hard. One time was enough for me!! Bob beat me back to the finish point and collapsed on the grass. I could barely walk. Both feet had big blisters. All I wanted to do was get to the truck and change into clean, dry socks and comfortable tennis shoes. Then I wanted a big meal!

The Trading Post in Palo Duro Canyon had combo meals with fries and a drink. Bob stayed in the truck with the air conditioner on while I went in to get lunch. We each had a turkey sandwich, fries and Dr. Pepper. I felt so much better after consuming carbs, protein, fat and sugar!

We had just enough time to go back to Ft. Amarillo RV Resort, shower, change clothes, and make it back to the West Texas Trail Walkers banquet at West Texas A&M University Alumni Hall at 7:00 p.m. The dinner was "A Tour of Italy" which included two pastas, two sauces, two meats, salad, and Key Lime pie. We scarfed it all down and listened to the West Texas Trail Walkers conduct their annual meeting.

Then we went back to the RV and collapsed for the night. Tomorrow, the 10k Lighthouse Trail.

Travel Bug out.





4 comments:

  1. Oh my, that sounds like a brutal hike! I absolutely hate hiking when it is 80 and above. Glad you made it and hope you were okay for the next day!

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    1. Yes, the worst hike I've ever done. My feet were shot the next day, still did the 10K, limping most of the way.

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  2. Oh goodness. Gorgeous views but that sounds like a pretty scary adventure. Glad yall made it out okay! Whew!

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    1. We thought we were doing really well all the way up and across the top of the cliff. Who would have thought we'd bonk on the way "down"? Oh yeah, it wasn't all downhill and it was HOT! Thankfully, there were lots of people walking so everyone who passed us asked if we were okay. Our response, "We're okay, just exhausted and hot."

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