Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sitting Bull Falls, Lincoln National Forest - Fri., Oct. 6, 2017

Today, we start our three-day West Texas Trail Walkers weekend with a serious 14k hike called Sitting Bull Falls. Bob and I were getting ready to leave the 5th wheel when I received a text message from my friend, Susan. She and Darren had done the worker's walk yesterday at Sitting Bull Falls. Her text said, "Wear pants today for the walk, otherwise your legs will be scratched and bleeding."

Whoa! Both Bob and I had shorts on. We immediately changed into long pants. Unfortunate because today's high temperature is supposed to be 92 degrees.

It took us about 40 minutes to drive to Lincoln National Forest. The West Texas Trail Walkers were very organized at the start point. We had already pre-paid for our walks and banquet, so we only needed to check in.

Geared up with hiking boots, water, snacks, hiking poles, hats, and sunscreen, Bob and I took off up the hill. And boy was it up! Steeply up.

The parking lot is in the center of the photo
A good place for a photo (and a rest!)
Beautiful day and scenery
We crossed this solid rock field
The ladies behind us coming along the rock
The 5k turn-around was at The Grotto. Being out in the desert and arriving at this pretty pond was very refreshing.

Bob at The Grotto
The Grotto
The water is so clear
To continue on with the 14k walk after The Grotto, we passed through a fence stile and out into the canyon. It was hot and uphill. But the scenery was outstanding. The trail was narrow and rocky. Rocky meaning lots of loose rocks were on the trail. It's a good thing we wore our hiking boots. They helped with stability, as did my hiking poles.

Bob on the trail
Very rocky canyons
We came out on top of a plateau and had views all around. No shade, however. The trail at the top was a road, so we had space to move around without worrying about catclaw cacti, and could avoid the rocks more easily.

At the top are a water pump and a water tank. I didn't see any way to get water there, though. It's good we're carrying lots of water. 

We had written walk instructions given to us by the West Texas Trail Walkers. That was good because there were very few park trail markers. 

At the top, we kept walking, knowing we needed to make a sharp right turn. We walked and walked and then finally found the place where we needed to turn toward Last Chance Canyon. 

Bob checking out the pump
Other hikers
More canyon scenery
Bob on the trail
Goldenrod in bloom
Here's what our trail conditions were like
Local denizen
Not much wildlife presented itself on this hot afternoon. Yesterday, Susan and Darren saw mountain goats running up the cliffs. Today, no mountain goats, even though we stopped to rest frequently and scanned the canyon walls.

There were, however, interesting rock formations. I enjoyed the scenery immensely,  but it was very hot!

Here's one of the few trail markings
put in place by the park
Just imagine hiking up and down these canyons
in  90-degree heat
"Color me orange and call me a pumpkin,"
said the round rock.

We just passed our 10k checkpoint, which meant we had 4k left to do. When the photo below was taken, I was getting seriously whiny. Still, the canyon scenery was spectacular.

Feeling a little "peak-ed."

We came out of the canyon and into a grassy field. There were no trail markings that we could see. There were dense trees on one side, a deep, watery swamp on the other. No way was I walking through that swamp! I got myself tangled up in a chest-high catclaw bush and had trouble extricating myself. That made me even whinier. I kept telling Bob we had lost the trail. He kept going and I followed by going through the trees and tall grasses. We came upon a barbed wire fence that had been pushed down in one spot by a flood a few days earlier. We were able to get across it.

Finally, he stumbled upon the trail. It was farther to the left of where we were. The real trail actually had a stile through the barbed wire fence.

We had to cross a creek on some stones, go up and hill and then the trail leveled out through tall grasses and some cacti. I could see the road. Civilization! Surely at this point, we would head to the road and be done with this hike.

Then I looked ahead, up the hill. I saw people hiking up the hill. That's where our walk went. So disheartening! 

I don't usually do 14k (8.7 miles), because I like the 10k (6.2 mile) length. Every once in a while, I'll do an 11k or 12k. Let me tell you, doing a 14k on a tough hike like this one, in this heat, was overwhelming to me. The thought of climbing that hill just did me in. I started crying. But, I dragged myself up it, wondering who is so sadistic as to put an uphill like that at the end of a long walk. (My apologies to the people who laid out this walk, but those were my feelings at that time and place.)

We walked at least another 15-20 minutes to make it to the 13k checkpoint. Kudos to Susan and Darren Medlin. They win the award for the best checkpoint ever. When we stumbled into the checkpoint, Susan handed us ice-cold water from their cooler. They had two lawn chairs there and invited us to sit. I sat. They offered us potato chips. I ate two of the snack-size bags. And Susan had a huge umbrella which she held over the chair. I told them all I needed was someone to feed me peeled grapes. LOL. Susan said they did the worker's walk yesterday, so they knew exactly what people would need when they got there.

The people coming into their checkpoint were so exhausted that they offered to give people a ride back to the finish point. Out of six of us who came in when we did, five of us opted to ride the last 1k back to the finish. (Bob continued walking the last 1k back to our truck. What a guy!) 

You heard me say the name of this walk was Sitting Bull Falls, but so far you haven't seen any falls, have you?

When we got back to the finish table, they told us, "You need to go see the falls." I'm like, "Where are they?"

"400 yards up that trail," was the reply.

OK. I'm definitely going to see the falls. We didn't come all the way out here, tempted by seeing waterfalls, just to miss them because we were hot and tired.

After using the restroom and splashing cold water all over my face and neck, Bob and I set out to see the falls. If you know us, we "collect" waterfalls and go see them wherever we can. Thankfully, the walk to the falls was easy, on a wide, paved path.
The trail to Sitting Bull Falls
Sitting Bull Falls is quite nice and runs year-round because it is fed by a spring. There was also a nice breeze coming through the canyon. Bob walked down to the pool and put cold water on his head, face and neck. I stayed up on the platform and saw a snake swimming in the water (not near Bob).

Bob at Sitting Bull Falls

Me and Bob
Sitting Bull Falls
Bob cooling off (I'm surprised he didn't jump in!)
Other Volksmarchers taking photos...
...and being photographed
On our way out of the canyon, we stopped at Susan and Darren's checkpoint to make arrangements to have dinner together. We thought we'd go to the No Whiner Diner and meet there around 6:00 p.m. Their son, Travis, was coming to visit from El Paso. (He's currently stationed at Fort Bliss.)

We headed back to the 5er and showered. When it was time to meet at the restaurant, Susan and Darren called to say the No Whiner Diner would not be re-opened until Monday. Scratch that. We decided to have dinner at Chili's. And that was a very good decision. We had an excellent meal and drinks. 

Me and Bob
Darren, Travis, and Susan
Ice cream for dessert sounded good to us. Susan and Darren remembered seeing an ice cream parlor called Kaleido-Scoops when then drove around town. All they remembered was that it was a white building on the left side of the main street through town. We were in the lead. We drove and drove, but finally found the place. The ice cream was great! After eating our scoops, we went back to our 5th wheel and they returned to their motel room.

Tomorrow, we have a decision to make about which walk to go on. See you on the flip side.


  1. After this past week I know the pain you were in. Not yet ready for anything more than 6 miles. Hope the rest of your hikes turn out better like mine did.

    1. Happy to see you guys walking/hiking so much! My feet were in pain for the rest of the weekend. Still have two blogs left to do. Started back working full time on Wednesday...10-hour days. Not much time for blogging. For these two weeks, I have one day off in eight (today).


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