I woke up at 6:30am wanting to get an early start for the climb up Blue Creek Canyon (2,000’+ elevation gain) and get it mostly done in the shade. I also wanted to be properly fueled, so I had two cups of coffee and a big breakfast (Pro Bar Meal and half a bag of Bacon Jerky). The young guys were gone by 7:15, but I didn’t rally until 8:00am.
The hike up Blue Creek Canyon was very pleasant for the first mile or so, a pretty gradual ascent before the switchbacks for the last mile. The Canyon was beautiful, with cliffs and caves on the left, and a lush oasis along the creek. I was able to make it up the switchbacks easily enough with plenty of breaks, and fortunately, before the sun hit me. I was on Laguna Meadows Trail by 10:40am, and in great shape.
My original plan was to dump my pack at the Colima Trail COL-03 campsite, then walk around the South Rim with just a water bottle, camera and snacks. However, given how early I was due to the benefit of my trudge up Blue Creek Canyon the day before, I thought I would keep my pack, go around the South Rim and then make my way to the Boot Canyon camp sites, figuring one would be open, and giving me a shorter trip the next morning. As I started up Laguna Trail to the South Rim, I also started hitting the day-hikers from the Basin, since you can reach this part of the mountains with a 10-13 mile round trip from the Basin Lodge/Campground. Once I hit the South Rim, I was mesmerized. I spent a couple hours on the Rim with my jaw dragging on the ground, just soaking it all in. I’m not sure pictures will do it justice. Fortunately, this day was a typical clear, sunny day with temps around 70 degrees. It ranks in the top-10 (maybe 5) of my most awe-inspiring vistas (Grand Canyon, Cirque of the Towers, Glacier Gorge from Mills Lake, Front Range from Twin Sisters, off the top of my head).
I loved picking out the various ranges and spots I have been, and found it very neat to follow the path of the Dodson Trail below. Also, the ranges in Mexico became very clear, as well as the path of the Rio Grande. Elephant Tusk, Dominguez Mountain, and Punta de le Sierra, were very prominent, and made me consider those for future destinations.
I tried to do a video that follows the path of the Dodson:
Unfortunately, while I was on the “ramp” near the SW4 campsite, there was also a large group of 15-16 year old kids on a day hike visiting the same area at the same time. This disrupted my serenity to the point I turned crotchety old-man on them, telling them to not throw rocks over the rim, pee over the rim (I should have let that one go given the wind probably would have sprayed it back up in his face), and not to crawl onto ledges below the rim for photo-ops. I realized I needed to back off, given the fact that the youth are being exposed to such beauty at an early age is a rarity.
I had to pry myself away. I can see why the SW4 campsite is so popular, and I came across the hikers who reserved SW4 six of the seven nights from 2/24-3/2 during my hike! I walked down the Boot Canyon Trail, which, again, I found very neat and different than what I expected to experience in BIBE. There were pools down in Boot Creek the entire way, the most inviting at the top, right where the trail first hits the creek. The Ranger mentioned they don’t like pointing hikers to these pools since they are the only source of water for the bears and panthers in the mountains (I only saw deer), and either you don’t want to run across them at a pool or you might find a carcass in the pool.
I made it to the Boot Canyon campsites by 4pm, and only BC01 was taken at the time. I dropped my gear at BC02 (I was surprised how far the path was for the other BC sites), and started to get organized, hoping one of BC02, 03 or 04 will not be occupied tonight. One thing I found out is that I used so much water coming up Blue Creek Canyon the afternoon before (as well as for breakfast) that I only had 1.7 Liters remaining. Given that all I was doing was hiking up Emory Peak and then down to the Basin the next morning, I didn’t need too much, so I was all right, but ended up having a dry dinner to conserve water.
About 5pm, the BC04 campers arrived, on their first night of a two-night mountain trip (SW4 the next night). Nice guys who spent a few days canoeing the river earlier in the week. I was feeling pretty good about my chances for BC02 when around 6:15pm, a couple from Rochester, NY showed up with the BC02 reservation. They were very gracious, and volunteered to just go to BC03 since it was open. They were on a three-night mountain trip (SW4 two nights later), if they can figure out make their food last. Since I didn’t finish my last dehydrated meal, I gave it to them, and hopefully they made their third night.
The weather was great, and I was able to sleep under the stars. The wind howling and “chasing” around the canyons was really neat.
GPS log for this day.