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Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills!
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Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills! on 06/12/2010 11:59:17 MDT Print View

Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills!

For anyone who resides in the harsh environment of the desert southwest, the seemingly omnipotent and powerful astronomical body of the Sun is a universal force that shapes the land, altering the most simple activities and patterns of our lives. The desert is both beautiful and treacherous, inhabitants must proceed with respect and caution, but when you can't handle the heat it's best to get the hell out of the kitchen! With temperatures consistently hovering around 107F in the Mesilla Valley and no reprieve in sight for the next 7 days, being seared like a pig on a spit wasn't an option I was willing to accept, not when the call of the White Mountain Wilderness of southern New Mexico was beckoning for us to find some refuge in the coolness of it's translucent springs, aspen lined trails, babbling brooks, towering balds and unobstructed vistas.

This was truly a spontaneous trip for me, as most trips require me to coordinate with my wife the dates and scheduling weeks in advance. With her and the kids heading up to Albuquerque for a family affair and me attending my good friend's wedding, the opportunity to get up in the high country quickly and with minimal impact on our life was an opportunity I wasn't going to flounder.

Saturday felt like a marathon to say the least, I literally sprinted out the back of the chapel throwing my shoulder into the steel double doors after saying my farewells to my workmate and his newly acquired wife. Ripping off my tie and shaking off my dress shoes as I got into my cruiser to pick up my father and sort through his gear and give him the seal of approval. This would be my fathers first backpacking trip with me. Without a doubt my father and I are two of the most hot headed individuals and often the catalyst to our heated exchanges usually is a result of our blatant similarities, what can I say, like father like son! Somehow we managed to get on the road without a hitch. Leaving Las Cruces shortly after 6pm we were making the best of the nearing summer solstice and were hoping to be through the town of Ruidoso, NM by around 8pm with just enough waning light to make our way up Bonito Creek and camp, our jump off point into the White Mountain Wilderness Area in the Sacramento Mountains.


My gear laid out Saturday morning ready to go inside my Burn for the weekend.

My father and I arrived at the Big Bonito trailhead after 8 with few minutes of light left, it was considerably cooler and hard to believe that only 1 1/2 hrs. prior we were wilting away in the 107F heat, the temperature was now a pleasant 74F. We slung on our packs and hiked up trail about 2 miles to the Big Bear Canyon intersect and found a perfect grassy spot along Bonito Creek to settle into for the evening.



Dad loaded up and happy to have some cool relief.

Arriving at camp shortly after 9 we treated some water for the evening and I began stoking a campfire to start a boil for dinner which would consist of Sweet Corn and Black Bean chowder and Western Style Tamale Pie and Beef, a flask of single malt scotch and a bar of dark chocolate. I think the idea of eating food out of a freezer bag with a long handled spoon struck him as odd, however the look on his face after he began eating was priceless. We sat around the fire for a few and tucked away for the night around 11 with full stomachs and a gentle creek lulling us to sleep with its music. It would be a superb and cool evening under the stars.


The early light of dawn creeping into our campsite around 630.


Dad lingering a little too long in the quilt come morning.


Our camp. I was very impressed with the MLD Grace tarp, pitches fast and tight, accommodating 2 comfortably.

Temperatures were quick to warm up and my BPL Beartooth Hoody was all that was necessary for the chill of morning, furthermore, my Caldera TiTri Inferno heated things up around camp as I stoked a blistering fire that roared on through the morning boiling enough water for 2 bloated meals of hot cereal and pressed coffee. I had hot coals that glowed for many minutes after, talk about incineration!


MSR Titan Kettle, my backcountry workhorse!


Blazing hot coals, several minutes after we started eating.


My father consumed some odd concoction of hemp seed, flax seed, gluten free, cardboard, fiber twig, sugar free, paper and hot water.... it was surprisingly better than my oatmeal!


With the light of morning quickly filling the canyon, we decided to clean up, wash up and pack up so we could make the best of the cool morning and have plenty of time for a beer in the afternoon in town. We made fast on breaking down camp and packing up; my newly acquired Mountain Laurel Design Burn was the ideal pack for this fast and light weekend excursion. I only had 2 goals, to have fun with my father and get up in the mountains and hopefully snag a trout in the backcountry on my new Tenkara Iwana rod, one of those would happen, one failed to come to fruition.


MLD Burn pleasantly loaded and rearing to get on the trail.


I hiked parallel to the trail up through the stream, eyeballing the pools for small browns to catch, there would be no fishing to be had on this morning. Early on, the scenery was peaceful and invigorating.




Shortly after leaving our campsite (2 miles +/-), we arrived at the next junction and chose to hike up the Aspen Trail to connect with the Crest Trail a brief 2 1/2 miles gaining over 2,300ft. of elevation in the process.


Dense foliage along the Aspen Trail.


Small clearing from an old burn.


Calling all entomologists, can you name the species?


The short hike up through the Aspen Trail brought us quickly up into view of the Crest Trail above us that runs the ridge line of the Sacramentos Mountains. The landscape changed dramatically as we entered this relatively dry and grassy landscape above 9,000ft. A series of steep sided switchbacks leads hikers up to 3 saddles before finally connecting with the Crest Trail, from there the opportunities to connect on both halves of the Sacramento Range open up.


The 2nd saddle out of 3 before arriving at the Crest Trail.




Resting in the shade carbing up on some Twizzlers and gummi-bears amongst the Light and Shadow of the mountain


We were greeted by a young elk grazing among the grassy flanks of the Sacramentos. This elk let out a few calls and muscled up and out of sight. This was a bonus to a great morning.


Coming up over the top of the saddle, making our way up to the Crest Trail.


This spiky little fella kept scurrying underfoot as I hiked for a few yards. There was something weird about being up at 10,000ft, snapping photos of elk and bald summits and one colorful and tough Horny Lizard all within minutes time. The desert southwest is full of dichotomous occurrences such as this.


About 15 minutes later we arrived at the Crest Trail and chose to climb up White Horse Mtn. and check out a patch of snow we saw from the saddle below. When you live in New Mexico in June, snow is a rare occasion unless up above 10,000ft.



Nogal Peak 9,957' in the far upper right portion of this image.


White Sands National Monument, one of the natural wonders of the world as seen from the Crest Trail.


Stoked to not be in the hot desert valley below!

After our short diversion along the Crest Trail we ran into a small group of dayhikers who had come up the west face of the Sacramento Mountains via the Three Rivers Route, an annually running group of small rivers created from snowmelt and fueled by springs later in the season. I had the opportunity to pull out all of my gear and give them a demonstration and quick tutorial on super ultralight backpacking and the possibilities it opens up for less fatigue and more fulfilling time on the trail. One of the individuals was a former Leadville 100 racer as well as an adventure racer so he was very open and completely understanding of the benefits of going lightweight in the mountains, he was most impressed with the shelter and the Caldera cone. What I think he was most interested in though was how going ultralight would free up weight and room in his pack to carry in the 15 beers he took on his trip! Of course I told him to check out as soon as he got home!


Ominously beautiful clouds starting to float quietly overhead, time to make our way down off the ridge.

As my father and I hiked quickly down the mountain a large storm cell began to brew above us. At this point I had carried my Tenkara rod on the outside of my pack like some kind of charm and was itching for the opportunity to cast some delicate fly presentations into a pool, even if I didn't catch a single fish!


2 miles shy of the trail head I was feverishly scouring the small pools and streams of Bonito Creek looking for anything slipping through the currents and finally spotted a few small browns darting in and out of an alcove in the water. I quickly dropped my pack and tied my line on and began casting into the small pool. I had 2 snag ups fishing in the dense and small opening along the creek which is what probably spooked the fish as I had to retrieve my fly. To my dismay, I failed to catch any trout, but it was a relaxing and pleasant experience that simply felt right. I will definitely be bringing my Tenkara rod along trips this summer and into the fall.

Clear pools along the trail


Tenkara style flyfishing is rather simple and intuitive to pick up, it seems ideal for even the most unimpressive sized creeks in the country and unimpressive "fishermen" like myself.


With no success on the fishing front, I packed up my rod and we hiked out before the thunderstorms brewing overhead developed. As we made our way down into the town of Ruidoso, NM with pints of brown and hamburger on the mind seeking to conclude our trip, we relished in the cool mountain air on the drive down knowing the sweet relief we had found in the high country would vanish as quickly as it came. If you can't handle the heat, then run to the hills!

White Mountain Wilderness Sign

Past Trip Reports/Photo Essays:

Guadalupe Mountains National Park \"Fast and Light Overnight in West Texas High Country\"

Waist High: Wandering the Deep Canyons and Lonely Mesas of the Gila

Gila West: Seeking Enchantment in the Land of the Mogollon

Edited by Eugeneius on 06/12/2010 16:35:04 MDT.

Ed Engel
(Doorknob) - F

Locale: West of what you think is west
Re: Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills! on 06/12/2010 12:19:01 MDT Print View

It is nice you are able to spend time in the backcountry with your father. Special times.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills! on 06/12/2010 12:32:10 MDT Print View

Great time, great pics! Thanks for sharing Eugene!

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills! on 06/12/2010 13:14:47 MDT Print View

Another great trip, Eugene!

Are you sure he's not your brother? Just kidding. He looks barely older than you.

Get out together as much as you can together, and please keep sharing trip details!

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Heat on 06/12/2010 13:19:14 MDT Print View

Awesome trip and TR, as always. I can't say I miss the summer heat of Arizona, but the sky island ranges really are something special.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills! on 06/12/2010 13:38:44 MDT Print View

Great report on a father/son adventure! With Father's Day close approaching hopefully we will receive some more reports of this type.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
"Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills!" on 06/12/2010 13:43:30 MDT Print View

I really enjoyed this, Eugene. Thank you.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills! on 06/12/2010 14:02:16 MDT Print View

Nice pics. I was there two weeks ago. We did Southfork > Blue front > Crest > Peacock > Southfork. We did detour through the ski valley for part of the Crest Trail where I was not going to bushwack around large downed trees because I could not tell for how many hundreds of yards they were down.

Edited by jshann on 06/12/2010 14:10:38 MDT.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills! on 06/12/2010 14:53:32 MDT Print View

I'm so jealous. I moved back from Tulsa last week, and it was 107. No fun. I have an idea for your next trip.....go find the trail down from Cloudcroft to Alamo, on the old railbed.

Philip Delvoie
(PhilipD) - MLife

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills! on 06/12/2010 15:12:32 MDT Print View

Great trip report Eugene. Looks like you and your father had a great time.

Colin Matthews
(litebrite) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
great report on 06/12/2010 16:07:39 MDT Print View

Great report Eugene! Those were some awesome photos, sounds like you guys had an awesome weekend. How have you liked the Burn so far?

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills!" on 06/12/2010 16:50:35 MDT Print View

@ Todd,

Haha! We get that all the time, my father is actually just shy of 50 and he's still kicking and seriously looks 35, I think his love for solo 12 and 24 hr. singlespeed mountain bike racing and whatever it is he eats in the morning keeps him in tip top shape.

@ John,

Thanks for sharing the link to your photos, it was great to see the same wilderness area from a different perspective. I have an ambitious goal to run the length of the Crest Trail this summer in a single push, all depending on water which will be gone shortly. It looks like you guys hit plenty of it on your leg of the Crest.

@ Joe,

I looked into that Railroad trail up near Cloudcroft a while back after you mentioned it to me. Thanks for the reminder, I'll put it on the list.

@ Colin,

Well, I literally received my Burn last Friday, loaded it up Sat. morning and was on the trail Sat. evening and Sunday so my impressions are still quite infantile. I shared more of my impressions regarding the Burn in another post that's been ongoing. I will say I love it already, there really isn't much to dislike about the pack, it does everything it's supposed to do extremely well and nothing else, a very streamlined ruck that compliments ultralight backcountry endeavors of varying degrees. I feel like between the ULA Ohm and the MLD Burn I have my bases covered for carrying gear most the year.

John L Collins
(WVCubDad) - MLife

Locale: Not too far off the Tuscarora Trail
Nice report on 06/12/2010 18:16:42 MDT Print View

Thanks for a very nice trip report Eugene. Loved the descriptions and photos. Better luck next time with the Tenkara.


Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: "Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills!" on 06/14/2010 15:28:26 MDT Print View


You know that your dad is going to curse you for getting him hooked onto BPL...spreading the UL disease to others!

Next thing you know, he is going to develop a fetish for all things Dyneema and Cuben Fiber...hehheehehe.

Great trip and another well done report.

Never get tired of reading your well crafted words and beautiful photos.

You are quickly amassing a nice number of links to prior photo essays/trip reports.

Keep them coming!

Question about the Burn: Do you think that the Burn has enough volume to work with a 10 lbs base weight or more for SUL type of setup? I have a Golite Jam2 and I find that I have a lot of unused room in it for those 3 day trips and I might consider going smaller/lighter.


Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Can't Stand the Heat? Run to the Hills!" on 06/18/2010 12:01:14 MDT Print View

Thanks Tony! Sorry for the delayed response to your post. I do think the MLD Burn could easily carry a 10lb. baseweight comfortably(subjective to the user or course), however I think the real issue isn't the weight but rather the volume with this pack when you start talking about a 10lb. base weight. If your gear is highly compressible and compact then the 10 lbs.+ baseweight shouldn't pose a problem for the Burn, but don't expect much left in the way of pack space, some of your gear may need to overflow to the outer mesh pockets and dynamic cord that can be customized on the outside. Also, consider the hipbelt, the stock Burn comes with a webbing belt, some BPL owners of the Burn have customized the pack with everything from stock belts, detachable belts, Prophet belts, to Ark belts.

Tony, to be specific, I do think that the MLD Burn could easily accommodate the core of your kit:

JRB Sierra Sniveler
MLD Poncho Tarp
MLD Soul Side zip bivy
Montbell UL Thermawrap
MSR Pocket rocket+ (x1 8oz canister or x2 4oz canisters)

* You might have to cut out some luxury items, sleep in what you hike in during the day, repackage all your food, consider your pad selection, etc. But for overnight-weekend trips the Burn is a great choice when you don't need to carry a bear canister or tote large quantities of water.

I didn't fill the volume of my Burn up on the short weekend trip we took, I still had appx. 500-800c.i. of main pack volume for more food, not counting the extension collar. So I could see myself using this pack up to 5 days, with the first 2 days being kinda tight but everything fitting.

Mike Feldman
(MikeF) - M

Locale: SE USA
Great report on 06/23/2010 12:56:06 MDT Print View

Great trip and report Eugene!.The Burn is an interesting small volume, UL pack.. Enjoy the trips with your Dad! I took my son on his first backpacking trip when he was 5, something we still talk about. My son, Matt is now 23 and we occasionaly do trips together, though with him in the USMC now it's been awhile. Before he get's deployed, we have a 4 day, 3 night trip planned in Sept. in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness. Your post has me really excited about our trip..