A happy new year to all!  For me, this will certainly be a new year for me, and, hopefully, a happy one!  After six years of being the club’s first naturalist, I’ve let loose of that responsibility.  One of the reasons has been the commitment of most of the weekends from April through June for PATC-related activities.  I am genuinely looking forward to an open spring calendar so I can participate in more birding, native plant and other natural history field trips.  I’ll continue to write my monthly articles and still be active with the Shaver Hollow nature program, in addition to leading my monthly natural history hikes - when I’m in the area.


The other principal reason for my resignation is my newfound love of traveling.  After a three-week test trip to southern Florida last January, I just completed a 72-day trip out west this fall.


Camper and truck in Echo Park, Utah


For anyone interested in such a driving tour of our westernstates, here are a few notes that made our trip (Jane was with me for the first30 days) so successful. We traveledwith a small Fleetwood Neon pop-up trailer pulled by our Toyota Tacomapickup. The trailer provided usstanding room, a bed, sofa and table, interior lights and a propaneheater. Our gear fit well into the bedof the truck, which has a metal tonneau cover for security.   

To determine our itinerary, we relied on two scenic highwaysand byways publications; one by National Geographic, the other by Readers’Digest. This enabled us to see anastonishing amount of historic, cultural, as well as natural places of interestthat we would not had known about otherwise. Such back road travels enabled us to stop and read numerous historicalmarkers along the roads, adding to the trips interest. We also had the Smithsonian Institutionbook,The Story of the West, a comprehensive chronology of humanactivities west of the Mississippi, which we referred to each evening foradditional regional history.


Starting our trip right after Labor Day was an excellentdecision, since it enabled us a much easier time finding campsites and gettingaround in National Parks, such as Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Arches,Canyonlands and Mesa Verde, while still enjoying favorable weather – in fact,superior weather, as I traveled through the Mojave, Sonoran and Chiahuahuandeserts, Grand Canyon, Organ Pipes and Big Bend National Parks.


Of hiking interest were three backpacking adventures. The first was a backpack down to the PhantomRanch campground at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. If you do this, stay two nights at the bottom so you can spend aday exploring the Phantom Canyon, just above the Ranch. Shear 300’ cliff walls are separated by thenarrow 30-50’ wide streambed, providing a spectacular hiking experience. The 9.8-mile hike out along the Bright AngelTrail, ascending 4600’, was fairly easily done in five hours, with perfecttemperatures in the 70’s.


The second hike was the four-day/three night 43-mile RaeLakes loop trail at the end of Kings Canyon National Park Road. Beautiful scenery and geology, but cramponsand ice ax are necessities going over 11,978’ Glen Pass. I was by myself in late October, but insummer, campsite availability is a major restriction on this popular hike.

Trail ascending Glen Pass



The third, and most challenging backpack, was the ascent upMt. Whitney; the highest elevation in the lower 48 States at 14,497’. This trip involves an 11-mile hike from theeastern Mt. Whitney Portal base. Whatmany people do (including myself) is backpack the first 6 miles to the 12,000’trail camp, and then do the summit the next day. I chose to do the 5-mile summit hike and then the 11-mile returnto my car the same day, picking up my gear on the way. This was an extremely tiring ascent, withthe last six miles requiring crampons (at least, for me, in late October –although ice exists year-round in certain shady spots), which greatly slow youdown while increasing the difficulty, as does the elevation. Hiking on the 60º ice-covered slopes is notnecessarily difficult, but focusing your attention to stay in the footprintsand keeping your balance is essential, since a slip on these slopes can endyour hiking career.


Next year, maybe the Yucatan Peninsula…