Monday, March 29, 2010

Madera Canyon Camping Adventure - March 28, 2010

We have had the itch to do a camping trip since we moved to Tucson 2 months ago. We decided to try Madera Canyon as we had hiked there a few times and some of the camp sites are up pretty high in elevation and offer great views. Most importantly, we could bring our dog with us! I also wanted to try to get up to Mt. Wrightson again while we still had some snow on the ground. I knew it was going to be a bit chilly at around 8000' where we were going to camp. Chilly was an understatement, more like absolutely freezing!

We arrived at Madera Canyon on Saturday morning at around 10 am. It was 51 degrees, a nice start to a beautiful day. Since we had all day long to hike we decided to take the Super Trail to start since it was a little longer of a hike and we had already used Old Baldy from the parking lot a few times. After hiking the Finger Rock Trail the previous weekend the Super Trail was a breeze. Even with 35 pounds on my back we cruised up towards Josephine Saddle and 7000 ft quickly. There wasn't as much snow compared to what we saw a few weeks back up to this elevation. This made me think we could make it up to Baldy Saddle and camp overnight there.  We wouldn't make it quite that far.

We stopped and at Josephine Saddle for about 30 minutes. It was a busy day and there were quite a few groups of people in the area and passing through. Our dog had to make sure that he greeted everyone as they came through the area! After lunch we made the decision to head towards Baldy Saddle and see if it was suitable for camp.

A nice lady told us that there was another nice area about a mile past Josephine Saddle to camp. This is where we would end up setting up camp, around 8000ft in elevation. A nice area opened up as the trail went around a corner and you could tell people had camped there in the past. From this spot it was probably another mile up to Baldy but the snow started getting bad. With the air in the 50's the snow got pretty soft and we started to sink in quite a bit. Right before you start the switchbacks up to Baldy we found ourselves sinking thigh deep in the snow that seemed to be 3-4ft deep. Every step was a challenge and stressful. We decided that my girlfriend would stay behind at the spot we found for camp with the dog. I wanted to at least try to get up to Baldy.

The snow flat wore me out. Every step was a challenge, sinking and slipping in the deep, soft snow. I did make it most of the way up the switch backs but it took me at least an hour. Once you got into the switchbacks the snow wasn't nearly as bad but it was still tough after a long day.  I was getting tired, it was getting late and I was hungry! I decided to turn back as I was also getting a little uncomfortable with leaving them back by themselves. I turned back and made it back down a lot quicker than I was able to make it up. I decided to slide down about 100ft of elevation in the snow on my butt. It was fun and a lot easier than slipping and falling every other step!

So we set up camp and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful afternoon with great views of Mt. Wrightson and the valley below. We had a nice fire and just relaxed for the last few hours of the day. The only real excitement came when my bear paranoid girlfriend started seeing things and decided a bear was staring at us. She grabs some shoes and starts flaing and screaming trying to scare the imaginary bear away. It had to be one of the funniest things I have ever seen!  Too much discovery channel and animal planet paranoia going on there!

Another reason we chose this area is that there didn't seem to be much wind. Quite a few areas that we hiked through seemed very windy but our campsite area seemed pretty sheltered. We called it a night at around 9pm as the temperatures were dropping fast. Our wet socks that we hung on the trees to dry had already frozen! So here we are nice and cozy in the tent with the dog. We stayed plenty warm enough in our sleeping bags while the temps dipped well below freezing outside. Everything was great, at least until all hell broke loose at around 11pm!

The wind seemed to just come out of no where. You would hear the gusts start coming through the trees and eventually just blowing like hell over us. The tent held up for about an hour but eventually the gusts, which had to be 40 mph, pulled out stakes out and it collapsed. So there I am, in the freezing cold, half asleep, trying to put it back together in the dark. Some how I was able to get the tent back up. I tried to reinforce it with some big stones but within 15 minutes of trying to get back in and comfortable it collapsed again. We basically said screw it and just slept in the collapsed tent while the wind whipped it around like a loose sail all night long. The worst part was that the flap/cover of the tent blew off and the vent was right above us open all night with the freezing cold air coming in. Long story short, we didn't sleep. It was freezing cold and sucked! At first light we packed up and headed for the car which we made at about 8am.

What an adventure! I can't wait to get up there and camp again but this time it will be much closer to the summer!

A couple of additional pictures:

Max was freezing!

Looking up towards Baldy Saddle at sunset


No comments:

Post a Comment