McKittrick Canyon


I did, actually.  

But I did not mean to.

On this page [click here to go there and see the lie] I asserted that I have covered essentially the entire McKittrick Trail, from the McKittrick Canyon entry point to the Tejas Trail junction, and then on the Tejas Trail to the Dog Canyon entry point.  

On the page linked above I showed two photos, and suggested that where the trail disappears in an upward direction in the one photo----

is essentially where it disappears in the downward direction in the other----

Turns out that was a lie.

Turns out there is a sizable distance between the trail that disappears in the one photo and the one that disappears in the other photo.  Maybe about three miles of distance and about 800 feet of elevation, in fact.

This photo, taken on a different hike on June 8th, shows that where the first photo's ridge ends, another mountain begins with many switchbacks, and even it is not yet the final destination.  It is not McKittrick Ridge, not yet, that destination ridge is an additional mile or two and an additional 400 to 600 feet in elevation rise:

Today we cover much of that missing distance, but still not all of it.  It is going to take one more try.  I will be coming in from Dog Canyon this next time, because the McKittrick Canyon route with its restricted hours does not leave me enough time to complete this walk (I am slow).  

I did this second walk, about 14 miles and 11 3/4 hours, for me, on June 8th, 2013.  Elevation gain was over 1500 feet (500 m) with two descents that had to be made up, one of 300 feet (100 m) the other of 400 feet (130 m).  Of course this does not count the continual ups and downs of any mountain trail, just the larger ones.

As I have warned: I am slow compared to the young people that passed me by both coming and going on the first hike.  On the second hike I never saw a soul for the entire time. Great solitude, but a bit worrisome if there is an accident.

Coming in from the McKittrick Canyon side made it an 11-mile round trip with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain.  [What these younger, stronger people did was 14 miles of round trip with more than 2,400 feet of elevation gain.] It took me 9.5 hours and when the time came to close the gate to McKittrick Canyon I scooted out 2 minutes early (if they lock you in, the fine is hundreds of dollars to let you back out, and calling someone is a challenge, no cell-phone service!).

CONFESSION of stupidity:

I did NOT pack enough water, so was dehydrated when I came out.  On the way home I drank water from a water fountain off and on for almost 20 minutes at a Texas highway rest stop, half hour later bought 3 drinks at a market about 20 miles from home, and finished them all before I got home.  Blood pressure quite low and weight down for two days because of water loss.  NOT GOOD!!

It was 100 F (38 C) in the lowlands, and I thought the mountains would be much cooler.  They were cooler, but still very warm, and the grades were quite steep, so I sweat like crazy and drank all I carried slowly to make it last, but too slow to keep me hydrated.  Let that be a lesson to me!  Took three days to return all systems to normal.

I do learn, however.  On my walk up from the Dog Canyon side, I still had one bottle of water left when I was done.  Drank 5 water bottles and two 32. oz. Gatorades.  Good boy.

So, let's get started from the McKittrick Canyon side first and visit my favorite Madrone tree close to the entrance of the canyon.  It has quite a family and several healthy neighbors:

Another favorite scene is the first creek crossing:

On the way up the canyon I wondered which ridge on the right would be the one I would climb: turns out it the one in the center of the photo, the one with the thumb from which there is a mild descent and then a final climb up McKittrick Ridge, on the right.

The point of this particular walk was to get beyond where that photo at the start of this page shows I stopped the last time I came from this direction.  So there will be few photos until we get to that point.

But few is not zero, and I could not pass up several scenes along the way like this flowering agave (century plant, it stores food for 20 to 30 years and sends up this huge shoot that flowers, and then the plant dies -- typically surrounded by its vegetatively propagated offspring):  

When the trail starts to do some serious climbing, its vegetation is quite lush.  This was my first rest stop:

It wasn't long before we reach the Notch from this point.  From here we will look back:

and forward:

We have a way to go yet before the previous turnaround point, a steep way but on a decent trail (thank you trailmakers!) so we will still keep photos to a minimum until we get there on the next page.

Go to Part Two: Reaching the former turnaround point

Go to Part Three:  Over the ridge and up a mountain

Go to Part Four: Decision/turnaround point

Go to Part Five: The "Siege Tower" Approached from the Dog Canyon side

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