Trail Day 7: Iris Park to Greenwood Canyon
With a short day ahead, the crew slept late this morning. Only the photographer arose early to catch some nice early light without having to worry about packing up in a hurry. It was downright luxurious to hit the trail at 8:00 a.m. instead of 6:00.
The Brumbys had decided to go a short distance cross-country, then hit an old road, circling around a ridge and avoiding descending a steep forested hillside.
The first part of the road was exceptionally rough and rocky and tough going in the morning sun. We used the caterpillar technique and remembered to stay well hydrated as we climbed. The hill really wasn’t that big — it just seemed that way after days of mostly level hiking.
The rough road joined a better road at the top of the hill and the crew hiked past several official parking areas. This sure wasn’t wilderness, but it didn’t look like anyone had driven the road for a long time, either. We speculated that the road was only used during hunting season in the fall. As the road descended toward Middle Ponil Creek, a couple of the boys clocked themselves with the GPS at nearly 10 MPH with full packs.
Once we hit Middle Ponil, it was only about 2 1/2 kilometers downstream to Greenwood Canyon. The Brumbys split with part of the crew on each side of the creek. There were beaver dams in the creek, but we didn’t see any recent activity or signs of the big rodents.
We’d heard from other crews on the trail that there were nice campsites along Greenwood Canyon, but their descriptions of where they were located were a bit sketchy. We hiked up the canyon a ways, then dropped packs and sent scouts ahead to find the best unoccupied campsite. The canyon was narrow, and all the sites were closer to the trail than we would have liked.
Once the Brumbys had a site, nestled between the trail and the cool creek, we had lunch by the creek. The boys spent part of the afternoon attempting to fish with their hands. Mark wandered down the trail photographing wildflowers, trees, and butterflies. Daniel and Nick pulled out books and spent most of the afternoon reading.
During the evening planning session, the Brumbys briefly considered hiking to Pueblano by way of Baldy Mountain, but dropped the idea when they realized they had a food pickup at Rich Cabins along the Middle Ponil trail. The prospect of a 4,000-foot climb and a very long day on the trail wasn’t all that appealing either, even after a day of leisure at Greenwood.
This day ended the Brumbys’ grand tour of the Valle Vidal, which turned out to be the best and most talked-about part of the entire trek. Grand vistas, easy cross-country hiking through open forest and broad meadows, and the freedom to hike anywhere they chose all played a part. In the Valle, we were supposed to spread out. In Philmont proper, we had to stick to the trails. Same goal of minimizing impact, but very different ways of meeting it.