Canyonlands Trip Part 2

Last week I went on my first portion of my Canyonlands Trip.  I went with a group I met while living in Arizona – The Arizona Backpacker’s Club (ABC).  I met up with them on Sunday since it was raining/snowing on Saturday night so I just sat in my tent and waited for it to blow over.  As you can see in the pictures I woke up to a bit of snow in the morning to my surprise.  The snow melted very shortly hereafter though.  Then we went on a few day hikes around the area.  Most of them were just cool view points or short trails.

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Monday morning we set out for our first backpacking excursion.  We left the Squaw Flat Campground (B) and headed up Big Springs canyon then crossed over to Elephant Canyon.  We had to scramble up and down some slick rock, squeeze through cracks, and climb up and down a few ladders.  But, around every corner or turn we took we were treated to one after another amazingly beautiful view.  It was such a strange place to be and seemed almost alien.  I guess this is why several films of alien home planets are actually filmed in this area of Utah.  On one hike in particular we were going up a cool canyon with a bunch of mushroom top type rocks surrounding us.  We were heading up to Druid Arch.  I kept wondering when it was going to appear, especially when we headed up a box canyon.  But then I turned around and there was Druid Arch.  I hiked over to the base of the arch, and that was when I noticed that the view down valley (Where I had come from) was far more spectacular view than the arch itself.  Now don’t get me wrong, the Druid Arch is amazing in itself, but that view down valley has to be one of my favorites.  I wasn’t able to get the best picture since it was high noon and the colors are horrible.  But here is my best shot at it:

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After this we had to make our way up to Chesler Park, which was were we would spend the night.  Chesler Park was a beautiful valley with grasses covering the whole of it.  Surrounding it on all sides were needles and spires.  We camped at CP1 which had an amazing view for both sunset and sunrise the next morning.  Not only this but it was far from all other campsites.  We were at least a mile from another soul.  We woke up the next morning and after our coffee and breakfast, which gave us time to let our tents dry out, we headed back to the campground on a new trail.  On the hike we did we just looped around and didn’t have to hike any of the same trails, well, except for about a 1/4th of a mile we did have to hike on a same trail.  After we got back to the vehicles we headed to the Needles Outpost for a couple beers, diet coke, and some showers.

Chesler Park

Canyonlands Trip Part 1

It is officially the first day of my Canyonlands Adventure and I’m not off to the best start.  Luckily, I did get out here early enough to find a good campsite while it was still light and get my tent set up before it really started to rain.  The rain part isn’t what bothers me though.  Mostly jut the fact that I happened to hit my head 4-5 times .. can’t really remember how many since I was hitting my head…  A few times on trees and a few times on my jeep.  I don’t know what was wrong with me but I have felt a little off the past few days.  Maybe a good nights sleep will help reset myself.

I have had a couple of amazing days in Moab around Arches National park despite me feeling a little off kilter.  The first day I got here I went hiking with my Mom and her husband Richard up to Corona Arch.  Which I have to agree with my dad and think it’s a close second to the coolest arch (Delicate Arch).  Corona Arch isn’t part of Arches N.P..  Instead it sits just west of Moab and can be reached by a 3 mile round trip hike.

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After Delicate Arch we made our way East of Moab and hiked up Negro Bill canyon.  At the end of Negro Bill canyon there is a massive bridge which happens to be the 6th largest natural bridge in North America  After that we headed back into town and had pizza at Zax.  Luckily Zip got to join us on both of these hikes.  He sure had fun even though I loaded his pack with some rocks to slow him down.

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The next day after sleeping in a bit, having breakfast, dropping off Zip, and getting some new shoes for Mom, we headed out to Arches N.P. to do a guided hike of the Firey Furnace.  I’m not sure the stats on this hike.  But, I have to say if you ever make it down to Arches N.P. you really should try and get on this hike.  They only have two guided hikes and they fill up fast.  I wouldn’t recommend hiking this yourself since it’s easy to get lost.  Plus, you have to have a backcountry permit.  This is one hell of a cool hike.  You get to hike through a maze of rock fins, see several arches, go under natural bridge, crawl though the Crawl Through Arch (If you want to), and climb through some sketchy cracks.  It’s quite the fun hike and anyone can do it.  Even little kids.

So now I sit here in my tent listing to the rain fall on me and getting sleepy.

Zions N.P. – Angels Landing and Backpacking down the Narrows.

Over the past weekend I took a trip with my mom and her husband down to Zion’s National Park in Southern, UT.  I’ve been there several times before but this time we wanted to hike down the narrows.  We got down to the park at 6:30 AM Friday morning so I could get in line at the back country office in hopes of getting one of the 5 remaining camp sites.  I was 8th in line but luckily they were all wanting to do different trips such as the subway or fantasy canyon (I want to do both).  So when I got up to the window I had a pick of the remaining sites.  I went ahead and chose # 11 since it was the farthest camp site.  I wanted to do the majority of the hiking the first day and then have a shorter hike the second day.  Turns out I should have gotten one of the other sites though since ours was one of the more open sites to everyone passing through.  If I had my pick again I’d choose #8, or anything but #10 or #11.

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After getting our spot and setting up camp in South Campground we decided to hike Angels Landing.  It is an amazing hike where you basically have to climb the spine of one of the cool rock formations (pictured below).  I was amazed that my mom decided to come along with me to the top since she’s afraid of heights.  But she made it up and it wasn’t as bad as either of us had thought it would be.

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After hiking Angels landing we went into town and grabbed a burger and beer at Oscars Cafe (I’d highly recommend it).  That evening we got outfitted from Zion Adventure Company and reserved the shuttle to take us to the top of the narrows Saturday morning.

We started the shuttle at 6:30AM Sat morning and arrived at the trailhead around 8AM (Not sure since I didn’t have a watch).  From there we suited up in a dry suit and wet socks and shoes that we had rented from Zion Adventure Co.  Then we threw on our backpacks and headed down the cold trail.  It was cold enough that morning that my mom’s camelback hose had frozen so she had to use mine which for some reason had not frozen yet. 

As we hiked down the canyon and into the narrows many of the leaves around us had been turned and were all sorts of colors.  It was quite beautiful and I must say we timed it pretty well for a full range of fall colors above but yet lush green trees and ferns towards the end.  The first day we only had to go through knee deep or so waters.  We reached our camp around 4PM and set up our tents then took a nap.  Later that evening one of the groups that had taken off the same time as us came through our camp on the way to their own.  Most of them were pretty miserable since they were ill prepared and most of them were wearing hiking shoes and regular socks.  Most of them were soaking wet and it looked like their gear was wet too 😦  I must say I’m glad we got outfitted at Zion Adventure Co.  It made for one pleasant trip.

The next morning we woke up at dawn and packed our things then headed out.  within a half a mile we were wading through waist deep pools of water.  Then we had to climb around and down a rock to get past a beautiful waterfall (Picture in the album below).  We also passed a spring that had waterfalls flowing out of it.  I ended up making it out of the canyon without getting very wet but both my mom and Richard didn’t fare soo fortunate.  Both of them had taken a tumble on the slippery rocks.  My mom made it within a block of the end of the trail before she had taken a dive.  It turns out her knee decided to give out on her since it was still weak from the total reconstructive surgery she had had earlier this year.

We made it out at around 1:30 PM on Sunday then headed back to Oscars for a celebratory beer and burger.  Then for the 9 hour drive back to Vernal.

Here are some useful links:

Zion Narrows – Information on the Narrows

Zion Backcountry Information – Information on obtaining permits/campsites

Zion National Park Homepage

Zion Adventure Company – Great place to rent gear and get the shuttle for the narrows.

Backpacking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Doug and Zip.

I guess I should actually finish my post for this trip seeing how it’s been a week since I went.

After looking at a bunch of different places and deciding against them for various reasons (Too many people,  Too hot, Doug had already done most of them) we decided to head down to the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountain range down by Westcliffe, CO.  We headed down Sunday after Doug got off work and ate at a killer pizza place in Westcliffe.  Then we drove up to the trailhead and camped the night there.  I bet there were pretty close to 50 vehicles total in the 4 different parking lots along the way.  At the Upper where we parked there were probably 20 cars.  After seeing them we sure did expect to see a bunch of people.  But we hoped they would mostly go home that day since it was Labor day and they had to get back to work.

IMG_2852On the hike from the parking lot to Upper Sand Lake we saw quite a few people.  I think we passed at least three scout troops and several couples/groups.  Hiking up to the upper lake we came across someone that had been up fishing.  He said that they weren’t biting up a the upper lake but had more luck down at the lower lake.  He asked where were planning on camping the night and when we told him that we were heading over to Dead Man lakes he said with a smirk on his face “Well that will be interesting!”.  We didn’t see anyone up at the Upper Sand Creek lakes as we laid down for a short rest.  After that we headed to the Lower Sand Creek lake where there were a few people fly fishing there.  After having lunch there we decided we better get on our way up the pass (The one we had originally chose was sheer cliffs so we had to find a different route .. and had to hope it would work and not leave us on a cliff ledge).  This was the last we would see of anyone until our way down music pass on the last day.

IMG_2866Hiking up the side of that mountain sure showed me how much more in shape I need to get.  That and I need to get adjusted  to the altitude here.  It was pretty damn difficult keeping up with Doug and Zip.  Zip kept looking back at me with the Hurry Up look in his eyes.  After we scrambled up the mountain side we skirted across another mountain side and over to a saddle.  Then we headed down yet another rock field where you would take one step and then slide 3 steps.  Once down to the bottom we crossed some marsh land and found a really cool boulder to take a picture on top of.  From a distance it looked like a perfect square.  But to get the right lighting we had to take a more realistic shot of us on it)  After that found Dead Man Lake up the next gully over.  We set up camp and soon enough Zip was making whimpering sounds in his sleep. (BTW … DON’T get the freeze dried Beef Stroganoff …. Even with a lot of salt and pepper it still tastes bland and hard to get down … I ended up burying part of mine)

IMG_2881The next morning after checking out our options we decided to go up what the author of one of Doug’s books called a rocky but passable pass.  Which is exactly what it was.  Though I’ll tell you what.  This pass was one hell of a lot easier to pass than the one we did the day before.  We were to the top of the pass around noon.  (If you look really close you can see Doug in the crack at the top of the pass)   Zip took a power nap at the top and Doug and I enjoyed being on top of there.  After we got down the pass and to the Lower Little Sand Creek Lake we decided to go for a swim.  I don’t think I lasted a minute in the water because it was freezing my nuts off!  But it sure did feel good and refreshing.  Doug even helped get Zip to take a quick dip and then he was crazy for a while rubbing up against bushes and in the grass.  Pretty damn funny behavior.  But he still liked Doug after that incident 😉

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IMG_2915 After out dip mother nature decided it was time to rain on us.  So we quickly headed down not wanting to get struck by lightning.  Looking at the map and noticing the trail went around the valley then down the gully we thought it would be better to just cut across the valley.  Big mistake as we got cut off by several big cliffs on the way down.  Finally we found a steep but doable route down next to the creek and some amazing waterfalls.  I tried to get pictures but couldn’t do it justice.  then it started hailing and we had to hurry and scramble down a boulder field.  But we finally made it down and back to the trail.  We hiked several more miles down the canyon the back up the main canyon to where we set up camp in a field for the night.  That night we both had better dinners (Doug had some pasta primavera with veggies and I had chicken breast with potatoes)  We watched the sun set over some amazing peaks then fell asleep listening to some Elk bugle.

The next morning we got up and made the final ascent then decent back to our vehicle (Where a mouse had made it’s home for a few days).  The whole trip was amazing and quite the adventure.  Maybe some day I’ll get better at writing so I can voice the fun/interesting/scary time we had.  But until then ……

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Sangre de Cristo Elevation 

GPS Tracks – Open file with Google Earth, Garmin Topo, or your GPS software 😀

Backpacking in Lakeshore Basin – Eastern Uintas

I needed to take a break and get away from some things and so I decided to go for a short overnight backpacking trip.  I planned out a short trip with some advisements from my brother Spencer.  I started at Ashley Twin Lakes after a trip though rocky roads and crossing through streams.  While checking out Ashley Twin Lakes I did notice one other person on the opposite side of the lake.  I’m not sure where his vehicle was … he must have taken a different split off road since I was at the end of the road and no cars in sight.

This was the last sign I saw of anyone for the rest of the trip.  I hiked up 6 miles through pine forests, meadows, marshes, and along a few lakesides.  I only saw one deer the whole time though 😦  After reaching the point I had marked to turn off the trail (Wasn’t much of a trail though the whole way) I hiked up around a lake then had to climb through a boulder field.  At the top of the boulder field was a lake with one side surrounded by another grove of pine trees and the other side a rocky mountain.  It was quite the sight and I was content to set up camp there as I had planned.  I found a great spot with some trees surrounding it but still with a good view of the lake.

IMG_1838I set up camp here and cooked me my Mountain House lasagna with meat sauce … should have brought some pepper to spice it up a little.  Then shortly after I fell asleep in the tent with the rain fly off so I could view the stars.  It is quite the way to get sleepy.

I ended up sleeping in and so I had to just come back the way I went rather then attempting the longer route I was thinking of trying.  I got back to my Jeep around noon and headed home.

The whole time I was out I only saw that one person at the lake.  Other than that all I could see was some hoof prints from horses a few weeks old at least.  Talk about a perfect trip for solitude. 

Backpacking in Buckskin Gulch

Alright,  I think it’s time for me to finish my post from this trip since it’s already been a week since I embarked on it.

Friday I was rushing around like a mad man trying to get everything gathered up and packed up.  I was actually at the meeting point doing my grocery shopping and trying to make sure I had everything and putting everything in bags or my pack so I could easily put it all in the car I was carpooling in.  The ride up through AZ and up into Utah was quite nice.  There were storm clouds and dust storms most the way so it made for brilliant lighting and a dramatic scene.  We ate at a fantastic Mexican restaurant before heading to the campsite.

We were able to set up camp before it got dark and any colder.  Then we hung out in Kathy’s nice car to keep us out of the wind and a little warmer while we chatted and waited for the other people to come out.  They ended up getting there about 4 hours after we did.  By then the wind was horrible and it was pretty damn cold.  We helped them set up their tents since it was a little miserable out there.  After everyone got settled in I went over to my tent and laid down for the night.

In the morning we got up and packed up.  Lucky, the trip leader, still hadn’t shown up yet.  We were all a bit concerned about him.  After already getting a late start we decided to forge ahead and hope he would just catch up at some point.  We were just hoping we wouldn’t run into any rangers though as Lucky had all of our permits on him.

We headed down into the slot canyon with a group of backpackers on our tail from Redline Drinks (They had showed up the night before in a huge hummer with the product advertisement on the side of their vehicle.)   At the first trail junction we turned Left and headed up the slot canyon.  We didn’t realize until a mile later when I looked at the map and realized we all had turned the wrong way.  It was a bit of a detour but it was actually nice.  We got to see the upper part of Buckskin Gulch which most people probably don’t see. 

After that we headed back and down the right direction.  We soon passed up the Redline folks (which had taken the right route).  Shortly after going down the right direction we started having to tromp through the mud, pools of muddy water (Up to waist deep), tight narrows where I barely fit through, and up and over boulders.  The first day we ended up hiking close to 16 miles due to our little side trip.  I think we got to camp around 3:30 and set everything up on a embankment.  I ended up staying up until around 8:30 before I headed to bed and tried to get to sleep over the roaring sounds of the guy snoring next to me. 

In the morning we woke up and I headed out early with Kathy.  We hiked back up the Paria riverbed for 7 miles back to the camp where we had stayed two nights prior.

All in all it was an amazing trip and a great way to get my mind off of the things going on in my life.  It was actually the best backpacking trip i have been on yet.  I plan on going back with more camera gear and more time.  I know i could take some excellent photos in there.  Such a spetacular slot canyon!

 

Reevis Ranch

I am supposed to be backpacking over my birthday (Memorial Day Weekend) with a gay group of people from both here in Phoenix and some from Dallas, TX.  This is being put on by a joint venture between members of Desertadventures.org and the Dallas G-Club.  Well, to prep for that trip some of the people from Phoenix decided to do a smaller backpacking trip to Reevis Ranch in the Superstitions outside Phoenix. 

It was only 6.5 miles each way so not a big hike but I sure did enjoy it.  Also had great company.  They were some good people to go backpacking with.

Reevis Ranch

ABC and Sycamore Canyon/Taylor Cabin

So My latest adventure with the Arizona Backpackers Club (ABC) too me to Sycamore Canyon which is just west of Sedona.  It has all the beauty of Sedona without all the people/homes/roads.  Sycamore canyon has been noted as one of Arizona’s great backpacking trips.  And I would fully agree with this.

We camped at the trail head on Friday night.  Saturday morning we got up and headed down into the canyon.  The trail down in and up to the cabin is 10 miles each way with an elevation loss/gain of 1,750 ft.  We stopped at the crossing of Sycamore Creek and took a break for lunch and waited for everyone to catch up.  After this we headed the remaining miles up to Taylor Cabin.

When we pulled into Taylor cabin there was already someone there.  There was this older guy sitting there with a Dog (That obviously really didn’t like me).  The guy reminded me of what you would think of a typical hermit.  I guess this guy has been coming up to the cabin a few times a year for the past 25 years!  After talking to him a bit Lucky asked if we could look around in the cabin.  I was really cool inside and had a fireplace, stove, table, some canned goods, and other misc stuff.   The cabin was built with one side being a large boulder.  Up the side of the boulder came this crooked chimney.

After leaving the guy to himself and the barking dog we headed towards the river and set up camp under a grove of trees.  Then we gathered firewood, filtered our water, set up tents and the like.  Bonnie made our fire and had been designated the fire keeper for the night.

In the morning we woke up to quite the surprise.  The Creek that was previously dry was raging in the morning.  The water level in the pool we had filled our water up the previous day had risen at least three feet.  The heat from the day before must have melted quite a bit of snow.  We all thought we were going to have to cross the creek on the way back.  But lo and behold the creek was just as dry as the day before.  The water must have either gone underground or filled up other ponds.

After everyone had made it back to the vehicles we headed to Old Town Cottonwood for some beer and Mexican food.  I’ll find the name of the great restaurant we ate at later and post it here.

http://www.meetup.com/Arizona-Backpacking/calendar/9171439/

Sycamore Canyon

 

The ABC’s and Haunted Canyon

I joined up a group on Meetup.com for backpackers earlier this month.  ABC(Arizona Backpackers Club) had a fairly easy hike planned last weekend up in the Superstition Mountians last weekend so I jumped on the idea.   I thought it would be a great idea to try one of the easier backpacks so I could gauge myself on how I did.  So I called up my siblings and they were more than willing to borrow me the gear I needed and ship it down.  What I didn’t get from them I ended up getting from a friend of mine Mike.  He is actually a friend’s dad and he cooks us amazing dinners all the time.  He has grown to be another father type figure that is nice to have down here in Arizona.

So after i had all my basic gear I went out and did a little shopping for the odds and ends of things I would need plus my grocery list.  I wasn’t packed and ready until around 10 PM friday night.  I had to get up at 5:45 AM so I could get to the meeting point before 7.  I was actually the last person there since I had to stop for some Tums and cough drops.  After that we packed up and drove out to trailhead via a mining road.

The hike up was around 6 miles of mostly following/crossing a creek with the exception of hiking up one hillside to avoid having to swim through a slot canyon.  On the way up we passed through forests that you would not think of when you think Arizona.  Especially when you consider we were only an hour drive away from Phoenix itself.  We passed a beautiful spring and about a mile later we ended up at where we set for camp. It turns out I had the brightest tent in the group as the one I borrowed is a bright yellow.

We got to camp and had everything set up around 12:30 PM.  So we were all thinking … now what?  Some of us hike up a little ways further to Toney’s Cabin which is an old abandoned cabin that has been turned into a hiker/horseback hut.  From there we had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and cliffs.  The light was horrible as it was noon so I knew i would be coming back there around sunset to get a decent picture.

After that Mike the leader told us about a nearby cave, “Skull Cave”.  So most the group decided to go check that out.  What a unexpected treat for me.  After scrambling up a cliff face to the entrance of the cave we were able to go back in to a decently deep cave.  Inside you had to scramble over rocks and walk through all the dried up guano.  At the end of our caving adventures there was a hole in the ground that was at least 15-20 feet deep.  It looked like at the bottom it veered off to one side and could have possibly went back quite a ways.  But, since we didn’t have the proper gear that was as far as we made it.

After we got back to camp we sat down and cooked our dinners.  Later that night while sitting by the fire telling stories a full moon came out and surprised me with a moon dog.  It was a really cool ring of color surrounding the moon.  So I set up my camera to try and get some pictures.

That night around 12:30 it started raining and basically continued to rain through the next day on our hike out.  On the way driving back out of the mine we passed a few Javelinas.  They were gone too quick and I was back seat in a truck so I wasn’t able to get any pictures of them though :(.

Despite having it rain on our parade I had an amazing time with the group and am looking forward to other adventures with them.

Here is a link to the Meetup for this trip:

ABC – Haunted Canyon on Meetup.com