As we all know, life can "get in the way" of true happiness. I invite you to follow my posts as I try to reconnect with nature as often as life allows. Then,
if so inspired, pick up a paddle or pack and join me on an adventure that makes everything else fade away. -

Monday, November 11, 2013

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

Last climbing trip of 2013.  I haven't been climbing my strongest since injuring my finger and I wanted to feel like I accomplished something rather than just climbing a bunch of easy routes.  Mission accomplished!

We arrived Friday around 2pm and Greg and I headed up to the North 40 to tackle one of the new 5.8s put up before 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell.  I got on Dos Hermanos on lead after hearing it was hard for its grade.  I was determined for an onsight though, and despite it being a pumpy warm up I made it to the top clean.  Greg topped it clean and we headed to the Land Beyond to catch up with everyone else.  They were finishing their warm up routes so we knocked out a 5.9 before joining them on some 5.10b's.  I typically have avoided 10's at the ranch, instead choosing to climb the easier grade routes I have not been on.  I really enjoyed climbing these 10's, even if they were a little soft.  It made me realize that I need to start taking a serious look at the 10's down there as several of them are within my range...even on lead.  Besides, I've nearly climbed all the 9's and lower!

Dos Hermanos (5.8) - LYo Sista (5.9) - LPanty Moth Invasion (5.10b) | Sendtember (5.10b)

After a hearty breakfast at the Ozark Cafe myself, Bob, and Greg warmed up on a 5.8+ called Playing Hooky.  I had climbed it before but was forced off route because the rock was so wet.  This time I was able to get it clean on lead.  Bob and I both wanted to work on our trad do we got on The Poison Ivy route in the Kindergarten Boulder.  We both led it on gear and Greg topped it.  Since there were bolted anchors we were also able to top Mossy Revelations next to it.  This route definitely deserves it's R rating as the lichen on it makes it very slick and there is virtually no protection down low.  As we were finishing up Andy, John, and Andreas walked by heading South.  We followed shortly after and I took on my first of two routes that had been haunting me, The Controversy.

The start of this route is steeply overhung but the crux is between bolts 2 & 3.  I would say this is one of those routes that is as difficult as some of the newer 10's on the ranch.  I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and got on lead.  The first two bolts were easy but then I ran into the crux.  It gets thin above the second bolt and I didn't remember the beta.  After coming back down to rest on a lower ledge I went for it again.  My hand cramped and I was off, pulling Greg off the ground.  I fell about 8ft and it was great!  Exactly what I needed!!  Unfortunately I was too pumped out to continue so Bob took over and put up a top rope, though he found a less direct route through the crux.  I stubbornly wanted to go right over the roof.  Greg got on top rope and found the crimpy side pull needed.  With this beta I top roped it clean.  Next time it's going down on lead!

We all headed over to the East side and hit the Roman Wall.  Andy, Andreas and Bob got on a 75ft 5.10c.  A bit much for me.  I was worn out so Greg and I climbed some easy stuff that he could lead.  It was great tackling The Controverys but I'm still trying to climb ALL the routes I can!

Playing Hooky (5.8+) - LThe Poison Ivy Route (5.7) - LMossy Revelations (5.9) | The Controversy (5.9) | Acree Prime (5.7) | Nieta (5.8) | Nieto (5.7)

We all headed up to the North 40 with our eye on the ever popular circus wall.  After a quick warm up I got on my other project, Season of the Storm.  This 5.10a is a one move wonder with a big reach under a roof.  The trick is to get your left foot into a pocket and smear your right foot while grasping a thin under cling and then throw for the ledge under the roof.  The problem is the balance is tricky.  I wasn't feeling it so I made a quick adjustment.  I lowered my left foot to be under my center of gravity and flagged with my right foot.  By doing this my reach would be much less, but I felt more stable.  I was taking a risk but relied on my reach and threw for the roof...and stuck it!  A lot of people won't be able to make this move without their feet higher, but it worked for me and I flashed the route!  I'd like to lead this one day but I'll have to get a little more comfortable on lead first.

Next up was Bob's project.  He wanted to climb Hackberry Crack after warming up on Treebeard.  After leading Treebeard I topped it.  This was my first time climbing a crack and it was awesome!  It was a difficult climb involving new skills I haven't developed.  A 5.7 for sure, but more difficult than a 5.7 face climb.  The route starts out with hand jambs and smearing but quickly gains more easy footing with lots of small ledges and even a few small hand holds.  Next up I belayed Bob on Hackberry Crack.  He made it to the top after a bit of a struggle at the crux and one fall higher up.  We were both glad that the gear held!  I now need to practice my hand jambs because I really want to keep working on my crack climbing skills!

Spam (5.7) | Season of the Storm (5.10a) | Treebeard (5.7)

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

Monday, October 21, 2013

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

Chris and I drove down Friday morning and got to the ranch before the rain hit.  It started to drizzle but we went to go climb anyway.  By 8:00 it was storming pretty good and we were in our tents for the night.  The rest of the group showed up around 12:30 and set up in the rain.

Class Clown (5.4) - 1 | Chica Bonita (5.8) - L | Chica Bonito (5.8+) | Ojos Locos (5.9) - L

Since the Dynamic Earth crew had invaded the North Forty we headed to the East side.  There were several in the group who were newer, especially to leading, so they did some climbing on the Cliff's of Insanity before I took them over to Gracie's.  We hit a couple of the newer 8's and then finished up in the Middle East, which was new to me.  Got back to the campsite and had and excellent dinner and campfire (after dragging wood back from Magoo Rock).

Gracie's 8 (5.8+) - L | First Time Up (5.8+) - 2 | Fireworks in February (5.8) - L | Dirty thieving bastards (5.8) - 3 | Mad Money (5.7) | Megatron (5.9) | El Regalo (5.8) | Meh (5.7)

Sunday only four of us climbed.  After a couple of warmups we tackled Kurbcheck.  Then we got Chris on his project, Lion Tamer, and called it a day.

Action hotdog (5.6) | Kurbcheck (5.9)

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Free Solo.
2. Traversed from Gracie's Eight and set a top rope.
3. Took over lead.  Top roped up to last two bolts and anchors.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

Not being able to go down to Arkansas until Saturday morning meant a short weekend.  It was the perfect opportunity to introduce Colin to the ranch.  Once he heard I was going he was begging to go, so having already made the decision I told him he could come along.  I couldn't believe how excited he was!  He has gone to the gym several times with me, but has developed a fear of going to the top of the walls, even after several successful climbs.  I didn't think he would do very well, but I couldn't have been more wrong!  We arrived just after noon on Saturday and went to find the guys.  They were occupied with some routes that were not that appealing to me, so I took colin down to the Kindergarten Boulder and got him on Class Clown.  He not only made it all the way to the top (30ft), but immediately did it again.  He was too afraid to let me lower him, so he down climbed.  Something we needed to work on!  After that I did some climbing before setting up a top rope on Cotton Candy (60ft) for him.  Amazingly he made it up about 35ft before reaching the point he wasn't comfortable...the route flares out a bit and I didn't' expect him to be comfortable with it at that point anyway.  My climbing for the day entailed the following, including getting Strongman clean for the first time!

Class Clown (5.4) - 1 | African Herbman (5.8) | Stiff Nekked Fools (5.8+) - L2 |  Cotton Candy (5.6) - L |  Cotton Candy (5.6) | Strongman (5.9)

Sunday morning Colin decided he wanted to go into town for breakfast.  We headed to the Ozark Cafe while the guys headed to the crag.  After a good breakfast we met up with them and I tackled Frankenberry, which I had never been on.  I then took Colin to the practice boulder and taught him to rappel.  I was surprised when he did it on his own 6 times in a row after two practices with me beside him!  We then went back to Class Clown and he climbed it 6 times in a row.  We then headed out and went for a dip in the Buffalo River before driving home.

Frankenberry (5.9+) | Class Clown (5.4) - 1

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Free Solo
2. One take

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Yosemite National Park

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This trip was the first time I had been backpacking since I was 17.  So why did I choose to fly all the way to California and hit the trail for 7 days with only one 5 mile practice hike in the season before?  Well, I wanted to go to Yosemite because it is an amazing place and I feel like I left something behind when I was there two years ago.  I had to get back and see the backcountry!  As for why did I choose 7 days...well, I wanted to do the High Sierra Camp Loop so I could see a large portion of the park but still have some support nearby if needed.  It had been 21 years since I'd done this after all.

I secured my permit in February and got three of the six spots for the Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley along with Half Dome permits.  It was a chore to get the permit because the fax machine was not answering on the Sunday that applications were due.  Thankfully some very nice people were able to help resolve the issues and allow me to get my application int the lottery.  A big thanks to the nice people at Yosemite Conservancy for their great work and helpful spirit!  I am proud to now be a member!

Before this trip even began I could feel it was the culmination of something.  That something was the last two years that I had been re-aquainting myself with the outdoors and the skills required to enjoy them.  In the beginning I had been nervous but now I was full of confidence.  I had originally planned on going with a couple of people from Kansas City, but they were unable to make the trip and there was no way I was not going, so I decided it would be a solo trip, adding a bit more to the adventure!

This trip required a bit more planning than others because of traveling by plane with backpacking gear, needing to resupply with food halfway through the trip, and making sure I could fit everything into my pack.  So, with the resupply box on it's way to the post office in Tuolumne Meadows I left for the high sierra!

DAY - 1

Saturday August 17, 2013 I headed for the airport.  I checked my backpack paying careful attention to having the batteries, lighter, etc. in my carry on so that I wouldn't be missing anything when I got there.  You see, I had to make it to the permit station before 5:00pm to pick up my permit or it would make my next morning very difficult as I would only have an hour to pickup my permit and catch the shuttle to my trailhead at Glacier Point.  I was very stressed and it would only get worse.

My first flight was to Denver on a turbo prop.  Yes, seriously, Kansas City to Denver on a turbo prop. Oh well, it added to the sense of adventure!  When I got to Denver I found out my flight to Fresno had been rescheduled two hours ahead...for which I had not been notified.  So I had no choice to wait and pray for the best.  After a four hour layover I was off to Fresno.  Upon landing in Fresno I hurried to get my bag and my rental car.  Fortunately it didn't appear that TSA had torn my bag apart but there was a huge line at the rental car counter.  Even though I had a reservation Dollar had no rental cars available and was having to wash them and bring them around for people waiting in line.  It took me 1 hour and 20 minutes before I had a car.  And as I pulled onto the freeway it started making a horrible noise from the driver side front wheel.  It literally sounded like I was driving a Pod Racer when I hit 55.  It was now 2:30pm and I knew it would take me until 4:45pm to make it to the valley best case.  If I turned around it would take at least 45 minutes to get a new car.  I kept going hoping the car would make it!

Along the way I had called the park and verified that I could pick up my permit at Wawona.  This would save me 45 minutes and I started to feel better.  I arrived at the Wawona Wilderness Permit Office at just after 4:00pm.  That is when I learned the reason for all of my delays.  There were two guys from Seattle, Mike & Andrew, who were trying to find an available permit that would allow them to hike the High Sierra Camp Loop like I was planning.  I interjected and soon the ranger had issued the permit for me and my two new friends.  I realized that the reason for all the delays was so we would meet up and be able to hike together for the week!  Seems someone was looking out for both of us ; )

Mike & Andrew followed me down to the valley with a stop at Tunnel View along the way.  We ate dinner at the cafeteria and did a little shopping in the store.  I hadn't had time to get stove fuel at REI in Fresno and they were out, but luckily the guys had two large canisters.  We headed to the trailhead parking and walked to the backpackers campground just as the sun was setting.  We grabbed the last open spot and crashed for the night after a long day.

DAY - 2  (8.1 Miles | 1,461ft Gain | 2,398ft Loss | 5H 45M)

Now that I had two hiking companions with a second car I didn't have to worry about catching the shuttle to Glacier Point!  We got up at a decent hour and packed up camp after a quick breakfast.  We hiked back to the cars at the trailhead parking and loaded our gear into their car before departing for Glacier Point.  We arriver at Glacier Point and spent some time walking around and enjoying the views.  This is the spot where I watched the sun set two years ago before driving back to Fresno.  What an amazing place!

We hit the trail just before 11:00 and headed down the hill to Illouette Creek.  The creek and the falls were not roaring as it was late in the season, but they still provided an incredible spot for lunch!  After lunch we began out trek up to Panorama Point.  Of our 1400ft of ascent this day this section would count for 1000ft of it.  I was clearly out of shape as it was hard going.  Slow and steady was the key.  Once we reached the top we had a great view back to the valley and up the Merced River towards Nevada Falls.  We dropped down to the top of Nevada Falls before heading up river to Little Yosemite Valley.

As was typical for the week, Andrew and I arrived at camp after Mike as he was in much better shape.  He had picked out a nice campsite and we began to setup after spending some time sitting on a log and relaxing!  I was really not feeling very well.  I knew I hadn't eaten enough during the day and probably should have drank more water as well.  I also had hot spots on my heels and my feet were tired.  We headed down to the river to pump water and once that was complete I decided to take a swim.  The water was very cold, but several of us managed to slash around for a bit.  It was very refreshing and did an amazing job helping me to feel better!

Upon returning to camp we made dinner and settled in.  The rangers came by around dusk to check our permit and inform us of a mother bear and cubs in the area.  This is the most popular campsite as there are lots of people who spend the night here to shorten the hike up to Half Dome.  Other than the base of Half Dome this was the only other place we had our permit checked.  I went to sleep exhausted but with the happy knowledge that I was finally in the Yosemite Backcountry!

DAY - 3  (10.0 Miles | 1,599ft Gain | 495ft Loss | 7H 54M)

We awoke and broke camp hitting the trail around 9:00am.  The trail followed the river through the relatively flat Little Yosemite Valley with beautiful trees and views of granite domes all around us.  After while we came upon the first of several pools followed by a cascade of water down the granite. We began our climb before the trail leveled out again.  This pattern of flat areas followed by rocky climbs would repeat throughout the day with the trail gaining about 1,100ft by the time we hit camp at Merced Lake.

We stopped for lunch and a swim / wade at one of the pools before starting another big climb.  Passing through Echo Vally and the junction with the trail from Sunrise Hight Sierra Camp where we were passed by a mule train delivering supplies to the camps.  A short climb of a few hundred feet brought us to the West end of Merced Lake as the storm clouds were approaching front he East.  We made it to camp just as it started to sprinkle and managed to have dinner before the heavy rain hit.  Apparently the night before the camp had been hit by a storm and a very old and large tree fell, narrowly missing a mother and daughter.  I was in my tent at 6:30.  By 7:30 it was windy, rainy, and the sky was full of lightning.  I was warm and dry in my tent.  I just love that feeling : )

DAY - 4  (9.3 Miles | 3,200ft Gain | 343ft Loss | 8H 55M)

The first day had been hard, the second day a bit easier.  This was the day I worried about as we had to climb over 3,000ft to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.  We hit the trail just after 8:30am and began to climb the rocky switchbacks.  We caught up to Mike at the junction with Lewis Creek.  I had originally planned to follow Lewis Creek making my way over Vogelsang Pass before dropping into camp.  Given the approaching storm and my slow pace I felt it prudent to skip the pass and get to camp quicker while staying at a lower elevation.  Andrew agreed so the two of us tackled the switchbacks that followed Fletcher Creek.

While I still want to take the trail along Lewis Creek someday I was very pleased with the path we took.  After the grueling switchbacks we stopped for lunch before entering the wooded meadow near Babcock Lake where we saw a Marmot scurrying about.  A few more switchbacks took us up alongside a 300ft cascade.  When we crested the hill we followed Fletcher Creek into a beautiful high alpine meadow.  We stopped for a swim as I was in desperate need of getting clean from all the sweating.  Traversing the meadow took us to some moderate elevation gain and into Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.  We found Mike on his way back from pumping water and we were all able to get some dinner before the rain hit.  Thankfully it was just some light sprinkles and the majority of the storm passed to the North of us.  We were able to enjoy a lightning show and got some beautiful sunset pictures!  We would learn the next day that the storm had dumped hail on Tuolumne Meadows.

I was rather pleased that I had tackled three times the elevation gain in slightly less mileage with only an hour extra time.  I was tired but not feeling anything like I had on the first day.  It seemed that my body was doing ok with the backpacking thing : )  The temperature was quickly dropping and it would get down to around 30 degrees during the night.  This was definitely the coldest night we had and I was mildly chilly but that's what I get for sleeping in my boxers.

DAY - 5  (15.5 Miles | 754ft Gain | 2,970 Loss | 10H 03M)

It was all down hill from here.  Literally!  Today we would drop from our high point at Vogelsang of 10,200ft to Glen Aulin at 7,900ft.  We woke up around 5:30 am but didn't get out of camp until 8:00am!  I should have slept longer as I was up in the night.  We followed Rafferty Creek through a beautiful alpine meadow before the trail entered a more wooded area and descended into Tuolumne Meadows.  We hiked to the lodge thinking that was where we could get some real food to eat.  Turns out the only place serving lunch was the grill near the post office, so we took the shuttle about a mile down the road.  We met a hiker named Patrick and he joined us for a burger and fries before continuing on North.  The post office was closed for sorting, but as soon as it opened I picked up my resupply box.  I still had food so I gave out the extras that the guys wanted and put the rest in the hiker box.  We also had cell service so I was able to text the family and let them know I was doing fine.  After a nice rest we headed out across the meadow towards Parsons Lodge and the trailhead to Glen Aulin.

The trail from Tuolumne Meadows starts out relatively flat following the Tuolumne River.  After while the trail starts to cross slick rock marked with cairns.  The the river and trail begin a dramatic drop!  We arrived in camp before dark and had time for a nice meal before turning in.  This was a long day at 15.5 miles and 10 hours.  By the end of the day my feet were really sore.  I had been getting hot spots on my heels but they had turned into callouses.  By now I had sore spots on my big toes where the nail was rubbing on the skin.  All in all the only thing bothering me was sore feet, but that was to be expected.

DAY - 6  (14.2 Miles | 3,104ft Gain | 1,672ft Loss | 10H 31M)

This is the day where my original plan would change.  Mike & Andrew had to fly back to Seattle on Sunday but I did not have to head back to Kansas City until Monday.  If I wanted to keep hiking with them I would have to skip one of the camps and shorten the trip.  I had taken a day hike up to May Lake when I was here two years ago so I decided to skip it this time and head straight to Sunrise.  This would make for another long day at over 14 miles and this time rather than being down hill 3/4 of it would be up hill.

We started by soaking our feet in the river and enjoying the falls before heading out.  Hitting the trail about 10:00am we began a climb out of Glen Aulin toward May Lake.  After about 4.5 miles we hit the trail junction and head down hill towards Tenaya Lake.  We stopped at the beach to eat lunch around 2:00pm and soak our feet but Mike was nowhere to be found.  Andrew went to the North shore looking for him but he was nowhere to be found.  As I was soaking my feet I noticed I had a large blister on one of my smaller toes on each foot.  They were literally as big as the toe, but didn't hurt so I left them alone.  By the time we got to camp they had popped but thankfully they never hurt!  We continued on and started the climb up to Sunrise.  These swithchbacks were as hard as any we had seen on the way to Vogelsang and our progress was slow.  About 3/4 of the way up Mike came up behind us and we had learned that he was waiting for us on the South side of the lake.

It was at this time that we learned about the Rim Fire.  This was the first vantage we had where we could see the smoke and the thunderclouds that were being created from the heat of the fire.  As we passed other hikers we got more information.  While it was horrible news we were thankful that it was a safe distance away from us and would not affect our safety or our ability to finish the trip.

We arrived at the very scenic Lower Sunrise Lake and took a break while Mike pumped some water.  We soon passed the middle and upper lakes and crested the top of the peak.  As we were snapping photos we noticed a big black fuzzy butt walking down the trail away from us.  We followed the bear for about a half mile making sure to talk loud enough he could hear us behind him.  As the sun was going down the temperature started to drop so we stopped to pull out our fleeces and lost him.  Shortly after we came upon two girls coming up the trail and they said they had scared him down into a meadow.

As we continued on to cam Mike started to get out into the lead again about the time we heir the switchbacks.  He had walked down the switchback already and was directly below me on the hill when I saw the bear step onto the trail 30ft in front of me.  He appeared to be about a 300lb male and was looking me right in the eyes.  I had wondered how I would handle a situation like this.  Turns out I handled it very well with only a bit of nerves.  Andrew was 10-15ft behind me and I told him and Mike to stop.  I focused on the bear and sternly told him to go on.  He looked me over and it seemed like he was thinking "But, I'm bigger than you."  I held my ground and yelled at him again while waving my arms.  He bowed his head submissively and turned away with a sad look on his face before wondering off.  I cut the switchback and the three of us headed down into a camp full of onlookers.

The sun was setting quickly and the picking for campsites was slim.  We met two guys from Arizona who were happy to share their area for us.  As we set up camp they built a roaring fire.  This was actually the first fire of our trip and it was amazing!  Not only did it take the chill off, but gave us enough light to cook and eat our dinner while we talked with our campmates.  We turned in wondering if we would hear a bear in camp that night, but all was calm.

DAY - 7  (7.2 Miles | 545ft Gain | 2,684ft Loss | 4H 20M)

This was to be a short day that was mostly down hill so we slept in and stayed in camp until 12:00pm.  I spread out on a nice warm rock in the morning sunshine and wrote in my journal, had breakfast, and closed my eyes for a short nap.  By the time we hit the trail we were refreshed.  We had decided to camp near the trail to Half Dome rather than returning all the way to Little Yosemite Valley as it would drastically shorten our last day.  The only unknown was whether or not there was a source of water.  The trail started with a bit of elevation gain before a dramatic drop through a gorgeous section of trees and pine duff forest floor.  This was part of the John Muir Trail and I was very glad we were going down hill rather than up.  There was a picture perfect campsite near water but it was not close enough to our destination so we pressed on.  The trail opened up into an area burnt by a previous forest fire.  With the hillside open we could see Half Dome ahead and the Merced River to the side.

We arrived at an area about 1/4 mile up from the Half Dome trail where several groups were camping.  There was just a trickle of a stream but it was enough to pump from so we set up camp for the night.  This camp was directly off the trail so there was a bit too much traffic but it turned out to be a very nice site once the sound started to go down.  We made a campfire and stayed up a bit enjoying it before bed.

DAY - 8  (12.7 Miles | 2,495ft Gain | 5,548ft Loss | 10H 04M)

We woke up early and hit the trail by 6:15am.  Yes, this was the earliest we had started by far but we figured getting to Half Dome before the crowds did would be the way to go.  The hike up was challenging and I was glad to be doing it with just my day pack!  The "steps" made me a bit nervous as there is quite a bit of exposure.  Ironically I felt much more comfortable on the slab by sections above the stairs.  Andrew was the exact opposite, but I taught him he could just trust his boots and walk up the angled slab.  We reached the cables to find Mike half way up waving for us to follow.  Now, I am not a peak bagger.  I much prefer hiking through a wooded area next to a mountain stream.  I enjoy the views, but prefer being near the water and beautiful scenery more at a human scale.  That being said, when I had the chance to get Half Dome permits with our wilderness permit I knew I could not pass it up!

Andrew and I grabbed a pair of gloves from the pile and headed up the cables.  Now I wasn't sure how I would enjoy this as it is very exposed and you are not protected in any way.  The gloves allow for a good grip on the cable and the board spanning the posts give you a good place to rest at regular intervals.  Even so, my arms got very tired going up, but it was not that bad.  Going down was actually much easier as I spent most of the time with my hands on a single cable going hand over hand walking down as if I was on a rope.

We got to the top and spent roughly a half an hour taking pictures and walking around.  There had been no ranger at the bottom of the climb and we head heard from some people that they don't show up until 9:00.  There had been a few groups coming back down before we even got up there as they had gone up for sunrise.  As we got to the base of the steps the ranger was there and checked our permit.  We stopped for a snack before heading back to camp to pack up.

We were all packed up and back on the trail just after noon.  The trail back down to Little Yosemite Valley is very steep and full of switchbacks.  About half way down we started passing more and more groups headed up wondering if they were almost there.  Ha!  No.  Good luck and keep at it : )

We got to the top of Nevada Falls about 1:30pm and I was amazed by the huge crowd there.  A lot of tourists had already hiked up from the valley floor and were there to swim as they no longer allow swimming at the emerald pools area (which we learned when we got down there).  After getting a few pictures we headed down the mist trail.  I had hiked up to the base of Nevada Falls two years ago, but the switchbacks up to the top of the falls were something I did not tackle.  I did not expect them to be quite so long!  At this point we were all tired and ready to be done for the day.

As we reached the Emerald Pool we saw the new signs that no swimming was allowed.  As we were sweating we had been looking forward to a swim.  Ultimately we had to settle for wading in 6-10 inches of water and laying down in it.  It was very cold but very refreshing.

After a half an hour of rest we headed down the mist trail and enjoyed the ever lovely Vernal Falls.  Given that it was late August, none of the falls were roaring, but they were still very pretty.  I had however taken my good camera with me on my day hike two years ago and got some really nice photos with the high water flow of 2011.  We soon hit the paved section of trail and the water station at the bridge over the Merced.  Before we knew it we had arrived at Happy Isles and our week long adventure was over.  It was bittersweet to be sure.  We were tired but it was such an amazing trip it was hard for it to end.  We had hiked 77 miles over 7 days!!!

We arrived at the car around 4:15pm and loaded up our gear.  I drove the guys back to their car at Glacier Point and had planned to come back to the Backpackers Campground for the night.  As they were talking about heading into Fresno and getting a good dinner I decided that I was going to head into Oakhurst and see if I could find a hotel for the night.  I had spent the last 6 nights sleeping on the ground and though I could have spent one more I decided to go for a bit of comfort.  They stopped at Wawona to turn in their Bear Cannisters and I got some dinner at the store there before heading into town and getting a good nights sleep.

DAY - 9

I was able to call and talk to Colin this morning and it was great to hear his voice after so many days!  He was already asleep last night by the time I was able to call.

Originally my plan would have been to have come down from Sunrise on Day 8 while doing Half Dome along the way.  That would have made for a very long day and I would not have gotten back to the valley until very late.  By skipping May Lake we were able to make the Half Dome day easier and get them back to Fresno on Saturday.  So, this day was to be my extras day in case I needed one more on the trail.  If I didn't I had planned on spending half of it in the valley and the other half exploring the Mariposa Grove.  Given that I was an hour away from the Valley in Oakhurst, and that I had seen most of it two years ago, I decided to spend the day looking at the big trees.  So, after hiking 77 miles I went for a 4 hour, 7.4 Mile hike through the Mariposa Grove, but with just a day pack : )  After my hike I drove back to Fresno where I looked around at the REI and had a nice dinner before checking into my hotel.

DAY - 10

The final day was a travel day.  Fresno to Denver, Denver to Kansas City, and then the drive back home.  I had a great trip, but it was sure nice to see my family!

So I had done both a canoeing and backpacking trip in the backcountry this summer and was comfortable with the skills required of each.  As I push my boundaries it seems I will need to push into more remote locations to find the challenge I am seeking.  I also went on a canyoneering trip two years ago.  On that trip I did some pretty big rappels that challenged me quite a bit.  I also have been having some trouble leading while climbing's a mental game.  I think the first thing I am going to work on is my comfort with exposure while climbing and rappelling as I work toward multi-pitch climbing.  Oh, and learning to be able to canoe in whitewater.  Then I will look towards more remote wilderness for the adventure I am seeking.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Boundary Waters Trip

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This trip was kind of spontaneous!  Well, at least compared to some of my other trips to places that require getting very sought after permits and hotel reservations months in advance.  You see, I was originally planning on heading out to Rocky Mountain National Park in July to climb Spearhead.  Then my friend Andreas had to go in for shoulder surgery and the trip was off.  Truth be told, I wasn't too saddened by this because even though the majority of the Spearhead climb looked like fun the traverse at the top with major exposure kind of freaked me out.  I need to get some more practice on multi-pitch first I think.  So what to do?  I decided to pull another idea off of the bucket list, The Boundary Waters!

I had never been to the Boundary Waters before.  As a scout we either went to Philmont or on a canoeing trip in the summer.  Instead of the Boundary Waters we would go to the Crow Wing River in Minnesota.  Our leaders didn't feel the younger scouts who couldn't go to Philmont could handle the portaging necessary for a Boundary Waters trip.  I'm sure this was sound judgement, so what did I decide to do?  Well, take a five year old of course!

I got a permit through Ely Outfitting Company and planned on myself and Colin spending 4 days in the backcountry towards the end of July.  Our Memorial Weekend trip was a test trip to see how he would do camping for four straight days.  He passed with flying colors!  I also invited Laura but did not expect her to come along.  It looked even less likely after our hiking adventures in Utah the month before.  However, in the end, she agreed to come along with us!

DAY - 1

We left around 6am the morning of July 20th.  Colin somehow felt carsick before we even left the neighborhood so we stopped.  Turns out there was a beautiful sunrise to enjoy while he recovered!  We hit the road and headed North on I-35 towards Minneapolis.  The drive through Iowa was pretty boring other than a fairly large wind farm.  We stopped for gas North of Des Moines and the scenery started to get a little more interesting as we got closer to Minneapolis.  We stopped on the North side of St. Paul for lunch before continuing on and had just one more stop for gas in the town of Hinckley before reaching Ely.  Around Hinckley you start to notice the trees getting denser and taller.  As you head North I-35 splits with a large stand of trees blocking the view of the South bound lanes.  The shoulder also all but disappears giving the road a very unique quality.  We really felt like we were nearing the end of the road as the Boreal Forest started to spring up around us.  This is lake country, with lots of evidence (billboards, boats, etc.) of the fishing going on in these parts.  I-35 continues al the way to Duluth, but we took NM33 North through Cloquet and US53 North to Virginia.  Just past Virginia we turned off onto MN169 which took us all the way to Ely (with one small detour).  12 Hours door to door!

We checked into our hotel (The Adventure Inn), located our outfitter for the next morning, and headed to the Ely Steakhouse for dinner.  There were people all over town, some coming and some going.  We met a scout troop at the steak house that had just come off the water after several days.  They were scraggly and hungry, but full of smiles.  Reminded me of how we used to feel after a week at Philmont!  Colin decided he wanted to play pool while we were waiting for our food and the boys were nice enough to include him in their game!

DAY - 2

We arrived at Ely Outfitting Company at just after 7:00am and our wonderful host Jason Zabokrtsky went over our maps and got us all loaded up and ready to go!  After a short ride we were at our put in on Fall Lake.  Just after 9:00am we headed out on our adventure and started to paddle directly across the lake to the portage, or so I thought.  Turns out the dock actually points a bit to the North and we went the long way!  No big deal as it was such a beautiful day.  Guess I better actually use the maps!

Portages are measured in rods.  A rod is equal to roughly 16 1/2ft.

After a bit of paddling we reached our first portage (80r = 0.25 miles) around Newton Falls.  The portage is a wide and well maintained one and we quickly were on Newton Lake where we saw our first of three Bald Eagles.  We had arrived at Newton lake at the same time as a group of four women whom we paddled along side for a while.  After paddling Newton Lake we reached the portage around Pipestone Falls (90r = 0.28 miles) into Pipestone Bay.  The portage was very similar to the previous one and a quick double carry and it was done.  We went back for a picture of the falls and Colin started to throw a bit of a fit.  We realized that the long drive, early rise, and paddling so far had taken its toll.  We headed out onto Pipestone Bay and battled some wind until we got past New York Island.  At this point Colin had fallen asleep in the canoe and Laura was about done as well.  We checked out campsite #30, but it was out in the open and not very desirable.  I really wanted site #31 as I had seen pictures of it, but who knew if it would be open.  It was only about 1:00, but I had heard that if you are not in a site by 2:00 they start filling up...and who knew if someone had made a base camp out of it.  We decided to press on as there are several options in that area and as luck would have it the site was open!  We were very luck to get this site as it is in a class of its own, and we were planning on spending two nights.  We had paddled about 10 miles from our put in and I could have kept going, but they were spent.  Laura stayed with Colin in the boat while I unloaded the gear and started to set up camp.  We woke him up and pulled the boat ashore.  He was in a much better mood after his nap and was ready to help set up the tent.  With camp set up, pit toilet located, and water pumped I started dinner while Laura and Colin went looking for firewood.  Firewood is very scarce given all the use these sites get, but they managed to find enough for a great campfire.

One benefit to this site is that it is in a good position to catch a breeze and keep the bugs down.  Having not eaten much lunch we had an early dinner and made s'mores before the breeze died down and the mosquitos came out.  We retired to the tent early and did some reading before bed.  There was a light rain in the night which made sleeping all the more peaceful!

DAY - 3

We had a lazy morning in camp as it was cloudy and windy.  I played with getting the tarp set up and re-charging the GoPro batteries while Colin and Laura read and played games in the tent.  After the clouds cleared off Colin and I made an attempt to go out fishing.  We were fighting the wind the whole time and didn't end up catching anything, but had a good time anyway.  We had Colin's favorite, Mac and Cheese, for dinner and enjoyed another nice fire before bedtime.  It was really nice to spend the day being lazy and not worrying about being anywhere at a specific time!

DAY - 4

After having breakfast and packing up camp we paddled across Pipestone bay to the portage (70r = 0.22 miles) into Back Bay.  This portage was more of your typical trail but unfortunately it was infested with mosquitos from beginning to end.  We finished as quickly as we could and got back out onto open water.  After a relatively short paddle across Back Bay we hit our second portage (90r = 0.28 miles) into Basswood Lake proper.  This portage was a nightmare.  It was hilly and rocky, but also terribly overgrown and mosquito infested.  Laura was not having fun and I felt really bad for her.  The only thing we could do was to press on.  The portage ended in a bit of a swamp and I am thankful that the water was high.  If it had been much lower we would be facing a 1/4 mile trudge through muck...which would have almost surely meant turning back around and paddling out of Back Bay the long way.  Once we pushed off and got clear of the mosquitos we actually had a nice paddle through the lily pads.  Upon rounding the bend and coming out of the bay we were definitely on open water.  Thankfully it was not windy like the previous day!  We paddled across to Half Dog Island and worked our way along Washington Island before cutting South.  We tried the Southernmost sight on Lincoln Island but the mosquitos were horrendous!  We scouted Norway island but didn't like any of the sites so we pressed on.  Ultimately we took the site at the entrance to Wind Bay which set us up nicely for the next day.  The site was actually pretty nice, but there were mosquitos and after our previous site it didn't seem as enjoyable.

We had spaghetti for dinner and hid from the mosquitos in the tent until time for bed.  We read books, watched movies, and played dominos.  It was actually quite nice, but it would have been nicer without the swarm of blood suckers waiting just outside!

DAY - 5

We had a quick breakfast and packed up camp in a hurry to get away from the swarm.  We paddled across Wind Bay and found the portage trail into Wind Lake.  This was our first of two longer portages (185r = 0.58 miles) at just over half a mile.  Thankfully the trail was not too overgrown and the mosquitos were not as much of a pain as they had been the day before.

Next was a long paddle across Wind Lake.  The lake is very long and narrow, but it was an enjoyable paddle.  We passed one family on their way in as we were approaching the next portage, and another group came up as I was finishing my double carry.  This was the most people we had seen in a day!  The last portage into Moose Lake was the longest (190r = 0.59 miles).  As we completed the portage we noticed storm clouds approaching.  The weather had been perfect the entire trip, but as we crossed Moose Lake we were hit with wind and a driving rain.  It was warm enough that I didn't care.  We did have to fight the wind though and that was a bit of a struggle.  By the time we reached the takeout it had stopped.  We were early so we called Jason from another outfitter on the lake and he sent someone to get us as soon as they were available.  We got picked up around 1:30 and headed back to town.

As an aside I want to mention a couple of things:

First of all, Laura did not enjoy the wilderness part of this trip.  She was eaten alive by mosquitos and hated the portages.  I am very glad that she came along, but I do not anticipate she will be joining us on these kinds of trips in the future.  I did not enjoy the mosquitos by any means...they are one of my least favorite things on the earth.  I did tolerate them however.  The portages were hard work to be certain.  After all, I was carrying a 19'-4" 54lb canoe for the first leg.  I was proud of myself that I managed to make all the portages without setting down the canoe!  Then the walk back for the double carry to get the 65lb pack and two 20L dry bags.  At the end of each portage I was tired, but I learned a long time ago that to enjoy these kinds of places you have to work for it, but in the end it is all worthwhile.

Secondly, I want to say how proud of Colin I am.  I had arranged things so that only I had to do a double carry.  Laura took her pack and the paddles & lifejackets.  Colin took his pack and the fishing pole.  The plan was for me to go back for the second trip by myself.  He however would have none of it and insisted on joining me.  In the end he did a double carry on 5 of the 6 portages, not going on the last only because mom insisted.  The boy at 5 1/2 did over 5 miles of carrying gear on the portage trails.  I cannot begin to explain how proud I am of his tenacity!

After making it back to the shop we reviewed our trip with Jason and had a nice little chat.  I really appreciate how he took care of us and catered to our needs.  I would recommend his company (Ely Outfitting Company) to anyone!  We headed back to our hotel and all took long showers before heading into town.

We did some shopping for T-Shirts and then sat down for dinner.  After dinner we went for desert and looked around at Piragis Northwoods Company, a great gear store in Ely.  On the way back to the hotel we stopped in the city park so Colin could play on the playground.  As the sun went down the mosquitos started attacking and we headed back to the hotel.

DAY - 6

We packed up the car before checking out of our hotel.  We grabbed some breakfast and hit the road, taking MN1 towards Lake Superior.  The drive was very scenic but there was so much fog and clouds we couldn't see the lake as we approached, but you could tell we were dropping toward something.  We stopped at Palisade head to check out the view and watch some climbers before heading on to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  We took a tour at Split Rock of the lighthouse which was very interesting.  After grabbing a sandwich we headed down to the rocky beach to eat.  There was an older couple we met who told us about the tall ships that were coming into Duluth that day.  We were driving through there so we figured we should check them out!

First however, we made our next stop at Gooseberry Falls State Park.  This was a really cool park with lower, middle, and upper falls.  The lower and middle falls are East of the highway.  You can walk out on the rock and dirt outcroppings and play in the water.  Colin managed to get himself a little wet, but we had fun exploring.  He then begged me to let him climb up a rock / dirt wall back up to the middle section.  It was about a 20ft 5.4 climb and he climbed it with me right behind him.  He was very proud of our accomplishment!  Next we took the path to the upper falls which was a bit more of a waterfall vs a cascade.  Very scenic but less opportunity for swimming.

We got back on the highway and drove to Duluth figuring out along the way where the tall ships would be.  We ate dinner at Red Lobster and then walked over to where the festival was.  By the time we got over there it had started to rain the everyone had headed home for the day.  We got to see the ships in the rain and then headed back to the car for the drive to Minneapolis.  I really enjoyed our day along the shore of Lake Superior.  I had never been to one of the great lakes and I look forward to exploring this part of the country more in the future!  We arrived at our hotel around 10:30 and crashed as we were all very tired.

DAY - 7

Colin and I started our morning by heading to the indoor pool so he could swim.  He was very excited to swim even though the water was surprisingly cold.  As Laura finished up we got him dressed and then all headed to historic Fort Snelling along the Mississippi River.  The fort has been reconstructed and was full of historical items and demonstrations.  Colin seemed to really enjoy it, but I think his favorite was seeing the "soldiers" march in formation and fire black powder muskets.  At the end of their demonstration they invited the kids and parents to come march with them so we joined their ranks.  Next we headed down to Mill Ruins Park and just got to see it before being caught in the rain. We grabbed some lunch at Chili's, which became Colin's new favorite, and then headed to IKEA.  We had originally planned on going to Mall of America but we had run out of time.  We opted to drive home rather than spending another night.  We had a pleasant drive home with a nice sunset somewhere in Iowa.  We finally arrived home around 1:30am and went straight to bed.

All in all it was a very enjoyable trip!  If there was anything that I learned from our trips this summer it was that I will have to keep our family trips and adventure trips separate.  Laura has more fun with short hikes and scenic viewpoints.  Next year I will plan those kind of trips for the three of us and the adventure trips for me.  As Colin gets older I'm hopefully he will continue to participate in both!

I have been pushing myself to find the boundaries I am comfortable with in the outdoors.  I felt totally at home in the Boundary Waters, not once worrying about anything.  I guess I have to push farther and find something more remote.  Yosemite in August will not be that trip as I will be sticking to well traveled trails, but that is ok.  It will be the first time since I was 17 that I have gone backpacking.  That trip will be about making sure I have all the skills for backpacking that I once did and the physical endurance to do it.  In order to test my comfort in the wilderness further I think I will have to look elsewhere...there are many other adventures to have though, so no hurry.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grand Canyon Trip

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The Grand Canyon.  One of the most visited parks in America, and the one at the top or more people's list than any other.  I was not overly excited.  Why?  Well, because I knew all that awaited was scenic vistas that had no relation to the human scale.  Views that while amazing would not touch the soul like being immersed in a beautiful slot canyon or The Narrows.  You see, I had been to Utah last summer, and I was spoiled.  That being said, I was excited for the trip.  Just more so for the more playful areas to the North of the big ditch.

DAY - 1

We awoke in the middle of the night and began our full day of travel.  KC to Denver, Denver to Vegas.  Travel went well until we got to Vegas.  Laura's overweight bag that I had paid $$$ to get to Vegas was nowhere to be found.  So, with nothing to do but wait, we got the rental car and headed to our hotel, the Bellagio.  I figured if I had to stay in Vegas I would at leas stay at the one place that interested me...and I got it for $99 a night!

(2013-06-16) - 0030Laura wanted to show Colin (and me) around the city, so we very tiredly went to check out some of the hotels.  After a while we decided that it was dinner time...even though it was only 5:00 there!  After a nice steak dinner we decided it was time to head back to the hotel and let Colin swim, which was all he wanted to do anyway.  Once we got to the pool, I finally felt like we could relax.  I swam with Colin a bit while Laura sat and had a drink by the pool.  He made a new friend and he played while Laura and I sat poolside.  After the pool closed at 8:00 we got some excellent homemade ice cream before heading to the room.  We arrived to find out that Laura's bag was on the way.  Maybe things were turning around!  Once the bag arrived we all crashed ready to hit the road the next day.

DAY - 2

(2013-06-17) - 0169It took a while to get moving, but we finally left the city around 10:00am after a breakfast stop at McDonalds.  We arrived at Hoover Dam and watched the film before being turned away because the elevator was having troubles.  After viewing the exhibits we returned to discover that we would not be able to tour the power plant because the security system on the elevator was down.  Seriously!  Maybe things were not going our way?  So, we walked around the outside for a while and then hit the road.  It is a very impressive structure, but there are so many issues with the Colorado River one has to wonder if it should have ever been built.  And why do we have a Bureau of Reclamation?  As if we are reclaiming water that was taken from arrogant!

We stopped for a late lunch in Kingman, AZ before continuing our drive towards Flagstaff.  As we drove Laura and Colin slept and I enjoyed the transition from desert to the more mountainous terrain around Flagstaff.  Without even stopping we hit the road to Sedona.  I had heard the road was a very scenic drive and it did not disappoint.  After a short ways through a forest with a gradual descent we hit some switchbacks and dropped into a beautiful canyon.  Slide Rock State Park is just North of Sedona and this was going to be one of my surprises to Colin.  It is supposed to be a great natural place to swim.  Unfortunately it closed at 6:00pm.  Just after we arrived.

We continued on to Sedona and did some shopping before having dinner.  Though we only got to spend a little bit of time there I would love to go back.  It is such a beautiful place I can see why it has developed the reputation it has.  This place is going back on the list!  Maybe this time we can even swim at the State Park.  After dinner we headed back to Flagstaff and found out hotel.  After a few games of Angry Birds we turned in for the night.

DAY - 3

This was our big day.  At last, the Grand Canyon!  Ok, so I was a little bit excited.  I can say that it was about what I expected, and I still believe that unless you get down in it you are missing it...which I will do when Colin gets older.  However, there were times throughout the day where the light was just right and the view held a glimpse of the river, or a particularly winding part of a trail, and I was impressed.

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We drove in from Flagstaff in the morning and basically spent the day taking the shuttle bus from viewpoint to viewpoint after getting a slow start at the visitor's center.  One of the highlights was having an Elk walk up to the water bottle filling station at Yaki Point and get a drink out of the drainage trough.  Colin decided to help and pushed the button to get the water flowing.  I think he made a four legged friend that day!

We were originally supposed to leave just after dinner.  However, in our true fashion we decided to stay for sunset.  I am very glad we did, but with the extra 45 minutes because of the detour it took us 3 hours to drive to Page, AZ...not arriving until 12:30am.  I knew this would be the case but was ok with it...that did not change how tired I was.  I was amazed at the protests from my two passengers as to the length of the trip...especially considering they didn't have to drive.  Oh well, we were all tired!

DAY - 4

Ok, daylight saving time works when everyone follows the rules.  You see, Arizona has to be different.  So while I thought we were on time for our tour of Antelope Canyon we were actually an hour early.  It seems that while Arizona does not participate the Navajo Nation does.  Well, we had time for breakfast at McDonalds!

(2013-06-19) - 0508After returning we joined our tour guide Vivianne and some other folks for a four wheel drive ride out to the Canyon Entrance.  Given our schedule we opted for an early morning tour.  The lighting is better in the afternoon, but with a little help on our camera settings we were able to get some great pictures!

It wasn't really on the schedule but I knew I wanted to see Horseshoe Bend so we did.  It was one of my highlights of the trip and I would highly recommend it to anyone in the Page area along with Antelope Canyon.

We didn't get out of Page until close to noon and drove to Navajo National Monument.  Around a mile hike takes you to a viewpoint where you can look down on some ancient cliff dwellings.  I don't imagine it compares to Mesa Verde, but it was still very cool nonetheless.

We continued on to Monument Valley.  This was another one of the highlights of the trip.  We mostly just enjoyed the view from the visitor center and surrounding highways.  We tried the dirt road but it was very bumpy and we didn't have much time anyway.

We were to stop at Natural Bridges National Monument next, but we realized that it would be closing before we could get we stopped for a steak dinner on the way to Moab.  It would have also been nice to see the Southern section of Canyonlands, but I knew we wouldn't have time for that for sure.  This is the day we really realized I had packed too much into each day.  There is just so much to see in Utah!  We arrived in Moab at dusk and settled in for the evening.

DAY - 5

(2013-06-20) - 0517Moab.  What an incredible place.  A true outdoor playground for just about any activity you can think of.  I had arranged a half day rafting trip on the Colorado river.  I figured Colin would love it, but turns out he did not.  He didn't like the fact that the water was so cold, and that he was not able to help paddle.  He determined that canoeing was his preferred means of running a river!  Even so, the scenery was amazing and I think we all enjoyed that aspect of it.

Next up was lunch in Moab and then on to Arches National Park.  I took them on the hike to Delicate Arch.  Granted, this is not an 'easy' hike in the heat of the day.  I knew this going in, but the reward is well worth it.  I about had a mutiny on my hands going up the trail, but they were troopers and once to the top everyone enjoyed themselves.  I learned that hiking was not Laura's thing, but she learned that seeing several overweight people doing it can be very motivating!  The trip down was much more enjoyable for everyone.  Unfortunately we did not have much time left in the day.  Moab, like Sedona, is a place we will have to return to.  There is so much to do and see!

Knowing we would not be able to appreciate Canyonlands we opted instead to visit Dead Horse Point State Park.  I'm glad we did as we got some of the same incredible views and we can see Canyonlands on our next trip.  After a beautiful sunset we headed to Green River.  The hotel called just as we were pulling off the highway at 10:00pm and wanted to make sure we still needed our room.  Yes!  Good to have reservations!!

DAY - 6

(2013-06-21) - 0988This was to be a big driving day.  Green River to Springdale with lots in between.  We started out on I-70 but quickly turned off heading down Utah 24.  We passed the entrance to Goblin Valley State Park but I had decided to skip it as there were more pressing parks to visit.  Our first stop was Capitol Reef National Park.  We didn't have much time to spare but I feel we got a good overview of the park.  I would like to do some more hiking here if I make it back, but we settled for a nice hike down a canyon on the Southern end of the park followed by fresh pie and ice cream!

As we left the park we soon turned South on Utah 12 and were greeted by a surprise none of us were expecting.  The road actually goes up and over a small mountain before descending back down towards Bryce Canyon.  It was nice to see some green after being in the desert for so many days!

We spent several hours at Bryce Canyon driving from overlook to overlook.  Really, the ones to the North are the most enjoyable.  I would like to return and take the hike down to the hoodoos as I feel this is the one thing I missed out on there.

Originally we were going to try and work in Cedar Breaks National Monument, but we had used all of our time so we headed down US 89 and Utah 9 to Springdale.  It was good to be back in Springdale!  I was here last year for a week of Canyoneering and I fell in love with this town.  We were even staying in the same hotel in a room just below where I stayed last year.

DAY - 7

This day was devoted to one thing.  The Narrows!  There are few places I have been in my lifetime more amazing than the Virgin River Narrows.  I knew Laura might have some difficulty with the day as it would be a lot of hiking, but I figured she would enjoy the beautiful scenery.  I wondered how Colin would do as well, but fully intended to carry him if needed because I knew he would love this place as much as I do.

(2013-06-22) - 1266We ate breakfast at the hotel and headed to Zion Adventure Company to rent a walking stick for Laura.  Colin and I were using a set of trekking poles we brought.  Once we reached the end of the paved trail I could tell Laura was not looking forward to another hike.  We started out and despite my best efforts to help Colin he was determined to do it on his own.  Now the narrows consists of hiking along a sandy/rock shore with several back and forth river crossings and the occasional area of hiking up stream in the middle of the river.  It is not that bad but it does take some effort and patience.  Well, Colin refused to hike around the 'rapids' because it was more fun to hike through them.  I was honestly worried about him falling in the current...after all, he is only 5.  Once again my boy amazed me because at the end of the day he proudly proclaimed that he had hiked through 23 'rapids'.

We were making really good time, and passing several people.  Probably going a bit too fast, but I figured if Colin was keeping up then it must not be too bad.  We made it to Orderville Canyon.  This junction is 3 miles up from the trailhead.  Originally I had intended this to be where Laura and Colin would turn around and I would keep going to the Big Spring.  This is the furthest I had been as I had come down Orderville last year and I wanted to hike as far as I was allowed without a permit.

Colin would have none of turning around so Laura agreed to go a little further with him.  After about a 1/4 mile they turned back and I continued on.  I picked up my pace and walked up river for a half an hour while they were walking back.  I made it to within 30 minutes of the Big Spring but ultimately decided to turn around.  I had hit a spot that required swimming and I wasn't really in the mood to get soaked.  The sun was also getting lower in the sky and the canyon was starting to get dim.  The plan had been to meet at the hotel, but I decided to try and catch them before they hit the shuttle bus, only stopping to shoot some video along the way.  I averaged 20 minutes per mile on the way out and ended up catching them 1/4 mile from the trailhead.

Colin was upset that he hadn't 'finished' the hike, but when he learned I hadn't either he was better.  I also promised to bring him back someday and hike the whole thing from the top down (16 miles).  I fully intend on keeping that promise!

We cleaned up and met some of my friends for dinner who just happened to be in Springdale for the annual Canyoneering trip.

DAY - 8

The thing about Zion is that while the valley is pretty you really have to get out and be active to see the good stuff.  We spent the morning hiking up to the Emerald Pools.  Laura and Colin went to middle, but I went alone to the Upper as it was quite a hike.  I wanted to see the 275ft rappel out of Heaps Canyon.  I also enjoyed showing Colin the 165ft rappel I had done out of Behunin Canyon last year.  I had intended to leave some time for Laura to shop in Springdale, so after lunch at the Zion Lodge she headed into town and Colin and I went to play in lower Pine Creek.  I had done Pine Creek last year and had since read about some good opportunities for more family friendly swimming in the lower sections.  Colin and I had a nice afternoon playing in the water before meeting up with Laura for dinner.

DAY - 9

We were originally planning on driving to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and then back to Las Vegas.  Before the trip started I knew this was unlikely as it is a very long day.  Instead we decided to drive to Cedar Breaks National Monument and then back to Las Vegas.  It was nice going up to Cedar Breaks.  It is high up in the mountains and it was down right cold.  Kind of a nice change after being in the desert heat most of the week.

(2013-06-24) - 0229

The drive back to vegas was very scenic as we descended and went through the large Canyon past St. George.  We got to our hotel and checked in before going for dinner.  After dinner we went back to the strip and saw the fountains at the Bellagio as we had missed them at the beginning of the trip.

DAY - 10

The last day was all about getting home.  We returned the rental car after cleaning out all the sand that Colin collected in the back seat and headed to the airport.  We had an uneventful trip home and were happy to be back as the week had worn us out!

(2013-06-16) - 0033 (2013-06-18) - 0197 (2013-06-18) - 0360
(2013-06-18) - 0457 (2013-06-19) - 0606 (2013-06-19) - 0124
(2013-06-20) - 0835 (2013-06-20) - 0870 (2013-06-20) - 0621
(2013-06-21) - 0180 (2013-06-22) - 1358 (2013-06-24) - 1466
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