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  1. 128 likes
    Note: This giveaway ended 6/2/17 For spring, we're giving away a $100 REI e-Gift Card plus your choice of a shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. How to Enter 1) Like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post. Simply login with your TrailGroove account and like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post to let us know you'd like to be entered to win. New to TrailGroove? Click here to sign up for a new account - make sure to select the subscribe option on the sign up screen as well - it will help with step 2. The button you then need to click to like this post will look like the one below, albeit a bit smaller: 2) Subscribe to TrailGroove. Odds are you might already be subscribed, but you can subscribe below or verify by typing in your email if needed. (Hint: Receive an email from us about this giveaway? If so, you're subscribed!) Note that you won't be subscribed twice, so it doesn't hurt to check - make sure you're subscribed with the same email you used here for your TrailGroove account: Subscribe Here 3) Premium TrailGroove Member? You've been automatically entered into this giveaway - like this blog post for an additional entry and chance to win! Or sign up for a premium membership anytime before 6/2 to take advantage of this benefit. 4) Optional: This isn't required and doesn't even earn additional entries, but since you're here feel free to follow us below on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - we'd appreciate it! (And it helps us keep you up to date with any future giveaways and TrailGroove news from time to time) .ig-b- { display: inline-block; } .ig-b- img { visibility: hidden; } .ig-b-:hover { background-position: 0 -60px; } .ig-b-:active { background-position: 0 -120px; } .ig-b-v-24 { width: 137px; height: 24px; background: url(//badges.instagram.com/static/images/ig-badge-view-sprite-24.png) no-repeat 0 0; } @media only screen and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min--moz-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (-o-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2 / 1), only screen and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min-resolution: 192dpi), only screen and (min-resolution: 2dppx) { .ig-b-v-24 { background-image: url(//badges.instagram.com/static/images/ig-badge-view-sprite-24@2x.png); background-size: 160px 178px; } } 5) As always, if you're new to TrailGroove or perhaps just haven't dropped by in a while, feel free to stop by the forum to jump in the discussion or just to say hello! We'll randomly draw from all entries on Friday 6/2 at Noon Mountain Time and will contact the winner here via a private message - Good luck!
  2. 3 likes
    “Looks like you’re going in circles” is a way to tell someone that they're wasting their time. Talking in circles generally isn’t a compliment either. However, walking in a circle can be a good thing for backpackers, provided they’re walking around something interesting. Think about it. Logistics become pretty easy. No ride back to the start is required. In the case of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), walking in a circle is a great experience. As you may have guessed from the trail’s name, the TRT involves walking around Lake Tahoe. The largest alpine lake in North America, Tahoe is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, sitting on the border of California and Nevada and nestled against the Sierra Nevada. The trail itself is approximately 170 miles, so there is more to it than just keeping the lake to your right. In fact, much of the route is in National Forest with other parks and wilderness areas thrown in for good measure. Quite often, the lake itself is out of sight. The TRT is a great choice for the first-time distance hiker; or anyone that wants a beautiful hike with a minimum of logistical issues to deal with. If you’ve left your car at the start, it should be handy when you finish. As far as resupply, stops in South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City are well spaced and convenient to the trail. If you’re flying to the trail, shuttles are established to either town from the Reno airport. Summer and early fall feature consistently dry weather. A permit is required for the Desolation Wilderness, but there are no quotas for thru-hikers. Plus, it can be had with a phone call and $5 or $10, depending upon your hiking speed. You’ll also need a California Campfire Permit. That one is free for passing an Internet quiz. For my spin around the lake I flew into Reno early last September and caught a shuttle to Tahoe City, which was to be my starting point. After checking into a local hotel, my first stop was Alpenglow outdoor store, right down the street. There I got a fuel canister, friendly service, and a big load of concern. The guy at the counter said he heard the trail was dry for 50 miles past Watson Lake (my first night stop). Crap! Fifty miles is a helluva long way to carry water. That much weight in my pack would be a backbreaker for me. (As I mentioned, long sections of the TRT are nowhere near Lake Tahoe. It’s not like I would be able to dip a cup in the lake whenever I got thirsty.) I made a phone call to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and the helpful folks there confirmed that their website was correct; the trail was dry, but not that dry. Despite the ongoing drought there would be water where I was planning on it with the longest dry stretch around 13 miles. Whew. It was definitely time to head to the Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company to settle my nerves. In the morning it was a short walk through town to the trail. It immediately started climbing from the 6,225 foot elevation of the lake, but nothing terribly steep. Soon I was already getting occasional views of Lake Tahoe as the trail bounced between 7,000 and 8,000 feet for the first 20+ miles. This, and all sections of the trail, was well marked and fairly easy to follow. For planning water and camp stops I carried the Blackwoods Press Pocket Atlas of the trail and also downloaded Guthook’s TRT Guide onto my phone. Though not an exact match, they were close in terms of mileage. Once the Mt. Rose Wilderness Area was reached, the next 7 miles was a climb through open terrain to reach the summit of Relay Peak. At 10,330 feet, the peak is the highest point on the trail with some great nearby views of the lake. Another area highlight across the north shore was Galena Falls, a 60 foot cascade that was still flowing well in spite of the drought. The spot is popular with day hikers and was busy as I passed through. Traveling down the east side of Lake Tahoe was scenic and relatively easy with no major climbs or drops, but water was definitely a concern. Side hikes to water hydrants added to the mileage. I had access to water each day, but there were dry camps. After 80 miles and five days of hiking I reached South Lake Tahoe. The town can be accessed by walking a couple miles down a steep road or catching a $2 bus located at a stop a short side hike off the TRT. Take the bus. South Tahoe is a great town to resupply with hotels at any price point, Sports LTD for fuel and other equipment, a grocery and plenty of restaurants. And, they are all within easy walking distance of the transit center. There’s even casinos across the street in Stateline, Nevada if you’re so inclined. I stayed at the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel. It was a tad pricey for a hiker stop, but very nice. In addition, it was next door to the transit center, had a laundry on site, held a resupply box for me and had a $2 happy hour. Hard to beat. With rain scheduled for the next day I took a zero. It rained for 15 minutes and was cloudy much of the day. It would have been a great day to hike, but my legs weren’t complaining about the day off. It turned out that my zero day had the only significant cloud cover of the entire trip. Bring sunscreen. After catching the first bus of the morning it was back to the trail. Although I was at the southern end of the lake, I continued walking south. This is where the TRT picked up some mileage by continuing past the lake for another 25 miles or so. Through the area, the views were not the lake but mountains, impressively still holding snow in mid-September. From there on out, lakes and snowmelt streams were abundant enough that running dry was no longer a concern. At mile 109, the trail turned back north, and also joined with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The two trails shared the tread for the next 50 miles. I met a few southbound PCT hikers on that stretch; all noticeably faster and younger than myself. Mile 121 provides another opportunity to resupply and get ice cream at Echo Lake, if you arrive before Labor Day. All I could do was stare through the window before shuffling on into the Desolation Wilderness. Here was the section that required the permit and it was worth the price of admission. The mountains and valleys had been scoured by glaciers that emptied the area of topsoil. The most dramatic spot was Aloha Lake surrounded by stark granite shorelines and snowy surrounding mountains. The great views continued as I headed north. Several beautiful lakes beckoned me to slow down, but I kept moving. There was more great scenery ahead. I did take a long break at Dicks Pass where I dined with marmots. At 9,400 feet, there were remarkable views in every direction. Shortly after Desolation Wilderness, there’s Granite Chief Wilderness with tremendous views of its own including Twin Peaks. It was near there that I made my last camp. It was a cool, clear night followed by a sunny day; the same weather I had on every day of the trip. The main difference was the start of fall color as I began the final drop into Tahoe City, where I had begun hiking eleven days and 170 miles before. At that point I was only a half mile from my hotel which was holding a change of clothes for me from my earlier stay. In the morning, a shuttle arrived right in front to carry me back to the Reno Airport. Logistically, this was one of the easiest hikes ever; just go in a circle. However, with a trail and scenery that rivaled any I’ve seen, it was no waste of time. Information: A great source of information to start planning is the trail’s support organization website. Two permits are required to hike the entire trail. A California Campfire Permit can be had for free by passing a short test. This is required even to use a camp stove. (Campfires themselves are prohibited through most of the Tahoe Basin.) A Desolation Wilderness Permit can be obtained at recreation.gov. However, there are quotas in place during the busy season. Thru-hikers can avoid any limit by calling the Forest Service directly at (530) 543-2694 no more than two weeks before the date they plan to enter the area. My permit for two nights cost $10. Best Time to Go: Generally the trail is snow free from Mid-July to Mid-September. However, with the large snowpack this year, it would be a good idea to contact the Tahoe Rim Trail Association closer to your planned hike to get an idea of how the “melt” is progressing. Water and mosquitoes both become more scarce as the season progresses. Getting There: From Reno, NV to Tahoe City take I-80 West to CA-89 South. From Reno to South Lake Tahoe take US-395 South to US-50 West. Both cities are served by regularly scheduled shuttles from the Reno airport. More information on shuttles is available here and here. Books: Tahoe Rim Trail by Tim Hauseman is a complete guide and endorsed by the TRT Association. Maps: Maps are available to download here. On the trail I carried the Tahoe Rim Trail Pocket Atlas by Blackwoods Press, and a Tom Harrison map is also available. In addition, I downloaded Guthook’s TRT Guide onto my iPhone.
  3. 3 likes
    I know this is an old post, but I noticed that there were no factual data posted about the safety of aluminum cookware. As a critical thinker and an REI employee, I believe that people should make informed decisions based on facts from credible sources, not someone's own personal beliefs. (Disclaimer: This post in no way represents the opinions or recommendations of REI and I am not posting as an employee, but as a private individual.) According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), aluminum is safe to cook with. Aluminum is naturally present soil, water, and the air, but account for minimal exposure in humans. Primary exposure (about 7-9 mg/day) is via ingestion of aluminum containing food, including baked goods and goods containing anti-caking and coloring agents. Aspirin contains 10-20 mg. of aluminum and antacids have 300-600 mg of aluminum hydroxide, very little of which is absorbed. Most of the aluminum ingested passes through the digestive system and leaves the body in the feces. Smaller amounts that enter the bloodstream are voided via urine. Aluminum is applied topically via cosmetics and antiperspirants. Aluminum poses no health risks in these very minute exposure because healthy individuals do not store aluminum. However, some people who have kidney disease do store aluminum that enters the bloodstream as the kidneys fail to remove it. Some studies show aluminum in high levels are correlated with Alzheimer's; but other studies contradict that finding and there is no scientific consensus of a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's. The CDC recommends that concerns regarding typical aluminum exposure should be addressed by reducing or eliminating aluminum containing processed foods and avoiding cooking acidic foods in aluminum pots, although the levels of aluminum found in food cooked aluminum pots are safe. From here: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=1076&tid=34 With regard to anodized aluminum, according to Clemson University, anodized aluminum is hardened to prevent reaction to acidic foods cooked within, but storing acidic foods in the pot does cause pitting like non-anodized aluminum contact with acidic foods. From here: https://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/pdf/hgic3864.pdf Since it's uncommon for backpackers to cook or store acidic foods in their cookware, I would suggest that unless you have kidney disease you should be fine with aluminum pots, whether anodized or not, and would be better off basing your decision on factors other than safety such as weight, cost, and durability. Here comes my "gear nerd" answer: Titanium is chosen primarily for weight-saving and strength, but is generally much more expensive than aluminum/anodized aluminum. Aluminum is an excellent heat conductor making it a more efficient metal for cooking. However, the difference in heat transfer is negligible because even though titanium is more of an insulator than a conductor of heat, its greater strength allows for extremely thin walls which pose little barrier for heat to pass through. This is why I can't hold my titanium pot filled with boiling water with bare hands and why it's as efficient as an aluminum pot. Whether it's worth the added cost is really an individual choice. I am personally very happy with my 600 ml titanium cup that weighs 88 grams and can easily boil 2 cups of water. But I would also greatly consider anodized aluminum as an alternative since the weight cost is negligible and the cost is much less. The GSI Hallulite Minimalist is a 600 ml anodized aluminum pot with a cover, folding plastic spork (useless, IMO), a silicone pot gripper, and an insulating sleeve for 177 grams. If you ditch everything but the pot, you're down to 92 grams, only 4 grams heavier than titanium for (currently) $9 less. Hope that helps anyone considering new cookware or replacing old cookware.
  4. 2 likes
    “What are some of the more scenic trails in the area?” my friend Joan asked a local man at a hiking store in Sedona, Arizona. “All of them. They’re all scenic. Everywhere you look is scenic,” he said with a well-practiced manner, unable to hide his weariness with such questions. Even the trail map on display at the store was marked in bold black ink with exclamatory statements: “It’s scenic!!” “The views are amazing!” To say the least, it became apparent that we weren’t the first out-of-towners to ask the locals such seemingly innocent questions about hikes in the area. But after a few days in Sedona, I became more sympathetic to his sentiment, if not his attitude. Everywhere you look, it is scenic. Not just scenic, but grand. Magnificent is not too strong a word. Line up all the synonyms for “breathtaking” that you can because they all apply. Red rock spires ring the city, sandstone formations call to mind distant castles and alien landscapes, and it’s all made more dramatic when viewed in the golden light of sunrise and sunset. Limpid, turquoise waters flow south through Sedona’s mystical Oak Creek Canyon to the Verde River. And, amid all this scenery, there are hiking trails everywhere. Literally, everywhere. In four days, Joan and I could only sample a few. But they were good and, yes, they were scenic. All of them are within the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness and three (Bear Mountain, Devil’s Bridge, and West Fork) are rated among the top 15 Sedona hikes by the Great Sedona Hikes guidebook. Bear Mountain: This strenuous, out-and-back hike involved 2,100 feet of ascent over about 2.5 miles and the views were well worth it. The literature contains several differing estimates of the elevation gain, but my GPS measured 2,100 feet, consistent with the Great Sedona Hikes guidebook. The descent was actually more difficult than the ascent, with many steep, sketchy spots along the trail. We experienced some light rain, and tiny hail at the 6,444-foot summit. This would definitely not be a trail for a rainy day! Total round trip mileage was almost 5 miles, which we did in about 4 1/2 hours. Palatki Ruins: A visit to these Sinagua ruins was good for a rest day after Bear Mountain. It is an easy walk to cliff dwellings and rock art, totaling about 1.2 miles. Make a reservation for a guided tour at (928) 282-3854. Take your time and soak up the interesting lore (and speculation) from the knowledgeable docents. Devil’s Bridge: Ending at the largest natural stone arch in the Sedona area, this trail attracts a lot of tourists — most of whom don’t seem to have a clue what they’ve gotten themselves into. It’s an easy trail with some steep climbing at the end, 4.4 miles round trip from the Mescal Trail parking area. You may have to wait your turn to get out on the bridge for a photo, and don’t miss the short and less traveled trail to see the bridge from below. Long Canyon: In Long Canyon, we attempted to find a cliff dwelling I’d read about, located about 0.4 mile off trail and behind the “Ice Cream Cone” formation. After some slickrock scrambling and brambly bushwhacking, we gave up. I know it’s there but couldn’t find the right access point. It was otherwise an easy and enjoyable out-and-back hike, a little less than 5 miles round trip. West Fork, Oak Creek Canyon: It’s no wonder this mellow trail is one of the most popular hikes in the area. Its beauty combines red rock canyons, clear cool waters, and tall pine forest. Wear shoes you can wade in so you can enjoy the 13 creek crossings with abandon. You’ll see widely varying estimates of the distance to the trail’s end (where the canyon narrows and the footpath disappears into the creek), but my GPS said it was 4 miles. With side trips off trail to explore the creek, our round trip distance was about 8.4 miles. But don’t worry about the distance, take your time and enjoy this magical spot. In four days, my friend and I barely scratched the surface of Sedona’s abundant hiking, but it was enough to get acquainted with the geography of the area and whet our appetites for more. And when we return, we’ll certainly know which trails are scenic, because we have it on good authority that it’s every single one. Recommended Guidebook: Great Sedona Hikes, Revised 4th Edition, William Bohan and David Butler More Information can be found at the Bear Mountain, Palatki Ruins, Devil's Bridge, Long Canyon, and Oak Creek Forest Service pages.
  5. 2 likes
    And a picture of my kids and a classic KY waterfall. Thanks for the inspiration Aaron.
  6. 2 likes
    Aaron, I just read One Last Drive Home. A very belated condolences for you loss. Your last paragraph hit home. I just got back from a too long vacation with my kids and I am ready for some quiet hiking, but I'm going to take my kids hiking tomorrow.
  7. 2 likes
    There are certain trails which, when hiked in certain seasons, can be so blissfully pleasant as to seem almost otherworldly. Each step is a pleasure. Every view is breathtaking. The scents of the forest are almost intoxicating. Chirping birds, chattering squirrels and rushing creeks create a soundtrack that is almost orchestral. Spending unhurried time in nature seems to be one of the most refreshing things humans can do for themselves and one of the few activities which consistently pays out rewards greater than the time and effort entered. With an eye towards those indescribable and abstract rewards, I headed to a favorite trail in the Bitterroot Mountains for a quick overnight trip. Multiple waterfalls, a distant natural arch, innumerable eye-catching rock formations, dramatic cliffs, and a charming campsite beside a cascade conveniently located at the edge of the snowline made the first five miles a fantastic early season hike that left little to be desired. Since I knew hiking any further than the campsite would involve treacherous and unpleasant postholing (which I’d had enough of on a prior trip to the Welcome Creek Wilderness), I walked with a complete absence of haste and fished at two appealing pools without success. These breaks served as a nice refresher in tying and untying knots and generally reassuring myself that I could still manage to get a fly onto the water more often than in the branches of riparian trees and shrubs (although that ratio could stand some improvement). Before packing up after my second attempt at fishing, I paused to appreciate the sound and movement around me. The creek roared through the rugged canyon bottom and reverberated off the cliffs that jutted out of the north slope; birdsong filled the air; the forest seemed to hum with the energy of spring. The sun was warm on my face, yet a chilly wind blew down the canyon from the higher elevations where it was for all intents and purposes still winter. I strolled across talus slopes, relishing the complete exposure to the sun, and through dense coniferous forest that diffused the light into a soothing illuminative force that emanated from nowhere in particular. I crossed several small seasonal channels that emanated an urgent verdancy, as if they knew they would dry up once the snow melted and the relentless summer sun beat down. Some sections of the trail were still covered with firm snow that made for easy hiking, but for the most part I was walking on dirt. This allowed me to make good time and even with the breaks for fishing I found myself at the first large waterfall on Blodgett Creek. I’d camped near this waterfall, which blasts through a narrow chasm, twice before but had decided to push up to a second waterfall that cascaded rather than plunged and camp there instead. I arrived at my destination just as the afternoon began its long downhill stretch to dusk and busied myself with the mundane yet joyful chores of setting up camp and establishing a home for the night. Given the nonthreatening forecast – negligible chance of precipitation, highs in the low 60s, lows in the upper 20s – I opted to bring a tarp and bivy sack shelter system with me on this trip. I usually relegate this system to my bikepacking trips, but figured I’d take it along and enjoy a lighter load. As I struggled to achieve appropriate tension in the ridgeline of the tarp and realized I would need a jackhammer to get stakes in the rocky ground, any satisfaction in weight savings had shifted to frustration. Finally, 15 minutes longer and a dozen more curse words than it would have taken me to set my solo tent up, I had managed to cobble together a reasonable excuse for a shelter using rocks to anchor out the guy lines. Needless to say, I was reminded of exactly why I had exited the tarp phase I briefly entered a few years back when experimenting with ultralight backpacking. When a piece of gear takes twice as long to erect and seems to require a background in trigonometry and structural engineering, offers two-thirds the protection, with its primary redeeming factor being that it weighs half as much (but causes three times the headaches), I struggle to think of it as a superior piece of equipment. After my battle with the tarp was complete, I gathered water for the night – a task in which my chances of immediate success were fairly high. Filling up my bottles and water bladder beside the cascade was exhilarating. Spray from the rushing stream misted up and shifting winds occasionally blew it across my face. The cascade produced a cacophony that was an audible equivalent of the myriad and enchanting drops, rapids and sluices that were so visually enchanting. Such unanticipated moments of immersion and bliss were perfect reminders of backpacking’s inimitable appeal. An abundance of dead and downed wood, a readymade fire ring, and the slight chill in the air made not having a fire seem almost sacrilegious, so I set about gathering and sorting various limbs and branches. In only a few minutes the necessary piles of kindling and wood of increasingly larger diameters was assembled and, after a brief snack, felt like I could dedicate much of the rest of the evening to leisurely exploring around camp, reading, and casually soaking up the atmosphere. These activities, with a significant amount of time devoted to photographing the landscape, occupied me until my stomach compelled me to light the stove and make a simple but filling dinner. With a full stomach and a light heart, I struck a match and lit the fire just as the sun began to fall behind the mountains at the head of the canyon. Once the fire was stable, I brewed up some tea to enjoy while I read “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. I felt a bit guilty taking the vintage (1900) edition of this book of poetry with me, but poems such as “By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame” made me feel like the book was more at home out in the woods than on a bookshelf and that it was perhaps the most perfect companion for this particular trip. Flames, poetry, and the pleasant feeling of bare feet warmed by coals under a starry sky led me to delay retiring to my sleeping bag until it became more work to keep my eyes open than to give in and prepare camp for the night and walk over to the tarp. I slept adequately but intermittently, grateful for the background noise of the cascade which quickly lulled me back to sleep when I found myself awake. Opting to enjoy coffee from my sleeping bag, I took my time and let the sun warm the canyon before doing a quick exploratory hike downstream to check for additional cascades. I didn’t have to go far before running into an impressive section of the creek where water slid down sheer rock after leaving the turbulent path created by a jumble of boulders and then continued its downward path in another section of rocks of all shapes and sizes. Returning to camp but reluctant to finish packing and leave, I postponed my departure by making a cup of tea to sip while contemplating my surroundings. I knew the longer I stayed the harder it would be to leave, so I forced myself to push through the bittersweet inevitability of leaving such a beautiful place and headed down the trail. After a quick downhill mile, I paused by a pool in the stream created by a logjam and carefully scouted for trout. Sure enough, there were several swimming in the depths of the pool but they were incredibly skittish and none headed for the surface to feast on the few insects that buzzed through the air and occasionally landed on the water. I tried my luck anyways and set up my Tenkara fly rod and line, which is a process so simple and easy that it makes me think I must be forgetting something. Despite my best efforts, the fish were decidedly uninterested in what I was offering and several passersby had kindly commented that it was indeed rather early in the season to be fishing, but wished me luck. As I contemplated admitting defeat and easing down the trail, the unmistakable sound and telltale circle of a fish snatching a fly off the surface at the upstream end of the pool caught my attention. With renewed determination and enthusiasm, I slowly moved toward where the action was and scouted the waters for a few minutes before tossing my fly towards a trout I spotted at the head of the pool. The first few casts didn’t catch its eye, but one landed at the perfect spot on the current and the trout slowly rose as the fly drifted through the pool. Suddenly, that most beautiful burst of water – a trout snatching a dry fly – appeared and the fish was on the line. A quick landing and release and I continued upstream, where I quickly snagged my fly on a log jam, nearly fell in the frigid water trying to get the fly loose, then broke the tippet. I decided to end on the high note of the catch and not the low note of the snapped line and headed down the trail. I tried to be a discerning angler, but it wasn’t long before I paused to fish another pool. Several trout were rising and I landed one quickly before entering into a long stretch of no action. So it goes. I suppose fishing is like hiking in certain ways – it’s not always about the destination (the catch), the journey (waving around a fishing pole in a beautiful place) is sometimes the most important aspect. With the high country still snowbound, and likely to remain so until mid-summer, trips like this one provide a great opportunity to stretch the legs and enjoy the shorter journeys and smaller fish, to admire the mountain scenery from the valley floor a bit longer, and to simply enjoy being alive and outside.
  8. 1 like
    In mid-March, Ted Ehrlich and I spent a few days backpacking in the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The Maze is frequently referred to as one of the most remote spots in the lower 48, and though I’m not sure how exactly it ranks on that scale, it did require some significant of amounts of off-highway driving to reach. The Maze is located in southeastern Utah, west of the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers and bordered by the both to the east. Though bordered by water on one side, water is scarce. Springs are scattered to the south and within the canyons themselves, but can’t always be relied upon. We found the plateaus completely devoid of water, and found little water when dropping into the canyons / the Maze itself. I’m no 4x4 enthusiast, so we elected to start our trip from the Golden Stairs Trailhead which avoids the roughest sections of 4 wheel drive roads in the Maze. A trail switchbacks down from this spot to the 4 wheel drive road that runs across the southern end of the area where we planned to hike, so a bit of road walking was involved. However, it’s definitely one of the best road walks I’ve ever encountered. From here we essentially route planned on the fly, including an out and back to the Chocolate Drops, a day hike loop past the Harvest Scene, and eventually made our way to the Doll House area and areas overlooking the Colorado River. If you’re carrying a lot of water like we were, the out and backs and day hike loops make things easy by allowing you to temporarily stash some of that weight, and with the way the trails / routes and the roads all seem to intersect in the Maze, many interesting routes can be devised. The country is beautiful in a unique and desolate way. It’s also a land of contrasts. The plateaus – Hot, windy, and dry, rarely a bird or rabbit to be seen. But the 12,000’ + Peaks of the La Sal Mountains rise in the distance with snow-capped peaks and forests rising up their sides. Plunge into the canyons of the Maze and the winds die down, the sun disappears and you can feel the water in the air – But can’t always find it. Deer tracks run through the sand and each bend brings something new, and something ancient. Sunsets never seemed to disappoint and were some the best I can ever recall seeing. Rock holds it all together in an eclectic array of constantly unique shapes and colors. It’s definitely one of those spots that keeps calling you back – I can’t seem to put the map away and shake the idea of another trip. Or maybe it's the sand I'm still shaking out of my shoes that keeps reminding me. With summer heat on the way, hopefully that return trip happens soon. Best Time to Go: Spring and Fall. Winter can be quite cold and access difficult due to road closures / access. Summer brings very hot hiking and everything that goes with it. Getting There: From Green River, Utah travel on Highway 24 south for 24 miles. Near the Goblin Valley turnoff you’ll see a signed dirt road leading East. Alternatively travel north from Hanskville. Travel on this 2wd road for 46 miles to the Hans Flat Ranger Station. (Open daily 8 AM – 4:30 PM) Continue 12 miles (High clearance 2WD / 4WD) to the top of the Flint Trail Switchbacks. Stop here at the overlook to ensure no vehicles are ascending the switchbacks; if any are wait until they get to the top. Uphill has the right of way and passing will be quite difficult on this section. From this point the roads will be high-clearance 4WD only. Descend the Flint Trail Switchbacks, travelling 3 miles to the fork and navigating 3 hairpin, multiple point turns where a spotter will be very helpful. Once at the bottom, taking the left fork will take you to the Maze Overlook (13 miles) or to the turn off for the Golden Stairs campsite / trailhead. (1 mile to the turnoff, an additional mile to the parking area) From the base of the Flint Trail switchbacks, you can also take the right fork and drive directly to the Maze through Teapot Canyon, a much rougher route. One option is to park at the top of the Flint Trail Switchbacks and Hike in via Golden Stairs from there if you or your vehicle isn’t up for the rougher driving in the park. Trails can also be accessed via the Maze Overlook which may require some exposed climbing maneuvers / pack lowering via rope. An alternate dirt road leads north from Highway 95 at Hite. We didn’t explore this road, but at the time of this writing it’s reported to be smoother but requires a longer drive. From this road you can access the road into the Maze through Teapot Canyon or travel to the base of the Flint Trail Switchbacks / Beyond. The Park Service has listed driving times Here, and we found them to be surprisingly accurate in practice. Information: Permits cost $30 and are required for camping and backpacking in the Maze. Check the calendar Here to reserve a spot. If backpacking permits are full, check for 4WD site availability – The sites are quite nice. Keep in mind however that visitors staying at 4WD sites are required to pack everything out, while those with backpacking permits are required to pack out T.P. only. (And all other trash, of course) Cryptobiotic soil is prevalent in the Maze, avoid traveling across it and stick to established routes or slickrock / no impact areas. Check with the Hans Flat Ranger Station for water and road conditions prior to starting your trip. The area is remote, take extra water and leave extra in your vehicle. Take a filter and either always carry enough water to get back to your last known source. The Colorado River can be accessed at Spanish Bottom if needed. We carried all the water we needed in a mix of everything from gallon jugs to Nalgene Cantenes, containers from Platypus, and MSR Dromedary Bags. Maps: We used National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map 312 and 210. Delorme’s Utah Atlas and Gazetteer and this overview map can also be helpful.
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    One-by-one we traversed the narrow cut in the cliff, careful to lean to the right in case we slipped – the steep drop-off on our left plunged over a hundred feet to the valley floor. The sun had already set behind the western Cascades, painting the sky a burning red but leaving our trail in rapidly increasing darkness. That we were struggling to remain upright on our cross-country skis on even the slightest descent made each step even more nerve-racking. By the time we traversed the top of the cliff and returned to open terrain, there was no question of setting up camp immediately and starting on dinner in the dark. The experience was a far cry from the relaxed ski tour around Crater Lake that we had planned... In Issue 34 @mgraw recounts this skiing and backpacking trip around Crater Lake in Oregon: Going Long: Skiing around Crater Lake's Rim Issue 34 Page 1
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    Aaron, how apropos that Paul Mags posted this story. I just returned from a five day trip to the Pecos wilderness, climbed East Pecos Baldy, Pecos Baldy, and Truchas peaks all from a basecamp at Pecos Baldy lake. Will try to post a trip report tomorrow.
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    The article looks awesome! Loving the full-spread photos!
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    The early-season opportunity to bike portions of Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park without any automobile traffic seems too good to be true. Miles of paved road passing alongside streams rushing with snowmelt, climbing into the high country, weaving through lush forests – all behind a gate and open only to bicycles and foot traffic. I’ve done enough recreational road biking and bike commuting to develop a sincere appreciation of a smooth surface, hard tires, and minimal traffic through beautiful landscapes but rarely plan trips around bicycling. Instead, like most backpackers, I plan my trips around trails. So it was a bit counter-intuitive to spend an extra day after a work trip that took me within an hour of Glacier National Park with the goal of spending an afternoon bicycling on pavement instead of putting my feet on a trail. As someone who typically hikes and backpacks in wilderness areas or the more remote areas of national forest, the hustle and bustle of national parks is always a bit amusing to me. Arriving early in the afternoon on an overcast Saturday, I was able to get one of the last sites at Sprague Creek Campground (which filled up later in the evening) and awkwardly set up camp inside my vehicle before prepping for the ride up Going to the Sun Road. The forecast called for rain overnight and into the next day, with temperatures in the upper 30s in the morning. Needless to say, sleeping in the back of a Honda Element was a much more luxurious option than packing up a wet tent in a cold rain the next morning. Rolling out of the campground on my trusty touring bike was a blissful feeling. No more driving for the rest of the evening, just turning pedals and trying to keep my eyes on the road as mountains, waterfalls, and expansive valleys competed for my attention. The first few miles from the campground to Avalanche Creek were open to vehicles, but traffic was fairly light considering it was a weekend. Once past the gate at Avalanche Creek, the real fun began. There were plenty of other cyclists, but no other cars. None. No looking over the shoulder, no low-level anxiety about inattentive drivers, no exhaust fumes. Just open road and other cyclists. Given my late start, many of the cyclists I saw were on the downhill stretch of their ride while I labored up the mellow grade towards Logan Pass. The temperature was in the mid-50s, which was perfect for biking steadily uphill. The flip side was that coming downhill would be rather chilly, so my saddlebags bulged with two pairs of gloves, a synthetic puffy jacket, and rain gear. Rather than hindering the view, the overcast sky and low hanging clouds made for dramatic lighting and a backdrop for the peaks that enhanced instead of obscured the mountains. The steeper sections of the climb to Logan Pass, especially those after The Loop, gave me plenty of time to concentrate on the surrounding panorama as I doggedly progressed toward the snow line. The road is open to cyclists as far as they would like to go and the natural place to turn around is where plowing has ended and several feet of snow remain. I took a few victory pictures at the snowline, which was around 17 miles from the campground and over 2,000 feet higher. The descent was simply thrilling. Watching mountain scenery sped by as I flew downhill at a safe but respectable clip without having to worry about inconveniencing motorists was sublime and, sadly, came to and end all too quickly. Miles that had taken me over two hours to gain were lost in a quarter of the time and I soon found myself pedaling easily along the flatter sections towards Lake McDonald and the campground. Although my car camping skills were a bit rusty, I had made an effort in regard to food and drink. Soon after pulling back into camp, I was snacking on cheese and crackers, sipping wine, and waiting for water to boil for a heaping serving of ravioli and pesto. Views of Lake McDonald made my al fresco dining experience five-star. Once dinner was over, the increasingly dreary weather and my tired muscles compelled me to get in my sleeping bag fairly early. The next morning I awoke to enjoy the fruits of my decisions, both good and bad. Sleeping in the vehicle was a good decision, as a cold rain poured over the campground while I made coffee from the comfort of my sleeping bag. Not stretching in any meaningful sense after returning to camp was not a good decision, especially combined with a four-hour drive home. But perhaps the best decision was to have broken out of my hiking-only focus on outdoor recreation that been all-consuming in recent months. The ride the previous day was one of the most soul-swelling and rejuvenating things I could recall doing recently. That recognition inspired another decision that morning – a goal to make an early-season ride on Going to the Sun Road an annual event. Information: The park’s webpage on bicycling, which also contains links to the Road Status page, is the best place to get started on planning your bicycling trip: Best Time to Go: Mid-May to June offer pleasant weather and most of the road should be open to bikes by then, although this depends on the year and plowing progress made by road crews. Weekends are best because the road crews are not working, but can be a bit more crowded. Getting There: Bicyclists can start in West Glacier and travel east, or at St. Mary and travel west. Beginning in mid-May a free shuttle with room for bikes runs from Apgar near West Glacier to Avalanche Creek (where the vehicle closure is typically in place). Maps: The basic park brochure map is sufficient for this adventure. Alternatively Trails Illustrated 215 is better suited for additional exploration in the park.
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    Hey Outdoorsman, glad you had a chance to catch up on Issue 4 and great to hear that you found the photo tip relatable and helpful. On the recipe, performance wise it's probably hard to beat aluminum foil for that purpose honestly, and I've heard of some people utilizing parchment paper as a liner in regards to this concern, but you could also without a doubt try it in something like a titanium pot either on very low coals or over a stove on low with a lot about of stirring for instance.
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    Beautiful pictures & trail descriptions, Susan! Always love to see & hear about your adventures! Sounds like a GREAT place to hike for sure!
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    I need to go to hike Sedona! Only went once, and it was mountain biking (not that there is anything wrong with that)
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    Great to see that you were able to get out and that's a great photo! Thanks, @wspscott.
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    A little late but I would also opt for something in the large 1 person or small 2 person range for so much staying in one place. To get it light enough to be comfortably backpackable on those off days if it were me (and considering all categories of shelters) I'd look at something like the ZPacks Duplex for a light and roomy but pricey option. The Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo is a lot of space, but I might even take that especially since I already have it! Snow would be something to consider, but especially if the elevations will be less to start and end the season with and the higher elevation camps are more in the middle (assuming that might be the case at least to start just to avoid snowpack), these could work. Tarptent would also have several options worth a look, just depends on what price to weight to feature set you're most comfortable with!