A Grand Visit!

Prior to Utah’s Monsoon season this spring, Christina, Tess & I had ourselves a grand adventure on the Colorado Plateau including a multi-night stay on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Christina & I picked Tess up from the airport early afternoon on a sunny Sunday.  Enduring an early wake up and long day of traveling we bee-lined it to the nearest In-N-Out burger.  Stomachs now satisfied full of burgers, fries and milkshake we hit the road.  Destination Mather Campground in Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) lay over 500 miles away.  Soon after Tess declared “I can’t sleep while traveling” I looked back to this sight!

Heading East on US89 somewhere between Kanab, UT and Page, AZ the sun dipped beyond the horizon in a brilliant display of rich colors as is often the case with desert sunsets.  It was pitch black as we entered Arizona, almost 6 hours and 400 miles into the trip we were finally exiting our state of origination.  Quite the contracts from lil ole Rhode Island.  Speeding along still on US89, blinded by the hi-beams of oncoming traffic I repeatedly asked Christina to check the GPS since Flagstaff was approaching quickly and I did not want to find out after an hour that we had missed a turnoff.  We were still on course and soon we reached the turnoff for the park, after a ceremonious complete circle in the rotary we took our exit.  Unbeknownst to us we were barreling past many breath taking overlooks of the canyon.  Deflecting comments about taking corners to quickly and generally driving too fast (all I wanted to do was take my contacts out and get into bed as soon as possible) finally we arrived at the central area of the park>found the campground>located our reserved site>setup came>crawled into bed.

The morning came and ever so slowly we got moving, or in my case thawed out from a frigid night. Evening temps along the South Rim sitting at 7000′ dipped down to the mid thirties during our stay.

Eventually emerging from the tent a fire was lit and a hearty breakfast was prepared at a leisurely pace, but consumed quite hastily.

Finally feeling refreshed we packed our day packs and walked off to the shuttle bus stop with a smile on our faces and bounce in our step ready for a week of adventures.  En route to the South Kaibab trail head all three of us viewed the canyon for the first time with our own eyes!

Covering over 1,900 square miles and ranging from 10 to 18 miles across rim to rim “Grand” is certainly an accurate descriptor.  The river itself flows a mile below the south rim and stays hidden from many overlooks.

The South Kaibab trail winds all the way to the bottom of the canyon, however numerous signs warn against a round trip to the river and back in a day.  Initially shaded from the morning sun we started stepping down.

In addition to typical trail obstacles we mule pies littered the path. Here’s a fresh one!

Mules are still used today to ferry supplies down to the camp on the river as well as tourists and their luggage.

The Colorado river cuts through the geographic region known as the Colorado plateau. This area, formerly the bed of a prehistoric sea, is made up of soft sandstones, which lends itself to erosion. This recipe has yielded a region with a high propensity for unique natural beauty and thus a high density of National Parks. Most of these scenic areas are guarded by miles of difficult desert terrain. The Colorado plateau was one the last areas mapped in the contiguous united states and it’s wasn’t until 1869 that the famed one armed Major John Wesley Powell set out to explore the area via the uncharted Colorado River. Today, river access still remains difficult by our modern standards. Mule, foot, and raft are the methods available to visitors who want to descend to the river.

We continued down passing alien landscapes.

Most locations on the trail were terraced enough that vertigo was never a concern however there were certainly locations where the especially sensitive to heights may have issue.

It was certainly odd starting off descending and bottoming out rather reaching a summit. We called it at the “Skeleton Point” overlook, where we able to spot the emerald flow still over 1500′ below us.

After eating about a gallon of trail mix, Tess set a blistering pace back up the canyon. We made it about half way up before her body reminded her that she had been at sea level about 48hrs earlier and was now over a mile above sea level with another 1000 feet to climb in scorching midday Arizona sun. Re-hydrating and moving at a more leisurely rate the rest of the way we still completed the hike rather quickly and had plenty of time to relax and enjoy cold beverages at the camp site before cooking up some fish and veggies for dinner.

On Day 2 we again hiked down into the canyon, this time via the Bright Angel Trail, only we went further and deeper into the canyon to Indian Garden. A literal desert oasis of shade and water where cottonwood tress grow on the banks of small creek.

I felt great when we reached Indian Garden, and was considering suggesting going a bit further down. After soaking up the shade and putting the feet up for a few the ole legs were not moving so well on the way back and was certainly glad we didn’t go any further into the canyon. By the time we reached the rim again we had all entered that zone of misery.

A shower followed by campfire fajitas and beer has us feeling much better and on our way to dreamland. The grand canyon may be most well known for it’s brilliant sunrises and sunsets. It looked overcast above us at the campsite, but I forced myself to get my camera gear and convinced Christina to join me. We ended up at Yavapai point, which has great views to the West and East with multiple focus points. Needless to say it was a popular spot for sunset as many folks had brought along their camp chairs and warm beverages in anticipation for the show!

As is often heard in the outdoor community “You don’t know if you don’t go.” I think it was certainly worth the effort!

It was so awe inspiring that I had to go back for sunrise. Shivering in my hat, gloves and puffy I set up the tripod in the dark and waited for our star to show itself.

Arriving back at the campsite, Christina & I jumped back into the tent. In a daze I hadn’t realized that our styrofoam cooler was in the tent and I moved it out of the tent on my way to my sleeping bag. While Christina & I were taking photos giant ravens had swooped in and shredded the cooler and water jug. Tess woke up at some point and rescued what was still sitting out on the picnic table. After resting until it was too warm in the tent we headed to the visitor center to pick up some fresh coffee on our way to the park entrance to see what we had missed on our night time entry.

We spend the morning driving along the eastern portion of the rim stopping at an overlook when we felt the urge.

Tess put on quite the performance at this spot.

She convinced me to join in the fun!

After lunch, souvenir shopping and hat purchasing we rode a shuttle bus along the park’s western rim route. Alternating between walking and napping on the bus between overlooks.

Tired from a full day of activities we conjured up a skillet of Mac’n cheese which will be forever known as the greatest there ever was.

It was our last night on the rim, and Tess had not yet witnessed a sunset or sunrise. So it was back to Yavapai point with wine and cookies!


A great day capped off by some s’mores construction and consumption.

In the morning we would pack up our camp and head toward Utah.  We stopped just before the border in Page, AZ for a float on the Colorado.  Once again we found ourselves in the dark, barreling down a tunnel along cliffs rising above the river at the southern end of Glen Canyon.  When we emerged the Glen Canyon Damn at us like ants.  The man made colossus holding back Lake Powell against the natural canyon walls.  Quite the stark contrast of natural beauty and human industrialism.

The river provided much need cooling power.  Page sits at about 4000′ similar in elevation to the lowest point we descended to in the Grand Canyon, Indian Garden.  The water temp of the Colorado river downstream of the glen canyon damn hoovers at 46*F year round due to the controlled flow of the damn.

Petroglyphs along the river and our flotation device

After our river tour we got back on the road and took the scenic entrance into Zion National Park via route 9.  It would be our last night in a tent for a while, but it was certainly a room with a view!

We ended up revisiting the observation point, one of my favorite so I had no issue with repeating the ascent.

The way down in 32 seconds!

And with that we hit the road back to Park City for some hot showers and beds.

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South Again/ Christina’s Triathalon

Last weekend Christina & I made the monotonous drive down to southern Utah for her first olympic distance triathon.  After months of physical training and mental tribulations those preparations were finally going to be tested. After few hours of this:

Christina picked her race materials up in town, we set up camp and watched the sun set before an early bedtime.

We awoke before the sun rose to a desert chill, I took some photos while Christina set up her spot in the transition area.

In a few hours this serene scene would be bustling with triathletes starting their race with a mile swim.

Glassy water; luckily the wind held off till after the last racer finished.

All ready to go, with some inspiration for the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Superhero ready to race.

And they’re off!!

She was the only smiling coming in from the water.

Quickly off to the road, where the asphalt was now nearly hot enough to fry and egg.  Once the sun came out temps quickly climbed to the high 90s.  There is no shade in Hurricane.  Not even a cloud in the sky.

After passing just about the entire field on the bike, Christina demanded daiquiris at the finish line as she began her 10K run.

Stoked, just a few more strides to go.

She finished with a total time of 2:48:18, 2ND! in her age group, and 14th out of 66 Women overall.  Not too shabby for first olypmic distance tri, and 2nd ever.

No daiquiris, but we pina coladas were a fine subsitute and helped ease the discomfort of 98 degrees.

We packed up early and hit the road sunday fleeing the oppressive heat.  We took a slight detour and checked out Kolob Canyon in the Northwest corner of Zion.

Looking back south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To Zion goes I

Tumbleweed, that exists.  Utah is massive, and mostly desert.  The highways straight and speed limits aren’t very limiting.  When the forecast calls for wind, get ready to see tumbleweed flying in all directions if you happen to be driving I-15 south of salt lake city, which is exactly what I was doing several Fridays ago.  En route to meet Christina in southern Utah to enjoy the last days of the Montage shut down.  We still failed at securing a campsite at government run campground.  I think  you need to sell a kidney for a campsite; seriously it’s insane how they are at capacity all the time.  We settled for the campground run by quality inn, not ideal but it was very close to the entrance for Zion National Park, where we’d be spending the bulk of our time.  We enjoyed a campfire cooked meal in the dark, and rigged up a tarp over the tent.  Fortunately we had a tree to assist with the tarp supporting, trees aren’t so common in Utah.  Quite the contrast to camping along the kanc.  The skies opened up overnight, and there was a muddy mass exodus in the morning.  Hint:  if you want a very popular park more or less to yourself, plan to be there during bad weather.

Even we weren’t very motivated to go exploring given the current conditions.

We had a sit down breakfast with several servings of java to get amped up for a chilly and wet morning.  Once in the park we realized what a opportunity it was to see waterfalls shooting off everywhere.  There was even snow at the higher elevations.

As the rain let up, fog took over making this sanctuary even more beautiful.

The rain was actually letting up flowing more along the terrain than from the sky by mid-morning.

The wild flowers were thriving in the super moist environment.

With the sky clearing and slick rock already drying we went exploring and found breathtaking views.

as well as other creatures emerging from their holes

cliff faces over 2000 feet tall protecting a lush eden reminiscent of isla nublar,

I would not have been surprised if a T-Rex came crashing through the cottonwoods.  Alas, it was pretty standard jaunt through the woods to just another waterfall.

and remnants of plunges we had just missed.

Continuing up the canyon we made it to the mouth of the narrows.

Perhaps we will be back on a warmer day to continue upstream.

The storm completely passed just in time to witness the sun disappear after a long damp day.

Sunday came bright and sunny.

We “hiked the trail” towards angels landing

and decided at scouts landing to not continue.  The masses had come out to play.  I’m amazed there haven’t been more incidents with the amount of people who flock to such a sketchy trail.  No thanks.

We continued a ways up the west rim trail and entered and the next level up on the colorado plateau.

Quite the contrast to the bright red canyon walls of the lower canyon.

 

Returning under sunny skies

we were spared the flying tumbleweeds and substituted a 100 mile diversion due to a hostage situation.

 

Complete Photo Album:  CLICK HERE

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Winter ’13-’14 Summary pt.1

November started with powder turns at Alta. Excitement for the ski season upon us was still building; however we weren’t ready to hand up the bikes just yet. Christina planned to get one final weekend of riding in down in Moab, the forecast looked perfect. As happens to even the best laid plans we were forced to postpone. We free’d up our schedules for the following weekend. As the week wore on it was clear that we wouldn’t be riding in Moab, a beastly winter storm was rolling south of Park City and would crush south Utah, Arizona and New Mexico bringing multiple feet of snow to the higher summers and freezing rain to the lower elevations. In need of some adventure I kept the plan on track and we woke up early saturday morning and headed towards Moab not bikes, but skies in the car.

I confirmed that I can still sniff out the powder in my new region, however I think we spent more time maneuvering the trailblazer, and digging it out of the snow than actually skiing that the trip was a ski failure. I believe the comment “Is this enough adventure for you” directed my way…

December wore on, with a few decent ski days here and there, but honing technique on the groomers gets old fast. We sought out other activities to enjoy in our neighborhood.

A short stroll from our doorstep we merged onto the Road to Sochi.

‘MERICA

We weren’t exactly sure how to respond…

The snow still did not come, so I took to exploring our backyard desert.

The temps stayed mild, the sky was blue.

and the sun shone brightly.

The plains transitioned to forests, and I meandered with the brooks, which still gurgled.

Hidden in the shade it was still cold enough for interesting frozen crystals to form.

Moose are the most frequent travelers in this region, I follow their highway towards home, hidden from view below the next ridge.

Emerging from the wilderness, kimbal junction comes into view. I stand atop my literal backyard skihill.

A few weeks late, more than 50% of the family was standing atop “backyard ski hill” with enough snow to schuss it.

Tess choosing to peform the function of mountaineer model rather than backcountry skier.

Tess & Nick were gone before I knew it and took the snow with them. It was back to high pressure weather explorations.

It might look like there is snow everywhere, but the mid elevation southern slopes are still bare.

Powder day foretasted for tomorrow, maybe next time that view will look a little snowier.

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The Neighborhood

An evening lull in the weather; opportunity to capture the big picture(the macrohood).


(click for Hi-Res)

Kimball Junction below the North end of the Park City ridge line.

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Rising with the sun to check out the microhood.

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Autumn Aspens (Photo Roll)

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Postcarding

Last week was chilly, wet, and gloomy overall.  When the skies cleared, aspens turning and the first snow gave us an abundance of  postcard worthy scenes.

Snowliage.

Park City Mountain resort behind that there bench.

The iconic McPolin Farm.

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