Category Archive Camping

The Paria and Grand Canyons – Memorial Day Adventures

Vermillion Cliffs Panorama

 

Some adventures have to be recorded and hiking Paria Canyon in Southern Utah is one of them.  It’s time to break out the ole blog again for this bucket list backpack trip.

We had been staying in Kanab through the week and after signing off to family and work, Tim and I drove off the bandwidth grid to Lees Ferry at the head of the Grand Canyon. Here we stayed up packing and getting ready for the 4 day hike ahead of us.

Wednesday morning, we were picked up at by Steve Dodson of Paria Outpost and Outfitters to shuttle 2 hours to the Whitehouse Trail Head for the hike.  Steve is a tour guide by trade as well as a restaurateur.  The Paria Outpost Restaurant is only open the first weekend of each month…otherwise we would have bellied up for some BBQ on the way.

Instead we listened as Steve told us great stories of John D Lee and lesser known spots in the Vermillion Cliffs Plateau as we drove up House Rock Valley Road, a treasure trove of amazing rock formations, dinosaur remains and Anasazi ruins.

We took a lot of notes.

Steve dropped us at the Whitehouse Trailhead at 11am – just as things were heating up.  Projected temperatures were in the 90’s for the week and our first 6 miles were in a sandy open wash. We got moving right away.

 

Trading out flip flops for hiking shoes

 

The Paria Canyon hike has 3 possible entrances, Wire Pass, Buckskin Gulch and White House Trailhead.  We chose White House for length, to get the full taste of the Paria and we’d already explored Wire Pass and the upper portion of Buckskin. We love the area so much we’re already dreaming about our next trip to hike Buckskin, the world’s longest slot canyon from top to bottom.

 

White House Trailhead

 

The hike began with 6 hot miles of trudging through sand (a great butt workout, I kept telling myself) in 95 degree heat with a headwind.  Not sure why in those circumstances, it’s always a headwind and never a tailwind…but that’s a discussion for another day.

 

Emptying out the sand from my shoe…again….

 

We were ecstatic when the Canyon walls began to narrow and there was some welcome shade. Here every turn through the Canyon brought new surprises – from giant arches to lush desert oases. You never knew what expect around the corner.

 

Headed into the crack

 

The Canyon walls start narrowing

 

Slide Rock Arch

 

Into Paria

 

Peeking up Buckskin Gulch

 

Resting in the shade in Buckskin Gulch

 

After 10 miles of hiking, we camped at the first Spring in Paria Canyon. The singing frogs kept us company as we dined on delicious Mountain House Chili Mac. You’d never eat it at home, but on the trail there is no better meal.

 

Going off the Rails…

 

Low Carb Diet

 

Camp 1

 

Day 2, we planned 10 miles of hiking. We hiked through the narrow Canyon until mile 17 when the Paria Narrows opened up. Our necks ached from our continuous gawking at the incredible splicing of rock.

In the Paria Narrows, the easily eroded Navajo sandstone was carved away by the flash floods and trickling Paria springs. Our river bed went from bone dry to ankle deep as we passes springs dripping from the canyon walls. Water is sweetest after a decade of filtering through layers of sandstone. We were respectful of each drop from rainstorms that may have fallen 20 years before.

 

The Hole – an ampitheater like side canyon

 

Once we passed through the Narrows, the Canyon gradually opened. Here we began to see large side canyons spurring from the main channel.

One of these hid Wrather Arch. Tucked a mile and a half up high in a canyon, Wrather Arch is one of the largest arches on the Colorado Plateau. We decided to camp at the base of Wrather Canyon in order to save the Wrather Arch as a sunrise treat for Day 3.

That afternoon, we splashed in a pool in the river, cooling off in the hot sun, washing shoes and socks and getting the dust out of the pockets. Then back to camp for naps, an early meal then bed. We couldn’t remembering having so much free time to relax.

 

Naptime

 

Camp 2 – Our front porch

 

After a bright moonlit night, we woke up early in order to hike up Wrather Canyon in time for sunrise. We bushwacked our way 1 and 1/2 miles up the sandy canyon. As we neared the head of the canyon, the Arch seems to materialize from the surrounding walls.

Though Wrather Arch is one of the largest arches in the region, some people report walking to the base without ever seeing it. To get the full effect, you need to scramble the canyon walls behind the arch to look out past the canyon.

 

Wrather Arch – for scale look for itty bitty Mary Lynn in the left corner

 

While we sat perched next to the arch, we heard a shriek echo through the canyon. A huge hawk swooped down on a flying sparrow and plucked it out of the air before our eyes. We couldn’t believe what we’d seen…incredible and very harsh, very fitting for our environment.

 

Early Morning at Wrather

 

We returned to camp after the hike and ate Canyon breakfast of hard boiled eggs, grits with jalapenos, bacon and cheddar, and steaming cups of coffee and tea. Day 3’s plan was to hike through the wider canyon. As the layers change from Navajo Sandstone to the darker green gray Kayenta formation, the canyon transforms itself once again.

 

The Layers of Paria

 

Shower Spring Marker

 

Lush Shower Spring

 

Taking the Stairs

 

Chillin’ out

 

Boulders sliced down the canyon walls into the river. The flash floods which flush the rocks from the narrow canyon above don’t occur in the wider lower section of canyon. Here the boulders create large pools in the river. It was hard to believe that this was the same bone dry riverbed we’d started hiking 2 days earlier.

 

Weeee – cooling down in the rock slide

 

We hiked 10 miles before lunch and then pulled over into a shady grove to eat. The temperature continued to climb into the 90’s so we set up the tent for an afternoon siesta.

While we were safe behind mesh, deer flies came hunting for us. When we woke up, they were waiting. We outran them down to the safety of the water to keep from getting stung. Here we cooked dinner, while standing in thigh deep pools to both stay cool and bug free.

 

Wrong side of the nap

 

As soon as the sun went down, we packed up and started hiking again. We had 10 miles left to go and we figured we’d walk until we were tired and finished the rest the next day.

 

Blooming Yucca

 

Yucca closeup – Propagation

 

This lower section of canyon became even more boulder choked, as if the Canyon were crumbling in on itself. We navigated two miles slowly before stopping on a high ledge to camp. Here we had views for miles down the canyon, framed by the distant Vermillion Cliffs. It was yet another personality change of Paria.

 

Vermillion Cliffs Camp

 

Our last day would be a hot one. The final canyon miles had very little shade so we got moving early.  Here the deer flies would catch you when you stopped so we were highly motivated to keep walking.  We now understood why long pants seemed to be popular for this hike. We hiked through the open desert, watching for lizards, flowers and ancient petroglyphs.

A Bow-tied Lizard – Dressed to the nines

 

Ancient Stories

 

Front Page News

 

Which way is up?

 

Desert Flowers

 

As we walked, the canyon continued to open until it was nearly 3 miles wide. This was one of my first backpacking adventures where we slowed down near the end, not wanting it to be over so soon.  Despite the call of ice cream and a cold beer in the van…we would have been happy to stay in the desert longer.

We knew we’d reached the end when we came upon Lonely Dell, John D Lee’s Ranch above the Ferry. We explored the old corral and Emma’s cabin before walking the final mile out the canyon.

 

Lonely Dell

 

When we arrived back to Lee’s Ferry parking, we watched two huge rafts drive towards the boat ramp.  Lee’s Ferry is the launch point for the 10 and 21 day Grand Canyon raft trips, and a large commercial outfitting trip was about to set sail.  We were curious so we grabbed some liquid refreshment and walked the 1/4 mile down to see the carnival.

 

Lees Ferry refreshments

 

While we walked, a giant motorcoach drove by to unload the passengers into the waiting rafts. This was luxury. The guests piled out of the bus and boarded the 30 foot rafts while the heavily laden gear barges followed behind. Tim and I both considered stowing away as passengers, but suspected our unshowered state might give us a way. Instead we returned to the van, pledging to double our efforts to get on a river trip soon.

We packed up and hit the road, checking our email in the occasional blips of cell service.  Satisfied that nothing significant had changed in the world during our four days of solitude, we turned off the highway onto a washboarded gravel road for part two of our remote weekend.

60 miles and an hour and a half later, we found a perfect camp spot on the Rainbow Rim. Here on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we found some of the best camping in the United States. Our front porch opened onto the Canyon Rim and the backdoor opened towards 17 miles of single track which wove through the pine forest and opened out on 5 incredible Canyon rim viewpoints.

Next day, we let the feet rest and instead got the biking muscles back in shape exploring the Canyon rim.

We couldn’t have asked for a more amazing canyon adventure.

 

Grand Canyon – Our Rainbow Rim Front Porch

Here Piggy Piggy Piggy

By Thursday, July 26th, we were on the road again up over Beartooth Pass towards Red Lodge. After a night of much needed showers and reenergizing at a campground outside of town, we went to Red Lodge, one of our favorite locales. This is a town rich with scenic views and authentic Montana character. We worked through the day in a downtown coffee shop and then were joined by Dan, Rebecca and Sam Staebler for much anticipated weekend festivities.

 

Welcome to Red Lodge

 

After dropping off their daughter Sidney at camp, the Staeblers came to town with sightseeing plans. The first must see? Bear Creek Saloon of course and weekly Pig Races. We sat down at 6 pm for steak and burgers (no pork on this menu) and then went outside to find good seats for the show. At 7 pm sharp the bets are placed and the pigs are off!

 

Bear Creek Saloon, Home of Montana’s only Pig Races. This parking lot will soon be packed.

 

And they’re off!

 

With 10 races each night, there is plenty of time to get to know the field. We all had our favorites and we placed our side bets accordingly.

 

Red is my personal favorite – he may not be the fastest pig in the pen but look at that personality

 

Even an evening shower didn’t dampen the crowd’s mood. It paid off with an extraordinary sunset and huge double rainbow.

 

The gold at the end of the rainbow

 

After the races, we popped the 2 Sportsmobile tops in the parking lot and settled in for the night beside the snoring swine.

Next morning, we were eager to get back to Red Lodge. Vintage cars had been roaring by and we wanted to get to town for the big Red Lodge car show. Detroit classics lined the streets and in this historic town, it was easy to imagine life 50 years ago.

 

Red Lodge is transformed to 1965

 

Sweet Carolina Blue Chevy

 

Cars cars and more cars. You didn’t need to be a motorhead to appreciate the wheels on the street.

 

Sam looks as cool as the car that he’s inspecting

 

Historic Yellowstone Touring Bus

 

Peace out

 

After our fill of the cars and town, the Bradshaws and Staeblers were ready to get back to camping. We hopped back in the vans and drove to Fishtail Montana, another prize stop on the sightseeing tour. On the way, we detoured to the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe for a world famous burger. We’d had huge breakfast so we split a single burger 5 way…which tells you something about the size of a Grizzly burger.

We then drove to Fishtail, a tiny town on the West Rosebud River. Founded in 1900, Fishtail is renowned for its General Store, with its inventory of housewares, organic local foods and ice cream cones.

 

The Fishtail General Store lures in customers with ice cream and local foods

 

The Staebler’s had found an awesome camp spot right on the creek and we settled in for an evening of good conversation, deviled eggs, fresh garden veggies, steak, tomato basil salad and margaritas.

Sunday, we checked out the famed General Store and then drove back up to Bozeman. Tim and I were on our way to Seattle so after loading up with zucchini, peas and lettuce from the Staebler’s garden, we kept heading West towards our sailing adventure.

 

Northbound

After 2 months of incredible Jackson summer, Tim and I got the itch for traveling again.  The next morning after  Augie and Holly’s party, we loaded the van and began driving north.  First stop was dinner with Tim’s partner Doug and his wife Bobbie at our favorite Signal Mountain Lodge.  Doug and Bobbie own a fishing lodge in Rio Pico in Northern Patagonia.   This area is unspoilt true frontier where gauchos reign.  Tim and I sat transfixed by their stories of huge trout and life with the rugged locals.  It’s a new destination for the bucket list.

That night we drove into Yellowstone for some overdue time in the woods.

We set up camp at Slough Creek Campground for the week.  It’s a rare combination of wilderness, cell service and world class fishing.

Peaceful Yellowstone

 

Same scene, different day

 

Bear Spray on the hip, I’m ready to go fishing

 

For the work days, we’d leave the campground and drive Frank to a bend on Slough Creek for optimal cell service and fishing access. When we returned on our second day, the camp host told us that bears had been ambling through our campsite.  It took two rangers and paintball guns to drive them through.  I’m sorry we’d missed the fun.

We had our own entertainment though.  After weeks of fighting the mouse wars in Frank, we discovered the perfect combination of peanut butter and cheese to lure them out.  The Great Mouse Massacre in Yellowstone will go down in history as week we turned the tide.  4 mice were sent to the gallows and we haven’t seen another since.  Perhaps it was the mice corpses that brought in the curious bears?

 

Got ’em

 

Bikes and more bikes

The mouse wars waged on. We left Dana and Dave’s and took Frank to Ann and Scott’s to catch up and celebrate Scott’s Birthday on the 16th of July. For us there was no better combo than El Abulitos and Margaritas.

After a delicious dinner, we joined Ann and Scott back at their house for 3 day of catching up with our Jackson family on Mallard Drive.

In between great dinners with Ann and Scott, Tim and I spent our time working and snapping photos for a new JH biking website.  Here are just a few:

biking
Putt Putt with Jackson in the distance.  I could hear the band at Snow King from here.

 

I AM SO FAST  (or Tim’s a great photographer)

 

By Friday, it was time to head back to hills.  This time we were joined by BJ and Lisa for camping and burgers up Phillips Pass and more biking pics.

 

Paintbrush, sunshine and biking.  A fine Friday night!

 

Lisa rides high above Jackson Hole on Phillips Ridge

 

Rounding the Bend

 

Edgy

 

BJ Big Air

 

We came out of the hills just in time to make it to Holly and Augie’s Engagement Party that night.  This was the reason we had stayed in Jackson through July.   They got engaged at Tim and my wedding. There was no way we were going to miss this party!

Last night in Jackson

 

Happy Engagement Holly and Augie!

Camping with the Cabradillas

When Tim and I come back to Jackson, there is no better way to spend a weekend then camping in the Gros Ventres.   Devoid of tourists, it’s a peaceful getaway when the Town Square is shoulder to shoulder with summer visitors.

This year Tim, Betsy and Nico Cabradilla  joined us for a June weekend of relaxation, good food, fishing and NO cell service.  Now that’s heaven.

 

Fishing for the Impossible Trout

 

We drove into the hills Friday afternoon to meet up with Tim and Bets who’d gone in the morning.  I dropped Tim B. off about 10 miles from our meet up spot so that he could fit in a bike ride.  As I drove the van in, I ran into Tim C. about 6 miles in.  We decided to switch locations since the creeks weren’t clear where we’d originally planned to camp.

I followed Tim C. into the hidden camp spot to find Betsy and little Nico waiting for us on a beautiful site right on Crystal Creek.  As we drove by, we passed 100 feet from a black bear who was leisurely rambling by right next to the Cabradilla’s trailer.  In all the excitement, it took me a few minutes to get back to the road to post the sign telling biking Tim B. that we’d moved.

As fate would have it, he of course sailed right by in that 90 second window.   With no cell service to communicate, it was 25 miles of riding later before we finally found Tim, searching each and every campsite along the Gros Ventre road.  We herded everyone together and headed back to camp for Pressure Cooker BBQ chicken, Bacon Maple beer and more than a few laughs.

 

Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Ale – Bacon Maple deliciousness

 

Saturday it was time to fish.  We drove further into Crystal Creek where Tim C. and Tim B. both caught some nice cutties.  The girls were skunked but that in no way hindered our good moods.  We returned back to camp to stalk the Impossible Trout buried in the trees and have general silliness around camp.

 

Big Girl Little Bike

 

Nico shows us all how it’s done

 

Tim C. wowed us all with yet another gourmet camp creation for dinner – pork schnitzel.  Much discussion was had on our dream of publishing a book and video series, “The Two Burner Cookbook – Leave the Hot Dogs at Home” (Title suggestions are welcome!)

 

Camp Chef Gourmet!

 

Sunday we packed up and returned to cell service to prepare for the the work week.  While Tim and Betsy returned to Jackson, Tim B. and I decided to set up camp at Gros Ventre Campground to clean up the van and get some more water.

We spent Sunday afternoon on a sweaty bike ride up Shadow Mountain, sharing recovery beers under the Tetons on the deck at Dornans and pedaling back to camp.  Once in camp we discovered that the site tenants before us had built a large heart out of stones displaying their initials.  We had to follow the tradition!

 

M + T

 

1 2 3