Category Archive Outdoors

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.




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.


Arizona April

Back to the blog! We’ve had some interest in our tales from the blue Caribbean but first we want to catch up on April. Sea stories will be coming in the next 2 days, we promise…

Combine blue skies, bike rides and a few rattlesnakes and you’ve got April in Arizona.

Tim and I dedicated our Arizona April to one primary goal, training for the Whiskey Offroad Mountain Bike Race. After an awesome visit with the Weisers, we headed back our favorite campspot in Black Rock Canyon just north of Phoenix and settled in for a month of biking, work and low key living. BJ and Lisa joined us as well for long warm days in the desert.


Black Canyon Trail


As the temperatures rose, so did the snake sightings. Lisa spotted one off the trail, while Tim was chased by a sidewinding rattler on a technical ride in the hills. After two weeks of close encounters, it was time to head north to Prescott for cooler temperatures and less snakey terrain.


Desert Ocotillo
On Snake Alert


Friday, April 20th, we arrived in Prescott with BJ and Lisa and met up with Gretchen and Brad, just down from a week in Moab. At dinner with Dad at the Raven, Tim says to Brad, “So I’m going to ride a 65 mile bike ride tomorrow morning if you’re interested.”

24 hours later, Brad and Tim, dribble back into camp. This was no ordinary 65 mile ride…


An Early Start
Brad Fixing a Flat


Starting at 7 am Saturday morning, a loosely organized group of 50 riders set out to ride every major trail in the Prescott biking system. With 7100 feet of climbing, it’s long, hot and incredibly challenging. That night as we ate bratwursts around the fire, we had to coax Tim and Brad to eat. Now that is saying something.


40 miles done, 25 to go


By next day, the guys were perking up. We settled in to camp life with BJ and Lisa, Gretchen and Brad. Working, biking, and horseshoes kept us entertained. 2 days later, Steph, Clay and Ellery joined us from Jackson, completing our JH Jamboree.


Camp Prescott


But while Tim felt a bit better from the ride, he wasn’t recovering. Each morning he was more tired and by Wednesday, it was time to see the doctor. Pneumonia was back.

With only 5 days before we boarded a plane to Barbados, he needed to feel better fast. We settled into Dad’s house to get Tim healed. 2 days of antibiotics and he already was beginning to come around and was ready for a dinner party feast of lamb with Dad and Lisa, Lisa and BJ and Brad and Gretchen.

Though Tim was out of the race, the Whiskey Offroad was still on for Brad, Gretchen, Lisa and I.

Friday night Tim and I volunteered for the race and then slept downtown to get ready.

Brad set out first for the 50 miler. Lisa, Gretchen and I started 2 hours later for the 25. It was a beautiful day for a bike ride and an awesome way to start a vacation!


Out Like a Lamb

As Tim and I drove west, the long days and damp weather in Austin took it’s toll.  Lisa and Carli both had a very nasty bug from Jackson earlier in the trip and by the time we’d driven over the TX / New Mexico border, it was obvious that Tim had gotten it too.

We hunkered down at City of Rocks State Park outside of Faywood, NM for some warm, dry weather and time to recover.   Here we were surrounded by Stonehedge style monoliths in the middle of a flat grassy plan.   There are only 5 similar rock formations in the world.

At night the show continues.  With no nearby towns, the night skies light up with stars.  The moon set early that week so we were treated with the full extent of the Milky Way.  I went to a “Star Party”, where City of Rock’s resident astronomer showed us Jupiter, star clusters and nebulae millions of light years away through some impressively high-powered scopes.


The Sentinels
The Sentinels


City of Rocks
Sun sets on City of Rocks


The Kissing Rock
The Kissing Rock


When Tim’s birthday arrived, he was still under the weather, but that didn’t stop us from both enjoying a homemade no-bake, chocolate genache pie.


Chocolate (No-Bake) Ganache for the Birthday
Chocolate (No-Bake) Ganache for the Birthday. Life in the wilderness was never so sweet.


By week’s end, Tim was starting to feel better and we continued west towards Tucson.  We called (brother) Brett and Peg to see what their plans were.  They were headed out camping, but Tim and I dropped in on kids Brittany and Timmy for movie night at the Hunger Games.  On Sunday when Brett and Peg got home, the four of us went to the Banff Film Festival.

The films are always awesome but Kadoma was the unanimous favorite.   This story about 3 kayakers who attempt to be the first to run the Lakuga River in the Republic of Congo shocks you with life’s capriciousness.   Another film which had played the night before is another of our favorites.  Here’s a short clip to give you some flavor (watch it in fullscreen if you can):



After seeing more movies in 48 hours than Tim and I have watched in 4 months, we headed out of town and up to Old Pueblo for some work and biking.  We spent the next week listening to the final games of the NCAA tourney, soaking up the 80 degree weather and shedding some of our extra Austin barbecue pounds.

By the weekend, we were driving north again and decided to stop for a bike ride on the Arizona Trail north of Oracle.   It was a warm 85 degree day, but we felt prepared for the 30 mile ride.

I rode all of 4 miles before I knew that my butt was completely kicked.  This remote stretch of the Arizona Trail is full of steep rocky switchbacks and sandy washes that sap speed and strength.  Humbled, I climbed back up to Frank and gladly gulped down some ice cold water.

Tim made it a mile further than I did before a flat tire and the hot rocky hillsides got to him too.    We were glad for showers that night.


The Arizona Trail
Gateway to No Man's Land


Ride Ready
Preparing to Ride


The Arizona Trail
The Arizona Trail


Poppys are In!
As Beautiful as it is Challenging


The next day we decided it was time to rest.  On our way to see Ann and Scott, we pulled over to Casa Grande National Monument for some sightseeing.  We stayed for a fascinating tour of the ruins and Tim took these amazing images.  It wasn’t until we posted them here that we noticed the many faces in the rocks…


Casa Grande Ruins
Casa Grande - protected from the elements by a 60 foot tall canopy


Casa Grande Ruins
Casa Grande Ruins


Casa Grande Ruins
Today, no one knows the purpose of the "Great House"


Casa Grande Ruins
The small window on the right aligns with the setting sun on the Summer Solstice


That night we caught up with Ann and Scott and went to a delicious dinner at the Carefree Station off of Ho Hum Road (Arizona road names crack me up.  Centered between Ho Hum Road, Lazy Lane, Rambling Road and Carefree Highway is Bloody Basin.   What went on there?!?)

The next day we were off to town for Frank shock repairs and making our way further north.   The Weiser Family was coming to Arizona for a Desert Vacation and we weren’t going to miss it.  We drove up to Sedona for the NCAA Final Game and met up with the Weisers,  BJ & Lisa and Sam & Mareike for burgers and beers.

Next day we were northward bound again on the way to Lake Powell.


Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend outside of Page Arizona


Horseshoe Bend
I'm NOT getting to close to that edge


While I worked the next day in Page, Tim, Mark, Casey, Brian and Brooke explored for the slot canyons in Wire Pass and watched California condors flying high above the Colorado River.  That night we gathered back at Lone Rock Beach on Lake Powell for hot dogs, s’mores, chocolate covered strawberries and illuminated bocci ball with Sam and Mareike.


Lone Rock Beach
Lone Rock Beach


Lone Rock Beach
Lone Rock Beach


Lone Rock Beach
In the summer, the beach is packed but in April we were all alone.


Lone Rock Beach
Lone Rock


After 2 nights on Lone Rock Beach, we drove back down to Flagstaff where the Weisers joined their friends, Brian and Patty.  After a final dinner at Oregano’s Pizza Bistro, Tim and I traveled south for warm weather and more biking.  April has arrived and with a 50 mile bike race at the end of the month, it’s time to get serious!


Time to Bike

AZ January

Desert living is good.  After much searching, Tim and I found the perfect trifecta – free peaceful, desert camping with killer sunsets, 5 bars of bandwidth, bike trails out the front door.   Where does this seemingly impossible working mountain biker’s utopia exist?   Just North of Tucson in an area called Old Pueblo there is a an annual 24 hour bike race.  In these cactus covered foothills, bikers have developed over 25 miles of trails through AZ ranch pastures.  Since it’s all public land, any one can camp for free with an Arizona State Lands permit.   Here Tim and I settled in for 5 days of working and riding.

Brie and Auntie Me

Finally on Friday, we came out of the desert, cleaned off the sand, and went to town to see the Wilmore clan.  We hooked up with Brett, Peg, Joe, Brittany, Timmy,  SeungCheol (visiting foreign exchange student) and 2 of SeungCheol’s fellow students for a hike up to Bridal Veil Falls.

Douglas Springs
Hanging with Timmy in the desert

The day wrapped up with an insanely good meal at Takamatsu for Korean BBQ.   SeungCheol and the boys did a lot of the ordering so we assured to have the best.  Each table has a grill in the center where you grill your own meat and vegetables.  At our table, Tim, Brittany and Bernie (Brie’s best buddy) got all-you-can-eat sushi, Joe and I grilled up ribeye, pork belly, and marinated pork with all the Korean fixin’s.  We walked out stuffed.  Once the kids settled in for the night, Brett, Peg, Tim and I decided the best way to top an night of BBQ was a visit to Dunkin’ Donuts for a donut and a coffee.  All the calories burned during our week in the desert were replenished in one night.   We topped the  donuts with martinis at the Hideout.   The bouncers were very pleased when we offered them donuts from our supply on our way out.

Next day we packed up to begin our drive North.  Our ultimate destination is Park City for 429apalooza.  We are taking the leisurely route, with a 4 day side trip to Scottsdale to see Ann and Scott.   On our way, we stopped to take advantage of Scott’s Christmas present:  one session for Tim and I in a Skydiving Simulation Chamber.  Crazy.  Thankfully we had an instructor in there with us or we’d have been blown through the roof!

Tim's heading up
and up...
My turn
We'll learn this trick on our next lesson

The next stop on the journey towards snow and ice was Friday night  in Vegas.  We had to stop in to place some Superbowl bets.  We arrived to the Mandalay Bay parking lot at about 11 pm and walked into the casino.   5 hours later we returned to Frank only $30 dollars poorer (thanks to some offsetting wins at the black jack table), full of chicken and margs.

Vegas Stopover
Vegas Stopover

Saturday morning, we hightailed it out of Vegas (1 night is enough!) and settled at our favorite camp spot outside of Hurricane.  In 20 hours we managed to squeeze in 2 bike rides down the JEM trail before driving to SLC.  We’ll spend the next 3 days with Jimmie and Keri Shell-Schwab before the 429ers arrive on Thursday.  Thank you to the snow gods who are ensuring that it will once again be an epic weekend!


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