Category Archive Places

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

Canadian Blooms – August on Journey

Once we entered into Canada, we were off to Butchart Gardens.  There are only 4 moorings available in the Garden’s small harbor and we got there just in time.  We relaxed on the boat for lunch and then went to explore the enormous gardens

A Precious Butchart Mooring


A perfect picture of Demeree and the boats beyond


One of hundreds of fountains






Pistachio Goodness


Butchart’s Il Porcellino (Italian “piglet”) – rub his nose for good luck!


An Obligatory Self Portrait


And from the other side of the lens – thanks to Demeree


High Above


Plants of all shapes and sizes


You never know what you will find around each corner


A quiet moment




Yes it is as big as it looks


I mean come on, who isn’t going to have fun with a mirror ball


Serious studying the Roses…hmm


Now that’s more like it.




and fun


and more magic


Journey in the harbor


Even the dinghy ride is a great time with Andy and Demeree


Lederhosen, Wienerschnitzel, Gesundheit

After a morning bike ride in Butte and a full work day followed by a night of driving west, we finally arrived to Coeur d’ Alene after midnight.  Our night’s sleep was too short and we promptly began the search for caffeine the next morning.  We discovered the fabulous Java on Sherman – our new favorite coffee shop.  With good food, Stumptown coffee and a great atmosphere, it was clear why it stayed packed with both locals and tourists all day.

After a productive day, we took a walk around Coeur d’Alene, which was in full swing with the summer season.  Everyone strolled around with ice cream in their bathing suits and it looked and felt just like a beach town.  We realized that we always stop at this vacation destination on our way to somewhere else.  Next time we’ll have to stay awhile.


Downtown Lake Views


Pirates of Coeur D’Alene


Glad to be here


Go Hydroplane Racing


The Lake is full of action


But today was not to be the day to stay, so we climbed back into Frank and kept driving.  4 hours later, we arrived at Leavenworth, WA.

Built in 1892, Leavenworth was a traditional bustling timber railroad town.  When the railroad relocated to nearby Wenatchee in the 1920’s, Leavenworth’s economy suffered severely.

In 1962, the city planners came up with a plan to revitalize the community and transformed the entire downtown into a Bavarian village.   Their plan succeeded and now the “Leavenworthians” channel Bavaria  from the tips of their Tyroleans to the toes of their Lederhosen.


Leavenworth WA – a taste of Bavaria in the Cascades


All buildings in Leavenworth are required to follow code.   Here there are no golden arches at McDonalds and no mermaid at Starbucks.  Mullioned windows and gabled roofs are required and the effect is surreal.  Combine this with some of the most enjoyable people we’d met to date and we were thoroughly charmed.  Our 8 hour stay turned into two days as we explored more of this unique place.


Mainstreet Leavenworth


Skiing and Mountain Climbing in surrounding hills lend to the town’s vibrant, active persona


And of course, just like in Germany, the beer is world class


The Sausage Garten – please eat safely


Typical Leavenworth Decoration


Flowers light up the town


From our quiche at Good Mood Food to appetizers at the Sausage Garten and burgers on the deck of Gustav’s, we enjoyed every gastronomic minute.   But by Thursday, we knew our Bavarian days were numbered and it was time to finish our trip towards Seattle.  We hit the road one last time and got to Seattle in time to meet up with Andy and sleep our first night his 42 foot Catalina named Journey.  This would be the first night of our amazing month and a half on the water.   It was good to be aboard!

The Sandy Days of January

Rincon Moonrise
Rincon Moonrise

Tim and I are hiding out in the Arizona Desert for January.  Periodically joined by our fellow Jackson Hole winter escapee, Rob Gowler, we’ve explored the Black Canyon Trail, the Arizona Trail, the 50 Year Trail, Charouleau Gap and every Starbucks from Scottsdale to Tucson.

Chilly-Dipping 2012
Chilly-Dipping 2012

Ringing in the New Year with Ann and Scott was the best way to start 2012.  It goes without saying that we had to keep our midnight polar bear swim tradition alive.  This year’s dip in the pool was at a frosty 45 degrees.  It was a good thing that we’d saved that last bottle of champagne.

New Year's Breakfast
The Day After, a refreshing New Year's breakfast

Crab cakes and mimosas were the New Year’s morning menu after a big night before.   We followed up this meal with black eye pea chili and spinach salad for our yearly dose of good luck, good health and much wealth.  Not sure what you eat to ring in a new Sailboat.  Tim and I will be munching on everything from kelp to sushi to bring this 2012 dream to life.

Let's Jamboree!

After a festive holiday, it was time to get down to biking business.  We drove to Tucson to begin our month of pedaling.  Verizon hasn’t seemed to become acquainted with Tucson though, so Tim and I spent as much time driving for cell service as we did on the saddle.  While Rob relaxed at primo camping on Pistol Hill with7 bars of ATT “5G”, we drove 40 minutes into town each day for our daily blast of data.

If you’ve not driven in Tucson before everything is at least 20 minutes away.  Mileage is inconsequential.  Whether it’s across town or down the street.  You’re in for at least 20 minutes behind the wheel.  Convinced that there must be the perfect trifecta of biking/free camping/Verizon Bandwidth somewhere in town, Tim and I searched from the top of snow covered Mt. Lemmon to the dales of Vail.

With limited success through the week, we returned to Pistol Hill to meet up with Rob and Mike and celebrate the completion of the Arizona Trail with a 35 mile bike ride in the Arizona Trail Jamboree.

Shuttling to the Jamboree Start
Mike and Rob on chilly Saturday Morning
20 miles into a 35 mile ride. Now that's a rest station.
Mesquite Grilling
Relaxing over a Mesquite Grill on Pistol Hill

After great rides on Saturday, we drove into the wilderness once more to set up for the work week. This time we went North and found camping, cell service and riding just north of Catalina at Charouleau Gap.  The trail head’s busy so we may not stay long, but it’s a good stopping point for now.  And the view’s not shabby either.

Catalina Sunset
Catalina Sunset


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