Category Archive Travel

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

World of Waterfalls – August on Journey

Princess Louisa Inlet is one of those places where seeing truly is believing.  Surrounded by rain forest, it’s the home of North America’s highest waterfall – James Bruce Falls, Chatterbox Falls and the hidden Trapper Falls.  Through the forest, dozens more waterfalls cascade down the steep inlet slopes making this a lush and abundant ecosystem.

Our first full day in Princess Louisa Inlet was my birthday and it was an amazing way to wake up at the base of Chatterbox.  We had rafted up to Wendy and Alan’s boat Blue Fin and had an awesome day planned.  Alan was the crack of dawn collecting fresh oysters from a secret stash on shore for fried oysters later.

Tim and I dinghyed ashore for hike while Andy and Demeree explored the shoreline from their sea kayaks.

The BC rain forest glows in the sunlight

 

Blue Fin and Journey off shore

 

At the base at  Chatterbox –  It’s a great Birthday!

 

Moored in Princess Louisa

 

After our hikes and paddles, we all gathered together for a lazy afternoon.  The weather was perfect and we took turns diving into the pristine water.  Wendy fried up perfect oysters for an appetizer and we topped off the day with homemade pizzas.  Tim brought all the fixings for my favorite-as-a-kid Watergate cake, an incredible treat in the middle of the remote wilderness.   We all gathered for candles, champagne and green pistachio deliciousness.

 

Watergate Cake – a beautiful use of pistachio pudding and Cool Whip

 

Happy Birthday Prep – wow that is a lot of candles!

 

Cake flameup – 41 candles creates quite a glow

 

Early next morning, Tim and I hopped into our dinghy and paddled with Alan over to the secret stash of oysters which low tide exposes.  We gathered a few more for that night’s dinner.  This time it was our turn to do the shucking…

HUGE oysters are abundant in the Inlet

 

Our next adventure for the day was to hike to the Trappers Cabin, an old cabin from the 1800’s that sits high above the Inlet.  The trail was impressively rugged and though it was only a mile, it was almost literally straight up.

 

1 mile straight uphill to the Trappers Cabin

 

Overlooking the ruins of the Trappers Cabin – high over the Inlet

 

Trapper Cabin’s views

 

Trappers Falls – we were glad for the watercooled air!

 

Glad for the rope

 

Our kind of trail

 

We were feeling pretty good about ourselves by the bottom and were tempted by homemade ice cream from Malibu Rapids.  It was a several mile dinghy ride, but Andy and Demeree took on the challenge and brought some back in a cooler.  It was the perfect treat after a rigourous day.

 

Andy dangles between Blue Fin and Journey
Andy dangles between Blue Fin and Journey

 

The next morning it was time to go.  Tim and I woke up early and started paddling out the Inlet on the sea kayaks while Andy and Demeree would follow behind several hours later.  It was a magical morning of seals, eagles, waterfalls and serenity.  We were awestruck by the beauty around us.

 

We snuck up on this baby seal on the shore

 

Exploring the Inlet by Kayak

 

Early morning paddling

 

Just another waterfall

 

It’s like kayaking down a waterfilled Yosemite

 

Heading out the inlet

 

Another of the Inlet’s residents

 

Blue Fin begins motoring out of the Inlet

 

We start paddling out to be picked up by Journey

 

That’s my ride!

 

The sun breaks through

 

Our last views of Princess Louisa

 

Malibu marks the entrance

 

Wait, who’s driving the boat?

 

We sailed all day on our way back to Smuggler Cove for the night.  We got back just in time for yet another spectacular BC sunset.

 

Sunset back at Smuggler Cover

 

Crossing the Line – August on Journey

OK, I know that the blog is getting confusing as far as time due to some very delayed posting…BUT here is where we pick with August’s adventures!

Friday 8/3, we began our first full day in Seattle in downtown Ballard, getting the last of our work done before taking off sailing for the next 10 days.  While we worked away, the Blue Angels soared over the town practicing routines for the weekend’s SeaFair.  I did take some time out to watch aerial loopdeeloops and also stumbled across the best sandwich EVER.  Other Coast’s Ragin’ Cajun with spicy turkey, pepper jack cheese, red onions on incredible homemade bread.  It’s a must do in Seattle.

After our day’s work, we checked out Dutch Bikes – bicycle shop, bar and coffee shop.  While we sat on the sidewalk, enjoying a happy hour beer, the Cycle Saloon pedaled by.  There is just so much to love about Seattle.

 

That night we returned to the boat and got to finally meet our 2nd boatmate for the next 2 weeks, Andy’s girlfriend, Demeree. 1 hour of laughter later it was perfectly obvious that we were all going to get along beautifully.

 

Getting Journey ready to Sail

 

The next morning was spent with shopping and boat prep. We finally set sail around 3:00 pm and tacked our way up the Puget Sound towards Port Ludlow. We dropped anchor in the dark in a peaceful cove just in time for grilled salmon.

 

Racing the cruise ships out of the Sound

 

Amazing Mt Baker Views

 

Andy and I – sailing away

 

Hard to beat sunset on a boat

 

Headed North

 

Sunday we woke to no wind, so we motored towards Stewart Island in the San Juans.  I got a chance to do some driving of the boat which was the first stage of my improved sailing self confidence.

 

Seals keep an eye on us

 

Andy is in his element

 

Under motor ,Andy and Demeree fix some plumbing

 

Um excuse me…IS THAT WATER IN OUR BOAT!?!  Not to worry, the leak is quickly fixed

 

Blue Bird Sailing

 

Kayakers off of San Juan Island

 

Lunch Time

 

Motoring around San Juan

 

Lime Kiln

 

Lime Kiln Light House

 

When we arrived to Stewart Island, we rafted up with a fellow Catalina 42, Blue Fin – sailed by Wendy and Allen.  We also joined Dan and Billy and their incredibly gorgeous Taswell.  Their spectacular boat reset the standard by which we will judge all other sailboat.  We all gathered around, enjoyed a dinner of Pad Thai and relaxed during a beautiful sunset.  Wrap up with our theme desert, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, it’s good living.

 

Pad Thai at Sunset

 

The next morning, we were bound for Canada.  We were enroute to Sydney BC to check into customs.  A prime Bouchart Gardens mooring was our goal and we knew that we needed to arrive early for one of the coveted spaces.  While we were in customs, we got a chance to see the famed Janice of Wyoming Super Yacht.  This spectacular 130 foot boat was very impressive, even more so since it’s from our home state!

 

Stewart Island

 

Andy waits at Customs

 

Crossing the Bridge to Canada!

 

And they mean it

 

The Massive Janice of Wyoming

 

Wyoming Tribute

 

We know we’re in Canada now!

 

 

 

68 Miles of Sweet Singletrack: Black Canyon Trail, AZ

There’s a good argument to be made that you cannot find a longer or more continuous stretch of singletrack than the Black Canyon Trail in Arizona.  Both Rob & I had ridden sections and after camping for the week at Table Mesa Trailhead, we decided to tackle the entire 68 miles on one of the shortest days of the year.  We had to hustle, but we got it done!

Early Start
Sunrise Start

The trail is was designed by IMBA and completed over the past 5 years.  There are small sections that are not yet complete or involve jeep/ATV double-track, but these are less than 5% of the total mileage.  95% of the trail is singletrack, and it’s all good.  Even in the descent from 4,000 foot elevation start near Prescott, AZ to 2,000 feet end on the Carefree Highway north of Phoenix, there is still 5,000 vertical feet of climbing.

Finding Trail
Finding Singletrack

It’s difficult to choose a favorite, but I would choose the section between Black Canyon City and Table Mesa (despite the significant climbing, which hurt on this ride).  The ‘Skyline’ section and descent to to the Aqua Fria river would be my recommendation.

Bumble Bee
Bumble Bee Trailhead - Mile 25

We completed the trip in 9 hours and 30 mins, with a little bit of daylight to spare.  We started at 7:30 a.m. and finished around 5:00 p.m.  Here are the statistics:

Total distance: 113.75 km (70.7 mi)
Total time: 9:31:05
Moving time: 8:20:36
Min elevation: 472 m (1549 ft)
Max elevation: 1276 m (4188 ft)
Recorded: 12/23/11 7:13 AM

68 Miles of Singletrack - Black Canyon Trail, AZ
68 Miles of Singletrack - Black Canyon Trail, AZ
Table Mesa
Table Mesa Trailhead
Sunrise
Sunrise on the Black Canyon Trail

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