Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Escalante backpacking trip!

So this hiking adventure is not just a day hike, but a 3 day backpacking trip down in Escalante in Southern Utah.  There are so many trails in this area, but if you are doing an overnight trip you need to call ahead and check about water supply as well as permits.  The Escalante river was a great source for water, but there are some trails not along the river that have no water.  This time of year it was warm, but absolutely perfect at night.  I did not do this hike solo as I do most of my hikes.  This was actually in a group of 8 for my Wilderness Skills class.  I'd never hiked in southern Utah before except for Zion's when I was much younger.  To be honest, I'm not a fan of this type of scenery, however it definitely has quite the beauty to offer.
We parked at the Egypt trailhead then headed along Fence canyon to Neon.  Note that you must have a 4 wheel drive to get to this trailhead.  We camped the night before just a few miles away so that we could head out first thing in the morning.  There is plenty of areas to set up camp and the night sky is unreal.  Watch out for coyotes though.  They were howling away early in the A.M.  At the trailhead you have a beautiful lookout of Staircase and surrounding areas.  You are way up high.  This is great, but not so great when you return if you come back this way.  We had parked a car at where we camped since we were hiking out a different way than where we started.  Starting the hike you'd think would be easy because it's just going down.  However, you really need trekking poles not just for this part due to it being so steep, but for the rest of the trail as well.  Be careful descending since the rock can be slick from loose rocks as well.  The most important thing to remember is to watch and follow the Karens (small stacks of rocks).  This will identify where the trail is going.  If you veer from this you can really screw yourself over since this is NOT a place you want to get lost in.  Stay in your group also because it is easy for slower hikers to fall behind.  This part of the trail is hot, but soon enough you get to an amazing view overlooking canyons and streams.
Eventually you get to an area where you see an old horse corral.  This is a nice spot to rest since after this is when things get wet.  Yup…you will from here on out be hiking in and out of the Escalante river.  It's worse than it sounds though.  The water for the most part was knee to thigh deep and felt great.  Trekking poles helped a ton to feel how deep since some areas were much deeper than others and there were also slippery rocks and/or mud along the way.  Before doing any river crossing, it is wise to look across to where the trail picks up so you know exactly where you're going to once in the water.  Some areas you just have to hike in the river and follow it.  This is great in the afternoon, but freezing in the morning time when the river is still submerged in the shade of the canyon.  Along the way we saw some awesome hieroglyphs.  It's a little off the trail, but set your pack down and go up and check it out.  However, watch out for rattle snakes hiding in the cracks.  We had a great time checking out these ancient artworks.  So amazing the history in this area.  From this point on is where the trail got a little iffy.  A couple years ago a rainstorm came in and washed away the trail, so be cautious and follow your map precisely.  Also good to note to watch out for flash floods.  You are hiking in a canyon and any water that comes in will slide off the rock and into the canyon.  Seek high ground if a rainstorm does make a guest appearance.
Along this trail we connected to the Neon trail.  This is a MUST DO trail!  So amazing!  There's a nice shady tree spot to drop your packs right after the start of this trail.  It's about a mile back to Golden Cathedral.  The hike back through the narrow canyon is gorgeous.  The stream was super low so you won't be getting wet here.  There are some big boulders you'll have to climb over, but that only adds to the fun.  Once you get to the end you'll see Golden Cathedral and be in awe.  The water is pretty shallow so you can even wade in and get a better shot from underneath the unique overhangs.  This is a great place to take a break and have a snack.  Make sure you got plenty of film as you never feel you have enough pics of this view.
Heading out of Neon we hopped onto the Escalante trail (along the river) to 25 mile.  We were suppose to be heading out to Egypt, buuuuut I'll explain that later.  This last part of our hike for day 1 we were in the river a lot.  This was great, but very slow since we had to watch our step.  Remember to unclip your pack so just incase you get carried into the water your pack won't weigh you down.  We didn't need to be in the water so much, but the trail is pretty sketchy at some points (at least we thought this was sketchy…until the next day when looking back we realized it was a breezy walk in the park compared to day 2).  Eventually we realized that even though we all were fine continuing on despite being exhausted, hungry, and cranky from rough terrain, the sun was going down and we needed to set up camp.  No bonfires in these camps so light is our friend for set up.  We found a great little spot next to the water.  The moon was full and gave us lots of light.  Our view looking up was gorgeous.  It was nice being next to the river because we had all the water we needed.  We did a little over 10 miles this day.  10 very loooooong and tiiiiiring miles.  (Typically I could do a 10 mile 4000 foot elevation gain trail in just a few hours, however although this terrain was dominantly flat, it was gnarly and required lots of rest breaks).
In the morning it was chilly until the sun hit our site, then it got toasty rather quickly.  Immediately we had to climb in the water.  Bbrrrrrr!!!!  After about 20 minutes I couldn't feel my feet.  Most of us got out and went along the "trail", while a couple stayed in.  Neither group went faster than the other.  This part of day 2's hike was the breezy part (even though we didn't realize it at the time).  We ran into a group not long after we started.  They asked where we were headed and my teacher responded.  The guy expressed his concern about the trail.  We had just figured it couldn't be any worse than what we had done the day before.  Booyyyy were we wrong!  The "trail" soon became a ghost.  It would come then go.  We were in and out of the water debating on which was better.  The answer: neither.  The water got waste deep at some points.  It's always refreshing when your skivvies get wet with river water, then you get to hike in them as they dry.  Mmmmm….refreshing!  The mud in the river got pretty bad in some areas so we'd have to get out rather quickly.  In one spot I sunk knee deep in just a couple seconds, in red mud while waist deep in water.  I was second in line in the group.  The guy ahead of me was trying to get onto land.  My trekking poles were stuck.  I almost fell back from the weight of my pack while trying to get out.  Had I been solo, this would have been my demise.  They mud was so dense and I was so deep in it that I couldn't move my legs.  The guys pulled me out.  This was definitely an "OMH!!!!" moment for me, fearing I was completely stuck in this mud, waist deep in a river with a 50 lb pack on.  Trying to get out caused me to twist my ankle.  At the time I didn't realize this, but later it started to affect me.  To this day (a month later) it still affects me and my hiking/climbing/running.  All part of the risks of an amazing adventure though :)  After this, we steered clear of the river for a while.  The terrain we got ourselves into wasn't pleasant.  There was bushwhacking galore, cuts from branches flinging on all our body parts, sinking mud, deep river crossings, hot sun, and a struggle identifying where we were on a map.  Miles of this.  Finally we decided to cut across and head back towards the car (the one we came in, not the one we were suppose to hike out to).  To do this though would mean we leave the luxury of following the river…aka: having a water source at our disposal.  Buuuut we were all down for ditching this gnarly bushwhacking.  In theory this sounded great, however this meant we had to hike through pure desert.  Up and out.  Some of the guys went and filled the water bags so we could filter it at camp later.  They were quite the troopers adding that extra 10 pounds on their already heavy packs.  I know I couldn't handle even one more pound on mine.  Unfortunately my pack didn't fit me properly which left me with a raw lower back and shoulders.  Aaannnnyyyywaaaayyyys we finally set up camp and got to watch a beautiful desert sunset with the mountain that had our car on it in the backdrop.  So close yet so far away :-/
That night was amazing.  The weather was perfect, the moon was full and bright, and there were no coyotes taunting me with their howls.  Despite the full moon, you could still see millions of stars.  I highly recommend it :)  It was such a nice end to a gnarly day.  The next day we only had a few miles to our car.  Sounds easy enough, but this was not a direct route, plus we got the joy of the hot sun and no shade.  The last ascent was not ideal, but knowing it was almost over and we'd be at Maverick drinking cold, yummy, lemonade within a couple hours gave us all the kick in the pants we needed :)  At this part you just kind of hike up.  There's not a trail till you get closer to the top.  There were others justing starting down the trail full of vigor for their backpacking adventure.  I just hope they knew where they were going so they didn't end up like us :)
Overall it was quite the experience.  I don't regret it, however I don't totally recommend it.  Hiking to Golden Cathedral I totally recommend though.  Make sure to watch the weather report right before you go.  Don't head out if there is any chance of a flash flood.  Also bring extra socks since your shoes will be soaked at the end of each day.  I recommend going when the moon is full because it lit up the camp, but also was gorgeous in the desert.  From now on though I'll probably stick to more mountainous hikes (or any tropical hikes, like when I get back to Hawaii).  This wasn't my cup of tea, but so glad I got to experience it and with such a great group too.  I wasn't able to Strava it due to not having my cell phone and no reception, but we did roughly 20 miles.  Less than 2000 feet elevation gain total.  And like a million calories it felt like :)  Here's some pics and if you want to see more you can check out my FB hiking page: https://www.facebook.com/bettisblogofhikes?ref=hl

Early in the morning before we started the journey. This is
also the location we were originally going to hike out to
upon finishing our trek. 

This was the view upon our start, overlooking Escalante
and Grand Staircase. 

Yup…the car was waaaaay up this nice little climb :-O
This is the coral I referred to.  Right past here and down is
a primo little spot to chill and have lunch before hopping
in the refreshing Escalante river. 

On our descent, we saw this nice
little pool with mini waterfall.  It looked
quite enticing in this heat.

Hiding in here was a little rattlesnake.
Obviously I didn't want to get too close :-/

More hieroglyphs.  So amazing to see the history.  Also,
they must have not been very good at pictionary cuz I
don't understand a thang on this wall :-/ 

Amazing wall.  Not quite climbable though :-/
I'd rate it a 5.16 :)

So many incredible large rocks.  Hhmmm…maybe some
of those are climbable :) :) :) 

Saw this and thought it was interesting :) 

Entering Neon, this is your view.  Amazing! 

Hiking through Neon.  Enjoying the natural wall art. 

Now that I could maybe climb :) 

Couldn't get enough of these unique walls and pretty green trees.

Enjoying the shade :) 

Mother nature makes some interesting things for us to enjoy :)

Golden Cathedral.

Love this place! 

So cool to see the water reflection
on the ceiling. 

From the water you can wade in and get some cool angles. 

This tree was epic.  The green was beautiful in contrast with
all the red around it.  

Heading out of Neon you get this view. 

Our trail for a while.  Yup…in the water. 

At one point the water had been
high enough that it went up to
that spot.  I wonder how old this is.

Camp for night 3.  

Nice view of the sunset (on my crappy camera).  You can see
Clark enjoying it too.  Had a nice view from my little tent set up.

At Sunset, here's the view of the mountains surrounding us.
In person this was truly amazing. 

View of a mountain in New Mexico.  I'd like to give that one
a shot :) 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Blanche Lake

This was a great hike that I had been wanting to get to for a long time.  I probably should have checked the weather report beforehand because even though in the city it's in the 60's, it is much cooler up a canyon (It was on Oct 27th).  I was dressed for a summer hike.  My bad :-/  Buuuuut from what I read in Cosmo some women pay to go into freezing temps to burn calories, soooo it was like a free calorie burning session.  Take that Cosmo and your expensive day spas! :D  Aaannnyyyways, back to the hike.  This hike is roughly 4.4 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake.  Try not to get the Big and Little Cottonwoods mixed up.  I've done this on more than one occasion.  Although even if this happens, there's at least tons of hikes to do as an alternative.  This hike is a popular one and there is a parking lot with restroom there.  There is a trail head on the right, but that is marked and is clear it is not Blanche.  Although I did that one and it was great.  Much shorter though.  I think it was around 5 miles roundtrip.  The view for that hike is much better when there's a little snow on the mountains at the top so your view is nicer.  I digress though.  Back to Blanche trail.  You want to take the cement path past the bathroom (note to self: the bathroom closes for winter season.  As early as October.  You've been warned).  This paved way goes up roughly 1/3 of a mile and is parallel to a stream (which was more like a rapid when I was there).  You will see the sign clearly marked on your right.  About .15 miles past this sign is a cute bridge that's great for pics.  There is a bench there too.  It has a pretty good size incline so keep a good pace.  It runs a little parallel in some parts with a stream.  Even though you can't always see it, you can hear it.  It's always nice to have that as a peaceful backdrop noise.  There are several paths off the main trail that will lead to the stream.  Just be careful when doing this.  The ground was very damp and it was a little difficult to find my way back to the main trail.  But there are just so many chances for some epic pics.  Hard to pass those up.  I had started the hike later in the afternoon, so there was no one else going up, but I did see a few groups coming down.  Higher up the trail there started to be little patches of snow on the leaves or along the trail.  Minimal though.  For October that seemed awfully early in the season.  Close to the top the trail gets covered by a slope of big rocks/small boulders.  Please note that as soon as the path ends just climb the rocks a couple feet up and on the right is the trail again.  It is parallel to the path you just came from.  It's a switchback basically.  I did not see this.  Instead of immediately looking for the continuation of the trail I just wanted to see the view of Salt Lake.  You can see it from this point very slight in-between the mountains to Big Cottonwood Canyon.  I hiked across the rocks to get a better view, which led me away from the trail I needed to continue on.  I ended up not being able to see the path and kept looking around.  It seemed like there might be a trail at the top of the rocks so I hiked up there.  Great view again, but for sure did not lead to a trail.  However, I made my own trail.  I could see where I needed to get to, so I tried to follow that.  Then I got to a ravine (not sure I spelled that right but you know what I mean :-/).  This was super steep and slippery.  It was all loose rock and dirt.  I knew I needed to take this down and it would lead me close to the proper path.  Soooo, I made the best of the situation and dirt skied down.  I was able to slide down with only stopping once my ankles were buried in the dirt and rocks.  It was really fun, but I wish I had trekking poles to have had a smoother ride :)  This led me to a spot that I could see would lead me back to the trail.  I could hear people coming down, which is always a good sign when you're kinda lost and rollin solo.  I got back to the trail and finished my journey up.  However, this wasn't the last of my wandering off adventures for the day.  There got to be a little more snow coverage, but still not much.  Then I finally made it to the lake.  It was beautiful.  Not the most beautiful of ones I've been to in the canyon, but definitely worth the hike to.  It was getting though and I was in little shorts with only a very light jacket on, so I needed to hurry and get pics.  However, I heard a waterfall, so of course I went to go look for it.  It was south of the lake.  There were many skinny trails through brush, so you just kinda pick one cuz they all lead to the same place. I found a wimpy but pretty little fall.  Next to it is a giant rock that looked like it had a great view.  Of course I hiked up it.  The view to Salt Lake and Blanche Lake would've been awesome, but unfortunately there were trees blocking the it.  It seems that south of this though there is another mountain that you can continue on and up.  Had I more time I would've searched it out.  Getting down I decided to check out the waterfall.  There were icicles along the green moss on the falls.  It was gorgeous.  I hiked down the falls.  It was getting very cold at that point and there was still so much to explore.  I carefully got down (easier said than done.  Note to self: don't hike down the actual side of the waterfall especially when there is water and ice and slippery moss).  I ran back to the lake to get some amazing shots.  However, there are just so many spots to take pics.  Make sure you allot yourself plenty of time to hangout here.  There was so much to see.  After the last group left, I decided I should probably stop taking pics and head out.  This time i was going to try to run down since the sun was going down and the temps were really dropping.  By this time it was probably in the low 30's.  I ran down as much as I could.  Passed several groups which was reassuring to know I wasn't the only one out there.  I saw a deer at one point, but it quickly ran once it saw me.  It was alone.  If you trail run you know to keep your eyes down to focus on the obstacles such as rocks, roots, water, steepness, etc.  I've had a tendency to twist my ankle on many occasions, and slip almost losing my balance on many more, but this day my luck ended.  Right as I was about 100 feet from the bridge I happened to look up because something the caught my peripheral view.  There was a couple standing on the bridge.  It caught me off guard and just then my foot hit a rock and I biffed it so hard.  It was pretty steep and lose dirt so I skid a little bit.  My shorts were pretty short and exposed my whole leg, therefore my leg had no protection.  The only good thing was that my legs had actually almost gone numb, so I couldn't feel the pain (which later I would get the feeling back, and ohhhh was I missing the coldness right about then.  Ouchy! )  My leg had dirt inside my skin with blood running down my upper thigh and under my knee and on my shin.  It was not pretty.  My left arm got a little broken skin and just a bad bruise.  Amazing how my light jacket helped save skin from falling off.  Well, trying not to look like a complete idiot I just gimped down to the bridge and past the people hoping they wouldn't notice blood dripping down my hurt, dirt infused leg.  At least at this point it was rocky so I had to take it slow.  Then I got back to the cement path at the trailhead.  This is when I decided I needed to get back to the car to clean up as fast as I could so I could stop the blood.  I ran back to the car (again, the numbness from it being so cold definitely was to my advantage at this point). I got all cleaned up (not after my car got a nice permanent blood stain on the freshly shampoo'd tan seats).  I'm surprised with all my hiking and trail running that this hadn't happened sooner.  Well here I am close to 2 months later and I still have huge scars on my thigh and shin.  I like my "war wounds" though.  They make me proud.  Nature's tattoos for me :)
This is a hike I would for sure recommend.  It's always nice hiking up to a lake especially one that has views of other even taller peaks as well as of the city.  It is hikeable through October with clean trails.  Not too many people, however I left around 130 on a Monday, so I'm sure that's not a busy time anyways.  Make sure you remember where the trail is, though, when you get to all those big rocks.  It's great to out on them and explore some, but just make sure you know where the connecting trail is first.  Then again, sliding down the loose rocks was for sure a highlight :)  Have lots of time and make sure there's plenty of room on your camera :)

My phone died .3 miles from the end so my mileage was roughly 7.5 roundtrip.  However, this included me hiking a little past the lake and around.  I found it to be an advanced hike, like an 8-8.5.  It took me roughly 3 1/2 hours to do…and that includes getting lost, taking lots of pics, and bailing :-O Not sure the rest of my stats, but I'll post the internets stats.

Internet stats:
* 6.1 miles roundtrip
* 2,580 elevation gain
* 8,920 ft elevation at lake
* 4.5 hours
* Extremely Difficult 

View to SLC from the lake

Along the paved path about 1/3 miles up
you'll see this sign.  Although my stats differ
from this sign.  I did roughly 7.5 miles roundtrip.
It was at least 3.2 to lake, not 2.8.  Buuuut still a helpful
sign nonetheless :)

From the rock pile that covered the
trail, this is the view of SLC.  
Little stream along beginning of trail.
A little glimpse of how deep my feet
were when sliding down the ravine.
So much fun :) 
The first patch of snow on the trail.  About 2.5 miles into the hike. 

Amazing view and beautiful lake reflection.  I think from this trail, you can continue
hiking to the top of this peak.

From the highest point I climbed this was the view.  The
trees are blocking the view of Salt Lake, but it's still pretty.

The mix of seasons are depicted here.  I love it.  So beautiful! 

Lake Blanche

Creek along the way.  

View from highest point on north end of lake.  Overlooks
Salt Lake.  The dark part is actually a forest of green trees.
It was unreal. 
The little waterfall that I had heard
from the lake, so I went to see.
Ended up not really being much of
a waterfall at all.  

Beautiful reflection

When I got lost from the rocks this is where I thought I saw a
trail.  So I hiked up to it at the top of the rocks.  This is what
led me to the rocky ravine where I knew I had taken a wrong turn :-/

These trees with the blue sky and white clouds were awesome! 
I love these two trees twisted together.

You can see on the right the trail.  That is where I came from.
I'm pointing to where the trail continues.  It is very close and
runs parallel.  It's a switchback. 

So excited when I saw the snow capped bushes.

Climbing down the waterfall I saw this.
It was so bright green in person.  The
water was super cold.  However, it formed
really cool looking icicles. 

After much clean up, this was the shin
aftermath from my fall. 
This one reminds me to wear longer
shorts when I hike.  It was quite a mess
even after I cleaned it up.  Both cuts have
left permanent scars or what I call my
"hiking war wounds"  aka nature's tattoos :)