Monday, January 25, 2010

Zion National Park

The day after Bryce Canyon NP we headed to Zion.  This was by far the busiest of the 3 parks we hit in Utah. Most people seemed to just want to drive through the park as usual. Most of the park is inaccessible by car and you have to take a bus. The system was actually really easy and a great idea. I don't remember if it was free, but I also don't remember it being expensive. Plus you get a sweet bus tour on the way to whichever trail head you're hitting up.
We did a quick overnight.  I think it was about 3 miles in and grab a quick stealth spot and 3 miles back out the next  morning. The nature of the whole trip really limited the time spent in each park, but I didn't really let that get me down. You have to enjoy what you can.

Here is Blondie sitting on the edge near Observation Point.

Sometimes its hard to understand and appreciate the beauty when you're hiking along. Especially if you do big miles (which we certainly didn't on this trip). The best way to take the time to see things is either step back for the big picture or find the small wonderful details that are often overlooked.

We started off by the Virgin River you can see in the back ground. We had around 1000 ft of vertical gain per mile for the first 2 and half miles or so. Good way to stretch out your legs after being in the car for half the day.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bryce Canyon

The day after Arches National Park we hit the road and made it to Bryce Canyon in the evening. We had enough time to set up camp and do a quick mile or two of hiking.
We didn't really have the time to explore the park like I had wanted, but we definitely got what we could. The next morning we got up early enough to catch the sunrise and do a few more miles of hiking before all the rest of the tourists hit the trails.

I've been thinking a lot lately about desert sunrises. You really can't beat them. I've seen some amazing sunrise and sunsets in my time, but nothing like in the desert.

Utah has such varied desert terrain and its amazingly how you can drive an hour or two and be in a completely different desert ecology with new formations.

The elevation at Bryce was a lot higher than that in Arches and it was much colder. It gets pretty unbelievable cold in the desert at night. Plus it was October and I had a 40 degree bag. I think it dropped into the teens the night we stayed here. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep.

This last picture is pretty deceptive. The trees grew so grand and majestic in these tight canyons. I wish I had a better picture to show just how tall these trees really are.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Traveling West

I keep trying to move forward from my AT experience. Particularly on this blog. Although I'm not sure how that's going to happen. I hiked before my thru and I keep hiking. But my life will remain changed by my experiences and lessons from my thru-hike. I didn't set out to 'find myself' or 'see what I was made of' or really learn from the trip. I like hiking and wanted to hike certain parts of the AT so a thru just made sense.
Like most people that do a long distance thru-hike I was in a transitional point of my life. I think that's one of many reasons why we long distance hikers get along so well. Its not just our love of the outdoors and cheap beer. Its the fact that we're for the most part at similar points in our lives whether we're just out of college, getting a divorce or changing our careers. It could a self made transition (like mine) or one that just happened.
I'm a different person now then I was this time last year. The major part of this was a change of outlook and priorities that happened on my hike. One of the big reasons that I hike and love getting out is that it really gives me a perspective on my life. I think better when I'm walking outdoors. I get a chance to review my priorities and refocus. It gives me clarity, drive and helps me set new goals.

Arches National Park. Utah.

One of those people that I met on the trail was my buddy Blondie. We spent a lot of time hiking together on the trail whether we liked it or not. It seemed like we couldn't get away from each other. I kid of course we got along pretty good. Post trail life Blondie was still in a bit of a transition and decided to move from Eastern Mass to Portland Oregon. I had a little (very little) money left over and had some time so I made the drive across the country with him. It was a chance I couldn't pass up. An opportunity I would never have had if I didn't hike and meet the people I met.

You really discover the beauty of this country when you get to drive across it. Not in the same intimate way you do when you walk. The slower the better as far as I'm concerned.
We did get some walking in on this trip and did a good bit of hiking out in Utah. First off we hit Arches NP. If you're ever out in the Moab area spend some time in Arches. Its a small park, but filled with tons of sights. Plus it was the least visited of the UT parks we went to and the cheapest.

The backcountry in Arches was a totally new experience to me. It something I've always dreamed of hiking. All off trail desert hiking. It gave me a chance to practice map and compass skills that you don't really use back home in southern Appalachian terrain.

The scope and scale of things out west can be pretty shocking to some east coast people. In arches its all pretty flat and expansive with this massive rock formations that seem to come out of nowhere. It seems like you can either see everything or nothing.

The wind in the desert is something that I've never experienced before. I'm no stranger to strong wind. When I crossed Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire's Whites I had 40mph sustained wind and even stronger gusts blowing rain like shotgun blasts into my face and hands. I was blown around and blown over into rock cairns and I've experienced strong wind and hail in NC and TN's balds. The wind and the sand of the desert can be pretty brutal too. At least its not cold and wet like windy rain or sleet on the east though. But when you don't have snow anchors it can be a bit tough to stake out your tent in the soft sand until the wind dies down around sunset.