The Zion Narrows permit scramble…

Picture 28

Was up really early this morning, and had alarms and reminders flashing and beeping since yesterday, because today is the day the reservations for permits on the Narrows opens up! There are only 12 campsites and only 6 are reservable in advance… And we have to have the permit for a specific day because of our complicated trip plan!

I had tried the site last night after midnight, but it was not yet showing the August reservations calendar (perhaps it posts after midnight Utah-time… which is 2 time zones behind New York… and I just couldn’t stay up that late… was too tired!).

When I went on the site this morning around 6a.m., there were already days/sites that were full! Luckily there was still a 4-person site open on our required day, and I didn’t hesitate to reserve! SUCCESS! We have a permit for site 3!

Now we have to get a shuttle reservation to the trailhead. And get to the park from Las Vegas in time for the early a.m. departure (which may be earlier than planned because of road construction that has caused disruption to the shuttle schedule).

… And we have to hope the weather and river conditions cooperate … we are only allowed to hike the river if it is flowing at below 120 cubic feet per second and if there are no flash flood warnings in effect. So there is a fairly strong likelihood that even with our permit we may not be able to do the trip. We need to be prepared for that eventuality as well… and we need to be SMART about considering the weather forecasts with due caution (and not the usual unbridled can-do enthusiasm)… as we have “graduated” to “grown-up” expeditions and the Rangers will not make decisions for us here! We need to make our own go/no go decision based on conditions on the day of the trip.

Here is the link to a video (it may take a few moments to download) the Rangers put together about safe Canyoneering in Zion. It is worth watching for the section on Flash Flooding…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Walking the walk…

Have been continuing to work on building up my endurance so that i will be ready when we hit the trail. I think the biggest challenge will now be the Zion Narrows hike, as that will be two days of walking 6.5 hours per day thru a river. It doesn’t sound so hard on paper, but I am sure walking thru water isn’t as simple as a walk in the park… and so I have decided that I will make sure that I am ready by training on a longer walk…

So yesterday for my “walk in the park” i took the backpack too… and did 6.5 miles (the actual distance we will have to walk each of the days)… 3 hours (on normal trails… not thru water)…

I have decided to train up for an 8 hour walk on normal trails…because I do these walks without stopping… and I am sure that the 6.5 hour time that the rangers estimate includes some stops (as they say so on their trail map)…

Then I will try one day at least to go down to the beach and walk along the coast in the water (with shoes, clothes and backpack)… just to get an idea of the difference…

posted by Blue Coyote in Shaping up for the Trail and have No Comments

California, Las Vegas and the Zion Narrows choices…

Picture 9

As we are refining the plan, we should probably think about whether or not we want to include the Zion Narrows hike

It was not originally in our plan, but while researching the route, and looking for stopping points between Las Vegas and Moab, we discovered it… and it seems like it could be really AMAZING…

In early drafts of the plan, we had it as an optional stop along the route… but if we want to do the hike and overnight along the river, we will need to get a backcountry permit soon (there are only 11 campsites along the route)

Estimated time for the hike itself is 12.5 hours walking (based on the estimates of the National Park Service, which says it takes into account allowances for rest stops and slower hikers), and about 60% of the time is walking through the river. So it is definitely a two-day activity.

Timing-wise, the shuttle that takes us to the departure point (Chamberlain’s Ranch), leaves twice a day — at 630am and 930am.

The estimated drive time to the park from Las Vegas is about 3 hours (so calculate based on 4 hours for this segment of the drive). We would have to leave Las Vegas by at least 430 or 5am to make it in time for the 930am shuttle.

Assuming we have a campsite close to 6 hours in, we will have at least 6 hours to walk the next day… there is no way we will want to do the 7 hour drive to Moab the same day! So we will have to overnight somewhere near Zion NP, with the plan of leaving for Moab the following morning…

Then, instead of doing the rapelling the first day in Moab, we should plan to go directly into the white rim that first day… and leave the rapelling for the last day…

Here is how our schedule looks now:

DAY 22 – Leave LA — DRIVE 12 hours along Pacific Coast Highway — ARR San Francisco Hotel

DAY 23 – San Francisco Visit Day – morning free , optional visit to Fishermans’ Wharf in the afternoon, 4pm – cruise to Alcatraz – tour Alcatraz 730 pm arrive back at Fisherman’s Wharf (night in hotel)

DAY 24 – Free Day – (can use as San Francisco Visit Day 2 or to go part way to Death Valley or direct to Death Valley)

DAY 25 – DRIVE to Death Valley (8.5 – 10.5 hours from San Francisco) — ARR Death Valley Wildrose Campground

DAY 26 – Death Valley Day 1

DAY 27 – Death Valley Day 2

DAY 28 – DEP Death Valley — DRIVE 2.5 – 3.5 hours — ARR Las Vegas Hotel

DAY 29 – Las Vegas Visit Day

DAY 30 – DEP Las Vegas — DRIVE 8.5 – 11 hours — ARR Moab hotel (with possible short visit to Zion NP to stretch legs)

DAY 31 – Canyoneering in Moab (hotel)

DAY 32 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 1 (backcountry camp)

DAY 33 –  Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 2 (backcountry camp)

DAY 34 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 3 (backcountry camp)

DAY 35 – DEP Moab

and here is how we could do it if we want to include the Narrows:

DAY 22 – Leave LA — DRIVE 12 hours along Pacific Coast Highway — ARR San Francisco Hotel

DAY 23 – San Francisco Visit Day – morning free , optional visit to Fishermans’ Wharf in the afternoon, 4pm – cruise to Alcatraz – tour Alcatraz 730 pm arrive back at Fisherman’s Wharf (night in hotel)

DAY 24 – DRIVE to Death Valley (8.5 – 10.5 hours from San Francisco) — ARR Death Valley Wildrose Campground

DAY 25 – Death Valley Day 1

DAY 26 – Death Valley Day 2

DAY 27 – DEP Death Valley — DRIVE 2.5 – 3.5 hours — ARR Las Vegas Hotel
(leave DV early in the morning, arriving by noon in Las Vegas… see the city… do our shooting range… sleep)

DAY 28 – DEP Las Vegas 4:30am — DRIVE 2.5 – 4 hours — ARR Zion NP for 9:30am shuttle to Chamberlain (departure point for the Narrows Hike) — HIKE 6.5 hours — CAMP along river

DAY 29 – HIKE 6.5 hours to exit — shuttle back to parking — hotel or campsite TBD (somewhere in or near Zion NP)

DAY 30 – DEP Zion NP — DRIVE 5.5 – 7.5 hours — ARR Moab hotel (or Canyonlands White Rim first campsite?)
(if we leave early enough, we can potentially make it in time to go directly to the White Rim first campsite — the one we had last time)

DAY 31 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 1 or 2 (backcountry camp)

DAY 32 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 2 or 3 (backcountry camp)

DAY 33 –  Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 3 or 4 (END at hotel)

DAY 34 – Canyoneering in Moab (hotel)

DAY 35 – DEP Moab

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

A chance encounter in the park…

photo-2So today i was inspired by the incredibly great weather to get out for a long long walk, working towards improving my trail endurance (now that i don’t have Cactus Killer’s hill to train on!)… Was up early, around 730am, and went to the nearby state park here on Long Island.

It was pretty empty so early on a Saturday morning in March, and i set off on a trail i had done before, planning to loop into a slightly longer trail further up. The skies were blue, and the sunlight filtered through the branches of the pine trees in sharp rays. All around were signs of spring. As well as some newly fallen trees — signs of a series of big storms that had effected this area only last week.

And i was just walking along enjoying the fresh air and morning light, when i had the sensation that i was not alone. It’s strange how you sense the presence of someone before you see them.deerInpark

But i heard no one, and looking up ahead on the trail, i saw no one either… i stopped. i listened. then i looked around 360 degrees, and at about my 3 o’clock, across the woods, there were four deer. the deer stopped. they listened. they looked up at me… we stayed for a moment looking at each other, then they continued eating… i went to continue on my way, but my motion must have spooked the leader, and he took off running, and the others soon followed him running along the tree-line of the parallel trail.

deerZoom

photo-3I considered myself quite lucky to see the deer this morning, and smiling I continued my walk. Eventually i hit the intersecting trail, and followed it around. This trail was a bit swampier than the other one, and though the last rain was several days ago, there were still patches of thick mud to cross. I was near the river. There was a small path leading off the trail to the water’s edge, and I decided to go over and watch the ducks… Looking across the water, i saw them swimming in a row… They were awfully BIG ducks… I looked a bit closer, and realized they were not ducks… nor were they swans or geese… I stared at the movement and realized i was just seeing the heads above water… it was the DEER swimming across the river!!!!

I have never seen anything like that before (I didn’t even know deer could swim!!!!)… I waited until they got across, then waded up out of the water — just to be sure i really DID see deer swimming… and then i returned to the trail and finished my 4-mile loop. What an unexpected surprise!

photo-4

posted by Blue Coyote in Shaping up for the Trail and have Comments (2)

New York State parks and rivers

So thinking ahead, I know I will be needing to continue the work I started on Cactus Killer Hill once I am back in NY, and have been doing some research into local state parks, rivers, and public land.

Once weather clears up a bit I will need to start using the local parks for “training.”

Canoeing on the Nissequoge River – there are several options listed on the site. The local canoe liveries offer trips on the river that last about 2-3 hours.

Trails in state parks – there are a number of state parks not far from our location that should permit me to keep up with the walking workouts.

Entrance Pass for NY state parks – Empire Passport will allow entrance to state parks for a one time fee of $65.

posted by Blue Coyote in Shaping up for the Trail and have No Comments

The Mojave…and the ghost towns…

So moving forward with planning the Route 66 segment from Arizona to California, i think we definitely want to stopover in the Mojave National Preserve and spend a night roadside camping then spend some time on the desert trails. If we don’t linger too long at the Grand Canyon, as i suggested earlier, we should have time to do this. And we will probably be glad for the emptiness of the Mojave in contrast the the crowd at Grand Canyon.

Picture 6

The locations we are likely to choose for camping can be found on the map above (if you click on the map it opens up much bigger). Considering we will be coming from I-40 (at the bottom of the map), am thinking one of these locations might be good:

Granite Pass: 6.1 miles north of I-40 on Kelbaker Road, just north of Granite Pass, then west on one of several access roads. Campsites are located just north of the granite spires. High clearance vehicle recommended; no RVs.

Kelso Dunes Mine: 4 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the unpaved Kelso Dunes Road. One campsite is located south of the road, 1/4 mile past the marked trailhead. Several others are available 3/4 mile beyond, near a clump of trees. Except at these sites, roadside camping is prohibited along Kelso Dunes Road (including at the trailhead).

Black Canyon Road
About 4 miles south of Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center on the east side of Black Canyon Road, above the wash and near a hill with excellent views of the Providence Mountains. Another site is located about 4 miles futher south, also on the east side of Black Canyon Road, near rock piles.

Rainy Day Mine Site
15.2 miles southeast of Baker on Kelbaker Road, then 0.3 miles northeast on the unsigned and very sandy road to the Rainy Day Mine. Four-wheel drive recommended; no RVs.

THEN, while we are there we can do a JEEP TRAIL :-)

There are actually a number of cool 4×4 trails out there. Here is a list of some of them provided by the park service. The Lava Tube sounds fun… (and also “Caruthers Canyon” for possible camp site?)

Actually might also be really fun to try to get up early and catch sunrise at Kelso Dunes…

About 42 miles southeast of Baker (7 miles south of Kelso Depot), then 3 miles west on a graded dirt road, Kelso Dunes were created over the course of 25,000 years by winds carrying sand grains from the dried Soda Lake and Mojave River Sink. Nearly 700 feet high and covering a 45-square-mile area, they are among the tallest and most extensive dune fields in the United States.

The Kelso Dunes produce a “booming” or “singing” sound when sand with the right moisture content slides down the steep slopes. Try it for yourself—run down a dune slope (but don’t trample vegetation!) to initiate the sound.

Kelso Dunes Trailhead: 3 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the well-graded, but unpaved Kelso Dunes Road.
Hikers at sunrise and sunset are treated to both cooler temperatures and the rose-colored glow of the dunes. The roughly 3-mile round-trip hike might take several hours as you slog through the sand, then slide down the slopes. Moving sands sometimes create a “booming” sound—run downhill and get the sand moving to hear the sound.

we will likely to be able to do these activities ONLY if we don’t spend the extra day at Grand Canyon…

THE FOLLOWING DAY, we continue to Barstow. In Barstow area I think it would actually be fun to stay at the Calico Ghost town itself. It is definitely a hokey attraction, but will likely be the last one we do, as after LA the Route 66 segment of the trip is over and the return has more “adventure”-oriented activities. It seems like the town is a state park. Here is the official parks page . And here is the page for the Calico Ghost Town attraction. We have the option of actually reserving a “mini bunkhouse” here, and maybe we should consider that “luxury” now that we are headed back to “civilization.” (afterall we don’t want to show up in LA looking like savages!)

Through researching Route 66 sites, i think there might actually be a better “Old West Ghost Town” experience at OATMAN, AZ, which is before the Mojave (it is the last town on the Arizona side)… There they have wild burros in the streets, and an actual gold mine you can visit, and daily “gunfights” in the street (at 1:30 and 3:30pm). Might be more fun than Calico town? I can’t really tell, but it seems like it might be a tad less crowded… and comparing the two towns’ websites, i feel like Oatman is “less” disney-ified (though that doesn’t necessarily make it the better experience)…

In any case, we will pass through Oatman on the road, even if we don’t spend extra time there, and if we don’t like it, we can always still do Calico town on the way out (or just camp at Calico town)… Or if we have totally had our fill of  wild west recreations by then, we can just pass by Calico…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comment (1)

Mules and so on…

1930_grandcanyonsouthrimdining

Who knew mule reservations would be so hard to come by? It is January and we are planning for late July and we are too late!!!! I can’t believe it!

We wanted to do the overnight mule trek into the Grand Canyon and when i called for reservations it was completely booked for the entire month of July!!!! Still cannot believe we were too late…

Anyway, I took a reservation for a short half-day trip to “the abyss overlook” which was the only alternative (and i guess i was glad to get even that)!  I really hope it is at least interesting… (we don’t get to go down into the Canyon, just along the rim) … but i guess it is still better than a bus tour!

This will likely change our schedule a bit, and instead of spending two days at the Canyon, i think we should leave in the afternoon when we return from the mule trek. I say this because in researching opportunities around the Grand Canyon, I got the impression it is overrun with mass tourism! There are hotels on the Canyon rim! And huge parking lots! And busloads and trainloads of tourists who just fly-in to see the Canyon! And as we cannot really get into the Canyon on our own, i don’t know what else we would do there…

If it wasn’t one of the “wonders of the world” i think i would say just skip it (as we will be having plenty of up-close Canyon experiences elsewhere along the trail)… but we really can’t just drive past the Grand Canyon without at least having a look!

So, a short mule trek, a quick peek at the Canyon and then an early start to our next location where we can spend that extra day on the trail in the Mojave national preserve (here we have the right to do “roadside camping” in the backcountry along a jeep trail)!

Lesson Learned: we are not as early as we think we are! (and apparently more people like riding mules than you’d imagine!)

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comment (1)

Videos, Slideshows and Podcasts by Cincopa Wordpress Plugin