The Zion Narrows permit scramble…

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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

Options from Moab to the Big Bend…

Moab to Big BendWe had an interesting discussion yesterday about the need for rest during the journey. Originally it was built into the plan with pickup days between the various travel legs, but as we refined things we have (on paper, anyway) decided to split up some of the drive days, eating into those pickup days. And adding on the Zion Narrows required further reworking the schedule, stealing a bit more from the “rest” time.

This has left us with a segment from Death Valley through Moab which may be a bit of an endurance challenge for the driver (though not exactly, as there is a big difference between driving 12 hours from point A to point B on the highways and doing an off road jeep trail through the canyons and deserts we came to explore…). However, we do always have the option on those off-road trails, of just stopping and staying in place (that is the beauty of the road side camping … we don’t have to have an approved pre-determined campsite) — though for the Death Valley segments I think we just need to be aware of environmental factors, and make sure if we decide to hold up somewhere, we chose a wise location…

So with the discussion of “rest” still in mind, I am looking at the post-Moab segment of the trip… the long ride down to the Big Bend… and seeing how best to approach it…

In the original plan we had Day 33 (our exit from the White Rim) staying in a hotel in Moab (btw, should we go back to the one we had last time? The Big Horn Lodge…), then Day 34 canyoneering, with the option of leaving Moab that evening…

But perhaps we stay that night in the Moab hotel again… (allowing for a good night’s rest before hitting the road again)…

Then the following day we have a couple of options. Basically we have 3 days to get down to the Big Bend (we need to be in the area on the night of Day 37, as we have the river trip starting the morning of Day 38)… And to put it in perspective, the total distance from Moab to Big Bend is just about 100 miles less than Nesconset, NY to Orlando, FL (where we went to Universal Studios park)!

so Option A:

Day 35 – rest in Moab till lunchtime, then drive 2 – 3 hours to cortez colorado, settle in there and  see the indian dancers at 7pm… (overnight in Cortez area)

Day 36 – drive Cortez to Elephant Butte or El Paso (8 – 10 hours drive depending on how far we go)

Day 37 – drive Elephant Butte/El Paso to Big Bend National park (5 – 8 hours depending on start point)

Option B:

Day 35 - depart moab after breakfast and get as far as we can either Aztec or Albuquerque… (it is 6 – 8 hours to Albquerque… if we could get that far, or stop around farmington/aztec NM area which also has a number of lodging options)

Day 36 – drive Aztec to Elephant Butte or El Paso (7 – 9 hour drive)

Day 37 – drive Elephant Butte/El Paso to Big Bend National park (5 – 8 hours depending on start point)

Option C:

Day 35 – early wake up and marathon drive to Elephant Butte (approx. 12 hours)

Day 36 – day off / rest

Day 37 – drive Elephant Butte/El Paso to Big Bend National park (5 – 8 hours depending on start point)

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning 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

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