Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thanksgiving in Utah - Day 2 in Bryce Canyon

After a great hike in Zion and a great Thanksgiving dinner just outside of the east entrance we slept like babies.  The Best Western at the turnoff to 9 turned out to be a great deal for 60 bux a night.  Rooms were perfect!  We got up early the next morning and hit the road for Bryce Canyon.  It isn't too much more than an hour or so to the north and the drive was quite nice.

Getting started at Bryce Canyon on the Peek-a-Boo Trail
We were greeted by single digit temps and thick snow all over the Bryce Canyon area.  It is much higher in elevation than Zion - 8000ft+ at the top vs. 5000ish around in Zion.  We decided to try the Peek-A-Boo trail which is a 5.5 mile loop through the heart of Bryce Canyon.  Like all of the hiking trails in Bryce Peek-A-Boo starts at the top of the canyon walls and descends drastically.  The thick snow made it a real challenge in a lot of areas.  Some of the unpacked snow was over knee deep and kept our pace pretty slow!  However the snow really made the area beautiful.  I had been here before so it was great to see the mars-ish terrain covered with white!  I wish we would have brought some skis - quite a few good opportunities for some downhill cross country action!

The hike was amazing.  I think my GPS said we lost and gained overall about 2000ft of elevation.  The rock formations and windows were just amazing.  If you haven't been there you have to visit!  The peek-a-boo trail was great!
Wall of Windows - Bryce Canyon
Just getting started but a great view of the canyon.

Sun rising through the hoo-doos

More great shots of the red walls in Bryce canyon

Great photo of the sun shining off the snow in Bryce

Name that rock...

Thick snow!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanksgiving Day - Zion Canyon, Utah

We decided to forgo the normal Thanksgiving holiday and spend a few days in the Zion and Bryce canyon area in Southern Utah.  I had hoped that we would be able to camp and spend a mini-fortune on gear the week earlier.  The weather had different plans for us as a blizzard blew through Utah the day before we got there.  Instead of temps in the 30's at night it was into the single digits.  Time to change plans!

We arrived at Zion Canyon Lodge at 8pm on Wednesday to spend the night in a warm cabin and then give hiking a shot in the morning.  We woke to -12 degrees!  Wow - truck would barely start.  We go a warm breakfast, bundled up and headed into Zion.

Walter's Wiggles
We headed up towards the trail to Angel's Landing.  The hike was cold but great until we got to the Walter's Wiggles area.  It was completely iced over and as slippery as can be.  We were able to slowly make our way up the 20 switchbacks knowing heading down would be much more challenging than going up.  Once through there we quickly realized that the treacherous last half mile on Angel's Landing wasn't an option.  It was completely iced over!  It's tough under great conditions, no way I was trying it covered in ice!

We decided to head up the West Rim trail and explore areas where we haven't been.  This turned out to be a great decision. We only saw a few people along the way.  It was mostly covered in snow but not packed to the point where it was too slippery.  The various lookouts over the canyon along the trail were just amazing.  The snow actually really added to the beauty of the area.

Getting started towards Angel's Landing

Along the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park
Snowy conditions in Zion

Day 2 we headed to Bryce Canyon...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Great picture from Bryce Canyon - 11/26/10

We arrived at Bryce Canyon, Utah the day after the blizzard rolled through.  2 degrees starting the hike just meant for small crowds.  Beautiful day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tucson Mountains - Afternoon Hike

Enjoyed a quick hike on the Sweetwater trail in the Tucson mountains this weekend.  Have to love November weather!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Hiking in Tucson

Just because you live in the desert doesn't mean you have to fly east to enjoy some fall colors.  We set out this past weekend to hike up in elevation to enjoy the fall show that the Tucson area has to offer.

Aspen Trail
There are a lot of areas you can check out and explore but we chose to drive up Mt. Lemmon to check things out.  A couple days earlier someone had posted that there were some changes in color but it had not yet peaked.  Since this is our first fall in the area I don't know if it had peaked or not but it was spectacular either way.

Wilderness of Rocks
We started on the Aspen Trail in the Marshall Gulch area.  The weather was beautiful - 56 degrees, sunny and a nice breeze.  The Aspen trails gains elevation pretty quickly but eventually levels out to a nice hike through the woods.  The Aspen trees were all a nice shade of bright yellow!  We were also fortunate to see a couple of white tailed deer on this part of the hike.  Once we hit the intersection of the Mint Springs, Marshall Gulch and Aspen trail we decided to take the Wilderness of Rocks path.  This trail descends a bit through some amazing rock formations.  You eventually come to a creek that seems to flow year round.  Keep your eyes peeled as you eventually get to the Lemmon Pools area which is a great stop for lunch.  Our dog always enjoys cooling off in the pools even if it is only 58 degrees out!

We decided to head back from there.  We were about 3.5 miles in and wanted to check out the Marshall Gulch trail on the way back.  The colors on Marshall Gulch were amazing.  The creek was flowing well and I couldn't imagine that the colors could have looked better.  I am sure they will still be looking great this next weekend if you have a chance to make it up.  Enjoy the pictures:

Aspen Trees

Getting started on the Aspen Trail

Beautiful blue skies

Max cooling off at Lemmon Pools

Another picture at Lemmon Pools

Marshall Gulch trail

Great fall colors off the Marshall Gulch Trail on Mt. Lemmon

More fall colors - Mt. Lemmon October 2010

Hard to beat the diversity in our area

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fossil Creek Hiking

We decided to make the 3.5 hour drive to the Fossil Creek area outside of Payson, AZ this weekend.  It was well worth the drive.

From Phoenix get on 87 north.  Take it all of the way to Strawberry, AZ.  Once in Strawberry make a left on Fossil Creek road.  Go 2 miles and it will turn to an easy dirt road.  About 3 more miles and the trail head is on the right. We were there on a saturday and there were plenty of hikers and campers.  It wasn't crowded but it was definitely not a hike of solitude.

The hike down is about 4 miles. Piece of cake, at least until you have to come back up.  The area is gorgeous as you descend and ascend from the creek. Once you get to the intersection of the mail trail just stay left.  Make sure to cruise down the creek a ways.  Once you get to the waterfall you'll know you've made it.

Once to the creek I was stunned at how nice it was.  There is a large waterfall, crystal clear cool water to swim in.  There are a lot of places in Fossil Creek to cliff dive as well.  Even caves to swim in and out of.  A truly great spot to escape the heat of the summer.

The hike back up was a great workout too.  The first mile or two is the toughest and steepest.

Katie and Max as the Fossil Creek waterfall

One of the caves near the waterfall

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mt. Wrightson and Madera Canyon - 6/12/10 - Hiking with the dog!

High temperature of 87 in Tucson in June? Wow! What a perfect weekend to get out and do some hiking in the desert. We had not climbed Mt. Wrightson from Madera Canyon all the way to the summit since last June. It was time to try it again. Last year it was one of our first hikes out here and we were sore for days afterwards. I wonder how much better our bodies are conditioned for the climb now?

We met up with a couple people from a local hiking group at the Old Baldy trail head at 8am. It was about 55 degrees out and windy! Brrrrrr. Once we started moving however we warmed up quick. We headed to Josephine Saddle using the Old Baldy trail to get started. Max, our chocolate lab, didn't seem to realize how long of a day it was going to be. The dog was running up and down the trail at full speed. That slowed down pretty quick as we ascended up the trail. We made it to Josephine fairly quickly and stopped for a few minutes to give the dog a break (and us). From there we continued to hike up Old Baldy towards the summit. The last few switchbacks up to Old Baldy saddle were pretty rough. From there it is only about a mile to the top of wrightson. The first half a mile from here are a pretty easy hike but again the last few switchbacks up to the peak seem to take forever!

It was just a beaitful day at the peak. It was actually pretty downright cold. It was probably around 60 degrees with the wind gusting up to 40mph. But at the least the bugs couldn't battle the wind so we were bug free on top of Wrightson for some pictures and a snack. Max was worn out so we hung out for a while and let him relax. This was by far his toughest hike already.  I wonder if he knew we had another 6.5 miles to get home?

From there we decided to take the super trail back to Josephine. This trail is nice and goes around the outside of the mountain heading south and then eventually to the west and then back north to josephine saddle. It is about 4 miles to get to Josephine so a bit longer than Baldy but it is nice so have some decent new scenery on the way back. Max was flat worn out but a few 15 minute breaks got him back to the car in one piece.

A great day at Madera Canyon. If you haven't climbed Wrightson yet you need to get out there!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chiricahua National Monument Hiking

It has been a couple weeks since this hike as I have been lazy in updating my blog!  This was our first hike with the local "Alt Hiking" meetup group.  We planned a day hike at Chiricahua outside of Willcox, AZ and then camping in Pinery Canyon forest.  Chicahua was about a 2.5 hour drive from Tucson.  Our hiking started at around 6000 feet of elevations so the temperatures were nice.

Wow.  Chiricahua has some incredible rock formations!  We started on the echo canyon trail and hiked around 9 miles in and out of the park.  The first mile of the echo canyon trail was amazing with the tall rock walls and slot canyons.  There were a slot of spots where you could use the slots as shortcuts.  But by far the best part of the hike was the Heart of Rocks mile or so long loop.  The rock formations are really mind boggling on the loop.  This hike is a MUST do if you are in the area.

Hiking in the Chiricahua national monument
Getting started on the echo canyon trail at Chiricahua.

Camel Rock for obvious reasons.

Balance Rock in Chiricahua

Balance Rock

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chiricahua - Explore a beautiful area full of Native American history!

We are heading out this weekend to camp and hike at Chiricahua National Monument in southern Arizona.  Stay tuned for a report early next week.  Until then:

A “Wonderland of Rocks” is waiting for you to explore at Chiricahua National Monument. The 8-mile paved scenic drive and 17-miles of day-use hiking trails provide opportunities to discover the beauty, natural sounds, and inhabitants of this 11,985 acre site. Visit the Faraway Ranch Historic District to discover more about the people who have called this area home.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Starr Pass Trail, Tucson, AZ - 4-24-10

What a beautiful day in Tucson!  We thought we would do a quick hike in the Tucson Mountains before it gets too hot to hike at those elevations until the fall.  We had not hiked in the Starr Pass area yet so we headed that way.  The Starr Pass trail head is just before the resort off Starr Pass Blvd.  There is a little dirt road that turns to pavement at the trail head.

The trail for the first mile and a half was a nice leisurely stroll through the desert.  A lot of the cacti were blooming along with the wildflowers which made for a pretty hike.  After the first mile and a half we went stright through the next intersection and started gaining a little bit of elevation.  Eventually the trail climbs up to a small peak with nice views of the surrounding area.  The GPS said it was about 3200' at the top, with a gain of 800' to get there over a total of 3 miles.

There are a lot of trails in the area.  Most of them look to be very fun for mountain biking.  There were quite a few mountain bikers out on this day.  We didn't see any snakes but I am sure they were there.  Quail, Roadrunners, a couple hummingbirds and lizards were the only wildlife we saw.

The Starr Pass area is a nice network of fairly easy hikes.  Great desert views for all seasons except for summer.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Basset Peak - Ash Creek Trail Hike 4-3-10

I decided to try a new area this weekend.  We drove a little over an hour east on I-10 to Willcox.  From there it was about 30 miles to the NW to get to the Ash Creek trailhead in the Galiuro Mountains which took around another hour in driving.  This area is extremely remote which was great as we were hoping to see some interesting wildlife.  There wasn't another person on the trail the entire day!  There were a few people with their families in campgrounds before the trail but no one hiking.

The round trip to Basset peak is a little over 10 miles but if you don't have at least a high clearance vehicle you'll add another 5 miles round trip to the hike.  We made it most of the way to the trailhead in our Sequoia which is only 2WD.  We had to drive through a couple streams and the dirt road was full of rocks, boulders, overgrown bushes and trees, etc.  We also added quite a few new scratches to the side of the truck so make sure if you do make the drive up to the trail head you drive your beater!

If you follow the road straight back it eventually turns into the Ash Creek trail.  You'll criss-cross back and forth over the stream for 3-4 miles depending on where you start.  This area is a very nice change from the desert.  You feel like you are in the Appalachian Mountains as you gradually climb with the stream through the forest.  There also were some very nice areas back here to camp.  The stream was running pretty good but as we returned later in the day it had definitely started running much better; I assume because of the snow melting in the warm air.  

As you get towards the start of the canyon you cross over the stream one last time and begin climbing to the top of the ridge.  This area is the most strenuous of the trial but isn't that terrible.  You'll go through pretty consistent switchbacks for the next mile or so until you come to a trail intersection at the top of the ridgeline.  From here you make a left to continue the last mile over to Basset Peak on the Basset Peak Trail.  Supposedly near this same area is an old WWII plane wreck but we didn't see it as we really didn't know where to look.  There are beautiful views in all directions of the surrounding area and mountain ranges.  Mount Graham was covered in snow which made for a great view out to the east.

We ended up getting within about 1/4 mile of the top but the snow got really thick, really quick.  It was completely covering the trail in spots.  With the very steep angle and the thought of slipping down and/or getting lost out here in the middle of nowhere we decided that it wasn't worth the risk to keep going.  We never did see any wildlife however right before we turned back there was something very large about 100ft from us that was knocking some pretty big boulders loose!  I would assume a bear or a mountain lion given the size of the boulders it sent down the side of the mountain.

This is a beautiful area and a great hike.  A great day getaway from Tucson especially if you want some seclusion.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Madera Canyon Camping Adventure - March 28, 2010

We have had the itch to do a camping trip since we moved to Tucson 2 months ago. We decided to try Madera Canyon as we had hiked there a few times and some of the camp sites are up pretty high in elevation and offer great views. Most importantly, we could bring our dog with us! I also wanted to try to get up to Mt. Wrightson again while we still had some snow on the ground. I knew it was going to be a bit chilly at around 8000' where we were going to camp. Chilly was an understatement, more like absolutely freezing!

We arrived at Madera Canyon on Saturday morning at around 10 am. It was 51 degrees, a nice start to a beautiful day. Since we had all day long to hike we decided to take the Super Trail to start since it was a little longer of a hike and we had already used Old Baldy from the parking lot a few times. After hiking the Finger Rock Trail the previous weekend the Super Trail was a breeze. Even with 35 pounds on my back we cruised up towards Josephine Saddle and 7000 ft quickly. There wasn't as much snow compared to what we saw a few weeks back up to this elevation. This made me think we could make it up to Baldy Saddle and camp overnight there.  We wouldn't make it quite that far.

We stopped and at Josephine Saddle for about 30 minutes. It was a busy day and there were quite a few groups of people in the area and passing through. Our dog had to make sure that he greeted everyone as they came through the area! After lunch we made the decision to head towards Baldy Saddle and see if it was suitable for camp.

A nice lady told us that there was another nice area about a mile past Josephine Saddle to camp. This is where we would end up setting up camp, around 8000ft in elevation. A nice area opened up as the trail went around a corner and you could tell people had camped there in the past. From this spot it was probably another mile up to Baldy but the snow started getting bad. With the air in the 50's the snow got pretty soft and we started to sink in quite a bit. Right before you start the switchbacks up to Baldy we found ourselves sinking thigh deep in the snow that seemed to be 3-4ft deep. Every step was a challenge and stressful. We decided that my girlfriend would stay behind at the spot we found for camp with the dog. I wanted to at least try to get up to Baldy.

The snow flat wore me out. Every step was a challenge, sinking and slipping in the deep, soft snow. I did make it most of the way up the switch backs but it took me at least an hour. Once you got into the switchbacks the snow wasn't nearly as bad but it was still tough after a long day.  I was getting tired, it was getting late and I was hungry! I decided to turn back as I was also getting a little uncomfortable with leaving them back by themselves. I turned back and made it back down a lot quicker than I was able to make it up. I decided to slide down about 100ft of elevation in the snow on my butt. It was fun and a lot easier than slipping and falling every other step!

So we set up camp and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful afternoon with great views of Mt. Wrightson and the valley below. We had a nice fire and just relaxed for the last few hours of the day. The only real excitement came when my bear paranoid girlfriend started seeing things and decided a bear was staring at us. She grabs some shoes and starts flaing and screaming trying to scare the imaginary bear away. It had to be one of the funniest things I have ever seen!  Too much discovery channel and animal planet paranoia going on there!

Another reason we chose this area is that there didn't seem to be much wind. Quite a few areas that we hiked through seemed very windy but our campsite area seemed pretty sheltered. We called it a night at around 9pm as the temperatures were dropping fast. Our wet socks that we hung on the trees to dry had already frozen! So here we are nice and cozy in the tent with the dog. We stayed plenty warm enough in our sleeping bags while the temps dipped well below freezing outside. Everything was great, at least until all hell broke loose at around 11pm!

The wind seemed to just come out of no where. You would hear the gusts start coming through the trees and eventually just blowing like hell over us. The tent held up for about an hour but eventually the gusts, which had to be 40 mph, pulled out stakes out and it collapsed. So there I am, in the freezing cold, half asleep, trying to put it back together in the dark. Some how I was able to get the tent back up. I tried to reinforce it with some big stones but within 15 minutes of trying to get back in and comfortable it collapsed again. We basically said screw it and just slept in the collapsed tent while the wind whipped it around like a loose sail all night long. The worst part was that the flap/cover of the tent blew off and the vent was right above us open all night with the freezing cold air coming in. Long story short, we didn't sleep. It was freezing cold and sucked! At first light we packed up and headed for the car which we made at about 8am.

What an adventure! I can't wait to get up there and camp again but this time it will be much closer to the summer!

A couple of additional pictures:

Max was freezing!

Looking up towards Baldy Saddle at sunset