It is 57 miles down the Little Colorado from Cameron to the Confluence with the Colorado River. 57 miles of relatively unknown territory to most with the exception of those hardy few who see the unimaginable gash in the Earth's crust while driving Hwy 64 during their approach to the Grand Canyon and ask themselves, "why aren't we going down there?" Little reliable beta about the route exists, a few trips reports are found online(most of them very outdated); but a good description of the route is written in the phenomenal guidebook Grand Canyoneering by Todd Martin. He describes the canyon as "a remote backpacking/wilderness trip" and gives it four stars. No real technical aspects besides the logistics; all dealing with
The canyons continued, and oh there are so many canyons! We were excited to move onto other portions of the plateau and slowly made our way north/east, even stopping along a couple of our favorite places to get a little backpacking in. The Canyons of the Escalante, North Wash, Robbers Roost; places one could easily bypass in favor of the surrounding "Mighty 5" when in reality ALL of Southern Utah is a national park. I had little experience with most of these areas. As always it was great connecting the dots, slowly filling in the blank spaces on the map only to realize that the list of places to explore just gets bigger and bigger every time.
You think you know a place, specifically the Colorado Plateau. After spending the month of October in Southern Utah/North Arizona I can attest that I surely do not. Upon ending my season at Olympic National Park, I said my goodbyes to the clouds and waves and booked it down to the desert for some sunshine and sandstone. Our focus would be technical canyons. I had high expectations for the trip, but could not have imagined just how many secrets this special place on the planet could hold.
Look on a map of Olympic National Park and you will notice a tract of trail-less terrain running a semi-circle around the Olympus massif. The Bailey Range is one of the few strings of peaks on the Olympic Peninsula that can be traversed at or above treeline without having to drop significantly in elevation; no deep river valleys cut through the range. The traverse is a classic Olympic "high route" running through the heart of the national park and the trip I had been anticipating the most since arriving on the peninsula back in May. My days off and the weather finally aligned.
When I first learned I would be living in the PNW for the summer I knew I needed to find a way to climb a couple of the massive, majestic volcanoes that dot the landscape. These peaks can be far more serious mountaineering objectives than the scrambling I am used to coming from the Rockies; the standard routes often involving heavily glaciated terrain . Most of these routes are climbed with a roped team to mitigate the risks associated with traveling over broken up, cravassed glaciers and dealing with the intermittent weather so common here in the Cascades. Not knowing anyone with these skills, I had my sights set on some of the easier climbs such as Mt Adams, St Helens, or Mt Hood. Luckily for me though, I was also able to get up Mt. Baker after meeting some new friends.
A month gone by on the Olympic Peninsula already and it feels as though I am just getting settled in. First impressions? This place is rad. The first few weeks saw my time being split between Port Angeles and Quinault which gave me the opportunity to explore both sides of the park a bit. Port Angeles is a great little port town with a mountain scene backdrop and views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca out to Mt Baker, the North Cascades, and Vancouver Island. Hurricane Ridge road leaves right from the south side of town giving easy access to the alpine; one of the few roads in the park to do so. When in PA (as the locals say) I take full advantage. Afternoon runs up Mt. Angeles and out to Obstruction Pt have been my favorite times in the park thus far, even though they are front country trails. The hip community of PA
Cayoneering...in the rainforest. I should have known. The Columbia River Gorge boasts the most waterfalls of any area in the contiguous US. Canyons + Waterfalls = Canyoneering.
After bailing on Utah to in fear of continuing to be skunked by the weather, Joe and I had practically ditched the idea of hitting up a few canyons in preparation for our upcoming trip down The Grand this Fall. As we made our way North the coast began to grey and we were regretting not waiting out the weather in the desert. After a bit of research though, we realized there were a plethora of canyons to choose from in the Columbia River Gorge area, and the weather there was looking perfect so we
Another week on the road with Joe C prior to heading to up to the Olympic Peninsula. Our initial goal was to head back to the desert for some canyons in Zion/Escalante; but cold, wet weather crossing the Colorado Plateau wasn't what we had in mind. Instead we made a quick stop at Death Valley before cruising back out to the California coast. Even Death Valley was grey by the time we pulled into the Furnace Creek visitor center, still 90 degrees though. We left the pavement at Stovepipe Wells to spend the night up Marble Canyon. A nice set of short, narrows was up canyon a ways, but the long dirt road (Death Valley National Park has nearly
A month ago Michele and I made our way west from Colorado where I was dropping here off in SoCal to get on the PCT before heading north to WA for the summer. Although the weather didn't cooperate most of the trip, we were able to squeeze in some time in the La Ventana Wilderness before heading down the coast.
It is a miracle that this place exists. The close proximity to the Bay Area has one wondering how this slice of coast was saved from further development. Hike up into the Santa Lucia Mountains and it becomes more apparent why; this place is steep and rugged. I had been through Big Sur before, but had yet to really leave the pavement. After pouring over Leor
A kitchen in a van. I like to cook, and I was determined to have a full kitchen in the van. Everything revolved around it really; the kitchen was first and everything else was an after thought. Having a functioning kitchen will keep us from eating out so much while allowing us to be more flexible with our diet. I want the ability to make fresh coffee in the morning and bake a batch of enchiladas for dinner. To do so I needed the following:
What materials to use for the floor? I explored all of my options, debating between using laminate, engineered wood flooring, and sheet vinyl. They each had their benefits. Laminate and sheet vinyl were the cheapest and lightest options; but flexible so the sub-floor would have to be dead level or it could feel squishy in places or bubble up. Engineered wood flooring is expensive and heavy but provides a solid foundation for the rest of the van.
I am currently writing from the van in the dense, damp temperate rainforest looking back at how the last couple months unfolded to find myself here, at Olympic National Park, beginning my time as a seasonal Wilderness Information Assistant for the summer. It is surreal. My desire to work for the NPS began some time ago, before I even left the Midwest for Colorado in fact. At the time, I knew I wanted a change and prior to joining AmeriCorps and heading to Boulder (what a place to stumble upon by the way) I had applied to numerous positions in National Parks all over the country. Nothing came of it that first year, and I tried again every hiring season (Jan-Mar) on and off for the next five years. Then, February this year I finally received a couple referrals, meaning my resume was strong enough to get me past the first
Most van builds you see use plywood sheets to cover the walls, but I chose to use paneling once again for the Promaster. I re-purposed some old barn wood I picked up for free on my last van build, but this time around I was going for a more polished look. I shopped around a bit for some paneling at Home Depot and online, but everything either looked really cheap or was WAY too expensive. Luckily I had access to an industrial wood shop and had some options to create my own paneling from scratch. I love this stuff; it turned out really great.
Controlling the environment in the van is a difficult thing. Insulation will help though. There are quite a few good resources about this online so I won't go into too much detail here, but basically most people use either some sort of combination between foamboard, wool/denim, reflectix, or spray foam insulation. My last van had a combination of reflectix, denim, and a vapor barrier as insulation. This method worked very well, but was a bit tedious and bulky. When choosing which insulation to go with this time around I was most concerned with the following:
Simply put a panel on your roof, plug it into a solar charger, and wire it to your batteries and you have a never ending supply of free energy (assuming the sun makes an appearance somewhat regularly). I wanted to have as many watts on the roof as possible. Most of the time the van will be parked and I will be relying on the panels to keep the fridge running and the lights on at night.
After already taking up most of the space on the roof at the front of the van, I was left with the back third to play with.
The Promaster is a unique van. It is boxy on purpose, to maximize space. This also allows it to have near 90 degree walls. In most vans, trying to build a straight wall would be a bad idea due to the large loss of interior space; but not the case for the PM's. After a bit of trial and error, I was able to frame out the sides of the van with what appears to be near vertical walls without losing any square footage at the floor. A couple of the metal support beams stick out the farthest and I worked off of them to ensure that the wood paneling would cover these points. There is one tricky part near the top-center of the van that juts out further into the van than the remaining side panel and I plan to build around this minor obstacle instead of bringing in the entire wall in order to conceal it.
After living out of our Ford Econoline for the past 8 months and loving it, we went all in and invested in a real rig. The idea was mentioned casually a couple time over the summer, Michele never quite took me serious; but I kept saying it and sometime in late October her response turned to a resonant, "Yea! Why not." I already knew what I wanted, and began searching the interweb. I was willing to travel anywhere to save some cash, but in the end found a good deal right down the road here in Boulder. I never thought it would actually happen.
Trip Date: November 22-26 Location: Grand Canyon National Park Miles: 34 (+14 for the road walk) Vert: 6,000' Start/Finish: South Bass Trailhead Permit Required?: Yes; $10 + $8 a day per person. More info here. Season: October-April. Due to the heat of the inner canyon, June-September is not recommended for this section of the Tonto Trail. Directions: Found here
The Canyon never disappoints. With a couple days off work for the holiday weekend we headed south for warmer temperatures in the best winter backpacking locale I know, Grand Canyon National Park. No matter how many late fall/winter trips I take here I am always amazed at the climate changes one experiences descending 5,000' down to the river. Our plan was to explore the Shinumo Ampitheatre by descending the North Bass Trail and exiting via the Burro Route up Modred Abyss/the NW Fault Ravine. Upon reaching the North Rim and turning onto Forest Service Road 22 I quickly realized that wasn't going to happen. The day
We climbed a tower, and camped in the desert the past couple weekends. Zach and Kirsten were heading to Grand Junction to climb Otto's Route on Independence Monument and invited us along. It was exciting to finally climb in the desert, and especially to top out on a freestanding tower. Otto's Route is a classic, and unique due to steps and holes chipped into the rock by John Otto back in 1911 to aid in the first ascent. Really fun climbing, with an airy final pitch.
I hadn't been to Devils Tower since I was just a little kid, on the classic Midwest family vacation out to the Badlands & Yellowstone. My dad had talked the family into making the three hour detour to Devils Tower National Monument to see an ancient volcanic plug that rises over 1,000 feet from the rolling prairie surrounding the Black Hills. It is an incredible geologic formation featuring fantastic examples of columnar basalt. Apparently at the time I(and everyone besides my dad) wasn't that impressed. We made a quick lap on the paved path around the base of the tower and left. What a shame because the camping(and climbing) there is fantastic.
A return trip to the tower was first brought up while ago to my friend Zach. We both worked trail crew for Boulder Open Space and Mountain parks the previous summer and had plenty of time to dream up adventures while shoveling dirt and digging tread. The prairies and plains of
Choose a peak/hill, and sleep on the summit. A simple challenge that one of my favorite adventurers, Alastair Humphreys, often encourages. I have practically lived by his MicroAdventure philosophy the past couple years, finding a balance between work & play; taking advantage of my 5-to-9 and not being confined by my 9-to-5 (even though my work day is 8-5, not sure where that saying came from!).
Our chosen hill was Kit Carson Peak, somewhere I had been meaning to get to for some time now. We would tag Challenger Pt along the way too. Located adjacent to the Crestones and within sight of the sand dunes, I knew the views from the top in the late afternoon light would be phenomenal. Climb high, camp low is the old saying, but we prefer alpine views and the
The desert southwest usually isn't a place I consider going during the heat of summer. Temperatures routinely approach triple digits making things mostly unbearable for a majority of the day. But stay out of the sun and in the water or slots, and summer is the perfect time to be in Southern Utah. We just so happened to find ourselves in Zion National Park with a full week before we had to be back in Boulder. Joe C was still along, and our only real plan for the week was to spend a night in The Narrows; leaving our options open for the remainder of the time.
I got in line at the backcountry office early the first morning in Zion and got the very last permit for a Narrows campsite, which we would start the next day. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out The Subway had availability for the day (the canyon is limited to 50 people per day and is super popular) so we got a permit for "The Bottom Up" portion of the
We continued zig zaggin our way down the coast eventually entering Golden Gate National Rec Area on our way to pick up our friend, Joe C, in San Fran. One more stop for a quick swim in the Pacific at Muir Beach, and then we reluctantly left Hwy 1 behind and crossed the Golden Gate into the madness of the city.
As we made our way down Hwy 395 toward Bishop it quickly became evident that we would not be seeing the High Sierra in the conditions we envisioned. The Rough fire continued to scorch the Souther Sierra, blanketing much of the range in smoke.
The van dream came to full fruition these past few weeks as I was lucky enough to get a big chunk of time off work to travel the west. After a week in Wyoming backpacking in the Winds, it was awesome getting back to the van (after a lucky 70 mile hitch) with no real plans for the remaining two weeks of our trip other than we knew we would be picking up Joe C for the final leg. Initially we had thought about heading back to Colorado to attempt a Sangre de Cristo traverse; but after the WRHR we were ready for a little r&r. We would have loved to explore the Greater Yellowstone area a bit, but the smokey conditions from the raging wildfires nearby weren't convincing us to stay. I had mentioned to Michele that I was craving the ocean, and she instantly agreed.
Where do I go from here? I have just recently finished up Andrew Skurka's Wind River High Route, and this was a constant question I repeatedly asked myself during the trip. But what I really mean, is what is going to top this; I can't imagine a better backpacking trip. The WRHR traverses one of my favorite places, the pristine, wild mountains in the middle of no where of the least populated state in the country. The route is true to it's name, staying near the Continental Divide as much as possible, keeping you completely above 10,000' for nearly 90 miles. And this is no Colorado 10,000'. In the Winds, 10,000' seems to be the magical marker where all the good stuff happens. Granite spires tower above from flat, green meadows(or rocky boulder fields) nestled against glacial blue lakes; a true mountain paradise. The route was challenging both physically and mentally, more so the later; and 60 miles of off trail travel through every type of terrain from grassy slopes to unstable glacial moraines stand between Wind River Peak and Downs Mountain.
After bailing on a planned 40 mile run around Capitol Peak (which I will return and backpack), we decided to just go up it instead. Actually, we were left the TH planning to link Capitol & Snowmass, aka The SnowCap, but that didn't happen either. A late start and little beta on the route over to Snowmass had us abandoning that idea at the summit of Capitol. Oh well, definitely something to come back too.
Capitol Peak is a striking peak. From the trail head you can already tell this isn't going to be your usual Colorado outing. Capitol's granite shines and the peak towers in the distance as you make the easy approach up the Ditch Trail. Caleb, Zach, and I ran most of the way to
Headed back down to one my favorites, the Sangre de Cristo Mts, to bag some peaks and do some recon on the traverse (which sits at the top of my list of CO adventures). Slow traffic had me at the 2WD parking lot for Music Pass later that expected, and I didn't leave the car until 6:40pm. My plan was to hike up to tree line and camp in the basin just below the Milwaukee Pk-Marble Mountain saddle; didn't make it. Clouds were forming already as I made
Completed two classic Colorado trail runs the past two weekends, the Four Pass Loop in the Elk Mountains outside of Aspen and the Pawnee-Buchanan Loop in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. I had previously backpacked both of these as overnight trips before and was super psyched to tackle them back to back weekends. These runs are popular for a reason and didn't dissapoint; definetly two I will come back to in the future.
First solo trip out into the backcountry over the 4th of July weekend. Amazing, that after thousands of miles and hundreds of nights out; I've never gone it alone. With the long weekend I drove down to the San Juans and to finally check out the Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado's largest.
My plan was to do the classic Grenadier/Needle Loop in the northwest corner of the wilderness. It circumnatigates the super scenic Grenadier and Needle Mountains, going over two passes along the way and visiting the popular Chicago Basin. Most people chose to take the narrow gauge Durango/Silverton Railway to the Elk Park or Needleton trailheads located alongside the Animas River; but not wanting to waste time or spend the money my trip began at Molas Pass (taking the Colorado Trail East) and ended at Purgatory Flats. Not taking the train adds 12 or so miles to the trip, making it about a 50 mile "loop" plus side trips.
Ohhhhlympic! A quick mission to east side. Prime conditions up there currently.
Looking forward to this again for the next couple days. #olympicnationalpark #summersolstice
Somewhere up the Hoh #olympicnationalpark
💥Second Beach 💥#olympicnationalpark
First Beach #lapush
Afternoons on the coast 👌☀️🏕
So good to see you 🌊#lapush #thepeninsula
Little boat ⛵️, big river 🌊. Alpackas sure are a nice comfort to have when on such heavy water, but dang they are a nuisance in the pack on the hike in/out. Still dialing in the #grandcanyoneering setup, a lighter raft for most missions down here is probably the way to go. #grandcanyonnationalpark #packrafting #canyoneering
A lot of effort to get to these hidden gems of the Grand Canyon, but this rappel was just an added stop along the way to Lipan Pt via the scenic route. The possibilities for adventure are endless down here. #grandcanyonnationalpark #navajotribalpark
Back down to the LCR we go 🤠. This scene taken in the upper gorge during last years trip from Cameron(almost) to the Confluence.