Late summer in wet canyons

…is there anything better?

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A tinge of autumn light in the air…

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…monkeyflower, columbines, orchids, and lobelia making an already strangely lush place even more ridiculously pretty…

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…and some good company.

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Like adding any new piece to backpacking, bringing a baby definitely requires some travel style changes.

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Mostly, this means much more modest distances traveled and lots of stops for feeding.  This means plenty of time to do things I don’t otherwise do, like poke around in every side canyon, do day hikes from a basecamp, and climb up to alcoves. The idea of a 20 mile day feels pretty funny…

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I also bought a tripod, which is pretty cumbersome for how I usually hike, but was a pretty rewarding experience (though I still have a totally unreasonable number of pics to go through for a three night trip).

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We took a BPLer’s advise and got a Vatanai woven wrap, which has been fantastic for warm hiking and works great under a pack when tied on the side.

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We did get turned back on Sunday hiking to maybe the best swim hole on the whole plateau by a pesky modest chockstone that was just a bit higher than last year.  There wasn’t a graceful way to get up with her strapped to me and a pass was too sketchy.  Hard to complain, though…

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We weren’t exactly want for highlights, but a pair of river otters were a treat to see.

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This was the second of these guys on the trip; the first was a monster in the middle of hole-in-the-rock on the drive in.

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We had planned on paddling down to Bishop but it wasn’t looking like we’d have time so stashed our boating gear and maintained our relaxed pace, complete with plenty of coffee, Tecate, and heavy, real food.

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I would have a lot of poison ivy in my yard if it were a little kinder to be around…

 

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I said last year that I’d like to spend a little slower time here, and this trip was that and more.  A best place on earth, for sure.

 

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The first of many

I always get pretty excited to show visiting friends and family the desert wasteland we live on the edge of out here.  It’s a perhaps silly pride of something that’s not at all mine but that is oh-so profoundly special.  The sharing last weekend was the best ever.

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Introducing Zazie, who’s been itching to get into the backcountry for two and a half weeks now.

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Things started off in appropriate fashion at the visitor center.  In the 20 minutes it took to pick up a backcountry permit and get things around for the afternoon, we observed multiple high-heels, two paramedic responses, lace gloves up to the shoulders, clown pants, a line of people taking photos of photos of arches in the visitor center, and learned of a woman stuck in quicksand for 14 hours several days earlier.

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Walk a shockingly short distance from roads or trails, though, and it’s some of the most tranquil country around.

 

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Only a little disturbed (and less so than her parents) by a lonely 30mph gust of sand…

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People are generally a bit dramatic about how much different it is to backpack with a baby (or rather how they think it would be to backpack with a baby), but there were a few things that will require some future tweaks and different thinking.  For example, site selection.  I’ve basically backpacked shelterless for almost two years, but my own tolerance for potential misery and skills to avoid it don’t mean much to a baby being feasted on by mosquitos.  We took a net inner of an old two man tent and it was a rude reminder how little air moves even in mesh when camped on a slickrock slab that’s been heated to 100+ all day.  Luckily Zazie was willing to share her evaporative cooling system of wet muslin blankets.

 

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Getting to camp early and having time to thoroughly get to know the surrounding area was an additional treat.  Bighorn beds, hidden hanging gardens, and finally flushing a pair of Great-horned owls that had been roosted in the tree we were under for two hours were some highlights._P3M0059

 

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A little more nitty-gritty:  Carrying was a little bit of a conundrum.  We have three different carriers (Ergo, Maya wrap, and a ring sling) but none seemed to tick the right boxes of cool and secure and usable with a backpack.  I made a mesh carrier that attaches to my pack but it was kinda a last minute project and wasn’t quite ready so we went with the sling.  It’s the coolest of the options and worked great with the only knock being that it isn’t as secure as the other options.  Easy walking and a short hike made this not much of an issue.  Other than the need for a real shelter, out of the norm gear was pretty minimal.  Diaper gear is really the only other thing we wouldn’t otherwise be taking.

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I’ve always admired people who don’t concede to the “your life is over” view of new parenting.  I’m not foolish enough to think it will always be as easy as this was, but practically speaking this was minimal fuss and words can’t describe the rewards.  After a crazy spring of one thing leads to another house projects and busi-ness, being out there in the miserable July heat with Autumn and Zazie was pure joy (topped off with a dip in the river, of course).

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Midsummer photo dump part 1, reptiles

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Midget faded rattler.  Always exciting to find these.  The darkest, purdiest one I’ve ever seen.

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We came across this longnose leopard camping out near Gateway a couple weeks ago.  I knew these guys were quite the predators but sheesh…

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A quite tame and curious smooth green…

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I find bullsnakes frequently but finding one hanging out in a juniper was a bit strange…

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…and last but not least, because one can never have too many collared lizard photos…

 

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more to come…

Some thoughts on the Sigma DP2 Quattro (and comparison with Merrill)

I had a chance to try out the new Sigma DP2 Quattro last week, which is the first of the successors to the DP Merrill line.  I also had something else much more exciting going on last week, so camera testing was pretty low on the priority list.

Sigma DP2Q ISO 200 f2.8 1/500

Sigma DP2Q ISO 200 f2.8 1/500 Daylight WB

 

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More muddy desert boating

I had assumed that the season for boating the smaller Utah waters was over, but while checking the gauges for the Colorado’s impressive runoff, I noticed that Muddy Creek was trending back up.DP2M0077

 

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Gotta jump at the chance for the waters that have such a tiny window, and aren’t even possible many years.

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Two Scouts and a Pack Cat, which looked a bit unruly in some of the narrower spots but actually got hung up less than the Alpackas.

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We hiked The Chute several years ago with my parents in September and it was impressive to see it in such a different state.

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Loads of fun little drops the entire way.

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We grabbed the last chance at camp before the longest stretch of narrows.

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Hiking around in the evening and morning confirmed that I would have preferred hiking one way rather than a shuttle but it wasn’t really possible with our available time.  Boating and walking compliment each other well; there were times I was itching to walk and when I’m walking with a boat I’m itching to get in the water.  This is a both are awesome situation rather than a grass is always greener one.

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Don’t leave your shades on top of your head through here.  They will fall back into the water and be gone.

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We had about 140 cfs and I don’t think I’d want any lower.  Forrest says 80 is possible but that seems a bit hard to imagine, though I wouldn’t hesitate to try even if it might be a bit more tedious.  Lines through the many small rapids had to be chosen perfectly to avoid getting hung up on boulders and there was a bit of dragging in the first and last couple miles.

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It’s hard to imagine a more perfect marriage of such a fantastic canyon and such fun water.  This is one to redo whenever possible.

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Wilderness in film

My criteria here is pretty loose.  I haven’t seen any of these in quite some time and none are fresh enough in my mind to say anything especially interesting, but these are all flicks that I love and have for some reason or another stuck with me and resonate with my love for wild places.

Walkabout.  Nicolas Roeg, Australia, 1971.

Gorgeous desert photography and the best portrayal of human place in the world that I can think of.

 

Aguirre, the Wrath of God.  Werner Herzog, Germany, 1972.

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Herzog has probably directly addressed the idea of wilderness more than any other director on this list and he doesn’t think it’s a nice place .  I’ve seen Aguirre more than any of these and it still makes me squirm.  One of my favorite movies.

 

Badlands, Terrence Malick, USA, 1973.

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While Herzog has taken on themes of wilderness more explicitly, I think Malick understands it better than anyone on this list.  Badlands is my fav, so it makes the list. 

 

Tropical Malady. Apichatpong Weerasethaku, Thailand, 2004.

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Because I love restraint.  Following someone around a landscape completely foreign to me is an awesome experience.

 

Lawrence of Arabia.  David Lean, USA, 1962.

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Not really about wilderness, but there aren’t many films that capture the feeling of a place like this one.  Seeing it on the big screen a few years ago was one of my favorite movie experiences ever.

 

Deep Water. Jerry Rothwell and Louise Osmond, USA, 2006.deep waterAdventure.  And a reminder to read all Bernard Moitessier.

 

I know I’m neglecting lots.  Feel free to recommend more.

Hall’s walls

This trip was actually only a couple days after returning from the Grand so a leisurely trip was in order.

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Can’t feel too sorry for myself, though…I’m not the one who’s 7 mo. pregnant.  Suppose I can lend a hand down the shortcut route…

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This bighorn ran back and forth mocking us much of the way down…

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The Waterpocket Fold might be my favorite feature of the entire Colorado Plateau.  Insane variety and just about every canyon you step into or slickrock ramp you climb is guaranteed to be spectacular.

 

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Oh navajo…

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I love me a nice messy woodrat nest and this one was impressive.  All kinds of good stuff in there…

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Some side canyon ‘splorin…

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We chose the right days of the week for a wet hike.  After high 60s all weekend, the wind blew and temps dropped to freezing as we headed up Notom road and it was snowing by the time we were in Boulder for lunch.  You know what they say about the weather everywhere…

 

Paying the fiddler

This was one of those many trips that you do because you have a couple days, fully knowing that even another half day would be much more comfortable.  DP2M0717

But a little suffering is much better than not going.

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In this case, waiting wasn’t an option, unless I wanted to wait until next year, as river flows required for my day 2 closing of the loop were already down to about 65% of the agreed upon bare minimum at the time I started hiking.

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No sure water for the entire 25+ miles of hiking makes more days a bit tricky as well.

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Rock Canyon and Navajo Mtn…

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The consequences of being grazed hard by sheep are visible on much of the Block, but looking 10′ to your left and 10′ to your right and seeing 1500′ below on both sides is a view experience that’s tough to beat.   And there was water, of course.  So it goes.

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I cursed myself for trying to take a direct line after dropping off.  Steep, loose chinle hills with crazy convoluted drainages was hard.

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Seeing the other side, though, I was glad I had.  The drainage crossing would have otherwise been much worse.

 

 

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The maze of drainages below in the moenkopi was impressive and intimidating knowing how tedious it might prove to be.  Luckily I picked a great ridge and great drainage.

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Monster cairn marking the Chinese Trail…

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From whence I came…

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Rim walking in the late afternoon was pretty glorious despite a nagging headache.

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Lots of great plants.  Amsonia sp near the mouth to the Devil.

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I was pretty beat reaching the river, and while in the Grand a few weeks ago boating meant rest, I knew better here. First sight of the water in the evening didn’t inspire confidence.  I hiked another part of a bend to pass a shallow rocky section I’d be dragging anyway.

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Things got better, though, and despite a lot of towing, it was still awesome.

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A pretty serious headwind was getting more serious around the time I stopped for some lunch so it was bench walking the rest of the way.

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Equally enjoyable as far as I’m concerned…

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Some surprisingly fun slickrock hiking only a couple hundred meters below the highway back to my bike, ~7 mile ride to the truck, and home.

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A big hike in the Grand Canyon, part 2

Kanab Creek was, at least at first, a relief after walking up the river in the sun.  Cool, wet, green, and easy walking for about the first bend or two.

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A small corner of a monster of a hanging garden…

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The walking was quite a bit less serene than the pics suggest.

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Jumpup provided some colorful distraction from our already heavy packs that had recently added 7l of water.

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Of course, as we predicted, there would be plenty of water along the way.  When you aren’t sure, though, you keep drinking up and tanking up when it goes dry.

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I somehow didn’t notice the fairy tale walking cottonwood in the moment…

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Back up for air in the morning.

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We considered taking the pass between Fishtail Mesa and the rim but figured the drainage-heading on the other side might be worse than taking Indian Hollow all the way up.

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While Indian Hollow might not have been the most dramatic section of the trip, going from hours in a shallow drainage of mountain shrubs and PJ to suddenly being on the rim and being punched in the face with what had been right next to us all morning was a highlight of the trip.

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Down East Deer…

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… far enough to decide straight up and out was better than turning back.

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We moved fast but the knee and quad punishment was significant.

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The thought of a morning of having the current carry us seemed was quite welcome.

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Back in Kanab

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Boulder variety…

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At camp night 6…

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It was immediately apparent that we were going to be ending on a high note…

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Laughing, retry…

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Probably less than two miles as the crow flies and we were almost to the rim.  All in all a seriously smashing adventure.  New places, new skills, a new friend, and a wonderfully varied, fun, relentlessly challenging route.

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Things were capped appropriately by a work safety training the day after returning home where I learned about the dangers of walking on uneven surfaces.  Heh….

A big hike in the Grand Canyon, part 1

Dave already killed it with the narrative here, here , here, here, and here so I’ll keep the words to a minimum.  I think we both had a bit of nerves headed into this one; Dave hadn’t hiked on dirt in months and until this trip I had managed years of travel to all corners of the Colorado Plateau without the use of ropes.  Technical canyoneering has always had some appeal as a tool to get places as part of bigger trips, but I’ve gotten by without it and I don’t really have any peers into it so it’s been easy to not learn.  I jumped at the chance to dive in when Dave emailed me a big mess of lines on a hillmap link–a rough route idea for eight days in the Grand.

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It was immediately strange being in such a familiar landscape with such unfamiliar geology.  I know the personalities and tendencies of Navajo, Wingate, and Kayenta intimately–where to find water, where to look for routes in and out of canyons; but Supai, Toroweap, and this strange slick thing called limestone was a bit disorienting.  Patterns emerged, though, like (at least this early in the spring) running water every time we went through the Supai.

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After our first rappel things got special in a hurry.

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Things remained fun and interesting all the way to the river.

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Sleep was easy as was distraction from hard walking and heavy packs.

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I don’t think we had a day without a lot of serious boulder hoppin.

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I like a good mix of big views and rims in addition to canyon bottoms so it was to see what things looked like from above for a bit.

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The Redwall rim was pretty easy if hot travel but getting up through the Supai was probably the most tedious stretch of the trip.  Even bigger views once on top…

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…and a bit tamer route down…

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Olo from above:

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I woke up before dawn to the unmistakable barking/call of a Mexican spotted owl that had made its way to within probably 30m of our camp.  Being reminded of what the walls looked like once light came made it apparent that a significant amount of patience and/or luck would be required to actually see it.

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Dave’s attention to detail on anchors was appreciated…

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After a final short rappel to the river it was several miles of (at times razor-sharp) boulder hopping up to Kanab Creek…

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to be continued…

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