Tag : backpacking

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Three Nights in the Beartooths: Sort of Near Martin Lake Eventually

I don’t even know how to refer to this one. It happened in August though.

The Beartooths (in Montana) are good. My friend Dave texted me a few months ago and told me this was the year for him to go there with me. So we sort of planned a trip on the Beaten Path trail over the top of them, then we eventually punted on that one and decided to do an in-and-out to the Martin Lake Basin, and then, because of reasons, we didn’t make it that far the first day and ended up camping somewhere with no apparent name (we eventually named the nearby lake after my dog) and then did a day-hike in to Lake Martin later, except we didn’t actually go to Lake Martin, but instead just pulled up at Wright Lake, which is right next to Lake Martin.

It’s still pretty there. One day, I’ll do that Beaten Path hike. One day.

Here are a bunch of photos.

Me at the trailhead with my shirt straining against various straps:

On this hike, we started at the Beartooth Lake trailhead.

OTOH, this is Clay Butte, the butte after which the trailhead we meant to start at but didn’t because the road was closed was named after:

Clay Butte from Beartooth Lake

There was some consternation as to what trail was the one we wanted to go on once we reached all these creeks — mostly due to the fact that I didn’t want to look at the map. There are so many trails of use in the Beartooths, though, it’s easy to be deceived by what appears to obviously be The Main Trail, but which is not actually the trail you want to be on.

Anyway, the trail we wanted to be on looked like this:

It was pretty much uphill for the first three miles. We met a couple of backpackers on their way out, who noted that all the trails were pretty clearly marked except for a “human-made trail” near Native Lake.

Turns out the human-made trail issue was more a problem on the way back than on the way in.

Here’s Aela waiting out the late-afternoon rainstorm from inside the tent that eventually got set up.

And Dave had pretty good success fishing Aela Lake.

Our campsite (we stayed there all three nights) was in a pretty good area, on top of sort of a long, narrow cliff. Good views in most directions.

We eventually did our day-hike to Martin Lake, which was pretty steep in spots. It’d be kind of a slog to get there in one day from the trailhead with packs on. Anyway, here’s how all that looked.

En route:

And then into the Martin Lake basin…:

The dog didn’t really enjoy watching me fish (shrug).

And finally we headed out.

We ended up on the wrong trail around Fossil Lake, so didn’t come back to the right trailhead, which meant a couple of bonus miles hiking on the shoulder of the highway.

And then that was just sort of it.

This place is really pretty.

bkd

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Stough Creek Basin via Twin Lakes (Wind Rivers)

Did this trip over four days/three nights (July 24-27) as the High Adventure trip for the boys in the ward (these are Utah/LDS terms — can be replaced with “took a bunch of kids from church” as needed). The group and our arrival time in the eastern Winds dictated the route to some degree (it would’ve been more direct — but steeper and a longer first day — to just hike straight in to the basin). Started from Worthen Meadow Reservoir and went counter-clockwise via Twin Lakes to the Stough Creek Basin (Stough Creek Lakes Basin?), then home via the Stough Creek Lakes Trail. Was somewhere around 20 miles total.

Summary

Scenery-to-Effort Ratio: 1.7? The route in to the basin isn’t always stellar, but the basin definitely is.

Elevation Gain: Total for the route, it was probably 800′ the first day (about 500′ up at first, then 500′ down, then another sort of steep 300′), another 1,500′ the second (pretty steady climb with a little more steepness toward the saddle just before Stough Creek Basin), then maybe another 700′ the third (all of which is in the first 2.5 miles). Let’s call it 3,000ish’ then.

Obstacles: Several creek crossings (three or four without bridges/logs), some pretty real elevations (we topped out at 10,500′ on the way to the campsite and explored to 11,000′), and a whole mess of mosquitoes.

Popularity: Pretty low for the Wind Rivers, especially taking this route through Twin Lakes. We crossed paths with two groups the first day, zero the second (! — although we saw a couple groups camping once we were already in the basin), and IIRC three the third. Pretty low. The scenery-to-popularity ratio for this route is extremely high.

Distance: 20ish round trip, depending on what we’re counting. It was about 5 the first day, probably 6 the second, then another 7 on the way out — but then add 5 or 6 for the basin exploration day hike.

Location: East end of the Wind Rivers (near Lander, Wyo.). The trailheads (Sheep Bridge, Roaring Fork) are located at the Worthen Meadow campground situated at Worthen Meadow Reservoir.

Pros

  • Incredible lakes and rugged scenery once you’re in the basin.
  • Amazing solitude and lack of crowds.
  • Hot fishing (for seven-inch brookies).
  • Pretty good wildflowers.

Cons

  • The Wind Rivers are known for their mosquitoes. This was a high mosquito year even for the Wind Rivers. There were a LOT of mosquitoes, especially at the campsites (or, really, any time you stopped moving).
  • Most of the scenery is at the basin — the first and last five miles of the trip consisted mostly of walking through trees.

Details

Day 1: Sheep Bridge Trailhead to Twin Lakes

We weren’t going to be able to get to the trailhead at Worthen Meadow till after noon, and given that our pace was going to be slow and a little stoppy, we opted for this route to the basin that didn’t require a lot of steep uphill. It’s hard to find many people who have hiked the Twin Lakes Trail specifically, but it was a-okay if also a bit of a tree prison at times. Route was easy to find.

Mosquitoes were, relative to the rest of the hike, not bad.

Ended up camping at a site that was just at the end of the Twin Lakes, very near the intersection with the Stough Creek Trail. I never took a photo of either of the Twin Lakes. They were tree-lined and unprepossessing, but probably deserved a photo. >shrug<. The campsite had a ton of good tent sites, you just had to be willing to hike uphill from the trail about 100 yards to get to them.

And then I slept badly, because that’s what I do in the backcountry.

Day 2: Twin Lakes to Stough Creek Basin

Day 2 was designed to be our “hard day” — the one with the most elevation to gain. Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot of up-and-down on the Stough Creek Trail, so we didn’t give up a lot of elevation until we got to the final saddle at about 10,500′ and then descended only another couple-hundred feet into the basin.

The day started out with a fording.

And then a mile or so later, we started getting into the actual Wind Rivers Scenery.

Of course, the further we went, the worse the mosquitoes became. Man, but there were a lot of mosquitoes on this trip.

We forded the creek one more time, then made our final, relatively steep assault to the basin’s saddle.

And then entered the basin.

Stough Creek Basin First Lake

A lot of our group were pretty done-out from the climb up to the saddle, but a few of us went ahead and scouted out campsites, eventually finding one at the far end of the basin’s second lake in. It had some good tent sites, plus good access to moving water.

Stough Creek Basin Second Lake

Day 3: Exploring the Basin

This basin is pretty amazing. At first it seems like there are just a few lakes in there, but the deeper you go into the basin, the more lakes you discover. Every time you head up a ridge, you see a couple new lakes connected by creeks to the lake you just saw. Heading to the back of the basin was outstanding and, visually speaking, the highlight of the trip.

Stough Lakes Basin

Day 4: Stough Creek Basin to Worthen Meadow via the Stough Creek Lakes Trail

Heading out, we completed the loop. The scenery on the way out was more interesting than on the way in.

And then back to the cars, then to Lander for an epic session with Domino’s Pizza. Plus all the kids survived, which was a bonus.

bkd

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Steam Mill Lake Hike

I did this hike a couple times in July. The first was on The Fourth and was sort of a scouting trip I undertook on the premise that there has to be another reasonable overnighter destination in Logan Canyon other than just White Pine Lake every time. It was also a destination of considerable curiosity, given that no one I talked to in Logan had ever been there, and it’s hard to find a lot of info on it online. The second was an overnighter (!) with the kids from church.

So!:

The Summary

Scenery-to-Effort Ratio: 1.3? The first mile and half is uphill and ugly. The rest is pretty good.

Elevation Gain: IIRC, it’s around 1,200′, most of which you’re gaining during that first mile and a half. The rest of it is between the mill site and the lake.

Obstacles: A few creek crossings, a couple of which have logs (including the one right at the trailhead if you look hard enough); the trail up to the lake might be a little faint and/or look like a creek, depending on the time of year.

Popularity: Apparently low. Saw two other parties the first time I hiked it and maybe four the second time.

Distance: About 9.2 miles to the lake and back. Add another mile if you want to walk around the lake. (Probably. I didn’t do that.)

Location: Logan Canyon, just off Franklin Basin Road. Turn left on Franklin Basin, then go left on the first dirt road after the first bridge. The trailhead is off to the right somewhere.

Pros

  • Really nice scenery once you get past the ridge.
  • Beautiful creeks and a box canyon lake (although I’m guessing these are best seen as early in the season as possible).
  • Some steam mill machinery.
  • Not a lot of people.

Cons

  • The first mile and a half is a long slog uphill through trees.
  • No water on the bottom half of the hike.
  • Kind of a difficult trailhead to locate.
  • A lot of horse manure and cow pies.

The Rest

The trailhead looks like this.

And then the first thing you do is cross a slow-moving stream, which is maybe more bog than spring. There’s a log there if you look for it, which I didn’t the first time out. OTOH, it was a good place to see if the dog could swim (she can).

The highlight of the first two miles. Someone had abandoned this over the winter.
Most of the first two miles looks like this.

Then you reach the creek and things get more interesting despite the relative lack of trailside snowmobiles.

Then you reach the steam mill site itself. I’m guessing it was a sawmill and not a place where steam was milled.

There are a lot of good campsites between the mill and the lake. Or, if you wanted, you could take a left at the Steam Mill and somehow end up at White Pine Lake. I didn’t do that.

Steam Mill Creek

There’s a small pond that comes before the lake. The small pond is not the lake. The lake looks like this:

Steam Mill Lake

And then, the way back looks a lot like the way there.

bkd

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I Hiked the Narrows Again, October 2017 Version

TBH, the experience isn’t trite or cliche for having done it two years in a row now. OTOH, blogging about it kind of is (2016 Narrows hike, and that one previous that was pre-blog) .

So what made this one different?

  • 2017 is a different year than 2016, and I am much wizened.
  • It’s colder in October. Especially on the second day, after the swim. (Note to self: take clothes off prior to the swim next time.)
  • Fall color!
  • Mice at the campground.
  • Non-relative as co-hiker.
  • Overcrowded shuttle full of trust-fund kids all the way to the trailhead.
  • Still kind of too many people for the last four miles, despite it being a Monday.
  • I don’t remember what my pack weighed, but it was not very much (19 lbs.?).
  • My favorite compact camera got destroyed on this trip. In another $400, will replace. Maybe.

Most of these photos are mine, but one is Layton’s, used with eventual permission and editing. Overall, his photos were way better. Perhaps I shouldn’t bemoan my camera as much as my lack of vision and mindfulness.

(King of the trust-funders, front-left.)

And my favorite, now-dead camera’s last-ever photo:

Goal for next time: Don’t take a camera, live in the moment, maybe write a haiku at the end. Also, be prepared for mice.

bkd

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Backpacking Back from Island Lake (Day 3)

This post is mostly to provide closure and post more pictures that were taken on the third day of this trip. I got my best pics of Island Lake on Day 3. I mean, fwiw.

And then it was time to bid sad farewell to this magical place where I mostly just felt sick and out-of-breath. One last pano on the way out:

I decided I’d go back to Eklund Lake and see if I wanted to spend the night there or just head on out of the wilderness. Spoiler: I chose the latter. Before that decision was finally made, though, the way back looked much like it had the day before except from the other direction.

Right, then Eklund Lake, decided to finish the whole thing out. This return trip was (IIRC) a little over 11 miles coming back. Net downhill, but with a lot of up and down still, and 11 miles is a long ways for me with a backpack on. Anyway.

On the route back, went via Photographer’s Point, which…

Shrug?

But anyway. And then I drove home.

Some generals:

  • Man, but this area is crowded. They have a short season with the trails snow-covered well into July and then snows starting up again usually mid-September, which probably helps explain it (plus amazing scenery), but still: the Uintas on a weekend were less crowded.
  • It’s not even close to anywhere (well, maybe an hour-and-a-half from Jackson, but that’s not a huge population center is it?).
  • And it’s not really a super-easy hike. Still: crowded!!
  • And most people camp in “illegal” sites that are too close to the lakes, yet the NFS doesn’t do much to prevent it from happening aside from sending some rando rangers out to tell people “don’t camp next to the lake” while they’re hiking along the trail.
  • Yeah, sure, I’ll avoid all the developed campsites next to the lake so that I can… what? Anyway.
  • Was my first trip with all my ultra-light gear. Was geared up for 5 days, 4 nights and kept it down to (IIRC) 23 lbs. total.
  • This is purported to be a great trout fishing area, but no one I talked to who was using flies caught anything on the lakes I visited. I sure didn’t catch anything there. Apparently lures are the way to go, except that I don’t especially get excited about fishing with lures. Flies? Sure, raw passion.

I am done writing about this trip now.

bkd

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Backpacking to Island Lake: Day 2

And then I woke up. Because it was the next day.

Here’s probably my favorite photo of Upper Sweeney Lake. I took it on the way out on Day 2. Better lakes would come, but, hey, meadow, etc.

From there, you’re hiking out of the lake basin. This second day was just a series of hiking out of a basin, then hiking back in to the next one. The net altitude gain from the trailhead to Island Lake is minimal (ca. 1,000′), but the actual vertical feet hiked over that span is maximal (don’t recall except for being ready to just concede and die of exposure by the side of the trail on several occasions on Day 2).

On that happy note, just as you’re exiting the Upper Sweeney basin, you get your next view of the Winds:

Always taunting.

And then, not much further, another meadow with a tarn in it and some people that I didn’t meet ever.

Next lake on the agenda is Eklund, but hopefully I got a better photo of it on the way back, because my in-route photos aren’t very compelling. And then after climbing out of that basin, you climb quickly back into the next one with some lake that’s small and the name of which I’ve forgotten and can’t find anywhere.

This is sort of a high point of the hike. Scenic lake, mountains in the background, enough up-and-down to feel like you’ve done something, not so much that you’re writing the letter in your head informing the forest service that they should probably just go ahead and start using dynamite to form some tunnels. Anyway:

Seems like it might have had a woman’s name. The lake, I mean.

Then it’s on to Hobbs Lake, which is a little more strenuous a trail — but not entirely without upsides.

And then ol’ Hobbs itself:

There weren’t many obvious campsites on Hobbs, but from a distance perspective, this would probably be my lake of recommendation for first-night camping. It’s the last good location before the big slog up to Seneca Lake.

This photo, not much past Hobbs, makes the slog look better than it was:

As does this pretty little unnamed (?) tarn:

But then that last mile hiking up to Seneca was pretty awful. Steep and kind of ugly.

The mud wasn’t actually a big factor, but I didn’t take pictures of the true awfulness. Steep tree prison with nothing to look at. Slog.

But then you get to the top of the slog and get to take in Seneca Lake. You’re pretty much above the timberline and Island Lake is at about the same elevation. You actually have quite a ways to go to get to Island Lake, of course, none of which is anywhere near flat, but whatever: here you are.

Just the walk around the lake has a ton of elevation change (Dear Forest Service: Go ahead and start blasting out some tunnels in the Wind Rivers. Thank you, bkd). There are campsites here, but none of them looked very cozy or inviting. It’s the biggest lake on the hike though. I think.

Then you leave it.

You pass by Little Seneca Lake next, which is just like Seneca Lake only smaller. Then you start getting into the talus slopes.

After the talus, you still have a little ways to go. Here’s yet another tarn.

And then the final descent into Island Lake basin:

Finally, to where I camped, this is close-ish:

Not pictured are the literally dozens of tents scattered across this slope heading down into the lake. So crowded. I was also pretty dehydrated by the time I got here because I am stupid. I set up camp, took a nap (!), ate dinner, read that Chichester book about flying airplanes to New Zealand for not good reason, then, because it was night-time, slept.

bkd

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Backpacking to Island Lake: Three Days in the Wind Rivers (Day 1)

It was supposed to be five days, but then I got bored, lonely, and dehydrated. Plus the fish weren’t biting on flies and it was super-crowded. Nice place, though!

At one point, I had the perfect recommendations in mind for how everyone should do this hike. Now? We’ll see.

Here’s the prime payoff pano of Island Lake. I worked two whole days for this.

I did this hike back in August. Was supposed to be heading into Titcomb Basin, spending a couple nights at Island Lake. Again, didn’t end up in Titcomb Basin, turned around at Island Lake. OTOH, someone wrote once that Island Lake was the most scenic part of all that anyway, inclusive of Titcomb Basin. Just, you know.

First night I hiked to Upper Sweeney Lake, which was about a five-mile walk from the Elkhart Park trailhead.

The first couple miles of the hike are talked about in un-glowing terms (e.g., “tedious”). I can see what they were getting at, it’s sort of a tree-prison, but it’s a gently-sloped tree prison where the trees aren’t entirely right on top of you and that opens up into meadows often enough. In other words, it’s a tree prison you can live with (with which you can live, sorry).

Eventually the trail breaks into a large meadow (possibly “Elkhart Park”), from which you can see the jagged Wind Rivers in the distance. This is the point where the trail branches (it’ll reconvene later): photographer’s point to the north, or the Sweeney lakes to the east. I went east.

The trail then drops into a basin, where I encountered my first lake of the trip: Miller Lake. This hike is eventually all about lakes, and this is arguably the least photogenic. I mean:

Right?

I skirted Miller Lake and kept going till I hit Middle Sweeney Lake.

So: most of the good lakes were on the second day. Just above Middle Sweeney, then, I hit Upper Sweeney, which was my objective for the day. The problem with this trip, to some extent, is that most of the good camping locations between the trailhead and Island Lake are either only 4-6 miles away, or are Seneca Lake, which doesn’t actually have great sites and is 10 eventually pretty steep (a lot of up-and-down) miles from the parking lot.

Campsite, Upper Sweeney Lake

And then I made a campfire (!). I rarely make campfires, but there was a (not-literal) ton of wood around. It had been sprinkling (rain) off and on, so the wood was a little wet, which added to the challenge as well as the sweetness of the victory.

About two hours later I went to sleep.

bkd

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High Uintas Ibantik Lake Hike ft. Notch

If there isn’t already a rapper named Notch, there really should be.

Went on this fun, short-ish overnighter just so I could say I went on an overnighter and had been in the Uintas. The Uintas are pretty cool, or are at least pretty. I guess also cool. Man it’s been hot here in Cache Valley. Uintas were cool, but also pretty.

Found this hike in the Falcon Guide, turns out everyone online also thinks it’s amazing. Would be a pretty easy out-and-back day hike, but I was using it to practice backpacking and do a safe-distance shakedown of my gear that I haven’t used in a year. The hike is supposedly just under four miles from the Crystal Lake trailhead over The Notch (featured) then down to Ibantik. Just: whatever. Photos, then observations maybe, then go on with lives, etc.

Ibantik Lake Trailhead

Ibantik Lake Trailhead mileage sign.

~The Trailhead~.

Parking lot was super-crowded with three other groups, a couple of them pretty big, arriving just before me and milling about their respective cars loudly. Despite this, the hike to (and back from) Ibantik wasn’t all that crowded. I met maybe four groups on the way out, then probably a similar number coming back. Apparently the parking lot services enough different trail to keep anything from getting too unwieldy. I’m sure it also helped that I set out on a Wednesday, but still: I”\NiIK L•KF, 4 miles.

This photo wasn’t far from the trailhead, and its purpose in this post is to illustrate that even the scenically un-scenic parts of this trail were not actually all that un-scenic. I mean, there’s not much on that trail that’s uglier than this.

Wall Lake and the Notch, High Uintas

Wall Lake and the Notch, High Uintas

The first real lake you come to is Wall Lake (there was another lake and a couple ponds by the trailhead that don’t count), from which you get your first look at THE NOTCH. Many hikers tremble in its gaze, cowed by the prospect of having to climb its ca., I dunno, 700-800 feet to get up and over it? Anyway. And yes, Wall is a fake lake, it’s just “real” in size. So’s Ibantik. There’s not much I can do about it at this point.

The trail has a lot of views like ^^, with ponds and meadows and peaks. There are also trees and clouds in this photo. Probably bugs also, germs for sure.

Lovenia Lake from the Notch

This is the view from the top of the Notch, looking north toward Lovenia Lake. Ibantik Lake is almost in the picture — it’s just on the other side of that talus slope on the right.

This is Lovenia Lake. I think. I dunno. Seriously, there are a lot of lakes there and some aren’t named very clearly and sometimes there’s one name on the map, but then you somehow stumble onto three different lakes. Whatever. Good clouds, decent reflection, and pine beetles have had their say in the Uintas.

^^ is about where I ran into members of the Boy Scout troop that would feature so prominently in the outing’s drama. Oh yes, there was drama. Drama! But it involved Boy Scouts, so maybe temper expectations. Temper!

The glory that is Ibantik. There was a sign on the trail that labeled the lake. When I say “on the trail”, I mean it was laying down on the trail. Also, Ibantik is a Ute word the definition of which is unknowable.

So I set up camp (on the shore to the right of that last photo there), ate lunch sort of, fished for about an hour (caught a couple small brookies, but had a bunch of strikes), then decided to go exploring further down the trail. About ten minutes later, I hear someone yelling at me (not by name). I look over and there’s a backpacker who’s gone cross-country a bit. He asks me if I know where the trail is (“yeah, it’s where I am”), then comes over to the trail. He asks whether I’ve seen some scouts at the lake. I tell him I saw some scouts, but it was about three hours ago and they were already heading back to the trailhead. He then explains that he used to be a wilderness adventure guide, so he knows his stuff, but that he got a little too involved trying to help the scouts (?) and that he’s been wandering for 20 miles trying to find them. He says he spent the entire night awake, wandering around looking for them, but the trails have so many loops in them and he never did find them and how far away is it back to the trailhead from here. I told him it was maybe 4.5 miles, tops, which seemed to make him excited. I told him which direction to go, then off he went.

About five minutes later, it occurred to me I should probably go back the way I came and make sure he wasn’t, I dunno, dead or something. Went back, found him right about where I was camped, talked to him a little more, asked him if he needed any food or water or if he maybe didn’t want to just hang out and rest up for a little bit. Nice enough guy. Refused everything, then headed out.

Ibantik Lake Campsite

The lake had a bunch of campsites, although this one (that’s my gear) was the first one I came to and the one I ended up using. It was probably my favorite of the ones I took a look at — enough wind breakage from the trees, but no shortage of views of the water, plus you could hear the sound of the creek feeding into the lake a couple hundred yards away. Also had some good branches from which I could hook up my IV drip line.

Went fishing again.

Caught a bunch more eight-inch brookies. I had one stretch where I brought one in on three straight casts. Eventually I started worrying that I was just catching the same fish over and over. This concern started seeming less paranoid and more plausible when I landed my last fish of the evening, a non-fighter that, when it got almost to shore just flipped over onto its back and resigned itself to its fate.

That was also about the time I started hearing a helicopter in the distance. The helicopter got closer and closer until…

…it basically landed at my campsite. It actually did this twice over the span of about an hour. The first time, it didn’t actually land, but some guy from some sort of state rescue service jumped out of it and came over to ask me if I’d seen anyone who looked lost in the woods. Apparently the scout troop had called someone about their missing leader, who by that point probably should have been to the parking lot already. About an hour later, the helicopter came back, landed for real, and the ranger came out and talked to me again, as well as a few other folks with nearby campsites.

I checked online the next day. Didn’t see anything in the news the next day, so >shrug<. I’m sure it worked out. So much drama. It was pretty amazing, though, to see a helicopter land there, reminded me of watching that show about helicopter rescues in the Himalayas, only louder.

^^ The lake at sunset. A lot of mosquitoes and helicopters, but all-in-all it was a good place.

It actually got cold enough to wear this stuff, which was refreshing. So tired of mostly sunny and 97 degrees.

That evening I discovered two problems with my gear: (1) my water filter was clogged up (was fine, I’d brought enough water from below to last for two days, plus I could/did boil more) and (2) I forgot to bring bug spray. The bugs weren’t *that* bad, I just couldn’t stand in one place for more than 15 seconds without getting enclouded. Had Mountain House spaghetti for dinner, the first in-wartime use of my new, non-Jetboil stove. The water boiled and what was once dehydrated became hydrated anew.

After sleeping parts of four hours during the night, I woke up bright and early, ate dry granola that tasted somehow drier than usual, then packed everything up and headed toward home.

The scenery was about the same, but with different lighting.

From The Notch, a view southward. Apparently I can only take photos aiming the direction in which I am traveling. I’m not sure it’s a fatal flaw, but it’s probably a flaw.

And then I saw all the same stuff I’d seen the previous day, only the other side of it, which didn’t look all that different, and even though I took more photos, I mean, they’re kind of just the same as the other photos up above.

Then two days later I got hit by an SUV while crossing the street in Logan, but didn’t die. The end.

bkd

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Hiking the Narrows II: The Wrath of Zion

Overnight version of the Virgin River Narrows, undertaken July 23-24, 2016. The weather was warm. River flow was somewhere in the 40s, whatever that means. Ranger said there were no expected thunderstorms but that that could change at any second, and probably would, especially if I didn’t give him the exact license plate number of my brother’s truck*. Ranger was kind of, I dunno, flighty though, so <shrug>. We verified the weather forecast before setting out. And we’re sure glad we did! Although it didn’t really change anything; it’s good to have a good process.

Anyway, the weather was warm and dry for the two days of the trip. We eventually would stop at Campsite #5, which I had reserved back in May, somehow 30 minutes before the reservation system was supposed to be available. Let that be a lesson to you.

Fine. Photos, then some notes I guess.

Five intrepid, leaning adventures, having accepted the risk of instantaneous death by river. (I was also in the vicinity.)

Five intrepid, leaning adventures, having accepted the high probability of instantaneous death by narrowness. (I was also in the vicinity.)

The first part of the trail isn't actually all that narrow.

The first part of the trail isn’t actually all that narrow.

After an hour or so. Still not that narrow, but narrowing.

After an hour or so. Still not that narrow, but narrowing.

Ever narrowing. Kind of like that ride they used to have at Disneyland (which was apparently called Adventure Thru Inner Space Presented by Monsanto). The one where you got shrunk to atom-size.

Ever narrowing. Kind of like that ride they used to have at Disneyland (which was apparently called Adventure Thru Inner Space Presented by Monsanto). The one where you got shrunk to atom-size.

Father and daughter, contemplating the value of eventual tight spaces.

Father and daughter, contemplating the value of eventual tight spaces.

We took the one more traveled by -- since our only other options were scaling rock walls or going in reverse.

We took the one more traveled by — since our only other options were scaling rock walls or going in reverse.

My brother's wardrobe malfunction.

My brother’s wardrobe malfunction.

Narrower.

Narrower.

Sometimes, the narrowness could only be addressed through close-proximity hiking.

Sometimes, the narrowness could only be addressed through close-proximity hiking.

Narrowness, extended upward. How high you think that is? I dunno, 500 feet? Looks like more. Fine, what number you want, 1,000? 2,000? Anyway.

Narrowness, extended upward. How high you think that is? I dunno, 500 feet? Looks like more. Fine, what number you want, 1,000? 2,000? Anyway.

Even the trees: narrow.

Even the trees: narrow.

We'll just tie up a rope and rappel down the (narrow) waterfall. No, no, that's not a trail over there that goes around it. Don't be foolish, I've been here before, you haven't.

We’ll just tie up a rope and rappel down the (narrow) waterfall. No, no, that’s not a trail over there that goes around it. Don’t be foolish, I’ve been here before, you haven’t.

Helpfully, Craig indicates the direction of the sky.

Helpfully, Craig indicates the direction of the sky.

Narrow, but also kind of wavy in spots.

Narrow, but also kind of wavy in spots.

Dusk falls at Campsite 5.

Dusk falls at Campsite 5.

Next morning, Garry and Craig make a narrow escape. But not *that* narrow.

Next morning, Garry and Craig make a narrow escape. But not *that* narrow.

Knee-deep in narrow. Also, it turns out that backpack waist belts are not slimming.

Knee-deep in narrow.

(Slight) evidence that I also was present.

(Slight) evidence that I also was present.

Further evidence of narrowness.

Further evidence of narrowness.

It gets wider.

More straight than.

But then narrower again.

Less straight, narrower again.

'Nother picture. Same hike. Still fairly narrow (the canyon I mean).

‘Nother picture. Same hike. Still fairly narrow (the canyon I mean).

Narrower still? (Trust me, I'm getting tired of putting photos into this post as well as coming up with not-even-pun captions.)

Narrower still? (Trust me, I’m getting tired of putting photos into this post as well as coming up with not-even-pun captions.)

Point being, I guess, that the second day is, on average, narrower than the first. And the further you go, the more impressive+imposing the whole thing gets.

Point being, I guess, that the second day is, on average, narrower than the first. And the further you go, the more impressive+imposing the whole thing gets.

I dunno, narrow-ish I guess?

And then sometimes the water is a nice color.

And then, the river choked with day-hiking tourist hordes from below, you stop taking pictures -- no matter how narrow the scenery -- race to the bottom, take the bus back to the parking lot, then drive back to the trailhead so your brother can pick up his truck and, while you're waiting for him to use the bathroom, you take a picture of your own car because, I dunno, you can I guess.

And then, the river choked with day-hiking tourist hordes from below, you stop taking pictures — no matter how narrow the scenery — race to the bottom, take the bus back to the parking lot, then drive back to the trailhead so your brother can pick up his truck and, while you’re waiting for him to use the bathroom, you take a picture of your own car because, I dunno, you can I guess, plus you’ve taken over 300 photos in the last 36 hours so that by this point it just seems like it’s what you do.

See, ‘cuz the whole thing is called “The Narrows” and… eh, you wouldn’t get it. Had to be there probably.

Some other thoughts (numbered, because this WordPress theme handles bullets badly):

  1. Stupid captions aside, this is still probably my favorite overnighter on earth.
  2. Wish the other invitees would have made it as well, but ended up with a great company.
  3. Last time we did this (2005), the water level was a little higher. This time seemed a little more easy-going as a result.
  4. Plus, last time none of us had ever done it before, so there was some uncertainty about whether certain death lay around each narrow corner. It didn’t, it doesn’t.
  5. I wouldn’t have minded having an earlier campsite (i.e., number 1–4). #5 was fine, but you’re pretty exposed in some pretty hot weather for the first couple hours of the hike, so a shorter Day 1 wouldn’t be the worst thing. Plus, the mid-way point is probably somewhere around campsite #1, Day 2 seemed a little too easy, and it felt like we ran into the tourist hordes way too soon.
  6. And I don’t understand driving all the way from LA to Zion National Park and walking four miles upstream just so you can throw rocks into a river.
  7. Zion NP is *packed* on a July Sunday. Next time: May or September, midweek, hope for the best.
  8. And maybe try the shuttle.
  9. I’ve gotten better at lightweight backpacking, although I’m questioning whether the TarpTent Notch is really overall preferable to my old Lightyear.
  10. Osprey makes faulty bite valves. Stupid Osprey.
  11. Mounds bars are a lot better solid than semi-melted.

I think that’s most of the important things.

bkd

* I gave him the correct license plate number for the truck, which was still on the road a couple hundred miles away, then decided to give him the wrong one for my Jeep (located 50 feet away), cuz what the heck do you even need license plate numbers for dude? Anyway.

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Last Summer: Driving, Hiking, Fishing the Beartooths

The Beartooth Highway is probably the prettiest drive I’ve ever been on and it’s not for lack of trying. This is the best photo I have, but it’s not that communicative of the vast excellence of the drive.

So there was that. The Beartooth Mountains are in southwestern Montana, south of Bozeman a ways, a little northeast of Yellowstone. Sort of also in northwestern Wyoming.

I ended up going on a couple of overnighters, one solo and one with my brother.

The solo one came first and I wanted to do something in sort of the south part of the Beartooths since the previous time out there I’d spent in the area around Red Lodge, hiking to Keyser Brown Lake for a few nights, and then a day trip with a different brother up to Glacier Lake.

Ended up hiking to Fox Lake. The most notable things about this hike were (1) mosquitoes and (2) tree prison. Eventually I got to the lake and it started raining. I just wish the mosquitoes would stay out of my ears.

Look how eager I was!

I caught a few fish. They were all the same size. It may have been the same fish every time.

And this is what my tent looked like (after being rained on).

Next morning…:

There were a couple of other guys who were also camped there and were trying to fish, but I didn’t see them pull in anything. Ergo, I am better than them. Whoever they were. I’m sure their families like them.

Also, I have a hard time sleeping to the sound of rain hitting a rainfly. I don’t get how rain sounds are always included in white noise apps. Seems counter-productive.

Right on. So then I was sleepy and hiked back through the mosquitoes.

The next day (I think), I kind of talked my brother into going up to Red Lodge and Glacier Lake (we’d had something else planned), since that area was more bona fide and I knew I wouldn’t have so much of the tree prison problem. We ended up camping on Emerald Lake (in Wyoming!), which was pretty and offered an extra mile or so buffer between us in civilization. We didn’t see anyone else at Emerald while we were there (we did at Glacier) and, for whatever it’s worth, most of the fishing success came at Little Glacier Lake (between Glacier and Emerald).

Now you know. Also: this all happened last summer. On some road trip. Because I was homeless and my job didn’t start till the middle of August.

Glacier Lake:

The nearby Emerald Lake:

And, since everyone loves reflections:

And then I woke up.

bkd