Spring Jaunt 2019 . . . 92 days, 5 states, 7000 miles, 36 blog posts

This was my fifth spring jaunt. It’s hard to believe I began this new lifestyle in August 2014. Arizona was the winner this year based on number of days per state. I’m glad I spent time exploring this state I considered devoid of beauty during the five years I called it home. My eyes have certainly been opened to landscape diversity as my appreciation for geology blossomed over these past few years.

I added 7,000 miles to my 2008 Honda CR-V during this jaunt. How many miles on my feet? I don’t know as I don’t keep a log, but I wore out at least one pair of shoes. My guess is 600-800 miles.

My Honda CR-V was my home away from home when I wasn’t backpacking. This was my first long jaunt were I didn’t stay in any paid lodging. I only stayed four nights in paid campgrounds as I prefer dispersed camping options. Showers are more important to me than lodging so at least once a week I sought that solution ranging from $1.50 for 5-6 minutes (campgrounds/RV parks) to $10-12 for unlimited time (travel centers/truck stops).

This map includes my spring travels with linked blog posts. Note: If a link doesn’t work, most likely the location is from a more recent adventure and the post is pending release.

High Points:

My first goal was to chase wildflowers. I can mark this as a WIN! Below are a couple of my favorites:

Rock art (pictographs and petroglyphs) became an unplanned focal point.

There were so many other memorable moments, like spending time adventuring with Joan and Nancy, adding to my Arizona Trail miles, and hiking both Little and Big Grand Canyons. Watching sunrises, sunsets, star-studded skies and the moon cycles. Plus so many firsts like photographing a colorful collared lizard, driving through three butterfly migrations, and seeing blooming ocotillo, joshua trees and century plants.

Low Points:

I also had a few challenges, as can be expected on a long journey. Weather played a significant role this year; it seemed I was always running away from or being chased by storms.

Dealing with a spot on my camera lens after dropping it in the sand was a low point. Initially the lens was stuck out which would have been a deal breaker but thankfully with a little cajoling the mechanical problem resolved. I purchased accident insurance through SquareTrade just for this reason.

Finding myself on a couple roads where I wasn’t comfortable but had to push through. First was on a one-lane road with blind corners and hills, those 20 miles kept my heart pumping. Second was on a sandy road after rain where the sand encased my tires eliminating anything resembling traction. It was a white-knuckle drive up a one-lane steep hill with serious consequences should I slide.

Choosing a legal dispersed campsite can be tricky at times. I have a layer loaded on my Gaia app which shows public lands. Additionally I check with visitor centers, ranger stations and BLM/FS/NPS websites. Well this was a first I’d prefer to avoid. I was at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Entering the park from the north means no resources other than a park map. I checked the map for any information on dispersed camping as well as their website. Nothing was noted. At 9pm one night, we were confronted by vehicle spot lights and two Law Enforcement Park Rangers informing us of our illegal campsite referring us to the Superintendent’s Compendium, a word I’d never heard. In all the years I’ve been asking about dispersed camping not one person had ever used that term. Once home I researched further and found this park includes very vague information on their website about backcountry camping, which includes vehicle camping. They include a link to a camping map which wouldn’t have been helpful even if we had a copy in advance. Thankfully I wasn’t solo and we didn’t get cited, although they ran our plates and licenses. As a result we ended up at this nearby campground packed beyond capacity on Memorial Day weekend.

By far the worst part of traveling is coming home to chores and responsibilities. My invisible twin just doesn’t take care of things in my absence. I still haven’t found the right solution. With motivation to get in and out within a month, I stayed focused and things came together efficiently. First priority was cleaning my car. You can imagine what the inside looked like after living in it for three months while driving on dusty roads. It took me a few days to get the grime and stank out!

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 1 through May 31, 2019

Tip(s):

  • I use a laminated yearly planner calendar to keep track of where I’ve been, what I’ve done as well as future commitments. I like the At-A-Glance version as it’s two sided. I use one side to mark activity and commitments, the other for location, etc.
  • I travel with an atlas and state maps. I use permanent highlighters to mark my travels. Thus far I’ve only found these markers at Office depot.
  • I use a note app on my phone to journal.
  • I mark my Gaia app with my campsites, even when disperse camping. I find it very helpful if I end up traveling through that area again. I write notes on the waypoint as to whether it was quiet, ok in the rain, had cell signal, etc.
  • I have a lot of details outlined in my posts about traveling and living in my car (link).

Links:

 

CA – Hat Creek Rim . . . a spring to remember

2019 shall be remembered as the year of epic snow, a winter that never quit, and rain, rain and more rain. Another memory though is vivid green. Landscapes typically showcasing primarily hues of browns were now painted green, and in the case of Hat Creek Rim, splashed in yellow.

The peaks of Lassen Volcanic National Park welcomed Nancy (WhyNot?!) and I back to Northern California. Yes my camera still has the spot but soon the camera will either be repaired or replaced.

I was giddy walking on this pine-needle trail shadowed by trees, oh trees how I’ve missed you. We felt the hug of home as we stepped on the PCT.

We found rare seasonal creeks filled with reflective pools. Oh the wildlife must be happy.

There was a wonderful display of wildflowers.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 31, 2019

Tip(s):

  • For great food and showers, stop at nearby JJ’s Cafe in Old Station
  • You can day hike this section starting at the Hat Creek Overlook where there is parking and restrooms. It’s about 5 miles to hike from the overlook to the Lost Creek trail junction. The overlook is located on Highway 44, three miles east of the junction of Highways 89/44.

Resources:

Links:

 

CA – Eastern Sierra . . . where’s the snowline?

It was late May 2019, and I wanted to see for myself what 200% of normal snow levels looked like. My first stop was Alabama Hills for this view of Mt Whitney. I couldn’t help but reminisce about my first time playing among these rocks (link) as well as my unforgettable ascent (link) and descent (link) of the tallest mountain in the continental US.

My friend Nancy (WhyNot?!) and I wanted to explore canyons off of Highway 395 we hadn’t previously visited. The first was out of Big Pine on the Glacier Lodge Road.

While we may have wanted to adventure deeper into this cirque, we decided to check out the nearby waterfalls instead.

The trail was in great shape.

We found lots of water.

Next stop was Lake Sabrina (pronounced Sa-BRINE-a) at the end of Highway 168 out of Bishop.

With everything still pretty wet and snowbound, we decided to skip hiking the trails this trip.

From Tom’s Place (I’m guessing named for nearby Mount Tom), we drove Forest Road 12 to Rock Creek Lake.

We hiked the road a bit.

We made it to the Little Lakes Valley trailhead which only made me want to explore further.

Instead we walked around Rock Creek Lake.

It was a little early for wildflowers, but we found a little color.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 28-29, 2019

Tips:

  • Great dispersed camping can be found at Alabama Hills and Buttermilks.
  • I spend a lot of time at near freezing temperatures and have found not all fuel to be equal. On my latest jaunt I ran out of the better quality fuel and had to buy Coleman brand, yes it was crazy expensive in a tiny resort area but I wanted hot coffee! I’m happy to report on a 34 degree morning it worked perfect. I’ve learned to store my fuel upside down and warm (in my sleeping bag) in cold weather. I shake the canister, while holding it upside down, before attaching to my stove. It’s much easier to find Coleman brand in small towns so I’m thrilled it’ll be an option in the future.

Resources:

Links:

Photo credit: Nancy

 

 

 

NV – Lake Mead National Recreation Area . . . . Surprisingly Awesome Hiking

On my previous visit through the area, I don’t remember being motivated to venture out. One of things I recalled was Rogers Spring, an oasis in a stark arid environment. There is a nice trail at this location leading up into the hills.

The hills were alive with color on this trip. You’d never guess that a wimpy plant (Leafless Milkweed) when dispersed in mass could produce such color.

The northern end of Lake Mead (Overton Arm) is a visual indicator of what Hoover Dam created, leaving me with lots of questions. The high water mark is from 1983 with lowest levels reached in 2010 when the lake reached 37% capacity. Levels are now holding around 50%. Much of what was river valley is returning to it’s pre-reservoir status. Overton Road is closed; the once thriving resort areas of Echo and Callville Bays are now nearly ghost towns with noted ranger stations long ago closed. The entrance station near Valley of Fire is self-pay only with no way to validate your annual permit or to gather information about things such as road and trail conditions and dispersed camping regulations.

The park has quite a few maintained trail.

The Northshore Summit Trail was my favorite trail. The sign indicates it’s a quarter mile trail, but it continues for a long while. Nancy (WhyNot?!) and I were still traveling together and hiked this trail for a couple hours. Oh how I love hiking ridges! Those views were fantastic.

There is not a designated trail into the Bowl of Fire at this sign pullover location. The park map showed a hiker looking into the bowl. It didn’t take much detective work to find the well established route.

Late afternoon, early evening light captures the fire best.

As you can see morning light doesn’t capture the essence.

While not an official nor maintained trail, the route was easy to follow.

We had fun exploring once we entered the Bowl of Fire.

Look what I found, colorful geology plus flowers.

The Bluff Trail is on the western end of the lake near Las Vegas Bay.

This view is from the Bluffs Trail looking down at Las Vegas Bay, the outflow creek from Las Vegas Lake, and the Wetlands Trail.

It might not have been such a good idea to try to turn this into a loop hike.

Muddy Mountain Wilderness

There are a lot of old mining roads and washes to explore. Much of this area is just outside the park on BLM land but there is also a mix of private lands so it’s important to be respectful by not trespassing.

Look at this invite to rockhound.

Scars from mining activity.

Oh the color you might find walking washes.

I initially thought the pink mounds were mine tailings but nope natural sandstone formation.

Crazy how sometimes these washes run through slot canyons that once again invite further exploration.

There were a couple challenging spots that we had to work hard with body mechanics to up climb while also being very aware we’d need to down climb on our return.

With recent rains, we found a few pot holes including this one with tadpoles.

Lizards seem to like the washes also.

We found a few wildflowers on our jaunts.

I believe this was my first time seeing Matilija poppies.

We stopped by Hoover Dam. What a zoo. It felt like Disneyland with zillions of cars, buses and people. Not my scene! However, the views did provide a better view of the bathtub ring showing high water level.

We would have liked to walk the high memorial bridge but the crowds and parking made this an easy NO.

We didn’t take any of the paid tours, but found the design and mechanics interesting.

Before exiting Nevada, we drove through Red Rock Canyon. Although I avoid urban areas like Las Vegas, this was on my list and I’ll be back to hike. As it was Memorial Day, we elected to skip the crowds on this trip.

Still on my bucket list . . .

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 23-27, 2019

Tips:

  • If you arrive from the north as we did, you’ll be hard pressed to find information about the park except for the map. The ranger stations at Echo Bay and Callville Bay appear to be permanently closed. You won’t get your annual or senior pass validated until you reach the entrance station near Boulder City.
  • Dispersed camping is NOT known as such in this park. There was nothing listed on map or on their website. This was my first experience getting busted for camping in an illegal spot. The Law Enforcement Rangers informed us we were responsible for knowing the Superintendent’s Compendium, seriously? Once home, I also found a link on their site for backcountry camping which states “Vehicle camping is permitted at designated backcountry campsites only.” Of course not very helpful unless you have the associated map.
  • Showers and WiFi are available at the campgrounds. We used the showers at Callville Bay. $1.50 for 6 minutes.
  • Gas and groceries are available in Overton.
  • Bring a rock hammer if you want to search for gems. One sign talked about agates.

Resources:

Links:

NV – Valley of Fire State Park . . . WOWtastic May Weather

I would normally never consider visiting this park in late May, but the weather systems of 2019 provided unseasonably cool weather and a perfect opportunity to share this geology eye candy with my friend Nancy (WhyNot?!).

Last March I first visited this park and was beyond impressed and in fact ended up spending two days hiking and photographing the many sights (NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 1 and NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 2).

Since I’d explored most of the park previously and given we were both ready to stretch our legs, we decided to hike the longest trail in the park. If you want solitude and to see sights few others see, this is a great option. We saw one person within the first half mile, a couple in the middle and another couple at the end. With two cars, we had the luxury of making this a one-way jaunt. Although the sign indicates “not maintained or marked” we found it well used and easy to follow.

There was plenty of geology WOW along the way.

We also found some interesting flora.

We hiked from White Dome to the Visitor Center.

I couldn’t resist sharing the rock art with Nancy since we’d both visited many sites during our spring jaunts.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 22, 2019

Tips:

  • If you want people free photos at the Fire Wave, go early. We had great light and had the place to ourselves.
  • Showers are available at the truck stop in St George
  • Gas and grocery stores etc are available in Overton
  • Good dispersed camping opportunities are available north of the park off Highway 169 most notably at Sand Mine Road.

Resources:

Links:

UT – Snow Canyon State Park and Gunlock Reservoir Waterfalls

Weather or weather! May was a fickle month for travel. I was feeling a bit caged when confronted with a huge wet chilly system swirling around the western states.

It appeared I had no where left to run. I’d fled the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (link) at the beginning of the storm. My timing was ideal as they had snow for the next few days. With friends in Kanab, I enjoyed a couple days respite.

My friend Nancy (WhyNot?!) had also been traveling and playing dodgeball with the storms. We’d been trying to connect for a few weeks and both decided to confront Mother Nature and meet for a jaunt in Snow Canyon State Park. I first visited the park in spring of 2018 and was happy to return as I’d been WOW’d by the colorful geology (link). Since I’d been previously and wrote a detailed blog post, I didn’t take a ton of photos this trip.

I couldn’t resist capturing blooms still dripping from the recent rains.

Desert Four-O’Clock

This puddle was full of large green guppies, most likely bullfrogs.

This was a new flower for me. We later found out it’s Palmer’s Penstemon. They grow to six feet tall so are quite noticeable against the landscape.

I’d visited this amphitheater on my previous visit when water was nonexistent. It’s rare to enjoy such pleasant temperatures at this park in May.

Although I’d also visited Gunlock Reservoir State Park previously, I hadn’t noticed the waterfalls. Most likely they weren’t flowing. From what I’ve read it’s a fairly rare event. Thanks to social media, I had added them to my list of places to see if I was in the right place at the right time.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 20-21, 2019

Tips:

  • If you want to see the waterfalls, check the Gunlock Reservoir State Park website. As I said it’s a fairly rare event which requires sufficient snow and rain to fill the reservoir to overflowing. If you want photos, minus people, arrive early. We had the place to ourselves for about 30 minutes. By the time we left there were at least 10 cars in the parking area.

Resources:

Links:

AZ – Grand Canyon, North Kaibab Trail (AZT Passage 38)

I was excited to be in the right place at the right time to experience first day on the North Rim.

Rumors were flying about when the gates would actually open. I slept fitfully knowing I’d have a hard time waiting in a long line only to be in the parade of RV’s, trailers and travelers. I arrived at the Jacob Lake gate at 6:30am to find it open. What a wonderful surprise! I drove the next 20 miles without a vehicle in sight. I met this line of cars around 7:00am. The rumor said the park gate was scheduled to open between 8 and 10am. It opened at 7:30am, another win and great way to start my morning. 

I drove straight to the backcountry office in hopes of securing a walk-up permit. There was a near perfect 3-day weather window on the North Rim, which of course meant much warmer temperatures in the canyon.

I was second in line and celebrated another win for the morning, two nights at Cottonwood Camp.

I hadn’t anticipated getting a same-day permit thus needed a couple hours to pack. It worked out perfectly since I had a reserved campsite and only needed to descend 4,000 feet over 7 miles before dark. This was my first time hiking the North Kaibab Trail and my second time into the Grand Canyon. My previous visit was on the Grandview Trail (link).

Although the signs include warnings about not hiking from the rim to the river in one day, it’s become an irresistible challenge to not only hike rim to river but rim to rim (R2R) and for the really crazy R2R2R. As I descended mid day, I met many climbing out. Not only was the crowd a mixture of runners, hikers and backpackers, but conditioning ranged from being in awesome shape to serious regret. I wondered what systems were in place to assist those who found the feat more than they could achieve.

Check out the bridge.

Some stretches of the trail might make those with exposure and height concerns a bit nervous.

I met several crews working on the trail. With the amount of use this trail receives I’m sure it’s a constant battle. Although these trails were made for equestrian traffic, I saw the damage between the time I descended when they’d created beautiful new tread, to when I ascended and the tread had already been beat down and dusted up by mules.

Yay for trail maintenance.

With the amount of foot traffic on these trails I’m glad mule use is limited in both numbers and areas of travel.

Waterfall magic! Hearing the welcome sound of Roaring Springs waterfall was music to my ears although access was more work than I was willing to put forth.

On trail drinking fountains is a new concept for me. However, there’d been a break in the line during the winter and crews were busy trying to repair.

A helicopter was delivering supplies for the water system repair. That’s a skilled pilot!

I’m happier gathering my own untreated water fresh from snowmelt.

Restrooms were another luxury. These were the nicest I’ve ever used along a trail. Once again with the amount of traffic, I’m grateful for these accommodations.

I planned to hike to Ribbon Falls but with the bridge out and Bright Angel Creek raging, it was not happening this trip.

My view of Ribbon Falls from the North Kaibab Trail.

I hiked from Cottonwood Camp to the Colorado River and back my second day. It was a 17-mile round trip from Cottonwood Camp and about 3,500′ elevation gain.

Once at the river I hiked a loop crossing the Colorado first on the Silver Suspension Bridge and then the Black or Kaibab Suspension Bridge.

The south side of this loop trail goes along the mid section of this rock face. If you look closely you can see the cut where the rock was blasted away to make the trail.

The views were WOW and I was so glad I’d decided to explore this loop. This is looking back at the Silver Bridge.

Looking toward the black bridge.

A closer look at Kaibab Bridge and the tunnel.

I was a little surprised to find these remains from the Ancestral Puebloan peoples. Interpretive signs explained the history.

The blooming Utah Agave delighted my senses. They were so Dr. Seuss-ish.

There were a few others flowers and cactus blooming.

The prickly pear cactus were at peak bloom.

I think mother nature is poking fun at love. Relationships are sometimes thorny and unbalanced but also filled with heart-filled love.

The butterflies were happy to find so many blooms. The caterpillars were happily munching away awaiting their turn to fly.

Are you the Kaibab Squirrel? Idon’t think so. You don’t have the telltale ears or white fluffy tail.

Don’t be scared little friend.

There are a lot of minerals in the these rocks.

After seeing people suffer on the climb out of the canyon I knew I wanted an early start to avoid the heat. I left camp at 5am. Within a short time I felt like I was swimming against the tide. Many R2R’ers start very early or even during the night. I’m sure I passed through at least a few hundred hikers.

If you zoom in on this photo you can see people on the bridge and on the switchbacks all the way up to the canyon rim.

This is from the opposite perspective looking back down at bridge.

This photo shows the switchbacks hidden in this section of the canyon providing entry and exit.

As it turned out I didn’t need to worry about the heat. I’d heard the snow came early to the North Rim. Those descending into the canyon relayed conditions. I was back in my car and heading toward Kanab by the time the snow got serious. It snowed until about Fredonia. The snow continued for the next few days. Perfect timing!

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 15-17, 2019

Tips:

  • A percentage of permits are retained for walk-ups. Be flexible and you might just be lucky. You might have to wait a day but the odds are in your favor if you arrive early. Ask about alternate parking. The North Kaibab Trailhead parking fills early.
  • The temperature swung considerably from the Rim to Cottonwood Camp to the river. It was 75 at 8pm my first night at the campground. Only dropped to 63 overnight. I heard it was over 100 at Phantom Ranch the previous day. With clouds, breeze and a little precip the next night dropped to 54.
  • Phantom Ranch offered shade and a bit cooler temps inside but best of all ice for drinks. The lemonade was fab! It’s a zoo though. So many campers and visitors.
  • Biting flies were a problem for the first couple miles starting from North Rim. I was glad to have repellent.
  • The campsites at Cottonwood Camp were a bit near the trail. Even with the creek noise you could hear your neighbors but more disruptive the middle of the night runners/hikers. I found earplugs to be helpful. There were few sites with shade so if you plan to hang out in camp I’d plan to arrive early to grab one of those few sites. The higher campsites and ones nearer the creek cooled off better in the evening as they got a breeze but were completely exposed to the sun otherwise.
  • WiFi, food, shower and laundry are available at the North Rim Campground General Store.
  • Shower and laundry are also available at the Kaibab Camper Village near the Jacob Lake Store.
  • The Jacob Lake Store is known for their bakery but I also found the hot sandwiches yummy as well.
  • There are plentiful dispersed camping opportunities off 89A.

Resources:

Links: