Arizona Trail – Ready or Not Here I Come!

By now, you all know I’m all about FIRSTS! This will be the first time I’ve hiked in the desert and the first time I’ve been on a trail longer than 10 days. Pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone will be good for me; banishing my preconceived notions of desert and gaining much needed experiences are my goals.

The Plan:

Start at the Mexico border and spend the month of March hiking north.

Challenges:

1. Elevation and temperature changes

Arizona is flat right? WRONG! Here’s a teaser profile for the first day.

2. Water!

I’m a mountain girl, I don’t like to carry the weight of water (2.2 pounds per liter), nor think of water sources, or worry about the quality of water . . . and I’m a thirsty gal. My body demands plenty to drink.

Thankfully, I’ll be sharing this adventure with Joan aka Rambling Hemlock, who gained lots of desert experience while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2014.

3. Lions, Tigers and Bears – Oh My!

Good thing these aren’t a concern, but what about . . .

Wild Javelina

The Bark Scorpion, the most deadly species in Arizona.

13 species of rattlesnakes in Arizona

 4. Botanicals

I’ll be on high alert for the Jumping Cholla, but just in case I’m seriously attacked, I’ll have full-size tweezers and Benadryl within easy reach.

5. Navigation

We’ll be carrying paper maps and compass

Data points, water report, profile, steward contact and town information is on the back of each map.

Way points and tracks have been uploaded to our GPS devices.

6. THE border

I’m pretending this and the inherent dangers don’t exist (please save your words).

Preparation

1. Gear

For the most part, I’ll be using my standard kit. However, anticipating heavier weight with my water needs, I’ve eliminated a few comfort items (i.e. stove), and replaced 1 liter water bottles with 2 liter containers. 

A little disappointed with my 15.5lb base weight

Pack:

Sleep System:

Tent:

Water & Filtration:

Food:

Clothing:

Electronics:

Toiletries:

  • Lotion & Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste & Floss
  • Stainless Steel Deodorant Bar
  • Medications & Vitamins***
  • Eyeglass Cleaner (1/day)***
  • Daily facial/body wipes, dried (1/day)***
  • Wet Anti-Bacterial Wipes (1-2/day)***
  • Poo Bag (Trowel, Bidet Bottle, Dr. Bonner soap, disposable glove & dried wipe x1/day***)

Emergency Preparedness:

  • First Aid Kit (including Leukotape, gauze, needle, tweezers, etc)
  • Medications (including Benadryl, antibiotics for bacterial infections, etc.)
  • Mosquito Repellent & Net (may bounce after first week or two*)
  • Emergency Blanket & Rain Skirt (may bounce after first week or two*)
  • Mini Bic Lighter & Fire Starter
  • Maps & Compass

Other:

*I’ll have access to a support vehicle occasionally which will be carrying my bounce box (see below for contents).

**As an Ambassador for Gossamer Gear I was provided the Mariposa backpack. All other Gossamer Gear items were purchased by me. I choose to use Gossamer Gear products because they work for me.

***Not considered as base weight since they’ll be consumed and replaced at each resupply point.

2. Food

I’m mostly bringing my standard rations, with a few tweaks to account for going stoveless, and plan to supplement with perishable items as we pass through towns along the way. Of course, we’ll be gorging with yummy food in towns when the opportunity presents.

20 days worth, and a little more than a pound per day worth about 3,000 calories

Breakfast:

  • Granola, cold and dry (instead of oatmeal)
  • Coffee, instant (dissolves and tastes fine in cold water)

Lunch/Dinner Options:

  • Hummus* and Doctor Krackers
  • Sweet Potato/Black Bean/Quinoa Salad*
  • Chili*
  • Turkey/Rice/Vege Teriyaki*
  • Fiesta Chicken Salad*
  • Pasta with Sauce*
  • Trader Joe’s Superfood Pilaf**
  • Trader Joe’s Spelt Risotto**
  • Trader Joe’s Quinoa Duo with Vegetable Melange**

Snack Options:

  • Sweet Potato Mash* and Leather*
  • Mixed Berry Leather*
  • Pudding with Chia Seeds
  • Bars
  • Hard Candy

*Homemade and dehydrated. Will rehydrate with cold water and let the sun provide the heat. (For recipes & tips see this link)

**Dehydrated; will rehydrate with cold water and let the sun provide the heat.

Drink Additives:

  • NUUN tablets (electrolytes)
  • Crystal Light (flavors nasty water)

3. Resupply Boxes

I’ll resupply about every 50-100 miles. What’s in my boxes?

  • Food & Other Consumables (i.e. wipes)
  • Town-Use Items (i.e. shampoo and laundry soap)
  • Maps for the next section

4. Bounce Box

Since I’ll have the luxury of meeting up with a friend’s vehicle occasionally, I’m treating it as my bounce box. As a newbie in the desert and on a multi-week trail, this will provide me with the opportunity for a bit of trial and error.

What’s in my box?

  • Extra Shirt (haven’t decided whether I’ll bring my merino wool or wind/sun shirt)
  • Extra Pants (I’m between sizes and it’ll be nice to switch out)
  • Darn Tough Socks (in case I’m having issues in the desert with my Smartwool layers)
  • Tyvek Ground Cover (in case the Polycro doesn’t work in the desert as a ground cover)
  • First aid kit replacement items
  • Mattress repair kit
  • Sawyer Mini (since I have an extra, why not?)

Ready for a Peek at the Arizona Trail?

New Terminology:

  • Passage – The Arizona Trail uses Passage to divide the trail into 43 sections (the much more familiar term).
  • Stewards – Many volunteers look over the Passages, providing contact information and assistance as you pass through their area.

Resources:

Jan’s Tips:

 

 

Utah – Bryce Canyon National Park (2/5/15-2/7/15)

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the colors, shapes, shadows, textures and immensity of scope I found when I opened the door to this hoodoo world.

My senses were on overload as I gazed upon this constantly shifting tapestry repainted every few minutes by nature’s light.

Queens Garden / Navajo / Peekaboo Loop Trails

How did I really feel about my first day at Bryce? 

You know sunrises are going to be spectacular when there is an aptly named viewpoint.

Prepared with a hot cup of coffee and warm layers made it easy to wait for the sun to shout good morning.  The orange ball glowed and then burst over the horizon, blasting a cascade of light on the canyon walls as it’s final hurrah.

Fairyland Loop Trail

A little video of my time in Fairyland. 

Shadows take over as the sun slinks into the western skies

Tower Bridge

So much stimulus, on overload, I found myself needing to say goodbye to this otherworldly place that’d captivated my spirit.

Resources:

Jan’s Tips:

    • Off-season visits are highly recommended to avoid the tourist buses and large crowds. This is a very small park, with the bulk of visitors gathering along the most scenic section. You’ll have a challenging time obtaining photos minus strangers if you go during peak season.
    • I stayed at the only campground open in the park in the winter, North Campground. It made for a quick easy drive after sunset and before sunrise. Another good option is Bryce Canyon City which is just a few miles up the road and has two Best Western Motels, as well as a good reasonably-priced restaurant.
    • For winter hiking, expect icy, snowy and muddy trails. The mud is clay; you’ll be messy I can guarantee it! I recommend carrying either shoe chains (i.e. Yaktrax) or microspikes (i.e. Kahtoola MICROspikes) as well as hiking poles.
    • While the vista points and rim views are superb, walking among the giants is out of this world!
    • Free water bottle refilling stations are available at many places in the park including an outdoor station at the visitor’s center.  They also have impressive solar trash compactors. Impressive!
  • Beware of planning too much time for the park. I found myself on sensual overload and found two days sufficient. Head over to Zion National Park or to Grand Staircase Escalante-National Monument for a little visual recovery time.

Utah – Zion NP – Angels Landing (2/3/15)

I love seeing things for the first time. I choose to limit my research of an area so my vision is unclouded by preconceived images, instead allowing my senses to be surprised by the awe of each moment.

Driving through the 1.1 mile tunnel made me feel a bit claustrophobic.

Angels Landing Trail

The first 2 miles is on a paved path to Scout’s Lookout, beginning from the Grotto Trailhead.

The largest section of trail is comprised of these fairly gentle switchbacks.

The next section was my favorite, Walter’s Wiggles, 21 tight switchbacks.

I loved it so much, I took this video of me running down the wiggles. Sadly I was too embarrassed among the many strangers to narrate, so it starts off quiet except for the sound of my pounding footsteps.

After reaching Scout Lookout, the fun begins.

The remaining hike is really a scramble up rock ledges, with chains anchored for assist at places.

and absent chain . . .

So much color and texture within the walls.

Resources:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Consider an off-season visit. February was a great time, especially mid week, with fewer visitors and the ability to drive your own vehicle up the scenic road.
  • Don’t bother taking hiking poles for the Angels Landing trail as it’s paved until the scramble section.
  • I challenge you to find where the Hayduke Trail crosses through Zion NP.
  • Link to blog posts of other hikes I’ve taken in Utah

Colorado – Mesa Verde National Park (2/1/15)

My friend, Joan aka Rambling Hemlock, told me Mesa Verde ranks at or near the top of her list of favorite National Parks. With that kind of a recommendation, how could I not experience it for myself?

First view of the area as I drove up the entrance road to the Visitor’s Center (that’s a Mesa, right?).

You know how I love tunnels, so much fun to see what’s on the other side!

For me, it’s not all about the destination. Heavy frost and recent snow showcased a different kind of beauty.

Archeology 101

Ancient Pueblo Construction 101

I found this display very helpful and informative after my recent discoveries in Utah during my J&J WOW Adventures.

Many examples of these building techniques are showcased throughout the Park. The Mesa Top Loop drive provided easy access to a variety of Pit houses and villages. The main attraction open during the winter, Spruce Tree House, required a ranger-led tour guide.

Spruce Tree House

This 1/2 mile paved trail was oh so scary :)

Pit Houses and Kivas

Resources:

Jan’s Tips:

  • During the winter, plan for at least 4-6 hours to view the open exhibits (remember it takes an hour to drive to the area from Visitor’s Center)
  • There is much more to see during the other three seasons. If you like history and archeology, plan your time accordingly.
  • If interested in exploring beyond the exhibits, there are quite a few hiking trails in the Park.
  • Links to other blog posts about my jaunts in Colorado.

 

Colorado – Durango 101 (1/25/15-1/31/15)

I hadn’t anticipated a side trip to Colorado during this southwest exploration adventure. But when a door opened I said YES please!

image

A monument to celebrate the merging of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah

image

Colorado is called “Colorful Colorado” presumably because of it’s magnificent scenery of mountains, rivers and plains. (per 50states.com)

And when I was invited on a few snowshoes adventures of course I said YES please.

Trip 1Spud Lake

Spud Lake, CO

Trip 2Lime Creek

There was some deep powder at Lime Creek.

Trip 3Molas Pass

Even in the winter, Durango is an active community. We hiked and walked several trails including:

There is a very active hiking club in the Durango area for those 50+ called Seniors Outdoors (SO), currently about 400+ members strong! While I was visiting, a challenging snowshoe adventure was held with 19 members attending. Impressive!

With nearby Fort Lewis College, there are plenty of other opportunities to keep your mind occupied. For example they have a free Life-Long Learning series. While I was there, the college Environmental Center hosted a screening of the film, Wrenched, in celebration of Edward Abbey‘s 88th birthday. As a lover of the wilderness I was quite embarrassed to have not known previously of this environmental activist. His style was a bit too radical for my taste but I can see how sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed to motivate change. With this southwest trip, I’ve found a new beauty and am very glad that it was protected.

While I was visiting, the annual Snowdown winter festival was celebrated, with year’s theme Steam Punk. Watching the parade bundled for cold wet temperatures was a new experience for me. FUN? YES!

After a day of snowshoeing, we took a detour to the quaint town of Silverton. I learned many take the Durango-Silverton train deep into the wilderness areas during backpacking season for trailhead access. What a unique experience to be dropped off and picked up by a train.

The descent into Silverton, CO

Thanks to my outstanding hosts, Janet and Will, I experienced a great introduction to Durango. They were beyond fantastic! I can’t wait to return for a future visit and more exploration.

Utah – J&J WOW Adventures (01/20/15-01/25/15)

Jan and Joan ready for their WOW adventure!

For the next leg of my southwest adventure, Kathy & Craig Copeland’s book, Hiking from Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country, set the stage for Joan & Jan’s WOW adventures! New Gossamer Gear friends Janet and Will helped us narrow down the 90 trails outlined in the book.

The WOW guide introduction says “Your time is short, but the canyons are endless. So we’ve simplified the task . . . with trails most likely to make you say WOW! No okay trails. Not even any pretty good trails. And certainly no trudgemills. Just . . . trips that will get you from here to WOW . . . as swiftly as possible.”

Comb Ridge Canyons

Driving through the Comb Ridge Cut the first time was a WOW moment!

Seeing Comb Ridge was another “WOW!”

While taking a sunset hike, we were WOWED when we happened upon a wall of petroglyphs.

For sunrise we couldn’t help but hike back for another WOW moment.

Nice to know it’s okay to open the gate (thanks WOW guide).

Loved the colors and textures of the rocks

The Ancestral Puebloans sure knew how to pick a home with a view

Procession Panel (notice the parade of people with torches)

My first trek into an Arroyo

Double Stack Ruin (upper level)

Double Stack Ruin (lower level) – Kiva

Double Stack Ruin (lower level) – one of many remaining structures

Double Stack Ruin (lower level) – 700+ year old corn cobs WOW!

Pictographs (vs petroglyphs)

Double Stack Ruin – Alcove

Tinajas (with the recent rains, we found most plenty full and ready for a drink)

Wolfman Panel

Wolfman Panel

Ruins near Wolfman Panel

 

South Fork Mule Canyon

House of Fire Ruin

Waterfall dripping over the alcove

Fresh water!

Kane Gulch

It was a brisk 16 degrees at the trailhead.

Microspikes made this hike possible.

Turkey Pen Ruins

The old turkey pen?

Soot along the walls as evidence of fires within each shelter, imagine living high on the walls, carving the rocks, telling stories around the fire . . .

Junction Ruin (one of the most well preserved due to the protected ledge and difficult access)

The rocks were WOW!

 

 Valley of the Gods and Moki Dugway

What’s a Dugway? First time I’d heard the word.

The Moki Dugway was so much fun to drive, especially at this time of year when there was nary another vehicle and the opportunity existed for plenty of photos and views. Definitely a WOW experience!

Entering Valley of the Gods (another monument valley)

Can you say WOW?

Lady in the Bathtub (see her?)

My favorite – looked like the back of a toy bear and his horse to me.

Sunrise in the Valley of the Gods. WOW right?

The magic hour of light

BAM! Perfect timing to catch the first rays of light.

Enjoy this J&J Good Morning from the Valley of the Gods video with 360 degree views.

Anyone know what this unusual post might represent?

For more photos, see #JJUtahAdventures on Instagram

To learn more about my adventure buddy Joan, see her blog at Rambling Hemlock

A good resource to get started is Utah.com

Bye for now, can’t wait for my next J&J adventure!

 

Utah – Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador Adventures (01/16/15-01/20/15)

My new motto is to take advantage of adventure opportunities. I’d planned a trip to the southwest beginning in late February or early March, but when I received an invite to a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador adventure in Moab, how could I say no? It would be against my new philosophy! Besides that I was looking forward to meeting many of my hiking mentors, especially Christy “Rockin’” Rosander aka Lady on a Rock who began mentoring me 5 years ago. With so many lovers of hiking and gear, I knew I’d be in heaven.

Adventure #1 – Jeep Arch (aka Gold Bar Arch) and Culvert Canyon Trails near Moab

Tunnel hiking with my new friends

Train track hiking along the mighty Colorado River

So nice to have someone else lead the hike. Thanks Will Rietveld!

Look at all those Gossamer Gear packs! Plenty of variety, fit and function.

Jeep Arch not looking much like a jeep from the approach side.

Fellow ambassadors Allison and Christy enjoying the views from inside Jeep Arch.

Now that’s a jeep!

Looking back at Jeep Arch and beyond

Looking at the La Sal Mountains

Adventure #2 – Arches National Park, Windows Arch Trail

Ambassadors Sirena and Allison jumping for joy while Ryan (aka Guthook) captured their leaps.

The shadows are impatient for sunset views

Sunset at Balanced Rock

Adventure #3 – Needles District of Canyonlands, Lost Canyon & Peekaboo Springs Trails

The clouds and monuments were stunning on the drive to the trailhead.

Four granary ruins located in a canyon by April (Bearclaw) and Ryan (Dirtmonger)

Sometimes slick rock requires three to four points of contact; it’s all about crawling and scrambling!

Me, Jan (BeeKeeper), with fellow ambassador Joan (Hemlock)

Adventure #4 – Petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock

Adventure #5 – Island in the Sky District of the Canyonlands, Upheaval Dome Syncline Trail

Cactus and cryptobiotic soil (extremely fragile and long lasting ecological impact by one footstep)

Adventure #6 – Portal Trail near Moab

Looking down at the Green River and Moab

 

Other ambassador blog postings about this trip:

For photos on Instagram, check out #GGUtahAdventures or @JansJaunts