Category Archives: Camping and Backpacking

Road Trip Diaries: The Trek to Mt. Sneffels

A few months before our month-long road trip, Joy and I did some research to create a list of places to hike, camp and backpack. Seeing all the National Parks around the Pacific northwest and southwest were give-ins. However, after years of reading a lot of Backpacker Magazine, I was fairly determined to see stunning turquoise lakes of Mount Sneffels, a “fourteener” located in the southwest corner of Colorado.

So after our visit to Mesa Verde National Park, we made our way along some stormy mountain roads towards the City of Ouray.

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On our way to Ouray. This photo can’t do justice to the views.

We arrived in town around 10 pm. Since everything was closed, we crashed a local campground to rest up and prep for our trip the next day. All I remember was that our “campsite” was a small, rectangular plot — similar to a large parking spot — that was covered in rocks and gravel and had a picnic table and a grill. I made a beef and bell pepper stir fry (my typical quick dinner for this trip) before we went to sleep in our tents. We were out by 6 am the next morning.

Joy is much more adventurous than me, so she was immediately down to backpack Mount Sneffles. I’m a much more cautious backpacker (AKA: scared shitless), so I made sure to visit the ranger station and get a map of the area before venturing out into a wilderness that I had absolutely no knowledge of.

SIDE NOTE: As a California native, I never even knew that storms and monsoons could happen in the middle of the U.S. during the summer. Backpacking the Blue Lakes of Mount Sneffels was our first introduction to this regional seasonal phenomenon. While we weren’t doing an “alpine start” (we didn’t plan on hiking the entire Fourteener) we knew that we needed to end our hike before 12pm in order to avoid Colorado’s summer lightening storms.

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Road Trip Diaries: Hellooooo Colorful Colorado – and Mesa Verde National Park

I’m sad to say that It’s been about four years since I last updated this blog. Grad school and working life has taken its toll. However…it’s back!

So, going back to July of 2013 – after our weeklong travels through the Big 5 of Utah, we made our way to the southwest corner of Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. The weather, while still very warm, was noticeably cooler than what we experienced in Utah. After showering about two times during that hot, dry and sweaty week however, this was exactly what we needed.

 

 

Colorado, the “colorful” state, greeted us with this sign against a plain golden backdrop…

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The Last of Utah (for Now): Canyonlands National Park

Damn. What a year! I’m a bit sad that I haven’t progressed on my goal to finish writing about our awesome National Parks Road Trip from the summer of 2013. Since then I’ve been completely side-tracked by grad school, summer jobs, and other adult life-related activities. Note to all the young people out there: Don’t grow up, it’s horrible (I’m only partially kidding).

Anyway, back to the story:

After finishing a pleasant half-day at Arches National Park, we made our way out of Moab and went back west towards our last stop in Utah: Canyonlands. Of course, most people these days know about Canyonlands due to that whole story about a guy that got his arm caught between some rocks…but we definitely aren’t that hardcore.

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Canyonlands can’t be fully appreciated in just a day’s time, although you can certainly experience some great short hikes and amazing vistas (ABOVE). To truly enjoy Canyonlands, you need a 4WD vehicle, a GPS device, plenty of food and water, and a personal guide who really knows how to navigate the land – that’s how you get to see all the really sketchy and amazing stuff. But we weren’t there to visit the Maze section of the park. Nor the Needles for that matter, since we didn’t have much time. Most causal visitors like us take a day trip through the Island in the Sky.

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But before we could begin our trip to Canyonlands, we first had to find a new place to stay for the night. We tried to find a site at the famous Dead Horse Point State Park — however, we soon found that EVERY site had been taken (the place is quite popular by both families and photographers alike). The ranger at the visitor’s booth was really nice however, and gave us directions to a great little campground down the road.

Little did we know that we’d be staying at one of the most gorgeous (and obscure) little campsites in Utah…

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More Best of Utah: Arches National Park

Man, grad school is NO JOKE. UC Berkeley is especially no joke. I thought I would have a little bit more time in between papers and classes to record all our journeys from our best ever 2013 “Left Coast” National Parks Road Trip…but it was not meant to be. The travel journal will have to be finished in the summer of 2014. It’s Friday night and I should be doing homework right now, but fuck it.

Anyway. Back to the story.

Moab campsite

Joy and I woke up just about the same time that the sun started to rise above the rocks and peak into our tents. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this campsite is the BUSINESS…

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The 2014 Bucket List

I just HAD to interrupt the continuing story of my 2013 National Parks Road Trip for this —

Check out: Buzzfeed’s Astounding Backpacking Trips All Over The World

Torres Del Paine perfection

Torres Del Paine perfection

GAWDAYM. I really, really wish I wasn’t in school sometimes. And…I wish I was married to some rich guy who also likes to travel. RICH MEN, COME TO ME.

So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been debating all the things I want to do now while I’m free as a bird (albeit in debt) and single (and childless – which may be forever, or not…)

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Utah Road Trip Diaries: Camping, Kayaking, and A Lot of Great Stuff in Moab

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After leaving Capitol Reef National Park, we stopped by a local restaurant at the intersection of two main highways that claimed to have some of the “best food” around. It was aiite (I guess their great personalities and effort make up for it). Outside on the patio, we ate our sandwiches and talked to two guys that were on a similar national parks road trip for the past few months. We were incredibly envious. They made it to the Grand Canyon too (my dad kept texting me fire updates and weather reports about Arizona, saying it was like 124 and 126 degrees out there, so we avoided that whole state in general). AND they actually saw bighorn sheep! One of the guys was like, “Yeah, he was a daddy sheep, looking at us all mean-like because he had a baby sheep behind him”. Sounded more like a protective bighorn mama sheep.

As we drove on we continued to see more signs saying “America’s Scenic Highways”. And goddamn, it was truethe land looked fucking AMAZING. Tall, brick-red and dark-colored rock formations surrounded the land around the road. It was almost unreal.

IMG_1581-155The only problem was that we had been going in the wrong direction for quite some time now (and we were almost out of gas, with no stations around for miles). We actually drove to the border of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (also near Natural Bridges) instead of going north towards Moab. We were so SAD to have to turn around (I’ve seen tons of photos of Glen Canyon in Backpacker magazine, and I have to say that it’s definitely a top priority on my next road trip. It looks stunning out there!)

It was so pretty, however, that we just had to get out of the car and take a shitload of photos…

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Utah Travel Diaries: Rocks and More Rocks at Capitol Reef National Park

The next morning we decided to do a few short hikes around Capitol Reef. Joy’s foot blisters still hadn’t healed, and we remained a bit drained from our hike through Escalante’s slot canyons just the day before. I wanted to check out the park’s famous Waterpocket Fold (it looks bananas from the brochure!) but I think that you can only access it by backpacking – or using a heavy-duty 4WD vehicle. We kept shouting excitedly as we drove around the park in the Highlander:

WATERPOCKET FOLD!!!

WATERFOLD POCKET!!!

WATERSHIP DOWN FOLD!!

FOLD THE WATER POCKET!!

POCKET WATERFOLD!!!!

From: http://jakeklim.blogspot.com/2010/06/under-suns-anvil.html

Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold. From: http://jakeklim.blogspot.com/2010/06/under-suns-anvil.html

One of the main short hikes that many visitors tend to love is the hike through the “Grand Wash” – just be careful of flash floods. They say that you should always check the weather reports the day before to see if there are any storms on the horizon. Even an inch of rain a mile away can turn into a devastating flood through a narrow canyon.

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Road Trip Diaries: From Escalante National Monument to Capitol Reef National Park: AKA, The Day We Met The Thirsty Spirit (Part II)

(Continued from my previous post about our trip through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument)

After our fairly “exciting” adventures in the slot canyons, we said goodbye to Escalante and headed out on Highway 12 toward our next destination – Capitol Reef National Park. However, I had heard that the BLM campground at Calf Creek was pretty nice (it also contains the trailhead for the gorgeous-looking “Calf Creek Falls hike“), so we did a short pit stop to check it out.

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A site at Calf Creek campground

Oh man. It was pretty dope. The campground was small and so scenic. Almost every site was secluded and surrounded by trees and tall carved rocks. If you’re able to secure a spot (the campground seems to be pretty popular), that seems to be one of the best campsites to stay at in the Escalante area.

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Highway 12 to Capitol Reef

The sky darkened overhead as we tried to race toward our next destination before nightfall. As a light rain pelted our windshield, we watched as our surrounding scenery progressively changed around us. Instead of bare dry rock for as far as the eye could see, we were now surrounded by a mixture of tall dark pine and glowing white aspen trees along the highway. It was refreshing.

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As we began to approach the park, we could see tall, brightly colored rock formations rise up around us like sculpted rainbow mountains. I haven’t heard much about Capitol Reef, but it looks like a photographer’s playground…

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Utah Diaries: From Escalante State Park to Burgers in Boulder

We were pretty beat as we drove away from Bryce Canyon National Park. After an all day hike amongst the hoodoos, we had to drive a few hours to our next stop: Escalante. Actually – to be honest – we didn’t really know what our next stop would be. I guess that’s the beauty of going on a road trip! A month ago when we were planning our trip, I saw a picture of some gorgeous slot canyons/land formations in a Utah tourist magazine, and decided that we had to go and check out that area. It was in Escalante, but we really didn’t know what that meant. Escalante National Monument? Escalante State Park and Petrified Forest? Escalante city? We had no idea.

As we drove on, we passed by buffalo farms on the roadsides, and miles and miles of the most beautiful landscape ever. No wonder this highway (Highway 12, I believe?) has been designated as one of the “Top Most Scenic Highways of America”. I honestly thought they were lying at first. But then it just kept getting better and better:

Jumping for joy

Jumping for joy

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Mountains of red and tan rock as far as the eyes can see. Check out the highway on the bottom right.

Unfortunately, when we rolled into the town of Escalante, the visitor center had already closed (it was already past 5 pm). Joy was still sick and pretty tired, so while there were many places we could have camped at, I made an executive decision to stop and stay at Escalante State Park (and Petrified Forest – it was so cute). It also had a lake/reservoir nearby, and it was getting late. Joy likes water. I thought it might be a good match for us…

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