Tag Archives: hiking

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.


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.


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.


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 f*** 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. Oh my god it was beautiful. And we completely lucked out by getting the massive group campsite. We could have put on a horse show with the amount of camping real estate we had to ourselves. THANK YOU Bureau of Land Management!

Our next stop was the iconic Arches National Park. We tried to set out early to avoid the midday heat, but by the time we got to the visitor center and filled up our water containers, it was already about 8:30 AM or 9 AM. That was a little on the late side. This place gets baking HOT, so there’s warning signs everywhere about making sure to bring enough water and wearing a lot of sunscreen/protective clothing.

IMG_1707-167 I think that, by this time, we had been in Utah for about 6 days or so. That meant that for the past 6 days, we were constantly hot, sweaty, and pretty filthy. Since Arches doesn’t really involve long hikes or backpacking trips, we decided on doing a short, half day trip to the park to appreciate some arches…and then be on our way to find a shower (at least, that was on my itinerary).

Joy had been to Arches as a kid and had already seen the famous Delicate Arch, so we decided to drive to the farther ends of the park to Devil’s Garden do the shorter hikes for Landscape Arch and a some other arches. The hike was so short and mild (relatively speaking) that I actually just wore flip flops. I don’t recommend that, but yeah. After doing 10-15 mile days, hiking just a few miles in a family-friendly park is like walking to the store.

I wish we could have seen more of the park (I wanted to do the 4 mile RT hike to Delicate Arch, and some more adventurous scrambling around the Fiery Furnace area), but Joy’s blisters still hadn’t healed and we remained a bit exhausted from hiking around Utah for a week in the dry summer heat.
IMG_1712-168The first arch we hit up was Landscape Arch. I don’t know why they call it so, I think it looks more like a “Delicate” Arch. Or more like a “Land Bridge” Arch.


Rainbow Pony also had a chance to appreciate the loveliness of the Arch.


CHECK OUT some of the gorgeous photos from our hike (by hitting the To Be Continued link)…!

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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


After leaving Capitol Reef NP, 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 just aiite (I guess their nice personalities and great effort makes up for it). Outside on the patio, we ate our sandwiches and talked to two guys that had been on a similar national parks road trip for a few months. We were so jealous! They went to the Grand Canyon too (my dad kept texting me fire updates and weather reports about Arizona, saying it was like 124 and 126, 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 sheep mama.

 As we drove on we continued to see more signs saying “America’s Scenic Highways”. And, ooohhhhmygod, it was true – the land looked sofuckingAMAZING!! Tall, brick-red and dark-colored rock formations surrounded the land around the road. Unfckingreal.

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:


Amphitheater-like dome


Dark stripes of water stains on red and tan rock


Looking out towards Glen Canyon

Luckily the Highlander just barely made it to the next gas station about 26 miles out. We headed northeast this time – on our way to MOAB!

IMG_1617It was evening when we arrived in the city. So gorgeous.

IMG_1623Instead of staying in town, however, we stayed true to our camping roots and found an awesome little BLM campsite on the edge of town. It ran alongside the Colorado river right next to the highway, but it looked really nice. We soon found out however that all the campsites had been taken up for the night. One campsite that was vacant, however, were the incredibly humongous group campsites at the end of the grounds. We asked the camp host if we could just pay and stay there for a night, and were elated when he said that we could. IT WAS HUGE!!!

Hot, sweaty, and lacking shower facilities for the past few days, I went over to one of the eight picnic tables on our campsite and began to take a shower. I didn’t care that it was a dry campground (no running water) and that I had to use our own water reserves; I was disgusting and something had to be done about it. However, I have to say that there’s nothing more peaceful or liberating than taking a butt-nekkid makeshift sponge-bath/shower on a pitch black night during the middle of a Utah summer. It was like 75 degrees at the time. So relaxing.

We soon found out however, that boats would go up and down the Colorado river at night. A large truck would drive slowly back and forth down the highway, shining its bright stadium lights on the tall rock mountains bordering the river. It was pretty bizarre (The next day we found out that a  certain Colorado tour company conducts nighttime river tours. I think it actually has a religious theme to it. Oh, Utah…).
IMG_1633When we woke up in the morning and looked around….OH MAN. We couldn’t have picked a more amazingly gorgeous campground to stay at!!!!


Those same tall rock walls in the morning


My little REI Campdome tent against a stunning backdrop

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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.


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.


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.


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.

capitol reef P1110082

The aptly-named Fruita campground doesn’t have much to see outside of a large orchard of apricot trees on the side (Capitol Reef, by the way, allows visitors to come and pick fruit during the harvesting seasons!). The campground has a very basic “parking lot”type layout with just a few trees at a lot of lawn at each site – and absolutely no privacy. Despite the occasional patch of rain, timed sprinklers were still watering the lawns around us. I was tired, sweaty, and desperate to take a bath. Since there were no showers (just bathrooms) in our campground, I wandered over to a sprinkler with a rag and a towel to rinse my sweat-covered skin off


Our “oh so scenic” site at the Fruita campground

Right after we arrived, Joy started to cook our pasta dinner (we took turns cooking each meal). The rain was still a bit of an issue, however. Since our site’s table and benches were cold and wet, I stayed in my tent and rested as she filled up our jugs with water and prepped our meal.

About two hours later, I heard her go into her tent and say, “OH MY GOD”.

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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


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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Utah’s Bryce Canyon: Winner of the “Most Out-Of-This-World Hike in a National Park” Award


It’s still gorgeous: outside of Zion National Park

We could have definitely stayed at Zion for another week or so, but Joy and I were only at the beginning of our National Parks road trip – we had just a little over 3 weeks left. This is how awesome Zion is: we met two Canadian guys on the Zion shuttle back to our car who said that they had driven all the way from Vancouver to Utah, JUST to hike and backpack Zion National Park!! They only had like a week and a half for the entire trip, so they pretty much drove down for a few days, spent a few days in Zion, and turned around and went straight back to Canada. No other stops along the way.

P1100722-105As we made the drive towards Bryce Canyon National Park, we stopped to hit up a mini-mart to get some snacks for the road. The store carried hardcover Babysitters Club books and used leather cowboy boots! (the kid who worked the store said that the owner “was kinda weird” and liked to stock his store with interesting stuff). But we just bought drinks and sour straw candy. We on a budget, ya know.

babysitter club book


It was about 5 pm and cloudy when we rolled into the park. The air was muggy but cool (much cooler than Zion), sunlight beamed around the clouds, and the land was beautiful. Mule deer and their babies ate peacefully along the sides of the road as we drove past them towards the hoodoos.

After the sun set, we drove around to secure a campsite. While you can crash the campsites (there’s a few in the park), the good camp sites aren’t guaranteed (many people, it seems, do make reservations in advance). We ended up driving to the North campground where we settled in a nice spot with a lot of space in the middle of a loop. Some sites on the edges of the campground however, have amazing views of the hoodoos from their “backyard”! There’s probably only a few of them, but STILL. That must have been an amazing experience.

The next day, however, made all our campsite-finding problems totally worth it…

Bryce Canyon

View from the overlook

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