Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Isaac Canyon

On Tuesday, June 29, 2010 Eric and I went canyoneering in Zion National Park. We teamed up with two park rangers who were off duty and also looking for an adventure. The canyon we chose to explore is nicknamed "Isaac" canyon and drains into the Court of the Patriarchs which is a side drainage off of the main Zion Canyon. This canyon has not seen many descents and in fact may have not been visited for several years judging the condition of the rappel anchors. Our day in St. George began at 4:30 a.m. as we crawled out of bed early in an effort to arrive in Zion and meet up with Andrew and Brandon and get on the trail. The morning was cool and the trail shaded for the first couple of hours as we trudged upward with heavy packs towards the West Rim. After three hours of steep trail we arrived at the drop in point above Phantom Valley. Two tricky raps into Phantom and then a beautiful scramble over slickrock following the water way past many pools of clear water. As the drainage "slots up" we donned our wet suits and neoprene gloves and proceeded into a beautiful slot full of water. A few of the pools proved challenging to get past but soon enough we arrived at the confluence of 4 canyons. In the past I had always continued down the main slot of Heaps canyon until the final series of raps into the Upper Emerald Pool. This time we chose to ascend the South Fork of Heaps up to it's saddle and then canyoneer down Isaac canyon. The ascent was strenuous and had a surprisingly large amount of snow in the base of the canyon. Many knee high bushes of wild raspberries jabbed our skin as we hiked and scrambled up to the saddle. The descent down Isaac was slow going and a bit difficult with lots of bush-wacking and assisted down climbs. We replaced or placed webbing on 4 different anchors (some being completely absent). The final rappel necessitated placing a bolt to make the anchor safe and acceptable. This rap was about 250 feet and required some skill and endurance. Eric did very well with this canyon, but he did mention that he never wanted to do it ever again. We finally arrived back to the road and my truck 14 hours after starting out in the morning. No need for our head lamps, but we did consume most of our food and water. We finished off the day with a delicious burger from Oscars in Springdale. This is often the favorite part of the day for Eric and I as we talk about or hike that day and quell our appetite. Once again a day well spent in the back country of Zion. It will take a few days for the soreness to pass in our muscles as we pushed quite hard all day long to do this canyon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Great Basin with the Scouts

For summer camp I took our scout troop to Great Basin National Park. We started with the hike up to the Bristlecone Forest and looked at and touched trees that are over 3,000 years old. The night was spent in the Wheeler Peak campground where we had some dutch oven cooking. Early the next morning we started our hike up Wheeler Peak. The trail had long stretches of snow drifts, but the real challenge of the day was gusty winds. A brief cold front swept across the range while we were hiking. Gusts up to 60 mph buffeted us. Only scouts with their dads along made it to the 13,000 foot summit. In the afternoon we toured the Lehman Cave. It was my 3rd visit to the cave, but it was still very worthwhile. Incredible formations in that cave! That evening we drove south to the Snake Creek drainage and traveled up the dirt road to the Shoshone trail head where we found a delightful spot to camp among the aspens with a tumbling creek nearby. With the cool night air, soft grassy place to pitch the tent and the sound of rushing water, I slept very well that night. The next morning I helped several scouts pack their backpacks for a few nights in the back country. It is still amazing what some scouts will attempt to bring into the back country making their packs unnecessarily heavy. I threw out several items for them to leave behind. Good thing too, because the trail to Johnson Lake was uphill the whole way. We found the lake to be mostly frozen and had to carefully search for spots to pitch our tents. The ridge above the lake was plastered with snow and a large steep cornice blocked the trail over the pass. I then scouted a route up a steep rocky area to the right of the trail. It seemed plausible, but several of the scouts expressed their doubts. Nevertheless, the next morning I led the scout troop up through the rocky ledges, scrubby pine trees and snow fields to the ridge. It took two hours with them what had taken me 30 minutes the evening before. We then finished the hike up to the summit of Pyramid Peak. Sunny and clear, but still fairly cold. The rest of the trip was downhill. We didn't camp at Baker Lake as it was even more socked in with ice and snow. It is a beautiful lake with spectacular cliffs surrounding it. We made our camp further down the trail out of the snow near some clear, cold springs. Another good night out under the stars and soon we were to the trailhead. The days were long and the nights short at this time of the year. The stars at night were fantastic as there are no large cities near Great Basin National Park. The troop did a good job and in the end we had done all that we had planned on doing. It was especially fun to have shared this with Eric. He is getting tall and strong and clearly handled the trip with no problem and helped the other scouts often. He particularly liked all of the "glissading" we did during the trip. Sure beats an organized scout camp!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Lake Powell May 2010

Rebecca graduated from high school this past week. It was a fine day and many family members came and celebrated with her. Debbie joined her on the senior trip as a chaperone. They left immediately after graduation. I had no desire to join thousands of crazy graduates roaming Disneyland all night long. This left Eric and I home alone. Therefore the next morning we hooked up the Mastercraft and headed over to Powell. Usually our trips to Powell last only 1 night. This time we planned on spending at least 2 nights on the lake. We were joined by his friend Sam and his dad Alan. The marina was surprisingly quiet for this time of the year as we launched in the afternoon. We soon found out why this may have been the case. High winds, the bane of Lake Powell. With a small crew and 3 days of time we decided to boat way up lake and visit the San Juan arm of the lake. A stop at Dangling Rope Marina to top off my tanks and we were off again. Soon we were past the side canyon to Rainbow Bridge and seeing sections of the lake that we had seldom visited if ever. The winds were fairly steady, but with it at our backs it made the going quite reasonable. We started up the San Juan arm and initially saw a few other boaters and one or two houseboats. It wasn't long before it was obvious that there were few people venturing up this large branch of Lake Powell. Three hours into our travel we began to look for a good place to set up camp on a beach. We soon discovered that there were few good beaches up the San Juan and with the stiff wind there were even less protected spots. Finally we pulled into a slim beachfront and tied off the boat. I had to put 4 lines on the boat to secure it adequately in the wind and waves. No wake boarding the first evening. Fortunately the winds died down considerably during the night. The next day I got in a fine morning ski, but soon the darn winds started up again. The second day was spent mostly exploring by foot a couple of side canyons. Eric and I looked for some Anasazi ruins but were unsuccessful in locating any. We did get in some surfing behind the boat and enjoyed some time listening to the stereo on the boat and soaking up some sun. We saw only one other boat for 30 seconds on the second day. The third day did bring us better weather and we boarded and surfed our way down the lake eventually arriving back to Wauweap late afternoon for the take out. Once again I had thoughts of staying another night on the lake as it is so fun and relaxing boating and exploring Powell. One side canyon was particulary beautiful that we traveled up. It was called "Reflection Canyon" and I hope to visit it again some day.