OUR BLOG

Photos from some of our hikes in 2018.  The Blog posts are just below the photos.

(Until July of 2016, if you clicked on the photos, they will take you to our trip photo logs on Picasa.  But then Google decided to make that impossible, even though they had provided us with both the website software and the compatible Picasa software so that we COULD do that.  Now the photos are on Google Photos, where we cannot make albums visible to the public.  We HATE Google photos.)



             Closer to home: Sonora in the fall                                  Twenty Lakes Basin at dusk
                                                                                                                      

                
                                        
South lake in a gale                                                           Daniel and friends in Yosemite

                     
    

                    Arches National Park                                                 Zion National Park


Southwest Part III: From Newspaper Rock to Home

posted by Paul Wagner

With legs and arms itching from all the gnat bites we got in Hovenweep, we drove north to Lowry Pueblo, and camped in a small campground near the highway at Devil's Canyon. 

This gave us time to revisit the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, which has an astonishing exhibit of Ancient Puebloan artifacts, and this year also has a major exhibit encouraging those who find such artifacts to report them and document them, rather than stealing them.  Good advice, and it was missing last year. 

And while Hovenweep was warm and full of nasty gnats, Devils Canyon was cool and pleasant.  We really enjoyed camping there in the pines and near the mountains. 

The next day was the gorgeous drive into Canyonlands National Park.  This time we were visiting the Needles District, and that meant driving by Newspaper Rock, one of the best rock art sites in the Southwest.  We spent quite a long time there, working our way through the more than one thousand images on the rock. 

We had a reservation at the Needles Campground, but at least in the morning when we arrived this proved unnecessary, as there were still six or eight sites available in the other section of the campground.  We drove the scenic loop, hiked the Roadside Ruins, Pothole, and Cave Spring Trails, and generally explored this part of  Canyonlands.  We even took in a ranger talk at the amphitheater before taking in the magical sunset. 




From here, we had a free-from outline for the rest of our trip.  We had reservations at the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef in a few days, but other than that, our itinerary was open.  We decided to see if we could get a campsite at Natural Bridges National Monument, so drove there directly in the morning.  And we were successful, although we got the very last site available in the campground. at noon. 

That allowed us to wander back down the highway to hike the Mule Canyon Trail for a while, checking out the canyon floor and the amazing ruins above.  We really liked this hike, and saw only a few people on the trail all afternoon.  The year before, we had stopped at Butler Wash Ruins, so we passed on those this time. 

It was getting warmer, summer was arriving, and we ate our dinner in the shade on the table P had made using a portion of our bed platform and some crew-in legs.  And it worked like a charm!

The next day we took advantage of the cool morning hours to hike down to Sipapu Bridge and wander around through the White River Canyon to the Horsecollar Ruins and beyond.  This might have been our favorite hike.  The drop down into the canyon was fun, with a few ladders and rock stairs, and then once in the canyon we were delighted by the cool burbling water of the stream, the singing birds, the lush vegetation, and the trail itself.  And then we discovered the wall of handprints, and the Horsecollar ruin, and our adventure was complete. Really cool.


We decided to take the rest of the day to drive to Torrey and camp up in the trees on Boulder Mountain.  This is a truly scenic drive, and we loved every minute of it.  But the closer we got to Torrey, the worse the weather looked.  Traffic onto the Bullfrog Notom road was being monitored by local law enforcement because of flooding, and Boulder Mountain was invisible in the thunderheads.  So instead of camping, we took our second hotel night of the trip, and stayed in a hotel in Torrey.  Cleaned up and rested, we then invited ourselves to go out to dinner at the Capital Reef Café, a favorite from our visit last year.  It did not disappoint.  Really good, honest food served with charm. 

We could still use our reservations at Fruita, but we decided to start our way West again.  So we cancelled those and drove to Fremont Indian State Park, highly recommended by a ranger in Zion.  His recommendation was spot on.  This is an absolute treasure of rock art, and the museum also has quite a few nice artifacts, all rescued when the State Highway was routed right through an ancient Fremont Indian village site.  We loved it.  In fact, we loved it so much that we decided to camp there for the night, in a leafy campsite along side a chuckling brook.  This in western Utah.

We spent the rest of that day and the morning of the next exploring about eight of the various numbered viewpoints and trails within the park, often using the free trail guides that were provided by the visitor center staff.  Just wonderful.  In the morning, after we explored the Cave of a Hundred Hands (we didn't think there were quite so many) and the museum again, we aimed Le Vin Blanc towards the Pacific and started driving. 

There were quite a few options for a stopping place for the night:  Cathedral Gorge in Nevada (we stopped there for lunch), or one of the USFS camping areas North of Tonopah.  But we were tired, and home was calling.  By the time we stopped for gas in Tonopah and had a brief chat with the local Sheriff about our speed (just a warning, no citation) we decided that we would see how far we could get. 

And it turned out that was pretty far.  We drove right past Boundary Peak (over 13,000 feet and completely snow covered near the California border) through the fascinating area to the South and East of Mono Lake, and by the time we were in Bridgeport, it was time for dinner and we were only two hours from our cabin. 

Besides, we wanted to see what kind of snow was still on top of Sonora Pass, where we hope to do a little hiking this summer.  And after hot showers, we dropped off to sleep in our own cabin beds before ten o'clock. 

Here's a link to the photos from the whole darn trip; https://photos.app.goo.gl/usiGxenTHKqTxip27
 


Southwest Part II: From Hopi to Hovenweep

posted Jun 16, 2019, 7:05 AM by Paul Wagner


After a really nice few short hikes at Lees Ferry, we packed up and headed to Second Mesa, where we were going to spend the first of two nights that we spent in hotels on this trip.  We had a reservation at the Hopi Cultural Center. 
But on our way, we stopped off to see Coal Mine Canyon, which sits just a mile or so off the highway, but gets very little attention.  We spend a really nice hour or two exploring the rim, taking photos, and eating at the windy picnic area above it.  We also enjoyed our conversation there with a nice young Navajo man who had been living in Washington State and was spending a few hours reconnecting with one of his favorite places in his homeland.  His enthusiasm for Coal Mine Canyon only added to our enjoyment. 

The Hopi Cultural Center consists of a nice, clean, basic hotel, a restaurant which serves local food to a mainly local clientelle, and nice gift shop, and a museum that did not open while we were there.  Oh well.  The clean sheets, hot showers, and large portions of food all filled a need!   And then we drove off to Chaco Canyon.

This was the main purpose for our trip, and it didn't disappoint.  The famously difficult dirt road from the South was really quite easy---we drove most of it at 35 mph or so--and there were enough campsites that we could pick and choose a bit.  We chose one quite close to the wall of ruins and petroglyphs that run along the West side of the campground. 


Chaco is the heartland of the ancient Puebloan culture, and it is just chock full of massive ruins, wonderful petroglyphs, and other surprises.  What a treat!  Over the next few days we visited Chetro Ketl, Pueblo Bonito, Pueblo Arroyo, Pueblo Rinconada, Pueblo Alto, Penasco Blanco, Casa Chiquita, and Una Vida.  And we just loved it.  The rangers were full of information and helpful advice--we took two tours with them of some of the pueblos--and seemed to appreciate our enthusiasm as well. 



Among the highlights were seeing the ruins, wandering the canyon walls looking for rock art, climbing up and down the Puebloan staircase on the trail to Pueblo Alto, gazing over the potsherds that littered the middens at Penasco Blanco, and find our own little petroglyph by accident.



I happened like this.  We were hiking the trail to and from Penasco Blanco, and it was a warm and windy day.  It was lunchtime, and P started to look for a quiet and possibly shady spot for us to eat our lunch.  As he walked along the trail, he noticed a small alcove with a natural bench in it, in the shade, just ten or fifteen feet off the trail.  Perfect.  he sat down and starting pulling lunch out of our daypack.  M walked up to join him just a minute or two later, and as we sat and started eating, her eyes got very large and she said:  "Look behind you!" 

Sure enough right there behind us were a series of small petroglyphs, probably left there by some Ancient Puebloan 800 years ago as he rested on the bench and ate his lunch on a warm and windy day.  Very very cool. 

The road North out of Chaco is a bit worse---the two miles closest to the park are the bumpiest--but from there we then drove up to Aztec to see the ruins there, and continued on to spend a few more days at Mesa Verde, which we loved last year.  This time we hiked the wonderful trail to Petroglyph Point, and visited Weatherill Mesa to see Step House, Badger Community, and take a ranger guided tour of Long House.  And we used the park as a base of operations for a day of exploring the Anazasi Heritage Center  of Canyons of the Ancients in Dolores as well. 


A great park, and the campground has both a laundromat and free showers.  Pure luxury. 


And to wrap up this part of our trip, we drove out to Yucca House, where the absolutely slick mud on the road from an irrigation line sidetracked us briefly--the local farmer very kindly pulled us out with his tractor--and then hiked into Rock Creek Canyon to see one of the most amazing collections of ruins. They were simply everywhere. 


And we drove through a dramatic thunderstorm to end up at Hovenweep to explore the parts that we had not see before:  Holly, Hackberrry, Horseshoe.  Unfortunately a new landowner has made access to Cutthroat impossible, so we missed that one, but we did manage to get eaten alive by the local biting gnats, all in one evening.  My goodness but they were nasty!

The good news is that we only experienced them one night, at Hovenweep.  But their bites stayed with us for days afterwards. 

Sometimes you don't know how good you have it...

posted Jun 14, 2019, 10:00 AM by Paul Wagner

It's happened quite a few times over the past five years, as we visited some of the more famous national parks:  Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, etc. 

While we calmly walked by the many deer that were wandering around near the trail, many of our European visitors were stunned.  They excitedly took photo after photo of the deer, often calling our attention to them.  "Do you see these?" The would ask in amazement.

Yep.  We saw them.  They look suspiciously like the deer that eat most of our plants at the cabin, and who demolished M's family rose bushes in Berkeley fifty years ago. 

We take them for granted.  We even resent the damage they do in our yards.  But it's nice to be reminded that in Europe, these are rare and wild animals.  And we get to see them so often that we think nothing of it. 

These were in Zion, in the campground, to the delight of our German neighbors. 

 

Southwest Trip Part I: Barstow to Lees Ferry

posted Jun 13, 2019, 9:29 AM by Paul Wagner

Part I of a three-part summary of our recent trip to the Southwest:

We left our cabin near Sonora in the rain, happy that the few plants in the yard were going to get additional water this spring.  (Little did we know that would continue on and off for the whole trip!)  First night was at Owl Creek Canyon outside of Barstow, one of our regular stops for this part of the country.  $3 a night with our senior pass, and so far we've never had trouble finding a site. 

The next morning we drove through Vegas, with a quick stop at T-Mobile to fix an issue with P's new phone, and then on to camp at Valley of Fire State Park. 
This one really exceeded our expectations.  The landscape was classic red rock, but what really charmed us were the petroglyphs on the Mouse Tank Trail--far better than we expected.  The Fire Wave seemed a bit oversold, but it made for a nice extra mile or two of hiking.  And that night P played a bit of guitar in the campground, only to look up when he was done to see a crowd seated on the road, appreciative of his efforts.  Very sweet.

Day three woke up to a light rain, and we drove through Overton (Do not Miss the Lost City Museum there, a tribute to the Pueblo ruins that were flooded during the hoover Dam construction--a really nice collection!).  We shopped for food in St. George, marveled at the massive new gated communities that surround that town, and camped at Snow Canyon State Park, with free showers! 

We took the rest of the day to clean up and do some minor hiking around the campground. 
Since it rained most of the next night, we woke up to see a waterfall gushing down the slickrock near our campsite.  Pretty cool.  We hiked the Hidden Pinon trail and got caught in a downpour, then hiked Jenny's Canyon and the Pioneer Names, dodging sprinkles all day long. 

Time for Zion.  We started by driving to see the Kolob Creek part of Zion, since that was closed the last time we were here.  It was still showering from time to time, and we decided to pass up the Taylor Creek hike since it involved crossing the creek about fifty times in the first two miles, and the creek was a toasty 38 degrees F. 




For lunch we headed down into Zion Canyon, ate at the brew pub, and then took the shuttle up canyon to hike the River Trail towards the narrows. 

The Narrows themselves were closed due to high water---the Virgin River was a raging torrent thanks to all the rain, and Observation Point, Hidden Canyon, Kayenta, and the Upper Emerald Pools trails were all closed due to rockfalls--so we wandered back into camp for dinner an early night. 

We had loved the Par'us Trail last visit, so the next morning we hiked it again, and enjoyed it just as much.  Took the shuttle up to the lodge to get a sandwich for lunch and then decided to hike Angel's Landing.  Lots of people on this trail, and we were a bit worried about M's sore foot, but it held up reasonably well. 

We made it up to the chains in good order, where M called and halt and P continued on for a bit.  But my goodness there were a lot of people on this trail.  After fighting through the crowds to the first landing, P took a break, started up the second section, and got trapped behind a large group of people who were really struggling.  And then that group me a similar group headed back down the other direction, P bailed.  There was a window behind him, and he took it.  The next day, the Park Service announced that it would be limiting the traffic on that trail, and people were waiting up to two hours to hike it. 

We raced the rain back down the trail, ate lunch at the Grotto picnic area, and then took the shuttle to the Visitor's Center where we bought a couple of books and headed to camp for a nap.  It rained most of the rest of evening, although we did manage to eat dinner outside during a dry spell. 

The next day we hiked the Watchman Trail, which was much longer and more interesting than we had been led to believe.  Again, we were being chased by rain, but avoided most of the sprinkles.  Since it rained most of the afternoon we took that opportunity to go into town and do laundry and shopping, and after a dinner of canned chili we walked around through the entire c
ampground, inspecting all the rigs and systems, before heading to bed. 

Day 8:  Up early and driving out of Zion before the mad rush.  We stopped to hike the upper part of the East Rim Trial, which was simply lovely in the bright sunshine.  From there we drove into Kanab to eat lunch at the Kanab Bakery and buy Idahoan Potato Soup at Glazer's Market--the only place we've been able to find it!  From there we drove to the Toadstool Trail on our way to Page, where we camped at the Waowheap campground, took showers, and found a campsite near a family with a video projector aimed at their RV.  Quite a sight!

 


We didn't have a plan for the next day, but we wanted to see Lees Ferry, even if we couldn't get a campsite there on a Saturday night.  But we loved the drive, stopped at the new parking area for the Gooseneck,   and found a few sites available once we found the campground.  Perfect.  We loved it.  Hiked part of the Spencer Trail to get a good overview, hiked along the River Trail to watch the rafters, hiked up Paria Canyon a little bit to see the old farming area, and walked out on the Navajo Bridge where we saw a condor perched on the supports of the newer bridge.  Very cool. 


In Part II we head to ruins central:  Chaco Canyon, Aztec, Mesa Verde and Hovenweep.

Lots of Adventures

posted Jun 12, 2019, 3:55 PM by Paul Wagner

It's been a wild start to the year.  We spent a week in Death Valley, then a week in Vancouver, then two weeks in Arizona visiting Canyon de Chelly and Grand Canyon.  After that, it was ten days in Europe on the Rhone River thanks to Expedia Cruise Ship Center. and then two weeks in Southeast Asia courtesy of Crystal Cruises.

You'd think we would have been exhausted by all of that, but instead we jumped in Le Vin Blanc and headed back to the Southwest, to Zion and Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and Hovenweep, Canyonlands and Natural Bridges--a total of 24 days and about 100 miles of day hikes, since we're still nursing M's sore heel.

So for the next few weeks we're going to hang around the house, get caught up on all the things we missed, and wait for the snow to melt in the Sierra.  Given how long we've been away, that should take us some time!

And just in case you think we're kidding about the snow, here is a photo we took a couple of days ago as we crossed over Sonora Pass.  There's still a lot of snow there.  This was taken at about 8500 feet...




Yosemite's High Sierra Camps will not open!

posted Jun 11, 2019, 2:25 PM by Paul Wagner

2019 High Sierra Camp Reservation Update
Yosemite National Park has measured the snowpack in the Tuolumne River basin to be an average of 176% as of April 1, 2019. Please note the High Sierra Camps will not open this year due to high snowpack. We are in the process of contacting guests with the option of a transfer to 2020 or a refund.

This has happened only a few times (3?) since 1985.  There is just too much snow.  And once the snow is finally gone, there is all the work to set up the camps and repair the damage from the previous winter.  By that time, it will have started snowing again...no time to actually book the guests and make any revenue at all.

For us backpackers, this also means that the outhouses and, more importantly, the water faucets at the camps will not be in service.  We never really liked hiking through the camps, with their crowds of people, but it was always nice to fill up our water bottles without filtering!

We're back

posted Jun 11, 2019, 6:14 AM by Paul Wagner

From a long trip to the Southwest, from Valley of Fire to Chaco Canyon, and many places in between.  We'll post the whole report later, but here are a couple of photos to get you started:


A great panel of rock art in Valley of Fire State Park



And a sign we loved!

It's still pretty snowy in the SIerra….so we'll be looking for ways to hike without getting washed away by the high water, or wandering around in the snow....


And more...!

posted May 16, 2019, 6:23 AM by Paul Wagner

National Weather Service RENO NV
350 PM PDT Mon May 13 2019

CAZ070>073-NVZ001>005-150000-
Surprise Valley California-Lassen-Eastern Plumas-
Eastern Sierra Counties-Greater Lake Tahoe Area-Mono County-
Mineral and Southern Lyon Counties-Greater Reno-Carson City-
Minden Area-Western Nevada Basin and Range including Pyramid Lake-
Northern Washoe County-
Including the cities of Cedarville, Eagleville, Fort Bidwell,
Portola, Susanville, Westwood, Sierraville, Loyalton,
South Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, Truckee, Markleeville, Bridgeport,
Coleville, Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, Hawthorne, Yerington,
Smith Valley, Mina, Schurz, Stateline, Glenbrook,
Incline Village, Sparks, Verdi, Gardnerville, Virginia City,
Fernley, Fallon, Lovelock, Silver Springs, Nixon, Imlay, Empire,
and Gerlach
350 PM PDT Mon May 13 2019

...COLD AND WINDY FROM MIDWEEK INTO THE WEEKEND WITH PERIODS OF
RAIN AND SNOW...

The recent warmth will come to an end by the middle of this week
as a cold storm system sets up over the west. High temperatures by
Thursday may only reach into the 50s to near 60 degrees for
western Nevada valleys. While clouds and wind are likely to keep
overnight lows above freezing, a few colder pockets are possible
in outlying valley locations, which could affect sensitive
vegetation. Below average temperatures look to continue through
the weekend.

Breezy to windy conditions are expected to continue through this
week. Afternoon and evening wind gusts of 25-40 mph are likely,
with stronger winds possible by Sunday. Expect choppy to rough
conditions on area lakes, travel difficulties for high profile
vehicles in wind prone locations along I-580, Highways 395 and 95,
and turbulence and mountain wave activity for aviation interests.

Periods of rain and high elevation snow are also likely beginning
Wednesday, lasting through the weekend and possibly through the
middle of next week. The most likely period for widespread rain
will be late Wednesday night into Thursday morning, with another
round of rain and snow for a portion of the weekend.

Snow levels will begin above 8000 feet Wednesday evening, but
fall to near 6000 feet by Thursday night. Above 8000 feet, heavier
snowfall amounts of 5-10 inches are possible above 8000 feet late
Wednesday night through Thursday morning, with lighter snowfall
amounts down to lake level by Thursday night. Roadways could be
impacted during the overnight hours, with daytime accumulation
unlikely due to warmer daytime road temperatures during this time
of the year.

Anyone with outdoor plans Wednesday through the weekend,
especially in the Sierra, may want to have a backup option in
place.

Just when you thought it was safe...

posted May 15, 2019, 6:21 AM by Paul Wagner

There's another big storm coming to the Sierra this week, one that should bring as much as a foot of snow to the high country, and snow down to 6500 feet.  That's below the rim of Yosemite Valley.

We know many of you are getting pretty darn frustrated with the fact that this year is going to be a short season for backpackers.  The snow pack is still at about 150% of normal, and that number will go up this week.  Tioga Pass, often open by Memorial Day, may not open until late June---and that's just the road itself.   The trails out of Tuolumne Meadows

 are going to have a lot of snow on them well past that date. 

We've already decided that we won't be doing much Sierra hiking in May or June.  Maybe conditions will improve by July, but so will the population of mosquitoes.  This is going to be a year for August, September, and, if we're lucky, some hiking into October!

Meanwhile, we've been busy in another way.  P was invited to speak on a couple of wine cruises this spring, and we've spent the last month floating down the Rhone River in France, and then sailing from Singapore to Hong Kong via Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.  That may explain why we haven't posted much here....but with a few short exceptions, we're in the Good Ol' USA for the whole summer, and looking forward to it!

Here are a couple of images from those adventures:

Singapore in the read view mirror:


And a Cambodia temple...

How much snow is there?

posted Apr 24, 2019, 5:26 PM by Paul Wagner

Cal Trans posted this video of their team moving the snow around and trying to get the Tioga Pass Road open. 


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