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Posts tagged ‘backpacking’

Hiking Grand Gulch in Utah: Day 4

Bears Ears National Monument is threatened. Please sign this petition to protect it.

On our 4th day in Bears Ears National Monument, we woke to a lovely morning, then packed up and left Grand Gulch behind. The final day of our hike would involve 7 miles of climbing up Bullet Canyon. Hummingbirds zoomed around us as we began our day.

Early in the day, the hiking was flat and easy. Not so much later!

We continually marveled at the great variety of rock shapes and layers all around us.

After 2 miles, we came upon Jailhouse Ruin nestled in the canyon wall. We noticed the large, bold white circles first. According to an interpretive sign at the ranger station, they are thought to possibly depict a shield, moon, or eye-like openings (for the pictograph on the right). The ruin’s structures occupy two levels in the rock face.

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Hiking Grand Gulch in Utah: Day 3

Grand Gulch lies in the new Bears Ears National Monument. This and many other national monuments, including three along the PCT, are now under threat. We wanted to continue writing about our hike so more people can appreciate the archaeological significance and natural beauty of this special place.

Rain fell overnight and into the morning of our third day in the canyon. A cliff overhung Split Level Ruin, keeping it dry. We ate our breakfast up near the ruins and explored the area a bit more as we waited for the rain to calm down.

Split Level Ruin

Hundreds of Ancestral Pueblo pottery shards were scattered on the ground. We feasted our eyes but didn’t touch anything.

The creek had developed a nice flow from the night’s precipitation. The rain eased as we walked, but we still became soaked as we brushed against wet vegetation. On the positive side, all the wet sagebrush smelled fantastic!

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Hiking Grand Gulch in Utah: Day 2

We woke to a peaceful morning on the second day of our hike in Grand Gulch. Quiet surrounded us as we filtered water from the creek near Junction Spring.

Cottonwoods thrive along the creek

Backpacking in Grand Gulch in late April

We found an intriguing collection of rock art at Turkey Pen Ruin. It is thought that the sheep pictograph on the right has a spear in its back.

Peering inside an ancestral Pueblo structure

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Hiking Grand Gulch in Utah: Day 1

In late April we embarked on a backpacking trip in Cedar Mesa, BLM land in southeastern Utah. We planned to hike from the Kane Gulch ranger station to the Bullet Canyon trailhead in four days. The area is renowned for its concentration of Ancestral Pueblo (previously called Anasazi) ruins and rock art.

We picked up our backpacking permit and got information about current water availability at the Kane Gulch ranger station. Since we were doing a one-way hike, we then drove to the Bullet Canyon trailhead and left our car there, then hitched back to Kane Gulch.

With everything in order, we began our descent into Kane Gulch.

Hiking the Kane Gulch Trail

Dozens of lizards watched us walk past

A massive chunk of rock split off to form this narrow passage.

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Channel Islands National Park Day 2

In our last post, we were enjoying beautiful Santa Cruz Island, seeing lots of wildlife, and having a great time hanging out with our siblings. Unfortunately we were told that due to an impending storm, our trip was going to be cut short and we would soon have to take a ferry back to the mainland. For more details, read the full Day 1 blog post.

Things got stranger on Day 2 (December 21). This map of the island will help orient you:

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Santa Cruz Island detail (source: National Park Service)

Our second day on the island began early with a variety of birds chirping around the Del Norte Camp. Ever curious, we got up and tried to spot them.

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We found a loggerhead shrike as the morning sun pleasantly illuminated the hills and water.

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Loggerhead Shrike

After breakfast, we went on a short out-and-back day hike on the Del Norte trail.

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The views were amazing.  We saw an island fox, a spotted towhee, house finches, and several other birds.

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Channel Islands National Park Day 1

We went on a sibling backpacking trip in Channel Islands National Park this past December. Chris’s sister Becky and Anna’s brother Joe joined us for the adventure. We were very excited to spend some quality time with them, and to explore a new place at the same time. We planned two days of hiking, a day of kayaking, and a half day of snorkeling before heading back to mainland California. We could never have guessed what surprises the park held for us!

We woke early, piled gear into Joe’s car, and headed about an hour north of Los Angeles to Ventura, CA. We arrived at the harbor on time, checked in, and put our packs below deck. It was a sunny, gorgeous winter day. The only odd thing that morning was a terse email from Island Packers ferry service stating “We are running the trip to Prisoners Harbor today.  The crossing to the island will be rough.” That couldn’t have been farther from the calm, sunny weather we were enjoying on the shore.

Minutes into the ferry crossing, the captain got on the loudspeaker, slowed the engines and started taking about a Stellar sea lion he’d just spotted. He explained that it was rare to see a Stellar sea lion in Southern California waters because they mostly live near Alaska. It was huge, much bigger than the California sea lions we’d seen before.  The captain also explained that the large semi-circular scar near the sea lion’s tail was likely from a shark bite. The sea lion made a deep call and even stuck out its tongue at us as the boat drifted by.

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Stellar sea lion

Farther from shore, the wind picked up and the waves grew taller. The ferry started to rock and roll. As we rode wave after wave high into the air, then fell into an empty void below, it felt like we were on a roller coaster. Salty spray drenched the boat as the fierce wind chilled us. Dolphins seemed to like the waves and the ferry. For a few minutes, several swam playfully alongside us, even jumping occasionally. They were so beautiful and graceful.

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Dolphins swimming next to ferry

The ferry ride was turning out to be part of the adventure, not just transportation to the island! The first stop was Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. The majority of passengers, many of them birders, were to disembark here. Unfortunately the dock at Scorpion had recently been damaged by a mix of climate change-induced sea level rise and a king tide. With the dock unusable, passengers had to be skiffed to shore six at a time.

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Skiff dropping people off at Scorpion Anchorage

Our stomachs started to feel uneasy while waiting over an hour on the bobbing ferry. We watched the horizon to fend off seasickness.

Finally, the ferry started moving again. We passed steep cliffs and grand arches carved into the rock. Whitecaps kept the boat rolling. We were glad when we arrived at Prisoners Harbor, and set our feet on solid ground.

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