Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Utah, light October hiking

On my recent trip to Utah's National Parks and Monuments, I was able to do some light and level hiking, including areas I hadn't hiked before because of heat and crowding.

To the right is a view from the Overlook trail in Zion, looking down at the valley with the main road visible. It is a short but moderately steep hike. The trailhead is at the east end of the tunnel and is very small, easy to miss and often full.

I didn't do any hiking to the Vermilion Castle below, but there is a nice trail to it. It is near Cedar City and isn't even in a park or monument.

I also did some light hiking in Bryce along the Mossy Cave trail, a very easy and popular trail. Some of the views were spectacular. In wetter times, the waterfall and cave would have been more impressive but the rock formations were good of them selves.

I also hiked in Capitol Reef along the Grand Wash trail. Other years rainstorms have threatened and I haven't dared venture down the path. As you can see from the picture at right, the canyon becomes very narrow at times. This trail is easy and nearly flat. You can access the trail either from the highway or the scenic drive.

In the canyon are both petroglyphs and a 'settler's registry' of early settlers. Most of the registry doesn't look much different than modern graffiti and probably contains some modern items. The section below however stood out, it is about 40 feet up a rather smooth wall and has the date of 1911.

The petroglyphs are hard to make out but include a beetle in the center of the picture.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Heading for Utah

I'm headed for the canyon country of Utah tomorrow for a fairly short trip. It is later in the year than I have gone before and I don't have as much time as I want but this is the only time I can go. I had planned on staying closer to home for this vacation, going to the North Cascade NP and then heading east across northern Washington to Idaho. However, the weather forecast for Utah is sunny and in the 60s and 70s as opposed to northern Washington which has rain and cooler temperatures predicted. Also, gas prices have eased considerably making the trip more affordable. Besides, I have my new camera to try out on different scenery. Maybe I can do parts of the Washington state trip later in October.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Being prepared

In late August, about half a dozen hikers in the Seattle area had problems that ended in SAR assistance or death. A couple of sources wondered whether the unusually cold and wet August weather partially contributed to these problems. I wonder if the hikers, seeing the fast approach of the PNW's wet season decided to get out and make the most of the relatively warm weather and overreached their abilities and preparation. In the Seattle lowlands, we rarely get extreme weather and it can be hard to really understand that in the local mountains, even at relatively low elevations from 3000 to 4000 feet, weather can be much more severe. We all should know that mountain weather is treacherous but it can be hard to really believe that around Seattle, unlike say Montana where a June snowfall tends to remind you that mountain weather can be extreme. I've found myself underestimating the local mountain weather and nearly coming to grief.

I don't know with any certainty that the hikers were badly prepared or pushing their limits; the fact they got into trouble they could not extract themselves from certainly suggests this but it is possible they simply had very bad luck. I know I've had difficulty in the past deciding how much "just in case" gear to carry; I've packed so much that it became easy to rationalize taking my lumbar pack instead of my daypack thus nullifying the any advantage of the extra gear. I pack for the worst case I expect, not the worst case which could happen which may be far more trying. And how do you find your limits without pushing them occasionally? Certainly I have done some foolish things pushing my capabilities.

I'm grateful that SAR options exist and that cell phones and various emergency locators are available. I don't normally carry either a cell phone or a beacon while hiking; I probably should carry the latter especially as my health becomes worse. I know better than to depend on outside help but I suspect many hikers consciously or subconsciously depend on backup.