Despite not being allowed to hike in the Canyonlands National Park on arrival, as planned (all reservations and capacity was filled), we opted for hiking in the Butler Wilderness Study Area just below Canyonlands. Access was 60 miles further south and this area was part of our original exploration route anyway. This diversion knocked off a half day on each end of the five day trip, so we came out in four days.
Water was the controlling factor on this desert hike so we had to carry five or six liters much of the time. (Five liters of water is more than my entire pack weighed before water.) Fortunately we found an elk and wildlife watering hole up a side canyon the first day and that afforded us further exploration looking for routes over the canyon walls. This “notch” (pictured on left) was our first success in finding a way thru the cliffs.
We’d mapped out five potential routes and only managed to pass thru 2 of the 3 we tried. Hiking was often tough as we were on game trails and bushwhacking rather than frequently used routes. The washes were dry and sandy except when they were overgrown with vegetation which forced us up onto benches. It was very interesting to see these areas of seldom-travelled and little-known parts of the desert wilderness.
Some nights just finding a flat spot for three tents proved challenging as you might notice in the lead photo.
It’s only twice a year that you can go into this region since summer and winter prove inhospitable. We won’t be able to go back now until the Fall for more exploration. This was a great warmup or shake-down for a season of ultra-light backpacking.
We were overwhelmed by the number of bear tracks we saw of the way out. We’d seen single tracks occasionally, guessing they were at least a week old, but these tracks were recent, like that morning. A whole family was just ahead of us by the looks of it. There must have been several yearlings along because they often scuffled in the sand as they lumbered along. We used the defensive measure of talking loudly to them as we followed along, “Hello bears, we right behind you. No need to turn around.” The tracks winnowed down to a couple after several hours and finally down to one set. At the last fork before our ascent over the exit pass the last bear took the left fork to our relief while we turned right. Even though we’d planned to end the day before climbing the pass, we decided to soldier on over to put some distance between us and that bear we’d herded up the canyon.
Does this pack make my butt look big? It’s hard to check the fit of a new pack when you’re home alone. But there’s always a way in this new digital world. (I’m sure to get comments on that location for carrying an iPhone as awkward and difficult to frame the snapshot on the trail.)
Our cadre of UL hikers are heading out for an exploratory trip into the southern region of Canyonlands. Will, the veteran explorer, has this region pretty well dialed in, but he is always looking for a new path thru the sandstone bluffs. Topo map’s can’t give you a true answer whether a route down thru boulders or up a hillside is “doable”, but Google Earth 3D gives you a little more encouragement.
As you can see from the tracks superimposed on Google Earth in photo on the right, Will has covered and explored much of this region already. It’s a real pleasure to hike with him and benefit from his extensive knowledge of these areas.
The only downside to checking out these routes is that you have to carry a lot more water than normal. Six liters is what we’re planning on for this section and that’s 13.23 pounds of water. Which is 4 pounds more than my *Base Weight of 9 pounds. Fortunately our 5 day food weight will be down some from the approach hike and that water weight will decrease each hour we’re on the trail.
Regarding the new pack in the top photo: It’s a zPacks Zero (weighs in at 13 oz with extra custom features) that I ordered last Fall and haven’t had an opportunity to test it out. It’s only 5 ounces less than my other UL pack but was time to upgrade and save the other one for heavier loads.
Acclimating back in Durango isn’t quite complete, although the important things like taxes, re-stocking the larder, and getting back to the gym routine have been accomplished. The transition from sea level to the Rockies takes 21 days for the hemoglobin to increase it’s oxygen carrying capacity and that’s only 2/3’s done.
A couple of river trips are next on the schedule after this 5 day adventure in the Utah desert, and by then the snow’s will be greatly receded and hiking in the high country will be possible. Come join us. I’ve got an extra UL pack now.
*BaseWeight – Total weight on your back without consumables (water, food and fuel)
The last Sunday ride was perfect in that I got to ride with a smaller, faster group. We met up with some Thai cyclists who were doing an 800-km 4-day ride from Krabi. We met at the top of the pass and they learned we were going to a lesser-known waterfall which convinced them to follow us and delay their second 100-km of the day with a 50-km diversion. Our day was only 115 km.
We didn’t know at the time, but they had a support truck with a wife and daughter who met us at the waterfall with 3 watermelons. We each ate 3 of those large slices as our lunch in the upper pools of the waterfall. The rider on my right is 65 and was an equal riding companion on the hills with me.
I didn’t think to check my Garmin until the last hour of the ride home when it showed 103°. No wonder chillin’ in the waterfall for an hour was wonderful. Interesting to note my Thai friend Mr. Yao started shivering in the pool after a half hour (no body fat and he had on his wet jersey).
In southern Thailand the numerous waterfalls serve as one of the major recreation attractions for families. It’s probably the reason most Thai don’t swim since sitting in a cool fresh water pool doesn’t provide much opportunity for the crawl or backstroke. To say that hundreds visit each little waterfall on weekends would be an understatement. We arrived just before 10 AM and hardly anyone was there, by 11:30 there were over 100 people in the pool below ours.
We’re retiring the bikes two days before we leave just to forestall any last minute problems and store them in good condition for next year, or whenever we return. This year I invested in an extra set of wheels so that I’d have a set for off-road touring as well as the early morning sprints.
Would you believe Thais sing “Happy Birthday” in Karaoke English at their birthday parties, or was it just that we were there? Nevertheless, we sang three rounds of Happy Birthday (changing Dear XXX to just another chorus without the personalization). Our friend Mr Wat and his wife Jel-li invited us to celebrate her 49th along with 30 other family and friends. The blind-alley BBQ was the perfect setting for tables and chairs and having several carport woks available to cook the numerous courses.
Wat and Jel-li run the soup stand we frequent weekly. He’s also an avid mountain bike racer (despite his 95 kilos) and we’ve done a number of bicycle overnight island trips with them.