Hike: Corona Arch

SUMMARY

At the end of my trip to Utah, just before heading back to Salt Lake City, I took a small detour away from Moab. I followed the Colorado River around Poison Spider Mesa to hike Corona Arch. It ended up being my favorite hike of the trip, and was short and hot.

From the parking area on Potash Road, along the Colorado River, I followed the well-worn trail past Bowtie Arch to Corona Arch and returned the same route. The hike was across desert and red slickrock and featured a few spots with cables and ladders to assist the hike. The entire hike was very exposed to the sun, so it would be best to hike early in the morning or late in the day. In total, the hike was 2.5 miles with little elevation gain and only took me an hour and a half to compelete.

Map of hike

Map of hike (interactive map)

I arrived at the parking lot just before noon and there were three other cars in the lot despite it being the middle of the day and scorching hot. From the parking lot the trail climbed steeply to reach a railroad track cut into Bootlegger Canyon.

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Hike: Devil’s Garden

 

SUMMARY

In August 2016 I travelled to Salt Lake City, Utah, for a conference. The following weekend was the National Park Service’s centennial and the entrance fees to all parks in the country were free. I rented a car and drove down to Moab for the weekend to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

I didn’t want to do the most popular spots as I would be visiting the parks in 2017 with my family. l also wanted to target the more primitive and long trails. So, when I arrived in Arches I enjoyed the amazing drive to the far end of the park to Devil’s Garden.

For this hike I took the main trail toward Landscape Arch and followed the primitive trail loop from there. I also took side trails to Private Arch and Dark Angel. The hike was about 6.5 miles with little elevation change. The terrain was loose sand through desert and washes with a few scrambles over slick rock and over sandstone fins (future arches, they say). The hike took me 3.5 hours and was very hot and dry.

Trail map

Map of hike (interactive map)

After enjoying the gorgeous drive through Arches National Park, one of my favorite drives, I arrived at Devil’s Garden parking lot late in the morning.

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A Look Back on 2017 and Ahead to 2018

Looking back on 2017 and ahead to 2018

A Look Back on 2017

2017 has come and gone and now is the time to reflect on all that was accomplished or not. This year was definitely one of the more exciting years for me adventure-wise. But, looking back on my goals from the end of last year I’ve noticed that this year also appeared to be a transition year for me. More on that in a bit. First, here’s a rundown of my goals for the year and whether or not I attained them:

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2017 National Parks Tour

One of the best perks of my job is what we call PGL: Personal Growth Leave. Starting during our 10th year and every following 5 years we must take a mandatory month off with pay (4 consecutive weeks). This is something I’ve been looking forward to since I started at my job. My first PGL starts now.

My wife was also able to get the month off and in another 5 years my older son may be off to college and starting his own life. So, my family decided that this was our opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime to see some of the most beautiful locations in our country. We are taking the whole month of July and driving around the country to visit national parks, cities and other choice locations.

map

  1. Wanderlust Headquarters
  2. Niagara Falls
  3. Denver, CO
  4. Moab, UT & mountain biking, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park
  5. Bryce Canyon National Park
  6. Zion National Park
  7. Grand Canyon National Park (north rim)
  8. Death Valley National Park
  9. Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park
  10. Yosemite National Park
  11. Lassen Volcanic National Park
  12. Crater National Park
  13. Portland, OR
  14. Seattle, WA
  15. Glacier National Park
  16. Yellowstone National Park & white water rafting, Grand Tetons National Park & horseback riding
  17. Mount Rushmore
  18. Badlands National Park
  19. Madison, WI
  20. Chicago, IL
  21. Cuyahoga National Park

It’ll be a mad dash and by the end I suspect we’ll be more tired than we started. But hopefully we’ll be making memories that will last our lifetimes. Stories that we’ll tell when we gather for the holidays. Adventures that our kids can recreate with their kids.

Eventually there will be a slew of blog posts from the trip, but until then stay tuned to my social media locations for photos, updates and more.

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A Look Back on 2016 and Ahead to 2017

2016-featureA Look Back on 2016

2016 has come and gone and now is the time to reflect on all that was accomplished or not. I think that many would agree that it was a rough year with all of the musician and celebrity deaths, Brexit, the US election, the war in Syria, the Keystone XL pipeline standoff, and the proposed motel near the summit of Mount Washington. But for me (outside of celebrities, politics and global disaster) it was a pretty good year. Here’s a rundown of my goals for the year and whether or not I attained them:

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Hike: Emigrant Wilderness

Trail Report

Much like in 2014 when we hiked Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan, my coworkers and good friends John and Michael made plans to explore the wilderness away from our normal haunts by tacking a vacation onto a work-related trip. This time we chose a lesser known wilderness area within the Stanislaus National Forest called the Emigrant Wilderness. The Emigrant Wilderness is noted for its granite and volcanic terrain and beautiful alpine lakes. It became our target because it was only a 3 hour drive from San Francisco, relatively low in the Sierra Nevadas (it was April after all), it was easy to obtain a backcountry camping permit, it was below the 9000′ restriction on campfires and bear cans were not required.

As the date of our trip approached the forecast made it clear that we would not be experiencing the typical Californian climate. Though the weeks before and after our trip were sunny and in the 70s, the forecast for our week was in the 40s with threatening thunderstorms. On the day that our conferences ended the forecast still wasn’t great but it looked like the precipitation was going to be low even if the thunderstorms did manage to roll in. At the worst, the highest elevation forecast that was available predicted less than an inch of snow with temperatures in the mid to high 30s.

As we drove to REI and Whole Foods in Berkeley to get supplies we were still discussing whether to ditch the mountain plans and spend four days exploring Point Reyes, on the Pacific coast where the forecast was favorable. In the end it came down to the fact that we had planned our trip for months and flown from Maine to California in order to experience the Sierra Nevadas. The worst possible forecast would be a mild New England spring storm. So we headed to the mountains.

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Waiting for the Quetzal

“A long time ago, a great battle ensued between the Spanish conquistadors and the Mayans.  At the moment of the Mayan Chief’s death, the sacred Quetzal fell silent and plummeted to the earth, covering the body of the Mayan Chief with his long, green plumes.  Rising at dawn, the bird was transformed…Its breast had soaked up the blood of the fallen soldier and become crimson, the shade of Mayan blood, as it has remained to this day.”

Adapted from Maslow’s Bird of Life, Bird of Death: A Naturalist’s Journey…

“We’ve heard a rumor…” the professors said last night. Supposedly they had heard that a (much-sought-after) Quetzal had been spotted making a nest on the land of one of the neighboring families and, for only $2 per person (!!!), the landowner would allow us to walk his land and seek out the Quetzal.  Though the adventure was optional, I woke early to make the trek and our bus took us a mile down the road to the neighbor’s land.  A homemade wooden sign declared we had arrived at our destination and we began to climb up the steep hill overlooking a wild avocado tree.

Vista

Those of us who had chosen to go on the adventure sat atop the hill and waited.  Patiently.  Quietly.  Eyes focused on the tree, looking for any sign of movement or color and listening intently for any sound.  One would not even dare to blink.

And then… A flurry of pointing arms…Waving hands to get attention…Finger-shhh-ing reminders of silence…Binoculars to our eyes and behold: the Resplendent Quetzal.

Quetzal

Or, more specifically, a pair of juvenile Quetzals whose long, glorious plumes had yet to grow but were; nonetheless, a sight to behold.  No photo, illustration, or words (perhaps a poet could find the appropriate words; however, I am not one) will come close to seeing the Quetzal in person and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen the bird and sat in his presence for a short amount of time.  To sit and wait patiently…knowing the early morning’s trek could have been be in vain…Then to be rewarded with a visit from this beautiful bird…This was a moment that was a highlight in the trip.

Some fun facts I’ve learned about the Quetzal:

  • There are 6 species of Quetzal, including the one I saw in Costa Rica: the Resplendent Quetzal.
  • Quetzals live in the mountain and cloud forests of Central America.
  • The male’s breast is red.
  • They eat insects, small lizards, and fruit.  A favorite is the mini avocado, which is swallowed whole.  Later, they spit out the seed.
  • In Mayan culture, it was forbidden to kill the Quetzal.
  • Quetzals are the national symbol of Guatemala, a fact that our tour guide frequently lamented since it is NOT the national bird of Costa Rica.  In fact, I was often reminded I would be disappointed to see the national bird of Costa Rica as it pales in drab comparison to the Quetzal.
  • Because of loss of habitat, the Quetzal is endangered.
  • It is pronounced ket-SAUL.

One Last Very Thankful Note: How thankful I felt to the owner of the land for his willingness to allow a group of 20 students climb his nearby hill.  He was an incredibly generous host, sitting with us and waiting patiently while we waited.  We weren’t the only tourists he allowed on his land; several pairs of people had made their way up the hill that morning. Once we spotted the bird, he made sure everyone had a chance to see the bird through the telescope.  His generosity and openness is something I saw time and again in the people of Costa Rica.

After our visit with the Quetzal, we headed back to the lodge where we ate breakfast and prepared for our 10-mile hike down Cerro de la Muerte: “Mountain of Death” (or “Hill of Death”, depending on who one asks).