Root Family

Root Family

Nov 14, 2012

Red Breaks Big West Fork

Several months ago I saw on the internet a picture of something labeled the "cosmic ashtray," also called the Escavolcano.  I was intrigued by the formation and learning it was somewhere out on the Grand Staircase made it all the better, I'm in love with that place, ever since doing a two-month archaeology dig there when I was an undergrad.  I looked into it a little, but having an infant at the time, was trying not to tease myself about taking a trip.

Fast forward to October and my sister and I are trying to plan our annual no-children getaway.  As mentioned, this happens usually just once a year (something we desperately need to change but is so so hard) so we were looking for something intense.  We are both excellent hikers and very experienced in canyons and rugged trails with obstacles.  We wanted a challenge but time is never on our side, we could really only afford a day-hike.  When I started reading about Red Breaks I felt like I had struck gold.  I had done plenty of the others down Hole-in-the-Rock Road, but this slot promised to be one of the most scenic in the area, and a continuous slot for much longer than most.  Not only could we hike through the slot, then we could make our way over to see the Escavolcano mentioned above.

Sunset from Boulder mountain on the drive down
most beautiful sunset while driving over Boulder mountain

A buck in the trees
a buck in the forest on Boulder mountain

I rounded up a few friends and we planned to meet at the trailhead early on the morning of our hike.  When they arrived I noticed that one of them had brought his parents-in-law.  I have no desire to discriminate, but I did send these guys the route description beforehand and I thought it was clear that some climbing would be involved and the hike could be long and difficult.  However, I wasn't going to tell them they couldn't come and so I told myself that they must be prepared.

It quickly became apparent that they weren't however.  My route description mentioned 9 obstacles, but they started counting rocks that merely required putting a knee up to climb on and over.  I felt frustrated, but this was early in the day.  My friends were a bit apologetic, but figured there wasn't much that could be done besides helping the older couple out. And so we went along.  We all marveled at the narrowness of the slot and beauty of the canyon walls.  But most awesome was the feeling that we were someplace most people never venture, doing something not technical, but physically demanding nonetheless.  Climbing over rocks, stemming canyon walls, this is the kind of stuff I live for.

Trish and April
in the main fork

me getting dirty
in the big west fork

April sporting her shirt, Joyce, and Paul
in the main fork

The split

The dryfall at the entrance to the Big West Fork
in the main fork

Looking down the dryfall
looking down on the dryfall we bypassed to get into the big west fork

our party in the Big West Fork
in the big west fork

As we met more challenges, my friend Paul had to break out some rope and my webbing to help his in-laws.  Paul is a super-buff guy so I think they really were relying on him when they decided to come along.  He was able to get them over huge obstacles and the tightest of squeezes.  And he saved April and I from what presented itself as the worst obstacle of all--a tarantula in the narrow canyon!  He actually picked it up with his bare hands and then held it in his hat while on top of a rock so we could walk under and leave it far behind us.

these kinds of obstacles were not mentioned!
tarantula in the big west 

Paul was our hero to get this tarantula 
out of our way

so beautiful it warms my heart!

in the big west fork
the floor here was about an inch wide
canyon floor in the big west fork--about an inch wide at the bottom

a bit of a corkscrew
corkscrew in the big west fork, wish my lens wasn't covered in sand : (

The canyon started heading up and up and up and tighter and tighter and tighter.  One of our older companions kept asking if we should turn around, and if I was really sure that this canyon would open up.  I felt a bit angry at this, I felt like they didn't trust me, and like they shouldn't have come because they were making it so much more difficult than it had to be.  Part of me thought it wasn't fair, this was my one trip for myself, I didn't want to be held back.  And yet, I kind of was impressed that as a group we were getting a couple of nearly 60-year-olds to see one of the greatest slot canyons I've ever seen, and I just have to give them some credit for even having the desire to come.  I know I'll still have that desire always, and I hope I stay in good enough shape to make it possible.

in the slot
in the big west fork

false dead-end

When we came out of the slot and checked the time we knew we'd be racing to get back before dark.  We quickly nixed the plan to see the Escavolcano, but figured we had to head that direction in any case since we couldn't go down the Main fork, and not knowing much about the Northeast fork.  At this point I think I began to get really irritated with a particular member of the party.  I get along with most everyone quite well and it made me mad at myself to feel this way, but I really didn't know how to handle it.  I felt like he just kept questioning me about the quickest way back and I really didn't know, which in turn made me feel stupid, irresponsible, and frustrated, and then more angry at him I guess.  I was following my GPS to find the dirt road we would hike back on to the trailhead.  But although I entered the waypoints and route myself, maps don't translate well to me when I look at what is in front of me and it my inexperience with GPS made me feel unsure of myself.  Sometimes it would completely flip around and point me the opposite direction which I knew wasn't right.  I felt pressured, like my friends were upset, and we were all really tired.

We made our way over three major drainages, each time the one hiker asking me if it wouldn't be easier to just hike down that.  Finally April could make out the sandy track in the distance and shortly after we saw some four-wheelers zipping by on it.  I honestly felt saved.  I hadn't screwed everyone over.  I knew we were probably very close to the Escavolcano, but we had no time to spare.

As soon as we hit the road it started getting dark.  We were treated to another beautiful sunset.  We jogged back to the trailhead despite being tired so we could grab the car and pick up our friends who were completely beat.  My friend Paul did the same and he ended up going back to get his in-laws sending my sister and I on our way.  But they weren't far behind and driving out the Hole-in-the-Rock Road we caught up to each other and all expressed what an awesome hike it had been.

Afterwards I noticed that my shoes broke open because of all the scraping against the canyon walls. I like the orange stain though.  I got nailed in the nose with a full waterbottle while passing my pack up once, it was tender a scraped for a week.  Also my zip-off pants broke so that one leg bottom wouldn't stay zipped on.  That was mostly just annoying.  It took us about 9 hours to do what we did, but I think a lot of time was spent trying to help the older hikers.  Usually April and I were over the obstacles in moments and then passing packs and so forth.  I can't wait to do this hike again sometime.  It was the perfect intense day-hike I was looking for and it would be awesome to do with my husband too sometime since he was on daddy-duty this time around.     

Red breaks busted my shoes




Aug 20, 2012

The Subway August 20 2012

I put in for permits for the Left Fork of North Creek (the Subway) at Zion National Park back in April.  Didn't win the lottery to be able to do a trip in July.  Put in for permits in May and won the lottery for my third choice date in August.  Tyler would have to miss a football practice in order to come on this trip, but he was game and we made arrangements. 

When we arrived at Zion on the 19th we set up camp in The Watchman campground and let the kids play around down at the Virgin river for a bit while we waited for Tyler's parents and April and Bill to arrive. Tyler's parents had graciously offered to watch Bailey and Waylon while we did this hike.

Playing in the river

Just after everyone else arrived we started driving up the canyon with the intension of showing my parents the cool swimming hole at Pine Creek and cool off for a bit, however the weather wasn't looking good and a light rain quickly turned into a heavy down-pour. We quickly jumped on a shuttle bus, hoping to see the rare splendor of a canyon like Zion with waterfalls pouring out of every area of the canyon. We got off at Weeping Rock to check out the falls there and were treated to seeing a whole new waterfall begin over the ledge.  It was awesome to see the power of nature, flashfloods starting all over the park, but it did also cause me to start having some worries about our plans to hike the Subway the next day.  In order to pick up my permit at the backcountry desk earlier I did have to sign saying that I knew the route, the risks, and would not enter if there was a chance of flashflood.

Weeping Rock

The view looking out on the canyon from Weeping Rock

Back at camp our additional hiking friends (Matt & Amy) arrived later that evening and we received a phone call from some other friends (Brian & Tara) who would also be joining us and were staying in town at a hotel.  We went to bed planning to get up and hike but had already discussed the need for a backup plan.  In our tent Tyler and I couldn't sleep at all.  The rain was pouring and it was stuffy in the tent.  We broke out our headlamps, books and maps and spent hours concocting various alternate hikes for the following day.  We both wanted to do the Subway so bad but I even started to get excited about the alternate as it looked unlikely that we'd get to see the Subway.

We got up according to plan and rendezvoused to head up the Kolob Terrace Road.  At the trailhead we met some hikers who said there was a group stuck from yesterday, a flashflood had started and they had sought higher ground but then couldn't get down.  This was daunting and we all felt the need to be responsible, but also the desire to just do it.  We decided we were a tough group, relatively experienced, in-shape and enthusiastic.  We were just going to hike smart and fast.

At the Trail head

I fully expected the canyon to be an awesome hike, but just like the West Rim trail, the views from the very start were amazing!  We were up above the main canyon of Zion and could see tons of other canyons as we headed down toward Russell Gulch.  Pine trees and red rock together in the same view are like a perfect mixture of both my homes, I grew up in Montana, but having been in Utah now for 13 years I'm in love with the red rock.    

We slowly descended further down until we reached the tree whose roots through broken rock we could finally follow to enter the Left Fork of North Creek.  There we did another evaluation of the gray skies, noticed a lot of blue starting to appear and decided again that we weren't turning back.  Minutes later we had reached our first swim.

Looking down on the left fork

Working our way down the slippery hill

The first swimmer

The canyon was wet and beautiful right from the start, even if the water was all chocolatey, it was still such an amazing experience. We had the entire canyon to ourselves that day.

At one point we had to find a bypass route due to the tightness of the bowling alley. Lots of branches had gotten stuck behind it and the water was flowing too fast to attempt to go over/under them. Luckily we found another route around as we backtracked up the canyon a bit.

Turning around

The bypass

Beautiful narrows

Eventually we found ourself at the famous keyhole slot

Around the corner from the keyhole slot is the last rappel down into the "Subway" section

The Subway

After The Subway the scenery continues to be beautiful, but eventually it turns back into a regular creek, with lots of boulder hopping for 3-4+ miles until you reach the steep climb out of the canyon.

Red rock creek bed

Waterfalls everywhere

Group shot

It was so hot. One last soak in the water before climbing out of the canyon

On our way out of town we stopped at the Orchard in Springdale to buy some fresh fruit and let the kids play around a bit.

The Subway is so beautiful and a hike I'd jump on any time I get the chance. Such beautiful scenery and an amazing opportunity to see the canyon in such rare form.

Here is a video of our trip through the canyon.

Jun 30, 2012

Mountain Biking - Alta Lakes, CO - June 2012

I had a great opportunity on a work trip to ride with a local in Telluride who, like me, happened to also have a heavy downhill bike. The last time I had come to Telluride for work I took advantage of the FREE gondola ride up to the top of the Mountain Village ski resort and the FREE downhill course the city subsidizes. I had a blast.

On this particular visit the day was ending and a co-worker mentioned to me that anther employee there rides a lot and he introduced me to Erik. Erik was stoked to talk biking and suggested instead of doing the downhill course, that he and take both of our vehicles out up higher in the mountains and ride some single track that is insane and fun, plus there are no other people out there. We drove about 20 minutes out of town, set one vehicle at the bottom of the mountain, then drove a dirt road up to the Alta Lakes trailhead. The road crosses a few old mining ghost towns and ends at one major mining junction. From there we took off through the forest and found our way down the mountain.

We decided to hit another section further down the mountain which also consisted of setting another shuttle vehicle, but this one was well worth it. Very skinny sections and my first crash (minor). I had a blast.

Here is the video of my ride down.

Jun 9, 2012

Settlement Canyon rappelling

Caiden had been "kind of" rappelling a couple of years ago, but it was more of a steep hill than actual vertical face. We went on a one-night camping trip at our Church's annual Father's and Son's campout and I brought along our small rope and harness just in case we found a face to practice on. Settlement canyon was really pretty, but there were no rocks to be found except for this small 10' or so rock face hidden inside the trees. We rigged up the rope and I had Caiden practice a bit on the return hill before he felt comfortable. Eventually he faced his fears and went over the vertical face.

I hope all of my kids will be willing to face their fears and make sure they're calculated decisions (safety first, always thinking out what they're doing). I was proud of Caiden for doing this and hope as he gets older he can join Alene and I on some trips that require rappelling. 

Southern Utah and Las Vegas - Memorial Day weekend 2012

My family and I bought tickets to see the Beach Boys 50th anniversary tour in Las Vegas and rather than just run down to Vegas we opted to camp Saturday night on the way down (concert was Sunday) and do a little more camping in Zion on Monday.

It was Memorial Day weekend so we obviously could not find any campsites to reserve and we knew most BLM sites would be taken. I was relatively un-sure about any primitive camping in the St George area, but got a few good leads from my buddy seldomseenanderson who lives in the area.

My sister Amanda and her Husband Brock followed us down and our first stop was a hike up the Taylor Creek trail in Zion's "Kolob Canyons", which is right off I-15. My first realization on the way down was that I forgot my Keens, so we stopped off at Walmart and I purchased a cheap pair of "Ozark Trail" wannabes. I figured for $16, they have to last me at least one hike.


Taylor Creek was really pretty. It had a nice little stream running through it that you crossed over many times, which was fun for the kids.



It was still a little chilly so we bundled Waylon up, who was a tiny bit sick





Untitled Untitled Untitled

After our hike we headed south on I-15 and headed west off the Leeds exit up the Oak Grove Rd to see if we could be lucky enough to find a campsite somewhere along the road. Luck would have it that the very first campsite on the road was being broken down and the people were leaving. It had been really windy that day and I think they were tired of the wind. That site was a bit exposed so we decided to drive on up the road to see if we could gather more luck, knowing we could alway fall back on that site. A few more miles up we were able to find another site overlooking Leeds Creek, so we set up there for the night.


Timelapse I did of camp (my first timelapse with my GoPro)


That night Waylon did not sleep well, so around 11:30pm I put him in the car and we went for a drive. It was weird driving in an area I've never been to in the dark. I had wanted to explore the St George cutoff road (which forks off the Oak Grove Rd) because curiosity got the best of me and I was wondering where the headwaters of the Red Cliffs area came from. I noticed this road on the map, which ran by several headwater streams. Sadly I couldn't see a thing at night, but that would be rectified the next morning.

 I finally got Waylon to sleep and hopped in my ENO hammock for a few hours of sleep. Waylon woke up again around 1:30am and Alene took over until around 5:30. I took over again and took Waylon for another ride while he fell asleep. I drove up to the end of the Oak Grove Rd to find a beautiful improved campground (Oak Grove) which is managed by the Dixie National Forest. It was full of course, but I can see why. I can't wait to get back down here and camp at that place. It's about 20 minutes from the freeway and you would never know such a beautiful wooded campground existed down near St George.

Entering the Oak Grove campground area Untitled

Stream runoff


Sunrise just down the road from the campground


After the sun rose, at about 6:30 I went and drove back on that St George cutoff road to see what I could not see the night before. I was blown away at how many deep canyons existed up there. I believe they all lead into the Red Cliffs area below, but I was in awe of how beautiful they were and how deep they cut into the sandstone.


There was a ranch up on this road and the headwaters kind of gathered in this area (a couple of ponds in the area to catch/reserve the water)


A grove of trees where one section of the headwaters to Red Cliffs ran under


The girls back at camp eating some breakfast


After a long morning exploring with Waylon, we packed up and headed down to Vegas, directly for Boulder City to ride the tunnel trail at Lake Mead. Alene had done some research on this and we thought it would be fun to see a little history in the area.

Video of our ride along Lake Mead

Lake Mead was pretty busy and after this hot ride it was so tempting to run down there and jump in, but we had a concert to get to, so a shower would have to do. The concert was much better than I expected; I'll have a review on my personal blog soon.

The next morning we headed out of Vegas where we had a campsite reserved at Zion in the Watchman campground (the last one left). We got a late start out of Vegas and by the time we had gotten there and set up it was getting close to sunset. Bailey and Alene ran over to the river to play for a bit while I set up camp.



When they got back we went for a little bike ride along the Pa'rus trail and found this awesome swim area just below the diversion dam on the Virgin River. Alene and I both opted to jump in. I was so worried it would be cold so Alene "manned up" and jumped in first. It was actually quite refreshing and I wished I had jumped in sooner. I'll be back at this spot for sure.


Waylon hanging out while mommy prepares for her jump



Alene went in first


Then it was my turn. I loved it


Coming up out of the water I found this little guy


Waylon was happy in his trailer as long as he had his sucker


Cuddling up with my little Bailey next to the camp fire


The next morning we packed up and drove our way up through the Zion tunnels and up Hwy 9. We pulled off 5-6 miles past the tunnels and did a little hiking around in the dry creek bed below





Zion - Pine Creek

An awesome tree made a natural bridge across the wash



We then headed back down the hwy to the main reason for doing one night in Zion. I had never jumped into the Pine Creek pool and had been wanting to for many years back when Alene and her sister April found out about it on their West Rim backpacking trip. I opted to ride my bike down the Hwy and meet them at the tunnels.

The Pine Creek swimming hole was all I expected and like jumping in the Virgin, I wished I could have stayed there all day. We ran into one couple that had just came down from the Pine Creek technical slot. They did a couple of jumps into the pool, then headed on their way



My tarzan swing into the pool

The kids playing in a little pool above the big pool


This place was littered with more of these guys


Obligatory photo op in Beaver


We had a great time. Initially this trip was going to be short with me just going down to Vegas on Sunday morning and coming back Monday, but I'm glad Alene wanted to come and we were able to get some good time in outdoors.