Root Family

Root Family

Oct 28, 2013

Moab and Grand Junction

It was getting late in the season for camping with a 2-year-old so I decided to piggy-back on my husband's work trip hotel and take the kids to Grand Junction.  We left on a Saturday the last weekend of October, after the little league football game, and headed to Moab.  I got their with less time than anticipated to do much outside, but we drove over to the BMX bike park and watched the guys doing tricks and then played on the city slackline between the bridges that is set up.  We ate dinner at the Moab Diner which was so delicious and then went over to the hostel. 

The kids slept great and in the morning we packed up to go hike Corona Arch.  When I'm alone with the kids I usually refer something familiar, but had success on this trip doing both a familiar hike and a new hike. 

Corona was great, Bailey hiked with little complaint and Waylon was pretty good in the backpack except his obsession with trains stopped us up a bit when we crossed the tracks.  He wanted us to stay on the train tracks instead of leave them behind us.  Waylon was rewarded though when we were sitting under the arch, looking across the canyon at the tracks and suddenly heard the noise of an approaching train. 

After that we played at a section of Millcreek in town and then drove the route along the Colorado River to go to Grand Junction.  It was a beautiful drive and parts of it were familiar from the half marathon I did a few years back.  We got to the hotel and played in the pool while we waited for Tyler to arrive.

Next morning in Grand Junction I decided to head out to Big Dominguez canyon.  I did a little research on it and it sounded great, plus something I'd never done, I could hike as long or little as the kids would allow since I wanted them to have a good time hiking.  Lucky for Waylon, the first 1/2 mile or so is right along the train tracks and he was rewarded again with a track repair truck gliding right by us and waving.  I loved being alongside the Dolores river, it was beautiful!  We crossed the bridge at Bridgeport and continued on the trail to a great rocky spot along the Dolores.  Stopped here to play for a long time, it was a bit windy, but oh so beautiful. 

After that I did get a little pushy, I had been hoping to get to the first rock art panel up the Big Dominguez creek canyon and time was running out.  We took the fork in to Big Dominguez creek and there was a beautiful waterfall there.  I told the kids we'd play there on the way back, but it wasn't long before we turned around up the trail and I resigned myself to not seeing the petroglyphs.  I'll have to make it back there for sure but I'm glad the kids were able to have a lot of fun.  We played at the waterfall for quite a while because there was a small sandy area at the base. 

When the kids were cold from the water and ready to head back we went.  Waylon did get a bit fussy in the backpack only because he was tired, and he ended up falling asleep about 1/2 mile from the car. When I could see the parking area Tyler had just arrived after finishing some work appointments.  We loaded up the kids and went to dinner.   

I drove home the next day and I can't wait to spend more time in Colorado.  

Sep 15, 2013

East Rim of Zion and Keyhole Canyon

After some weather changes and shuttling concerns with our original fall backpacking trip plan, April and I decided to do the East rim of Zion.  We did the West rim back in 2009 and the Kolob Arch hike in 2011, the Subway hike in 2012, so this would make a complete traverse of Zion's longer backcountry trails (just need to do the 10 miles in Hop Valley to complete all the pieces of top to bottom). 
We made a few invites and were totally lucky to have our cousin Emily come along with us. 

Day 1:
We drove Emily's Prius down to the south end of the park to check campground availability for the following night.  We knew the Watchman campground was full and the South one is walk-up only.  Luck was our friend on this trip.  After circling the sites and finding none available, we found a group still in their campsite and asked if they were leaving tomorrow would they be willing to drop our envelope for us, therefore securing the site for when we complete the East Rim trail.  They were totally friendly and understanding so we set it up.

Then we drove across to the East entrance, parked and got our hike underway.  The views were again pleasantly surprising, with Jolley Gulch's impressive chasm and views of other canyons and plateaus throughout the area. 

Emily and April on the trail

views from the East Rim
Jolley Gulch

We took the fork to Cable Mountain and set up camp a mile or so up the trail.

As soon as we were set up we took off for Cable Mountain.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was blown away with the impressive view!  I loved looking across the main canyon at the south end of the park, looking down on familiar Angel's Landing and other parts.  Totally worth the detour to do these few extra miles, I'd love to visit this viewpoint again.
Emily on top of Cable Mountain

looking down from Cable Mountain

We made it back to camp just before dark in time to cook our Cup of Noodles (my backpacking staple) and go to bed.  
Day 2:
In the morning we did the few extra miles to head out to Deertrap Mountain, further up the fork off the East Rim trail.  The views here were beautiful also, looking across the canyon again.

We went back to camp, broke down tents and stuffed our bags and prepared for the hike down.  We completed roughly 10 miles each day on the East Rim Trail because of the extras we did.  I especially enjoyed looking down into Echo Canyon as we got closer to the base.  I would love to get my rappelling gear on and do that canyon sometime.  We saw more and more people and were getting quite sweaty, it was perfect that when we got to the grotto trail at the bottom we were able to soak our sore feet in the cold water before getting on the shuttle.

We rode to canyon junction in hopes of hitching a ride back to the East entrance from the tourists driving through the tunnel and on.  We spent about 10 minutes thumbing it until a man who was there taking pictures offered us a ride.  Like I said, Luck was our friend again.

We were happy to get back to the South campground, set up our tents and head into Springdale for a good meal at Wildcat Willie's.

Day 3:
The next morning we were a bit sore and kind of lazed around, went into Springdale again for a few supplies, and rented wetsuits.  My husband Tyler and his friend Brian were coming down to St. George that night to do some work the next day.  They met up with us to canyoneer Keyhole Canyon, a short technical slot with pools of water.  Tyler and I did it back in May for the first time and loved it.

a short steep trail down to the entry of Keyhole Canyon

Brian and Tyler with GoPros ready to get wet

Emily entering the canyon

It gets dark and chilly in there and the first rappel is into water where you can't touch the ground beneath you, but it's so awesome!  It was my cousin Emily's first time rappelling and she did it like a pro!

myself in one of the pools
Brian's moqui marble

 exiting Keyhole Canyon, April, Emily, and myself

was awesome to meet up with this handsome guy on my trip!

Everyone loved this hike.  There are a few spots where it's very difficult to find the sky above you because the canyon gets so narrow, and there is a long slanted section where one wall is totally angled and another section that you must swim through.

Brian found a moqui marble in the canyon.  When you clear out of the canyon it's as if you're coming out of a cold dark cave and it feels amazing.

I loved peeling off my wetsuit by the car while some tourists wonder where on earth you just came from.

Emily and April and I all have young children we wanted to get back to that evening so we pretty much high-tailed it out of there after that.  We drove out the east way, going through Orderville for my first time, it was very pretty.  We had a great time and it was super fun for Tyler and Brian to join us for Keyhole.

Jul 15, 2013

Death Hollow June 2013

I had a great opportunity to backpack Death Hollow with my brother Jeff and two of his friends he served a church mission with to Mexico about 10 years ago. It was nice to be able to get out and meet some new people with shared interests and to see an awesome canyon.

We did the short route into and out of Death Hollow starting at the Boulder Mail trail off the Boulder air strip, working our way over into Death Hollow, then down to the confluence with the Escalante, then out the sneak route near Micro Death Hollow. The trip was intended as a 2-night packpacking trip, but we were making such good time that the idea of a nice local pizza in Escalante and car camping at the Upper Calf Creek parking lot for some morning swimming started to sound much better.

I packed my two dogs Dexter and Debra along for their first backpacking trip. We got a much later start than you should in the early summer at 11am (left Provo around 4:30am, but happened to be heading over right at the start of the Top of Zion relay over Boulder mountain).

Dexter and Debra on the trailhead

Doggies on Boulder Mail trail

Tom - Always cool and collected (Photo by Jeffrey Root)


Brady - This dude was a HOOT (Photo by Jeffrey Root)


The temps were easily over 100 degrees. I was thinking how stupid I was to bring the dogs because they were panting so hard and sprinting from bush to bush to stay out of the sunlight. I took their packs off and carried them the rest of the way into the canyon, as well as gave them frequent water breaks but they eventually didn't care to drink water after a while.

Telegraph wire on the boulder mail trail

Boulder mail trail

To top off the heat, I had left my GPS in the car, but had my topo map. The one saving grace was that I studied the trail almost 100 times on google earth enough to actually just get there by checking out landmarks. Oh, and the trail was well-used and cairned, but it was nice to know I knew where to go even without a trail. When we arrived at the drop into Death Hollow I had an extreme sense of relief, but the drop in took a bit of time too and the heat started to really set in even more. I was getting nervous thoughts hoping that water was still in the canyon and began to think "what if" we didn't find any.

Dropping into Death Hollow

Death Hollow looking down

Tom and Brady (Yes, Tom Brady joined us) got into the canyon ahead of us while Jeff and I hung back and let the dogs take several breaks. The second we hit the river we instantly stripped down and dove in to cool off. I had to toss the dogs in because they're afraid of water, but I could tell they loved being cooled off.

After cooling off we worked our way down to the first campsite area to swim a bit more, refill our water, and rest up. While the rest of the group rested up, I hiked down a mile or so to see if there were any other camping options. When I returned it was a surreal scene of the guys dozing off under the hot sun (I think Tom was actually half in the water and half on the shore) and them listening to some old Etta James type of slow jazz music. It reminded me of something you would see in a movie. It was hot, but it was relaxing.

At our first stop after cooling off (Photo by Jeffrey Root)

Death Hollow group

Since we still had plenty of daylight and a bit of energy we opted to continue on down the canyon to look for another campsite. We passed one couple on our way down (they were coming up in the opposite direction). We hiked down another 2 miles or so and settled on a little area banked up off the creek near some tall pine trees. It was difficult finding a decent spot because there were ants everywhere.

Hiking on to find our campsite

Death Hollow

We were so tired once we got to camp that it took major energy to get settled, water filtered, and dinner together. We made our dinner and basically crashed. The dogs were great; they slept all the time we were at camp, but as soon as we went to sleep they stayed up and appeared to be "on guard" the whole night. I don't sleep good when camping so I woke up multiple times to find them just sitting together nearby listening to all the sounds of the canyon. I loved the peacefulness of sleeping on a tarp under the stars. Wished I had a summer-type sleeping bag because I spent most of the time on top of my bag until about 6am and even then it was just a courtesy to cover my legs.

The next morning we were up and out on the trail. The canyon is definitely beautiful and deep and everything you would want, but there are definitely more "blah" sections at times, however that all made up for the pay off......

On the trail the next morning

Death Hollow

Bushwhacking was common

Death Hollow bushwhack

......the pay off was the awesome deep swimming hole about midway through the canyon. We stripped our packs and spent a good 1-2 hours just hanging around the pool, jumping in, playing catch with the frisbee, etc. You couldn't get the smiles off our faces with a pry bar.

The pool

Death Hollow swim hole

Action shots (the dogs went in with me) (Photos by Jeffrey Root)

Dexter jump

Death Hollow swim hole & frisbee catch

Tyler & Deb jump

Dexter jump

After getting a bite to eat and saying goodbye to this amazing spot, we reluctantly headed on down the canyon. Soon we approached the set of narrows in the canyon that require swimming with your pack (or holding it high above your head). We came to one set where someone left a ferry raft with a note that said "free to use, please share for others". I was a bit conflicted about this. First, if you're doing this route you clearly know that your pack is going to get wet so you must dry bag your stuff. Second, eventually this thing is going to pop, no one will want to use it, and then it's going to become litter in the canyon (in some ways it already is). I had given a thought to remove it myself, but I had already over-packed as it was, so I became a chump and gave in and used it. Looking back I wished I would have taken it out with me.

The beginning of the narrows section

Death Hollow Narrows

More narrows; Packs will get wet here

Death Hollow Narrows

Death Hollow narrows

Death Hollow pack ferry

After the narrows it was a couple of more miles and we were at the confluence of the Escalante and Death Hollow. I was surprised to see that there was at least 3 times more water coming out of Death Hollow than there was coming down the Escalante. The Escalante was nothing more than a thin stream with swampy spots here and there

Me, Dexter, and Debra getting close to the confluence. They were both such great dogs; never left my side even when distracted by squirrels, etc.

Death Hollow

Death Hollow about 1/4 mile from the confluence

Death Hollow

The confluence. Escalante River is on the Left, Death Hollow is on the right.

Death Hollow/Escalante confluence

We hiked about 1/2 mile down the Escalante and easily found the sneak route out just west of Micro Death Hollow. We debated on which of the two routes to take out of the sneak route and optioned for the crack on the left LUC. It took a bit of scrambling and there was about an 8' section that took some real climbing skills, but with a partner assist (just standing on their knee) it's pretty doable. We ferried the packs up with a rope and the one thing I had not considered on this section was getting the dogs up. luckily they are very light dogs (both under 30 lbs), but as I said earlier they "never left my side" so I would pull one up when I climbed up, then leave it with one of the guys, then go down to get the other one while the one up top went crazy trying to get back down to me. It made it a bit more interesting, but it worked.

Jeff finding a route up

Death Hollow sneak

Keeping the dogs calm on a ledge while I came up

Death Hollow sneak

Pulling the packs up

Death Hollow sneak

We followed the cairned route up and out, but ended up staying a bit too low. Eventually we route found our way up to the top and followed the trail back to the shuttle car. We headed into Escalante for a good Pizza at Escalante Outfitters, headed back to the air strip in Boulder to get Jeff's car, then headed to the Upper Calf Creek trailhead to sleep in our cars and get an early start on the trail the next morning to visit upper calf creek. It was beautiful and warm out. A tiny bit of cloud cover, but the stars came out and my brother Jeff was able to get a nice shot of us under the Milky Way.

Car camp (Photo by Jeffrey Root)
Car camp

The next morning we got up and headed down to upper calf creek falls and the swimming hole above the falls. Again, another paradise in the desert. We had a blast hanging out at this swim hole as well and didn't want to leave but Brady had a flight to catch in SLC and needed to get back.

Hiking into Upper Calf Creek

Hiking in to Upper Calf Creek

Me, at the upper falls (Photo by Jeffrey Root)

Upper Calf Creek Falls

Upper falls (Photo by Jeffrey Root)

Upper Calf Creek Falls

The upper swimming pool. This was awesome because it formed a big natural bowl to jump into. The fall going in was slippery and made for a fun slide

Upper Calf Creek pool

Upper Calf Creek pool

Upper Calf Creek pool water slide

A little video of our water adventures

We quickly hiked out to the trail head, threw up some high fives and headed back home. What a great trip and something I'd definitely recommend to anyone looking to do a hike in the desert along a creek. I'd only suggest starting the hike much earlier than we did.