All posts by Marmot

My friends call me Marmot. It's fitting. I aspire to be a marmot when I grow up. Like my fellow squirrels, Marmota caligata, I love alpine meadows, lush greens, and lounging on rocks with spectacular views. In general, I love squirrels, both the arboreal and ground inclined.

Arizona Strip bound

Got a little dose of wifi/data and posted a few pics. But bigger updates will have to wait. 

We are starting another 8-9 day leg going rim to rim today with 8 days of food (why can’t I just live off of spirulina and oxygen?). We’ve wrestled 8 days of food into our packs. Such effort and we aren’t walking yet.

Exploring the Crazy Jug route to Deer Creek and Kanab Creek. Then out Hack Canyon to the strip and Colorado City.

Tapeats Creek is still flooding, it is a wet year around here. So we are avoiding that route but still getting the spirit of Hayduke. The Park Service describes route we are on as having “moderate flesh shredding brush”. It is a route described by Harvey Butchart, who is to the Grand Canyon as Fred Beckey is to the Cascades. I’m excited about the route! It will also be good conditioning for returning home to do trips with friends Yana, Carla, Matt, and others. 

Maybe 9 to 14 days until there is an update. We go from Colorado City into Zion NP and the last leg of the Hayduke. 

More to come!

Finally using my rain pants while I do laundry.
Mukmuk liked the coffee stout and the nice selection of beers here in Arizona.

From Nankoweap to South Kaibab

Short notes due to data connection challenges. Details to be filled in and pictures added! And pictures of Gabriel too!

After wandering the parklands of the Kaibab Plateau we dropped into the Grand Canyon via the Nankoweap Trail. Camped on the beach of the Colorado River below the granaries. 

Breakfasted with rafters (French toast and French press coffee). Marveled at hundreds of violet green swallows in Marble Canyon. Got soaked by rain. Got flushed out of some overhanging boulders by lightning. Boulder hopped and bushwhacked to awesome Tapeats sandstone ledges to the hitching beach. Besides the lightning and cactus spines it was a super fun day! We dried out by evening.

Hitched across the Colorado River with a US Geological Survey team recreating historical photos (yay for the agency of John Wesley Powell). Crossed the turquoise waters of the sacred Little Colorado River and a spiritual place currently under threat of development for an escalator tram.

Took the Beamer Trail up and into side canyons of rising Tapeats sandstone down to the Tanner Rapids. Sat on sandy beaches. Camped near a cool family from southern Arizona who love to explore the Canyon. 

Took the super fun Escalante Route to Hance Rapids. Explored a neat narrows on 75 Mile Creek. Had some fun mellow scrambling. Then lounged on a shady beach on a hot afternoon. Cooling off in the Colorado River. Marvel at intrusions of rock in the red shale. Gabriel practiced on his harmonica. I picked up trash in the camp. We are learning to linger on the Hayduke (and thanks to our permit). 

Next day, climb up the to the Tonto Plateau. The Tapeats sandstone ledges are now 1500 feet above the Colorado River and Vishnu schist and super group rocks are below. Camp on a bench by Boulder Canyon. Moon lights up the sky. 

Up early to finish contouring along the eastend of the Tonto Plateau. Prickly pear cactus are in bloom every where. Yellow, pink, orange, rose. Hedgehog cactus are full of purple blooms. A few apricot globemallow are bursting. And the sentry agave are blooming with stocks as high as 20 feet. 

Making it to Tipoff and “The Corridor”, we are back in the full pulse of tourists. We hike up. Smelling all the clean people. Hoping the aroma of mule and horse apples and urine can mask our own smelliness. We have not showered in 8 days and our clothes are rimmed in salt, sweat, and sticky dust.

Under the rim, every night we had beautiful views of the canyon. Appreciate experiencing it from river to mid plateau to rim. We are looking forward to coming back next spring.

Days 39-47: 122.6 miles; 690.1 miles total. HWY 89 by Jacob Lake to Bright Angel TH on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. 

GPS: not needed; people sighted: a few AZTers, generous rafters, a USGS crew, happy backpackers, and then 300+ people and 11+ horses on the South Kaibab Trail… woah!; roads: several miles before dropping into the park, then none.

Barrel cactus on the Nankoweap Trail.
Beach camp along the Colorado River by Nankoweap granaries.
Second breakfast in Marble Canyon… in the rain. Before it really started to rain. First breakfast of the day was thanks to some river rafters (some from Seattle and Port Townsend) who invited us for French toast and French press coffee.
Easy schwack through the arrowweed. The mesquite was pokier. Practice for the next leg.
Super fun Tapeats sandstone ledges. In following days we’d become aware of the uplift in the canyon as this layer of sandstone will be a few thousand feet above the canyon., on the Tonto Plateau.
Hitching along the Colorado River. We got a ride from this US Geological Survey team. It was cold out. We are also on solar time and never bothered to adjust our watches to AZ time. So we realized this morning, as we started to wait at 5:30 in the morning. Oh well, it is a very nice hitching beach.
Crossing the Little Colorado River. Nice warm waters!
Lounging spot at our beach camp by Hance Rapids. Looking up river.
Starting to ascend to the Tonto Plateau.
Camp on the Tonto Plateau by Boulder Canyon.

Grand Canyon bound

Hope to share the fun of the last few days at some point. Our zero day in Kanab got filled up with good food, postcards, Gabriel read The Monkey Wrench Gang. Good ol’ Hayduke is fresh in his mind. 

It also involved a BBQ with our motel managers, Don and Cassi, of the Sun’N’Sand. They are from Ballard! The SNS is a special place.

Rather than peck away at my phone, we hung out with them, Don’s mom (Cindy), brother Dan, and friends. It was a leisurely night and fun to talk with folks and learn what all brought us to Kanab, Utah on May 5th.

Next leg is about 8 days and 120 some miles down into the Grand Canyon. 

I sure hope this is 8 days of food.
Gabriel is marking our maps with Grand Canyon NP zones, so we can sync our camps with our permit.
Mukmuk wrote a lot of postcards.
BBQ time at the Sun’N’Sand. Thanks Don and Cassi!

It’s all Smiles on the AZT!

This morning we walked out of Grand Staircase-Escalante NM and into the next landscape and character change for the Hayduke: the Kaibab Plateau and 60 miles of the Arizona Trail. A real deal national scenic trail with signage, a nonprofit, an app, and honest to goodness super cushy, maintained trail. 

At first I was sad to say goodbye to the GSENM. It is spectacular. And with the current brouhaha in the other Washington it is under threat. Continuing to explore the national monument is a way I feel I can be an advocate for it. But it’s our time to move along. GSENM you are in my heart and on my mind!

And the Kaibab Plateau is home to ponderosa forests and the famous Kaibab squirrel!  

We walked into Arizona, then back into Utah, then back into Arizona again where we reached the northern terminus of the Arizona Trail (AZT). Exciting! I’ve been intrigued by the AZT for years (so many trails, so many mountains, so many canyons…).

Gently climbing up through sagebrush to juniper and pinyon studded hills. The sego lillies, larkspur, and phlox in full bloom. The cheatgrass (awful stuff), still green and suggesting a pretty grassy slope. Some ignorance is bliss.

Within a couple miles we started meeting AZTers all in the state of glee and contentment of just about to finish a long walk. We chatted with folks, now in the mindset of being on a popular trail. 

And just after our breakfast stop at the wildlife tank we met to young women with lots of Utah questions. While talking, we heard a voice call out, “Marmot?!” It was Smiles! Awesome woman who we crossed paths on the CDT with in towns and hung out with along with dear friends Smudge and Groceries. She was less than 10 miles from finishing the AZT. So fun to share info about routes and hear bits about adventures ahead.

Smiles is so cool to be around, very uplifting, and generous. If you mention your sunscreen is running low or your Platy has a leak, she’s ready to give you hers. Some day we better hike together! Or call for a gathering of those who love The Marshmallow (Smudge and Groceries camper). 

After much gleeful chatting, it was time to wish the three women well in completing their AZT journeys and for us to head south.

Ten to 13 miles of rolling pinyon-juniper woodland. Phlox, wallflower, paintbrush, and other flowers periodically interspersed amid the trees. The trail crunchy with the Kaibab limestone under foot. And trail markers and signs everywhere there was a hint of a jeep track or road. 

The going was a little monotonous, even for a pinyon and juniper lover. But that made it easier to cover miles. The shade helped too, as it was a warm day.

We met a few more AZTers. One from the UK, a couple from Enumclaw. Walked some woodland that looked liked it was cleared for cattle. Even the Kaibab National Forest is managing for cows.

But what got me super excited and motivated in the later afternoon was seeing the logo for this section of the AZT: it includes the tassle eared Kaibab squirrel!!!!

The last 5 miles or so of the day were in ponderosa pine forest. Old red pines, clusters of young ones, lovely duff, the occassional flowering current. And also thinning and fire treatment. A burn that looked good. Mixed severity with some dead trees and scorching to mineral soil, but mostly a light burn that left the bigger, older pines, culling many of the dense clusters. Cool to walk through. And in my notes to learn about.

While we could have pushed to Hwy 89 where we’d be hitting back into Kanab for our resupply and zero day to sync with our Grand Canyon permit, the beautiful forest and evening colors beckoned to camp. 

Just before we found camp, I saw a Kaibab squirrel out of the corner of my eye! Tassle ears and voluminous white plume of a tail. It scurried up a ponderosa. 

Another warm night, we cowboy came amid the pines. Leaning on lovely ponderosa while eating dinner and admiring the sunset.

The Kaibab Plateau is a nice place to be.

Day 36: 23.1 miles; 565.7 miles total. Wire Pass Trailhead to Ponderosa forest along AZT east of Orderville Canyon. 

GPS: not needed; people sighted: 9 Arizona Trail hikers and bikers including Smiles!!! and one day hiker; roads: we walked about 1.5 miles of road and crossed many.

Pictures to come, having data connection challenges. Maybe you aren’t supposed to be looking at a screen when you are in National Park?

A Marmot with Smiles!!!

Dinner time in the pines.

Town lingering & an introduction to Buckskin Gulch

A fun morning in Kanab, you’d hardly think we were supposed to hitch out and hike today. 

First I wrote emails to elected leaders and appointed officials asking them to keep our National Monuments in place; especially Bears Ears NM and Grand Staircase-Escalante NM. 

Then resupplied at Honey’s (no beer, but they do sell kombucha). Chatted with Daybreaker and Don about living well (which doesn’t mean $$$), the challenges of Seattle, serving those in need. It makes me so proud of Daybreaker and his work with the Chicken Soup Brigade which is helping to serve people in need… and the fundraising he is doing for CSB as part of this trip.

Gabriel and I walked across town to have a delicious breakfast at Peekaboo Kitchen Wood Fired Kitchen (asparagus and gouda omelettes, kale salad, good coffee). Yay for a veggie-focused menu. Then pick up packages from the PO. 

We made reservations for the Sun’N’Sand. Not missing out on homemade peanut butter banana muffins. Left our packages with the manager. And hung out with Daybreaker for a little bit longer. Then it was time to get back to the trail. 

Took about 25 minutes to get a ride with a sesrch and rescue helicopter pilot. Cool chatting about the places to explore around the Buckskin-Paria vicinity and preparedness for the pursuit at hand. A few protips if it turns out you aren’t prepared or stuff happens: 1) make yourself visible, 2) know they’d rather do a rescue than a recovery, and 3) be grateful when the helicopter gets to you!

Back to Buckskin Wash by 2 pm. We started to meander down canyon on cattle trails and the rocky cobbles of the wash. Single leaf ash, brilliant fushia-colored Zion vetchling, red paintbrush, purple thickleaf penstemon, and apricot globemallow interspersed the sagebrush benches. Sign of big horn sheep amid the cow tracks. Whip tail lizards and cottontail rabbits darting across the wash.

We hiked by Trekker Bob and Fireweed, chated for a bit. Buckskin Wash was good walking and we were at the Buckskin Gulch TH for the slot canyon by 5 pm.

Day permits purchased, we were kinda torn. At this point we’d have a mere three hours in this remarkable place that others take trips just to see. Buckskin Gulch-Paria Canyon, we’ll be back just for you.

A while back we’d decided not to take the Nick Barth alternate that sounds totally awesome and goes through the classic narrows and includes some fun scrambling down a mesa. Throwing in a bonus trip to an already amazing hike seemed like it would be too much and would eat into our relaxing buffer to re-enter the workaday world. 

And something we’d both felt while in Tanzania was that we didnt want to do too much. We wanted the experiences of trekking up Kilimanjaro, going on safari, meeting exceptional people, and watching sunsets with Sarah to be items checked off a bucket list a or boasted about (been there, done that…). We wanted the vibrant detailed experiences to sear deep into our memories. Be part of our perspective. Let thoughts settle before we go on to the next big thing. 

Likewise, that is how we have felt with the Hayduke. The route has taken us to spectacular places we’d only heard of or never knew existed. There are spots on a growing list to return to and explore in detail when the full focus is on that place.

For now, we are grateful for all we have seen and become aware of! The Hayduke has been our 200 level course on route to a lifetime minor on the canyons and deserts of the Southwest.

Good mindset in place, we head down the trail into the wash and brilliant red and orange hills of Navajo sandstone that guard the slot canyon. Gabriel is walking ahead, mindful of the fact we need to be out of the canyon by dark and curious about the formations ahead. I’m distracted already by flowering banana yucca, globemallow, fragrant cliffrose, jackrabbits, and a bull snake (which Gabriel walked right by!).

A couple miles and bends in the wash to the rising sandstone walls that are becoming closer together. A few alcoves with hanging gardens nearby. We feel as if we’ve stepped into another world. 

The sandstone is fluted and scalloped with details in the desert varnish. Brown, red, orange, black walls just a few feet across and hundred feet up. Late afternoon light and shadows have some walls glowing. The air is noticibly cooler. We slow to admire this place.

Soon enough, we are a giant wall with much detailed rock art. So many petroglyphs of big horn sheep, trails, mountains. We wonder what they mean. 

The wall is also next to the exit through Wire Pass to the trailhead. We shimmy through the narrows. Have a minute of fun bouldering and a Mukmuk photo shoot.

The fluted sandstone near the entrance of The Wave looks like a fine bench for dinner. We walk on by. Maybe we will when that lottery someday. 

Another bend and we are back out in the warm air of the open wash and evening light. The Navajo hills are fire red and orange in the desert glow. The air is rich in the sweet fragrance of cliffrose and Apache plume. Jackrabbits lope, cottontails scurry about. Crickets are chorusing. We stop and watch beetles doing yoga, inspect speckled insects new to us. 
At the Wire Pass Trailhead, we make a cowboy camp in the sagebrush. Then have dinner on the rocks by the interpretive signs. Bats fly about. The sky goes from the color of chardonnay and honey to pale peaches, purple, and finally the blue hues of twilight. 

Another beautiful and relaxing day on the Hayduke. 

Day 35: 13.9 miles; 542.6 miles total. Hwy 89 at Buckskin Wash to Wire Pass Trailhead.

GPS: not needed; people sighted: Fireweed and Trekker Bob in Buckskin Wash and give hikers, best of all, Daybreaker!; roads: we crossed a couple.

More pictures to come, but 4G and wifi aren’t so good in these parts.

Nearing the first narrows of Buckskin Gulch.
Water sculpts beautiful hallways into the sandstone.
We look forward to lingering in these narrows someday.

Descending a step of the Grand Staircase

Short notes for now: A crisp morning walking down Bullrush Gorge. From sandy wash to steep canyon of white and gray sandstone in a few bends. We like to look at the patterns of the cracks in the mud as the wash floor dries.

Ponderosa pines and Douglas-fir leaning into the canyon. The pines on the rim glowing gold in the morning sun. Canyon wrens trilling. Wallflower, Oregon grape, phlox, clematis all in bloom. Gamble oak and maple with fresh spring green leaves. This canyon is a delightful treasure tucked into the White Cliffs. 

Out into Park Wash, the going is sandy. But the White Cliffs are gorgeous, 1,000 feet of steep Carmel formation and Navajo sandstone rising above. Cows, a line shack tucked out of the wind in an ampitheatre, a tank full of water. A beautiful setting. If there was more grass, I’d think these cows are lucky. But the browse looks sparse.

On the otherside of the wash is No Man’s Mesa. It is beckoning. There’s a scramble route to the top, the guidebook taunts one to see if they can pick the line. Per Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance the mesa is:

Solitary and remote, a 2,000-acre island ringed by 1,000-foot-high cliffs. The mesa has never been grazed by cattle nor disturbed by agriculture or mining; its occasional small wildfires have been allowed to burn, creating grassy parklands amid the pinyon-juniper forest. It is, in sum, a classic “relict plant area” — a rare example of a pristine plant ecosystem.

I’m all the more interested in seeing the ecosystem at the top.

More sandy walking. Slow going. Part of the Hayduke spa. We slog out of the White Cliffs and into the Vermilion Cliffs with terraces of deep red Moenave sandstone. Slowing descending the Grand Staircase

Once on to hardpacked BLM roads the walking is easy. The sagebrush is green. In the distance we can see the forests of the Kaibab Plateau. The horizon looks verdant. But it is warm and dry walking out of Kitchen Corral Canyon. 

At Hwy 89 by 4:30 we get a ride into town with a kind rancher from Page, Arizona whose family has been working the land for five generations. They still trail some of their cattle from winter to summer grounds. Just like Gus McCrae and Captain Call. He knows the places we’ll be walking when we go out Hack Canyon across the Arizona Strip (~220 miles later in our route). I hope Dustin liked my favorite song. His favorite place to roam these parts is the open grassland and shrubbsteppe of the Arizona Strip, a place that’s good for cows.

In Kanab for a quick turnaround, it turns out Daybreaker will also be in town tonight! Reunion forthcoming. New shoes from the awesome gear shop that carries High Country News and makes a fine cup of coffee. A stop at the natural food store next to Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners offices. Loving Kanab! 

I was about to cross the street when I saw Daybreaker in the back of a pickup truck. He finally made it to town (4+ hours to get a hitch)! Much hopping around, giddy chatting, and sillyness ensues. Then it’s time for a few chores before dinner with our friend. Loving Kanab even more.

Day 34: 22.2 miles; 528.7 miles total. Pt. 6771 along Bullrush Gorge to Hwy 89 at Buckskin Gulch with a hitch into Kanab.

GPS: not needed; people sighted: none on trail, lots in Kanab, best of all, Daybreaker!; roads: many a sandy mile, then many a good mile.

Bullrush Gorge is starting to get interesting as the hills steepen on both sides. Love the ponderosa pines!
A little darker deeper down in the canyon.
Gambel oak leafing out.
Rock clematis blooming underneath the gambel oak.
Lovely water from Adams Spring.
Walking along Park Wash, domes and spires in Navajo sandstone. These lovely formations are barely a blip on our maps. They look like an inviting playground. 
Breakfast time view of Calf Pasture Mesa. Cows ahead. 
Line shack built by John Lefevre. There are many Lefevre family members in the area. The walls are signed by some visitors, including Mr. Lefevre’s grandchildren. Living history with people connected to place.
Stove in the line shack.
More good cow water!
Sandy wash walking amid the White Cliffs. All that beautiful rock, all that sand. Around here you don’t get one without the other.
Jackrabbits and cottontails bound across the roads and washes as we walk most all day long, especially in the crepuscular hours. This one kindly sat still for a photo.
Gabriel really likes windmills. I’ve looked forward to seeing this one, ever since DNR took a photo of it when she and Bubbles camped here last spring.
Mukmuk begs to differ, we came from Bryce via this road. But then, there are some big wash outs that would make it tricky to get all the way up to the Podunk trailhead.
Thank you Dustin Cox for pulling over horses and trailer in tow and giving us a ride into Kanab. We enjoyed the thoughtful conversation and appreciate your kindness. May you always have cows around! In your honor, tonight will be a beef night.
Daybreaker made it to town!!! (It took him 4 hours to get a ride.) We are in the same place!
PCT 2011 reunion!

Leave before you get too soft

Last night was cold enough for our water bottles to freeze shut, but not bitter cold. Still, we slept in to 6:30 to sync getting out of the tent with sunrise. 

All morning we walked through beautiful forest of ponderosa, Douglas-fir, blue spruce, white fir, limber pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, with aspen and oak just starting to leaf out. Following trail. Admiring the Pink Cliffs, formations, and fresh snowmelt streams. Some streams flowed clear, others matched the color of the rock. 

Overall the morning and early afternoon felt comforting. Relaxed. Soft. Still cool enough to sit in the sun in the early afternoon, we watched swallows and swifts fly about the rim.

We hiked up to Rainbow Point, to make sure we visited the local high point (9,115 ft), take in the views, and read the interpretive signs. A clear day, we could see the Henry Mountains, the lush green fields of Bryce Valley, Cottonwood Road, and the upper Paria River, and the canyons we’d traveled the week prior. 

I’m not familiar enough with the topography of the area to point out all the lines we walked, but it felt satisfying to look out on the horizon and have some idea of the place, some peaks and drainages look familiar. Hints suggesting what is in the folds of those canyons. While I can’t say I know the country, I feel we’ve had a nice introduction and both Gabriel and I would like to become better acquainted. 

At Rainbow Point we were standing on the western rim of the Colorado Plateau, having walked some 20-plus miles along this western boundary. It bought to mind the nearly 1,000 miles of the eastern boundary of the Colorado Plateau we’d walked from northern New Mexico through Colorado on the Continental Divide. 

While I only feel acquaintance with both sides of the plateau it is soul satisfying to stand in one place and recall the the mountains, hills, animals, flowers and places that comprise the headwaters of the other side. 

My feet and mind know the start of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain NP’s alpine tundra, the snowy ridges that bound the headwaters of the San Juan River in NM and CO, and the granite wonderland holding the headwaters of the Green River in the Winds. 

Looking east from Rainbow Point across the plateau and its canyons, mesas, valleys, and peaks sparked a wave of gratitude for being able to do these long walks. To fulfill a love for landscapes and understand interconnections of seemingly distant place. It also has me starting to wonder about circumnavigating the Colorado Plateau, circling the home watershed of the Columbia River, and more near-term returning to the Colorado River itself.

Back to the present, we headed down from Rainbow Point along the Riggs Spring trail for one last gander at the Pink Cliffs and hoodoos. Last bit of trail and clear running spring water too. 

We stopped in an old growth ponderosa grove by Riggs Spring to watch the swallowtails flit in the afternoonsun, smell the sweet vanilla scent of p-pine bark, and lounge in the duff. 

We’d reserved the camp site at the spring, but even with our lounging and tourist attractions it was 4:30. Far too early to camp.

And just as well, the day in Bryce Canyon was starting to make us soft. Best get us back to the Hayduke without the creature comforts. 

We said goodbye to Bryce and hello to Dixie National Forest. Walking the road of the Lower Podunk Trail, straddling barbedwire fences for cattlefouled spring water. To even feel slightly phased by these things was sure sign we had had our time in the park and needed to get back to our wonderful gritty route.

Hiked by Trekker Bob as we entered the upper wash of Bullrush Gorge. Followed the wash until we got to a promising spot with a bench of ponderosa, juniper, and phlox. The cow stamp of approval is nearby, but not in the lovely, cushy duff of our tentsite. A gentle transition back to the Hayduke. 

Day 33: 20.4 miles; 506 5 miles total. Right Fork Swamp Canyon, Bryce Canyon NP to Pt. 6771 along Bullrush Gorge.

GPS: not needed; people sighted: 15 on trail, lots at Raimbow Point too; roads: a few dusty miles at the end of the day.

Swamp Mesa from the Under the Rim Trail.
A nice groundsel in the forest.
Gabriel and a “trusty” foot bridge – as rugged as the Underthe Rim Trail gets.
Aspen are just starting to leaf out.
Hi Grandma! Hello from Rainbow Point in one of your favorite parks.
Mukmuk likes the old growth ponderosa pines in Bryce Canyon NP.
Near Youvimpa Pass there are more lovely views of the Pink Cliffs.

Hoodoo posh

There is much to love about this day which greatly contrasts with the rest of the Hayduke. It was total luxury compared to what we’ve become accustomed to. Not what we’d want frequently, but fun for a day.

We took a popular alternate to the guidebook route that goes through Tropic and connects to the “backcountry” trails of Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s a way to be up close to all the spectacular other worldly hoodoos and participate in the national park spectacle of visitors. And where there are lots of people there are all sorts of perks not found on the Hayduke. Bryce Canyon is so posh.

Perks: Comfy bed. Hot shower. Coffee and a hot breakfast. (So, those weren’t part of hiking, but they aren’t part of most of our days out here.) Easy walking. Honest to goodness trail! More trail. Golden mantle ground squirrels! Kids and adults who like squirrels. Ponderosa pines! More trail! Happy people out walking. Interpretive signage. Wondrous hoodoos. Prairie dog conservation information. Hot cocoa and cookies. Potable water coming from fountains. Trash cans. Restrooms with running water. Beautiful coral pink cliffs. Hiking cats!!!! And more lovely, beautifully designed, well-maintained. Such joy and luxury. 

A totally easy, fun day delighting in colorful hoodoos and appreciating other people getting outside. 

It also started off fun with a connection to home. While having breakfast in Tropic, Gabriel recognized a partner from many a Mountaineers scramble. It quickly became an improptu Northwest Hikers gathering in the midst of the bustling restaurant. Fun to connect, talk about awesome spots in southern Utah, and appreciate the enthusiasm of folks who love to get outside and explore.

After breakfast we finished last errands and headed west out of town. Lilacs starting to bloom, fresh mowed loans, and baseball practice on a sunny morning. Feels like a fine spring day. Icicles on the fences and rime on the irrigation systems. A reminder that spring on the Colorado Plateau is cold.

After a few miles we were in Bryce Canyon NP walking on trail with peekaboo views of the Pink Cliffs amid the ponderosa pines. It only got better. After stopping to take a picture of a very accustomed national park golden mantled ground squirrel(!!!!!), we were in the thick of hoodoo land and people admiring the hoodoos. 

Pink, coral, orange and white walls of clarion limestone eroded into all sorts of formations and configurations. Hoodoos, like clouds, take form and shape in the imagination. The columns are massive but delicate. Up close the rock looks like melting ice cream, displaying a pattern of erosion. 

Being a sunny Saturday, LOTS of people were out and about. Smiles. Pointing. Taking tons of pictures. Watching squirrels. They all seemed happy to be walking amid this beautiful fairy land. It is such a good feeling to see people enjoying their national parks. For once, I didn’t feel bothered by the crowds.

We hiked up to the rim and walked the paved path down to the visitor center for our backcountry permit. At first the very knowledgeable volunteer at the front desk started to go into a spiel about the day hiking trails being where the hoodoos are and how we wouldn’t want to hike the Under the Rim Trail because that’s not where the hoodoos are. 

I quickly insisted on getting a permit and he said, “Ahh. You’re on the Hayduke. We heard you’d be coming in soon.” Fireweed and Bob must have mentioned us. We got our permit. Bemused by all the different ways national parks administer their backcountry systems. 

While walking back to the hoodoos and trails we stopped in the general store for hot cocoa, sandwiches (with leafy greens), and a cookie. Such luxury: food we didn’t carry. It was still cold out on the rim, making the hot cocoa all the nicer.

I couldn’t have been more delighted by all that we’d seen and done in the day. But I was beyond gleeful when I saw a couple with three leashed and harnessed cats(!!!) walking along the paved path (where leashed pets are allowed). They were hiking with their cats!! Ever since I learned of Millie the climbing cat from Salt Lake City, I’ve been enamored with the concept of a hiking cat and have been working with Gracie to get her outside on leash and harness. Such joy to see kitties on leash and wearing sunglasses to boot. 

After some kitty admiring we hiked amid the hoodoos for several more miles of awe. By 3:30 pm we were descending the Under the Rim Trail. Pink and coral cliffs to our right, beautiful ponderosa forest around us and lovely trail under foot. 

Made it to our designated camp site by 7:30, just as the temps started to drop. While attempting to put up our line to hang our food (bears in the vicinity), hairy woodpeckers drilled away at the snags in the nearby burn area. We are camping amid large pines on delightful ponderosa duff. A very chilly, but peaceful night.

Happy Birthday Mom! 

Day 32: 20.4 miles; 485.7 miles total. Best Value Inn in Tropic to Right Fork Swamp Canyon, Bryce Canyon NP. 

GPS: not needed; people sighted: too many to count, from all over the US and world to see an amazing National Park – here’s to public lands; roads: a couple miles to get into Bryce Canyon NP from Tropic.

An impromptu gathering of Northwest Hikers. John Morrow (from the Willis Creek register), Linda, and crew.
Golden mantled ground squirrel saying, “Hi, do you have food?” Sorry buddy, not for you.
Hoodoo land.
Gabriel ponders the hoodoos.
Mukmuk loves that the landscape is shades of orange and blue, just like his tuque.
One of the hiking cats! The other two were on harness walking about.
Posh hiking. The NP has fountains with potable water!
Thor’s hammer.
Walking in hoodoo wonderland.
Limber pine amid the wall of eventual hoodoos.
The pink cliffs and distant hoodoos viewed along the Under the Rim Trail.

A Tropic-al rest day

Yesterday on the road walk into Cannonville and Tropic we drafted a list of criteria for when to take a zero day. (We have fun with checklists.) 

Criteria include: how we feel physically and mentally, days since the last zero, errands to take care of, town vibe, oh and the weather. 

We added that last one as we walked down a bench with views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Dark clouds and a storm cell above the Paunsaugunt Plateau plastered the rock and trees with rain and snow. Today’s forecast called for a low of 24 (down low in town). Brrr… Tipped the scales for taking a rest day in Tropic. So here we are.

This afternoon we’ve watched a mild hailstorm and a few snow flurries from our motel room window. Fine to be out in. But all the better to be warm and resting up in comfort and taking care of digital errands. 

While not the oasis of Escalante, Tropic is very compact and convenient. The PO is next to the coffee shop (with super nice proprietors and beautiful postcards). The grocery store has spinach, sparkling water, and kombucha (at $5.49, we only purchased one, but gotta support the concept). The closest restaurant to our motel has waffles and veggie stuffed omelettes. 

In all, a good, warm spot to rest.

Day 31: 0 miles; 465.3 miles total. Best Value Inn in Tropic, Utah.

Thanks Wyatt and Dalton for the seaweed!
Mukmuk enjoying guacamole, at last! – Wanted some since looking afar at the house boat scene of Lake Powell; 160 miles ago.
Super happy to get a new toothbrush and special cat and hippo flossers in our resupply packages.

From the red canyon of the Paria to Red Ledges Inn

A peaceful, beautiful morning gazing in awe at the formations of the upper Paria River canyon. Watching water flow from rocks and little minnows swim into tiny caves. Slot canyon sirens and white towering cliffs with Ponderosa and Douglas-fir. Petroglyphs. Signs of PNW outdoor enthusiasts in registers. Road walking. BLM visitors center in Cannonville with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic steward of the region (Jean Hall). Very scenic, awesome shoulder hoofing it into Tropic, Utah. Outed as Haydukers by fellow Hayduker, Firewood and Trekker Bob in the restaurant next to our motel. Showers. Laundry. More to come. But it is bed time.

Day 30: 23.6 miles; 465.3 miles total. Paria River halfway between Snake Creek and Deer Creek to Best Value Inn in Tropic, Utah.

GPS: not needed; people sighted: Runaway, three tents (one being John Morrow’s?), and many people driving; roads: yes, including a national scenic byway.

6:50 am is a fine time to start wading into the Paria.
First signs of canyonglow.
We stopped at watched this hummingbird forage in the prince’s plume. The canyon is often a zip whistle buzz with hummers that we rarely see.
Alcove in upper wall of the canyon.
The sunlight peeked through the clouds.
Walking up canyon. This was one of my favorite mornings.
Here, water comes from rocks. In the Pacific Northwest, soil falls from the sky. Gabriel is pointing to the fish.
The fish! TBI.
Desert varnish.
Sandstone beehives. We have hiked up canyon enough that red rock is transitioning to a new layer.
Cowboy records. I wonder if his relatives still live around here.
Hiking up Sheep Creek, looking at white cliffs and Ponderosa.
Near the entrance of Bull Valley Gorge. So tempting. But rather than do all the things, we will save this slot canyon for a return day trip to the area.
Nice crack. Gabriel and I wonder, would Ian or Steph like to climb this?
Douglas-fir! I’ve seen your cones in many a wash the last few days. But this is the first sighting.
Alcove of Sheep Creek.
Raven on wall. Throughout each day, we watch them soar a top the canyons and land on the walls.
Big horn sheep petroglyph by Willis Creek.
Sheep Creek canyon bends.
A familiar name from the message boards of Northwest Hikers.
Hello again Silvery Townsendia.
The surrounding terrain of a wondrous network of canyons.
Road walking with a view of the upper edge of the Grand Staircase.
I love the GSENM!
Kinda blustery while walking the scenic byway.
The sign says Tropic, but town proper is about 1.5 miles away. More noticeable when you walk into town, rather than drive into town.