Escalante and Kokopelli Planning- Maps, Food and Noise and Sight Pollution

11 January 2009

As my planning for the coming summer gets underway, I have been busy with making  the meals I will need for my longer trips- the Escalante trek and the Kokopelli ride, as well as for the Green River float.  I am sticking with many of my standard single-bag meals that require some cooking such as chili mac, rice and beans, campagnola, and ramen in various forms- see the Desert Explorer website for more on homemade single-bag meals.  But considering the length of time  I will be out, especially on the Escalante, and the fact that I will be physically carrying much of the food, I am trying hard to control the weight.  At the same time I am trying to make the menu more diverse while keeping the nutritional value high.  One addition I am considering to my food bag is Justin’s Nut Butters. They are sold in boxes of 10 packets, either peanut butter or almond butter.  The packets are just over one ounce each.  While they won’t take the place of a quart of peanut butter and a spoon, they will add variety to the menu, as well as a little but of protein.

Normally I purchase my maps locally.  But the cost adds up quickly, especially when I am buying 10 or 12 maps at a time.  I recently set up an account on the USGS website where 1:24,000 topo maps are six dollars each.  Of course there is a shipping charge, just five dollars, but in the long run it saves time and money ordering them online.  I have the last of the maps that I will need to cover the Escalante trek sitting in my shopping basket.  Once I receive these 9 maps, I will have all I need for the trip, 16 maps in all!

UPDATE: As of 01 March 2009 1:24,000 maps are now 8 dollars each, 1:100,000 maps are 9 dollars each.  All other maps have gone up in price about 2 dollars each as well.

Escalante river

A view of the Escalante river near The Gulch with a wall on one side and thick brush on the other. This makes walking down the river channel the preferred route.

Sixteen maps adds a bit of weight and bulk to the pack.  As a way of cutting at least a couple ounces of that weight, I trim all the mapsheets down.  I cut the north and east sides off all my maps right along the map’s edge.  The west side is trimmed  about 1/8 inch off the map’s edge, so that I can read the coordinates along the side.  I trim the south side off according to the year of the map- different maps have different, often unnecessary marginal information, along the bottom edge.  While this may seem a bit overboard, trimming 16 maps leaves a considerable amount of scrap paper, paper that I am not carrying on my back for two weeks.

Noise and Sight Pollution
I was browsing through information on the Escalante a few days back and happened across a PDF titled Canyons of the Escalante.  It covers all the more common topics- permits, fires, popular hikes and so on.  But on page six, under Minimum-Impact Camping, I was surprised to read the following:

“CAMPING GEAR: Brightly-colored packs and tents shrink the wilderness by being so noticeable. Use drab-colored gear and camp where your tent will not be easily seen.

NOISE: Loud noises, yelling and radio music disturb others who may be enjoying the quiet solitude of the canyons. Please observe quiet hours after dark.”

I will do my best not to rant, but Finally! This topic has been at the top of my list as long as I can remember, probably 30 years at this point. It become further emphasized for me during my time in the military, where noise and light discipline are stressed, not to mention the importance of subdued colors.  At this point nothing bothers me more than bright yellow jackets, red packs, and deafening voices when I am quietly, stealthily sneaking my way down a canyon. But now my complaints about so many of the folks I run into in the wilderness have been listened to. All those comments I have left in so many ammo cans and at so many trailhead registers have finally paid off! The National Park Service has listened.  Although, quiet hours should be observed 24 hours a day when you are in the canyons, but we will work towards that.

On the topic of bright colors, I  recently looked into a jacket made by Merrell called  The Gatherer.  It is essentially a two-layer shell with zippers throughout the whole jacket allowing it to be stuffed with leaves, juniper bark, newspapers or the like- just imagine a down jacket without the down.  Unfortunately, the jacket comes in white only, with bright orange zippers.  I emailed Merrell to ask about the possibility of other colors, and received a terse reply that this is the only color.  I also asked about the weight of the jacket, as I could overlook the color if the weight was low enough- I was assuming it would be around a pound.  The weight was curiously missing from their website and the few reviews that I read about the jacket.  The reason is because it weighs nearly three pounds, thus not qualifying for a place in my ultralight pack.

Dewey Bridge Page Updated
I recently tracked down a photograph of Dewey Bridge from the 1980’s, when it was still the means for crossing the Colorado River along Highway 128.  I have added this and a more recent photo of the bridge to the Dewey Bridge page on the Desert Explorer website.