Packing for Utah and Website Updates

28 May 2009

We have 0nce again dumped all our gear boxes on the floor and have gone through everything, packing and arranging, and amending our packing lists yet another time.  The Landcruiser is nearly packed up and readied, and Nicolai and I are both excited to go.  We will leave Monday morning for a couple of weeks, plus or minus, in the beautiful desert of southeast Utah.

Each trip holds something new for us, aside from the obvious experiences of exploring Utah and the canyons in general. As Nicolai grows we are able to do a little more, go a little further each time we head into the bush. On this trip Nicolai will do his first overnight backpack.  We actually have three possible overnights planned.  We’ll do one and see how it goes, and then make a call on the others.  Each can be as short as two or three miles one way, so it will be easy enough for him in terms of the walk.  And he will only be carrying his Camelbak with water and survival items.  I will carry his sleeping bag, pad, and most of his gear, adding 5 or so pounds to my ultralight pack.

The Itinerary
The three trips I have planned all have interesting things to see despite their short lengths. I picked three canyons with easy entrances- we’ll be entering right at the head of each one.  One hike is near Canyonlands south of Moab, the other two are in Grand Gulch. The hike near Canyonlands was chosen for its abundant wildlife- it has a large beaver pond not a mile down from the entrance, and it has some moki steps to ponder as well.  The two in Grand Gulch have prehistoric ruins, a cowboy camp, and rock art panels with archaic anthropomorphic figures as well as a few Kokopelli figures.  All three are well-worth visiting and perfect for the young explorer.


Our backpack version of Pho, packed and ready for testing in Utah.

Backpack Meals
Nicolai and I spent some time over the last couple of weeks making up more backpack meals, breakfasts and dinners mainly.  We also worked on a new recipe- a backpack version of Vietnamese Noodle Soup or Pho.  The recipe is up on the Single Pot Meals page at the Desert Explorer website. It is definitely a tasty meal, even though it may not be completely authentic.

Tracking and Bikepacking
For those that missed it, I have also added Tracking pages and begun a  Bikepacking page on the Desert Explorer website.  A couple of the tracking pages are re-posts from this blog.  One of the pages covers a brief morning of tracking after our final inch of snow this past April. That post is based on notes from our tracking journal and discusses tracking in the snow.

The Bikepacking Page has been on my mind for some time, since last summer and my ride of the White Rim trail.  It gives a definition of bikepacking and outlines my packing list from the White Rim ride. I will update that page in the near future as my plans for a solo, ultralight ride of Kokpelli’s Trail become finalised. One of the goals of the present trip will be to recon cache sites for water resupplies on the second half of the Kokopelli’s ride, once I have left  Dewey Bridge and the Colorado River. There are no permanent water sources again until the very end of the ride.

From the Road
We will make every effort to make a quick post from either Moab or Monticello on the way south, then another from Bluff after we leave Cedar Mesa. We’ll be sure to include some photos from the adventure as it unfolds.

Canyoneering Lecture, Thoughts on Tracking

1 May 2009

Friday morning- I have time for a quick post. I went to the Boulder REI last night for a lecture on Canyoneering.  It was very informative, and mostly confirmed what I thought I knew about the “emerging sport”. It also answered a bunch of questions that I had.

First, according to A.J. Pastula (his website is, who gave the lecture, Canyoneering is defined as traveling through canyons.  In every other part of the world the sport is referred to as “Canyoning”.  So, I have been Canyoneering for years and years.  I have been doing non-technical Canyoneering for the most part, although there have been times when I have been in very technical situations.  Canyoneering is different from climbing in that you are traveling down for the most part, or laterally,  and not up.  The technical aspects of climbing- ropes, anchors, belays and so on are still very applicable. There are many new and exciting challenges in Canyoneering that you won’t find in climbing a big, dry wall.  You can still fall, break something, or worse.  But in Canyoneering you can get stuck in a muddy pothole in the middle of a canyon, in the middle of nowhere, with no way out.  It has happened to many people, some who have been rescued, and some who haven’t .

Preparedness, caution, and common sense are key to enjoying and surviving the sport.  Leaving an itinerary, knowing wilderness skills, traveling in goups, and carrying a personal locater beacon are all recommended precautions.

For more information on Canyoneering, visit the American Canyoneering Associatiton website.

On to Tracking

I have noted in many of my posts how my son and I do a lot of tracking, how we follow tracks whenever we find them while hiking- coyote, fox, rabbit, dog and human- to name a few.  I am now taking our tracking further.  I have just ordered a couple of books on tracking- humans mainly- from Amazon.  I will post more about them once I get them reviewed, in the next couple of weeks.  They were on the recommended reading list from the Tactical Tracking Operations School, one of the leading military and law enforcement tracking schools in the U.S.

I found out about this school from the recent Blogs posts of an old friend of mine- a photographer, journalist, and war corespondent-  who is currently attending the British Army combat tracking course in Borneo.  You may recognise him- he has been featured on manymajor news outlets including CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and NPR. You can read his posts from the course at his website- Michael Yon Online. His posts from the tracking school are very interesting.  He is learning some great stuff.  Be sure to take a look at his writing and photos from Iraq and Afghanistan where he has spent many years covering the situations there.

Look for more on both of these topics soon on the Desert Explorer website.

Updating Website- Checking Links

27 April 2009

Thanks to all who visit and comment on my blog and the Desert Explorer website.  I am currently doing some updating to my files in Dreamweaver. In trying to make it all more manageable and orderly, I have found that some links are not updating themselves.  If you visit the site and have trouble navigating to certain pages, please jump to another page and give it a try.  I am working on checking and updating all the links.  Feel free to email broken links to me and I will fix them straight away.

The aftermath of a well-planned and successful five day backpack- no water, one power bar, a bunch of dirty socks.

The remnants of a well-planned and successful five day backpack- a ziplock stuffed full of trash, no water, one power bar, a bunch of dirty socks.

Summer Wrap-Up: Fall is a Four Letter Word to a Desert Rat

22 September 2008

Today is 22 September, the first full day of fall.  This is not something I really like to acknowledge, especially to myself, considering I prefer the temperature to hover somewhere around 90 degrees.  But I knew it would happen- sooner or later it always does.  This is the time when I begin my reflections on the summer now past, on my recent experiences and begin planning, at least in my head, the summer to come. It helps me get through the winter.

It was a great summer, a summer full of travel and adventure: there was the Dirty Devil River float, road trip to Nevada, San Juan River float, White Rim Trail ride, Escalante backpacking, a few races well-run, and plenty of hiking and camping in between.  There were slot canyons, rock art, caves, ruins, seemingly endless dirt roads across the vast desert, and miles and miles of beautiful southern Utah seen.  I spent a good two months with the stars overhead at night.  I was witness to meteor showers and full moons.  I lay on the ground under the darkest night skies full of constellations, while gleaming satellites drew perfect lines across the sky above me.

Never-ending desert road, western Utah, near the Nevada border.

Never-ending desert road, western Utah, near the Nevada border.

There were a few Midget Faded rattlesnakes along the way, as there always are.  There were numerous garter snakes and one Utah blackheaded snake, the first I remember seeing.  I found more toads this year than in years past as well, both Woodhouse’s and Red-spotted.  I paid attention to the lizards this summer, more than just stopping to watch them, and began to make more “scientific” observations.  I will be documenting  the lizards of Canyon Country under the Wildlife link on the Desert Explorer website. I noted the tamarisk leaf beetles this year, how far up and down the Colorado and Green Rivers they had made it.  I collected information on them and have begun compiling a web page about the beetles and their role in restoring western rivers to their natural state.

I met many fellow desert travelers this summer, both in person and online.  Thanks again to everyone who offered their experience and took interest in my travels.  I was able to share a common moment with a number of people in the desert including Christine and Aldo from Italy.  They were on year five of a five year journey around the world in their FJ74 Landcruiser.  Their website has extensive photos and video from their journey.  They shared an incredible DVD with me from their travels in North Africa.

Christine and Aldo next to their FJ74 at Lake Powell

Christine and Aldo next to their FJ74 at Lake Powell

I slept in my tent more than usual, due to both rain, or threat of rain, and mosquitoes.  The bugs made a strong showing this year, more so than in the last few years.  We fought them on the San Juan, especially my son Nicolai, mostly at the Sand Island put in.  We fought them in the Escalante, especially Robert- I had brought along my 4 ounce home-made bug net. But in both cases as we moved along they seemed to stay behind, leaving us to sleep in peace on the sand or slickrock.

The weather felt different this summer.  As a whole it seemed rather moist and cool to me.  I began my summer in early May on the Dirty Devil wearing every piece of clothing I brought along for my two weeks alone there.  But by the end I was sunburned and in shorts.  There were some tremendous storms all across southern Utah, one hundred-year type storms that washed out roads and bridges and will be remembered for years, generations to come.  We were hit by one of these storms our fist night on the San Juan.  It more than doubled the flow to about 3000 CFS, so in the end we welcomed it.  The only time I really encountered the heat I would normally expect was in August on the White Rim, and then there were just a few days that reached into the high 90’s.  I do not mind the heat at all; I rather enjoy it.  On the White Rim the heat helped me to rise early, finish early, and spend afternoons sitting still, contemplating everything and nothing, as Balzac put it.  That is my purpose for traveling to the region: I retire to the desert to meditate in peace.

For more on my experiences in the Southwest desert, trip guides, and desert hiking tips visit the Desert Explorer website.