Planning an adventure is not only essential, it makes the entire process more fun and builds anticipation. It starts with where you would like to explore and why. You need to do your homework before getting in the car and heading out to an unknown trail head in a strange and remote location.
We have had a lot of practice in researching for adventures. Our adventures has included up to 30 people in addition to planning our individual trips. Our regular adventure group consists of two other couples who are experienced desert and alpine hikers. I plan the adventure area and the hikes and Jessica does the logistics regarding food, lodging, and other non-hiking aspects of the trip.
The first step in planning an adventure is deciding where to go and why you want to explore the area. I’m a photographer so a big part of our adventures were photo opportunities. This is still part of the process, but now we give careful consideration to the hiking trails, whether they are WOW hikes, level of difficulty, and accessibility of the trailhead. Our hikes need to be WOW hikes, with views, offer excitement, and not just be another walk down a trail.
Where and What
Some of our adventures resulted from talking with other hikers, exploring the internet, travel brochures, and hiking reference books. The National Park adventures emerged because we were doing photo shoots in some of them. A couple of hiking references got us wondering about probing into other areas and seeking WOW hikes. Our focus has been in Southwestern Colorado and Southern Utah and the exploration of treasures within these areas.
We combine all the sources of information and knowledge regarding adventure opportunities and then narrow them down to get the best of what we want to explore. We also have National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topographic Maps of areas we plan to explore and use the USGS Topo Map system to download more detailed maps. Internet searches provide guidance which is considered together with all of our other sources of information. Finally, we utilize Base Camp which is a computer download from Garmin that links with our GPS system.
In planning an adventure, we gather detailed information and data about each hike, including maps, descriptions, and GPS coordinates. We consider the difficulty of the terrain in addition to gain and loss in trail elevation. Our learning process and experience has taught us to anticipate as many surprises as possible because no trail description ever provides all the information about what you might encounter on a hike.
Since we don’t camp we stay at a motel in the community near our adventure. Jessica does the planning on motels and makes sure that we have a microwave and a refrigerator. While we frequently eat in, information on area restaurants is gathered to have available options on meals. Breakfasts are usually available in most motels where we stay.
In most instances there will be a visitor center or a BLM office located near the motel. We always check with the visitor center to find out about the latest road and trail conditions. In many instances personnel in those field offices have done hikes we are considering and provide useful information.
One of the critical factors in planning is weather. The seasons are important considerations when planning adventures in certain regions. In Colorado, the hiking season is limited to late spring, summer, and early autumn. There are some regions of Colorado were hiking during the winter is possible. In southern Utah, hiking and adventures are best suited to autumn, early winter, and spring.
In addition to seasonal planning, we engage in more detailed tracking of weather as the scheduled dates of our adventures draw nearer. The weather applications that we utilize include AccuWeather, NOAA Weather, and Wunderground Weather. A consensus of information from these applications will yield a good sense of what we can expect and is used in planning a trip. In Colorado we use cotrip.org to access camera shots of highways to provide up to date road conditions on areas where we plan to travel or hike.