Hiking is good for the mind and soul and takes you to awesome places. It has given me great experiences and has enabled me to take some amazing images. If I had hiked as if on a mission just to arrive at a destination I would have missed out on lots of photographic opportunities. Hiking for the joy of the journey leaves me at the back of the pack.
This has made me wonder about the motivation of hikers as they charge past me hiking at a speed of well over 3.5 miles an hour. That’s fast and doesn’t leave any time to take pictures. Ok, so you are getting a workout. You can go the gym and do that. Or just find a path somewhere and walk as fast as possible.
My suggestion is to set a slower pace and stop to enjoy your surroundings. First, you’re going to see more of what the hike offers and avoid getting burned out. You go further and see more. Another real benefit is that a more measured pace allows you to be surer of your footing and avoid accidental falls.
By embarking on a journey rather than a race, you will more likely know where you are going and avoid turns that could get you lost. A longer hike gives you more time on the trail and greater enjoyment. Besides, what’s the hurry. You’ll see more wildlife and have more opportunities to enjoy the trail or take photographs.
The trails where I most often see destination type hiking are usually very clearly defined. However, many of the locations where we hike require that you pay attention and utilize of skilled route finding. Even on defined trails, I still observe hikers blowing past turns and ending up some where they didn’t plan on and wonder how they got there.
A journey utilizing a measured pace allows you to check your compass, map, or GPS. I will continue to pursue the journey in the pursuit of great adventures and photographs plus more time to enjoy the scenery and the hike. Here’s to more enjoyable hikes and journeys!
Hiking is a fun and healthy way to enjoy our wonderful outdoors. However, it will be more enjoyable and safer, if you know where you are, were you want to be, and know how to get there. Here are some thoughts:
- Many people don’t carry topo maps of the area being hiked
- They don’t carry GPS devices and if they do, they don’t know to use them
- Many people don’t carry a compass or know how to use one
- If they didn’t have an established trail or cairns to follow, they wouldn’t know where to go or how to get there
- They don’t visualize the terrain
- They have no sense of pace
If people get into a strange and vast wilderness area that requires route finding, a wrong turn could spell real trouble and discomfort. People tend to rely on their group or a leader to guide them.
Here are some common-sense rules and steps that every hiker should follow. Everyone should have a compass and a map and the knowledge on to use them. A wrong turn can lead to a lot of frustration and even a very cold night in the wilderness.
There a lot of people who go hiking unprepared because they were certain they would stay with someone who was prepared, but then became separated when unpredictable events occurred. The rule should be that the unpredictable can happen.
Yes, while the compass will point to North, you need to understand your direction of travel and where you are. Are you going up or downhill when expected? Are you passing through the type of terrain indicated by the map? Do trail junctions correspond with what shows on the map? Are you crossing roads or streams where the map shows them? Are visible landmarks showing up in the direction where they should be?
Get familiar with the map and its symbols. Learn to understand the brown contour lines so you know whether you should be going up or downhill. Forest areas are shaded light green. Some maps will show high-tension wires which can be very helpful.
Here are some simple rules to follow:
- Read the map regularly, not just when you’re lost
- Visualize the terrain ahead and always double-check with the map if necessary
- Know your pace so you know how long it will take to get to a landmark
- Use your compass to verify your general direction and orient yourself
- Never wander when you’re lost and always keep a level head
- Keep track of the terrain you’re hiking and any changes in direction
These are essential rules to follow. GPS devices run on batteries and they can wear out so carry extra batteries. Your GPS will have a compass plus a map. Understanding these tools can make your hike more fun and safer.
Hiking is fun, it’s healthy, and keeps you balanced and in sync with what’s important in life. One of my blog posts dealt with “Hiking Essentials.” This post provides the key things you should consider when launching on your hiking journey. However, I need to take this post a step further and talk about how to hike safety.
Being safe on a hike is a big deal for me. While hiking in a remote wilderness area I fell and broke my ankle. That was a wakeup call. There are lots of things to consider about hiking safely.
The thing I see most frequently on hiking trails is gear that doesn’t provide a safety net plus inadequate water and electrolytes. You can get by without food for a while but water is a necessity. Carry enough water to cover any emergency. All too often I see hikers with only a small bottle of water. That won’t get the job done if the rescue effort takes more than a couple of days.
Spending a night on the trail will be a cold experience. Carry a simple bevy that weighs almost nothing and takes up very little space. Crawling into the bevy will keep you warm until rescue help arrives. Utilizing a backpack is essential because you can carry adequate supplies of water and other essentials need for survival. A fanny pack or a vest to carry a bottle of water doesn’t get it done.
Some additional items that should be in your backpack include:
- Simple first aid kit
- Snacks (trail mix, jerky, crackers and peanut butter)
- Duct tape
- Toilet paper
- Head lamp or small flash light
- Wind jacket
Now that I got that off my chest, let’s move on to how to hike safe. Hiking alone is a bad idea. I know people do it, but it is still a bad idea. Hiking with three people allows one person to look for help while the other person stays with the injured hiker. Also, tell someone where you’re going.
How about slowing down to the speed of the hike, enjoying nature and taking pictures. Stay together with your group. Take breaks on the trail to rest and if it’s hot stop in the shade.
Rather than going full bore as fast as you can hike, take time to observe your location and landmarks. Even if you have a compass, notice the location of the sun relative to the time of day. It is a good idea to have a map and know how to read it. A GPS can be invaluable, but it’s useless if you don’t know how to use it.
As you hike, pay close attention to the surface of the trail and the placement of your feet. One slip is all it takes. Trekking poles can make a big difference on loose trail surfaces or slick rock.
These are simple tips that are easy to implement and apply. They can make the difference between a happy hike and a disaster.
The journey to Dark Canyon and the Sundance Trail was an experience that we’ll not soon forget. Just the drive was an adventure. Located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation, Dark Canyon plunges 1,600 feet from the canyon rim to the canyon floor. The Sundance Trail is a cairned slick rock trail that provides wonderful views of the canyon below and the surrounding area that you never forget.
To reach the trail head requires a 12-mile drive on dirt roads without clear marking to let you know if you are on the right road. The drive to the trail provided a contrasting view of the sandstone desert and the snow capped Manti La Sal mountains in the background.
The Sundance Trail leads to where you drop into the cavern of Dark Canyon. It is an easy straight forward hike with lots to see over the 2.2 miles it takes to reach the canyon rim. The surface is mostly slick rock and not much elevation gain and loss. We encountered interesting rock formations in addition to the ruggedness of Dark Canyon.
Looking down into the abyss of Dark Canyon was amazing. We didn’t have time to explore the canyon as we arrived in late afternoon after driving from Montrose. Since I have video plus some still images, I think you will get a pretty good grasp of the hike.
Returning to Highway 95 proved to be another story. The road marker we needed to make it out had been knocked down by the grader and not replaced. This resulted in a missed turn and a lengthy back track making it a long trip.
The Sundance Trail is adjacent to Natural Bridges National Monument and its amazing bridge structures. The White River runs through the region and offers numerous slot canyon to explore. We need to go back for more exploration and adventure.
Enjoy the video of our adventure.
We have hiked all over the southwestern part of Colorado and southern Utah over the past few years. Our adventures have taken us into some very remote wilderness areas. We have observed many hikers on the trails including members of our own hiking club. Everyone thinks that hiking is like a walk in the park and that accidents can’t happen. I have news for you, it can and it has happened to me.
I broke my leg in a remote section of southern Utah. Fortunately, I was able get back to the trail head. After being in a boot and unable to hike for a few months, the safety and survival aspect of hiking became embedded in my mind.
Here are the items every hiker should have with them when hiking especially in remote wilderness areas. I call these the “hiking essentials.”
Depending on the terrain and conditions you will be encountering should determine the type of footwear to wear. I see a lot of hikers with low cut boots or even sneakers. You really need boots with proper ankle support and comfortable soles. This is very important when hiking in rocky conditions and on slick rock.
Hiking in water and stream crossing is a possibility on some hikes. Some people recommend water shoes or sandals. I don’t like getting sand and pebbles under my feet which occurs when hiking in sandals. I suggest having multiple pairs of hiking boots and letting them get wet. This also, provides the necessary ankle support when hiking in wet canyons or streams.
Hiking or Trekking Poles
Hiking poles will make hiking a whole lot easier. This is especially true when hiking on rough and uneven terrain. The poles to help support you and carry your weight by adding stability and reducing the amount of energy that you need while trekking. You need to adjust the tips of your poles for the trail surface. Having rubber tips are very helpful on hard surfaces like slick rock that you will encounter on canyon hikes.
There are lots of different types of poles available. Handles will vary as will the type of material used in the poles. My poles are made from carbon fiber that makes them light. Each person will have their own preference.
Well-Equipped First Aid Kit
Injuries can vary from scrapes and bruises to a cut. It could be a sprain, dislocation, or a fracture. Accordingly, make sure the kit is well stocked with enough content to handle even the most serious injuries. I carry a supply of tape just in case. Also, I have a supply of my prescription medicine with me.
Source of Fire
Fire can be your best friend in the wilderness. You can use fire to stay warm, cook, illuminate, and to protect yourself. Always carry a way to make a fire. This can be matches, a lighter, or flint. These are must-have tools and the knowledge of how to use them.
Source of Light
Light can be in the form of flashlights or fire. You never know when you might get caught out and darkness sets in. I carry a headlamp which is light and easy to carry in my backpack. It has two types of light, a regular light beam and a red light beam that blinks for emergency situations.
An attention getting fact is you can survive only about 3 days without water. I have seen hikers with only a couple of bottles of water. That’s not enough. Carry enough water as you can without creating a burdensome load. We like a backpack water reservoir which carries up 60 ounces.
For longer hikes you might carry purifiers, iodine pills or a life-straw. This isn’t always reliable because you might not be able to find a water source. Therefore, always try to ration the water you brought with you.
Energy Rich Food
Fruit such as bananas and oranges are the best examples to provide a quick burst. Carry trail mix and energy bars that contains sugar foods that release energy quickly. Other considerations include buffered electrolyte salts that help reduce heat stress, muscle cramping, and increase energy levels.
Map and Compass
In addition to your GPS bring a map of the area you will be hiking. You might never need it but having the ability to read a map is an essential skill. It won’t add much weight and you’ll be glad you brought it if the need ever arises. Your GPS might not work in situations where you can’t access satellites to give you a location. This occurred in Fiery Furnace in Arches N.P and can happen in slot canyons.
Sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where a day hike turns into an overnight event. If this ever occurs you need to be prepared with some sort of emergency cover such as a plastic tarp and or a bivy blanket. These items are light and don’t take much space. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use these items, but you will glad you had them if the need arises.
Some Other Items to Consider
- Knife (jack knife, hunting knife)
- Duct Tape
- Toilet Paper
- Sort Section of Rope
- Wind Jacket
This is a pretty complete list. While it may seem like a lot of stuff, you’ll be glad you had these items if an emergency ever arises. We hike in some very remote areas where help will take a while to reach you. Fanny packs aren’t a smart idea when hiking in wilderness areas. A good backpack that balances well is a great investment and will carry everything you need. Enjoy your hike and be safe.
Hiking or trekking poles accompany us on every hike. Why do we use them and how do they help? Here are some thoughts and tips that answer these questions.
Most people think of safety as the reason for trekking poles. While this is one reason, you might be surprised to find out that they help improve your posture and the efficiency of your movement. Walking in an upright position helps maximize your breathing by increasing the amount of oxygen that gets to your lungs. Trekking poles help you to achieve an upright walking position.
Your hiking efficiency will be increased by 10 percent, especially when going up or down hill. They also tend to remove between 3 to 5 percent of the impact from every pole plant. Since you are less likely to lose your balance, you reduce knee strain and injuries when walking on uneven terrain. They become your extra set of legs on tough terrain.
Maintaining balance is one of the advantages of trekking poles because it gives you four points of contact instead of just two. They are invaluable as aids on slick surfaces, rough terrain, or crossing streams. In addition, the use of poles results in less strain on the lower back and knees.
Using trekking poles helps you establish a pace when hiking. The rhythm of using the poles in coordination with your stride helps your entire body to achieve a set pace. Getting into a set pace enables your breathing to become steadier and controlled. This improves your hiking efficiency and allows you to hike longer distances.
Based on published studies, trekking poles significantly increases the amount of oxygen consumed and the number of calories burned. In addition, the poles are an efficient and healthy way to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are engaged every time you lift and pole plant in the front and bring them back to the front.
For someone like me who has knee issues, using trekking poles helps to relieve stress on both my legs and knees. This has been especially noticeable when going down step down grades. Poles have rubber tips which can be placed on the metal tips and really helps when hiking on slick rock. I carry these rubber tips in my back pack just in case.
There are a variety of pole types made of different shaft material, various lock devices for adjusting length, and handle configurations. Pricing can range from $30 a pair to over $100. Trekking poles are a real bargain when considering the cost compared to the benefits gained by using them.
When you’re near the Oregon coast you think of hiking near the ocean. Our daughter in law came up with another option. Let’s explore the old growth forest that has evolved over hundreds of years with an easy one-mile stroll through a forest of giant trees.
Underneath the covering of big fir and cedar trees was a treasure trove of plants, insects, and decayed logs that were left behind because they lacked commercial value. In addition, there are dead trees that are called snags. These snags provide shelter and food for over 65 species of birds and 30 species of animals.
Walking the trail, we saw beams of light shining through openings in the forest created by fires and wind storms. Plus, there was moss covering the trees reminding us of the cool, moist conditions that exist in coastal old-growth forests.
This was a great trail for our 3-year-old granddaughter. She literally pranced down the path and through the forest. She made sure that I noticed the blacken tree trunk that was evidence of the fires that swept through the forest over 100 years ago.
The stream running along and underneath the bridges on the trail provides moisture for plants and aquatic life. The stream was shaded by the forest keeping water temperatures cool. It was neat seeing the brook tumble over fallen tree trunks creating scenic water falls.
Our granddaugther delighted in finding pine cones and acorns scattered along the forest trail. Many of these old growth trails have become lost over the years. Hiking this trail was a pleasant break from waking the beach and hearing the crashing of waves.
One thing for sure was the forest trees are tall and massive. The fir trees in the forest can measure over 10 feet in diameter and rise to over 200 feet in height. The trees helped to put everything mother nature created into prospective.
The hike wasn’t long, but it didn’t need to be. The setting and surroundings created an experience that will not be quickly forgotten.
This is a spectacular hike from the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison down to the river ending at the Curecanti Needle. The Curecanti Needle is a rock formation that was featured on the logo of the scenic railroad that traveled through that part of the canyon.
The hike is a journey of many dimensions. You start hiking through a mile of desert-like terrain that abruptly transforms into a forest-like setting as you make your descent along Curecanti Creek. Two bridges facilitate crossing the creek with scenic views of the water falls.
A distinctive feature of the hike is hearing the roar of Curecanti Creek tumbling down 900 feet of elevation change on its way to join the Gunnison River. The lower section of the hike has cave-like openings that push out cold air. One of them still contained some left-over snow providing needed coolness on a warm day.
The lower part of the trail is rocky and steep. You know you’re getting close after you cross the second bridge and pass a picnic area with a table and a bear-proof box for garbage.
Suddenly, you’re at the river and you say wow as you view the vertical walls of the canyon. After a brief rest and a snack, you have to face the tough 2 mile strenuous 900-foot ascent back to the trail head.
Since our words can’t do justice for this hike, enjoy our YouTube video of this awesome adventure.
Our hiking club hikes on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Well, guess what, we had three inches of snow on Wednesday. You could call it spring time in the Rockies. That took care of the mid-week hike and forced us to think about where to go on Saturday where we could avoid snow and mud. We decided on Big Dominguez Canyon for our celebration of the first-ever Public Lands Day in Colorado.
Big Dominquez is part of the Dominquez-Escalante National Conservation area that is part of the Uncompahre Plateau which is an area that holds geological and paleontological treasures covering 600 million years and contains numerous cultural and historic sites reaching back over 10,000 years.
The boring part of the hike requires a jaunt of about a mile along the Gunnison River and then becomes more exciting when you cross the bridge over the river. The next 2.5 miles takes you through rugged canyon landscape craved from sandstone canyon walls. You boarder along Little and Big Dominquez creeks on a trail that sparkles from the mica deposits that are present in the area. The view of green cottonwood trees to the south toward Little Dominquez was stunning.
Our route was up Big Dominquez Canyon to the petroglyph panel which is about 3.5 miles from the parking lot trail head. Here is an image of the site and one of the images carved into the rock. This was our lunch and resting stop before heading back to the trail head.
It was a perfect day for a hike and Public Lands Day.
It brought out the people including a BLM representative who was on the trail to welcome us.
A great day and a great trail.
It’s a muddy dusty bumpy road (56 miles to be exact) from Scenic Byway 12 to reach the Hole in the Rock. We did a hike into Zebra in the rain and experienced muddy and slippery conditions first hand. The hike planned for the next day was Davis Gulch which is over 50 miles from Hwy 12. After checking with the Visitor Center, we decided to give a go. The road turned out to be ok and the mud from yesterday turned into bumps and dust. After completing Davis Gulch, the group decision was to travel the additional 6 miles to Hole in the Rock.
The Hole in the Rock and the view of Lake Powell was fantastic but the ride was bumpy. The last 15 miles of the road are the roughest. While other sections of the road are not exactly a super highway, it wasn’t too bad with speeds of 35 miles an hour at times. It was more like 10 miles an hour from Davis Gulch to the Hole in Rock.
Hole in the Rock Road was the route of the last major wagon train in America in an attempt to settle a new frontier. Just imagine how picks and shovels forged a route for lumbering wagons. These determined settlers walked hundreds of miles beside their wagon to lighten the load on their teams as they created this road we enjoy in route to our hikes and scenic vistas. In 1879 the settlers stayed at Dance Hall Rock, a National Historic Site. When more families arrived, they began blasting their way through solid rock to widen a crack 1,800 feet above the Colorado River and to what is now Lake Powell.
Driving the Hole in the Rock Road is an adventure. A high clearance SUV will get you most places, but the last 5 miles is better suited for 4WD. You might make it if you’re careful, but there is a chance you could have some challenges and issues. When heading out on the “Road” it is essential to have extra food, extra clothing, adequate water and a full tank of gas.
The Hole in the Rock Road provides access to camping, great views, and some great hikes. Be prepared for long drives and longer hikes, and not necessarily easy hikes.
Starting down the “Road” you can detour at 2.7 miles to Cedar Wash Arch Covered Wagon Natural Bridge. At 13.3 miles down the road you can experience Devils Garden Natural Area which is a great way to introduce yourself to Grand Staircase – Escalante and what it provides.
The “Road” provides access to some of Utah’s great slot canyons. You have Big Horn Slot, Zebra, and Tunnel that flow into Harris Wash. Further down the “Road” at 26.5 miles you will reach Dry Fork, the location of Peek-A-Boo, Spooky, and Brimstone Slots. That’s just a few of the possibilities.
One of the major attractions access from the “Road” is Coyote Gulch with access points that include Red Well, Hurricane Wash, and Fortymile Ridge, and Crack in the Wall. Hiking Coyote Gulch will be long treks and typically be done as back packing adventures. A shorter access to Coyote Gulch is via Crack in the Wall. This can be done as a day hike with the understanding that you will be trudging through some sandy terrain and that the squeeze down the crack is tight.
Another hike to consider includes Willow Gulch and Broken Bow Arch. A great slick rock hike is along the rim of Davis Gulch with a view of Bement Arch.
Hole in the Rock Road is an adventure in itself. There is a lot to see, so allow plenty of time. You can do the drive in a day, but you will need multiple days and trips to experience all the adventures offered by this vast wilderness.