CategoryHiking Archives - The Northrups

Route-Finding on a Hike

September 5th, 2017

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:

  1. Read the map regularly, not just when you’re lost
  2. Visualize the terrain ahead and always double-check with the map if necessary
  3. Know your pace so you know how long it will take to get to a landmark
  4. Use your compass to verify your general direction and orient yourself
  5. Never wander when you’re lost and always keep a level head
  6. 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.

Hike Safely

August 25th, 2017

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)
  • Lighter/matches
  • Duct tape
  • Toilet paper
  • Whistle
  • 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.

Safe hiking.

Hiking Essentials

July 22nd, 2017

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.”

Proper Footwear

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.

Adequate Water

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.

Emergency Shelter

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
  • Whistle
  • Mirror
  • Paracord
  • Carabiner
  • GPS
  • Toilet Paper
  • Bandana
  • Sort Section of Rope
  • Gloves
  • Camera
  • 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 Pioneer Point

June 7th, 2017

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.


Hole in the Rock

May 18th, 2017

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.

The Hiking Blog

April 24th, 2017

This is our first post so it has to be about hiking and adventure. We’re pretty fortunate to live close to so many great hikes and destination spots. It has been a year round activity for us even when the snow is piled deep on our alpine trails in the San Juan’s to the south and Crested Butte to the east. We travel north and west to Grand Junction and canyon country in Utah and keep on hiking.

The learning curve has been steep from being rookies just learning to find the trail head to seasoned veterans exploring WOW hikes all over the southwestern United States. This blog shares our thoughts and ideas from what we have learned from miles on the trail. In addition, we have planned adventures for our friends and the Cobble Creek Hiking Club so we’ll share input from these experiences.

Some of our posts will highlight hikes so you get an idea of we think about certain trails. Yes, some trails are better and more exciting than others. There are also times of the year that are better for hiking certain areas. We’ll be covering all these topics.

Equipment and gear always draws a lot of questions. One of the advantages we have experienced is hiking with others and seeing the gear they were using. This gave us the opportunity to ask questions and find out various opinions about what works and what doesn’t and why. We’ll being sharing these opinions with you.

One of the aspects of our hiking and adventure activities has been identifying reliable research material and books. Some blog posts will give you an idea of how we go about learning about where to hike and what to see on hikes.

Hiking safety is one our big concerns. We see a lot of people on trails that are poorly equipped to handle emergency situations. It can happen and it has happened to us. Learn how to cope with and the best ways to handle stressful situations on the trail. We think we have condensed safety equipment and kits down to what is really essential.

I am a photographer so taking pictures on each hike has been important. Now we’re taking video which is making our hiking adventures even more fun. So look for our images, videos, and photography tips in future blog posts.

We have so much to share with everyone and it will be a fun journey. Our new website will take you with us on our hikes and adventures. Come along with us and enjoy our adventure knowledge and experiences.