Monthly Archives: October 2013

Nevada – full of surprises

windmills 2 nevada

We were heading into Nevada specifically to go to Reno and paddle the Truckee Whitewater park. It was taking us 12 hours out of our way but the pictures looked amazing and the write-ups all said that water flowed year round… It was an interesting geographical change from Utah, as we drove into the Great Basin area with large expanses of flat desert landscape.

nevada snowy road #1

Surprise #1 was a pacific storm rolling in on the day we were leaving St. George. It was bringing high winds, low temperatures and precipitation to Northern California, all of Nevada and parts of Utah. Oh GREAT… We’ve done this once already in September in B.C. – should we start to anticipate this on a monthly basis???

nevada snowy road #2

Surprise #2 was learning that Nevada is the most mountainous state in the United States and that means when you are driving east to west (or west to east), all you do is cross summits! This makes for long driving and alot of work for the truck (aka poor Fordo).

nevada snowy road #3

When you put #1 and #2 TOGETHER you get 6 hours in a winter snow storm for what is supposed to be a sunshine filled, warm vacation! It also made for a long drive with a few held breaths as the truck started to go sideways going both up and down the hills. We even came across a road closure with State Trouper’s blocking the roads. Tim’s awesome driving left nothing to fear and we came through it all without a bump…

nevada snowplow

The really humourful part is that we are driving in more snow than they have at home in Whitehorse right now…

More to come on Great Basin National Park & Lehman Caves (where we camped at 7300 feet and were surrounded by snow) and our exceptionally quick visit to Reno.

A weekend off in St. George, Utah

hunter tim minigolf fiesta funworld

Hunter hit the wall last week and announced that he was exhausted and needed a day off! His request was at least a day with a) no driving b) no biking and c) no hiking or walking… Geez – you’d think he wasn’t on vacation or something!

He announced this while in Zion and we weren’t willing to give up on hiking there so we negotiated for a weekend stop in St. George, Utah which is just down the road.

We rolled into the campground in St. George at lunch time on Thursday. It is a full service commercial campground at the south end of downtown St. George. It has a heated pool, hot tub, recreation room, shuffleboard and a whole lot of seniors that live here all winter! Either way, it fit the bill as a great place to pause for 4 days and regroup.

Hunter was happily into the pool Thursday afternoon and then into the trailer to play lego and watch movies. He then began busily planning the itinerary for his official “day off” on Friday…sleep in, pool, shuffleboard, skateboard park and sessions of play time and movie watching with dad in between.

hunter dentist broken tooth

The day started well with the sleep in part, and then he woke up and announced to Tim that he dreamt that he had lost his front tooth cap (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152108133720082&set=a.10150715435285082.711133.515250081&type=1&theater) that had been put on September 17th, 2012. He then pinched himself to see if he was still dreaming, put his finger in his mouth and launched out of bed to look in the mirror to discover that YES, somehow in the middle of the night, his tooth mould had come off… MOM!!!! Next step – scrap original plans and find a local dentist. The great news was we found one a few blocks away that could get us in that morning. Total cost $200 US, which is cheaper than the $350 we paid last year in Whitehorse!

New plan for the day – DENNY’s for lunch, which just happened to be down the block on our way home (impulse cravings by 2 boys…). They are both busy chatting about what they are going to order as we are just about to get there and Tim turns to me and asks “is there anything you can eat here? just wondering how much of a jerk I’m being pushing for lunch here”. I answer “Yes, I’ll find something but thanks for thinking about me” and Hunter says “you’re not a jerk, you’re my DAD!”… what do you say to that???

Next impulse change to the plan was walking by Fiesta Funworld on our way to check out the local skateboard park – how can you say no to mini golf, bumper cars and arcade games? The only disappointment was that Hunter isn’t big enough to drive the go-cart cars. Hunter had mini-golf/go-carts on his trip wish list so it was win/win.

It was a fabulously hot day so we all happily headed back to the campground and into the pool for a refreshing break before getting in the truck and heading out to Western Legacy Farm & Ranch for their Sleepy Hollow Halloween event – corn maze, pumpkin catapult, headless horseman,petting zoo, face painting, cow roping, pumpkin trains and more! It was another tick off Hunter’s wish list as he’s never been in a corn maze before. It ran from 5:30 to 8:30 and was a great family event run by a local family farm.

Saturday was another sleep-in for the boys as I got up and went for my first run in 2 months (ouch running muscles vs biking muscles!) and hit the local farmers market. I brought home yummy baked goods for breakfast which helped to get the day started and some school work done. We then wandered downtown to check out the St. George Spooky Town Fair – a partnership between the Chamber of Commerce & the Washington County School Foundation. It was a kid centric fair in the main square downtown with halloween games, halloween activities, contests and lots of food and other booths.

hunter carousel st. george

We started off with a trip on their historic carousel and then checked out the Haunted House before taking a wander around the entire site. We enjoyed the bouncy castle, got some giveaways at the booths and had fun at most of the games booths. The big hit of the afternoon was the Hamburger eating contest, which was sponsored by McDonalds! It started with a Big Mac eating contest between 4 highschool boys, then moved into a second Big Mac round of general public volunteers. Hunter had decided earlier that he wanted to do this but was a little put off with the Big Mac idea as he can’t get one in his mouth to take a single bite! There were enough kids in the crowd that were interested that they ran a Hamburger eating contest – how many hamburgers can you eat in one minute? Hunter came in 2nd (there was a tie between the 2 older boys for 1st) and was thrilled with his performance and the experience as a whole. We were proud of him for choosing to participate (another first!).

After a very hot and exhausting afternoon at Spookytown we wandered around to a few more stores, saw some cool sights, bought some more mountain bike gear and then headed home for another refreshing jump in the pool and some more down time in the camper/trailer.

hunter tim old firetruck st. george

 

We finished off our weekend with an adventure day on Sunday. We got up early and rode our bikes to Pioneer Park, just north of Downtown. It is a 52 acre rustic community park that is climbers/scramblers paradise. Full of sticky slick rock and well worn routes with hand and foot holds, we spent 2 hours just playing on the different rock formations. We explored on our bikes on the way home and ended up with a 17km ride round trip. This was capped off by a well earned swim in the pool.

Canyoneering in Zion National Park, Utah

zion road photo

 

Zion National Park is a wonder of colours – blue skies + red rocks with a little orange, yellow and green thrown into the mix with the fall trees.

zion road photo 2

We drove from east to west through Zion, getting to drive the Zion tunnel right down the middle (for a small $15.00) park fee along with a bunch of other RV’s because we are too tall to drive in just the regular car lane due to tunnel height. The Park Rangers pause traffic at one end and let all of the RV’s from the other end go through and vice versa. Hunter thought this was really cool.

truck trailer zion backdrop

We camped just outside the park at the Quality Inn RV Park in the town of Springdale, which is literally right next to Zion (the Virgin River acts as the border). It was quite something being surrounded by all these majestic cliffs and colours.

Hunter was excited because the campground had a pool. The helpful person at the check-in told me that it was “solar heated”. It was a hot sunny day, with a temp around 24c so we all grabbed our bathing suits and headed down for a dip. One jump in and you quickly figure out that “solar heated” refers to it being heated by that day’s sunshine vs a bank of stored heat… Refreshing is a bold descriptor.

hunter 1st fire

The other highlight of the campground was a fire pit and no fire ban. Hunter has been wanting a fire for the past month and we’ve either had no fire pit or a fire ban in place. I headed off to the grocery store to find hot dog and banana boat materials while the boys got the fire materials pulled together. Hunter very proudly made the fire himself, tended it all evening and was even responsible for ensuring it was out when we went to bed.

lee hunter zion national park sign

The next morning we headed into Zion for a day of hiking the Zion Narrows. We hiked this seven years ago with Hunter in a backpack and thought it would be fun to come back and do it again. It is a canyon hike that can be either an overnight or full day hike if you start at the top or a family friendly wander up a river if you start at the bottom, which is actually at the top of the accessible part of Zion.

With a weather forecast of 26c and sunny we weren’t all that concerned that the river temperature was only 5c and that the wading would be up to waist height in a few places. We figured we would dress in quick dry clothes, good water shoes and the heat of the sun would manage the rest.

A few things occurred that lead to it not being as amazing as we had hoped – 1) the tourism level in Zion (and on this trail) has increased ten fold since we were here in October 7 years ago and 2) the weather never really made it past 20c and most of the canyon was in the shade. Nevertheless we ended up hiking for 2 1/2 hours and had a fun experience making our way up the river.

It’s always tough trying to recreate a memory…

hunter with rock squirrel in zion

We also discovered the “Rock Squirrel” which seems to be very well fed and deceivingly tame as it walks beside you and on you in search of food!

hunter junior ranger swearin

We finished off the day with Hunter getting another Junior Ranger badge as part of his homeschooling for the day.

 

Canyoneering – Peekaboo & Spooky Slot Canyons, Escalante Utah

lee hunter in peekaboo

 

We came canyoneering in the Grande Escalante region 3 years ago and had the misfortune of arriving days after a major flood, which washed out a number of the key access roads. Top of our list that trip was the Peekaboo / Spooky canyons, which are a set of family friendly canyons that run parallel to each other.

We stopped into the National Park Visitor Centre and chatted with the local guide shop to get the scoop on the roads and the trails. While the road was not in great shape, everyone said it was passable so we decided we had to at least try.

peekaboo spooky canyon vista

The canyons are located 26 miles down Hole in the Rock road, a gravel washboard road that takes about an hour to drive. You then travel 1.5 miles on a true sand side road with washouts and gulleys throughout. Four wheel drive and high clearance are 2 important features to have in a vehicle in Utah. We had left the trailer at the campground so just had “Fordo” who performed extremely well under Tim’s careful driving. We knock on wood on a daily basis as Fordo is running better than he has in years!

Peekaboo and Spooky are full length canyons of their own right. The family friendly route is a 5 mile loop that starts at the trailhead, goes down into the valley, up Peekaboo about 1/3 of the way then exits out of the top of the canyon and goes cross country until you drop into Spooky and go down the bottom 1/3 of that canyon and then back to the trailhead. The guidebooks and people we spoke with all agreed that it was about a 3 hour hike.

tim hunter entrance to peekaboo

 

We successfully made it down the trail into the valley (following the cairns) and found the entrance to the canyon (no signs anywhere out here…). In order to access Peekaboo canyon, you have to make it up the 20 foot wall at the entrance. As always, we sent Tim up first and then used a rope belt to support Hunter and I up for safety.

lee hunter peekaboo slots

 

Once you make it over the wall you are immediately in a series of bowls and slots that are perfectly kid sized!  Lots of over and under and wind our way through as we made our way up to the exit point. Nothing but giggles and smiles all around – this was exactly what we had been hoping for and it made the 1 hour washboard drive well worth it!

We attempted to follow the cairns and footsteps out of Peekaboo Canyon and through the sand and slickrock to the Peekaboo drop in point. We, and another set of hikers, ended up at the top of a sandy wash that led down into a canyon so we had fun running down the sand and made our way through the canyon brush to a salt flat area. We could see some canyons to our left so we chose to check them out and ended up in some portion of the Spooky Canyon…

tim hunter spooky slots

 

These were full length SLOTS from floor to ceiling with many places so narrow that you had to carry your backpack vs wear it. We meandered our way up for about 20 minutes as the slots wound their way up the canyon and started to get tighter and tighter. Eventually we hit an end where even Hunter had trouble getting through so we decided to turn back to the salt flat.

lee spooky slots

 

We hit the salt flat at around the 2 1/2 hour mark. Walking past the flats there was a washed out area that ran perpendicular and you could go left or right. We got out the map and the trail instructions and neither mentioned a turn or trail junction, just “exit down through the bottom of Spooky Canyon to the trailhead”… I ran ahead and checked out the right hand turn and found it entering into a slot canyon about 1/2 mile down the wash. This didn’t seem to match any information so we chose to go left and followed it for about 30 minutes until it ended up in another slot canyon full of sucky mud. We had been told that Brimstone Canyon was full of sucky mud so we figured we must have gone the wrong direction and turned back. Mid way back to the other canyon, we found what looked like a fairly heavily used trail off to the left.

At this point we were at about 3 1/2 hours and Hunter was fading. We had said that we would rather climb back up the sand hill and go down Peekaboo than go cross country in the desert BUT between the look of the short cut and the look of Hunter, we decided to go for it (yet another Parental mistake ala the EPIC bike trail).

Needless to say, this path did not pop us out nicely at the trailhead. As always happens when you are going cross country, you swear that the trail will turn the correct direction right around the next corner, and it rarely does! We opted to climb out of the river valley and up onto the mesa so we could get a better view. At this point we could orient ourselves to the mountain range that ran parallel to the Hole in the Rock road and off we went in that direction. We eventually reached a point where we thought we could see the truck and camper off in the distance AND we could see the access road. Tim ran for the truck and Hunter and I continued cross country towards the access road.

We ended the day at a total of 5 hours (approx 8 miles) – happy but weary and proud of ourselves for getting ourselves “found” safely 🙂  We treated ourselves to cold beer and yummy pizza at Escalante Outfitters after making it an hour back down the road and stopping to wash all the dust off the truck. Another successful adventure!

Hog Spring Trail, Utah – In search of a waterfall…

lee hunter hog spring sign

 

After our 2 1/2 hour wandering at Leprechaun Canyon, we decided to check out swimming hole at Hog Spring Recreation Area. In the guide book it was written up as an easy 30 minute hike along a stream to a waterfall and swimming hole – perfect for Hunter’s tired legs and our sweaty selves…

lee hunter hog spring walk

The “quick hike” and the “easy trail” parts didn’t quite pan out – we were 2 1/2 hours round trip with alot of bush wacking and wrong turns through some beautiful scenery.

hunter wading hog spring water

 

 

 

 

 

 

hunter hog spring pour overWe also decided that the water was a little to green and cold to swim in! Oh well – it was a good idea 🙂

Back to the truck for a well needed late lunch and cool drinks for everyone.

 

 

Canyoneering at Leprechaun Canyon, Utah

hunter leprechaun

Full of enthusiasm from our Little Wild Horse Canyon day, we headed south down the highway past Hanksville to the North Wash area where there are a cluster of slot canyons that are fairly family friendly. We determined that our monstrosity would not fit into the trailhead so continued down the road about 3 miles and found a fabulous dirt pull-off that became our campsite for the night. The full moon was out and the valley was awash with light.

camper redcliff pull out oct 18

 

The full Leprechaun Canyon is a drop in slot that requires a bunch of technical gear and 6-8 hours to complete. The family friendly version is to hike about 1.5 miles up the creek bed at the bottom, climb up some rocks and enter into the bottom of the canyon. This takes you over top of some cracks and into an amazing subway (big space) that is full of red stripes and makes lots of echoes.

hunter rock leprechaun

lee hunter subway leprechaun

After the subway you reach some water. We did this hike when Hunter was 3 and success was making it to the subway as he walked most of the way on his own. Neither one of us could remember what the trail write up said about the water and after much discussion, decided that this is an ADVENTURE and we should push through to check it out. Our standard approach on things like this is to send Tim first… lucky him!

tim going into water

He made it through with only his shorts wet so he returned, we had more discussion, and then loaded Hunter onto his shoulders and off they went…

tim hunter pre water

hunter tim heading into water

The great news is that everyone made it across the VERY cold waist deep water. The not so great news is that there was another water feature about 10 feet further down. Both Tim and I tested it out and after 2 feet it was already close to waist deep and had a really slimy/slippery bottom.

lee heading into water #2

More discussion ensued and we determined that safety had to prevail and we would turn back. That meant going BACK through the very cold waist deep smaller pool AGAIN!

lee in water

lee coming back in water

 

It was a very fast run from the edge of the water back out to the main canyon and the sun beam – the water was FREEZING…

We felt somewhat validated when a group of 4 men came through about 10 minutes later (doing the same sprint from the water to the sunbeam) as they had rappelled into the canyon and then had to swim across water feature #2!

hunter leprechaun muck

Hunter decided to play in the muck zone as we headed back out of the main canyon. 2 1/2 hours of hiking / exploring and everyone had fun. We will come back again one day and rappel in from the top and that will officially complete our Leprechaun Canyon experience.

Canyoneering at Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah

lee hunter bell canyon slot

After spending the afternoon at Goblin Valley State Park, we headed over to the  trailhead for Little Wild Canyon. Most of the crowds were gone and we found a quiet spot at the end of the overflow parking lot and set up camp for the night. With about an hour of sunshine left we enjoyed sitting outside in our chairs reading in the setting sun while Hunter played lego in the trailer. It was close to a full moon that evening and the skies were amazing to see – so clear with no lights around.

camper little wildhorse

Our original plan had been to have a slight sleep in and then hit the trails by around 10 am, thinking that it would be a 4 hour hike. Just past 9am, Tim announced that cars were starting to stream into the parking lot and that we needed to move up our timeline to avoid hiking with the masses. Turns out this was the equivalent of a “PD day” so all the kids were out of school for a long weekend…We managed to hit the trailhead by 9:30 and unfortunately this was about the same time as a group of 13 year old boyscouts, whom we leapfrogged the entire day.

Little Wild Horse Canyon is an in/out canyon that can be turned into an 8 mile loop when you match it up with a BLM trail section and then return on Bell Canyon. We boldly chose to do that, knowing we were pushing our limits with Hunter… with no where to go, and no time limit we thought “why not”???

lee hunter bell slot

Both Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon are family friendly slot canyons, which means that you don’t need ropes to get around features and with a little creativity, you can make it up (or down) all the features on the trails. Hunter enjoyed putting his new “climbing” skills to good use and could often be convinced to not take the easy path.

little wild horse, utah

The BLM connector section was the hardest part of the trail as it was pure hiking with not alot of distractions. We played a number of games of 20 questions and then moved onto verbal games related to school work, managing to cover off Geography (Canadian Provinces & Capitals) AND the Human Body (bones & digestive system). It made the time go faster and we had lots of laughs 🙂

tim hunter lwh canyon 1

After all was said and done, we made it the full 8 miles. It took us 5 1/2 hours and Hunter was very tired by the end. We were so proud of him as there was little to no moaning or complaining and he kept his feet moving most of the time. Definitely the longest he has ever hiked – woo hoo! (the $100 we spent on hiking boots at MEC is sure paying off!).

Rock scrambling at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

hunter goblins

Goblin Valley State Park is about 2 hours from Moab or 30 minutes from Green River, in central Utah, just south of I-70. It’s an incredible place for families as the “goblins” are all kid height and you are allowed to play in, among and on them (with respectful behaviour of course). It would make for the ultimate capture the flag site…

There is a fairly large parking lot and a covered picnic area, which make it easy to come and play for the day. They have also built a campground with rustic sites and yurts. Unfortunately they were full so we only came to play for the afternoon.

hunter goblins 2

It was a perfect precursor to our upcoming week of canyoning as Hunter got to climb/scramble on rock features that were usually only 6 feet off the ground. We spent alot of time testing out small moves and learning just how sticky slickrock is. It gave him a tonne of confidence although there were some teary moments through the learning process… Pushing your comfort zone is always tough!

 

We were here when Hunter was 3 and had a fun time. It was great to see that this is definitely “kid friendly” – and can probably span from 3 – 16 years easily. We highly recommend it!

Best ride of the week! Moab Brand Mountain Bike Trails

lee hunter moab brand trails 2nd time

 

Today was our best ride of the week…

With a cool morning (i.e. down near freezing), we were pretty slow to get moving for the day. I got some work done and the boys laid in bed and watched a movie. When we finally got ourselves going at noon, we went back to the Moab Brand Trails where we had ridden the first day. It was cool and windy out but the trails were fairly sheltered from the wind which was great.

We started out with plans to do the EZ/Lazy loop and discovered a new sign showing trail directionality and boy did it make a difference! We rode it the opposite way last time and it was not nearly as fun… big kudos to the trail builders – when ridden the proper way it had amazing flow. It is a 5km loop with 80% dirt and 20% slickrock, lots of ups and downs and it finishes with a fabulous set of curves and berms that flow together perfectly.

We had so much fun in our first loop that we decided to do it again. Hunter was revved up today and Tim bet him $1.00 (which I agreed to match) that he couldn’t catch the person in front of us on the trail as a way to keep him moving and focused – it was a genius move as Hunter powered down the trail and managed to catch 3 separate people on the next loop. He was very pleased with his $6.00 and I was left wondering if this counts as bribery or incentive and if there is a difference???

We broke for a late lunch and then headed back out on the trails. This time we headed left and took North 40 up to the top of Maverick, which is a flowing small downhill, and then back out North 40 to the beginning of the EZ/Lazy loop, which we knocked out a 3rd time. Hunter started the loop inquiring if he was still getting paid to pass people, and we agreed YES.

Overall we covered 20km of single track and Hunter rode the entire distance with a smile on his face. He also came away with $10.00 from passing people on the trails. It was a great last ride in Moab…

 

Mountain Biking – Klonzo Trails (Moab, Utah)

hunter tim wahoo trail klonzo

We continued to explore the Moab mountain bike trail systems and ventured out to the Klonzo area yesterday. It is 12 miles north of Moab and next to the Sovereign Trail off-road system.

lee klonzo trails

It was a great trail system built through a system of 4 loops and some connector trails. A 100% intermediate system, it was a nice mix of slick rock and dirt/sand trails. We chose to do the “turn right” network as recommended by the Utah mountain bike trails website. It was an 8.5k cross country ride with lots of variety and diversity.

lee klonzo trails 2