Grey’s River Road

16 Aug. 2019

Ross planned a dual-sport ride from Mtn Green, Utah to Alpine, Wyoming and back.  Their plan was to leave Thursday evening after work and return late Saturday, for a total of almost 500 miles.  I was planning on tagging along, but decided it was too long of a ride since I haven’t fully recovered from my torn rotator cuff.  So, I decided to join them for one day of riding on Friday.

Years ago, I drove along Grey’s River Road from Alpine, Wyoming, to the south end of Star Valley.  It was a long and dusty drive, but very beautiful.  I have been wanting to go back ever since.

Ross’s route included Grey’s River Road, so I stayed at our family cabin near Afton, Wyoming and met them at the junction of the Cokeville Road and Smith Fork Road.

I put in 140 miles that day, with about 80 miles of dirt road.  Other than the few sections of Hwy 89, it was a very pleasant ride for me.  On don’t like high-speed highways on my small dirt bike.  Luckily the traffic was very light.

Grey’s River Road has been greatly improved since I drove it in the 1970s.  It is a nice road and makes an easy dual-sport ride – assuming the road is dry.  As you move north towards Alpine, the road gets wider and has a lot more traffic.

The road follows Grey’s River from near the headwaters to the confluence with the Snake River near Alpine.  The road grows in size as the river grows.

Here are a few photos from my ride:

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Danny, Ross, and Scott finishing the Cokeville Road

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Riding through open meadows

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The sign at the headwaters

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A narrower section of the road

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The river grows rapidly

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Our lunch stop

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The road and the river grow as you move north

And here is a short video:

 

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The Middle Fork of the Salmon – June 2019

 

June 27 – July 1, 2019

Gabe exercised “beginners’ luck” and drew a permit for the coveted Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

We had five rafts; Jamie captaining a 14’ paddle boat, with Dee, Layne, Barry, and Rob each managing a 16’ oar rig.

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Captain Jamie and her crew

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Dee’s boat

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Layne’s maiden voyage on his new Sotar

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Gabe giving Barry one of his few breaks from rowing

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The Sorensen / Redd crew

Utah had an above average snowpack this year, but Idaho was pretty close to normal.  The flow was 3.1’ when we launched on June 27, dropping to about 2.85’ on day 5.

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The water was dropping about 1/2′ per day

For the most part, we had great weather.  Day 2 was a little chilly, but day 3 was absolutely perfect with clear sunny skies and ideal temperatures.  We had a few light rain sprinkles during the night at the Boundary Creek put-in camp and our final camp at Elk Bar, but otherwise avoided any rain storms.

Elk Bar was a fair campsite.  This year the beach was fairly steep, making it challenging to find good tent sites.  All of our other camps (Joe Bump, Lower Grouse, and State Land Left) were great.

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State Land Left campsite

The Upper Canyon

Last year we launched with a flow of about 3.75’ – just over ½’ higher than this year.  That small difference made a huge difference in the character of the river.  The upper 1.5 days of the river is pretty swift and shallow, and difficult to pull over to stop.

The water was so shallow at the launch site, it was difficult to get in any solid oar strokes, so Rob and I both got snagged up on rocks right within site of the put-in.  Things improved as we moved down river with numerous side streams adding water to the flow, but there were numerous places to get hung up or even wrap on rocks.

Jamie also had challenges because half of her six-man crew were newbies.  They had no time to practice the basic raft maneuvering strokes, as is evident in the video.  They did much, much better on subsequent days.

We got a fairly late start due to the crowd at the put-in (with one huge commercial outfitter), but luckily, we only had to go about 10 miles the first day.  We stopped at Sulphur Slide for lunch, where Lee told of his brief swim in the shallow water.  He reminded us to keep our feet downstream to protect ourselves from oncoming rocks.

After lunch I turned the oars over to Kevin.  Sulphur Slide is long and rocky, and Kevin had no chance to warm up.  We spun off a large boulder on the side of the river, dumping me into the river.  The water is swift and shallow, making it almost impossible to keep my feet downstream to push off rocks.  I had to lay fairly flat in the water, so I really couldn’t even see what was coming due to the waves.  I bounced and slid off several large boulders and took on some huge bruises in spite of wearing a wetsuit.  I was glad I finally invested in a good helmet.  According to my helmet camera, I was in the water for almost two minutes before Kevin could get close enough for Isaac to pull me back into the boat.  My advice is to “stay in the boat”.

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Jason getting launched in Sulphur Slide

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Sulphur Slide

Jamie and I each had clean runs through Velvet Falls.  Last year I was unable to catch the Eddy and hit the deepest part of the hole.  This year we ran it just as I planned.  Rob was right behind me, and he hit the hole dead on.  Luckily the flow was such that it didn’t cause him to stall and surf the hole for several minutes, as can happen at times.

The first portion of Powerhouse was shallow and wide.  Lee (rowing Rob’s boat) went left and got stuck, so we went right.  Isaac was able to successfully dodge all of the rocks and avoid getting stuck ourselves.

And in the final part of Powerhouse, Lee managed to pin on the same rock Jason pinned on last year.  Rob climbed out on the rock to help push off the boat, only to be left stranded in the middle of the river.  Jamie was able to pick him up down stream a bit so he didn’t have to walk all the way to camp.

Pistol Creek was pretty easy at these flows, but it could be dangerous if you got too far right and hit the large boulders.  Jamie was a little too far right and went over one of the submerged rocks, but it didn’t cause any serious threat.

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Jamie sliding over the rock in Pistol Creek

The Middle Section

The middle portion of the trip is mostly pretty tame in terms of rapids, but there are several nice hot springs through this section.  We stopped briefly at Sunflower Hot Springs, and then took the one-mile hike up to the Loon Creek Hot Spring.  The weather was so good, that the hot water wasn’t too appealing, but it was still worth the stop.

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Sunflower Hot Spring

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Loon Creek Hot Spring

We also stopped at the Flying B Ranch for an ice cream bar.

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Steve and Jamie enjoying their ice cream

Tappan Falls and Marble Creek are pretty fun rapids in this middle section.  Kathy and Kristen took a short swim in Marble Creek when their boat stalled briefly in the hole, catching them off guard.  Kristen was startled when she came up underneath the boat, but quickly moved out from underneath.

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Marble Creek

Tappan Falls is usually a fun ride down the tongue on river right.  It has a nice drop and one big wave.  This makes a good photo spot from either side of the river.  You do want to avoid the holes in the middle, or you could be stuck for quite a long time.

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Barry in Tappan Falls

The Lower Canyon

After the first 1.5-days, the river becomes a more traditional western “pool-and-drop” style river.  The rapids get much larger as you move down stream and enter Impassable Canyon.

At some water levels Redside could be the most dangerous rapid on the river.  At these flows, it was a pretty easy run, but you do have to decide whether to pull left or right of the ‘wrap rock’ waiting for you at the bottom of the slot.

Weber and Rubber were not as big as last year, but still offered good fun and decent waves.  The other short, rocky rapids in the lower section were pretty easy to read-and-run, but you do need to pay attention or you could get stuck on a rock or in a hole.

We stopped to see Mist Falls and a waterfall behind the Parrot Cabin.

The final rapid – Crammer Creek – had the largest waves of the entire trip.  The water volume increases dramatically after joining the main Salmon.  We rode the main tongue down the center.  It has a huge drop, but the waves don’t really have much kick.  Jamie took the more adventurous route just left of center and hit a huge back wave for a fantastic ride and fantastic ending to our video.

The Videos

This year I had five cameras.  Jamie had a GoPro Hero 7 on her helmet in the paddle boat, with a Hero 5 mounted on the bow of the boat.  The ‘bow camera’ got great shots of the paddle crew.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get bow footage of many of the larger rapids because someone operated the camera incorrectly and put it in ‘still’ mode rather than video mode.  But we did capture some great stills that way.

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The “bow camera”

I also had a Hero 7 on my helmet, and an old Hero 3 mounted on the portable toilet, facing back at the person rowing.  We affectionately refer to this as the “hooter cam”.  The image quality, color, and sound from the Hero 3 is pretty poor in comparison to the newer Hero 7s.  The Hero 7s were recording 4k video, the Hero 5 was recording 2.7k video, and the H3 was HD resolution.

The 5th camera was also recording HD.  This is a Panasonic handheld camcorder.  This only got used on rapids where we could stop to take pictures.

Photos

Here are some of our best photos from the trip.  Thanks to Hannah for contributing her photos to the collection.

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Dagger Falls, about one mile upstream from the put-in

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Boat parking at the the Boundary Creek put-in

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The boat ramp at Boundary Creek

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Jim and Isaac releasing the rattlesnake we removed from camp

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Gabe at the old Tappan house

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Joe Bump campsite

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Lower Grouse campsite

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Elk Bar campsite

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Tappan Falls

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Entering Pistol Creek

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Jackson doing a backflip off White Creek pack bridge

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Steve chillin’ in his hammock

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Heading back to the river from Loon Creek Hot Spring

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Jamie in Tappan Falls

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Tappan Falls

 

 

 

 

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The Rocky “Muddy” – June 2019

June 15, 2019

We had a good snowpack this year, so we had been watching the water level of Muddy Creek in the San Rafael Swell.  We have only floated it once before, back in 2011.  It takes an above average amount of water to be worth the float.  Last time we had about 300 cfs on the Emery gage.  This year was somewhere around 250 cfs.  It is hard to know how much water is really in the canyon since farmers take out some for irrigation, and a few other side streams join the flow.

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Muddy Creek flow for June 15

This small river is a lot more popular than it used to be.  Last time we only saw one other couple on the river.  This year, the place was packed.  There were dozens of people camped at the put-in, and probably some at the take-out.  And others did like we did – we stayed in a motel in Green River and drove in that morning.

It is about a 2-hour drive from Green River to Tomsich Butte, where we launched.  The road was in good condition until the split in the road between Tomsich Butte and Hidden Spendor Mine (the take-out).  But it was very dusty.  Beyond the fork, the road gets much rougher, and requires a high clearance 4WD vehicle to drive down to the take-out.  Shuttle took almost 2 hours, round trip.

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Waiting for shuttle

We had a fairly large group with our family, the Bradley’s and the Barton’s, and they each invited friends and extended family.  We got really spread out right off the bat since other groups were trying to launch at the same time.  In fact, I am not sure we ever got the whole group together.

It took us about six hours to float the 16 miles, but some of that was spent rescuing rookies that kept tipping over or getting stuck on rocks.

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Kevin recovering Stephen’s wrapped Costco kayak

This really isn’t a beginner river – I would estimate it is a class III river due to all of the submerged rocks and swift current – and it is extremely remote.  And it really isn’t appropriate to take cheap lake boats that aren’t designed for swift water.  But in spite of insufficient skill and inadequate equipment, everyone made it through in one piece – although I don’t think everyone enjoyed it.

A solo inflatable kayak is perhaps the ideal craft for this river.  Although those with sufficient experience can do fine in a hard-shelled whitewater kayak or a SUP.  The advantage of the SUP is that it has a very shallow draft, therefore clearing many of the rocks.  The disadvantage is that it would be easy to fall and get hurt in the rocks.

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Isaac in the kayak

The San Rafael is an amazing desert landscape, and the Muddy cuts a gorge through a beautiful slot canyon.  In lower water, people will hike through the canyon.

The narrowest part of the canyon, called “the chute”, is only about 9’ wide.  Most of my family used 11’ two-man inflatable kayaks.  Jason decided to see what happened if he drifted into the narrow section sideways.  He found out.  His boat stopped, and rolled, dumping him into the river.  Unfortunately, he did not have his GoPro running at the time.

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Jamie and Steve in the narrow section

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Dee and Kim floating under the log jam

Our family had three GoPros.  Jason’s was mounted on a PVC pole, while Jamie and I used a handle.  The handles were not ideal because we couldn’t film and paddle at the same time.  We decided to use the handles so we could wear wide brimmed hats for shade, but in hind sight, it would have been safer to use our helmets due to all of the rocks.

This is my first video recorded and uploaded at 4K resolution.  If you have the capability be sure to watch it full-screen at 4K – it really does make a difference.

The river starts off pretty mellow, but there is a strong current moving you down river.  You start to encounter a few small rapids, which grow more challenging and rockier as you go.  You eventually enter the first of about 3 narrow slot canyons, with the third being the narrowest.  After the final slot canyon, the terrain opens up again, with a few more technical rocky rapids to negotiate.

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Jason

I did notice several people walking their boats around some of these last rapids.  I think they were fed up with getting stuck on rocks or tipping over.

I believe the most challenging rapid is fairly new.  The river was choked off with sharp, jagged rocks that had fallen from the cliff.  They were not worn smooth like most old river rocks.  And the river had cut a new channel along the right bank, stranding trees in the middle of the river.

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Jason past the new rapid, with Dee and Kim stuck on a rock

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A view from the top of the rapid

You need to pay attention for the wooden fence line at the take-out, or you would float right on past it.  Luckily, there was a large group of people pulling out when we got there, so it was pretty obvious.

We didn’t bother to clean or dry our boats since we knew they would need a good cleaning at home to avoid spreading invasive species, so we were able to pack up and head for home quite quickly.  In fact, we were heading out before the last of our large group arrived at the take-out.

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Jamie waiting for Kevin to bring our lunch

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Jamie in one of the slot canyons

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Kim watching Jamie and Steve enter another narrow section

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Steve learning to steer from the back

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Kevin in the later afternoon shadows

 

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Photo and Video Cleanup – Apr 2019

Unfortunately, Google has discontinued support for Google+, which is where I hosted many of the photos used in my blog.  Thus, many of those photos are now gone.

I also decided to terminate my Vimeo subscription and stick with YouTube for posting my videos.  The quality isn’t quite as good, but the price (free) is much better.

Thus, I am in the process of cleaning up many of my posts to remove the obsolete links to photos and videos.  Replacing them would take a lot of work, so I am only updating the posts I feel merit the effort.

If you find a post lacking photos or videos that you really want to see, let me know and I will try and update that particular post.

Sorry about the inconvenience, and thanks for your understanding.

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Havasupai – April 2019

This year I (Jamie) was lucky enough to snag 2 reservations to the Havasupai Indian Reservation. Hannah had spring break the first week of April, so that is when we made the reservation. There was a new reservation policy this year, requiring 3 nights for each reservation regardless of whether you stay for all 3 nights. The cost is $100 per person per night, or essentially $300 per person.

Hannah and I wanted to attend church in the morning, so we didn’t leave Salt Lake until 2:00PM. We made good time, however. We stopped for dinner in St. George and made it to Kingman, Arizona at 10:00PM Arizona time (11:00PM Utah time – why they are in different time zones is a mystery to me). We stayed in the budget Super 8 hotel, where we were awoken bright and early by an obnoxiously loud ice machine across the hall from our room. We ate a mediocre breakfast and hit the road by 7:30AM. We had another 2 hours to drive which included Route 66, which was not actually all it’s cracked up to be. Just past Peach Springs, which is supposedly where the movie Cars is based on, is the turn to the trailhead and Hualapai Hilltop. 60 more miles of desolate, windy road is all that is left. We were stopped by some Supai police officers about 3 miles from the trailhead. They had us fill out some paperwork with our reservation confirmation number, car license plate number, and a list of people in our party. They also checked our vehicle for firearms and alcohol, as neither is allowed on the reservation, though ironically, we could smell alcohol on their breath. We arrived at the trailhead around 9:00AM, and the parking lot was full. We had to park about half a mile down the road. After double-checking our packs and taking a picture at the top of the cliff, we hit the trail.

Hannah and I at the Havasupai trailhead.

The first 1.5 miles or so of the 10-mile hike is all switchbacks down the side of the cliff. The Supai villagers drive mule trains on this trail, and I’m fairly certain the mules don’t stop for anyone, so it’s important to move out of their way. The next several miles go through a dried up wash bed in a small canyon.

View of the switchbacks from the trailhead.

Hannah in the canyon on the way to Supai.

The canyon then meets with the Havasu Creek, where you get your first glimpse of the brilliant turquoise blue water. Shortly after is the Supai village. The village is small, old, and rundown. All visitors are required to check in at the tourist office in town. Hannah and I made it to Supai in just over 3 hours. As we got closer, we could definitely start to feel the aches and pains from unused backpacking muscles. My knees really took a beating from all the downhill, and Hannah’s feet were hurting. We both also started getting blisters from our hiking shoes. We took a break in Supai and chatted with the weenies waiting to helicopter out. (Actually, we learned from these weenies that it cost only $85 to helicopter out, instead of the $200+ that I was expecting. That sounded very, very appealing to me at the time as I rubbed my sore knees and popped some ibuprofen.)

From Supai, it is only another 2 miles to the campground, but those 2 miles were slow and painful. The first of the major waterfalls are along these 2 miles. The first is Fifty Foot Falls, followed closely by Lower Navajo Falls. We only looked at these from the trail, since we were eager to get our packs off. Actually, I learned later that we probably didn’t even see Lower Navajo Falls, since it’s not quite visible from the trail. Oops. Right before the campground is Havasu Falls, which is pretty breathtaking.

Havasu Falls.

The Havasupai campground is nearly a mile long with plenty of campsites. The campground may look full when you first approach, but if you keep walking you’re likely to find some good available sites. Many of the sites have picnic tables, but not all. Most people are willing to share, however. There are plenty of trees for those who like to hammock. The camp ranger station has 5-gallon buckets to protect your food from squirrels, water jugs, and propane tanks that are up for grabs, but not guaranteed to be available. There is a natural water spring where you can fill up water. Hannah and I filtered this before drinking, but most people did not without any problems. The campground is shady for most of the day, since it is between steep canyon walls. We stopped at the first available picnic table we found, because our weak legs protested against any more walking. It also offered excellent people-watching opportunities as everyone else hobbled into camp. We set up camp, changed into our swimsuits, and went back to Havasu Falls to soak our sore legs. It was nearly 4:00PM by this time, so most of the pools were in shade. The air temperature was in the low 70s, so we weren’t very inclined to swim, but it did feel nice and cool on the knees. We ate dinner and hit the sack at the responsible time of 7:30 (8:30PM Utah time).

The next day we put on our Chacos because we couldn’t stand our hiking shoes, hobbled around to warm up our legs, ate breakfast, and hiked down to Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls. Mooney Falls is just at the other end of the campground. To get to the base of the falls, you need to descend into a hole in the cliff and climb down some sketchy, slippery stairs. There are chains drilled into the cliff to hold on to. There were several pairs of gloves at the top and bottom of this part, which I recommend wearing because the mist from the waterfall makes the rock and chains muddy and slippery. Although it’s a little nerve-racking, the climb is also pretty cool.

The beginning of the sketchy descent.

Steep, slippery stairs with chains to hold on to.

The view from the bottom.

Hannah and I at Mooney Falls.

When you get to the bottom, the trail continues downriver for about 2 more miles to Beaver Falls. This was my favorite part of the trail. There were several times when you had to cross the stream (another reason why Chacos were a good idea). Some sections had wooden bridges spanning the water channels; others were shallow enough to wade through. All parts had ladders to climb up or down the cliffs on the side of the stream. There are several forks in the trail, but they all generally lead to the same place. We had to back track a few times when we lost the real trail. This part of the canyon was so green and lush. The greens contrasting with the turquoise of the water and the reds of the rocks were stunning.

Beautiful greens and blues.

Me crossing one of the many bridges.

Hannah climbing on of the many ladders.

Beaver Falls had several tiers, with nice swimming or wading pools on each tier. It was overcast this day, so we decided not to swim, but there were others there at the same time that swam and shivered noticeably as they got out.

Beaver Falls from above.

Beaver Falls from below.

We had a snack at Beaver Falls, and hiked back to camp. We got back to camp around 1:30. Towards the end of the hike we started getting blisters from our Chacos (oh no!), though they were less severe than the hiking boot blisters. It took us about 2 hours to hike in each direction. I enjoyed going early in the morning because there were fewer people. It was still overcast when we got back to camp, but I decided I needed to swim. So I took a quick bath at Havasu Falls right as the sun came out to warm me up. We relaxed the rest of the afternoon and again went to sleep early.

We knew that a lot of people recommended waking up insanely early to beat the heat while hiking out. We decided that it hadn’t been too hot, so we chose to get a few hours of extra sleep. We woke up at 6:00AM (7:00AM Utah time), ate breakfast, and packed up camp. Miraculously, my knees were not hurting at all. That was an answer to some sincere prayers from the previous two days. We tried on both hiking shoes and Chacos, and found the Chacos to be much more tolerable for our blisters. So we bandaged our blisters, wrapped our feet in tape to keep the bandages clean and in place, and hit the trail. It took us about an hour to get to Supai. As we passed through, we overheard some poor hikers who were waiting for the helicopter get told the helicopter may or may not come, so they decided to start walking. It’s weird to me how there is no actual schedule for the helicopter.

Me bandaging my poor feet.

Hannah’s and my bandaged feet and sturdy Chacos.

The rest of the hike went pretty well. We were in shade throughout the canyon. The sun finally came out as we approached the switchbacks, but we were also lucky enough to get some cloud cover for part of that. We started hiking more and more slowly as we went, because our muscles were getting fatigued. But by taking them one switchback at a time, we made it to the top. We got to Hualapai Hilltop at 12:30, making it a 5-hour hike. The heat was not terrible. So I don’t recommend waking up at 4:00AM to beat the heat in early April. Our Chacos saved our lives. I am so pleased with them I might go buy another pair.

Hannah approaching the switchbacks.

We decided to drive all the way home rather than spending the night in St. George. I got back to Salt Lake at about 11:45PM. Aside from some traffic in Las Vegas, the drive wasn’t too bad. We even drove past the Hoover Dam, but we didn’t want to pay for parking so we didn’t really get out of the car. Overall, this was a great trip. I’m glad I was able to experience Havasupai; it’s been on my bucket list for years. This was my first true backpacking experience. I’ve learned that it is very similar to river rafting, in that it allows you to see beautiful, remote regions of the world. However, unlike river rafting, you get blisters on your feet instead of your hands, and you don’t eat as well. It was a great experience, but I think I prefer river rafting.

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Maui – Dec 2018

Dec. 3-7, 2018

Jamie wanted to celebrate completion of her PhD.  What better way than a trip to Hawaii!  Kim and I were happy to tag along with her.

First off, here are few pointers if you are planning a trip to Hawaii:

  • Get reef save sunscreen – or sun shirts.  Traditional sunscreens are damaging the coral, and are not allowed in most areas.
  • Download the island Google map to your phone prior to your trip.  Many areas don’t have cell coverage, so your navigation gets tricky.  I failed to do this, so we were often driving off the edge of our map.
  • Purchase the Gypsy Guide app for your destination island.  The GPS driven narration gives a lot of interesting information about the culture, the history, and must-see stops as you drive along.  Extremely helpful for the long road to Hana.

Monday, Dec. 3

We flew from Salt Lake to Los Angles, and then on to the Kahului airport in Maui.

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Upon arrival, we picked up our rental car and headed to dinner at the nearby Da Kitchen.  The food was excellent and the portion sizes were huge.  Jamie even got brave and tried some fish.  I had a fantastic Kalua Pork sandwich.

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Dinner at Da Kitchen

On our way to our rental condo in Kihei we stopped at a Safeway to buy groceries for the week.  Our general food plan was to eat breakfast in the condo, pack a lunch or dinner, and go out to eat at least once per day.

Tuesday, Dec. 4 (the South Side)

SUP Class

We got up early to attend a semi-private stand-up paddle (SUP) boarding class.  Our instructor was great.  He had us both standing within a few minutes, and Jamie was catching and surfing waves within an hour.  Being old and overweight, I stayed on my knees for the surfing.  I was pretty unstable when standing up.  The class was fun, but I felt the SUP got boring quickly unless you were surfing.

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SUP class with Maui Waveriders

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South Side Beaches

After the class we drove south to check out some of the other beaches in hopes of finding a place to go snorkeling.  We stopped at Makena Beach State Park (Big Beach), but the waves were way too big.  We then drove down to the ‘Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve and found a spot that looked great for snorkeling.  Unfortunately, we were out of time.  We hoped to come back later in the week, but never made it.  I suspect there would be a lot of sea turtles here.

On our way back to the condo, we stopped for lunch at Coconuts Fish Café.  The fish tacos were fantastic!

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Lunch at Coconuts Fish Cafe’

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Fish & Chips and Fish Tacos

Haleakala National Park

After lunch we returned to the condo for a shower.  We packed a lunch, and started the 2-hour drive to the top of the Haleakala Volcano.  Our goal was to watch the sunset from the top.  Luckily, we got there early, because the parking lot filled up about an hour before sunset.

The drive up has over 20 switchbacks and you go through multiple different weather zones.  It is common to drive through a cloud bank that generally forms around the volcano.  Once you get above the clouds, the skies are clear and bright.

Be sure to take a coat – it is very cold and windy on top.  The elevation is just over 10,000’ above sea level.

We were a little disappointed in the sunset.  The sun just happened to set directly behind the observatory, which really blocked the view.  This was worth doing once, but I don’t know that I would bother to do it again.

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Haleakala at over 10,000′ elevation

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Wednesday, Dec. 5 (the West side)

Sail Trilogy Catamaran Tour to Lanai Island

Perhaps the highlight of our trip was the Sail Trilogy Catamaran tour out to the island of Lanai.  It took about 1.5 hours to get out there, and we were lucky enough to see a couple of False Killer Whales on our way.  We were hoping to see whale, but we were a few weeks before the whales normally show up in great numbers, so we were really lucky.

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Sail Trilogy Catamaran Tour

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False Killer Whale

We stopped at the Manele Small Boat Harbor, and took a short van ride over to Hulopo’e Beach Park.  This is a beautiful beach and we had the place almost to ourselves.

We spent the next hour or so snorkeling.  We saw a lot of small fish and one fairly large school of fish.  My new prescription snorkel goggles worked great!  I could actually see the fish this time!

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Hulopo’e Beach Park

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While others took a bus tour of the island, we walked along the coastline to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

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We then headed back to the harbor for a wonderful BBQ.  The BBQ chicken was fantastic and the stir fry was pretty good too.  Jamie and I then played a quick game of cornhole before our return ride back to Lahaina.

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On the return ride, they opened up the sails for a while, but the wind was pretty calm so they went back to using the motor.  We spotted a few humpback whales on the way back, but we didn’t really get close enough for great photos.  We did get a few photos from the boat photographer that had a much better camera than we did.

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Humpback Whale

West Side Beaches

We spent the afternoon checking out some of the beaches along the west side.  I had heard that Honolua Bay is often sheltered from the waves, so we thought that might be a good place to try snorkeling.  Unfortunately, it was pretty rough and the water was pretty muddy.  Plus, there is not a good sandy beach there – it is a rocky coastline.  But we did enjoy watching the surfers out where the waves were breaking.

Myths of Maui Luau

We wanted to go to the Old Lahaina Luau, but it was sold out.  So, we opted to try the Myths of Maui Luau, which is also in Lahaina.  It was okay, but not as good as I had hoped.  The food was fair and the entertainment was fair.  It kind of reminded me of a ward dinner rather than a professionally sponsored event.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed it and met a friendly family from Canada.

Thursday, Dec. 6 (the East side)

Jungle Zipline

The main plan for the day was to drive the Road to Hana.  But we also wanted to do a zipline tour while in Maui, and found the Jungle Zipline in Haiku, which is right near the start of the road to Hana.

The zipline was really fun.  We were the only ones there, so we got a private tour.  I think our tour guides kind of loosened up the rules a bit since we were pretty gusto.  The tour included 7 lines, with the longest at 888’.  It was really fun zipping through the jungle.

The guides also taught us about the local plants and even showed us some that you can eat.  I did notice, however, that one of them made the roof of my mouth swell a bit.

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Road to Hana

The road to Hana is a long and winding road.  Much of the road is on the side of a very steep mountain side, so you need to drive very carefully.  This road is not for timid drivers.

There are over 50 one-lane bridges, so you need to pay attention and be prepared to yield the right-of-way.  You also need to pull over for local drivers – they drive much faster than the typical tourist.

The Gypsy Guide app was wonderful on this drive.  It told us of five ‘must’ see stops, and gave advice about all of the other optional stops.

There were some beautiful beaches near Hana, but the waterfalls weren’t flowing very well, so they were a little disappointing.  As with the drive up the volcano, this drive is worth doing once, but I doubt I would go back – unless I was on a motorcycle.

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Black Sand Beach

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Seven Sacred Pools

Rather than drive all the way back along the east side, we decided to continue on around and take the “back road to Hana” back to our condo in Kihei. I suspect that shaved an hour or two off our drive, but it was still dark when we got back.

The back road to Hana is very rough.  In places, the pavement is worse than the sections of dirt road.  You should also be aware that most rental car companies highly discourage driving this road.

After returning to Kihei, we stopped for dinner at Nalu’s South Shore Grill.  I got an apple hamburger.  It was not bad, but not my favorite meal of the trip.

Friday, Dec 7 (the North side)

Kama’ole Beach Park II

We really packed a lot into our four days on Maui.  It would have been nice to have a few more days to enjoy some of the beaches and do some more snorkeling.

We had to check out of our condo by 10:00 AM, so we got up early and went to a nearby beach for more snorkeling and some boogie boarding.  We wanted to go to Kama’ole Beach Park III, but the parking lot was closed.  So, we went to park #2.

Jamie and I went out snorkeling for a little while.  I almost swam right into a sea turtle.  Jamie thought I was swimming towards it on purpose, but I didn’t see it until I was only about 3’ away.  It was swimming near the surface and I was looking down at the fish near the rocks on the bottom.  It was fun to watch the turtle for a few minutes before heading back to the beach.

We then tried our hand at boogie boarding. This wasn’t the best beach for this since the waves break right near the shore.  I lost my prescription sunglasses in one wave, and was amazed that Jamie found them for me.

We then returned to the condo to get cleaned up and check out.

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Iao Valley State Park

We wanted to stay clean for our long flight home, so we spent the day sightseeing and visiting north side beaches.  We first stopped at Iao Valley State Park.  This area looks like Jurassic Park territory.  The main attraction is a tall rock formation called “the Needle”.

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North Side Beaches

Our next stop was Kanaha Beach to watch the wind surfers and kite surfers.  Those guys really move.  This is very different than the wind surfing I did years ago on local mountain lakes.  It was fun to watch.

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We even got to watch the lifeguard head out on his wave runner to help two kite surfers that got their wires crossed.

We then went to Baldwin Beach, but there wasn’t much going on there.

Our final stop was Ho’okipa Beach to watch some big wave surfers.  There weren’t many surfers out, but they were impressive to watch.  Those waves were huge!

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We stopped for dinner at the Flatbread Pizza Company in Pa’ia.  Their pizzas are unique.  They are made with all locally grown ingredients.  The Kalua Pork pizza was excellent.  We topped it off with a chocolate brownie and ice cream.

From there we returned our rental car and headed for the airport for the red-eye flight home.  In many ways, the flight home was the worst part of the trip.  Partially because we had to leave beautiful Hawaii, and partially because of the all-night flight.

All in all, we had a great time.  We were busy, and we were tired at the end of each day.  It would be nice to have more time to enjoy the beautiful beaches, but we really did have a pretty good itinerary for our short stay.  We will have to go back again someday.

Here is my ‘short’ video of our trip.  (I also have a longer one on my channel if you are interested):

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Yellowstone – Grand Teton – Aug 2018

Aug. 23-25, 2108

The drive to West Yellowstone took us about 5 hours.  Our first stop was the Wolf and Grizzly Discovery Center.  The price of admission seemed pretty high to me, and I was disappointed that most of the animals were not out.  The wolves were all sleeping in the shade, and they only let one bear out at a time.  But it was still cool to see a large grizzly bear up close – with a safety fence between us.

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Sam – the largest Grizzly Bear at the center

We then drove about 20 miles to the northwest to the Earthquake Lake Visitor’s Center.  I found this very interesting – and it was free.  Back in 1959 an earthquake caused a large landslide which buried the river and a campground (killing some people).  It formed a lake in the valley.  The area isn’t really all that big, but it is still impressive to see how powerful nature can be.  If you have the time, this is well worth visiting.

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Earthquake Lake

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The landslide

We returned to West Yellowstone to watch the “Yellowstone” IMAX movie, and then went back to the discovery center to see if the wolves were up from their naps.  We did see one wolf milling about.

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Gray Wolf

The next morning, we entered Yellowstone National Park.  A good friend recommended using the GyPSy Guide app for Yellowstone.  This is a GPS-driven app for your phone.  As you drive through the park, the narrator tells about the history of the area and makes recommendations on how to best enjoy your time in the park.  It gives advice based on your interest and availability of time.  It cost me $10 for the combination guide for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  The park service offers free apps, but I never tried those because the GyPSy app was so good.  Everyone in the car enjoyed the lively narrations and interesting tips and facts.  It really did add a lot to our experience.

We turned south at Madison and worked our way to Old Faithful.  Our first stop was at a waterfall along the scenic Firehole River.  Years ago, we stopped to swim in the river, but it wasn’t as warm as we expected.  The river has many geysers and hot pots spilling into the river, but it was still pretty chilly.

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Kim at Firhole Falls

Our next stop was Lower Geyser Basin.  One thing we noticed was that many of the hot pots were altered or created during the same earthquake in 1959 that formed Earthquake Lake.

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One of the hot pots at Lower Geyser Basin

We decided to skip Midway Geyser Basin, but regretted that decision.  As we drove past, it looked more interesting than Lower Geyser Basin, but when we came back, the parking lot was full – so we didn’t get to visit this section.

We timed our arrival at Old Faithful really well.  We only had to wait about 10 minutes for the irruption.  The irruption seemed smaller and shorter than I remembered for years before, but it was still nice to see.  Afterward we walked over to the old lodge to check out the historic log construction.

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Old Faithful

Old Faithful would be a great place to spend the night if you have young children.  You can then take your time exploring the board walks or even riding bicycles around, since the area is relatively flat.

We then back-tracked to Madison, and worked our way up to Mammoth Hot Springs.  We stopped at Gibbon Falls, Norris Geyser Basin, and Roaring Mountain along the way.  You really need a lot of time (and energy) to explore Norris Basin since the board walks are really quite long.

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Gibbon Falls

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Norris Geyser Basin

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Kim, Jason, and Kevin at Mammoth Hot Springs

We drove east past the Tower-Roosevelt area, which looked like an interesting place to stay.  Then on to Lamar Valley where we saw several isolated Bison and a few Pronghorn.  It was disappointing that we didn’t see more wildlife.

Our next stop was Tower Falls, then the drive through Hayden Valley where we saw one small herd of Bison.

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Tower Falls

It was fairly late in the day when we arrived at the Canyon area to view upper and lower falls.  The falls were in shadow, and the air was really smoky, so we weren’t able to get any really great photos of the falls.  Some of the overlook roads were also closed for construction, so we didn’t spend too much time here.

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View from the brink of Upper Falls

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Lower Falls

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Do we look like tourists?

We rented a log cabin in Lake Village for the night.  We didn’t find much to do around Lake Village, and we were all pretty tired, so we went to bed fairly early.  The buffet breakfast and dinner weren’t bad, but the rooms don’t have TVs or any cell service.

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Lake Lodge

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Our cabin

On our third and final day of our trip, we drove back to see Fishing Bridge, and then headed to Grand Teton National Park.  The air was so smoky, the view of the Tetons was not very impressive.  We wanted to take the boat ride across Jenney Lake to Hidden Falls, but the area was under construction and there were no available parking spots.  We did see a paved bike path in the park that looks interesting for a future visit.

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Kim at Fishing Bridge

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A very smoky day at the Tetons

This was a very quick trip and we packed too much into one day – but we did manage to visit all of the major sites we wanted to see.  Next time I would prefer to spend more time and not cram so much into one day.

 

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