Main Salmon River – June-July 2016

June 28 – July 2, 2016

Wade snagged a permit for the Main Salmon River for late June.  The water level turned out to be about the same as our 2014 trip, which is a fun level.  It was 1.85’ the morning we launched, which is somewhere around 6500 cfs.  There were plenty of good waves and we had really good weather.

We had 26 people with 8 rafts and 1 two-man inflatable kayak.

Howard's new boat

Howard’s new boat


Layne enjoying some shade

Lee lining up for Black Creek

Lee scoping out Black Creek in the “Redd Green” boat

Our family arrived late at Corn Creek due to a flat tire.  We were lucky that the tire failed just outside of McCammon, Idaho, and not on the dirt road into Corn Creek.  We first looked for a nail in the tire, and then Jamie noticed air leaking from the backside of the tire.  We had a long slash on the inner sidewall.  After installing the spare, we drove to Pocatello and bought four new tires.  This set us back about three hours.

How many river rats does it take to change a tire?

How many river rats does it take to change a tire?

Luckily the group hadn’t eaten dinner before we arrived at Corn Creek.  Many of the others pitched in to help us rig our boats before dark.  The temperature had dropped to 97º by the time we rigged the boats – so it was a pretty hot week.


Wade did really well selecting campsites, winning two out of three coin tosses with other groups.

  • Lower Devil’s Teeth has a mixture of rocks and sand.  From the river, it doesn’t look all that great, but it really is a pretty decent campsite for a large group.
  • Magpie Creek is perhaps the nicest camp on the river.  It has a small sandy beach for the kids to play, and a large, flat upper beach that easily held our entire group.
Magpie Creek campsite

Magpie Creek campsite

Raft parking at Magpie Creek

Raft parking at Magpie Creek

  • Our third camp was our only non-reserved site.  We hoped to stop at Rhett Creek, but there were two people taking that large camp. We then tried for Boise Bar, but it was also taken.  We ended up at No Man’s Creek.  This would be a decent camp for a small group, but it was pretty cramped for our large group.  But it was getting very late, so we made it work.  There was a small stream at one end of the camp, which kept the kids entertained all evening.
Hannah taking an ice bath

Hannah soaking in the ‘cold tub’

  • Our final camp was Rabbit Creek, which has a huge sandy beach.  We were lucky to have this camp since he had to have a Life Flight helicopter land.
Rabbit Creek camp

Rabbit Creek camp

Water and sand rotorwash

Life Flight landing at Rabbit Creek


At this water level the rapids are pretty straight forward.  There are, however, a fair number with some nice roller waves which everyone enjoyed.  For more details on these rapids, refer to my 2014 trip report.

  • Ranier Rapid is the first rapid with decent sized waves.  It doesn’t look like much as you enter, but once you are in the wave train you can tell the waves are much larger than previous rapids.
  • Devil’s Teeth Rapid has several very large rocks.  The normal run is on the left side, but you need to be careful not to wash up on any of the rocks.  Our first camp was on river-left below the rapid.
  • Black Creek Rapid has a huge drop going down the tongue, and you really pick up speed.  The approach is extremely slow, and then you accelerate rapidly down the tongue.  The safest run is down the left tongue – the right side is choked with boulders.  There is a hole just off the right edge of the tongue, and two or three holes just after the tongue sticking out from the left bank.  At this flow, the run was straightforward – you just lined up in the tongue, and blew right through.  Most of us started on the left of the tongue and started ferrying right to just skirt the holes, but the current is so fast you don’t have much time to maneuver.  You mostly just try to keep the boat straight.
Hannah and Kim as we approach Black Creek

Hannah and Kim as we approach Black Creek

Howard entering Black Creek rapid

Howard entering Black Creek rapid

Lauren and Alex dropping down the tongue

Lauren and Alex dropping down the tongue

  • Bailey Rapid was fairly intense.  There were about three holes just left of center.  I remembered there being one hole, but not three.  As I slid down the tongue I knew I had to ferry right further than anticipated, so I ended up running the rapid backwards to row away from the holes.  That added a little excitement, but we had a really clean run.
  • Fivemile Rapid is a surprise.  It is not well known, but in my opinion, it is one of the more dangerous rapids on the river.  On my first trip down the Main in 1977 I tried to side surf the huge curler wave in my kayak.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was surprised at the power in the rapid, so I pulled into the eddy to watch our support rafts come through.  My brother was on the back of a 16’ paddle boat.  He got launched and cleared the front of the raft by at least 10’.  He looked like Superman!  In our morning captain’s meeting, I warned everyone about this rapid.  But after a few hours on the river it is hard to remember all of the details I provided.  I skirted the curler wave to the left, and looked in awe at the huge hole and rock hiding behind the wave.  Kevin and Jason remembered something special about this rapid, but couldn’t remember the details.  It is interesting to hear Kevin’s comments in the video as he coaches Jason at the oars.  Unfortunately, the inflatable kayak flipped in this wave and Hannah slammed into the rock.  Her hip was bruised and she was pretty sore afterwards.
  • Big Mallard Rapid can be a difficult rapid.  The cleanest run is right down the left bank, sneaking between a rock jutting out from shore and a huge rock/hole about 15’ out from shore.  It is a tight fit, but the waves let a 16’ raft slide through quite easily.  Russ didn’t take my advice and ended up rowing out into the current to go right of the hole.  This can be done, but it takes a lot of effort.  Since Russ was in a cataraft, and he is a very experienced boatman, he was able to make it okay.  Jamie was in the inflatable kayak at the time and didn’t realize they were in Big Mallard until it was too late to take the left sneak.  But in an IK, it isn’t too hard to avoid the huge hole or the other rocks in the rapid.
Barry taking the left sneak through Big Mallard

Barry hitting the left slot in Big Mallard

  • Elkhorn Rapid had a few surprise holes that I ended up hitting.  Luckily none of them were large enough to cause us problems.  It was really a pretty fun section.
  • Dried Meat Rapid has a good drop and a huge wave, but it is very smooth and you hardly even get wet.
  • Chittam Rapid can be a dangerous rapid.  It has a series of large holes in the middle, and the current pushes into the cliff on the left side.  I suggested everyone follow the advice of my guide book, and float left of the shallow island above the rapid, and then ferry right across the tongue to avoid the holes.  Jamie and Russ were the only ones that took my advice – everyone else went down the left side.  They got a good ride down the waves, but then had to row away from the cliff.  The only mishap was Jason and Taylor in the IK.  They didn’t ferry over far enough and hit two holes.  They punched through the first one, but the second one sent them for a swim.
Jamie rowing Chittam

Jamie getting a perfect run through Chittam

Barry and Karla

Barry and Karla getting a good ride in Chittam

Sarah getting a wild ride in Chittam

Sarah riding the bull

  • Vinegar Rapid can be a fun rapid.  It has some good waves and a hole that could flip boats.  Some felt that this was the best rapid of the river.  I guess I went too far right, because we didn’t get much of a ride.
  • Carey Falls has a large wave at the top, which is a favorite play spot for kayaks.  We drifted into the wave, and to my surprise, we stalled on the crest and almost slid back down.  I should have carried a little more speed coming in – the wave was more powerful than I expected.


Here are some miscellaneous photos from our trip.

Jamie giving me a break from rowing

Jamie giving me a break from rowing

Fun roller waves

Dee enjoying the roller waves

The Gardiner kids dropping into Black Creek

The Gardiner kids dropping into Black Creek

Jamie's dragonfly

Jamie’s dragonfly

Kevin being a good sport

Kevin being a good sport

Jason and Taylor in the duckie

Jason and Taylor in the duckie

Jason and Taylor about to take a swim in Chittam

Jason and Taylor about to take a swim in Chittam



Posted in River trips, Utah - Northern | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Satellite Communicator – July 2016

For a few years I have considered buying a satellite communicator.  There have been a handful of occasions in the past where one would have been useful.  But the cost always scared me away.

A recent motorcycle trip, with two of my children, to the remote Maze District of Canyonlands National Park convinced me it was worth the cost.  If we had an emergency it would have taken many hours to find help and someone would likely need to go for help alone.

So, this spring I decided to buy a Delorme inReach SE.  I selected this model because of its texting capability and the subscription plan that allows me to only pay for the months when I need the service.

PLB Jul2016 (3)

Delorme inReach SE

I have now used the device on two wilderness outings; a 5-day river trip, and a 3-day dirt bike adventure trip.  To my surprise, I actually used the SOS capability on my first outing – the river trip.  On the motorcycle trip I used it to keep my wife informed as to our status, which is how I expect to use the communicator most of the time.  This blog report talks about the lessons I have learned so far.  (I do not intend to discuss the pros and cons of different brands or models – that is really a personal decision based on your use model.)

Key inReach Features

  • SOS button
  • 3 pre-programmed text messages
  • Custom text messages up to 160 characters
  • Bluetooth pairing with a smartphone
    • Simplifies texting and provides your contact list
  • Location tracking
  • Map sharing
  • Social media (I haven’t used this feature)


When you first buy a satellite communicator, you need to select a subscription plan and then go through a fairly lengthy process to set up your account.  You need to add emergency contact information, text contacts, and set up pre-programmed text messages.  You can  upload GPS track information to your MapShare website so people can follow along.  You can also install the Earthmate App on your smartphone.

Be sure to sync your device after making any changes to your setup on the website.


If you wish, you can enable location tracking so others can follow your progress on your journey.  It may cost you for each track point sent, so you should select the slowest rate that will yield reasonable results.

Arapeen PLB track

MapShare tracks

You can upload your planned route to the MapShare website.  This can include tracks and waypoints.  These are shown in red in the snapshot above.  This is from my 3-day motorcycle adventure.

I set the satellite communicator to send my location every 30 minutes.  This is shown by the blue dots.  The blue lines connect the dots, which shows an approximation to our route.  Our actual route is closer to the red tracks from my GPS mapping software.  The farther the dots are apart, the faster we were moving.  My wife could check this map throughout the day to see where we were and if we were on schedule.

The MapShare website also allows you to see where I was when I sent a text message (the blue boxes hiding behind some of the waypoint flags).


A satellite communicator is certainly nice to have in an emergency, but I also wanted to keep my wife informed throughout our trips and let her know everyone was safe and healthy – especially when I have some of my children along on our adventures.  Satellite texting allows me to do this.

The easiest text messages to send are the 3 pre-programmed messages.  You simply select one and hit the send button.

The unit can also store a set of other pre-programmed messages which you can use, but it takes more effort to search through them and find the one you want to send.

The most flexible option is to send a custom text up to 160 characters in length.  The keyboad on the device is very difficult to use, so it is advised to pair the unit with your smartphone.

Be aware that any text other than the 3 pre-programmed messages may cost you money.  With the plan I am on, I get 10 free text messages per month, and then additional messages cost me $0.50 each – both incoming and outgoing messages.


To send an SOS and request help, you first slide the lock button open and then hold down the SOS button.  You can also hit an SOS button inside the menu.  The unit will give you time to cancel in case you hit the SOS by accident.

Once you send the SOS, you will receive a confirmation text from the global rescue service.  You can then provide information about your specific situation and the type of help you need.

Lessons Learned

I practiced using the device at home to make sure my wife was getting my text messages.  But even with that practice, my actual field experience taught me a lot.

  • Think carefully about your 3 pre-progammed messages.  What do you want them to say?  Be sure your recipient understands what each message means.
    • For my first trip (where I used the SOS button), I had them set to provide four levels of emergency; 1) all okay, 2) having trouble but we can handle it, 3) we need help, but not an emergency, and 4) the SOS button.  This did not work out so well – before sending an SOS I sent my daughter message number 3 – which caused her to panic.  She knew we had problems, but had no idea what they were.  Too little information caused her to panic – which was worse than no information.
    • For my second trip I changed them as follows; 1) all okay, 2) at the car and okay, and 3) having problems.
    • In both cases, my daughter (trip 1) and my wife (trip 2) became frustrated by the lack of information.  For my next trip my plan will be to use all three messages to provide status when everything is okay; 1) just checking in, all is well, 2) at the car, all is well, and 3) at camp, all is well.  I would send #2 at the beginning of our adventure and when we finally return to the car.  Similarly, I would send #3 when we arrive at camp or before departing in the morning.  And I would send #1 any other time I want to check in – such as when we stop for lunch, or when taking a break.
    • If we are having problems, I will send a custom message with enough information to let them know what our situation is.  Information so they can send help if necessary, or know if someone is hurt.  Even though a custom message may cost money, if we are having problems, it will be worth the cost.  I can send as many texts as are needed to communicate our situation.
  • Be patient.  It takes a few minutes to send a text message.  By default, the device only checks for incoming messages every 20 minutes.  You can manually tell it to check for messages.  The delay can be frustrating during an emergency.  Even if not an emergency, I may not wait long enough to receive a response.  I would typically arrive at camp, send a check-in message, wait for an hour or so, then turn off the communicator.  The next morning when I turned it back on, I would receive their response which they sent the night before.
  • Have a battery charger available.  The communicator battery lasts a long time – but when sending and receiving frequent text messages, the battery will drain much faster.  But your smartphone will likely die even faster.  During our SOS communications I had to charge my phone during the ordeal.

Our SOS Experience

We had a fairly large group of family and friends rafting the Main Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho.  I have run the river many times in the past, as have most of the others in the group.  On our third day a couple flipped their inflatable kayak in a rapid and a gal slammed into a rock and hurt her hip.  She was very sore, but otherwise seemed fine.

By the time we arrived at our camp on day four, she was very sick.  She had severe stomach pain and bloody diarrhea.  Luckily, we had two medical doctors in the group, a life flight pilot, and I had my new satellite communicator.

We feared that her injury may have caused internal bleeding, so we decided to use the SOS button and call for a Life Flight helicopter.

The process worked – but it took quite a long time.  We concluded that texting via a satellite communicator is somewhat like communicating with someone on Mars – it takes a long time.  After we got home I was able to talk with my daughter to learn her side of the story – which helped me peace together what happened.  Here is what I think happened:

  1. I sent the SOS request.
  2. Rather than wait for the emergency center to text back, I sent the emergency dispatch a description of our situation.  I had one of the doctors tell me what to send – which was in medical terminology – assuming the medics would receive my text.  But my text goes to an emergency response center (similar to a 911 call).  The person receiving my text may not have understood the terminology.
  3. The emergency center called my cell phone to try and verify the emergency.  If I was within cell coverage I wouldn’t have needed the satellite communicator – but I suppose this is a way to avoid false SOS calls.
  4. Since I didn’t answer, they called my wife (my first point of contact).  Since she was on the river trip, she did not answer.
  5. They then called my daughter (my second point of contact).  Luckily I had previously informed her that the gal was sick.  Otherwise she would have been totally surprised by the call.
  6. I exchanged several messages with both my daughter and the emergency center.
  7. The emergency center frequently called my daughter for updates. She would read them my text messages and they would say that they saw that message – so apparently they can monitor all text traffic.  But since satellite texting was our only form of communication, the emergency center knew as much as my daughter.
  8. It took about 45 minutes to 1 hour to close the loop and get them to call for a Life Flight helicopter.  It then took another 40 minutes for the helicopter to arrive.
  9. Once they landed, it only took the medics a few minutes to assess the situation, load her on the helicopter, and fly back to the hospital.
  10. After Life Flight departed back to the hospital, I send a text confirming that they had arrived and retrieved the patient.
  11. I then terminated the SOS call.

From here on, I checked in periodically with my daughter, who was able to call the hospital and find out the gal’s status.  We were all relieved the next morning when we learned that she did not have any serious problem and would be discharged that morning.

Here are a few photos from the helicopter rescue, followed by a video of the event:

The beach prepped for the helicopter

The beach prepped for the helicopter

We moved our tents and kitchen away from the landing site and watered down the sand to minimize rotor-wash dust.  Luckily we were camped on a very large beach.

Helicopter landing

Helicopter landing


MedStar helicopter

Medics on site

Medics examining the patient

People often tease me for sleeping on a cot – but they make a very nice stretcher!

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wales – June 2016

June 1-6, 2016

After visiting Gary and his family for a few days, we began our six-day road tour of Wales.  I lived in southern Wales for about one year during my LDS mission back in the early 1970s, so I was anxious to visit the country again.

We spent several weeks working on our tour plan, using a google document so everyone could contribute to the plan.  It worked out really well and we settled on what turned out to be a great trip.  We spent a fair amount of time in the car each day, and the boys were unbelievably well behaved the entire time.  We didn’t have a lot of room with seven of us in the minivan, but everyone seemed content and excited to be visiting Wales.

June 1:

Our first stop was in the lovely mountain town of Llangollen.  We picked this stop because the River Dee flows right through town.  When I learned that there was a River Dee, I just had to stop and take a look since I have a long family heritage of river rafting and kayaking.  The town and surroundings were beautiful, and this would make a nice vacation destination.  Apparently they offer guided river tours 364 days of the year – every day except Christmas.

Llangollen Jun2016-007

Three generations of Dee at the River Dee

Llangollen Jun2016-011

Kim in Llangollen

Our next stop was Rug Chapel.  Kim and I bought a Welsh Heritage Pass which gave us access to all of the castles we would be visiting during the week.  We also picked up some small stuffed dragons as gifts for the grandchildren.

Rug Chapel Jun2016-009

The boys and their dragons

Rug Chapel is rather small, but it has a lot of decorations on the inside.  It is in a fairly remote part of the country, so it probably doesn’t get a lot of visitors.

Rug Chapel Jun2016-016

Gary and Sarah at Rug Chapel

Rug Chapel Jun2016-020

Little Gary in Rug Chapel

We took a short detour to visit Swallow Falls.  The falls are just off the road, so it didn’t require much walking.

Swallow Falls Jun2016-002

Swallow Falls

Conwy Castle was our first really large castle, and it was quite amazing.  Gary’s family had already visited about 20 castles while living in England, and this jumped near the top of the list – at least until the next day.

Conwy Castle Jun2016-008

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle Jun2016-037

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle is on the northern coast of Wales, with spectacular views of the harbor and nearby mountains.

Conwy Castle Jun2016-042

Harbor view from Conwy Castle

Our next destination was a hike to Aber Falls.  It was getting kind of late, so we were not sure if we would have enough time to complete the hike, but everyone kept up a good pace, allowing us to visit the beautiful waterfall.

Aber Falls Jun2016-051

The three boys at Aber Falls

Aber Falls Jun2016-076

Kim and Dee at Aber Falls

We even used my GPS to hunt for a few geocaches hidden along the way.  We didn’t find all of them, but the boys really enjoyed the hunt and the treasure associated with each cache.

Aber Falls Jun2016-067

Geocache hunting

Our final stop for the day was at the train station in Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch on the Isle of Anglesey.  I think this is the longest town name in the world.  The sign at the train station is almost as large as the station.

Llanfair Jun2016-009

Sarah and the boys at the train station

The name means: Parish [church] of St. Mary (Llanfair) in Hollow (pwll) of the White Hazel township (gwyn gyll) near (go ger) the rapid whirlpool (y chwyrn drobwll) and the parish of St. Tysilio (Llantysilio) with a red cave ([a]g ogo[f] goch).

We also enjoyed some fish and chips at a shop across the street from the train station.

June 2:

We bought breakfast at a bakery in Beaumaris before visiting the Beaumaris castle.  Beaumaris castle has a nice mote, and is a well-designed castle.  I was surprised to learn that the castle was never finished – because the owner ran out of money.  I was also surprised to learn that it was built in just four years.  I can’t image how much labor was required to build those massive stone walls.

Beaumaris Castle Jun2016-085

Kim and Dee at Beaumaris Castle

Most of the castles had some form of treasure hunt or game for the kids to play, which made it more enjoyable and more educational.

Beaumaris Castle Jun2016-042

The boys building a castle

Beaumaris Castle Jun2016-062

Building an arch

Next we visited Caernarfon Castle.  This quickly became everyone’s favorite.  It is really large and has some great views from the tall towers.  This castle is still used for official Welsh affairs.

Caernarfon Castle Jun2016-012

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle Jun2016-047

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle Jun2016-025

Life sized chess set

Caernarfon Castle Jun2016-055

Dee and Kim 😉

We then drove through the beautiful mountains of Snowdonia National Park.  We stopped for lunch at a beautiful lake called Llanberis.

Llanberis Jun2016-002


Llanberis Jun2016-023

Lunch time

Llanberis Jun2016-019


We also stopped in the small town of Beddgelert to learn the legend of the dog that saved a small child from a wolf.  (Look it up on the Internet to get the full story).

Beddgelert Jun2016-006

Beddgelert monument

Beddgelert Jun2016-009


We then hiked to Cynfal Falls.  This hike and water fall was rather disappointing, even though the countryside was beautiful.

Cynfall Falls Jun2016-003

Sheep watching us hike

We stayed at a hostel instead of a motel for a change of pace.  It turns out that the owner of the hostel was from Utah.

Cynfall Falls Jun2016-024

The hostel

June 3:

We started the day by enjoying the Torrent Walk.  This was our favorite hike; perhaps because it was in the morning before we got too tired, or perhaps because it was such a lovely walk.  It was a nice trail along a cascading stream.  There were no large waterfalls, but there were plenty of small cascades.  We even found another geocache.

Torrent Walk-003

Starting the Torrent Walk

Torrent Walk-010

A very nice trail

Torrent Walk-013

Peter resting on a memorial bench

Torrent Walk-025


We left Snowdonia behind and visited the popular coastal town Aberystwyth.  We spent about one half hour enjoying the beach, which was covered by millions of flat, round stones that would be perfect for skipping on the water.

Aberystwyth Jun2016

Gary at Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth Jun2016-017

Daniel enjoying the rocks

After another fairly long drive we arrived at Whitesands Beach along the Pembrokeshire Coast.  This was a really nice beach and the boys had a blast playing in the water and staking rocks.  The wind was blowing rather hard, so no one wanted to get too wet.

Whitesands Beach Jun2016-004

Whitesands beach

Whitesands Beach Jun2016-012

Peter and Daniel playing in the water

Whitesands Beach Jun2016-067

Kim at Whitesands beach

June 4:

In the morning we visited Broad Haven South Beach, which is on the southern coast of Wales.  It consists of a large semi-circular beach inside a cove.  Kim and I took a walk along some lily ponds while the kids played at the beach.

Broad Haven South Jun2016-006

Broad Haven South beach

Broad Haven South Jun2016-011

Broad Have South beach

Broad Haven South Jun2016-017

Lily ponds

Broad Haven South Jun2016-030

Kim at the lily ponds

Broad Haven South Jun2016-040

A swan

Broad Haven South Jun2016-051

Kim at the lily ponds

After finishing up at the beach we drove to Brecon Beacons and took another hike at the Waterfall Centre.  The trail was wide and smooth and led to a beautiful waterfall called Sgwd Gwladus.

Waterfall Centre Jun2016

Kim in Brecon Beacons National Park

Waterfall Centre Jun2016-012

A really wide trail

Waterfall Centre Jun2016-082

Swgd Gwladus falls

June 5:

We spent the bulk of the day at the National Showcase Caves.  There are three separate caves to explore, and a large dinosaur garden.  The place is well kept and everyone enjoyed it.  Before leaving, we visited their animal farm.

Caerphilly Castle Jun2016-058

Kim entering the dinosaur garden

National Showcaves Jun2016-053

More dinosaurs

National Showcaves Jun2016-025

Inside one of the caves

National Showcaves Jun2016-060

Exhibits in the caves

National Showcaves Jun2016-072

A waterfall inside one of the caves

National Showcaves Jun2016-098

The view from the park

We then drove towards Cardiff and visited Caerphilly Castle.  This is the largest castle in Wales.

Caerphilly Castle Jun2016-008

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle Jun2016-014

A dragon!

Caerphilly Castle Jun2016-034

Caerphilly Castle

We drove to Pontypool where I served about seven months of my two-year LDS mission.  We found the house I lived in, and stopped at the small train station where I shared some stories from my mission with my grandchildren.  That brought back precious memories.


The house where I lived 42 years ago


The train station is much larger now

June 6:

One of my favorite castles from my mission experience was that of Raglan Castle, so that was our next destination.  It was a smaller castle than I remembered, but I like the angular architecture of the castle.

Raglan Castle Jun2016-003

Dee at Raglan Castle

Raglan Castle Jun2016-018

Strange inventions

Raglan Castle Jun2016-025

Raglan Castle

We then drove through the Wye River Valley.  It is a pretty valley, but the trees are so thick along the road it is hard to appreciate it.  We made a short stop at Tintern Abbey, which I also visited on my mission.

Tintern Abbey Jun2016-003

Kim at Tintern Abbey

Our final castle to visit was Chepstow Castle.  I think I visited this on my mission as well, but I had no memory of it.

Chepstow Castle Jun2016-002

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle Jun2016-014

Gary and the boys

Finally, we drove back into England and down to Stonehenge, which is discussed in my “England Trip Report”.

We were lucky to have six days of gorgeous weather.  Wales is absolutely beautiful with a great mixture of mountains, coastlines, and historic castles.  The people were very friendly and helpful.  We thoroughly loved our time in Wales.



Posted in Family Vacations, History, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

England – May 2016

May 24 – June 7, 2016

Just over one year ago, our oldest son, Gary, and his family, moved to central England.  Kim and I decided to go visit them and spend a few weeks touring England and Wales.

Prior to flying to England, we ordered two “Oyster Passes” which allowed us to ride the subway and buses without using cash or credit card.  We also ordered two “London Passes”, which included entrance into several attractions.  One advantage of pre-buying the pass is that you don’t have to worry about the cost when you are there.  Otherwise, the cost of entry may discourage visiting some attractions.

On the evening of May 24 we took a direct flight from Salt Lake City to Heathrow airport, just outside of London.  We arrived early afternoon on Wednesday and took the subway (or tube) into town and walked to the Tavistock Hotel.  After checking into our room, we went for a walk to gain our bearings and find out how long it would take us to walk to the British Museum and the train station.

We had a complementary curry dinner at the hotel, which wasn’t all that good.  Nor was the traditional English breakfast all that great.  We had much better food at other places throughout our trip.

On Thursday we took the subway to the Tower of London, arriving just before they opened.  Getting there early allowed us to see the crown jewels and walk around the place before joining the first Beefeater Tour of the morning.  The Beefeater Tour was well worth the time since they shared many interesting historical facts and stories.

London May2016-009

Kim, with the crown jewels in the building behind her

London May2016-015

Kim in the Tower of London

London May2016-016

Dee, with Tower Bridge in the background

London May2016-018

Our Yeoman, or Beefeater

By the time we finished the tour, the place was starting to get rather crowded.

To get a rest from standing, we took a river boat tour up (or down?) the Thames to Greenwich.  We visited the Cutty Sark sailing ship, the National Maritime Museum, and the Prime Meridian where we could straddle the 0º longitude therefore standing in the eastern and western hemispheres of the earth at the same time.

London May2016-033

River tour boat and Tower Bridge (not London Bridge)

London May2016-053

Cutty Sark

London May2016-064

Prime Meridian

We bought a “proper” hamburger at Byron’s café.  We noted a couple in the next booth eating their “proper” burger with a knife and fork.  Well that certainly wasn’t the proper way to eat a burger.

London May2016-052

Byron’s proper hamburger

We returned to London via the river tour and departed the boat near Big Ben.

London May2016-092

Big Ben and the House of Parliament

We wanted to visit Westminster Abbey, but they were already closed for the day. So, we walked over to Buckingham Palace, and then worked our way to the Cambridge Theatre to see the play “Matilda”.  I was a little disappointed in the play, but maybe it was because I was so tired.

London May2016-100

Buckingham Palace

London May2016-116

Cambridge Theatre

On Friday we checked out of our hotel and checked our luggage at the Euston train station.  This turned out to be far more expensive than their website led us to believe – we should have checked our bags at the hotel.

We then took a “Hop-On, Hop-Off” bus tour around London.  This wasted a lot of time due to the heavy traffic and some road construction.  But it was interesting to have a narration explaining different parts of the city.

The subway is a much faster way of getting around town.  You need to be careful when walking – if the cars don’t get you, the bicycles will.  I was very surprised at how many bicycles were in town and how fast they ride.  Since they drive on the left side of the road, you need to be very cautious crossing the street.

We eventually gave up on the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus and walked back to Westminster Abbey.  I was surprised at how much ‘stuff’ was inside the Abbey.  There are lots of tombs, statues, and engravings on the floor.

London May2016-149

Westminster Abbey

Our last attraction in London was the British Museum.  Museum lovers could spend days exploring the place – it is absolutely massive.  We spent about 3 hours walking through.  We didn’t take time to read many plagues, but we did manage to find the Rosetta Stone (we walked right by it 3 times before we found it).

London May2016-150

Easter Island statue

London May2016-157

The Rosetta Stone

We were surprised that they don’t have many toilets in the place, and not a single drinking fountain.  In fact, we only found a few drinking fountains during our two week stay.  And we learned that you need to carry change since many public toilets cost 20p or 30p.

We took a bus from the museum back to the train station because our legs were so tired.

London May2016-002

Double decker bus

We ate dinner and then hung out at the train station for a few hours.  We previously bought two tickets to Nuneaton, which is the closest train station to Gary’s house in Burbage.  We were able to get a much better price by going after peak hours.  We were surprised how large the crowds were during peak time.  It took us a while to figure out how the system worked.  Periodically a group of people would rush off from the crowd, all heading in the same direction.  We finally figured out that they were waiting until their train posted the platform number.  Then everyone would rush to get a good seat on the train.

London May2016-160

Euston station

The train ride was pleasant, but it was quickly getting dark so we didn’t get to enjoy the English countryside as much as I had hoped.  The trains were much nicer than the ones I rode 45 years ago when I served an LDS mission in southwest England and southern Wales.

Gary picked us up at the train station and drove us to his house in Burbage.  Burbage is the largest village in England.  Apparently, it is a village rather than a town because it lacks a town hall.

Burbage May2016-016

Gary’s house and minivan

We visited with Gary and Sarah for a while, before going to bed.  Our grandsons; Gary, Peter, and Daniel, where already in bed, so we got to see them the next morning.

After breakfast we went to a flea market and then to Foxton Locks.  Foxton Locks is a series of canal locks that provide a significant change in elevation for the canal.  We got to watch a few boats go through the locks, and Gary’s family even got to ride through a few locks.

Foxton Locks May2016-005

Long, narrow boats on the canal

Foxton Locks May2016-022

Gary’s family at the locks

Foxton Locks May2016-066

Gary’s family hitching a ride

Foxton Locks May2016-068

Kim helping close the lock

Foxton Locks May2016-078

Foxton Locks Inn

We also played a smartphone app that Gary developed to help increase the number of visitors to the museum.  You have to visit several spots around the locks and find clues to solve a mystery about a fictitious missing girl.  The game was fairly challenging, so not many people have actually finished it – but we did!

On Sunday we attended church with Gary’s family.  Monday was a bank holiday.  In the morning we visited Bolsover Castle, where we got to watch some “knight club” activities.  It was fun to watch the archery contest and the club fights.

Bolsover Castle May2016-020

Bolsover Castle grounds

Sherwood Forest May2016-045

Kim and the boys at Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle May2016-007

Archery competition

Bolsover Castle May2016-010

Knights – notice the dragons on the helmets

Bolsover Castle May2016-029

The boys in the castle

Bolsover Castle May2016-043

Kim, Gary, and Sarah

Bolsover Castle May2016-047

Medieval entertainment

Bolsover Castle May2016-082

Club fighting

The club fights were really entertaining.  Each team consisted of about 10 or 12 players, all dressed in armor with shields and a plastic club.  One team member had a magnetic dragon on top of his helmet.  The objective was to be the first team to knock the dragon off the opposing team.  The competition was rather aggressive.

After lunch we drove to Sherwood Forest and visited the Robin Hood exhibits.

Sherwood Forest May2016-064

Robin Hood and Little John

Sherwood Forest May2016-065

The “major oak” tree

Sherwood Forest May2016-018

Historical venues

Sherwood Forest May2016-022

Historical camp

Tuesday was a rest day.  We spent most of the day at Gary’s house, other than going grocery shopping and having a traditional meat pie for dinner at a local pub.  It rained most of the day, and this was our only day of rain during our entire two week stay.  It was amazing how great the weather was.  Some days were a little chilly, and others were rather warm, but we were lucky to not have more rain.

On Wednesday, June 1, we started our six-day road trip through Wales.  I will report on that in a separate document.  On the final day of the road trip, we stopped to visit Stonehenge.  They no longer allow you to get near the stones, but it was still interesting to listen to the audio guide explain some of the history and theories about the large stones.

Stonehenge Jun2016-005

The gang at Stonehenge

Stonehenge Jun2016-014


We had another traditional dinner at a pub near our hotel, and then we bid farewell to Gary and his family.  They dropped us off at the hotel and returned home so Gary could get back to work early the next morning.

Kim and I took a bus from the hotel back to Heathrow airport, and returned home to Salt Lake City on another direct flight.

We were tired and glad to be home, but we thoroughly enjoyed our two-week vacation.  It was great to see Gary’s family and tour Wales together.


Posted in Family Vacations, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Maze District of Canyonlands – May 2016

May 9-11, 2016

Back in 2003, Ed and Burt Lamborn invited me to join them on a trip to explore the Maze District of Canyonlands.  The Maze District is the least visited of the three sections of Canyonlands National Park, divided by the Green and Colorado Rivers.  It is very remote – roughly 40 miles of Jeep road to get there, and some sections of the trail require advanced 4WD equipment and skills.

It is possible to explore the park much quicker on a dirt bike than in Jeep.  Street legal dirt bikes are required.

Now that my family has street legal bikes, I have wanted to take my children to visit the beautiful country inside the park.  With Jason finishing up his first year of college, we figured it was the perfect time to go.  Jamie was also able to arrange time off from her research to join us.

We left home Sunday afternoon, after church.  It had rained most of the week, and it rained most of the way down to Hanksville where we stayed in a cheap motel.  We worried that the trails might be too muddy to ride on dirt bikes, but the desert really soaks up the water fast.

Maze GPS May2016

Complete trip GPS track

The Dollhouse

After a long night on uncomfortable beds, we enjoyed a great breakfast at Duke’s Slickrock Grill.  It was good that we had a great breakfast, because lunch (and dinner) would be late that day.

I asked the lady at the motel how much rain they received the prior week, and she said she thought it rained for a few minutes.  That puzzled me since the weather radar showed rain over the Maze District most of the week.

As we drove south towards Hite, we started to see signs of recent rain; the road surface was wet and the stream along the side of the road was flowing.  So again, we started to worry about mud.

We stopped at a scenic overlook above Hite and where Lake Powell used to be.  We could see the Colorado River flowing by, but virtually no sign of a lake.

Hite Marina - high and dry

Hite Marina – high and dry

Colorado River

Colorado River

Once we found the turnoff, we drove about 20 miles up a dirt road towards the Maze District.  The more popular entrance to the Maze is north of Hanksville, but we decided to come in from the south.  The road was a little rough in spots – especially towing our utility trailer loaded with camping gear and three dirt bikes.  My bike tipped partially over and was leaning on the tail gate, which scarred up my hand guard, but otherwise didn’t do any serious damage.

It took us about an hour to get to our selected campsite in Cove Canyon.  We quickly unloaded our bikes, changed into our riding gear, and headed off towards the Maze at about noon (only about 3 hours behind schedule).

Getting ready to ride

Getting ready to ride

While I refer to this trip report as the Maze District, by far the bulk of the area is actually inside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  Only the last few miles of each day’s ride is actually inside the Canyonlands boundary.  And our campsite was outside both parks on BLM land.

From our camp, it was approximately 13 miles to a 4-way junction; left goes to Sunset Pass and the Dirty Devil River, straight goes to the Flint Trail and Maze Overlook (tomorrow’s destination), and right goes to the Dollhouse section.  This 13 mile stretch is pretty easy on a dirt bike, but riding it both ways two days in a row did get old.

4-way junction

4-way junction

Maze Overlook Dollhouse GPS May2016

GPS track beyond the 4-way junction

The first part of the Dollhouse trail is easy and fast as it crosses open desert.  I warned the kids via our helmet radios to not ride too fast because there may be a speed limit inside these parks.  Five minutes had not passed when we came across a lone Jeep – and sure enough, it was a park ranger.

Open desert

Open desert

The ranger was really nice.  She did verify that we had street legal bikes and asked about our plans.  She warned us of the clay along the shelf road on the way to the Flint Trail and Maze Overlook and said that it would be impassable if wet.  She had been out patrolling for six days and was on her way back to the Hans Flat Ranger Station.

The Dollhouse trail was really fun on a bike.  It has a lot of variety, with sections of easy dirt road, easy sand covered road, rocky climbs and descents, sandstone ledges, and deep sand in wash bottoms.  The trail reminded me somewhat of Devil’s Racetrack in the San Rafael Swell, minus the more technical “steps” section.


Jason on one of the easy rocky sections

The most technical section of this trail is in the area near Teapot Rock.  This section contains a lot of sandstone ledges and rocky spots.  A few of the more technical spots caused Jamie a little trouble when she would stall her bike, but everyone made it through the entire trip without a single crash.

Cool trail

Cool trail near Teapot Rock

Jason going up the step

Jason going up the step

The step

A closeup of the step

There were a lot more technical sections on this trail than I remembered, but it was all really fun.

Fun trail

Plenty of variety on the trail

We stopped for a late lunch in the shade of Standing Rock, and enjoyed the views of the canyons of the Maze.

Maze snapshots May2016 (9)

Maze snapshots B May2016 (1)

The view from our lunch stop

After lunch we continued on to the Dollhouse area.  We explored the spurs to the three campsites in the area.  They all looked like nice campsites, but you need a permit to camp there.  We elected to camp outside the park so we could base camp from our car and not worry about obtaining permits.

Approaching the Dollhouse

Approaching the Dollhouse

We planned on hiking to the Granary, so we carried our hiking shoes and my walking poles along on our ride.  It was hot and we were running late, so we never made it to the Granary.  Plus, my memory isn’t so good anymore – I sent the kids on a death march thinking they could see the confluence of the Green and Colorado River from the Spanish Bottom trail.  In my memory, Spanish Bottom was right below the confluence – but in reality it is a few miles downstream.

The Spanish Bottom trail

The Spanish Bottom trail

Even though we never made it to the Granary, we did enjoy the most interesting portion of the hike as it goes through a narrow slot canyon.

Me on the Granary hike

Me entering the slot on the way to the Granary

The old man

Exiting the slot canyon

Narrow slot on Granary hike

Another narrow slot on Granary hike

We finished our hike and started back for camp at about 5:00 PM.  We enjoyed the 35 mile ride out here, but at this time we were pretty tired and hungry and not anxious to ride 35 more miles back to camp.  But the ride went swiftly and without problem.  Jamie set a great pace and we only stopped for two breaks on the way back.

We got back to camp at about 7:00 PM, set up camp, and cooked BBQ hamburgers for dinner – at about 9:00 PM.



We were too tired to even build a fire, so after an enjoyable evening watching the stars come out, we went to bed.

The Flint Trail

Not long after going to bed, it began to rain.  In fact, it rained on and off throughout the night.  I worried that the mud would prevent us from getting to the Flint Trail or the Maze Overlook due to the clay shelf.

When I got up in the morning, I was surprised that the ground was bone dry.  I was sure it rained pretty hard during the night, but it sure didn’t look like it.  But then I noticed water on our table and food boxes, so I knew I wasn’t totally crazy.

A few minutes later Jamie got up and said; “I thought it rained last night.”  Five minutes later Jason got up and said the same thing.

We enjoyed a great breakfast of “Dee’s Super Scrambled Eggs” and “Bob’s Hash Browns”, and then started off for the day’s adventure at about 10:00 AM.

We returned to the 4-way junction, and then rode straight through towards the Maze Overlook.  A few miles down the road we came to a long and rocky climb.  It seemed to go up and up.  I had absolutely no memory of that climb from my visit back in 2003.  It wasn’t overly technical, but it was steady.  This led us to the clay shelf, which offered some spectacular views.

Approaching the shelf road climb

Approaching the shelf road climb

and up

Up we go

View from the shelf road

View from the shelf road


The clay shelf road

The trail soon came to another junction; left to the Flint Trail switchbacks which climbed about 1000’ up the cliff, or right to the Maze Overlook.  Our primary destination was the Maze Overlook, but I really wanted to check out the switchbacks since they were closed due to snow and mud when I was here in 2003.  We decided to try it out now while we were fresh.  We decided to at least ride to the base of the cliff, and then press on only if it didn’t seem too technical.

Flint Trail GPS May2016

Flint Trail GPS track

Heading to the Flint Trail

Heading to the Flint Trail

Jamie and Jason stopped at the base of the cliff, so I assumed they didn’t want to ride up.  I passed them and started up the trail.  Later on I found out they were following me, but I didn’t get too much video of them coming up the trail.

Jason on the Flint Trail

Jason on the Flint Trail

The trail is fairly steep, but most of it is pretty easy on a dirt bike.  There are, however, three or four nasty outcroppings of rock that take good line selection and momentum.

Jason going up a ledge

Jason clearing one of the rock ledges

Rocky and steep

Rocky and steep

Rocky section

It seems much steeper in person

Everyone made it up okay, although Jamie came pretty close to looping out in toughest spot.  I almost got it on film, but my camcorder was in the wrong mode.


Dee on the Flint Trail

We enjoyed the view from the top and ate a snack, hoping we could make it to Maze Overlook for lunch.  As we were about ready to ride back down, two Jeeps came along, so we had to wait for them to get down the trail.  They went a lot slower than we did.

Maze HD May2016-005

The ride back down was pretty easy.  Once we passed the two Jeeps, we were able to quickly return to the junction and ride out to the Maze Overlook.

The Maze Overlook

The road to the Maze Overlook isn’t as technical as the Dollhouse trail, but it does have its share of rocky climbs and descents, deep sandy washes, and short ledges.  One rocky climb has a sharp left turn at the top, so it is best to not ride too fast and risk missing the turn and going off the ledge on the backside of the ridge.

Jamie on the way to the Maze Overlook

Jamie on the way to the Maze Overlook


Jamie cruising along a ridgeline

We were surprised to find the Maze Overlook totally deserted.  There was one car in the parking lot, but no people.  All of the campsites appeared to be empty as well.  As I mentioned, this is very remote country – we were 50 miles from the nearest pavement, and another hour to Hanksville, and a few more hours to Richfield which has a hospital.  Being this remote with my children caused me to seriously consider purchasing a personal locator beacon for emergencies.

Maze HD May2016-009

Lunch with a view

View from lunch

The Maze

Chocolate Drops

The Chocolate Drops

After eating lunch near the cliff overlooking the “maze”, we started our hike.  Our goal was to hike to the Harvest Scene petroglyphs, but that turned out to be far too ambitious for us.

I remembered the hike down off the cliff being very interesting.  The trail includes the use of some Moki steps cut out by Native American’s many years ago.  On the way down, Jamie spotted a granary high on the cliff across the canyon from us.  We marveled at how they could live in such rugged country.

The hike down turned out to be a lot more technical than I remembered.  On my last visit, I made it to the canyon bottom, but then started back up while others hiked to the petroglyphs.  This year I only made it about ¾ of the way down.  There were some pretty exposed sections of the trail that just seemed too risky at my age.  Jamie and Jason continued on, and said the trail got even worse.  They made it essentially to the bottom before heading back.  Watch my video to get an idea of what this trail is really like.

Jason on Moki steps

Jason on Moki steps

side view

A side view

Jamie on the Moki steps

Jamie on the Moki steps

Jason coming back up the Maze Overlook hike

Jason coming back up the Maze Overlook hike

Jamie and Jason

Jamie and Jason

After completing the hike, we enjoyed another snack, and then began the ride back to camp.

One thing I enjoyed was that the trail seemed totally different coming and going.  The ascents become descents, and visa-versa.  Both the Dollhouse and the Maze Overlook trails were really fun on dirt bikes – both directions.  They are not for beginners though – these trails require at least a strong intermediate skill level and very reliable bikes.

After returning to camp we enjoyed some BBQ hotdogs and sat around talking the evening away.  We took a short hike up a box canyon near camp and found some very heavy, black chunks of petrified wood that probably got washed over the cliff at the end of the canyon.

Poison Spring Canyon

The next morning we awoke to cloudy skies.  I wondered if another storm was moving, which might threaten our day’s ride.

After breakfast, we began packing up camp, when it suddenly began to hail.  It was a strange hail storm – it wasn’t cold and it wasn’t windy.  The hail just lightly fell from the sky.  Luckily, the storm only lasted about five minutes.

We secured the bikes in the trailer better this time, so none of them tipped over on our way back to the highway.  By the time we arrived about the Poison Spring Canyon trailhead there was not a cloud in the sky.  It was a beautiful day.

I always had the impression that Poison Spring Canyon was a fairly technical trail.  I imagine that some days the sand may be fairly deep and soft, but the day we rode it, it was pretty easy.  It was a bumpy ride with lots of baby-head rocks, but they were mostly submerged into the ground so it wasn’t as challenging as some rocky trails.

The canyon was really scenic and interesting to ride through – especially the middle section which had numerous small stream crossings.  Jason was trying to wheelie across the water, without much luck at first.  On the return ride out, he did much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t filming him at that time.

Poison Spring Canyon

Poison Spring Canyon

Jason doing a wheelie over the water crossing

Jason doing a wheelie over the water crossing

The trail is 16 miles long to the Dirty Devil River.  I was glad we didn’t have to cross the river, because it was running fairly deep and swift, and there was about a 5’ steep bank on the other side.  If you do cross the river, you can ride through Hatch Canyon and come out at Sunset Pass and then the 4-way junction discussed earlier, thereby providing an alternate way to enter or exit the Maze District.

First view of the Dirty Devil River

First view of the Dirty Devil River

The Dirty Devil River

The Dirty Devil River

The river crossing

The river crossing

After a short break at the river, we returned to the car and loaded up.  On our way home we stopped at Stan’s Burger Shack in Hanksville for a burger and shake.

We found this trip to be exhausting, but it was really fun.  Camping takes a lot more work than staying in a motel, and we longed for a soak in a hot tub, but the overall experience was wonderful.

The Maze area is truly spectacular and well worth a visit if you have the right equipment and skills to make the journey.

Posted in Dirt biking, Hiking, Uncategorized, Utah - Southern | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Zion National Park – Apr 2016

Apr. 13-16, 2016

Zion Marcy Apr2016-053

Zion National Park

Marcy and Isaac invited Kim and I to join them on a family vacation to Zion National Park.  Isaac rented a very nice home in LaVerkin, about 20 miles west of Zion NP.  The home was cheaper than two motel rooms, and had a lot more space.  The accommodations were wonderful, there was plenty of room for the grandchildren to play, and everyone really enjoyed it.

We left home Wednesday afternoon at about 4:00 PM.  We met up with Marcy’s family in Fillmore when we stopped for dinner.  We arrived in LaVerkin at about 9:00 PM, which gave us time to settle in before bedtime.

On Thursday morning we all piled in Marcy’s minivan and drove to Zion National Park.  We took the shuttle bus up the canyon for our first hike at Weeping Rock.  The kids enjoyed riding on the bus.

Weeping Rock

The hike to Weeping Rock is quite short, but it is sort of steep.  The trail is paved, but it is wet at the top, so you need to watch your footing.  The kids did really well on the hike, and they enjoyed using Kim’s walking stick.

Zion Marcy Apr2016-013

Isaac and the girls at Weeping Rock

Zion NP Apr2016-006

Sophie with grandma’s walking stick



After arriving at the falls, I took a picture of Sophie and Aspen sucking on their Camelbak hose in commemoration of the photo we took years before of me, Jamie, and Jason at the same spot.

Camelbacs Oct2005 (Medium)

October 2005

Zion NP Apr2016-033

Sophie and Aspen

Riverside Walk

We boarded the bus and rode it to the very last stop to enjoy the Riverside Walk.  This trail is also paved, but it has a fair amount of sand on the trail.  We didn’t make it all the way to the end, but we got pretty close.  We decided to head back down and enjoy lunch near the lodge.  On the return hike we saw a family of mule deer that were very accustomed to being near humans.

After lunch we enjoyed an ice cream cone.  We then took the shuttle back to the car, and drove back to the rental house for naps.  Aspen was not the only one to take a nap.

Ice Cream Cones

Ice Cream Cones

We later returned to Springdale for pizza at Zions Pizza and Noodle.

Emerald Pools

We returned to the park Friday morning and took the shuttle to the Grotto.  From here we took the Kayenta trail to the Emerald Pools.  I had never done this hike before, but it was really enjoyable – I think it is my favorite hike in the park (of those that I have done).

Bridge to the Kayenta trail

Bridge to the Kayenta trail

The trail is not paved, but has a mixture of rock steps and dirt.  The trail follows a shelf, so there is a pretty steady, but gradual climb to Emerald Pools.  The trail has just enough challenge to make it interesting, but it is not overly difficult.

Zion NP Apr2016-127

The Kayenta trail

The trail offers some spectacular views down the canyon.

On the Kayenta trail

On the Kayenta trail

Zion Marcy Apr2016-061

Sophie and Aspen

Just prior to reaching the pools, we took the upper fork which led us to the middle pool.

Zion NP Apr2016-151

Emerald Pools in the background

Zion Marcy Apr2016-070

Proof that Kim and I made it

Kim waited here while the rest of us continued on to the upper pool.  This was my first time hiking to the upper pool.  It is a much steeper and more rugged trail than the lower portion.  To my surprise, the girls absolutely loved it.  Some of the rock ledges were almost up to Aspen’s waist, but she enjoyed climbing up the rocks.  Sophie was so fast I couldn’t keep up with her to take many pictures.

Rock scrambling on the way to the upper pool

Rock scrambling on the way to the upper pool

Just as we arrived at the upper pool we heard thunder.  The weather forecast for Zion called for rain starting at about 1:00 PM, but it was only 11:30 AM.  But within just a few minutes it began to hail.  We left our jackets and Camelbaks with Kim, so we were not well prepared.  The trail quickly became a muddy mess, but the kids were troopers as we returning to find grandma.

On the way down from the upper pool, I happened to meet my friend Steve Seely with his family.  They did the same hike we did, but in the opposite direction.  They ended up going down the Kayenta trail in the mud.  He said it was very slippery in spots, and their shoes were completely covered in mud.

After returning to the middle pool, we found Kim huddled under a large rock trying to keep out of the storm.  We put on our jackets and headed down to the lower pool where we could get a little bit of shelter from the overhanging cliff.

A few mintues later

The hail storm

It was cold

It was cold

The storm had subsided a little bit, so we pressed on, taking the paved trail down to the lodge.

Zion NP Apr2016-221

View from the bridge near the lodge

We found a table in the auditorium in the lodge and ate lunch while we tried to dry off.

After lunch we returned to the house for naps.  We considered returning to the park during the evening so the kids could ride their bikes on the Pa’rus trail, but we decided to just let them ride around near the house and enjoy a quiet evening at home watching a movie and popping popcorn.

Snow Canyon

Rather than dealing with the crowd at Zion NP on Saturday (it was free National Park day, so it got very crowded), we decided to go to Snow Canyon.  We thought the kids would enjoy playing in the sand dunes, but the wind was blowing so hard that we didn’t even try.

Instead, we hiked to the petrified dunes where Isaac found a small sandbox that was somewhat sheltered from the wind.  The kids enjoyed playing in the sand and climbing around on the sandstone.

Petrified Dunes

Petrified Dunes

Sand box

Private sandbox

We decided to hike the Butterfly trail which led to the Lave Tubes trail.  Kim drove the car around to meet us.  This hike was longer than expected, and the jagged lava rocks where challenging for the kids.  They each stumbled a few times along the way.  They were all tired and thirsty when we finally got to the car.

Snow Canyon Apr2016-056

The Butterfly trail

We were glad to get out of the wind and found a picnic table hidden in some bushes that protected us from the wind while we ate lunch.

After lunch we drove back to St George for gas, and then headed for home.  We had a stiff headwind all the way home, so the drive was fairly tense.

We all had a great time and the girls really enjoyed most of the hikes.  Even Luke was a trooper – he hardly made a peep on any of the hikes.

Zion Marcy Apr2016-007

Marcy and Luke

Posted in Family Vacations, Hiking, Utah - Southern | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gold Butte – March 2016

March 11, 2016

A few years ago, our friends Clyde and Karla, suggested we go explore an area south of Mesquite, Nevada called “Little Finland”. We decided to go check it out during Jason’s spring break from college.

“Little Finland” seems to be a nickname for a portion of a rock formation called “Devil’s Fire”. There are several other rock formations in the Gold Butte area, about 30 miles south of Mesquite. Other formations that we visited include “Black Butte” and “Whitney Pockets”. There are also numerous rock panels with petroglyphs and pictographs.

Watch the video in HD on YouTube:

After researching the area, I planned a 32-mile loop that would allow us to visit these points of interest. It turned out that about 1/3 of my loop was in an old sandy wash that is now closed to motorized travel. So our loop ride turned into two out-and-back rides. Our route is shown below.

Gold Butte Mar2016

Our GPS track

You can access the trailhead by taking Hwy 170 from Mesquite, and then take the Old Gold Butte road, which is paved, but has a lot of rough sections making it fairly slow travel – especially with a trailer.

There is a nice staging area at “Black Butte” or a little further down the road where the pavement ends at “Whitney Pockets”. Neither trailhead has restrooms, but there are several nearby primitive campsites.

Gold Butte Dee Mar2016 (2)

Black Butte as seen from the parking area

We parked at “Black Butte” and rode southwest to another parking area near the “Falling Man” petroglyph. We spent about 45 minutes looking for “Falling Man”, without success. We did find several other rock panels of Indian art, but not the main one we were looking for. We later learned that you have to crawl through a hole in a rock to get to it. I think we found the hole, but we didn’t realize we had to crawl through – which would have been challenging in our motorcycle boots and gear. If we attempted it, we may have learned why they call the area “Falling Man”.

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-007

The trail to “Falling Man”

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-009

I think the hole in question is in the shadow on the right

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-011

One of several art panels

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-012

This rock had many works of art

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-015

More Indian artwork

After giving up our search, we continued southwest along the road. Some sections of this road were really fun, while other sections were somewhat rocky.


Jason enjoying the rolling terrain

The turnoff into the dry wash was closed, so we continued on the main road. This turned out to be a dead end. Near the end, the road got fairly steep. We sent Jason on to see if the road continued on the other side, but it did not.

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-019

The road gets steep near the top, and then dead ends

So we turned around and rode back the way we came. Rather than stop at the car, we decided to ride over to “Whitney Pockets” for lunch. We thought they might have restrooms, but they did not. We did happen to find an old dam in a small side canyon that was fun to explore after lunch.

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-022

Lunch stop in “Whitney Pockets”

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-026

Jamie and Jason climbing up the dam

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-027

They made it!

From “Whitney Pockets” we rode south about 7 miles on the Gold Butte road. This road is a fast paced gravel road.

Our next stop was “Devil’s Throat”. This is a large sink hole out in the middle of the desert. There is a safety fence around the hole, and you can see that the fence has been moved outward over the years as the sink continues to expand.


“Devil’s Throat” sink hole


I would guess the hole is about 100′ across and 40′ deep

Our next stop was “Devil’s Fire” – another large red rock formation in the middle of the desert. This section of road was not difficult, but it was very rough with lots of embedded rocks and sections of wash board.


Jamie giving her suspension a workout on the wash board

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-032

“Devil’s Fire”

From here the road follows the wash bottom, which was also very rough with wash board. The following map is a close-up of this section of our ride.


Little Finland Mar2016

Close up of the “Little Finland” area

“Devil’s Throat” is off to the lower right of the map. We rode down the wash to “Devil’s Fire” and continued on until we came to a side wash, which led us back to “Little Finland”, which is on the western edge of “Devil’s Fire”.

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-034

Kim approaching “Little Finland”

Gold Butte Dee Mar2016 (6)

Kim, Jason, and Jamie at the base of “Little Finland”

Jamie and Jason climbed up on top while Kim and I took a break under a palm tree. Here are a few of Jamie’s pictures of the area.

St George Jamie Mar2016 (6)

“Little Finland”

St George Jamie Mar2016 (11)

“Little Finland”

After our break at “Little Finland”, we continued west until we came to another junction. Jason and I rode over a fairly technical section of trail to see if we could get to “Mead Narrows”. It turns out that the narrows is now closed to motorized travel, so we continued back to where Kim and Jamie were waiting.

Rather than ride the wash back, we took a dirt road along a ridge line that paralleled the wash. This was a much faster and smoother ride. We considered taking a side spur out to “Kurt’s Grotto”, but it was getting late so we decided to skip that section.

The road eventually dropped back into the wash. Rather than ride all the way back to Devil’s Throat, we took a shortcut by riding up “Mud Wash”. This wash was also covered with wash board bumps, but it still saved us a lot of time. Once back on the main road, it was a quick ride back to the car.

Since the elevation is so low here, we feared it would be really hot, but we really lucked out on weather. The skies were mostly overcast and there was a gentle breeze blowing, keeping the temperatures very mild and pleasant. But a storm-front moved in just as we were loading the trailer to head back to St George. The wind started blowing really hard and sand blasting everything. But we were soon on our way back to town.

This is an interesting area to explore, but it wasn’t the best dirt biking/ATV riding we have done. Most of the roads are really rough. They aren’t difficult, but they are rough. I suspect this area would be more enjoyable in a side-by-side with a longer wheelbase and better suspension.

Posted in Dirt biking, Nevada | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment