Arches National Park, Utah

Arches is park with a lot of roads. It attracts an international crowd, many Asians and Germans. There are some hiking trails but it is also ideal for people who have RVs and just like to drive around. In my mind, if you’ve seen one arch you’ve seen em all. But still, since it was there I had to go.

I went up to Delicate Arch last night to catch the sunset and see if a decent picture could be taken with crapass camera. I met a bunch of funny people at the overlook and one of them offered to take my picture, she did a pretty good job. After which I took myself to an actual restaurant for a burger. The waiter had issues and sat down at my table without my permission, I thought this awfully annoying. He probably thought he was being cool and hip. I had no choice but to steal the bandana napkin.

This morning I decided to go see more arches wanted to tool around the Devil’s Garden area. But beforehand I wanted to make myself an egg white omelet. I don’t know what it is about these krauts but they are the rudest travelers on the planet. Usually when they annoy me I am in some third world country and try my best to behave so there isn’t much I can do……but this time they were on my turf. So the annoying krauts decided to serenade me with their generator as I ate my breakfast at the picnic area. The krauts, of course, weren’t leaving their RV so they could sit in air-conditioned splendor. I guess they thought that no one would complain since they were hermetically sealed in their Winnebago, little did they know. We had words, the krauts decided to turn their generator off, Freulein Kraut proceeded to give Cham the evil-eye. I evil-eyed her back and felt empowered. I am making it my personal mission to teach all the krauts proper vacation etiquette, I think I have my work cut out for me in this regard.

And what is it with these Germans and their trekking poles? They take them everywhere, they must use them when they go to the corner store for milk.

I get to Devil’s Garden and proceed with my walk. Naturally I took the longer more difficult way. Upon looking at the map, realized it was going to be 6 miles. I was wearing the wrong shoes and had no water but I decided this would make it more challenging. I got a little parched but was no worse for wear.

My breathable trailrunners were shot and I had to buy a new pair. The new shoes are made for slickrock and should give me more grip, but the fucking things are a rather ugly lavender. If I am ever invited to a bridal shower on a mountain I’m ready. I took a shower at the white trash trailer park, poor minivan had to park next to some sort of demolition derby mobile, I don’t know which one of us were more horrified.

I am headed over to Colorado tonight and then north into Wyoming. It is somewhat hot here and it is time for a climate change to cooler temps.

Slideshow for Arches:

Moab, Utah

I have only been here for a few hours so far and have no pics yet. However, I do notice that everyone either has a mountain bike, kayak or is wearing hiking boots, or some combination of the three. The women here are older, thin and muscular; And also look like they spend most of their time outside. So far I have met only one person and he is from Cumberland, MD. When he got here he quickly set down roots.

For once, I don't feel like a freakazoid.

I am absolutely loving me some UTAH!!!!

Muley's Twist at Capitol Reef NP, Utah

Once I made the decision to go with Gary to Muley's Twist I swung into action. I quickly reorganized my gear to switch over to backpacking mode. We had to drive about 45 miles on backcountry roads to get there, I am taking the poor minivan where no minivan should ever go. Minivan seems to be enjoying it. We stayed Thursday night at the free campground off of the BLM road called Cedar Mesa, when we got there all the sites were taken but some really nice people from Idaho let us share their site.

We got going early, I learned all about Gary and how he is very very meticulous. We continued on our way to the trailhead and didn't arrive until about 11AM. The ride up to the trailhead in the car was a real white knuckler, see the pic on the slide show of the switchback road. Things were going fine until we saw some people at the trailhead and decided to ask them about the trail. These guys were real hiking pros from Wyoming and they gave us some tips about the slot canyons. We had no plans to go into the slot canyons but the conversation went like this:

Nice lady at the trailhead: "The slot canyons are very interesting and worth a look. They aren't difficult but you might have to do some chimneying and bridging to get into them."

Cham: "Sure, no problem, we can handle a little chimney and bridge."

What Cham was really thinking: "What the fuck is this lady talking about?"

After this, Gary and I were on a mission to get to slot canyon #3, who according the the Wyoming people was the best. We packed it in about 5 miles and Gary insisted we find a campsite near water which proved to be a wise idea. I learned that when you hike in the southwest the most important aspect of your hike was where was the water, if there was water. There were no gurgling mountain springs here like back east. Every drop is precious. We got our water out of a little puddle and we had to pump it, see picture on slideshow.

Then we hiked a few more miles and thanks to my GPS we were able to find slot canyon #3. We learned quickly that the when the Wyoming couple said #3 was the best they meant the most difficult. But the fact that Gary and I had no slot canyon experience whatsoever did not stop us. We had our kayaking shoes, what more did we need?

It turned out we had to climb and steep hill, then wade through some slot canyon puddles up to our thighs and then shimmy up a slick rock slot canyon. I can very well understand how you can get your arm stuck in one of these things. I am also very glad for all the weight lifting that I do because upper body strength is key, as well as the ability to turn and manipulate yourself in a very tight space. Since I am small I needed Gary's help to get up, but somehow we managed to get into the slot canyon with the camera so I was able to document the whole thing to prove I was there. I was thrilled about our success.

Exhausted we hiked quietly back to camp and had the most magnificent site ever. Muley's Twist is like being in Zion National Park but having the entire park to yourself. I now know what bridging and chimneying is and vow to do some more slot canyoning, its wild. Love it. Gary let me hang at his hotel pool after we got done.

We got back to the car on Saturday morning and now I am getting ready to move on to Arches. I have no bars on my cell phone so bear with me. Email if you wish.


Capitol Reef NP, Navajo Knob, Utah

I left Cove Fort and moved on to Capitol Reef National Park. This park is much quieter than the two big ones in the area, Zion and Bryce. I felt obligated to stop by merely because it was there but once I got there I was blown away. I stayed at the campground the first night, and decided to get out the mapping software and download some maps onto my GPS/PDA. The next morning I drove down the scenic road which is sort of a large slot canyon for cars. I saw a strange looking bird, maybe Mr. Drew could clue us in on what it was, see pic on slideshow.

Then I decided to hike a trail called Navajo Knob, it was a quarter mile from the campground and along the way I saw a hitchhiker whom I failed to pick up because I was going so short a distance. It turned out that the hitchhiker was trying to get to the trailhead as well and I gave him a hard time about hitchhiking so short a distance. He was hiking the same trail as I so I told him to get going. He turned out to be Gary from Vancouver, a solid hiker with good stamina. Once we got to the top Gary suggested I go backpacking with him over at Muley's Twist (see next post). Gary was not attracted to my winning personalitly and my hot body, but moreso the fact that I had a car, he did not and he had no other way to get to Muley's Twist. I immediately agreed because it sounded like Gary knew what he was doing and had a plan, and, sadly, I do not.


Cove Fort, Utah

I finally had an opportunity to visit Cove Fort which was really really exciting. I made a preliminary video which will be improved after I get home and can organize my pictures. I will upload the pics at a later date and get things to look pretty. But my explanation of why this place is so important is outlined in the following video. Enjoy.

Zion National Park, Angels Landing, Utah

I've been to Zion twice now, if you go back to February of 2006 you will find a post for the Kolob Canyon area that was quite fun. But all my visits to Zion had been in the dead of winter when there was no one around. I've always wanted to climb the Angels Landing Trail and since my travels were taking me through Zion I figured I would stop off quickly to do so. Unfortunately, it was no longer winter. There were tourists and buses and rules and parking lots. This was no fun for me. I climbed the trail late in the day and got near the top but didn't brave the rock climb since my light was limited. The place is still beautiful but I am not one for the crowds. Had to get out quick.


I am closing in on Capital Reef at the moment.

Lake Powell Dam, Arizona

After my hike in the desert I wanted to recuperate so I decided to enjoy the Lake Powell resort's jacuzzi. There I met a guy named Alan who recently left Big Sky, Montana to take a job at the resort. We quickly struck up a conversation and agreed to go for a tour of Lake Powell Dam the next day. The reason for the dam was described in my preceding post. American tax dollars pay for guided tours of the dam and the hydroelectric plant that generates electricity. Our tour guide chose his words carefully but did mention the dam would be completely useless if the lake dried up once and for all.


Will be headed north to do a quick hike over at Zion and then on to Cove Fort. (I am very excited about Cove Fort)

Glen Canyon, Arizona/Utah

I arrived at Page, AZ on Saturday night exhausted but feeling happy that I got the heck out of Flagstaff. Sunday was a low key day where I tried to fix the usual mapping issues with Delorme, I spend a lot of time fixing Delorme mapping issues. I half-heartedly stumbled down to the Lake Powell Dam where I realized that I was a stone's throw from Glen Canyon. Backpacker magazine has been yammering about this place since I don't know when, I haven't paid much attention because I live in the east and Glen Canyon is, well, I didn't know where it was. But I was here and excited. There is a politically correct story about this place, but instead, I will tell my version.

Back in the last century the evil American politicians decided that hoarding water was a good idea. So they took this beautiful utopian place called Glen Canyon and decided to flood it, in order to keep water in Utah and Colorado, and away from the starving Mexicans who depended on it for sustenance. Ignoring the wishes of everyone who loved the place the politicians conspired to build this monstrosity and, in order to pay for this boondoogle, they would create hydroelectric power. This was good news for Las Vegas who needed lots of water for the fountains over at the Bellagio.

However, the politicians (most likely Republicans) did not count on global warming global climate change. The big lake filled to capacity in 1980 but since then has shriveled to half its capacity since water is now scarce in the desert. The beautiful arid canyon is returning, and many people want it back. I must say, the place is quite beautiful and could probably do with a few less obnoxious house boats, cigarette boats and partyers.

I have always wanted to hike in the desert, and here you can hike and go anywhere you wish. There are no trails and with the cool temperatures the rattlers and scorpions stay in their little holes.


Failing on Mount Humphreys, Arizona

This is not going to be a sugar/spice everything/nice post so skip this if you don't like negativity. First of all, I'm not that impressed with people from Phoenix, they have an arrogance about them that rubs me the wrong way. I have visited Sedona and Flagstaff which are perfectly nice places except for the obnoxious people that are there, the rude ones seem to hail from Phoenix. Think Annapolis. Mind you, there have been a few wonderful folks with whom I have conversed but the majority suck. Phoenix is off my list of places I wish to visit.

I decided to attempt to highpoint Arizona which involved a mountain called Mount Humphreys. The trail to the top started at 9200 feet and the summit is at 12,633 so I thought this might be completely doable. I woke up in Flagstaff Saturday morning to falling snow but that rarely stops me. I hit the trailhead at about 9:30AM, the first 200 meters in were perfectly nice. Things went awry after that. Springtime has not visited Mount Humphreys yet at the end of April. Trail conditions were icy and treacherous, but that rarely stops me either. I came upon a trail club which will remain nameless. I decided to hike with them since I thought it would be safer.

Some members of the trail club started to turn back but the majority surged forth. I thought it was strange that none of the trail club people had poles or gaiters but who am I to judge?

Perhaps they do things differently out here or they are all superhikers. My poles were preventing me from falling on the ice and these folks were falling down left and right. I also noticed that none of the members of this club were speaking, we were hiking in silence. When I got to the treeline at 11,500 feet I noticed my tube had froze, so no water. I was feeling slightly light-headed from the altitude, it was starting to snow really hard and trail conditions were terrible. I told the group that I was going to head back and was very happy that I was not a member of this club so I could make the decision on my own.

This was the first time it took my longer to descend than ascend. I was happy when I got back to the trailhead. I headed to my car and heard a voice from the parking lot. Someone was asking me about the group at the top. I told them that I left them at the treeline and they were headed to the summit. The man said, "I am the group leader, I didn't feel the trail was safe so I returned. I am waiting for the rest of them to come down."

I had to ask, "Well, what are you doing at the parking lot while your own group is on the mountain?"

He said, "There is another group leader that is pushing them all to the top."

I replied, "Well, that guy is an idiot." Turns out these folks were training for some big hike and most of them had less than 2 months of hiking experience. The hike leader on the mountain was insisting they all attempt to summit, and refused to carry a phone to stay in communication with anyone else. Naturally, I had to give this leader at the trailhead a piece of my mind, he should have never abandoned his group. Now you all know that I am usually the queen of stupidity when it comes to hiking but this situation really took the cake. If my tube had frozen then their tubes were also frozen so none of them had water. There was no way to get anyone off this mountain had someone broken a limb, which very well may have happened given the trail conditions. Since this wasn't my club, my event, or my responsibility I decided to get away from this place as fast as possible. Can someone say "gross negligence"?

I'm making the rounds at different national monuments, Tonto, Tuzigoot, Saguaro, Sunset Crater and Wupatki.

Right now I am in Page, AZ. Update: New plan, I don't have the heart for the Grand Canyon, too many tourists, I am going to head northing into Utah.

Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Not to far from Fort Bowie is a scenic park called Chiricahua National Monument. Ranger John told me to go over and take a look. The place is pretty big and is sort of a cross between Zion and Bryce. It has the same red rock coloring of Zion but the hoodoos of Bryce. There are a lot of good hiking trails worth checking out. I got some mileage out of this place, but I cheated, I took the free bus uphill and worked my way downhill.

I also wore my high gaiters this time, now terrified of angry rattlers.


Fort Bowie, Arizona

I was traveling down highway 10 and decided I wanted to take a break. I saw a sign for a Fort Bowie National Monument and decided to find out what other national monument forts looked like, since I have such a dubious reputation back home at a certain fort that shall remain nameless. Fort Bowie turns out to be pretty neat, you have to walk 1.5 miles inland to actually get to the fort and you get to read about the history along the way. I've never been one much for a history lesson but there was some sort of discontent between the post office and the Apaches, so they had to set up a fort to get the mail through this area and on to California. Geronimo tormented the white people here, there was some pillaging and plundering as well.

The coolest thing that happened though was that as I was enjoying the ruins of the fort a very large rattlesnake tried to bite me. He got within a foot of me when I realized what was happening and I was quicker than he and got away. Here is his picture of the snake and his rattle. Please notice that he is still pretty pissed, and I didn't think I did anything to provoke him.

Here is the slideshow:

Up next will be Chiricahua when I have time to post.

Guadalupe Peak, highpointing Texas

Last night I worked out at a gym that will remain nameless in Carlsbad. It claimed that it was a family fitness center, but perhaps it should have advertised itself as a fitness center for a family of meth addicts. I guess weight is weight and I got a good work out but you've never seen so much equipment left over from the 70s, it was like walking into a space time capsule. I took a shower and decided it was best to take my money and credit cards into the shower with me. The place was an old dance hall that hadn't been changed much.

I made it to the Guadalupe Mountain National Park the next morning and did my best to be the first one on the trail. I made it to the peak in a couple of hours, maybe a 3300 foot climb in a little over 3 miles. The PATC could learn something from this place, no trail markers, no nasty signage and a wonderful well positioned trail. I met people from Abilene, Idaho, California and Mexico. Here is a picture of the "Hike of the Month" club out of Carlsbad who were hamming it up for the camera, I was their group photographer at the summit.

I want you to take a look at this picture which is the 2007 US National Parks Pass:

Then I want you to take a look at this picture I snapped myself today:

Carlsbad, and the Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

It was hot yesterday when I finally found Carlsbad, NM. So I decided to enjoy some air conditioning at the Wal-Mart and naturally I have to start harassing the locals. I hadn't been in there 30 seconds when I made a smart-aleck comment about evils of pizza to a man who was shopping at the local Wal-Mart. Within 5 minutes he offered me a job as a ditch digger and irrigator at his farm. I was about to take him up on the offer but then realized that I had already driven for 8 hours and was pretty tired. The job was going to take 12 hours and I didn't pack my work boots, besides, I didn't know much about irrigating. Since the day-laborer job thing was not in the cards, Mr. Grandi opted to take me out to dinner instead, which certainly beat eating a can of tuna in the back of the minivan.

Billy turns out to be a 4th generation farmer in Carlsbad, his family owns a lot of property and they farm alfalfa, hay, cows and a lot of other stuff. Irrigation is a whole complex issue. I can confidently now say the price of cattle is very strong and if that China market would just open up life would be good (if you were a cattle farmer). After dinner we went down the flume, which is another word for aqueduct. The flume carries the canal water across a ravine from the lake to the farms. The lake is created by the dammed Pecos River. Billy is an accomplished singer and song writer and game me my own private concert at the flume. Pretty cool, huh.

Billy let me sleep on the farm near the cattle which was a whole lot quieter than in the Wal-Mart parking lot, then he kindly took me out to breakfast too. Before breakfast was over I had met most of the men in the town thanks to Billy's introductions. Billy gave me one of his CD's so I will have something to which to listen during the next few weeks, or months.

This morning I proceeded on to the Caverns. Let me tell you something, those are some big ass caverns. If you haven't been there you can't imagine how big this place is. I promise you, my pictures could never do this place justice, it is hard to take pictures in a cavern with a cheap digital camera because the flash doesn't do you much good. I met a bus driver from Dallas named Mario and we had a nice chat about bus driving. Here are some pics.

The only downside of the caverns is that the bathrooms in the caverns are more non-functional than functional. We have trillions to go to war with Iraq but we can't get a toilet to flush in our national parks....pathetic. Don't worry, the complaint letter was filed promptly.

I am still in Carlsbad because it is terribly windy today and I want the wind to calm down before I start my ascent on Guadalupe. Phone is turned off because reception comes and goes, which wears down the battery. Leave a message if you need me.

Route 176, Texas

I headed south into Tejas. Managed to straighten out some mapping issues in Dallas thanks to the fine people at One Map Place, this is a store that only has maps. I felt like a pig in shit. I headed further south on 30 and stopped at a rest stop, a trucker looked at my tag (tag = license plate in Marylandese). He said, "You are a long way from home." This comment alone finally convinced me that I am officially on vacation, or sabbatical, or hiatus or whatever you want to call what I am doing.

I replied, "Not far enough." I am sorry I didn't purchase a CB radio for the car, driving with all the trucks on the road it is sort of like being a deaf person in a room full of people talking.

I spent the night on a side street in Abiline, TX and then spent Thursday morning working out at the Power Shack Gym. I had a bunch of ladies admire my physique and ask me about exercise which further enlarged my already inflated ego. People are starting to comment about how thin I am, not that I am so thin but compared to the folks in this area I am a virtual string bean. I met a new bunch of people in the jacuzzi, health clubs around here all have indoor pools.

I finally got off the highway near Midland, and started to enjoy the ride. Texas has a bunch of wildflowers all abloom in spring. I don't know what they are called but they certainly are pretty.

I saw some neat windmills up on a mesa too but this picture doesn't do them justice.

The oil wells are still going too, these Texans get their energy any way they can.

I understand that if you look at oil wells every day this isn't all that interesting but it is to me which is why I recorded the video.

Neat stuff.