Saturday, April 30, 2011

Red Canyon, Capitol Reef NP

I was ready for an easier day after yesterday's long loop through Lower Muley Twist. The weather looked a bit iffy, so I decided to take a windshield tour down to Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell. Not the most exciting place ever, but for the middle of nowhere I was surprised by how much seemed to be going on. I imagine that in mid-summer the place is an absolute zoo. There is some spectacular scenery north of Bullfrog, along the Notom-Bullfrog (Burr Trail) road, and probably some good hiking as well.

After taking the long way back via Hanksville to the Cedar Mesa campground, I was ready for a short hike. Red Canyon is a straightforward out-and-back hike, six miles roundtrip, that starts from the campground. It isn't in the same league with places like Sheets Gulch, or Lower Muley Twist Canyon, but it is worthwhile for a two- or three-hour tour.  The best part was these interesting rocks, I think they are concretions of what are called "Moqui marbles"; but I'm no geologist.

GPS log and more pictures on

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lower Muley Twist Loop

Another hike in the eastern part of Capitol Reef National Park, this is a longer one. The park guide says 15 miles, a long dayhike or an overnighter. I did the loop from The Post trailhead, about 5 miles south of the Burr Trail junction with the Notom-Bullfrog Road. No, I don't know why it is called The Post. There is a large corral there for horseback parties to use.

From The Post trailhead, there is a steep 2-mile trail to Lower Muley Twist Canyon. The views are expansive, to say the least.

The next 8 miles are easy walking in the wash, Lower Muley Twist Canyon. It is beautiful territory, no extreme narrows but lots of big amphitheaters, towering walls, and such. One cavern was particularly interesting, there was a huge debris pile in the "eye" of the loop. The channel of the wash went behind the pile, at times only about 15 feet wide. I hadn't seen this kind of cavern before.

At the bottom of Lower Muley Twist Canyon, it joins Halls Creek, a much more open desert wash. The trail guide says 5 miles back to The Post, but it felt like more than that. The park guide mentions an old wagon road that can be followed as a more direct route than the winding Halls Creek wash, but I wasn't able to find the old road. All told, this was an 8-hour round trip; my GPS said 6:15 of actual moving time.

There were several pools that had water, mostly in the lower half of the canyon. Some of these looked like they might be permanent. It would be interesting to do this trip as an overnight, particularly if you didn't have to carry all of your water.

I saw 2 backpackers who were walking up-canyon after having done an overnight. I didn't see anybody else.

GPS log and a few more pictures at

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sheets Gulch, Capitol Reef NP

I drove to St George, Utah to retrieve the Scamp trailer from winter storage, and headed for Capitol Reef. The weather in Jackson is cold and wet, so I've been hoping for some warm weather time in the desert. Capitol Reef National Park is first on my list, I found a campsite at the Cedar Mesa primitive campground on the east side of the park.

Hmm, Sheets Gulch might be my new favorite of the washes and gulches on the east side of Capitol Reef. The first 1.5 miles is open wash, then it narrows down nicely. One obstacle at 2.5 miles, easy bridging to climb. The chockstone obstacle at 3.5 miles I could not climb, shoes too muddy and walls too sandy to get good traction for a bridge. 5 hour round trip including side trips ¼ mile up side canyon on left at 1.3 miles, and at 2.0 hours climb north side of canyon to get better view of the jug-handle arch.

Interesting small world -- there was only one other vehicle at the trailhead. About an hour from the road, I caught up with one of the other hikers. He was from Hobart Indiana, where I grew up. A few years older than me, retired from US Steel, and was wearing a USS t-shirt. We didn't know each other. He said the other two in his group were further up-canyon, one was from Merrillville. When I caught up to them, the guy from Merrillville graduated in the same class with my younger brothers, and recalled them immediately! Small world indeed, here we are over an hour from the road and two hours from the nearest post office...

Another good thing that I met up with them, they pointed out an arch that I didn't know about.  It is a jug-handle arch, but it also looks like there might be another window or arch in a fin further up canyon; I can't get a good angle to see through, just looks like sunlight passing through.  So, thanks a bunch to Tom G (Merrillville HS 1978) and Dan M (Hobart HS 1964)!

GPS details at

Friday, April 22, 2011

Backpacking in Haleakala NP

We had reserved a backcountry cabin in Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui, for two nights of wilderness after a week on the big island. Jill had a new backpack; this would be a fairly easy maiden voyage for the pack because we didn't have to carry a tent or stove.
We hiked in from the Halemau'u trailhead at 8000', heading down into the crater at 6700'.

After 7.7 miles of hiking in four hours, we came to our home for the next two nights -- the Kapalaoa cabin at 7250'. There are two other cabins in the park, one that is much closer to the trailhead (Holua) and one that is much farther (Poliku). In our best Goldilocks evaluation, this one seemed just right. The cabin has bunks for 12, a large dining table, a woodstove, a two-burner propane cooker, a cabinet full of dishes and pots and pans, and a sink with running water (the water has to be purified).

The water at the cabin was a combination of rainwater from a roof collection system, and collected seepage from a location on the hill behind the cabin. It seemed very odd to find so much water in a rugged volcanic environment. There were some places along the trail that were noticeably damp from subsurface water.

On our "day off", we hiked from the cabin up to the summit of Halekala (Pu'u'ula'ula) at 10,023'. You can drive to the summit on a paved road, and of course that is how most people get there. But why be normal?

The cabin that is closer to the road, Holua Cabin, is a nice halfway stop between Kapalaoa cabin and the Halemau'u trailhead. While talking with some other campers there, they asked us if we had gone through the lava tube. We hadn't; it turns out there is a long lava tube nearby that can be explored from end-to-end in about an hour. We didn't have that much time, and had to settle for a quick look in at the first 50 feet or so. There is a metal ladder at this end that provides access down past the first twelve-foot drop. The lava tube is not on any of the park maps, but is apparently well-known. Reportedly the Park Service is planning to remove the ladder to discourage traffic in the lava tube.

Our final day of the trip was a very long one! A four-hour hike back out to the trailhead, then drive down the mountain to a beach park on the coast for a quick swim in the ocean and a rinse in the freshwater shower. Suitably groomed, we got on the commuter flight from Maui back over to the big island, and then a 9:00pm redeye flight from Kona to Los Angeles. After a groggy breakfast in LAX, we both slept soundly on the flight from LAX to SLC. While boarding our flight back to Jackson, the pilot announced that the weather in Jackson was marginal, low visibility due to heavy snowstorms around the JAC airport! We took off anyway, and fortunately were able to land at JAC after about ten minutes extra time circling and waiting/hoping for weather to clear. Welcome back to springtime in the Rockies!

More pictures in my Haleakala photo album (

 GPS log for the hike in and out (

 GPS log for dayhike to the summit (

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pololu Valley

On the Big Island of Hawaii, go as far north as you can to the end of the road. We needed a hike, this is unfortunately a very short one. There is only about 500 feet of elevation change from the trailhead lookout to the water's edge. The trail is a bit steep, maybe a half-mile, but not much different from the trail back home on High School Butte that we do when we don't have enough time to get some real exercise. This is a busy place, there were 15-20 cars at the trailhead, parking space is a bit of a challenge; I imagine it is really crazy during peak tourist season.

We did hike up a trail on the ridge on the far end of the beach. We were hoping for some killer views, but unfortunately the trail ended at a locked gate. The good news was we got another 500 feet of uphill at that end as well.  Here is the view from the lookout looking up the Pololu Valley.

Some of the views at the waters edge really reminded us of the NaPali coast of Kauai.
The northern end of the big island is quite scenic, and a lot more low key than the heavily tourist-oriented Kona coast. We liked it. Driving back to the condo, we scored a really nice sunset.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Altitude Training at 13,796 feet

Okay, so we drove to the top of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's big island, so we didn't get any exercise. I do recommend a four-wheel-drive with low range gearing, the road is very steep washboarded gravel. Nice views from up here on a clear morning, although the east side of the island was clouded over.

The guidebooks like to make a big deal about how this is the tallest mountain in the world, if you measure it starting at the ocean floor. Okay, but not many climbers start there...