Bryce Canyon-Tower Bridge Hike

Joe and Jim at Sunrise Point before starting the hike

Joe and Jim at Sunrise Point before starting the hike

Joe, Jim and I ventured out on a hike today to Tower Bridge.  Tower Bridge looks very similar to the Tower Bridge in London.  One of the main differences is the Tower Bridge in Bryce Canyon was formed millions of years ago and is called a Hoodoo.

Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins and “broken” lands. Hoodoos are most commonly found in the High Plateaus region of the Colorado Plateau and in the Badlands regions of the Northern Great Plains. While hoodoos are scattered throughout these areas, nowhere in the world are they as abundant as in the northern section of Bryce Canyon National Park. In common usage, the difference between Hoodoos and pinnacles or spires is that hoodoos have a variable thickness often described as having a “totem pole-shaped body.” A spire, on the other hand, has a smoother profile or uniform thickness that tapers from the ground upward.  For more information visit: http://www.nps.gov/brca/learn/nature/hoodoos.htm  Continue reading

Bryce Campsite

Here’s a couple of pictures of our site at Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon.  This is the second year we’ve stayed at this campground. It is very convenient–less than a mile from the main gate, and has ultra-clean facilities.  Here’s a couple of pictures of our nicely wooded camp sites.

Aphrodite and Jims RIg rPod at Bryce

Above left is a picture of Aphrodite along with Jim’s rental rig. Thor in the foreground.  On the right is a picture of Mike & Mary’s rpod in the EXACT same site we were in last year!  Beautifully wooded and all three sites are adjacent.

 

Arrival at Ruby’s Inn Campground, Bryce Canyon National Park

We drove through snow, rain, wind and sleet today on our way to Bryce Canyon.  IMG_1304If you look right beyond the mirror you can catch a glimpse of one of the mountain tops that was covered in snow for this most recent spring storm.  The mountain ranges from Colorado to Bryce Canyon were quite beautiful with snow covered peaks.  We rolled into Ruby’s Inn Campground late day and finished cleaning and flushing the water lines from winter storage.

Mike, Mary and Jim were already here and had their camps set up.  There is not much happening outside today due to the weather.  They had snow, sleet, rain, snow and then repeat again.  The weather is supposed to improve tomorrow. The evening sky is quite pretty and there is a stunning glow of pink as I sit here in Aphrodite and look out our back window.

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We are settled in for the night.  Our plan tomorrow is for Jim, Joe and I to do a hike and meet up with Mike and Mary at the Bryce Canyon Lodge for lunch.  The weather looks like it is going to improve so tomorrow night we plan to cook outside and having a fire.  Keep your fingers crossed for our weather.  Until tomorrow, have a joyful day.

2015 On the Road Again

We rolled out of Grand Junction with Aphrodite after a little problem.  The first time you open the garage after the winter you keep your fingers crossed, as there are just so many moving parts in one of these trailers.  So our morning started with the discovery of no battery life.  Being the rookies we still are and needing to get the trailer lined up to Thor we proceeded to hand crack the trailer up and up and up.  After many cranks we were hitched up and did discover that as soon as the trailer is plugged into Thor you have power and the electronic jack worked.  I must say that brought a big smile to both our faces.  It is so funny how the little things make such a difference when they work as designed.  The batteries are great now after 6 hours of driving today.  We will deal with this upon our return.

Our first trip of 2015 and it is a family camping trip.  I have 3 brothers and 2 sister in laws and here is how our adventure lays out.

Mike (my oldest brother) and Mary (Michiganders)-drove out to Colorado with their R-Pod trailer last week and we had a wonderful weekend in Colorado, a typical spring weekend.  Sun, snow, sun, snow.  They pulled out Monday for Moab and met up with my youngest brother (from Las Vegas).

Jim (brother 3) rented an RV and met them in Moab on Monday.

John (second oldest) and Cheryl (also Michiganders) flew to Phoenix and picked up their RV. They have an RV at home but didn’t have the time to drive 3 days out so chose to go this path of renting.

Here is our plan:

Tonight we are in Bryce Canyon with Mike, Mary and Jim.  We are here until Sunday and then we caravan to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I have never seen the GC so super excited would be an understatement.

We look forward to sharing this family vacation with you.  We have not vacationed together since a trip to Walt Disney World which took place many, many years ago.  It has been a year in planning.  I can’t think of a greater adventure than doing a trip with family.

Our adventure has begun and I looking forward to laughing, sharing and together time with an amazing family.  Follow us as we explore this great country and share time together.

Mt Whitney-Summit Night and the day after

The last 2 miles down from Lone Pine Lake were brutal. We were just ready to be done.  We had mentally transitioned to planning for the next few hours. We needed to break down camp because we had booked motel rooms for the night in Lone Pine at the Dow Villa Motel. A warm shower and sleeping in a bed were sounding pretty darn good. We developed our plan to pass the time, stop at the Whitney Portal store for patches and shirts, break down camp, drive to town, shower, eat, sleep.

We went into the Portal store and picked up a few souvenirs. Drove back to camp and in a very efficient manner broke down camp, loaded the car, and on to Lone Pine we drove.

Lone Pine is an interesting place. It is the site where many of the old westerns were filmed, so there is a great deal of memorabilia all over town, including a western film museum. The downtown stretches about 7 blocks and it is a clean Americana town. All the businesses are locally owned on the main street, with no chains visible. It just is the kind of town that feels good when you walk down the street.

We arrived at the Dow Villa Motel which sits right in the heart of town. You drive in and it immediately feels like the kind of place we both remember staying at as kids when we were on driving trips with our parents. A true motel with the kidney shaped pool in the center of the parking lot. The inside of the lobby is filled with pictures of John Wayne, Roy Rogers and other notable western era stars. The historic hotel was built in 1920s and the motel was added in 1959.  

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The Dow Villa Motel

After a quick refresh, next on the list was dinner. Our friend Joe had been through Lone Pine on the way to Mammoth and knew exactly where we were going for dinner–Mount Whitney Restaurant. However, as we walked to dinner we stopped at the Mount Whitney Hostel and store. The store was filled with hiking stuff, Mt. Whitney t-shirts, books….. What caught our eye was a book on Mt Whitney, author–Doug Thompson (Portal Store Operator). Doug has summited over 100 times and he has written “the book” on the Whitney Zone. Of course we picked up the book because Doug had been a key part to our overall experience. He provided us with great knowledge, lore, and will forever be part of our adventure. We plan on reading the book and sharing it with others.

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Mt. Whitney Restaurant

Dinner was outstanding. How could it be anything but!  We all ordered burgers and fries, and Joe (our friend) and Ginny had sundaes for dessert. It just seemed like the perfect celebration to complete our adventure. Needless to say we crashed by 8:30.   The next morning, feeling refreshed and not too sore, we walked through town, had a nice breakfast and started our drive back to Joe and Mary’s.

Reflecting on the experience we want to acknowledge a few things.

  • We are grateful to Joe for securing the permits, having all the camping equipment and sharing it with us.   This was a lifetime adventure and we always will have Joe to thank for the day.  
  • We also will always have a sadness that we didn’t summit together. We so appreciate the selflessness Joe demonstrated by putting his own needs aside and giving us the permission to fulfill our dream. He is truly a special human being, a dear friend and the kind of person we know is a gift to have in our lives. We will never forget these few days.
  • Mary started the whole idea last winter while we were hiking up to ski the Highlands Bowl. We missed Mary on this trip, but she was with us every step of the way. She kept our bodies nourished, which was no small task. She did this all with joy. She, like Joe, is amazing. A true giver, happy to support.

We are lucky to have both Joe and Mary as part of our lives. We always look forward to sharing time together and we know there will be adventures in our future for the four of us. For now we can only say –THANK YOU to two incredible human beings. Our life is richer because of them.

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Ginny, Joe, and Joe

As we close this post Joe and I are remarkably proud of our accomplishment.  We feel pretty darn good physically and this was a wonderful reminder of how being in nature gives us both great joy. We met some people during this journey who had hiked the John Muir Trail, which has gotten us thinking about what might be next for us…

Until our next adventure, thank you for joining us on this journey.

Joe and Ginny on the trail the day before the summit

Joe and Ginny on the trail the day before the summit

Mt. Whitney-Summit Day

August 26, 2014

We woke up at 11pm on the 25th to leave for the trail head.  We had prepped our backpacks the night before and stashed them in our bear proof box at the campsite.  We just had to get ourselves up, dressed and to the trail head for a midnight start.  We decided on a midnight start because the trail is 22 miles long with an elevation gain of 6,000 feet.  We figured it would take us between 14-16 hours to complete the hike.  In addition, it is advised to be off the summit before the afternoon as thunder showers are typical during the summer months.

The night sky was amazing.  It was new moon, so no moonlight and the stars were abundant.  

Trail sign at the Mt Whitney Portal.

Trail sign at the Mt Whitney Portal at Midnight.

We were on the trail by the light of our headlamps for the next 6 hours.  It was an remarkable experience.  None of us had hiked over this distance or length of time with headlamps, and I will say it was really magical.  Many times we would stop, turn off our headlamps and just look to the sky.  I have never seen anything like the night sky on 8/26/2014.  

There are several notable points on the trail that mark your progress.  One of which is called the “98 Switchbacks” that cover 2.2 miles and around 2,000 feet of elevation gain. We reached the base of the 98 switchbacks at around 4:30am which is located 6 miles along the trail at 12,000 feet.  There are two lakes here were you can refill water (with a water purification system) before you start the switchbacks that lead to final push to the summit.  Once you pass this area there is no other option for water so having enough water at this point is a must.  

Because it was still dark we passed the lake and were unknowingly already on the switchbacks.  It was hard to tell we were on the switchbacks or had passed camp because it was so dark and the signage was nonexistent.  Let’s not forget it was 5am we were at 12,000 feet and 6 miles into an 11 mile ascent.  The good news is we noticed we had missed it, doubled back, found the lake, and refilled our water so we could continue on.  It cost us about 30 minutes–but we were making good time so no big deal.  At this time Joe (our friend) started to not feel so well, with a slight headache and a bit of nausea.  He kept quiet and we continued on.  As we reached close to the middle of the switchbacks we saw Venus rise in the Eastern sky.  This morning, Venus would be one of its closest distances to the earth in 2014.

Early morning sky on the 98 switchbacks

Early morning sky on the 98 switchbacks

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5:30am on the switchbacks with the light of the headlamp

Joe (our friend) and Ginny on the Switchbacks

Joe (our friend) and Ginny on the Switchbacks

Guideposts on the switchback about 3/4 of the way to the top.

Guideposts on the switchback about 3/4 of the way to the top.

As we reached close to the top of the switchbacks our friend Joe grew increasing uncomfortable with how he was feeling.  He had not slept at all the night before we hiked and was experiencing altitude sickness.  This is something you don’t mess around with.  We were at 13,000 feet and still  had another 1,500 feet of tough climbing to go.  Joe made a great decision to turn around and go back down to the Trail Camp (at 12,000 feet) to rest and wait for us.  This created a bunch of indecision on our part which included us assessing our decision to continue up several times once we reached the top of the switchbacks.  Joe really wanted us to continue, seemed coherent and lucid, so we did.  

We reached the top of the switchbacks which crosses the Pacific Crest Trail.  From here you actually descend steeply and then start climbing again when the trail meets up with the John Muir Trail.  The last 2 miles to the summit are very tough, as the trail is narrow and very rocky with an over 1,500 foot gain of elevation.  It was slow going at over 13,000 feet.  We summited at 9:30am and were very happy.  It was quite cold and windy up top but the sun was shining.  

Our first view of Mt. Whitney (left)

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Ginny on the trail from the switchbacks to the summit

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Almost there…good view of the storm shelter on the summit.

 

We Made It!

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Emblem marking the top of Mt Whitney

Emblem marking the top of Mt Whitney

We were fortunate that there were very few people atop the mountain when we arrived.  We spent about 20 minutes up there taking in the sights and enjoying the accomplishment.  Then reality set in: we still had 11 miles of hiking to go!  So, after an almond butter and jelly sandwich and a few gulps of water we donned our packs and headed down the same way we came.  By 12:30 we were back at the Trail Camp and lakes where Joe was to meet us.  After a few unsettling moments looking around for him we met back up, purified some more water for the hike down, then set off by around 1:30.

The hike back down to Whitney Portal was really enjoyable and, since we had done it entirely in the dark on the way up it was like a brand new experience.

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On the trail down

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High Alpine Lake

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Waterfall on the hike down. We could hear it in the dark going up and were stunned at its beauty coming down!

At about 5:10pm we arrived back at Whitney Portal.  Just over 17 hours on the trail, essentially all of it walking the 22.5 miles.  No fanfare awaited us…just a half dozen folks getting ready for their journey that night or the next day.  We went into the Portal Store to get some souvenirs.  Doug wasn’t there but we silently thanked him for his sage wisdom and advice.  The only regret is that Joe didn’t make it all the way with us. You can’t forget that (a)he did hike 18 miles and over 4,000 feet of elevation making it to 13,000 feet–an amazing accomplishment, period; and (b)he was personally secure enough to listen to his body and forego summiting rather than put himself (and us) in any peril.  We so appreciate Joe for lots of things–this is one of those experiences that really tests someone and reminds us why we like him so much. Thank you, Joe.

We had done it–summited Mt. Whitney up and back in one day.  Definitely an Epic Journey.

Mt. Whitney

Well we didn’t bring Aphrodite on this trip but we felt it was definitely worthy of a post or two.  This adventure is one for the books.

“An Epic Walk” started with an invitation from our friends, Joe and Mary, during a winter ski trip.  Joe had summited Mt. Whitney (in California) 6 years ago and wanted to do it again.  We were very interested in participating.  Joe secured the climbing permits (which are only distributed via lottery) and a camp site at the Mt. Whitney portal.  Now it was up to us to say “we’re in”–which (of course) we did!

Unfortunately Mary wasn’t able to join us, but she had a critical role–provisioning us for the trip.  

A brief factoid on Mt Whitney: 

Mount Whitney can be summited as a day hike or multi-day backpack trip on the classic Mt. Whitney Trail. Located on the eastside of California’s beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, the trail starts in Inyo National Forest and enters Sequoia National Park, with spectacular views and access to trails that continue deep into the park wilderness. The summit of Mt. Whitney is the southern end of the John Muir Trail. 

Starting at 8,300 feet above sea level at Whitney Portal, the Mt. Whitney Trail gains over 6,200 feet of elevation.  Topping off at 14,505 feet.  

Day One (Travel and Arrival Day)

We drove up from Westlake Village to the Mt. Whitney portal campground which is located about 15 miles outside of Lone Pine, CA.  We arrived in Lone Pine and stopped at the Mt. Whitney Visitors’ Center to pick up our permits and wag bag.  Permits are required to hike or camp inside the “Whitney Zone”.  This is a lottery process which you apply for many months in advance.  Joe took care of securing the permits.  There are 100 single day permits issued per day and 30 overnight back packing permits.  Within the Whitney Zone all human waste is packed out which is why each hiker/camper is given a wag bag (an unfortunate necessary evil to hiking there).  We drove through Lone Pine to the Mt. Whitney Portal Campsite.  Site 42 was our home.  It was close to the creek (which we could hear all night), beautifully wooded and pretty quiet.  We really felt like there was no one else around.  We set up camp and then went to check in with the camp host-Lee.  We learned all about the bear activity, heard the most fascinating campground stories, participated in the Ice Bucket challenge and then walked back to our campsite.  Mary packed us a yummy dinner of pasta bolognese, salad and chocolate cookies.   And, I must say, we slept great on our first night.

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Camp site 42 at the Whitney Portal 8,300′

Day 2 (Warm Up Hike)

We woke to a picture perfect day and decided to start acclimating to the trails and altitude.  We were camping at 8,300 feet and we wanted to do a piece of the trail to warm up our legs and lungs.  Our friend Joe doesn’t live at altitude so we knew we need to acclimatize.  We decided to hike the Lone Pine Lake Trail.  It is a 5.6 round trip mile hike with a 1,700 foot elevation gain.  We had previously decided to leave for the summit at Midnight and thought it would be a good idea to know a little bit of what we were going to face in the dark.  

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Cool trees at Lone Pine Lake

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Lone Pine Lake-the destination of our acclimatization hike

But first we needed breakfast.   The Mt. Whitney Portal store is the place for breakfast if you are camping.  It is known for very large breakfast portions to prepare hikers for the day ahead.  The store is owned by Doug who is the definitive guide of all things Mt. Whitney.  So, each day he holds court in the store as people gather around him to ask questions and listen to stories about Mt Whitney.  I kid you not, I walked into the store at several different points while we were having breakfast and there were no less than 4 people at any time just listening to Doug.  He has been there for many years and seen it all, and knows all about hiking the 22 mile trail in one day–which was our goal.

Doug  answering questions

Doug answering questions

Joe enjoying Breakfast. Notice the size of the Pancake.

Our friend Joe enjoying Breakfast. Notice the size of the Pancake.

We enjoyed our breakfast and if you are wondering between the three of us we could not finish the pancake.  In fact we didn’t eat until dinner that night since the breakfast was so big and quite good.

After breakfast we hiked and returned to our campsite to prep for our night and day ahead.  Since we were leaving at Midnight we had to eat and get some sleep before 11pm.  Next…Summit Day.

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Mt. Whitney Portal Store