I just got through looking at the Utah hiking pictures. Thanks so
much. It was really interesting. You don't have the time to keep any sort
of journal when you hike, do you?
Sorry, no one along with literary inclinations.
I wondered if the altitude affected you.
Altitude had many effects. One huffs and puffs a lot on the uphill stretches,
especially if one is not in superb condition (who might that be?) I was pretty
religious in preparation, doing my half hour of hard work on the elliptical
machine every day. The air also has a crispness that is not experienced at
lower elevations. The sun (and moon) are much more intense (at 10,000 feet you
are above nearly a third of the earth's atmosphere), the sky is a darker, more
intense blue. When we first got out we all had some degree of altitude
sickness-- general wooziness and lack of appetite being primary symptoms (not
the kind that is life threatening, that is pretty rare and usually only
happens at much higher altitudes.) I had a lot of trouble breathing while
sleeping, especially when I moved to the more enclosed, leaky tent. (had to
keep the boys dry!) I seemed to be much more sensitive to elevated CO2 in the
tent, coming up short of breath. It was much worse when I zipped up the tent
for bug or rain control.
Also what you heard and smelled.
The quiet can be overwhelming. The wind is generally the only thing you hear,
running water if you're close enough. (and, of course the odd airplane
overhead). You get used to the sound of boots on rock as you hike and can tell
a lot about what is happening by listening. In the pine forests there was a
vague piney smell. Touches of ozone after the thunderstorms, but not generally
a smell-rich environment. Much less organic stuff around than we're used to.
Did the air feel/smell different than Beantown?
Yes. Adam complained for days about the soupy air after we got back. Almost no
humidity in the mountain air (despite water everywhere)
I wondered if the air felt warm, cool by the snow?
We were really surprised when we got back to the car on what felt like a warm
day. I would have guessed high 70's-- it was 57deg! I think you get much more
heat by radiation--direct from the sun, and less by convection from the air.
So the air tended to feel warm, even with the snow around. It didn't feel
quite so warm when it was actually snowing on us. There were also huge
thunder/hail storms--one left about four inches of ice on the ground--that hit
us while we were driving up to the trailhead. I was sure it was going to break
the windshield. We had hail while hiking, but none nearly so bad--we found a
nice boulder overhang to stand under.
How do you know how to arrange your days?
We planned a route in advance with an intended leisurely pace of 6 miles a day
or so. Some days it was longer, especially when we got lost. The trails were
not always superbly marked. Because there were thunderstorms most afternoons
we tried to hike early and be camped by 2-3pm. We woke up with the sun pretty
much--we tried to camp where we would get early morning sun-- and I usually
got up first and fired up water for coffee and hot cocoa. I'd then roust the
boys while making breakfast-- a cycle of granola, oatmeal and fruit, pancakes
and the disastrous dried egg concoctions. After breakfast we'd dry things out
and get packed and be on the trail by 8 or 8:30. We'd then walk, taking breaks
about once an hour or when we got to something interesting. Early on we tended
to forget to eat lunch until after 1 or 2. Lunch was either peanut butter and
crackers or salami and cheese with crackers. When we arrived at the day's camp
(mostly a lake) we'd set up tents to have shelter against the rain and then
nap, read, play chess or fish until dinner. I cooked earl in the trip, the
boys made most of the dinners later. Dinners were all freeze dried food with
dried soups. You can eat better with grocery store stuff, but packing for 11
nights we had hard volume and weight constraints. By then it was getting dark.
Early in the trip we just crashed, later we'd build a fire and make some
pretense of staying up a while before crashing, usually until about 8:30. Days
when we got lost or hid from a storm just got extended, we needed to stay
reasonably on schedule, both because we wanted to camp at lakeshores and we
had a set meeting time with Garry.
Are there any 'mistakes' you can make on such a trip?
(Beside getting hopelessly lost or eaten by something!)
Many, some life threatening and some not. We avoided the former (like solo
river crossings over flooded streams or dropping rocks on each other during
steep switchback climbs) but not others, like carrying 6 pounds of gorp we
didn't eat, a tent that filled with water in the rain, and two completely
inedible breakfasts. Planning and a little experience helps a lot.
I assume you were following a map. Did you completely
plan out the trip ahead of time or is it more, hey that looks pretty, let's
go over there.
The trip was extensively planned in advance, with routes and campsites chosen,
menus fully laid out (you'd be proud of me!). That said, we modified as
necessary. We stopped short of an intended side trip camp one day because we
were just too pooped, and picked a different trail (more sheltered) at one
point due to impending thunderstorms. A planned route also gives searchers
some basis on which to come looking for you, should that become necessary.
Is it a state/fed park?
A combination of National Forest (USDA jurisdiction) and designated Wilderness
Area (National Park Service).
I would think in August you would meet more people. Is it
because it's so vast?
It's a long way from anywhere. There are other great short hike places to go
2-3 hours closer to SLC, and there is a whole lot of empty north to Wyoming,
south to the Utah desert and east to Colorado. The other side of the main
mountain ridge sees a lot more traffic, Garry reported seeing 10+ parties in
one day coming in from the Wyoming side. Most people who make it there are
packing in on horses, at least some of the country we traveled was too rough
Did Adam enjoy it?
The boys seem to have had a great time. There was remarkably little
complaining, even when there was plenty to complain about. I think they
immediately figured out that we were out there all alone, we had what we had,
and we had to make the best of it. At the end of the day I suspect they were
pretty proud of having done something both real and non-trivial. We dealt with
a reasonable amount of adversity and came through just fine. It is a
remarkable place, there's not much wild in our normal environs, so it is
really special to go somewhere where you are actually out on your own.
Were y'all in great shape? A 50# pack seems really heavy.
No. Yes. I'd done a lot of conditioning at the gym, though not nearly enough.
Adam has been doing crew and is much stronger than he was a year ago. Robbie
seems just naturally tough. He's skinny, but is a serious sailor and used to
having to be self-reliant. 50 lbs is too much, especially give the pass we had
to go over on the second day. That said we survived. Did I mention that I lost
17 lbs? I should probably do it twice a year. By the time we got home I was
completely beat. Once I didn't have to make sure the boys were OK I just
collapsed for about 36 hours of sleep.
Y'all wore shorts. Aren't there any bugs or poison ivy
to contend with?
Tons of skeeters. 100% DEET from the REI does wonders. No PI at those
Did you see any other animals 'sides the deerish one?
Lots of birds, gray jays and little birds (no mountain bluebirds--drat!), a
zillion little rodents. Garry has nice new ventilation holes in his tent and
stuff sack from forgetting a bit of food in the tent at night. Camp was very
active with the pitter-patter of little feet at night. Mice, shrews and
several kinds of ground squirrels (chipmunks to us easterners). In heavily
used campsites we attracted crowds looking for handouts. Other places we saw
few. I didn't include the picture of the mooses (meese?) We had them as close
neighbors for the first two nights. We had deer in the camp most nights,
usually after dark. Fortunately bears prefer lower altitudes, so we had no