Backpacking The Little Grand Canyon – San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Little Grand Canyon is an amazing overnight backpacking trip that is perfect for people looking for a fairly easy trip that wanders through one of Utah’s best scenes. The San Rafael River starting from Fuller Bottom is a popular spot for boaters to put in and typically do a single day float of the river, but we’re going to talk about backpacking the canyon in this post.

Below you’ll find some quick info on the best season to hike this, distance, and other important sources. Then you’ll read further to see a Day 1 and Day 2 explanation of the hike and what you can expect during your hike.

Season: Best done in early to late spring, and early fall. Avoid going June through August as temps are extreme and the river may be flowing at a rate that would be unsafe to ford.
Mileage/Time: Total miles to hike from the Fuller Bottom trailhead to the trailhead near the Swinging Bridge is 15.25 miles. You will split this in two, with day one being 7 miles or so, and day two being about 8 miles.
Where To Camp: Your best option for camping is at the mouth of Virgin Spring Canyon, located 7 miles from the Fuller Bottom trailhead. You’ll have to ford the river to get into Virgin Canyon, but there are two or three great, flat, established camp spots, big enough for groups of 6-8 people.
Waste Disposal: The Little Grand Canyon is located on BLM Land and does not have restrictions on human waste disposal. But please practice Leave No Trace principles and dig cat holes, carry out your toilet paper, and do your business 200 feet from any water source.
Water Availability: You can always filter water from the San Rafael as needed. It is typically murky water and will quickly plug up any filter. Your best water source is located at the end of Virgin Spring Canyon, where you’ll find a large pool and fresh water. Be sure as always to use a filter or chemical drops to treat the water. Cattle typically graze in these canyons or Utah.
Shuttle: Most people do this hike from point A to point B. Point A being Fuller Bottom, and then finishing at the trailhead below Swinging Bridge at the mouth of Buckhorn Wash. You will need to plan to leave a car at the Swinging Bridge Trailhead, then shuttle up to Fuller Bottom.


Route Description:

Day 1: Plan to hike 7 miles this day to make it to Virgin Spring Canyon, so an early start is good to make sure you get the shuttle taken care of before you begin your hike. The Nat Geo Trails Illustrated map is not totally correct as far as where it shows the Fuller Bottom Trailhead. See rest of description for info.

Begin your hike at the small parking lot on your left where the Fuller Bottom road approaches the San Rafael River. There is a trail register box there tat is used by hikers and boaters. Reset your GPS and start walking down the jeep road. You will cross the river after about a 1/4 mile, make sure you stay on the Jeep road as it will allow you to avoid bushwhacking through tamarisk and following cow trails.

Follow the Jeep road for about one mile, it will begin to climb uphill and seem as though you are walking away from the river and canyon. In the distance as you are walking south, you’ll see a red sign with some torn up maps on it. This is where you will turn east (left) where you will begin walking towards the canyon. The trail is easy to follow at this point as it begins to drop into the canyon.

Be sure to look for a small pictograph panel that is easy to miss on your left about 3 miles into your hike from the trailhead. About half a mile past that on your right is an old mine. To the left of a small side canyon you’ll see a trail going up to a hole in some light yellow colored rock with a bunch or yellow tailings. There is also remains of a log cabin with tin cans around this area, but we were unable to find it. As you continue walking down the canyon you will ford the river several times. Make sure to check the current flow rate via USGS. If the river is running higher than 60 CFS, then crossing the river will be difficult, and possibly dangerous.

As you approach Virgin Spring Canyon you will be on the wrong side of the river and will need to cross the river to get into Virgin Spring Canyon. About 5 minutes up Virgin Spring on your right is a very nice pictograph panel about 15 feet above you. If you walk in the wash it’s easy to miss, but follow the trail on the west side of the canyon as you walk up will lead you to a sign that says to not deface the rock. Another 5-10 minutes up Virgin Canyon you’ll come to a dry fall where a large pool of water is located. This is your best source for water and should be your refill for the remainder of the trip, unless you choose to filter water from the river.

Virgin Spring Canyon has seen a bit of graffiti and people being careless about their trash. Please pick up any trash you see, and be a steward by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Virgin Spring Canyon has two or three nice spots to camp and this is your best option since it’s so close to a good water source.

Day 2: Make sure you are all stocked up on water and begin making your way down the canyon. There is supposed to be another pictograph panel just before you make the hard right turn on the river and start walking south toward Cane Wash. Cane Wash is also supposed to have decent camping and another pictograph panel located up the wash. We did not look for it on this most recent trip. You will cover about 8 miles this day to the car. The last 3.5 miles are dry and you no longer have to ford the river. Be prepared for a couple steep climbs, but nothing too aggressive.

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Last Child In The Woods – 11k With May

What’s trending… How do we remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle, screen time, and our constant need to be connected. Steve Jobs may have been the mastermind behind the iPhone, but indirectly, was also the mastermind behind the mobile screen addict, or as Louis C.K. put it, the “forever empty”. We have a constant need to be connected and when alone, we find ourselves instantly looking for gratification from our cell phone. Im guilty of it, we’re all guilty of it. Like Wall-E, technology will inevitably make us more and more lazy. It’s already happening, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to disconnect and be present with our families and ourselves.

Recently i’ve been inspired to make a change in myself. This year, James Lawrence aka, The Iron Cowboy, completed 50 Iron Man’s in 50 days in 50 states. Obviously a true feat of human endurance, and he’s inspired a lot of people to set goals that seem crazy, but push the mind to its limits. But what does that mean for me? Let me give you some background.

I grew up in a family that loved being in the outdoors. We camped many times a year as a family, and I attribute my love and passion for the outdoors to my parents for those experiences. I also had an amazing friend and mentor at a young age that also took me camping that helped me discover why I loved being outside. I was just like any other 90’s kid. I played Nintendo to my hearts desire, I had a TV in my bedroom, I sat on my floor and played with Lego’s. But I didn’t have 2015 technology at my fingertips either. I am sure my childhood would have been a little different had there been iPhones and 2015 technology. With all of those distractions though, I loved being outside. I spent many summer days with my brothers fishing along the Provo River, riding my bike all over, and building forts in an empty lot down the street from my house. I loved being outside!

A few years ago I read a book called, Last Child In The Woods. In quick words, the author talks about how we’re slowly losing our ability to appreciate the outdoors and how we as a society have made excuses for not allowing ourselves and children to play outdoors. Slowly we have become the inside people. We fear being outside, and we fear each other. Sending my child outside to play is viewed as dangerous now. Really, it’s pathetic and ridiculous how sensitive we as people have become to each other and what we do with our lives. The lack of authentic social interaction is quickly deteriorating into self absorbed personalities that don’t know how to communicate and disconnect from devices that keep us from being natural humans, a natural need to play. But this begs the question, will it ever change? Will society ever go back to what we knew in the 90’s and before? I have to argue, that no it will never be the same again. So instead of sitting around complaining about it, make a decision to change and be different from society. Let your kids go outside and play,

Which that then leads me to my commitment. I spoke about The Iron Cowboy briefly. I’ve had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with him and his family at Momentum Climbing in Lehi, where I work. James and his family have been spending some time at Momentum each week as a new activity for their family to do. In many people’s minds, he’s like this super human that no other person can touch. He’s become a celebrity. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a person. He had to make a choice to be who he is, and work hard to accomplish the goals that he set.

For the last year, my wife and I have been looking forward to bringing a child into our home. We’re excited to be a family and excited for the new adventure. With an adventure like this, comes a dedication to new goals and lifestyle. I’ve been pretty unhappy with my level of activity over the last year, and from the outside it appears as though i’ve been fairly active. Katie and I had one of the best summers of our time together, and I was able to get some backpacking in that I have been wanting to do for a long time. We loved all of the time spent adventuring this summer. But part of that was because we knew this baby is coming and we wanted to get some trips in, just the two of us.

This has caused me to reevaluate my level of activity, and make some goals that involve keeping my family active. I know that a baby is going to be a difficult change for our family. This little girl is going to be our world though. We’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time, and now that she is here, we’re just smitten.

So here’s my commitment, to myself and to my family. Just because it’s hard, or inconvenient, doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it. I want to be the person and father that my children look up to as a mentor and as someone that inspired them to try hard things, and take chances on life.
I want Maylin to see being in the mountains her way of decompressing, enjoying life, and escaping the hustle and bustle. I want to see her love being in the sun, seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, cherishing simple moments of solitude only found when deep in the backcountry.

Before Maylin turns 1, Katie and I have a goal to summit all of the 11,000 foot peaks in the Wasatch Range. That’s 36 peaks in total. We are calling this adventure, 11k With May and will be captured through video and blog posts as we accomplish the goal.

The moral here is, get out and enjoy the outdoors! Make goals and achieve them! Teach yourself and your kids the good that comes from being active and spending time in the backcountry.

Backpacking Essentials – Backcountry Exposure Youtube Series

One of my favorite things about backpacking is the preparation that comes with the anticipation for a trip. I remember getting prepared for my trip down The Paria River with a school class. That trip involved a lot of planning, preparation and mental preparation. Knowing how to get ready for backpacking experiences is vital to whether or not you enjoy yourself out on the trail. 
This has lead me to create a series of videos to share with you all about the Essentials of Backpacking. Everything from gear to use, what to buy, and even the ethics behind being a good person in the backcountry. I love to share my knowledge with people and look forward to seeing the evolution of this series. It will primarily be contained on my Youtube Channel, but I will update with each video here as well. 

Packard Lake – High Uinta Wilderness Backpacking

The High Uinta Wilderness is one of my favorite places to visit, and having it so close makes visiting simple and convenient. This year my wife and I are expecting our first child, and I wanted to make sure I got out backpacking enough times over the Summer knowing that the Fall and Winter seasons would be filled with a different priority.
I rallied some friends of mine and we originally planned to hike into Red Castle, but quickly changed plans because I didn’t want to be too far away from Katie, with her being 9 months along.

Instead of Red Castle, we decided to go a shorter distance and see what Packard Lake was like, off the Highline Trail. All I can say is I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful and amazing this area of the Uintas is. So lets get into the details.

Packard Lake is located about 4 miles from the Highline Trailhead off the Mirror Lake Highway.

The Highline may be the most popular trail in the Uinta Wilderness. It basically cuts the range in half and covers over 50 miles of terrain. The west side of the highline is vastly different than the east side, but both boast beautiful views and high elevations.

Getting to Packard is moderately difficult. Any seasoned backpacker would see this as an easy hike, but someone new to backpacking would need to take some extra time as there’s a good amount of elevation gain and loss after you leave the highline trail and branch off towards Packard. You’ll start from the Highline Trailhead and after about 2.2 miles you’ll be passing Scudder Lake, which is the first lake you see as you hike. Another .8 miles and you’ll come to the Packard Lake junction on your right. The sign for the junction is posted on a large tree and you cannot miss it. From there, be ready to go up and down several times. There are some steep sections that will leave a new backpacker needing to stop for a breather.

There are three lakes after you take the right at the junction and head towards Packard. The first you come to is Wilder. It’s a beautiful setting and has some great camping, but I suggest moving onward. After some steep trail and following a ridgeline you descend and come to Wyman Lake. Wyman also has some great camping, and a beautiful sight next to a classic Uinta bubbling brook. Again, a stunning view and area, but keep walking another 10 to 15 minutes and make your way to Packard. There is a beautiful meadow just before you head east toward Packard Lake. Stop and enjoy the view and hope to see some deer hanging out.

As you come up to Packard, which is the largest of the three lakes, you’ll notice that you are right up against a ridgeline. As seen in the title image of this post, the lake sits against an amazing overlook of the Duchesne River. You’ll see a waterfall, cliff band, and big open skies. It’s absolutely beautiful! As you approach the lake, the best camping is on the right side between the canyon overlook and the lake. It’s obvious that this is a popular place for scout troops to come, as it’s only 4 miles of hiking. There’s good spots, but we found a great, quiet spot nestled back in some thick trees further back along the lake shore. Let the scout troops coming in to kill your quiet solitude take the large open, over used spots close to the outlet of the Lake.

The fishing in Packard was not the greatest i’ve seen in the Uinta Wilderness. I tried using a fly and bubble, switching between red and yellow humpies, to mosquitos, to renegades, and the Brook Trout in the lake would not take the bait. Jakes Spinner Lures are probably your best option for this lake.

This particular trip was one of the most relaxing backpacking trips i’ve ever had. But it also came with some frustration. I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on Leave No Trace as i’ve been in the backcountry, and try hard to not overdue it, but was displeased with how the area was littered with numerous unnecessary fire rings in such odd and obscure locations. Trash, and the occasional spool of old fishing line spread across the lake shore. Please be responsible when out in the backcountry and Leave No Trace.

I highly recommend this as a great option for a one or two day trip. Access is great, the views never disappoint, and the atmosphere of the lake is enough to make you feel like you are hundreds of miles from any other person on earth.

Hiking The Paria River – Buckskin Gulch – March 2015

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and and above the clouds.” 
Edward Abbey
The Paria River Canyon is an area of Utah/Arizona that i’ve always wanted to visit, but never took the leap to make it down there. You hear about Buckskin Gulch all the time and how beautiful it is. Well I finally got the chance to go after putting in a suggestion to one of my school professors. I am a student at Utah Valley University studying Outdoor Recreation Management. This class that I took is an Outdoor Leadership class, focused on teaching leadership skills and group management in the field. A challenge I was looking forward to. 
This class involves a six day backpacking trip during the month of March. I was beyond excited about going on this long of a trip. 
The Route: Whitehouse Trailhead south to Lee’s Ferry
Day 1 – We arrived at the trailhead and would spend the first night at the trailhead. We had a few hours to kill before we needed to setup beds for the night and get ready for the first few miles of hiking in the morning. We played Bocci Ball next to the river and threw rocks at sticks. You know, what all people do to kill time.

Day 2 – The adventure begins. Adventure is the right word for this day because a lot happened on the first day of hiking. We had a lot of ground to cover, as the first night on the trail would be at the confluence of Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River. The water level at this time of year was at an abnormally high level. The week prior to our departure, the water discharge level at Lee’s Ferry was over 200 cubic feet per second. In other words, too high for anyone to hike down. Water level when we got there was mostly never above our knees at the highest, and we were prepared however for lots of time in the water. 
Our first ten seconds on the trail involved a river crossing, and over the next mile we either crossed the river at least eight times, or walked in the water cause the walls of the canyon were surrounded by sloppy mud. The mud would become our enemy for the next four days. After several miles we entered the narrows of the canyon. In some areas of the canyon, the walls are maybe ten feet apart from each other. A truly beautiful sight!
By this time it was getting later into the afternoon, the time we call the witching hour (5pm) was soon approaching. We entered a spot of the trail where we had to truly get wet. 
Excuse the language – it was cold and miserable!

We had hiked almost 11 miles at this point in the day and we were tired and cold from being in the narrows of the canyon for so long. Through much of the narrows we were hiking in water up to mid thigh and then we came to a section where we had no choice but to get wet. A depth we referred to as nipple deep. I went through and was soaked, and the remaining seven of us all had to go through too. If you’ve never been in a situation like that, then it’s hard to understand. This is a level of discomfort and moral destroyer like no other. The water temperature in the canyon at this point was maybe 40 degrees. This is where everything changed.

We started hiking as fast as we could to get to the confluence of Buckskin and see if we could camp in the one spot that is a few hundred yards up Buckskin Gulch. About 1/4 mile from the confluence, Betsy, our professor lost her balance after one of her trekking poles sunk into the mud. She took a full on swim and was wet from head to toe. Once we got to the confluence, the water and wind coming down the canyon was so incredibly cold. One of the people in our group had a thermometer and dipped it in the water. It was 34 degrees! Luckily the one camp spot was available and we dropped our packs and stripped down to get into some dry clothes, get warm and cook dinner. What was one of the most amazing days of hiking, was also one of the most miserable and cold experiences of my life.

Day 3 – This class two years prior to this trip, went on this exact same trip, and the plan for day 3 is to not cover as many miles because the plan is to hike up Buckskin Gulch to the rock fall a few miles up the canyon. We got up, and to be honest, the thought of taking off nice warm thermals and putting my wet shorts and wet cold shoes back on was far from anything any of us wanted to do. Once we had packed up camp we as a group decided that we would try to hike up Buckskin. Now you should know that most of the time, there is no water running through Buckskin. It’s for the most part a dry canyon unless there’s been a lot of rain and later in the year is better to hike Buckskin. There however was shin height water running down the canyon and it was soooo cold! I know I sound like im complaining a lot, but it was something i’ll never forget.

We started hiking up Buckskin and within minutes we couldn’t even feel our feet. It was apparent we weren’t going to make it very far up the canyon. We came to a spot where it got super narrow and we used a trekking pole to see how deep the hole was. We were unable to find the bottom of the hole with the pole. So instead of going swimming again, we opted to turn around and start heading back down the Paria and see if we could find some sun to soak up.

This section of the Paria is probably the most beautiful given the features that are in this layer of rock. The walls are incredibly narrow, and the hiking is amazing. Because there was so much water in this section, we had to hike in the water for several miles, with an occasional rocky/muddy shore to get out of the cold water. We planned to hike five miles this day and camp at the next reliable spring.

One of the students, Smitty, in this section was hiking close to the side of the wall and ended up getting stuck in some quick sand, which also meant he went swimming up to his chest. A great way to start the day.

After covering the miles needed, it was time for us to find a place to camp. We had been hiking kind of in a slingshot method with a group of guys that were down there. They found a place to camp before us, and it would have been ideal for a large group. But we pushed on a little further to an area that was in the sun. Dropped our packs and started cooking dinner.

Lots of water in Buckskin Gulch
Found a low spot of water in Buckskin

Sections like this were fun because you never knew how deep the water was, or where the holes were.

Days 4-6
The canyon starts to open up at this point. There are still really tall walls, but we had left the narrow sections and the layers of sandstone start to change by this point. On this day we dropped our packs when we got to what’s called, The Abandoned Meander, which is a small canyon that the river at one point ran through, but doesn’t any more. This little canyon was absolutely beautiful and is worth the trek up into it. There’s really beautiful, lush vegetation and at the right time of day, it glows from the sun.

The hiking at this point in the trip was just tiring. My shins and the muscles right below my shins were beyond sore. We had crossed the river probably 100 times by now and each day started off with a river crossing. What a way to start the day, get your feet wet and cold. On either side of the river was several inches of thick, sticky mud, which I attribute the sore shins to.

The below photo is one of my favorite from the trip. Here is the group all together, I knew very little about each person in this group before we left, and after 6 days on the trail with them, there was a respect for each person that wouldn’t have been there if we hadn’t been on this trip. I remember walking through the river at this bend in the canyon, and I looked behind me and the light in the canyon was glowing, the rock was glowing, the river was glowing, and it was kind of a magical moment. I had to take a few seconds to just stop and appreciate the absolute beauty. It was then that I requested we all get together and get what would end up being the only group shot of the trip.
The photo doesn’t do the light justice, but you can appreciate the beauty.

Trail to Wrather Arch
Wrather Arch
Selfie Time!

What’s amazing about the lower sections of the canyon is how fast the landscape changes. I think you hike through three different layers of sandstone through the lower 15 miles of the canyon. It’s truly an amazing place though. We camped at obvious camp sites each night, which were convenient to good springs. Because of a knee injury, our pace the last couple days was much slower than anticipated, and the last night of camping was at Wilson Ranch, which if you end up having to camp there, we did find water from a spring at the ranch.

An incredible trip that was highly anticipated for many weeks leading up to it. Even though it was my first experience using WAG bags and having to carry all that extra weight, I wouldn’t trade the experience gained in that canyon for anything else. Friendships were made and an appreciation for the wildness of the area will stay with me forever.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market – Outdoor Gear Paradise

It’s that time of year again where outdoor professionals and outdoor gear heads gather in Salt Lake City, Utah for the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. The Winter Market showcases the newest and greatest winter gear being released this season. Everything from climbing gear, backpacking gear, footwear, food, outerwear, and anything else related to gear and the outdoors you’ll find packed into one place. 
I spent two days walking around talking with all sorts of people about products that set them apart from their competition and what was new for 2014. Here are some of the highlights for me over the last two days. 
– Sierra Designs has redesigned their entire tent selection with all new tents for 2014. New designs, and new ultralight options that are going to be amazing.
– Sea to Summit has as the gentleman I spoke with said, “if you can find a company like us that puts more effort into design, good luck.”They had a really neat tarp and bug tent setup that is super light weight and made from super thin, yet weather proof 15D poly treated nylon. A simple design yet simple and complete.
– Hanwag was a new brand to me that is a German company. I was impressed by their designs and the versatility. Everything from casual hiking to alpine boots for climbing. Check them out. 
– Hillsound Equipment was also a new brand to me that falls into the same category as Kahtoola, which you may be familiar with. Hillsound is a Canadian brand that produces hiking crampons and running/hiking spikes. I was able to get my hands on a pair of the spikes and have already spent a day on the trail using them. Look for a review on these spikes. 
– Ticla… This booth completely took my by surprise. Taking a car camping approach that caters a little more towards the female mind, Ticla is a brand new company producing tents, sleeping bags, and pads that take a casual approach. The tent design was different and is what initially caught my eye. I felt like I was looking at a Pinterest Pin in person. Very neat product. 
As per usual the outdoor giants released information on new product lines and no doubt everyone is excited about new gear. I enjoyed more so talking with the companies that aren’t so known and yet are proving to have product that is worth the investment. 
Long story short, gear is awesome, and seeing the newest and greatest all in one spot defines outdoor paradise in my opinion. 

Gnarly Nutrition – Product Review – Go Gnarly!

“We are runners, rock climbers, swimmers, mountaineers, skier, gym rats, cyclists, and crossfitters. In short, we’re doers, not talkers. We make sure Gnarly is something we can use. Gnarly means real nutrition. No excuses.”
As a climber and a person who works hard to stay fit for climbing and backcountry adventures, good nutrition is vital. I’ll be honest, I enjoy my McDonald’s run and enjoy a nice greasy burger, who doesn’t. But when it comes to taking care of your body, using protein and other nutritional aids, getting something that is real and full of quality ingredients is crucial to recovering and staying fit. I love Gnarly Whey, and their other products. 
We are all familiar with the big name brands of whey and nutritional aids. But why do you need to buy a tub of protein that virtually takes fork lift to get off the shelf. Full of ingredients that are fillers, and artificial stuff that you can’t pronounce, it can’t possibly be that good for you. Gnarly Whey comes from New Zealand grass fed dairy, simply the best! 
I’ve been using Gnarly for several months now. After a long hard climbing session, and after working out. This week I started the Insanity Program, and using Gnarly has been the best thing for recovery that i’ve used yet. For those of you that have done the Insanity program know how hard it is, and how demanding it is on your body each day. Gnarly has been the key to my post workout nutrition and recovery. Lets talk about taste too. What protein have you used that you can mix in water and it doesn’t clump, and tastes good? Gnarly mixes amazingly well in water, and actually tastes good! With two flavors, the vanilla is perfect for mixing in water, and the chocolate is perfect for mixing into your favorite shake. 
The whey is not the only product from Gnarly. The Gnarly Pump is an amazing product that gets you going before you begin your workout. Leave the goo behind and use the Pump to get hydrated and ready for your workout. Love the stuff!
Just go check out Gnarly Nutrition, and get some for yourself! It’s simply the best nutritional supplements on the market! Gnarly Nutrition Website

Preparing For The Backcountry – Taking Precaution Before You Go Out

I’ve been thinking for a long time now how I could write about preparing to go into the backcountry. It has become a larger topic than I initially thought it would be. So I’ll do my best to keep it concise and to the point. There are so many different types of activities that can be done in the backcountry. Whether you are backpacking, hiking, camping, skiing, backcountry touring, cross country cycling, climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and whatever else you want that involves time spent in the backcountry; there are precautions that one should take before going out. However, this post and part two of the series (how to properly pack a backpack) will focus on precautions to take for hiking and backpacking. 
Preparing for a trip in the backcountry
There are a few essential things that you must do when planning a trip, whether it is a day hike or several nights. Here are things that I do every time I am getting ready to go out. 
  • – Where am I going, and what will the weather be like?
  • – How long will I be out?
  • – What gear do I need?
  • – What permits do I need, and what are the emergency contact numbers for the area?
  • – What are my sources for water?
  • – What maps do I need to carry?
Where am I going, and what will the weather be like?
This is far more than just knowing where I will be, and if it is going to rain or not. Poor planning not only leads to poor decisions, but it inevitably leads to accidents. Take for example our backcountry friend that cut his arm off cause of poor planning. Good trip planning starts with researching about the area you plan to go to. Read guide books and trip reports from reliable sources. Virtually anywhere we go now, has some sort of published information for us to get insight on the area. 
The time and season of the year changes the way I plan a trip as well. It also influences the food I eat, the gear I take, and the areas I consider going to. For example, next week I will be spending four days in Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It’s November, and it’s the desert. The way i plan for this trip is influenced by so many factors. It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be hard to find good water sources, and there are factors that require me to understand how to stay warm and dry. 
Know the climate of the area you plan to go, and the forecasted weather. In Utah during the summer it’s known that there are typically daily rain storms that come through the High Uinta Mountain Wilderness area. Lighting is a concern in that area, and being prepared is key. However, in Utah’s desert, knowing the area is key to find protection from flash flooding. I’ve added a video at the end of this post of some guys a few months ago in Utah that I feel made a series of poor planning decisions when going out canyoneering. 
How long will I be out?
This one is simple in theory. Know how long you are going to be gone, and let people know where you are going, and when you plan to be back. Even if you are going for a simple day hike, tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Just last week a woman was rescued from Mount Timpanogos at 11,700 feet after spending two nights on the mountain (one of those nights with rescue crews). She went for a day hike, hurt her ankle and ended up spending a lot more time up there she had planned. 
What gear do I need?
This is much more complicated than it should be. I always struggle trying to decide what is absolutely essential and what is more of a luxury when out in the backcountry. But a lot of the gear that I choose to take with me is influenced by how long I plan to be out. However, I always take more than what I need. I like to think of worst case scenario, planning that way helps me make sure that I cover all my bases. Never do I plan on something bad happening, but I carry things with me to just be prepared. 
Whatever you plan on doing, just make sure that you take time to get the gear you need together, and consider why you would need the gear that you are carrying.

I like to gather all my gear that I know i’ll be taking, and organize it based on it’s need and usage.

What permits do I need, and what are the emergency contact numbers for the area?
Many of the places that we go backpacking, or camping require some kind of permit. Again do your research to find out if you need a permit, If you are going as a group, do you need a special use permit for the group you are going with. Does your permit limit how many people can be in your group. Don’t let yourself forget to research this and have it end or ruin a trip.
Emergency contacts are much more than just dialing 911. In Utah, the sheriffs do much of the search and rescue and evac for people in trouble. There will come a point that cell phone signals can be accessed pretty much anywhere. But until that happens, write down on paper, the emergency contact numbers for more than just one agency or emergency service that can be contacted in the event of an emergency. Make sure that the entire group knows where the numbers are, who is carrying the info and what are the evac plans if it were needed. 
What are my sources for water?
When you are doing your research of where you plan to go, how long you will be gone and the time of year it is, know where you can get water. In the mountains there is usually a stream or a lake that you can get water from. However in the desert, the sources of water are much more scarce. Utah’s desert canyons are some of the most beautiful backpacking destinations, however, they are also open range cattle in these areas, which makes getting fresh water much harder than it might have thought to be. Guide books will usually include where there are reliable sources for water. 
What maps do I need to carry?
How many people actually carry maps on them when they are out hiking, or backpacking? I know that I didn’t for a really long time. I always do now, and I’d rather carry a map instead of a GPS. That’s just my opinion. But you can find out the exact map to carry again by looking in a guide book that gives the information of the area you plan to go to. The Nat Geo maps are really great maps also if you would rather not carry a topographical map. Get any Nat Geo map from the Homepage.

The reality is, just take the proper time to prepare for any trip you will be going on. Be smart, and make smart decisions.

 When was the last time you went through your first aid kit and refilled it, or replaced things. This should happen every time you are planning a trip. Even if you didn’t use it. There might be something you need to add for the area you plan to be in. 
In my opinion, I feel like these guys make some really poor decisions to go into this canyon during one of Utah’s wettest months this year. They are lucky to have made it out. This is a classic example of taking proper precaution when going into the backcountry. Remember, if when planning, it is too risky, it is okay to postpone and not go at all. 
Happy planning, and safe travels my friends!

Rab Myriad Jacket – Gear Review

If you are looking for an awesome hard shell that breathes like a champ, then this is your jacket. Rab has done such a great job on this amazing Polartec NeoShell hard shell. With fully taped seams, zippers and awesome pockets, everything about this jacket is awesome. The fit is great, and I am so satisfied with this jacket after several days of testing.

So far, Fall in Utah has been pretty cold and wet. We had an incredibly hot Summer, and then all of the sudden we had snow in the last week of September. I have been just itching to get out and wear my Rab Myriad jacket. Rab has fast become my favorite brand of outerwear. The Myriad surely passed the test today while out in the mountains hiking. I have read a bunch of other reviews about this jacket and how nice it is, but sometimes I get skeptical about things until I try them myself, especially when it comes to a piece of outerwear. 

The Myriad jacket is made from Polartec NeoShell fabric, which is a three layer fabric. I had never owned anything with this fabric before, but after today I am completely sold. The hike that I did today was not an easy one. It was a very wet and cold morning, and incredibly strenuous hiking. Needless to say it was a recipe for a lot of sweating and getting super clammy wearing a jacket. The Myriad however breathed like a total champ and I never felt clammy in the jacket. At some points during the hike it was raining really hard and it was really wet, but I never felt wet inside the jacket and never worried that it was going to penetrate through the NeoShell. It is the best experience of a hard shell i’ve had. 
Here are things that I love about this jacket.

  • – Lightweight – Size Large weighs in at about 14 oz
  • – Awesome hood design – helmet compatible, and cinches down well without a helmet
  • – Wire brim on the hood
  • – Long Sleeves – I’ve owned other technical jackets that just aren’t long enough. These are perfect
  • – Large Crossover chest pockets
  • – Inside security pocket
  • – Awesome fit – I wear a Small (140lbs, 5’9″, Chest 37″)
  • – Breathes unlike any other hard shell i’ve owned/worn
I knew that hiking today would be the best test to know if this jacket was worth the money I spent on it. I can absolutely say that it was. Rab is very high on the list of high quality technical outerwear and gear.  
Fitting this jacket: I wear a size small in the Myriad. I am about 5’9″ and 140lbs. My chest measures at 37 inches exact. According to Rab’s online sizing chart, 37″ is right where a small should be. A medium would be WAY to big for me in this jacket. I would say that trusting the size guide with Rab is not a bad idea.

Buy this jacket from

Rab Myriad Jacket - Men's Rab Myriad Jacket – Men’s
Whether you’re braving torrential rains or swinging ice tools on a frozen pillar, zip up the Rab Men’s Myriad Jacket for complete weather protection that won’t restrict your movement. The three-layer Polartec NeoShell fabric shrugs off wet weather yet is highly breathable so you’ll stay comfy when you break a sweat. A generous amount of fabric stretch allows you to move freely, and the wire peak in the hood keeps the rain off of your face.

Unified Studies – Sources of Motivation and Education

My introduction to outdoor education began when I was in high school. There was a class that covered a whole days worth of class periods called Unified Studies. Unified was a huge inspiration to my desire to be a professional in the outdoor industry. A lot of that has to do with the experiences that I had while in the class, but also my teachers who made the education so enjoyable. 
Unified is an outdoor integrated studies class. Meaning that as students we learned english, science, physical education, social studies, and art out in the backcountry. Each week we got on a bus, and we went to a location to collect plant samples for a plant book we were to make. 100 Native Utah plants were to be collected and identified. This included us making our own plant presses and outside of class time going hiking to collect plants as well. We bird watched in the fall and were to identify 50 birds while out as a class. We wrote poetry, skied, hiked, learned outdoor cooking skills, bird watched, and so much more. 
One of the most important parts of the class was our “ROC” or record of celebrations. We made our ROC’s from scratch into a book. These essentially became our journals throughout the school year. We would have quite days where we would again get on the bus and go into the mountains, and for the several hours up there we were not allowed to talk, talk to other students, listen to music, or anything distracting. We were to sit and write and enjoy the time in the backcountry. These were some of the best days of class for me. Think about it, a group of 30 or so high school kids not allowed to make any noise and spread out on a mountain side. This was some of the most inspiring times for me as a high school student. We went cross country skiing once or twice a week to the Uinta mountains, or Daniels Summit. Two trips were over night trips in the desert. One of those trips was to the San Rafael Swell, and the other was our super activity. The super activity was a four day trip to Boulder Mountain, the Burr Trail, Goblin Valley, and Capitol Reef National Park. 
Unfortunately there were those that viewed the class as a place to mess around and either drink and what not. Obviously those students didn’t do well in the class and completely missed out on the experience of a lifetime. 
We did so much in that class, it is hard to remember everything that happened. But one day in particular is more vivid in my mind than most others. We went out as students and took a group of two second grades classes from an elementary school up Hobble Creek Canyon to have an Elementary Education Day. Cheesy as it sounds, it was such an amazing experience. Divided into groups, we planned lessons that were geared on outdoor things and played games with these kids, taught them, and enjoyed a full day of class with them. I remember seeing the smiles on the kids faces and whether or not it is something they ever remember, it is something that was a precursor to my desire to be an outdoor educator, or professional. 
Sadly, the program was removed from Orem High School a few years ago when the school was torn down and rebuilt. It was moved to a new school in Saratoga Springs, and as of last year Sid, who was the teacher for the last 15 plus years retired, and now it is a program that doesn’t exist anymore. Anyone that had the opportunity to be a part of Unified, and learn from what the mission of it was, is honestly a better person now. It offered education that NO other class in high school could ever give to a student. 

 Loaded up headed to Boulder, Utah

 Sid Hatch, the man who was a student of, then taught Unified for years!