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Filtering by Category: Weekend Adventures

Cutler Ridge to Dead Tree - Ben Lomond , Eden, Utah

Hannah Fleming

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If you like to ski and live in the Ogden, UT area, you’ve likely heard of people skiing the “back side of Ben Lomond”. Since taking my AIARE 1 class, this has been on the list of areas to check out. However, when doing research on where to go, we were having trouble finding any clear directions, so, here it is!

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*This is just the route we took, on a day when avalanche danger was low. Make sure to check the avalanche forecast and weather before heading out*

Where to park:

 North Fork Park, Ben Lomond Trailhead. You can see the location here.

Where to go:

The route will start off on a service road, where you’ll quickly connect up to the nordic trail. When you reach the first Y in the road, turn left, turn right. On the left you’ll see a turn off, this will take you to the Mule Trail. (In my Strava route below, you’ll see we made the mistake of turning left here and had to loop back around.) Continue past this turnoff, following signs towards Ben Lomond. About ¼ mile down the road, you’ll see the turn off on the left. There will be a bathroom on the right. If you reach the bathroom, you’ve missed the turnoff.

Once you reach the skin track, it’s pretty well defined. Follow this along for another 1.5 or so, and you’ll reach the dead tree area. There will be a weather station on the right side of the skin track. We transitioned, and headed back down in the general direction of where we came from. We skied down a few pitch on the south side of the skin track, and one on the north side of the skin track, then pretty much followed the skin track all the way back down to the nordic center. Next time, we will definitely plan on staying out a bit longer. But this was a perfect first introduction to the zone.

Difficulty:

This trail is overall pretty mellow, with 2300 feet of gain over 3 miles (I had to borrow data from a friend after pausing and not resuming my watch!) . I only had to put up my risers one time, for a few hundred feet of climbing.

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My First Moab Mountain Bike Trip!

Hannah Fleming

Living just four hours away, Moab is more than doable for a weekend trip. It’s my second-year mountain biking and I’ve been wanting to make it down to the infamous tacky rocks all season. With ample vacation time to use before the end of the year, I planned a three-day weekend and made it happen!

Heading south in late November means it still warms up to 45-50 during the day, perfect riding weather. I was comfortable with shorts, t-shirt and a long sleeve on Friday and Saturday. For the morning ride on Sunday, I added tights and a base layer.

As far as choosing trails, I mainly ride intermediate, with some blacks mixed in. My true skill level is more like advanced beginner, but it’s good to push yourself : )

 

Ride 1: Navajo Trail System, Rocky Top

Trail rating: Blue/Black

The first 1/2 mile of this, I was NERVOUS. I had never ridden on rocks before and I did not trust the grip at all. Once I finally felt comfortable and used to the rolling hills, it was SO much fun. I quickly learned how important it is to trust the bike and the tires.

This trail is pretty choppy compared to the flowy downhills you find at resorts (where i’m used to riding.) I was surprised at how exhausting the constant up and downs were. Make sure to bring lots of water!

Ride 2: Klondike Bluffs, Dino Flow -> Little Salty -> Baby Road -> Mega Steps -> Alaska -> Homer

Trail ratings: Blue, Blue/Black, Black/Blue

Dino Flow was a perfect warm up for the rest of the loop. As soon as you hit Little Salty, the trail turns uphill and you begin climbing up a rocky trail. I felt comfortable the majority of the time, until we hit Mega Steps and Alaska. This is when I learned the important lesson of keeping your chain clean. My chain was dirty, and a hard fall bent my derailleur hanger, forcing my chain to skip a few gears and not work correctly. The silver lining here being we took an awesome shortcut (Homer) back to the car, that ended up being a super fun downhill where I didn’t even have to worry about shifting. Lesson learned, take care of your bike!

Ride 3: Moab Brand Trails, EZ, Lazy, North 40

Trail ratings: Green/Blue, Blue/Black

After pushing myself the past two days with more technical trails, I wanted to take it easier before heading home. This loop was super fun, mainly dirt trail for the first three miles on EZ/Lazy before heading out to North 40. North 40 was again a bit more challenging, but doable besides a few steep stairs.

I’m already looking forward to my next bike trip to Moab. I’d love to hear your recommendations for your favorite intermediate trails!

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Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming – Part 2

Hannah Fleming

Traffic

Traffic

For the second year in a row, Labor Day Weekend was spent in Grand Teton National Park. This year, with a different crew! You can check out the details from Labor Day 2017 here.

Quick background, stolen from last year’s post:

Grand Teton National Park stretches 310,000 acres across the Northwest Corner of Wyoming. The Park is located 10 minutes South of Yellowstone National Park and just North of the popular outdoor town destination of Jackson Hole.

Grand Teton National Park is known for the unique formations of the Teton Range. Home to nine 12,000 ft. peaks, 11 glaciers and sprinkled with alpine lakes. The jagged peaks of the Range are a popular destination for skiers, climbers, mountaineers, and hikers.

Getting there: From SLC it is an easy 4.5 hour drive North to the Southern Park entrance. If you’re staying in the Northern part of the park, that will add another hour.

Where to stay:

  • Camp sitesThere are six large campgrounds in the Park, as well as backcountry permits available. We grabbed a spot at the same place as last year, Colter Bay. Colter Bay is in the northern part of the park, right on Jackson Lake. Camping was $30 / night, but well worth it for facilities, bear box, convenience store, marina to rent Kayaks/Canoes, and being RIGHT on Jackson Lake. We were hoping to stay at Jenny Lake, but realized we would need to be in line waiting by 6AM. Leaving from SLC, this would mean a bit too early of a wakeup call.

  • BLM Land: If you don’t mind driving into the park every day, there is plenty of surrounding BLM land to camp

What to do:

·       No matter what type of outdoor rec you’re interested in, you can find it at Grand Teton National Park or somewhere in the surrounding area! There’s access to everything from hiking, trial running, road running, cycling, mountain biking, climbing, skiing, swimming and paddling. Make sure to stop into the Visitors Center, pick up a few maps, and talk to a Ranger for recommendations.

Day 1:

Arriving just around lunch-time at Colter Bay, we set up camp, and with bear spray in hand, went out for a quick run to stretch the legs. Colter Bay is a great location, with easy access to a trail running along Jackson Lake (run GPS here). While waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive, we relaxed along the Lake until a delicious camp dinner of Jackfruit Tacos.

Relaxing at the beach

Relaxing at the beach

Jackfruit tacos: Use pre-packed Tex-Mex Jackfruit mix, and ready to go rice/quinoa mix. Easy tacts topped with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and pico de gallo!

Jackfruit tacos: Use pre-packed Tex-Mex Jackfruit mix, and ready to go rice/quinoa mix. Easy tacts topped with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and pico de gallo!

Sunset at the lake

Sunset at the lake

Day 2: (Big Hike Day)

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Looking for a full-day hike, we chose Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude. You can opt to take the ferry across Jenny Lake to cut out 4 miles, and 1500 extra feet of vert, we chose this option. Arriving to the East Boat Dock around 9 AM, we just barely beat the rush. A round trip ticket is $15, and reservations are not necessary (all the details here at Jenny Lake Boating).

Don’t be discouraged, this hike starts off steep for the first few miles, then becomes gradual. I’d recommend trekking poles if you have any knee issues, as they will be helpful on the way down!

Cascade Canyon Trail follows a rushing river deep into the Tetons. Along this trail you’ll be surrounded by the towering Teton peaks, see wildflowers, cross a few wooden bridges, and spot multiple waterfalls in Cascade Canyon. Just pass Cascade Canyon, the trail will take you Lake Solitude. This alpine is lake is the perfect lunch spot, but be prepared with an extra layer as it gets a bit windy!

After returning to camp for a quick pasta dinner, we loaded up into the car, and drove around the park at dusk in hopes of seeing some wild life!

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PC: @benjamintfleming

PC: @benjamintfleming

Day 3: (Unexpected Big Hike Day)

After a long hike the day before, we were looking for a shorter, incredibly scenic hike, with enough time to head into Jackson for dinner. We chose the 8.5 mile hike (you can see our route here) around Jenny Lake, with a little over 1,100 feet of elevation gain. While it was a bit more strenuous than we were expecting, we saw a Moose, almost saw a bear, and enjoyed a view of the lake the entire time!

For dinner we headed into Jackson to Snake River Brewing and dessert at Häagen-Dazs® Ice Cream Shop (they have #plantbased flavors!)

                            

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake

PC: @benjamintfleming

PC: @benjamintfleming

 Have you been to Grand Teton National Park? Let me know if you have any suggestions of things to do next Labor Day!

Summer in Alaska: Seward - Hatcher Pass - Anchorage

Hannah Fleming

10 years ago, my Dad and Step-Mom took my brothers and I on a trip to Alaska over the summer solstice. We rented a house in Seward for a week, explored Kenai Fjords, hiked up Mt. Marathon, and soaked in the Alaskan beauty. Fast forward 10 years, and my Dad and Step-Mom now live in Anchorage.

Day 1: SLC -> Anchorage -> Ptarmigan
Straight from the plane, we jumped onto my Dad’s rig, Ned, and headed South to Ptarmigan Campground. Arriving late, we went straight to bed, knowing it was going to be an early morning.

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 Day 2: Ptarmigan -> Seward

5:30 AM wake-up call - we were headed to Seward to Kayak in Kenai Fjords!

We used the tour company Liquid Adventures. They’re focused on the small group experience and is the only company that has a private boat to take you into the Fjords. Unlike many other companies in the area, you will truly be guided by professionals, who have over 3 years of experience, minimum. They also work with a private water taxi, to make sure your trip through the rough waters between Resurrection Bay and the Northwestern Channel is as smooth and safe as possible.

We chose the Aialik/Northwestern Explorer trip. After a two-hour boat trip, we unloaded the kayaks and began paddling towards Northwestern Glacier. After paddling four miles amongst glacial ice chunks, we stopped roughly ½ mile away from the Northwestern Glacier and enjoyed our picnic lunch. Hearing ice chunks break off sounded like thunder every time a new chunk would crack off.

Here is the map of our whole paddle. 

Captain Jess driving through the rain. PC @benjamintfleming

Captain Jess driving through the rain. PC @benjamintfleming

Prepping the kayaks

Prepping the kayaks

Geared up!

Geared up!

The Captain and our guide taking down the kayaks.

The Captain and our guide taking down the kayaks.

Dad enjoying the paddle PC @benjamntfleming

Dad enjoying the paddle PC @benjamntfleming

Paddling towards Northwestern Glacier PC @benjamintfleming

Paddling towards Northwestern Glacier PC @benjamintfleming

Day 3: Mt. Marathon -> Hatcher Pass

Muddy, steep, slippery slope

Muddy, steep, slippery slope

Mt. Marathon race is an iconic Seward trail race, and well-known in the niche trail running world. This gnarly race, takes you up the face of Mount Marathon, averaging a slope of 34 degrees. After a small warm up to the base of the mountain, racers gain roughly 2700 feet in .9 miles. This often slippery, steep slope requires shoes with good grip, gloves, and a tough runner.

My brother and I decided we wanted to see what it was all about, and made a go at it. The day we ran was a bit muddier than we were hoping for, and took us about an hour longer than we were planning. Note that there are no course markings, so checking your map every .1 miles is inevitable to make sure you’re on track. Our whole run can be seen here.

After Mt. Marathon, we decided to head north towards Palmer and Hatcher Pass. On our way north we stopped at Alyeska Ski resort, as well as our favorite, Moose’s Tooth pizza. We found an awesome spot to camp right at the Gold Mint Trailhead parking lot, that would be the perfect starting point for my birthday run the following morning.

Descending Mt. Marathon

Descending Mt. Marathon

Descending Mt. Marathon

Descending Mt. Marathon

Salomon Family

Salomon Family

Drying off wet shoes

Drying off wet shoes

 

Day 4: Hatcher Pass – Birthday!

It’s becoming a tradition to do a long run on my birthday, and that’s just how we started the day along the beautiful Gold Mint trail.

Following our running and hiking, we continued north along Hatcher Pass Road, to check out the Independence Mine State Historical Park and Hatcher Pass Lodge. My Dad whipped up a delicious birthday brunch of Veggie and Tofu Chilequiles from Thug Kitchen.

Birthday Run PC @benjamintfleming

Birthday Run PC @benjamintfleming

Huts at Hatcher Pass

Huts at Hatcher Pass

Dad along the Gold Mint trail

Dad along the Gold Mint trail

Beautiful Alaska PC @benjamintfleming

Beautiful Alaska PC @benjamintfleming

Day 5: Anchorage -> SLC 

After some plant-based ice cream birthday celebrations the night before, it was time to pack up and head back to SLC. If you’re in Anchorage and want to spend a few last minutes soaking up the beauty before heading to the airport, I’d recommend going for a walk along the Coastal Trail.

Final stretch of the legs

Final stretch of the legs

 

 

Stanley, Idaho - Sawtooth National Forest

Hannah Fleming

Growing up in the midwest I had a very distorted, romanticized view of the West. I thought all of the skiing was in Colorado and Utah, and the rest was just farmland or vast nothingness. I was definitely wrong.

Once I moved to Utah, Idaho quickly moved onto my radar and to the top of the list of places to go for winter and summer mountain adventures.

With the 4th of July Holiday falling on Wednesday this year, I took the opportunity to take the rest of the week off and head up to Sawtooth National Forest!

Camping

By the time we decided to go, all sites in the region were booked up. I spent a few hours finding first-come first-serve sites in the Stanley / Galena region, made a list, and hoped we’d get lucky! I used recreation.gov and freecampsites.net. 

We left Ogden by 7 AM on Thursday, and headed straight for the first site on my list – Sunny Gulch. Located North of Galena, and just south of Stanley, we would have access to hiking, biking, lakes and rivers.

Rolling into the campground around 1 PM, we had plenty of sites to choose from. We discovered this is the perfect time to look for a site, as the campers from the previous night were heading home, and lots of people wouldn’t arrive until closer to dinner. We chose a shady spot, complete with a nice fire ring, picnic and prep table. The campground runs along the Salmon River, providing a perfect natural ice bath for sore feet after a long day of hiking.

Next time I camp in the region, I’ll try and book a bit sooner and get a spot on the West side of State Road 654B with a better view of the mountain range. But for last minute, this Sunny Gulch was perfect.

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Salmon River


Salmon River

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After setting up camp, we made our way to Redfish Lake to go for a hike. Without planning a specific hike (something I don’t normally do), we found the trailhead, packed two water bottles, and started up the trail towards Marshall Lake. The hike would be roughly 10 miles round trip, with over 2200 ft. of elevation gain. Winding away from Redfish Lake, and deeper into the Sawtooths, the trail was beautiful. About one mile out from the Lake, there was a fork in the trail, without any signs pointing to which trail would take us to Marshall Lake (you can see photos of this. This is the first time I can remember hiking without a map, and our we quickly learned our lesson.

We chose the fork to the left – 1. It looked like a more scenic route and 2. It looked steeper, so we were thinking it would be a shortcut. ¾ of a mile later, the trail ended in a valley between two mountains, with Marshal Lake just on the other side of the ridge. We chose to scramble up boulders ½ mile up the ridgeline, hoping we could just scramble down the other side, ending up at the lake. We made it to the top, peered over the other side, saw beautiful Lake Marshall…and knew we would have to return the way we came. It was nearly 90 degrees, both of us were out of water, and all I wanted to do was get back to the trailhead.

Using the breadcrumb feature on our Suunto GPS watches (Suunto 9), we made our way back to the trail, and returned safely to the trailhead.

This was a beautiful hike, but left me with a humbling reminder to respect nature, and to always be prepared. Just like I learned in Girl Scouts :)

The end of the trail, beginning of scrambling

The end of the trail, beginning of scrambling

Scrambling

Scrambling

Scrambling

Scrambling

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(Ride & SUP) Day 2: Lake Stanley

 Determined to make up for yesterday’s mishap, we were determined to go for a great ride, and be fully prepared.

Ride – Stanley Lake to Overlook Point

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Starting at the Stanley Lake trailhead, the smooth dirt trail takes you through beautiful fields as it makes it’s way into the woods. The “moderate” trail could be classified as “easy” until you reach the first river crossing. Advanced riders can pedal across, I had a good foot-numbing wade across. From here the trail gets a bit more technical, with lots of down trees from recent flooding. A few sections of trail was washed out completely. Despite our best efforts, there was one last river crossing that I was not game for before reaching the top, and for the second day in a row, we did not make it to the destination.

However, with 1500 feet of climbing up, we knew we were in for a fun downhill (outside of a few sections where I had to pick up my bike over trees every 50 feet)!

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SUP- Stanley Lake

We ended the day with an awesome paddle board session / took time to rinse off the dirt from the past two days. NOTE: to paddle board in Idaho, you need to pick up an Idaho Invasive Species sticker. You can pick these up at the super market in town. The sheriff in town told us these will soon be available at more of the boating/fishing stores as well.

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Cleaning up in the lake using bio-degradable soap

Cleaning up in the lake using bio-degradable soap

(Ride) Day 3: Galena Lodge

After two peaceful nights of camping, we packed up our things and headed back south towards Utah, stopping along the way at Galena Lodge.

Ride – Galena Lodge

After driving along State HWY 75 in what seems like the middle of nowhere, you turn a corner, and run into Galena Lodge. The Lodge offers great, healthy food options, along with maintaining 40+ miles of awesome trails. 

We chose to connect Psycho Ride -> Outhouse Loop -> Gladiator -> RIp & Tear for a 6.5 mile fun loop, complete with lots of climbing, and my first time riding what felt like a roller-coaster of bermy-downhills.

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Takeaways for next time:

  • Plan a campsite earlier
  • Do more research on hikes and rides
  • Stay longer! 

 

 

Southern Utah National Parks - Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef

Hannah Fleming

Logistics

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As most trips do, our trip started at the airport. With my car packed to the brim with camping gear, food, Rinse Kit portable shower, and enough extra layers to make sure no one was cold, I headed to the Salt Lake City airport to pick up my mom and brother for four days of exploring Southern Utah’s National Parks.

From the airport, we began south, stopping at a hotel in Spanish Fork to get a few hours of sleep before continuing on to Arches National Park in the morning.  

 

Day 1 (Friday): Arches National Park

Despite waking up early to make our way to the Park and to find a camp spot (we assumed we’d end up on BLM land – hence the Rinse Kit), we ended up at Archview RV Park & Campground. This campground felt luxurious. In addition to having Wi-Fi near the main camp store, the newly constructed bathrooms had marble counter tops and a stone-tiled shower floor. Camp heaven.

It was noon by the time we set up camp and were finally on our way into Arches National Park! 

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Following our mandatory stop at the visitor center to get our National Park Passports stamped, we made our way to the iconic Delicate Arch (the arch found on Utah’s license plate) at the far end of the park. You can expect a beautiful, windy, and likely crowded hike as you follow the 2.5 mile trail out to Delicate Arch. Even with the crowds, you can get an awesome shot under the Arch with a little patience.

Without much daylight left, we made our way back towards to park entrance, stopping at Panorama Point, Balanced Rock, Double Arch, and North and South Windows. With trails under .5 mile each, this was a great way to end the day and make the most of our time in the park.

With a major Mountain Bike race in town, restaurants were crowded, and we ended up at good ol’ McDonalds (while not the best, salad + fries satisfies the plant based diet).

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Day 2 (Saturday): Arches National Park and Needles Overlook

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With a quick oatmeal breakfast, we left camp early to beat the crowd into the park and made our way to Devil’s Garden. The full 7.2-mile loop takes you past 7 arches, ending at Dark Angel tower. We opted for a 4-mile loop to Double O arch, stopping at Landscape Arch, Navajo Arch and Partition Arch along the way. From the parking lot, Landscape is the first arch you make it to. From here the trail becomes significantly more difficult, taking you over steep, sloping rocks, close to drop offs. Make sure to wear shoes with good grip, and leave the trekking poles in the car. You will want to have your hands free for this one! Also keep an eye out for cairns (pronounced Karens) along the way marking the trail.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch

On the way to Double O Arch

On the way to Double O Arch

P.C.  B. Fleming

From Devil’s Garden, we made our way back to the Visitor’s Center for a picnic lunch before starting the 1.5 hour drive to Needles Overlook. This may have been the best decision of the trip. We knew we wouldn’t be able to make it to both the Northern and Southern areas of Canyonlands National Park the next day, but still wanted to experience the Needles… and were blown away with what we found at this overlook. Due to its isolated location halfway between Moab and the Southern entrance of Canyonlands, you’ll have the overlook to yourself. We spent over an hour following the trail around the rim of the canyon, wondering why more people weren’t here!

Day 2 came to a close at El Charro Loco in Moab, because no camp trip is complete without Mexican.

P.C.  B Fleming
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Day 3 (Sunday): Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park

Leaving our campsite behind, we headed out for our last full day of the trip at Canyonlands National Park.

First stop, Grand View Overlook. The overlook is the southernmost part of the Island in the Sky, sitting at 6080 feet. A quick 2-mile round trip hike, this you’ll be rewarded with views the Colorado river carving it’s way through what appears to be bottomless canyons.

Providing a lending hand. (P.C. B. Fleming)

Providing a lending hand. (P.C. B. Fleming)

Next stop, Mesa Arch. As one of the most popular destinations in the park, anticipate a busy trail. Once you arrive at the arch, there is a smaller trail to the right that will lead you to an open area where you can sit and enjoy the views.

Green River Overlook was our final stop before heading out of the park and heading to Capitol Reef National Park!

Our goal was to make it to Capitol Reef for an epic sunset at Goosenecks Overlook. After checking in at the Visitor’s Center, we had time for the 2-round trip hike to Hickman Bridge. Hickman Bridge is a 133-foot natural bridge tucked away in the canyon. Ending the hike during golden hour along the Fremont River, the fall foliage was glowing. We snapped lots of photos, had a quick snack, and set off for our last stop of the day – Goosenecks Overlook.

We quickly grabbed our cameras and headed up the trail…a little too quickly. 50 feet up the trail we realized the car keys were perfectly safe on the driver seat, locked in the car. With some help from some new friends, we managed to use the antenna to unlock the car by sliding it between the door and frame of the car. LESSON LEARNED: BRING MULTIPLE CAR KEYS.

When it was all said and done, we missed the sunset, and made our way to our hotel, Capitol Reef Inn & Café for a great meal after a long day.

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P.C.  B. Fleming

Day 4 (Monday): Capitol Reef National Park

After the previous night’s missed sunset, we set the alarm early, and made it to the same trailhead for sunrise. It turns out Sunset trail is also a beautiful trail for sunrise. We watched as the sun rose above the mountains, and filled the canyon with light before heading to the Gifford Homestead for a cinnamon roll and arguably the best apple butter I’ve ever had.

Following Gifford Homestead we stopped at the Petroglyph panel before leaving.

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Gear Recommendations for the Desert:

·      Sunscreen

·      Daypack with hydration bladder – hydration is KEY

·      Mid-rise boots for sandy/dusty trails

·      Sunglasses and hat

·      Allergy medicine – I find my allergies are always worse in the desert

·      Headlamp

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Takeaways

  • Moab is BUSY - bring food for lunch and dinner
  • Staying in hotels is sometimes easier when out of town guests are coming in
  • Utah is beautiful
  • It's okay to explore national parks without huge hikes
  • Bring an extra key!

Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming

Hannah Fleming

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Grand Teton National Park stretches 310,000 acres across the Northwest Corner of Wyoming. The Park is located 10 minutes South of Yellowstone National Park and just North of the popular outdoor town destination of Jackson Hole.

Grand Teton National Park is known for the unique formations of the Teton Range. Home to nine 12,000 ft. peaks, 11 glaciers and sprinkled with alpine lakes. The jagged peaks of the Range are a popular destination for skiers, climbers, mountaineers, and hikers.

Getting there: From SLC it is an easy 4.5 hour drive North to the Southern Park entrance. If you’re staying in the Northern part of the park, that will add another hour.

Where to stay:

  • Camp sitesThere are six large campgrounds in the Park, as well as backcountry permits available. We went on a holiday weekend, and were able to still get a spot at Colter Bay in the northern part of the park, right on Jackson Lake. Camping was $30 / night, but well worth it for facilities, bear box, convenience store, marina to rent Kayaks/Canoes, and being RIGHT on Jackson Lake.
  • BLM Land: If you don’t mind driving into the park every day, there is plenty of surrounding BLM land to camp

What to do:

Grand Teton National Park is an outdoors person dream backyard. There’s plenty to do from hiking, cycling, mountain biking, climbing, skiing, swimming and paddling. Make sure to stop into the Visitors Center, pick up a few maps, and talk to a Ranger for recommendations.

Day 1:  

(Bike) Starting at Willow Bay Junction, we rode a 32 mile loop down to Jenny Lake Visitor Center and back. This was a beautiful ride along the Park road; winding in an out of trees, through fields (unfortunately, no wildlife spottings), and passing Jackson Lake, Leigh Lake, and Jenny Lake.

We made it back to camp in time for dinner and to catch the sunset along the rocky Jackson Lake shore.

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Day 2:

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(Swim) Wetsuits in hand, we made our way to Jackson Lake for a quick training swimming in the crystal-clear waters. This was my favorite training swim of the season, with the sun rising over the trees just as we were halfway to our destination - a small island in the middle of the lake.

(Hike) We took our time warming up and eating breakfast before packing up and heading to Taggart Lake Trailhead, for a long hike up to Taggart, Amphitheater, and Surprise Lakes. We chose this hike based off a recommendation from a Ranger for a “longer, challenging hike”, it was just that.

I quickly regretted forgetting my trekking poles while gaining 3,400 ft. in a little over 7 miles. However, the view at the top was well worth the burning calfs. Nestled in the heart of the Teton Range, Amphitheater Lake has 360 views of the jagged peaks, with The Grand Teton towering overhead.

Power-hiking our way down the 7 miles to the car (nearly 3 miles of switchbacks), we quickly changed, and headed to Jackson for dinner. Jackson is a picture-perfect mountain town. Good restaurants, cute shops, lots of flannel, pro athletes wandering the streets, and awesome views.

(Eat) We ended up at Snake River Brewing, where they had plenty of plant based options.

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Day 3:

(Run) On our last day we stopped at String Lake for a quick trail run on our way out of the Park. With bear spray in hand, we made our way around the 3.5 mile loop. This was a beautiful run, and would make for a great hike, or place to pack a picnic and hang out on one of the numerous beaches around the lake.

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Amethyst Lake, Unita National Forest, Utah

Hannah Fleming


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The only thing more rewarding than hiking to the summit of a mountain, is hiking to an alpine lake. Lucky for me, there’s plenty of options close by!

Once the snow finally began to melt, it was time to venture East into the Uintas National Forest. Amethyst Lake  is located on the Western Side of the Uintas National Forest, on the back side of Ostler peak.

Hiking in early spring, the trails are muddy from snow melt. Snow covered half the trail, forcing us to turn around 3 miles in.

Hiking in early spring, the trails are muddy from snow melt. Snow covered half the trail, forcing us to turn around 3 miles in.

Getting There:
Depending on where you’re coming from in the greater SLC area, you will come South down the Mirror Lake Highway (150) from Evanston Wyoming, or North from Kamas to the Christmas Meadows Campground. There will be a turn off with a sign directing you to "Christmas Meadows Campground". Make sure to stop and pick up a hiking permit at the ranger station, follow the sign to the self-serve permit station ($5 - cash only), or display your National Parks Pass if you have one (this is accepted in lieu of a permit).

Once you arrive at Christmas Meadows Campground, follow the road past the campgrounds, all the way to the end until you reach a parking lot.

 

 

The Trail

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The trail is gradual for the first 3 miles as you wander along the Stillwater Fork and riverside meadows. Keep your eyes out, you may see wildlife through here. You’ll make a left at a fork with a clearly labeled wooden sign for Amethyst Lake. This is where the trail kicks up, and quickly start to gain elevation.

The remainder of the trail is moderate-strenuous with elevation gain, and more technical terrain. The trail wanders over streams, alongside Waterfalls, and through beautiful meadows.

Before reaching the final destination of Amethyst Lake, you will reach Ostler Lake (Around 6.5 miles in). Ostler Lake is clear, beautiful, and serves as a great place to set up camp.

Ostler Lake

Ostler Lake

If you’re looking to venture past Ostler and make it to Amethyst, cross the river before you make it to Ostler Lake, and head up the trail along the left side of the Lake for another 1.1 miles.

Amethyst Lake

Amethyst Lake

Ice cold summit 'croix.

Ice cold summit 'croix.

Day Trip v. Backpacking Overnight?

Buffs = mosquito protection

Buffs = mosquito protection

After doing this trail on two different day trips (intending for one to actually be an overnight trip*), I would still recommend just making a day trip of this hike.

*After hauling all of our camp gear up the trail, enjoying some time at the Lake, and setting up camp, we realized how awful the mosquitos are. I’m talking hundreds of mosquitos swarming you, forcing you to stay in your tent because bug spray without deet does not work, can’t enjoy yourself, AWFUL. We made the game time decision to pack our stuff up, head back down, and drove back to Ogden.

Next Time?

  • Bring Deet

  • Set up camp at Christmas Meadows Campground

  • Day hike up to the Lake

  • Bring a hammock and book to set up by the Lake

Hike overview:

  • Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous

  • Distance: ~13 miles

  • Elevation gain: 2,050 ft.

  • Time: 6 hours (with 55L overnight packs carrying camping gear)
     

Additional Resources


Comment below with any hike suggestions for the greater SLC area!

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Ragnar Trail Relay - Zion

Hannah Fleming

Gooooood Morning Ragnarians!

Living in Utah and working for an industry leading trail running company, it didn’t take long to fall in love with the sport. After a month of running on the local trails, I knew I wanted to sign up for a race and start training. With Salomon being the title sponsor for the Ragnar Trail Series, this was the perfect place to start.  

The details.

What is Ragnar? Ragnar is a relay race, with anywhere from 4-12 team members (trail races: 4-8, road races: 6-12)

Location? There are races ALL over the country. We ran the Ragnar Trail Zion at Zion Ponderosa Ranch race.

 What were the course distances? Green (Easiest)  3.5 miles + Yellow (Harder) 3.9 miles + Red (Hardest) 7.3 miles = 14.7 Miles total

What was the course like? The terrain was mostly packed sand and direct, with some rocks. This course had challenging elevation climbs.

What was Ragnar Village like? The village had lots of activities – massages, food, food demoes, movies, areas to stretch, photo booths, and more!

 What was the camping like? There are a few options for camping.
1. Reserve a spot ahead of time - these are traditional camp sites
2. First-come first-serve - camping in a large field

Favorite part? Running a relay with friends, and the beaUTAHful course.

Not-so-favorite part / hardest parts? 

Running in the dark! – My headlamp was not very strong, which made running through the night difficult.

Volunteering - Now hear me out, I love volunteering, and think it's important. BUT, I don't love walking around in the heat for hours fulfilling a volunteer shift before running. TIPS: sign up for a Thursday night, Friday early morning volunteer shift

Important gear?

Strong headlamp / ex. Black Diamond Storm
Trail shoes / Ex. Salomon Sense Pro 2 
GPS Watch / Ex. Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Good socks / Ex. Smartwool Running Socks
Anti-chaf / Ex. Body Glide
External Batteries / Ex. Goal Zero Products
KT Tape
Electrolyte Mix / Ex. Nuun
Lanterns & Flashlights / Ex. Goal Zero Lighthouse

Make sure to bring things to help you recover! Ex. KT Tape, Foam rollers, Lacrosse ball, 

Make sure to bring things to help you recover! Ex. KT Tape, Foam rollers, Lacrosse ball, 

Our camp table / lighting / charge station

Our camp table / lighting / charge station

Would you run another Ragnar? 

YES! They're tiring, and make for a long weekend, but are fun and challenging! 

Yosemite National Park, California – Spring 2017

Hannah Fleming

The first time I went to Yosemite it was 1999, and I was 6.

I remember the tall trees, the shuttles bussing us around the park, being scared of bears breaking into the car, drinking out of the soda springs at Tuolomne meadow, and… the waterfalls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's amazing looking through these photos, pulled from my Mom's scrapbook, all taken before digital cameras.

Fast forward 17 years to September 2016. Ben, my Mom and I were back in Curry Village celebrating Ben's birthday.

We had a great time hiking and enjoying the beautiful landscape, but, something was missing. Dark black lines ran down the granite walls where the waterfalls I so vividly remembered flow in the Spring and Summer. Almost as soon as we got back from that trip, we began planning our next trip.

I. Getting There
With friends coming in from out of state, logistics were important. Because Ben lives in Orange County, we chose the OC as our meeting point. We flew into various airports in the area, piled all of our gear into the rented minivan, and drove up to Yosemite. (If you can, flying into San Francisco is a better/closer option.) We also had a google document tracking everyone’s flights, expenses, packing lists, etc.

II. The Campsite
If you’re interested in reserving a spot, it’s crucial to plan ahead. Campground reservations open five months in advance, and fill up fast! It’s like trying to get tickets to your favorite band the minute tickets are released!

Our group stayed at the Upper Pines Campground. There were multiple bathrooms, sinks for foods waste, and water fountains. This location worked well as we were close to Curry Village (unfortunately renamed Half Dome Village in 2016), and a few of the trailheads.

If all sites are filled, another great option are the canvas tents we stayed at on our last trip.  

III. Itinerary
We’ve found that the best way to make the most of any trip, is to plan out the big hikes we’re doing every day, and have a few options for the evening.  We could not have planned them better. Doing the hikes in this order worked out perfectly! It's also important to do you some research and plan ahead according to the time of year you're visiting. HWY 120 into the park closes during the Winter, and was still closed when we were there in March. Check all of the conditions here

Fun fact: I used to hate crossing streams on the trails. Now, I love it!

Fun fact: I used to hate crossing streams on the trails. Now, I love it!

Day 1 (half day)

After stopping at Tunnel View and Bridalveil Falls* on our way into the park, we set up camp and set off for Four Mile Trail. When the full trail is open, this hike takes you from the Valley Floor to Glacier Point. After 2.5 miles, the clouds began to shift, a storm rolled in, and it began to snow. As we made it back to trailhead, the clouds rolled out of the valley, and we were left with a gorgeous evening. From the Four Mile Trail trailhead, we headed across the meadows to Yosemite Falls, and wandered around the Valley Floor Loop for a bit before heading back to camp.

Total Mileage: ~ 6
Total Time: ~2 hours

 

View from 4 Mile Trail

View from 4 Mile Trail

Wandering along the Valley Floor

Wandering along the Valley Floor

Day 2: Yosemite Falls 

We woke to the sound of the gushing waterfalls, cooked up our go-to breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, piled into our minivan, and made our way to the Yosemite Falls trailhead by 9. The hike is strenuous, so plan on spending the majority of the day on the trail.

Total Mileage: ~ 8
Total Time: ~6 hours

Before a Golden Hour hike at Mirror Lake we made a quick stop at the campsite for fuel (aka more Clif Bars, trail mix, dried fruit, and Chex Mix), before making our way to Mirror Lake for Golden Hour.

Hannah 1 , Hannah 2 (me), and Alex at the top of Upper Yosemite Falls

Hannah 1, Hannah 2 (me), and Alex at the top of Upper Yosemite Falls

View from Mirror Lake

View from Mirror Lake

Day 3: Vernal and Nevada Falls

On our last full day at the park, we chose another longer, strenuous hike to the top of Nevada Falls. Along the way, the trail passes the Vernal Fall Footbridge, up to to the top of  Vernal Falls.

There are a few different trail options to go all the way to the top of Nevada Falls*:

  • Mist Trail to Vernal Falls then continuing on to the top of Nevada Falls
  • John Muir trail down the Clarke Point Cut Off to the top of Vernal falls then continuing on the Mist Trail
  • John Muir Trail all the way to the top of Nevada Falls

We opted to take the JMT to the point at which it was closed - Clark Point. We then cut down to the Mist Trail, up to the top of Nevada Falls, and back all the way down the Mist Trail. This route was less busy/dryer on the way up. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

*Depending on what time of year you go, part of the trail(s) are closed. Make sure to check in before your trip with the Park Rangers, or online! 

Total Miles: ~8

Total Time: ~6 hours

We ended the day with a hot shower, and pizza from Curry Village. For those plant powered folks, they will make you an awesome dairy-free, veggie pizza!

Day 4: Sunrise at Tunnel View

05:00 AM- We woke to the sound of our iPhone alarms telling us it was time to get up, pack up the our two tents, and make our way to the park exit. There was just one more stop on our itinerary – Tunnel View.
 

In front of Lower Yosemite Falls. Photo:  B. Fleming

In front of Lower Yosemite Falls. Photo: B. Fleming

IV. Gear

In addition to what is listed over on my my new gear page, other important items we brought were:

  • 6 person tent rented from REI
  • 2 Pocket Rockets
  • Rain Gear
  • Warm Gear

V. Meals

Breakfast/lunch/snacks: pretty standard for camping - lots of oatmeal, PB&J, fruit, trail mix, tortillas, Clif Bars and more PB. (I think I FINALLY over-did it on the Clif Bars. I'm back to homemade bars now!)
Dinner #1 - Hannah made an awesome Vegan curry!
Dinner #2 - Curry sweet potatoes (cut up sweet potatoes + curry powder + heat) and tons of warmed up canned veggies. This was our first time using canned veggies, and it worked great!
Dinner #3 - Ate out at Curry Village. There are ton's of choices. I went for a salad, and vegan pizza!

Hanging out in El Cap meadows

Hanging out in El Cap meadows

Death Valley National Park, California

Hannah Fleming

Stopped to enjoy the smooth pavement along US-190.

Stopped to enjoy the smooth pavement along US-190.

PC:  B.Fleming

Death Valley National Park

After recent trips to Joshua Tree and Yosemite, it was time to make it to another California National Park – Death Valley.  With my adventure buddy and close friend Hannah in town for a few days, it was the perfect opportunity to make the trip!

Located 4.5 hours Northeast of LA, a weekend trip to Death Valley is easily achievable with an early start.  Leaving LA Saturday morning at 5:00 AM we avoided traffic and made great timing, pulling into the ranger station at Stovepipe Wells by 9:30. Given we were only staying one night, we asked the ranger for recommendations, and made our plan for the next 24 hours.

 Morning Exploring

Badwater Basin –  At 282 ft. below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere. When looking across the 200 Square Miles of Salt Flats, the basin looks as though it is covered in a light dusting of fresh snow, instead of dried up sea water! 

Artist's DriveA 9 mile scenic drive loop, exposing beautiful different types of rocks and rock formations.

Golden Canyon TrailThere are a range of great hiking trails along the Golden Canyon Trial. We opted for the 2.5 mile loop to Red Cathedral. There are plenty of secondary trails along the way where you can explore deeper into the canyon.

 

Sunset Spot

Mesquite Flat Dunes We made our way out onto the dunes an hour or so before sunset, and experienced a truly magical golden hour. The particles of sands were glistening, the mountains surrounding the valley were glowing, and the sky was painted shades of pink and purple. 

Sunrise Spot

Zabriskie Point  If you make it to Zabriskie Point for sunrise, you’ll likely run into dozens of photographers, for a good reason. This is the perfect spot to watch the mountains change color as the sun rises, and fills the valley floor with light! There is also a large parking lot, with facilities, and a paved path up to the point.

PC:  B.Fleming

Camping & Supplies

Furnace CreekFurnace creek campground is a 30-minute drive past Stovepipe Wells. In the village of Furnace Creek you will find all of your essentials, so don’t worry if you forget tin foil or want to go to a café for dinner.

There was also plenty of water and gas throughout the National Park. We filled up our bottles at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and Stovepipe Wells.

Yosemite National Park, California

Hannah Fleming

 

After a busy summer of hiking, traveling, weddings, and long days at the beach, it’s officially camping season in Southern California, and there’s no better way to kick of camping season than a trip to Yosemite National Park!

 

 

15 years after my first trip to Yosemite, I was ecstatic when my mom flew out to make a quick three day weekend trip with my brother and I. We loaded all of our gear up, and made the 5 hour drive from LA to Yosemite. 

Accommodations: We glamped. Due to the last minute planning, and to ensure we had a spot, we booked a two bed canvas tent cabin (we comfortably slept 3!) in Curry Village (re-named Half Dome Village).  This was a great choice. We didn’t have to worry about spending time setting up and tearing down camp, and were able to get in as much hiking as we could. 

 

 

 

 

Day 1

The drive in to the valley is pretty spectacular. After winding through the forest on Route 41, you shoot out of the Wawona Tunnel to the famous Tunnel View. After a necessary photo shoot, we continued to Curry Village to check in to our tent.

Afternoon Hike - Valley Floor Loop
This loop is great because you can easily make it as long or as short as you want. We began at  Lower Yosemite Falls, hiked for 6 miles, and caught a shuttle back to our car. We chose to do this hike the first afternoon/evening so we could 1. see a lot of the valley floor and 2. not wear ourselves out too much before a tough hike the following morning.

Notable stops along the way included Camp 4, El Capitan, El Capitan Meadow, and crossing the Merced River.

Evening Hike - Taft Point
A quick 1.1 mile hike out to Taft Point promises one of the best sunset views in the park. Make sure to bring layers, and a headlamp for the way back.

El Capitan Meadows

El Capitan Meadows

View at Taft Point

View at Taft Point

Taking in the sunset

Taking in the sunset

Day 2

Day Hike - Four Mile Trail 
Starting at Four Mile Trailhead, this is a beautiful, strenuous 4.8 mile hike from the valley floor up to Glacier Point. Be prepared for this hike with trekking poles, water, and some snacks. The hike up features amazing views of the Valley floor, El Cap, the Three Brothers, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome the majority of the hike. After a hard hike, you’re treated to a well-earned view at Glacier Point. There is also a cafe, gift shop, restrooms, and lots of tourists waiting for you at the top, just remember you earned the view! :)

Hikers can either hike back down (which is what we did!), or drive down if you dropped off a car at the top. Another option is to pay $20 for the shuttle bus at the top. 

Evening Activities

Ahwahnee Lodge (Majestic Yosemite Hotel): To celebrate my brother’s birthday, we enhanced our glamping experience with a fancy dinner at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. I had delicious minestrone and a huge garden salad. 

Day 3

Sunrise - Glacier Point 
It doesn’t take too long browsing the internet to discover one of the most epic sunrise location in Yosemite - Glacier Point. We left our tent at 5, packed up our gear, and made our way up to Glacier Point. Bundled in my down jacket and wrapped in a sleeping bag, I had plenty of time to have my coffee brewed and in-hand, oatmeal cooked, and camera’s ready, all by the time the sun began to rise. 

 

 

 

Morning Hike - Sentinel Dome  
A great stop on the way back down to the valley is Sentinel Dome. This 2.2 mile loop shares a trailhead with the Taft Point trail. This trail is a little tougher, with a steeper climb up to the summit. However, you’re rewarded with an amazing 360 view. 


 

In my opinion, Yosemite is an amazing place that everyone needs to experience. You're reminded how absolutely beautiful our world is. So, get out there and celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks!

The Whitney Trail

Hannah Fleming

There are some things that have always been on my bucket list: traveling to Europe, making it to each of the 50 states, sky-diving, and swimming with dolphins.  And then there are the things that are added to the bucket list as SOON as you hear about them, Mt. Whitney is one of those. 

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. It's highest peak reaches 14,505 feet above sea level.

Preparation

Permit- A permit is required to hike in the Mt. Whitney Zone in the John Muir Wilderness. Details regarding how to obtain a permit can be found here.

Health - When hiking in high altitude, with huge elevation gains, physical fitness is important. We train by running 2-3 miles, 5-6 times a week, lifting weights a few times a week, and doing training hikes in as high of altitude as we can. Checkout my hiking page for details on those hikes! In addition to being in good physical condition, we fuel our bodies with healthy food, and make sure to take plenty of rest days! We also decided to take medicine to help us adjust with the altitude. This is a doctor prescribed medication.

Gear
    Bag - 65L Osprey Aura
    Tent-  Marmot 3 Person
    Sleeping Bag- Marmot Trestles 15 Sleeping Bag
    Sleeping Pad- REI Camp Bed 2.5
    Fire- MSR PocetRocket
    Water Purifier- SteriPen
    Bear Canister - Rented from REI
    Clothes- spandex shorts, leggings, hiking pants, long sleeve, short sleeve, tank top, down jacket, hat, gloves, mittens, and an extra pair of socks
    Food- bagels, Clif bars, peanut butter, pre-packaged camp food, dried fruit, trail mix.

A great resource we referenced was the Whitney Trial Conditions thread. It gave us some great insight into what the trail conditions were actually going to be like, especially since there was more snow coverage this year than normal!

 Day 1: Sleeping at 4,000

    To ensure our bodies had plenty of time to adjust, we spent Thursday night Lone Pine. We got a great night’s rest before two nights of camping.

Day 2: Sleeping at 8,000

    Friday morning we picked up our permit, took our last showers for 48 hours, and headed up Whitney Portal Road. We spent the afternoon lounging by the river and re-packing our bags while our bodies adjusted to the altitude. Whitney Portal Campground has restrooms, a store (with a restaurant!), and most importantly - is located at the head of the The Whitney Trail.  

Day 3: Making it to Trail Camp

Saturday morning we packed up our tent, sleeping pads and packs, made oatmeal, and hit the trail at 6:30 AM. We weighed our bags at the weigh station at the head of the trail, and were surprised that they weighed between 35-40 pounds. This is when I decided I need to invest in lightweight backcountry equipment. Nevertheless, we began our slow and steady journey to trail camp. We made sure to take frequent rests for water, and a 5-10 minute break every hour to grab some fuel (Clif bar chews, part of a granola bar, or some dried fruit). Time was in our favor, and we had all day to make it the 6 miles to trail camp.

I knew within the first mile as our boots were off and we were crossing Lone Pine Stream, this would be one of my favorite trails. It is full of river crossings, lakes, waterfalls, beautiful landscapes, and even a meadow with wildflowers. A hike is always better with beautiful wildflowers.

We arrived by 2:30PM at trail camp and immediately ate another snack (so much food!) After setting up camp, resting, and cooking dinner, we prepped our gear for the early morning summit. This was when we thought we would need to prepare tons of water for the next day, but were happy to discover the even more clean water!! We tested the water multiple times with my SteriPen, and were excited as the light flashed green within seconds of dipping it into the water. (Note that along the trail there is plenty of fresh water to fill your bottles, and you don't need to pack as much :) ) We filled our CamelBak's and water bottles with the snowmelt streams flowing into the lake. We brought smaller day packs, and would leave the rest of our gear at Trail Camp. 

Day 4: Summit to Sea Level

Sunday morning was go-time. The alarm on my watch went off at 3:15, giving us 45 minutes to grab some food, wake up a bit, and hit the trail. After moving around a bit and trying to eat some breakfast, Hannah started feeling a bit off. But, determined to Summit, we geared up, strapped on our headlamps, and started hiking. About 50 feet down the trail the early signs of Altitude Sickness really began to hit her. We returned to our tent, rested for another hour, drank some electrolyte infused water, and hoped her body just needed a little more time and some daylight to adjust. And we were right!

About a 1/2 mile up the trail from Trail Camp is when you begin the dreaded 99 switchbacks. We approached these the same way we had the rest of the trail, slow and steady, with lots of breaks. The switchbacks make up about half of the remaining 4 miles from Trail Camp to the Summit. The switchbacks are known for being dangerous when there is still snow/ice, so hikers must use the “chute” route up the mountain. However, by the time we were hiked in mid-June the switchbacks were safe and (mostly) clear of snow and ice.

After 2 miles of switchbacks, you’ll reach Trail Crest. This is the point where the trail crosses into Sequoia National Forest, and you’ll meet up with the end of the John Muir Trail coming up the back side of the range. This was one of my favorite parts of the hike. Hearing stories from hikers who had been gone for two weeks is all the motivation you need to hike the remaining miles to the summit!

The final push to the summit was no more challenging than the rest of the trail, besides some careful footing for a 100 yard stretch of snow-covered trail.

After reaching the summit, taking pictures, and calling our families (there is LTE up there!!!), we began the return journey. We picked up our pace a bit on the way back down, and made it back to our cars by 6PM. 

Final Thoughts

This was one of the most mentally and physically challenging experiences of my life, and thus, the most rewarding. I truly encourage everyone to go experience how beautiful our world is!

For a different perspective, and even more details on our hike, head over to hannah's blog!

Joshua Tree Climbing Weekend

Hannah Fleming

I was able to sneak out of work early after an off-site tour on a Friday afternoon, which I was praying meant I could beat some of the dreaded LA traffic as I made my way to Joshua Tree for an amazing weekend camping and climbing with friends. As I made my way onto the freeway, car packed with my camping gear, I realized I wouldn’t be so lucky.

The heavy traffic added two hours to the typical two and half hour drive, and resulted in me pulling into Black Rock Campground a little after 8:30 (checkout my previous J-Tree Camping experience here).  Even with a long day of work and driving, I was stoked for what we had planned for the weekend. We would be spending two days rock climbing outdoors for the first time!

First time eating at the Joshua Tree Saloon!

First time eating at the Joshua Tree Saloon!

Day 1: Learning the Ropes

The first day we spent learning the ropes, literally.

Our start time was 8:00 AM at Cliffhanger Guide’s office, located just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. After some quick office work, we geared up and followed our guide, Roddy, into the park. Once at our first climbing location, Roddy made sure we all felt comfortable tying knots, belaying and back-up belaying. I definitely appreciate all of these safety checks when hanging high in the air off a giant slab of rock. We did four different top rope routes in the morning, and ended the day with the local climbers at an awesome bouldering spot.

Day 2: Top Ropes and Multi-Pitch

We showed up on Day 2 with an increased confidence and ready to tackle some harder climbs. Roddy and Seth (our added guide for the second day who owns Mojave Guides) sensed this, and took us to an awesome spot where we had to scramble up boulders to access the routes.  These climbs were much more technical than the first day, and we were able to learn more climbing techniques. I used a few hand and arm jams, and even got pretty comfortable with a foot jam!

After another gourmet lunch of crackers, hummus, an array of veggies, and tofu (thanks Cliff Hanger for being so accommodating!), we were off to climb a multi-pitch!

Mike's Books was by far the most frustrating climb for me. This was the first route I felt hindered by my height and inexperience. However, with a gentle pull from Seth at the top, I was able to get past my struggling (almost crying) point, and climb up the rest of the challenging route. The view from the top was amazing, but short lived due to an oncoming storm. We concluded our day of climbing with an awesome rappel down the face of the rock we just climbed (Intersection Rock)!

In the "hot tub" to keep us safe and away from the edges.

In the "hot tub" to keep us safe and away from the edges.

PC: R.Fernandez - loved climbing up the crack!

PC: R.Fernandez - loved climbing up the crack!

Takeaways:

B.Fleming (btfleming.com) capturing all the safety checks!

B.Fleming (btfleming.com) capturing all the safety checks!

1.    Do your research when finding a guide.

We checked out a few different guide companies before deciding on Cliff Hanger. We compared prices, read reviews, and went with the one we got the “best vibe” from. Ultimately, we were VERY happy with our choice!

2.    Communicate your experience clearly.

As a group, we had pretty limited climbing experience. For the best overall trip, be honest and communicate that with your guides. They want this to be the best experience possible! 

3.    Challenge yourself and have fun!

Chances are you paid a bit of money for this experience, so make the most of it! These are long, physically draining days. But you’re doing something awesome, so push yourself and you’ll be surprised how much you’re capable of!

 

Until next time Joshua Tree!

Big Sur

Hannah Fleming

PC: B.Fleming (btfleming.com)

PC: B.Fleming (btfleming.com)

When I was six years old my family took a family vacation to California for close to two weeks. We flew into LA, drove up to see family in Paso Robles, on to Yosemite, and ended in San Francisco. While that trip was over 15 years ago, I’ve always remembered how absolutely beautiful the coast is stretching from LA to San Francisco. Since moving here I’ve been itching to make it back up, and this past weekend I finally did!

I was out of bed and piling my overnight bag, backpack, excessive amount of camera gear and food into my brother’s car before the sun was even up. From LA we drove North to Paso Robles to pick up some friends who were joining us, grabbed some local strawberries and snap peas from the farmers market, and continued on to Big Sur!

Gear drying out in the sun after the morning dew.

Gear drying out in the sun after the morning dew.

 

One of the hardest parts of camping in California, or anywhere with good weather almost year round, is finding a camp site. Big Sur is no exception. All the campgrounds were booked, so we knew going into this drive that we may not be able to find an open first-come first-serve spot.

After doing some research and relying on friend’s knowledge, we were able to find an AMAZING spot close to Plaskett creek Campground. This campground is along Jade Cove, located north of Gorda.

 

Because our site was not a designated camp site, we had to haul our gear 200 yards up a hill/cliff. Luckily we were able to lighten our load a little by only using two tents for the 5 of us (Marmot 3 Person and Marmot 2 Person).  Also, because we were only staying one night we left the majority of our clothes in the car, and made a quick trip got a quick workout in whenever we needed anything from the car.

 

 

 

After setting up camp around noon, we headed down to the beach to explore the rocky coast.  The tides were very high because of the full moon, and the beach was much smaller and much rockier than the previous year when Ben and Hannah had been there. But we still had a blast soaking our toes until they were numb in the ocean, and following trails along the coast!

For dinner we went the easy route with dehydrated meals, Veggie Burrito Bowls for me (with tortilla chips this time!), and Chicken Pad Thai for the meat eaters. Without access to any type of facilities for doing dishes, this really is the best route. After an amazing sunset view overlooking the PCH, we enjoyed some S’mores and good conversation before heading to bed.

PC: H. Labadie (HannahLabadie.com)

PC: H. Labadie (HannahLabadie.com)

Breakfast before heading back down the coast was a camp staple: Coffee and Oatmeal. BUT we actually remembered the craisins, peanut butter and cinnamon, all topped with fresh strawberries!

We stopped at Elephant Seals lookout on the way back to LA, took a quick walk down the coast, and stopped in San Luis Obisbo for an Acai Bowl.

This was an amazing 48 hours, and I can’t wait to go even further north. Now, my bags are packed and i'm off to Joshua Tree for the weekend!!

Alabama Hills

Hannah Fleming

Rocks worked as makeshift tent stakes because the ground was too hard.

Rocks worked as makeshift tent stakes because the ground was too hard.

No, the Alabama Hills are not in Alabama. Located 3 hours Northeast of LA, on the way to Death Valley, this stretch of land is owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The land was named after the C.S.S. Alabama (fun trivia fact from my brother) and is a destination for climbers, photographers, and those looking to have an amazing morning view.

There are no designated campsites or facilities, so it is all on a first come, first serve basis. Because of this, we left first thing Saturday morning to make sure we arrived early enough to set up camp and have a full day to explore!

 

 

We left LA around 5:30, pulled into Lone Pine around 8:30, and had our spot picked out by 9. We chose a spot tucked between some boulders on the West side of Movie Flat Road, the main road running through the area, later learning this is the main destination for climbers. I would recommend choosing a spot on the East side of the road. You will have an even more majestic view of the Sierras, and won’t deal with the “traffic” from the climbers.

Mobius Arch- framing Mt. Whitney

Mobius Arch- framing Mt. Whitney

After setting up camp we were itching to go find the Mobius Arch and climb around on some rocks!

If you’ve ever been to Joshua Tree, picture that landscape and feel, minus the Joshua Trees. There are some marked, well-maintained trails, and also plenty of room to explore wherever you’d like. This makes it both a good destination for a day trip with kids, or a quick weekend trip. 

 

 

 

 

But most importantly, the view.

The hills butt up against the most eastern ridge of the Sierra mountain range; creating one of the most surreal views I’ve ever experienced. This is definitely somewhere I would come and park my RV if I had one. But for those who don’t, it’s a quick 10 minute drive back into Lone Pine incase you need anything.

After finding the Mobius Arch, we wandered off the path a bit, climbed around, and ate the PB&Js we packed before heading back to the campsite to hang out before an awesome sunset. Because we didn't hike as much as usual, it was really nice to have the chance to just hang out at the site, read our books, and just enjoy being outdoors.

Checkout the rest of our camp meals over on my cookbook, and head over to my friend Hannah’s blog for even more details about the weekend!

Portland, Oregon

Hannah Fleming

Mt. Hood: taken out of the sun-roof on our way to the mountain.

Mt. Hood: taken out of the sun-roof on our way to the mountain.

This past weekend my family and I checked off another two states off our list, Oregon and Washington! We chose Oregon so we could go skiing, check out a cool new city, and the travel expenses were pretty reasonable (especially for us living on the West coast!)

View of the Columbia River from the riverwalk behind our hotel

View of the Columbia River from the riverwalk behind our hotel

To make the most of a 3-day weekend, we all flew into Portland Thursday night, picked up our rental car and headed East to Hood River. Hood River is a small, outdoorsy town, home to some bigger companies such as Dakine and Tofurky, as well as mom-and-pop stores and local breweries. We stayed along the Columbia River at the Best Western Plus, known in the area as having the best breakfast in town!

 

 

 

 

Day 1

We headed to Mt. Hood Meadows bright and early Friday morning to make the first chair up (or 6th, close enough). Something we’ve learned over the years is the importance of getting to the mountain early during spring skiing. The snow quickly softens after lunch, cutting a full day of skiing short. The mountain was beautiful, and had the snow been a bit better, would have offered a great mix of groomers and technical runs.

Friday night we grabbed dinner at Solstice Wood Fire Pizza, checked out downtown Hood River, and crossed the Hood River Bridge to White Salmon, Washington! 


Day 2

A 5:30 AM wake-up call had us eating our talk-of-the town breakfast by 6 and back on our way to the mountain by 7. The parking lot was filled with locals by the time we arrived at 8, an hour before first chair.

Nonetheless, the skiing was better the second day and the longest wait for a chair was still less than 5 minutes!

Ski selfies with Mom

Ski selfies with Mom

We ended our last run at the parking lot around 2, packed up, and headed back towards Portland. We wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to stop at “Oregon roadside attractions”, AKA AMAZING waterfalls.

As some of you may remember my obsession with fountains while travelling in Europe, my mom is equally obsessed with waterfalls. We stumbled upon Tamanawas Falls, and the touristy 611-foot tall Multnomah Falls. There were many more areas we could have stopped on our way into Portland, and I definitely want to go back and explore!

For dinner Saturday night we went to Laughing Planet Cafe, and walked a mile to the famous Voodoo Doughnut for dessert. 

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Day 3

 

Sunday was all about exploring Portland! Portland is a very walkable city, and we were easily able to go everywhere we wanted.  The day started with breakfast at Cheryl’s on 12th. They had a great menu, with options suitable for every diet.  Following breakfast we hopped between neighborhoods to check out some of our favorite stores (including REI, I have a problem!), along with Powell’s Books and the Portland Saturday Market.

 

 

In the afternoon we settled into a booth at a local bar for a few hours to catch the Portland Timbers vs Columbus Crew game. After the game we made our way to the oldest public Rose Testing Garden. However, as soon as I opened the car door, the skies opened up and it began to rain!

We took this as a sign to head to the last stop before the airport, Salt & Straw! If you travel to Portland (or LA), I HIGHLY recommend stopping and treating yourself to a waffle cone. I don’t often come across a “regular” ice cream shop that has amazing dairy free/vegan flavors, but Salt & Straw takes home the prize!

 

Overall, we had a great weekend and I can't wait to to go back to the Pacific Northwest!

Bear Mountain & Snow Summit Ski Weekend

Hannah Fleming

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Since landing back in California after Thanksgiving break with ski bags in tow, I’ve been itching to make it to the mountains! After debating making the trip to Mammoth, we decided to save some time and money and spend the weekend at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit instead. 

Leaving bright and early on a Saturday morning, our anticipation was pretty built up by the time we pulled in to Big Bear Lake just two-hours later. However, it seemed the rest of LA thought this was a great weekend to go skiing as well, and long lines were everywhere. After picking up some rentals for Hannah, waiting in line for the shuttle, and finally getting to Bear Mountain it was around 11:00. While the crowds, late start time, and overall chaotic vibe of Bear Mountain were frustrating at the time, it was a great first day of the season! We were all pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming beauty of Big Bear Lake. It provided an almost "Tahoe-esque" feel to skiing in Southern California.

After a great meal and some sleep, we arrived at Snow Summit for Day 2 feeling optimistic and ready to go with a beautiful blue bird day ahead of us. Geared up and parked by 7:30, there was plenty of time to grab some breakfast and caffeine (they serve Starbucks!) before the lifts open at 9:00 AM. We got in a great morning of groomers before the California sunshine turned the snow to mush by 2:00 PM. Finally leaving Big Bear Lake around 3:30, we made it back to the city by the time the sun was setting. 

Overall, a great first time the mountains for the season! Next time, I will only ski Snow Summit, as Bear is a bit crowded and rowdy. 

PC: btfleming.com

PC: btfleming.com

Southern California Speed Tour: LA and Orange County

Hannah Fleming

With a few visits from friends and family in the books, we have created a list of destinations we tend to take our visitors. With my brother living in Orange County, and me up in LA, we’ve figured out how to cover quite a bit of ground in a short period of time. Some of these are touristy and cliché, but that doesn’t make them any less great! 

Orange County

The spots we go in Orange County are pretty easy to cover in a day, depending on the weather and how much time you want to spend in each place. Starting in Newport Beach and ending in Laguna Beach, these stops are a great way to see a lot of what Orange County has to offer!

Newport Beach- I may be a bit biased towards Newport, but this is the beach we regularly went to when I first moved here, and one of my favorites. The beach is nice, clean, and parking is rarely an issue. There are good food options, and plenty of activities outside of working on your tan. Beach cruisers are available for rent year round, along with boogie boards, surf boards, stand up paddle-boards and kayaks in the warm(er) months.

 Laguna Beach-  Laguna is small, but if you want a quaint town to mosey along with a coffee in hand, this is a great place to do so.  There are also some great trails in the Laguna, including Top of the World and the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

Perfect Day: Breakfast at Stuft Surfer, rent beach cruisers and ride all the way down to “The Wedge”, head down the coast to Laguna for some window shopping, a meal, possibly another quick hike and catch the sunset.

 

Los Angeles

Due to the infamous traffic, LA requires you to be a little more selective when deciding what to pack in to a day.

Santa Monica- Downtown Santa Monica has tons of restaurants, shops and of course the Santa Monica Boardwalk.  While this area is a little busier, it’s a cool area to walk around and definitely do some shopping. I have yet to make it down here without stopping at either Patagonia, REI or both. 

Griffith Observatory- Seen in many movies, and has a great vantage point of the city and the Hollywood Sign. There are also tons of trails leading up to the observatory if you would rather hike than drive!

LACMA- Los Angeles County Museum of Art is another great place to spend a few hours if you’re with someone who appreciates museums. We found there were some really cool exhibits, and a few floors we definitely skipped. Make sure to check out the Tar Pits!

Rodeo Drive- Because these stores are ridiculous.

Runyon Canyon- a solid workout, great view of the city AND celebrities are often spotted here.

            Hollywood Sign- A longer hike than Runyon, but another                   great view of the city!

 

Other Day Trips

- The San Diego Zoo
-Potato Chip Rock (San Diego)
-Mt. Baldy

If you've visited out here and have any other great suggestions to add to the list, leave a comment below! If you're planning a visit, let me know and we can meet up!

PC: btfleming.com

PC: btfleming.com