Sedona Backpacking

Much of the Coconino National Forest is off limits to camping around Sedona, however there are a few places I would suggest if you were up for a good hike and wanted some beautiful scenery and maybe some water to get away from the heat.

1. Munds Mountain - Access from Schnebly Hill Road. Schnebly Hill Trail to Munds Mountain Trail. (Solitude) (No Water) (Sunrise and Sunset)

2. West Fork Trail - Access from 89A or from top of canyon(need forest map). Need to be over six miles up from Oak Creek. Bring a dry bag and water shoes. (Busy) (Water) (Canyon)

3. West Clear Creek - Access from 'Bullpen' off of Forest Road 618 southwest of Sedona about 20 miles. Other drop in points for those with good navigation and sleuthing skills on the internet. (Solitude) (Water) (Canyon)

4. Secret Canyon Trail - Access from Vultee Arch road. Long canyon into the red rock of Sedona. (Solitude) (Canyon)

Bear Mountain Trail

Bear Mountain Trail

Yesterday, I went hiking on the Bear Mountain Trail just northwest of Sedona a few miles. It was a great five mile hike that had some fun rocks to climb over and amazing views of the Sedona area. The hike is somewhat challenging; 1200 ft in 2.5 miles to the top, a 5 mile round trip. I did the hike in Chacos but I wouldn't suggest that for others. This would be a difficult hike in the summer as the trail is in full sun with little to no shade.

You can see more photos in my Bear Mountain Trail album.

Bear Mountain Trail

Bear Mountain Trail

Exped Downmat 7 Pump Gear Review

I recently purchased an Exped Downmat to replace my Thermarest Prolite 3 sleeping pad after seeing one that a friend had been using. I have yet to use the Exped Downmat 7 Pump, but my initial impressions are that it is a great upgrade. I will be putting it through a rigorous test this year and I will be sure to update this review. For reference I also own a Thermarest Z-rest and will likely spend nearly 200 days in 2010 on a sleeping pad at night.

Initial Impressions

The Exped Downmat 7 is heavier and less compact than my Thermarest Prolite 3 as is to be expected. However, given the obvious comfort and warmth improvement it is lighter and more compact than I was expecting. After inflating the pad (more on this later), the warmth and comfort improvement were as expected. I sleep on my side and never had any problem with my hip or shoulder hitting the ground. In a matter of minutes I could feel the wonderful insulation that the down provides keeping me warm. Overall my expectations for warmth and comfort were met and the tradeoff between that and weight/size is well in favor of the Exped Downmat.

Now on to the pump. Unlike other inflatable pads, you can not simply blow this pad up in a few breaths because there is much more air needed and the down can not hold up the moisture. With this pad there is a built in pump that works simply enough. It took me a couple minutes to inflate the pad, but it was not difficult to do and the valves seem to work well. This is certainly something to be aware of when thinking about this pad, but I think a couple minutes are worth it.

Durability wise it seems to be similar to any other inflatable pad.

I would recommend this pad to anyone else that camps and sleeps on the ground as often as I do and needs the increased warmth and comfort without the corresponding increase in weight and size found in other luxury sleeping pads.

Other Reviews

Exped Downmat 7 Short - blog review
Exped Downmat 9 (2006) - backpackgeartest review

SCA Project Leader - Hitch Log

Day 1 - Pack out

Started at 8 loading up food, gear, and tools. Made a couple maps of Waterfall Trail with ArcGIS. In the truck on the way to the trailhead by 11. Pack feels good about 45 lbs. Only enough food until Friday and legs are feeling fresh. Hiked 7 miles into Welcome Lake. Mosquitoes were terrible and I put on my rain gear for the evening.

Day 2 - Moving

Started the day early, mosquitoes never quit though. Hiking up and over the pass at 9000 ft. It was beautiful from the top with a great view. Some awesome lakes that would be nice to camp near, but were too far from the work. Continued hiking down Waterfall Trail. Went from green at the lakes to no living trees in under a mile. Was tough to find a camp since we were expecting significant thunderstorms with 60 mph wind gusts. Finally decided to stop at a spot with some large rock outcroppings and a few less tress near 6800 ft. Cut down about 10 trees that were leaning over the campsite. Definitely not a site that anyone but a trail worker would pick right now. It did have a great waterfall nearby though.

Day 3 - Work Begins

The group split up for the day. Three went up to clear some trees, fix a blowout and clean waterbars. The rest worked on a turnpike in a muddy section to raise the trail out of the water. Major storm blew in around noon and got pelted by half inch hail for 30 minutes and then just got rained on. Climbed into a scree field to get out of the trees while the wind picked up.

Day 4 - Resupply

Finished up on the turnpike and the trail above camp. Lots of work left but we had several miles below camp to make passable. Bill showed up with the mules and some food and tools we had left him at the trailhead. I ate much better from this point on. In the afternoon everyone worked down from camp clearing some dead lodgepole and doug fir that were on the trail. Trees were scary here with little wood supporting them since the stumps usually burn out. Left a couple little trees that I didn't want to stand anywhere near. Rained all night long.

Day 5 - Middle Fork

Matt and I hiked all the way down to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. I'm not sure what the actual mileage was for the day, but based on the sign at the river it was 18 miles... My guess would be about 12 with roughly 4000 ft of elevation change from camp to the river. Talked to some rafters that had stopped for a lunch break. They offered us beer. Cleared 10 trees on the way back up. Started raining 30 minutes from camp. The rest of the group hiked up the south fork of Waterfall Creek to clear to an outfitter camp. They cut 55 trees today.

Day 6 - Ponderosa Pine

Matt and I went back down towards the Middle Fork(not all the way) to clear some big Ponderosa Pines that had fallen over the trail. Some were burnt and dead, others just fell over. The first ponderosa took all morning and a little of the afternoon. Mid 20 inch diameter but was suspended off the ground and had too much bind to cut from the top and get a wedge in. It took an hour for each of the three cuts. I was exhausted and felt like I had been lifting weights all morning. Finished the day with a few miles more of hiking and a couple more small trees.

Dat 7 - Ponderosa Pine Cont.

Cut a few big ponderosa pines. Went smoothly and the chunks fell right out. Bigger trees than yesterday, but less bind and better positioning. One tree was probably 300 years old and had just tipped over. Cleared a few more trees and Waterfall trail was clear from the crags to the middle fork.

Day 8 - Hike Out

Bill showed up at camp in the morning and we loaded up the mules. Our goal was Welcome Lake, a seven mile hike with a little over 2000 ft elevation to climb. Legs not so fresh and the weather was hot, dry, and sunny. Sat up on the pass at 9000 ft for almost an hour enjoying the view. The storms created a little more work on the way down to Welcome Lake as we cleaned up some rock slides.

Day 9 - Hike Out

Started the morning early to avoid the heat. Our goal was Bighorn Crags Trailhead, seven miles away. Packs were a little heavier today as Bill dropped some gear and food off last night. The right knee started hurting right away in the morning... probably from kicking rocks and some strenuous hiking. Most like a strain or mild sprain of the mcl. Still made it out to the trailhead in three hours.

Summary: A lot of hiking for not so much work. Got the trail cleared for the hunting season though. Will be good to let the legs rest for a few more days. Next hitch we might be flown in!

SCA Work Locations on Salmon Challis National Forest

Here are the SPOT check-in locations from the SCA Salmon Challis Americorps Forest Training Center. They are a rough approximation of where the members have worked...

Wilderness First Responder

I just finished getting my Wilderness First Responder refreshed. I am now good until 2011. All it took was taking a 16 hour Wilderness First Aid course put on in Challis, ID by Aerie Medicine. The WFA course is a lot less exciting than a WFR but it saves a good amount of time and still covers the basics. However it is far superior to the standard American Heart CPR or Red Cross first aid courses.

Training Season is Over

Training for the 2009 season is just about done. Next week I will be taking a group of five out on lower Yellowjacket Trail in the Frank Church Wilderness. We will probably be clearing downed trees and rock/mud slides since the area burnt recently. It will be a nice opportunity to get away from the office for more than a couple days. I will be sure to post some pictures of some huge ponderosa pines we will inevitably clear with crosscuts!

SCA Idaho Workskills 2009

I just finished up teaching SCA workskills along with three other instructors for the last week. I taught the tread and drainage station each day. We built waterbars(rock and timber), constructed reverse grade dips, cleared slough and reshaped backslopes. It was fun although as an instructor I would have liked a project that built on the previous days work rather than starting fresh each day. Here are some of the pictures of the SCA members hard at work. You can see more in my SCA Trail Workskills photo album.

Is Expensive Photography Equipment Necessary

Does it really matter what camera or lens is used for a picture? Yes!

My new lens, a 24-70 2.8 allows me to take pictures that a kit lens could not produce. I can use my camera in lower light situations and the depth of field allows me to have more artistic control over the photo.

My current camera body is limited by noise as I try to use higher ISO settings to capture movement or take photos in low light. ISO 800 is simply to noisy to be effective in most situations. As a result, the shutter speed is slower and images often are less sharp or worse. Not to mention the obvious image comparisons between an XSI and a 5D Mark II.

I am not saying that a photographer cannot take great pictures with a point and shoot. What I am saying is that high quality equipment allows a photographer to take great pictures in more situations and have some great pictures turn out amazing.