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)
My trail crew recently built a bridge over a stream and it was amazing to see the risks that hikers took trying to keep their feet dry. Several people nearly wiped out on the old trail and a hiker had actually broken a leg a couple weeks earlier.
Some tips for safe stream crossings:
1. Scout the stream or river for safe crossing spots. Watch the water speed and depth and look for wide spots.
2. Face upstream while crossing. In groups you can cross in a chain with the strongest person upstream and the rest of the group in the wake of the first person. Another method is forming a triangle with three people.
3. Use a stick to form a tripod so that you always have two points of contact.
4. Wear shorts to reduce the drag.
5. Release your hip belt and sternum strap so that you can get out of your pack if you lose your balance and fall in the water.
I just went through seven of the most physically challenging days of my life in the most remote place in the lower 48, the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho. Ben, a forest service employee, and I were dropped off by plane on a short dirt landing strip at the confluence of Lower Loon Creek and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Our mission was to clear rock slides, cut trees that had fallen over the trail, and make the trail passable by human and horse. We had a rough twenty-five miles of trail to cover in just seven days; it should have been eight days, but our flight was canceled the day earlier due to a snowstorm and whiteouts. If successful, we would find a forest service rig waiting for us at Meyer's Cove, the trailhead to Camas Creek. The first ten miles of work would be on the Middle Fork trail and the last half would be on the Camas Creek trail, this is excluding a steep jaunt up Dry Gulch for a few miles.
The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is one of the most rugged places I have ever been. The trail is often hanging on the edge of a cliff or on a fire-burnt slope that is ready to slide into the river. At some of these points the trail has sections missing that required Ben and I to try to cut a solid tread into the hillside that would still hold the weight of a horse. I definitely had the thought, "don't look down," going through my head as I was putting my weight into the swing of a pulaski.
Beyond the ruggedness, the pure physical challenge of carrying seven days worth of food and gear including the multiple tools is nearly overwhelming. At one point I had all of my normal backpacking gear for an extended trip, but also had a rock bar and pulaski attached to my pack in addition to the crosscut saw in my hands.
But at the end of the day, I would wash some of the black off from the burnt areas and the plain old dirt from everywhere else and look up at my surroundings. I would see a herd of elk moving across the hillside, a group of deer coming out of the cover to feed or an amazing mix of colors as the sun set over the mountains. No matter how exhausted I was or how difficult it was to pump water, it was all worth it to me. Although I may have captured some of these scenes with photographs, I will always remember moments such as these.
I'm excited to head into the wilderness and I hope I will handle it alright for my first backpacking trip of the year. At the very least, I should have some great photos to share when I get back!
Washakie Pass in the Wind River Range
Another picture from the Wind River Range in Wyoming
Joshua Tree National Park after a little snow
Caramba Point Overlook near San Jacinto in southern California
My sleeping spot for nearly 8 months in the Yuha Desert in far, far southern California. Mt. Signal in the background is in Mexico.
Here is the rest of our camp in the Yuha Desert.
Thanks to TwoHeelDrive and Backpacker.com for the ideas.
I'm only bringing one sleeping bag, one backpack, one shelter, one sleeping pad, one stove etc... Although I have four sleeping bags, my 15 degreee synthetic is best for an all purpose bag that can take a beating. It's much the same for backpacks, my Granite Gear Latitude Vapor may be lightweight, but my Arc'Teryx Bora 80 won't leave any question about having enough room.
Anyways, isn't backpacking about carrying only what is needed and maximizing the use of that gear? I think this experience may be a turning point in my gear addiction and if anything, I might be more inclined to create, modify or fix gear to get the most out of the least. My homemade alcohol backpacking stove may be just the start!
1. Death Valley National Park, CA - I love the desert and this park has amazing contrast from Badwater Basin(lowest point in western hemisphere) all the way to Telescope peak(highest point in park at 11,000+ feet).
2. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, AK - I didn't spend much time in this park, but the isolation and vastness are overwhelming.
3. Sequoia National Park, CA - Car camping among the giants and then backpacking out of Mineral King put my size into perspective.
4. Kenai Fjords National Park, AK - Waking up and see Exit Glacier glowing in the morning sunshine for 30 days was worth the back-breaking labor I did building a part of the Harding Ice Field Trail.
5. Yellowstone National Park, WY - I have a weak spot for wildlife. I need to return to this park now that I love backpacking.
6. Shenandoah National Park, VA - Great and easy backpacking. Working there for three months gives it a little boost.
7. Great Smokey Mountains National Park, TN - Only stayed in the campgrounds, but would have loved to get into some more remote areas.
8. Denali National Park, AK - I visited in late September after season and didn't see any wildlife, but greatly enjoyed the vastness.
9. Mojave National Preserve, CA - Is there anything cooler than a joshua tree forest?
10. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO - Had a great drive through, need to get away from the people and roads though.
Others not making the list that I have visited: Badlands National Park, Redwood National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Picture Rocks Lakeshore, Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore, Grand Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Top on the list for me to make my first visit: Glacier National Park, Zion National Park, Yosemite National Park, Olympic National Park
My Backpacking and Hiking Podcast List:
1. Wildebeat - The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.
2. Trailcast - Podcasting on foot.
3. Backpacking Light - Backpacking Light Podcasts introduce you to the gear, the people, and the stories that define the best of today's wilderness experience!
4. Practical Backpacking - Watch out for the ads!
5. Anthony's Audio Journal - Hiking and Backpacking podcast of Anthony's personal journals from hikes and backpack trips in and around the Southern California area and the Eastern Sierras.
6. Hike It All - Video Podcasts
7. SouthEastern Backpackers - Watch out for the ads!
8. ARHiker Trailcast - Descriptions of trails hiked.
Pressurizing the Fuel Bottle
White gas is stored as a liquid and put under pressure in the fuel bottle. The pressure, created by the fuel pump, forces the liquid white gas through the metal tube into the stove. Pumping the fuel bottle until resistence is felt will result in adequate pressure. The number of pumps will depend upon the amount of fuel in the bottle.
If you look closely at the path of the white gas, you will notice a loop that takes the liquid fuel above the flame
when the stove is operating. This is an essential stage called heat feedback. Heet feedback means that when the stove is burning, the flame heats the white gas up to the point that it turns from liquid to gas, much like water changes to steam at water's boiling point. Here is a diagram of that change from liquid to gas.
This process occurs when the stove is already started and burning. But how do I get to that point, where the gas is hot enough that it changes from liquid to gas?
Priming the MSR Whisperlite Stove
This is where the primer cup comes into play. If the white gas is still in liquid form when it makes it through the fuel line, it will collect in the primer cup. The liquid white gas in the primer cup then should be lighted with the fuel valve on the bottle closed. Lighting this heats up the very end of the fuel line and some of the remaing fuel in the line, creating enough heat to change the liquid to gas. This heated gas rises up through the stove and starts making a slight hissing sound. You may have to experiment with how much fuel is allowed into the primer cup to do this.
Lighting the MSR Whisperlite Stove
The next step, lighting the stove, is often made much more difficult than is necessary. The easiest method is to simply wait for all the fuel in the primer cup to burn up, turn the fuel valve back on, and light the stove at the top, much like lighting any gas grill. The stove may burn with an intense blue flame right away, but sometimes the heat feedback, mentioned earlier, needs a little longer to be completely effective. The more difficult method is to turn on the fuel while there is still liquid white gas in the primer cup, but enough heat to for the hissing sound to be started. It is a matter of timing.
Advanced MSR Whisperlite Techniques
Simmering can be achieved by reducing the pressure in the fuel bottle after the stove has been started and heated up. Turn the fuel off, let the flames burn out, and twist off the fuel pump until pressure is relieved. Afterwards, simply pump the bottle fewer times than you normally would and light the stove again.
MSR Whisperlite Maintenance
The most effective and common maintenance for the MSR Whisperlite is to simply shake. At the very end of the fuel line is the shaker jet, a tiny needle that is free to move up and down. By shaking the stove, carbon buildup is removed. The shaker jet should make a slight rattling sound.
The second most effective and common maintenance for the MSR Whisperlite is cleaning the fuel line. Cleaning the fuel line consists of pulling out and pushing in the cable that is within the fuel line. This removes the carbon buildup that limits the flow of fuel. You can use different tools for this, but the one that comes with the stove
works well. If this is done regularly, it is a simple task and the cable will freely move. If not, it may take considerable effort to get it all the way back in, repeating the in and out until all carbon has been removed. Be careful not to damage the cable.
1. Watch for leaks from the fuel pump and check o-rings.
2. Do not step, lean, or reach over the stove.
3. If there is too much fuel in the primer cup, leave the stove and let some evaporate prior to lighting.
4. Always handle boiling water carfully.
5. Do not use water to put out white gas fires, smother the fire with whatever is available; dirt, aluminum wind screen, pot/pan, etc..
6. Keep food and fuel separate. Some fuel will remain in the fuel line after the stove is out and needs to be drained appropriately.
If you have mastered the workings of the MSR Whisperlite stove, I suggest you try making a pop can alcohol stove that weighs about one ounce!
What do I like about the pack? The pack itself is of the highest quality. I have no rips, tears, holes or any other signs of wear. This durability is after I have slid the pack down a scree field in Death Valley NP, used it to carry various trail tools to job sites, and regularly used it as my checked luggage on cross-country flights. The attention to detail is what separates the Arc'Teryx Bora backpack from others. The quality zippers are just one example of that.
I find the large outside pocket extremely useful for keeping anything that I may need quickly or need to keep out of the main compartment; for example, a wet rain-fly. The 'brain', top compartment, is also large enough for my 'necessities'.
The most important quality of this pack has been that it performs exceptionally when loaded with a huge load. I can easily adjust the weight how I want and can transfer it to my hips without any problems. On a trips in the southwest US and due to water weight, I have carried 70-80 lbs as if it were only 40 lbs.
What don't I like about the pack? Not much really. I never use the side zipper. The shoulder straps and hip belt are a bit stiff. It is heavy, but that is expected and needed for a pack of this size and durability. Price. All of my complaints are relatively minor in my opinion.
This pack has seen some beautiful places... Lost Lake, Chugach NF, Alaska...
Weight: 2lbs 10oz
Capacity: 3800 cubic inches
Load Capacity: 30lbs
Retail: around $190
The backpack has decent support given its weight and I have carried much more than the maximum 30 lb capacity that is specified by Granite Gear... more on this in a bit. One feature I greatly enjoy is the full length double zipper that allows me to access the entire contents of my backpack compared to the standard backpack that is top loaded.
I have had some problems with this pack in terms of durability. I have busted the hip belt buckle and have noticed some serious tears that would render the pack useless without some repair. Some of the durability issues are my own fault as I have had more than the specified weight capacity in the pack; however, in my opinion it is still unacceptable. The most serious tear is where the padding on the back connects to ripstop nylon near the top of one of the shoulder straps. You can see it in this picture...
That is a very important spot and will be a pain to repair. Since this is my first lightweight backpack, I think I have learned some valuable lessons about not abusing my gear and selecting gear that will meet the demands I have of it. Thus is my reason for purchasing an Arc'Teryx Bora 80!
Here is a picture of me with this pack in the Gila National Forest on spring break. Gila Wilderness Backpacking Trip Report, Trip Info and Gila NF Slideshow. Overall, would I buy this pack again. Probably, but I would seamseal those corners with silicone.
The SCA is taking applications for trail crews on the Salmon Challis National Forest including the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. I will be leading one of the crews! Here is the position summary from the SCA:
Help restore, protect, and enhance recent burned areas in the central Idaho mountains. SCA is looking for 10 energetic, adventurous, hard working, high spirited, individuals interested in getting their hands dirty completing a vast array of trail projects in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and surrounding areas. Project location will be the Salmon Challis National Forest. Term of service is 3 months and much of that time will be spent in various backcountry and front country settings, camping and living in a tent. Hiking and backpacking required. Plan, manage and complete trail construction projects, 80%; prepare for field hitches, 20%. A community spirit and teamwork is paramount to the success of the project.
I know that after looking at some of my trail work pictures, I can't wait to get back out there and do some work! I think it has to do with the incredible amount of effort and attention to quality that I put into these projects and the awesome results, not to mention the location of the work!
In the last few days I have been researching how to build a homemade alcohol stove out of pop cans for backpacking. I found directions for several different designs at zenstoves.net and decided to try making the pressurized type. Here are some specs and the pictures documenting the process.
2 cups time to boil: ~5 minutes
time to prime: ~10 seconds
weight: < 1 ounce
capacity: 1.5 ounces
full capacity burn time: ~8 minutes
fuel used: denatured alcohol
The two cans that will eventually become my alcohol stove.
Tool used to quickly cut the root beer cans for my alcohol stove.
The three primary pieces to my alcohol stove. The top and bottom parts with the inner wall that helps hold it together.
A completed pressurized stove that burns denatured alcohol and weighs approximately ONE OUNCE! It has an inner wall, is approximately 35 mm tall and holds a little under two ounces of alcohol. I used jb weld to attach the bolt and nut, the fiberglass wick and the top and bottom pieces of the can. I finished it off with some paint that can handle temps up to 1200.
The stove in action boiling two cups of water in a titanium pot:
The Mojave National Preserve, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Kenai Fjords National Park are three of the places I have spent much of my summer working for the Student Conservation Association. I was a coleader for two crews and a member of one of the SCA staff crews. I built a bridge, designed new trail, chopped out that trail, moved huge rocks for a rock staircase and pulled hundreds of alder roots. These experiences have taught me quite a bit about trail work and a whole lot more about myself.
My first project early this summer was as a coleader of a 6 student SCA high school crew in the Mojave National Preserve. Our work was to be concentrated on new trail construction as much of the trail had been wiped out by fire and floods. We built over one mile of new trail and fixed the tread of almost another two miles in 21 days of work. The desert heat wasn't too bad and we only had a few days where it became an issue. Here are some photos of our work showing the new construction of trail:
For our recreational trip after the work, we traveled to Sequoia National Park. It was a long drive but I felt as though we needed to get out of the desert and find some water and trees. The crew also had a great time in the mountains and climbing up to high passes. Here is a picture of the crew:
After my crew in the Mojave National Preserve, I flew back home for a day and the flew out to Roanoke, Virginia to lead my second high school crew with my girlfriend, Ashley. This crew was going to be working much more frontcountry and deal less with the harshness of the environment I had in the Mojave, but we had terrific projects with the Blue Ridge Parkway NPS unit. The first and main project was replacing an old 26 foot bridge with a new, wider, and stronger bridge. The bridge took a little over a week to finish and was a terrific project. Here are some of the pictures at different stages:
After completing the bridge, we found another project building a rock staircase on a steep section of trail. The 16 step staircase took 5 days to build but should last for years. The crew did a great job making crush around the stairs and using heavy and appropriate rocks for stairs. Here are a couple pictures:
I am very proud of this staircase and think the crew did a tremendous job and put a lot of effort into a very difficult project. After completing these two projects, Ashley and I took the crew to the Great Smokey Mountains and Shenandoah National Park for environmental education and recreation. The crew participated in fish shocking in the Smokeys, backpacked in Shenandoah, and traveled much of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a great experience for all of the members.
When I started my first two high school crews, I was unsure what I would be doing when fall came around. One opportunity that Ashley and I had was to be a member of a staff crew working at Kenai Fjords National Park. The staff crew would be made up of six crew leaders from the summer and we would be putting in 1500 feet of new trail to relocate part of the Harding Ice Field Trail. The project would require working in temperate rainforest removing hundreds of alder stumps, walking through devil's club, and swatting biting red flys. Here is a picture showing the vegetation after a chainsaw had already gone through:
We worked extremely hard and made great progress. We knocked out 1500 feet of new trail and removed hundreds of stumps with nothing but a pulaski, pick mattock and loppers. However, I greatly enjoyed the lack of responsibility of being a crew member and being allowed to concentrate on work for several hours at a time. It was also a great opportunity for me to enhance my trail building skills, specifically designing trails. Here are some pictures of completed trail:
The opportunity to work in Kenai Fjords National Park was amazing. Every morning we had a view of mountains and glaciers such as this, taken 100 yards away from the cabin we were staying.
Working in Alaska also afforded us the opportunity to see much more of the state than Kenai Fjords National Park. Ashley and I made a week long road trip through Alaska traveling to places like Denali National Park and Wrangell St. Elias National Park. These two parks were two of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to. Snow covered mountains and wide open spaces could be seen in the distance at any point along our route. Here are a few of the most beautiful photos.
Overall, I had an amazing time and traveled to awesome places this summer and fall. I definitely think I could continue doing this for a few years as I have no expenses while doing these jobs. The projects are also extremely fulfilling, especially when I had an opportunity to make an impact on a high school crew member. There isn't a much better feeling.
I'm lucky enough to get to camp out in the desert for 10 day intervals as part of my job. The challenging part is that I must camp 3 miles from the border in the Yuha Desert in southern California. My habits may vary based upon the fact that the Yuha is lightly vegitated and extremely windy.
What I have found is that the best way to sleep in the desert in the wind is without a tent. I just lay right down on a tarp and crawl into my bag. I have never had a problem with any type of animal. Sometimes I may opt for a bivy if it is cold and windy.
For clothes, I just make sure I have pants that will not get snagged by the desert flora. Lightweight ripstop nylon works great. I am a little lazy when it comes to shirts and often end up in a cotton tshirt. I do recommend a long sleeve shirt though.
My footwear has recently been limited to my keen sandles. I have strong ankles and have worn them for almost every backpack trip this past year in the southwest; the exception being the grand canyon due to the cold(snow). I have no problem with sand and sandles; although when I went hiking in the Algodones Dunes Wilderness, I went barefoot. The only scorpion sting there was from my friend sitting on one.
Again, this may vary for you depending upon which desert.
Climbing at Joshua Tree National Park: Being relatively new to climbing, we spent the first day just toproping with friends on some easier routes and did some scrambling on boulders later in the trip. Here are a few pictures of Ashley, Matt and Courtney from the PCT crew, Steve our guide friend and me:
Backpacking at Joshua Tree National Park: The second day, Matt, Ashley and I made our way to Queen Mountain from the Pine City Trailhead.
The first challenge we had was finding the Old Queen Valley Historic Road trail which was more of a straight line between plants that was visible in certain spots. It definately was NOT a trail. Eventually we got far enough west that we found a trail up a wash to Queen Mountain. The first part of this trail was easy, just walking in a wash, but the second part was a difficult scramble up with heavy packs. All three of us had 2+ gallons of water that adding 15-20lbs to our pack weight. It was well worth the climb since we saw a big horn sheep on the way up, atleast Ashley and I did; Matt was further up the trail and his view was blocked by a boulder.
That night we went to sleep at our usual 7 pm outdoor bedtime.
The next day we woke up to a one inch mixture of snow and hail with the entire mountain top enveloped in clouds. For some reason, the desert is absolutely beautiful when it is covered with snow.
We spent the entirety of that day scrambling on boulders looking for some crash pads that someone told us were stashed in a hidden cave. Unfortunately, we were looking for treasure without a treasure map, but we enjoyed our time and everyone survived. It was great weather for being active and jumping on and off of boulders all day, but a bit chilly when we sat around to enjoy the view.
The last morning we woke up to frozen water bottles and a beautiful and sunny day. We hadn't planned on staying long since Matt and the PCT crew were heading for the Cleveland National Forest that afternoon so we began our hike out to the car early on. The final day was great and was evidence of the temperature variation in the desert as I finished the morning hike in shorts and a tshirt.
Overall, Joshua Tree National Park is a fabulous place for backpacking and climbing. Ashley and I can't wait to load up on some climbing gear and find our way back to some great walls.
San Jacinto Peak, where we went on the last backpacking trip.
Our car is down there somewhere!
San Bernardino National Forest and the San Jacinto State Park Wilderness. We
started our journey from Humber Park near Idyllwild, CA at one in the afternoon
on Thursday. I think we hiked approximately 7 miles that first day to Caramba
Point Overlook in the national forest. The next day we hiked to the Round Valley
designated camping area in the state park and stayed at the Lotus Camp, which
was an awesome campsite with great views from the boulders. On our third day
we hiked up to San Jacinto Peak and finished off the trip with a 16 mile hike.
I thought this was a great route as we covered almost 30 miles with a bunch of
elevation change. I also tried something completely new on this trip as I hiked
in my Keen sandals and left my boots in the trunk of my car. It really is amazing
how much I have adjusted to the temperatures of the Yuha; what I normally wear
for 0 degrees, I now have to wear for 40-50! Here are some of the pictures I
took... More here.
San Jacinto Peak
Conclusions: Lack of hygiene, specifically handwashing and cleaning of cookware, should be recognized as a significant contributor to wilderness gastrointestinal illness. Hikers should routinely disinfect water and avoid untreated surface water.
I am kind of obsessive about using hand sanitizer while backpacking and I guess it is definately worth it as I have never been sick. I'm also careful about not reaching my hand into bag of trail food if I can pour it out instead when I'm on a group trip. Little things probably ake the difference.