Utah Canyons 2001 Trip

Trip report for Southern Utah – Early May, 2001

The beauty of Southern Utah is staggering. Deep canyons, fantastic rock formations, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and Ansazi ruins. Frogs singing by desert springs under a full moon, their calls of love echoing up and down the canyon like strange Gregorian chants. There is everything a soul seeking solitude and beauty in the wilderness could desire. Enough of superlatives. The following pictures will do much more than my prose.

Mark taking in a quintessential Utah Canyon.

A wider but no less impressive canyon.

We climbed up to a narrow ledge to check out a perfect square kiva. If you look closely you can just see me in front of the kiva. High up on this ledge I got a brief sense of what it might be like to live like the Anasazi.

A beautiful two level ruin. Actually it’s three levels if you count the sunken round kiva in the foreground. The exposed timbers and twigs are part of the kiva’s roof.


Removal of any artifacts is strictly forbidden. Some visitors have collected pottery fragments and other arifacts and placed them near the ruins for all to see. This is a nice example of the black and white geometric patterned Anasazi pottery.

Mark and Peter negotiating a slot.

This is one of hundreds of fantastic rock formations we saw during the trip.

Day 1 at 9:00 AM. My usual luck with weather. Not what one expects in Southern Utah in May.

Day 1 at 2:00 PM. Mark and Peter are waiting out a squall of snow and sleet under an overhang. We are discussing whether to hike 2 miles back to the car for the tent. We finally decided not to get the tent but to blame me if the tarp is not sufficient shelter.

Alan and Peter warming up with a bit of hot chocolate and a splash of spirits. We never did use the tarp and slept out in the open every night of the trip.

Our water supply: a lush, spring-fed desert oasis. It was near here that we camped and listened to the frogs singing under a full moon.

Adventure Alan getting a close look at particularly nice pictograph. This one is of a breech birth.

Possibly my favorite ruins of the trip. A 100% intact round kiva and dwelling.

A neat slickrock staircase. Part of our route out of the canyon.

Mark and Peter heading down a slickrock route into another canyon.

Getting deeper into the canyon on a steep sandstone face.

Peter at the bottom of a deep slickrock basin.

The pool below an enormous pouroff, fed from the basin in the photo above.

Further down canyon. A natural arch, hoodoos and spires.

Ruins in a seldom visited side canyon.

Mid day: Peter next to a deep, spring-fed slickrock pool.

A familiar sight of desert blooms below the towering rock of the canyon walls.

Mark settling in for some relaxation after a long hot hike up the dusty canyon.

Peter waking up. I’ve just told him that coffee is ready. Not a bad view to start your day with.

Packing up the last morning. The day’s water is in the 2 Platys in the foreground. The dark amorphous shape at my feet is a GoLite Breeze pack (yet to be stuffed).

Mark tackling a bit of class 3 on his way to the canyon rim.

The intrepid crew showing a bit of skin in the parking lot after the trip. Mark and I are demonstrating impressive farmer tans.


Detailed Trip Report Southern Utah

First a pitch for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (www.suwa.org). They are an effective and critically important land preservation group. They do a lot of important fieldwork to provide data for the ongoing battle with the BLM over wilderness status for Southern Utah lands. They were critically important in the work that paved the way for Clinton to create the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (legislation which our current president and his Interior Secretary appear to be trying to weaken). The SUWA is an active and important member of the Utah Wilderness Coalition – the group that has authored the Utah Wilderness Bill (HB 1500) that has for years been doing battle in the Congress. Please support this valuable organization.

Mark and Peter, my hiking partners, are strong athletes. Peter runs a 2:48 marathon and does 100 mile self-support mountain bike trips in the Nevada desert. Mark is an ex-college runner who can still do a sub-40-minute 10K. Against this vigor I had to reduce my pack weight down, down, down if I was going to have any hope of keeping up.

This was the first time in many years that I’ve hiked with a group of in-shape, experienced and independent hikers. I can’t think of better hiking partners than Mark and Peter. Covering ground was never an issue. Most of the time we went at a moderate two mile per hour pace and were good tourists. It’s hard to move too fast with everything there is to see in the Southern Utah canyons. Yet we had the capacity to move very fast if the situation required. Group camp duties were done without any difficulty. People just figured out what needed to be done and did it. If I cooked coffee and oatmeal, the pots were whisked away and returned clean. Water was already filtered and a snack ready for the day hiker returning hot, dry and hungry late in the day.

Mark was fairly convinced by my relentless pitching of the ultralight approach. My guess is that his base pack weight was in the 14 to 16 pound range. He bought a 3+ pound conventional pack and a Thermarest ultralight pad for the trip. I lent him an Arroyo bag and a Cirrus vest. This combined with sharing my tarp, light stove and cookware completed his weight savings. Mark was delighted with the freedom and mobility of his light pack and tackled all difficult terrain without hauling his pack up after him. (So did Peter but that’s another issue.)

Peter benefited from light the tarp and cooking stuff. He was delighted with the lightest pack he’d ever carried. But in my terms Peter still carried a weighty load. Everything Peter brought was heavy. Winter Polarguard bag, deluxe Thermarest, 6 pound backpack, a full set of pile pants and jacket, Polarguard booties, 3 quart Tupperware container for his dinner, etc. Peter was completely prepared for a winter outing. Given the weather the first day, he had a point. But Peter is such a strong hiker, I don’t think his heavy pack even fazed him. It would take a lot more than that to make a dent in Peter’s stride.

Mark and I compromised on the trip itinerary. I wanted to do a longer shuttle trip of 7-8 days. Mark didn’t want to be out that long. He wanted to break the trip into two parts and have a night in a motel with a hot meal and shower. The final agreement was to do the trip in two 4 day, 3 night sub-trips as Mark wanted, with a night in a motel in between. But that the second sub-trip would be would have some more challenging routes to entertain me. This proved an excellent compromise. I enjoyed reduced weight of the two part trip and the ability to get accurate weather reports to fine tune gear selections. Mark really enjoyed the more challenging routes on the second sub-trip.

As usual we got a bit of cold weather for the trip start. At 9 AM of day 1 there was still snow on the ground. At 2 PM on the same day we were sheltered under an overhang in 30 degree weather waiting for a squall of snow and sleet to pass. We were prepared for the weather, but it wasn’t what we expected for early May in Southern Utah. Each day of the trip got warmer until we had 80 to 90 degree highs at the end of the trip. The warmer days had precipitous temperature drops of 50+ degrees at night. Going from 85 in the late afternoon to near freezing by dawn.

Water: I don’t think I carried much more than 3 liters of water at any time. This is light in desert terms. It was a damp spring and the longest we went between water sources was around 6 to 7 miles. This can be a bit of time in canyon hiking terms, but still not bad. We camped near a water source each night and this is where I filtered all my water for the next 24 hours. I purified about 6 to 9 liters at one time using my SWA gravity filter. The 3 liter Zip Hoser for dirty reservoir is a good combination with 2+ liter Platys for clean water. If I quickly switched a full 2+ Platy out for an empty one, I maintained the prime on the gravity system. Just ladled more water into the Zip Hoser and I was off and going towards the next Platy of purified water. I then chained on my 1 liter Platy and was done. This usually left me with around 4.5 liters of water for the morning. I drank about 2 liters before hiking and consumed the other 2.5 liters between camps. Only one time did I filter water mid-day before camp.


Utah Equipment List

1.36 Sleeping Qty Oz Lbs
2.08 Shelter (for three) 1 12.0 0.75 Pat. essenshell pullover
1.03 Pack 1 8.2 0.51 Cirrus vest
0.88 Cooking & Water 1 4.8 0.30 Lt wt Polypro bottoms
1.61 Essentials 1 8.1 0.51 Pwrdry zip T MTS (REI)
2.65 Clothes 1 2.8 0.18 Heavy Poly Balaclava
9.60 Basic Pack Weight 1 1.3 0.08 Lt. poly gloves
1 2.7 0.17 Windbloc gloves
3.83 Food & Food storage* 1 2.5 0.16 Trail running socks (spare)
1.48 Camera and Binocs 2.65
5.00 Water 1 14.0 0.88 Golite Breeze
1 1.0 0.06 Grn Sil Nylon clothes stuff
19.9 Total Pack weight 1 1.4 0.09 Golite sleep bag stuff
4.6 Items worn or carried 1.03
24.5 Total FSO
1 1.7 0.11 OR bug headnet
Qty Oz Lbs 1 20.8 1.30 10×10 silnylon tarp
1 2.0 0.13 Maps & stuff in zip loc 1 0.7 0.04 Tyvek stuff for tarp
1 1.2 0.08 Compass, basic 1 4.5 0.28 Ti stakes
1 2.0 0.13 Prescript glasses w. case 1 5.5 0.34 Emerg blanket ground sheet
1 6.3 0.39 Boo boo Kit 2.08
1 1.5 0.09 Sunscreen & chap stick
1 1.0 0.06 Lighter b’candle matches 1 17.0 1.06 RAB Top Bag
2 0.5 0.06 Pocket brights blu & wht 1 4.8 0.30 Foam pad 20×45
1 1.1 0.07 H2O purify tablets 1.36
1 2.0 0.13 Jungle juice & Bio Soap
1 1.0 0.06 Toilet Paper 3.80 Personal Food
1 2.7 0.17 Toiletries, dental 1 0.5 0.03 Mesh food stuff sack
1 1.0 0.06 Duct Tape 1 0.0 0.00 30′ fishing line (hang food)
1 0.9 0.06 Bandana 3.83
1 10.9 0.68 Olympus & 3 rolls Film
1 12.7 0.79 Nikon compact binoculars
1 2.0 0.13 Notebook and Pencil 1 0.53 SWA gravity filter system
Licenses & Permits 2 1.2 0.15 2+ liter platypus
Wallet and Money 1 1.0 0.06 1 liter platy to make milk
1.61 1 1.9 0.12 Evernew Ti Cup (13 oz cap)
1 0.35 0.02 plastic spoons
Qty Oz Lbs 0.88
1 29.0 1.81 Merril Terrator trail runners
1 2.5 0.16 Trail running socks Group Equipment carried by others
2 9.0 1.13 Trekking poles 1 4.5 0.28 SnowPeak Stove w case
1 12.8 0.80 REI Convert. Travel Pants 1 12.9 0.81 8 oz MSR fuel
1 6.4 0.40 Railriders ecomesh shirt L 1 1.7 0.11 Wind Screen
1 2.0 0.13 Sun Hat 1 6.1 0.38 Evernew 1.9 pot
Watch 1 2.3 0.14 Evernew 1.9 lid
Pocket bright white 1 4.3 0.27 Evernew 1.3 pot
1 1.0 0.06 Whistle w lanyard 1 1.6 0.10 Evernew 1.3 lid
1 6 0.38 30′ 5mm cord to haul packs
1 0.8 0.05 SA Classic Knife
1 1.0 0.06 Prescription Raybans 1.00 * My share of group food
4.59   Carrried by others

Utah Food List

Utah food list for Alan
# days No. people 1
(if blank, No. days 3
Qty Oz tot d=3) oz/pers/d Cal/oz Total Cal Lb total
M&M’s 8.00 2.67 146 1168 0.50
Pemmican Bars 3.00 11.25 3.75 115 1294 0.70
Balance Bars 3.00 5.25 1.75 114 599 0.33
Trader Joe’s Confetti
16.00 5.33 150 2400 1.00
Inst. Oatmeal Maple &
3.00 4.53 1.51 106 480 0.28
Swiss Miss Coca &
6.00 7.50 2.50 125 938 0.47
Safeway Woven Wheats 4.50 1.50 128 576 0.28 3.56
Group Food
Richmoor beef strog w
0.33 3.92 1 3.92 122 478 0.24
Milkman Milk 1.00 3.40 1.13 125 425 0.21
Coffee 2.00 0 0.13
MH Rice w. Chicken 0.33 4.23 1 4.23 122 516 0.26
Jalpenos for chili mac
MH Chili Mac 0.67 3.22 1 3.22 125 402 0.20 1.05
Totals 73.80 3092 9276 4.61
Lb per day 1.54
Calories/day 3092
Calories/oz 126
Actual Fuel consumption
Fuel Cups Liters
Oatmeal (7 packs + .5 cup) 4.40 1.00 40 deg
Coffee 4.40 1.00 40 deg
Dinner 4.40 1.00 70 deg
Tea/HC 4.40 1.00 70 deg
Day tot. 17.60 4.00
Trip segment (3 nights)
(still enough fuel for at least one meal)


Equipment Mini-Reviews

GoLite Breeze Pack, A:
Still a winner. Carried everything I needed including water without a moment’s discomfort. I was concerned before the trip that the Pack would not be up to the extra weight of carrying the large amounts of water required for desert travel from spring to spring. First, it was a fairly wet year and I didn’t carry much more than 5 pounds of water at any time. Second, the Pack just carries beautifully. No soreness anywhere. I didn’t have much difficulty with perspiration between the pack and my back either. The desert is so dry the perspiration evaporated almost as fast as I could sweat.

Rab Top Bag, A:
Kept me warm and comfortable even on the nights in the 30’s. This was sleeping out with a moderate breeze through camp. The perfect desert bag.

Oware 10×10 silnylon tarp, A:
We never used the tarp even though it snowed the first day and rained a bit the second day. It sill gets an A for inexpensive weight reduction for a group of three hikers. The other two people on the trip were not ultralighters. In an effort to reduce group weight I purchased the tarp from Oware. This with the Leki trekking poles provided shelter for the group at around 12 oz. per person, saving each of us around 2 to 3 pounds over a tent.

SnowPeak Giga stove, Evernew Titanium Cookset, A:
Started first time, every time. Very fuel efficient. We boiled over 12 Liters of water, half in 40 degree temps and half in 70 degree temps, at around 5,000 feet altitude. We had fuel left over in our 8 oz. canister. I think we would have been near the sea level, 70 degree temp, capacity of 15 liters for the canister. Not bad for in the field. Titanium cookset was great. Good fuel performance, easy to use lids and handles, easy to clean inner coating. Near perfect. After the trip, I cleaned a bit of desert scale out of one pot with a paper towel soaked in vinegar.

Leki Titanium trekking poles, B-:
I took these mostly as supports for the tarp. They proved fairly useful hiking as well. More useful than I expected.

SWA Gravity Filter System, C-:
The system worked fine for about 4 days. Around day 5 the filter’s flow rate was cut in half. I suspect algae-laden spring water. The filter continued to work at half-performance for the rest of the trip. The system never failed and I didn’t need to resort to iodine for water treatment. I’m still trying to figure out what happened. But… I would think twice about taking this setup in the desert again.

Nikon compact 9×25 binoculars, A:
Great for route finding in canyons. Perfect for looking at those high and inaccessible ruins. Nice for looking at Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons.

Merril Terrator Trail Runners, A-:
A solid shoe. Great grip on slickrock. Durable sole. The only shoes I’ve used in 10 years that I haven’t blistered in. I’ve already worn out my first pair and am working on my second. Desert sand is amazing stuff. I believe it could penetrate steel. After a 16 mile day hike I discovered 1/8 inch of sand between my socks and my feet!

What I envied the non-ultralighters for having:

It was hot and my feet warm and damp. But since I brought no extra footwear, I walked around camp in my trail runners. Mark and Peter’s feet were nice and cool in their Tevas. To compensate, I did go barefoot around camp some of the time. The desert is a spiky place and I spent a fair amount of time picking pointy objects from my feet. Next desert trip I’m going to do some research into the lightest sandals I can get for camp use. A light covered shoe wouldn’t do, as what you want most is cool and ventilation.

Special Snacks:
Smoked oysters on crackers and a nip of something at dinnertime. Actually, envy was not required here since Mark had brought these as a treat for all of us. I could see bringing a few nips and small can of oysters for each night on my next trip. A wonderful evening routine. Great for esprit de corps.


Extended Trip Photos









If you look closely, you can just make Peter out on the lip of this huge pouroff.








Peter gets technical with his huge pack.




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