A Little Trip Around Northern Arizona

It’s been a weird year, right? I think everyone’s plans have been thrown askew this year, and my normal yearly backpacking trip was no different. This year I was ready to do a solo backpacking trip but events conspired against me and it just wasn’t going to work. I still felt like I need some time outdoors in the woods, so I decided to take off on a little car camping trip around Northern Az and just find a few cool things to do!

I headed out on Monday, up towards Flagstaff. I left Phoenix around 9am and made pretty good time out towards Mormon Lake about 20 miles Southish of Flagstaff. I was able to get a really nice campsite at the Dairy Spring Campground, it always helps to show up early afternoon on a Monday! I planned on being there a few days so I set up my big tent to have a nice basecamp, it was great to have all that room and be able to stand up inside the tent but it’s a lot more work to put up!

Dairy Springs Campground

After I got my camp set up I headed out for a quick mountain bike ride, and man did the altitude kick my ass. The hills took it out of me and I just couldn’t get into a good rhythm. Really wasn’t enjoying myself, except for the excellent temps, so I headed back to camp. Still glad I went on this ride, I feel like it jump started my acclimation.

After getting back to camp I just chilled out the rest of the evening and enjoyed being outdoors. I was able to have a fire, and relax next to it enjoying a few beers. Dinner was a Mountain House Beef Stroganoff, one of my favorites and something nice and warm in the stomach because it got cold that night!

The next morning, after not the best night of sleep I’ve had in a tent, I woke up and lazed around camp for a bit while fixing breakfast. The goal for the day was to hike Mt Humphreys, the tallest peak in Az, and I want to get going at decent time. I grabbed my gear and headed towards the mountain!

Oatmeal, my favorite camping breakfast!

The trailhead is at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area base. There were a decent amount of cars in the parking lot, lots of people getting in one of a few cool hikes around there. You see some people for the first mile or so, and after that it’s a lot of walking alone in the woods, which was pretty peaceful.

Arizona Snowbowl

My favorite part begins once you go above treeline and get to the saddle between the peaks. From there you really feel like you’re up in the mountains as you climb the ridge towards the summit. If you do this hike always remember that the mountain tries to fool you with a few false summits. After a bit of hanging out and taking some pics on top it’s time to head down. Once your back below treeline the hike starts to kind of wear on and on and I’m usually ready to just be back to the truck! Overall it’s a cool hike that puts you at the highest point in AZ with some great views.

Humphreys Peak Summit Ridge
Humphreys Peak Summit

After my hike I headed back out to the campsite for another evening of relaxing by my fire and a few beers. This night it felt really cold, I’m willing to admit that I’ve become a wimp to the cold after 20 years in Phoenix, but it was a cold night all around, even wrapped up in the sleeping bag.

The next morning I decided to move on to places more warm. I’d never seen Horseshoe Bend and wanted to look into a little paddling on the Colorado River.

It was about a 2.5 hour drive over to Horseshoe Bend, and while it’s kind of touristy and more of a stroll over to the edge of the canyon, it is a really cool and beautiful thing to see. I took some pics and looked around, at one point I could see kayakers on the river below, that really cemented my desire to see the Bend from the river as well! So, after taking in the sights I got back in the truck and headed over to Lee’s Ferry about an hour away.

Horseshoe Bend

Lee’s Ferry is in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and very near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, all places with some really cool stuff! It is also the spot where rafting trips start down the Colorado, if you pass Lee’s Ferry you’re committed at least a 2 week river trip and need a hard to get permit.

Pretty nice campground there, no problem getting a spot around 3pm, but it did fill up as the evening went on. Great views of the surrounding cliffs as the sun set. The coolest campsites seemed to be at the far low end, where they looked over the Colorado River.

Lee’s Ferry Campground

After getting set up I reserved my spot to get hauled up the river and rented a kayak from Kayak the Colorado for the next day. Got to hang out on the small beach area next to the river for a while, it was an overall beautiful night outdoors!

Colorado River – Beach

My kayak reservation the next day wasn’t until 12:30, so I took my time at camp in the morning, reorganized things in the truck and slowly packed up. Still having time to kill, I took a little drive around the general vicinity, lots of really cool cliffs and rock formations, and finally headed towards the put in area.

The paddle down the river was super cool, it’s completely flat water, you can pretty much just float if you’d like. I started off about 10 miles up river from Lee’s Ferry, there’s some really cool ancient petroglyphs to see (unfortunately some jerk named Trent felt the need to add his name).

I got to see Horseshoe Bend from the top and the river and the whole paddle was awesome, with the canyon walls soaring right out of the water to hundreds of feet above you! Took one off river hike up a canyon, it had some really cool rock formations but the walking in the deep soft sand was not my favorite.

It took me about 3.5 hours to do the paddle, I’d love to go all the way to the dam and paddle back, there are a few spots that are designated campsites, it would be awesome to spend a night on the river!

After returning my kayak it was time to head home to Phoenix, it was a great time overall and I got to see somethings I never had, it wasn’t the trip I thought I’d have this summer, but this year you take what you can get!

Photo of the Week 10/26/20

Marble Canyon, Colorado River

Cruising Around Northern Arizona – The Video

Here’s a quick little video of me cruising around seeing some outdoor sights in Northern Arizona!

Photo of the Week 10/12/20

Marble Canyon, Colorado River

Grand Canyon Day Hike

The past 2 summers I’ve gotten to backpack the Grand Canyon, it’s been a nice, relaxing vacation kind of trip. We’ve hiked down to the Bright Angel Campground, spent 2 nights at the bottom, hiked up to Indian Garden and spent a night there and then hiked out. A nice easy way to go, but I have wanted to just bust it out in a day for a while, just to do it!

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions the restaurant I work at was closed for almost 2 months. There was work to do, to come out better than before and be ready to open with new cleanliness procedures and such, but there was also a lot of free time. Outdoor exercise was allowed under Arizona’s stay at home order and I took advantage of that. Hiking, biking, and running became my major activities, I had a great time, saw some cool things and came out of it pretty fit. This seemed like a perfect time to try a Grand Canyon in a day hike.

I began not so patiently waiting for Grand Canyon National Park to re-open, obsessively checking their website and twitter account. Once they opened, I was hoping the shuttles would be running, but that hadn’t happened yet and it was getting too far into the summer to wait much longer. My original plan was to go down the South Kaibab trail and up Bright Angel. You can’t park at the S Kaibab trailhead, and I really didn’t want to walk it. I decided I would see if I could get a Lyft in the morning out to the trail-head or just hike Bright Angel both ways.

I headed out Friday morning around 10am, and made good time up to Flagstaff. After navigating the afternoon traffic, which can be a task, I got a sandwich at the Crystal Creek Sandwich Co, a great sandwich place in Flag! Back on the road, I made it to the Ten-X Campground right outside the park a little after 2 pm.

Ten-X is a nice, basic national forest campground that has been re-modeled recently, I was able to reserve a great spot on the outer loop and had no one within 100 yards of me, not too bad for an established campground! After I got set-up I headed into the park for a bit.

While I’m not surprised, I’ve never seen Grand Canyon so deserted. I was able to park right next to El Tovar and there were very few people walking around. I walked around the rim a bit and got some pics. Unfortunately there’s a large fire burning on the North Rim, in the pic below those aren’t clouds you see right next to the canyon rim!

After some cruising around I chilled on the El Tovar patio, took in the scene and had a couple beers. After that it was back to the campsite to relax for a while.

Back at the campground I just relaxed in the nice temperatures and enjoyed being out of the city, it’s so relaxing just being in the outdoors! Unfortunately there is a fire ban in most of Arizona, so no campfire for me. Since I was by myself I passed the time watching a movie on my phone until it was time to make dinner and then crash out around 10pm.

It was a nice night to sleep outdoors, cool enough that I needed to be in my sleeping bag, a nice change for someone who lives in Phoenix! I got up about 4am and started boiling some water for coffee and oatmeal. While that was going I was able to get my camp broken down and everything stowed in the truck. After a nice warm breakfast and some coffee to sip on I headed towards the park.

Not surprisingly there was no traffic and no one else at the entrance station, I made it to the Backcountry Information Center pretty quickly. While I had pretty much accepted that I was going to take Bright Angel both ways, I tried one thing to get out to the South Kaibab Trail-head, Lyft. There were no Lyft drivers around at 5:30, also not a surprise…

For food and hydration I had Nuun Tablets in a water bottle, Honey Stinger Chews, Cliff Bars, and my favorite – those little pretzel things with peanut butter in them, and my 3 liter water bladder.

It’s a quick walk over to the BA Trailhead from BIC, I did have to skirt around an elk family enjoying some shrubberies for breakfast. After that it was time to head out into the canyon.

It was a nice morning for hiking, cruised along at nice pace and tried not to slow down to take too may pictures. It’s not easy in this amazing place. It was great to hike along, let your thoughts wander and just be. Before I knew it I was at Indian Garden, filled up on water and off I went again. The temps were still pretty good at this point, the entire hike down was comfortable and easy.

Pretty soon I was past the River Resthouse and on the River Trail to the Silver Bridge. The trek through the sand dunes wasn’t too bad, and I made it to Bright Angel Campground pretty quickly. The campground was pretty much deserted except for a few day hikers, I found a campsite by the creek to chill for a bit. Stripped down to just the shorts and spent about 5 minutes soaking in BA Creek. Overall I wasn’t super warm, but wanted to cool myself down for the rest of the day, which I knew would be hot.

After cooling off and eating a quick lunch, it was time to hike uphill. At this point I was staring to figure out a goal time to aim for and 8 hours sounded doable. This time the sand dunes felt much warmer, but the Pipe Creek section comes up quickly and provides some nice shade. You could easily soak yourself with water here to cool down if you were already feeling hot. I felt super strong during this portion, and made it to Indian Garden in one solid push. Also, I was able to get through the switchbacks pictured below with some shade!

After Indian Garden the real work begins. I tried to just put it in a low gear and keep on going up. The last 3 1/2 miles or so are the hardest part as you climb out of the canyon, you can see in the pic below the serious elevation gain tin the last few miles! I started to feel a little squirrelly the last mile or so, but I just kept going because finishing is the best way to feel better!

I topped out just under my 8 hour goal, a little tired, a bit thirsty and super glad I did this hike. I still need to nail down what caused my issues the last mile, some kind of hydration/nutrition things was lacking. I drank ample water, had 7 Nuun tablets, both things of Honey Stingers, 4 cliff bars and a Ziploc bag of pretzel things.

I love the Grand Canyon, and feel so lucky to be able to access it so easily, 13 hours after starting my hike I was home in Phoenix!

Avaraipa Canyon Hike

Like many of us, I’ve got some extra time on my hands lately, and figured I would use some of it for hiking. Mainly I’ve been hiking near my house on the less popular sections of trail that I know of, every once in a while though it’s nice to see some new scenery. Ararvaipa Canyon is a place I had heard of and seen some cool pics from, it was on a list of stuff to do, but not really a high priority. In looking for a different, long day hike to do, it came up. You need to have a permit to enter the wilderness area and they only allow 50 people per day to be there, good opportunity for social distancing!

I went to good ole’ recreation.gov and organized the permit, only $11.00 out the door! I got the last slot for April 9th, about a week and a half ahead of time. I’d recommend trying a to reserve a few weeks in advance, especially if you want to camp with a couple people, permits become available 13 weeks ahead of the entry date.

The night before I got all my stuff together, I took some extra things because it’s pretty isolated and I’d be by myself. I even threw in my stove and a Mountain House meal, if I was to get stranded a hot meal would be fantastic!

The next morning I got up pretty easily when my alarm went off at 4:45, made some coffee and was out the door. The drive there was about 2 1/2 hours. the last 45 minutes or so is past a lot of surface mines, sad to see the damage it does. The last time I was in this area was on a 100 mile bike ride, the hills here a big, and it sure was nice to be in the truck this time! After driving the 12 miles or so of dirt road, I hit the small trailhead. I loaded up, signed the trail register and off I went a little before 8 am.

The first part of the trial winds down through cactus and tall brush to get to the stream bed. I didn’t really know what to expect out of this hike, I knew I’d be walking in the water, but not how much, at about .3 miles in it was time to cross the stream for the first time, so I just waded on in and started the day of wet feet!

Early on I was trying to walk on the bank as much as possible, but there was a lot of bushwhacking and scrambling on rocks. At one point a was going up a loose rock section, noticed I was about 20 feet above the stream and a fall would entail some bouncing on rocks before landing in the water. Since I was alone, just walking in the stream seemed the safest, and this was my technique the rest of the day. A good positive of this, the best views down the canyon, and safety…

The views are pretty incredible once you get into the canyon, and I passed a number of great looking campsites. I definitely want to come back here for a night or two and be able to hike the entire canyon and explore a side canyon or two. I was moving pretty quickly to see as much of the main canyon as possible, the water was a really nice temperature and except for some deep pools that are easy to see in the crystal clear water, never more than knee deep.

Just shy of 7 miles I turned around, I didn’t want to feel like I was slogging my way back to the trail head, and by the time I got there I was glad to take the boots off! This is an incredible, unique backcountry place and I’m glad it has been preserved as a wilderness area!

Want you need to know to hike or backpack Aravaipa Canyon

You Must Have a Permit! – You can get one here!

It is a wilderness area and other rules! Check them out on the BLM Website.

Your feet will be wet all day, accept this fact and move on. I wore my regular hiking boots and it wasn’t too bad, just had to empty the pebbles out twice! I don’t think TEVAS or Chacos would be the way to go because rocks would get in all day long. Do you have a great shoe or boot for hiking in water for long periods of time? Let me know!