I came up with a plan a bit ago for a nice outdoor challenge and it’s almost time to try and pull it off! I’m going to try to do The Grand Canyon (South Kaibab to Bright Angel), Mt Whitney, and Half Dome all in the same week. Seems like a fun week of vacation, right?
I’ll be heading to the Ten-X Campground just outside of Grand Canyon National Park on Friday, September 2nd. My friend is celebrating his birthday up there and reserved one of the group campsites. I’m going to head out midmorning to get up there, get the tent set-up, get comfy and chill. I’m excited for the adventures, but also for some car camping, living in comfort in the outdoors! After a night of relaxing outside, I’ll get up, drive into the park and hop the Hikers Shuttle out to the South Kaibab Trailhead. My goal is to do the hike in under 8 hours, but I’ll be happy just enjoying myself on the hike. After hiking I’ll head back to the campground for some chilling out and helping my friend celebrate his birthday.
Sunday morning I’ll going to get up, enjoy some breakfast and coffee, pack up my stuff and hit the road. I’ll be heading for a stop over in Las Vegas during my drive to Mt Whitney. It’s too long of a drive in one day so it makes for a nice stop over and one last shower before a solid week in the tent.
Monday morning I’ll get up, grab some breakfast and hit the road around 8am. I’ll stop by Star Wars Canyon again in my hopes of one day seeing some jets there and hopefully get to the Whitney Portal Campground around the 2pm check-in time.
After getting my campsite set up, I’ll do a little walking around and then relax before an early dinner. I’ll crash out for as long as possible and probably get up around midnight.
Since I didn’t get a Half Done permit in the lottery I need to drive down the portal road until I get internet service and get in the 2 day out Half Dome lottery for Thursday. After that I’ll drive back up to the trailhead and get the hike started.
I hope to get started by 1 or 2 am, so I can set a nice sustainable pace for a just after sunrise summit. After a bit on the summit I’ll head down and try and rest up as much as possible. Later that afternoon I should find out if I got the Half Dome permit, fingers crossed!
Wednesday morning I want to get up early and get on the road to Yosemite. I might just grab breakfast in Lone Pine, we’ll see. It’s a four hour drive (not including any lines to get into the park) and I want to maximize my time in the valley.
If I get a permit I’ll pick it up and then cruise around the village and check out some of the sights. I’ll probably start the hike about 4am, I want to get up and down the cables before any crowds or afternoon weather.
If I don’t get a permit I think I’m probably going to do the Clouds Rest Hike, it’s supposed to be pretty awesome, just no cables. Overall I’m stoked to be able to hike in Yosemite Valley and I’m going to try to have as much fun as possible!
So that’s the plan , I think it’ll be fun no matter what, definitely expect some tough hiking. Also very looking forward to some car camping in amazing places!
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne was unbelievable. This was a long discussed backpacking trip for 3 friends who hadn’t really seen each other for over 20 years. None of us had visited Yosemite and we were finally able to make it happen! We got to experience many amazing waterfalls, classic Yosemite views, and saw so few other people. We almost always had this impressive trail to ourselves, and I feel lucky to have had this initial Yosemite experience.
I picked up my friends in Las Vegas and we headed to Mammoth Lakes to stay for the night. We stayed with an old friend from Crested Butte, it was great to catch up and chill in this cool place.
Sunday morning we got up early and headed into Yosemite National Park to start our adventure. We picked up our permit at the wilderness center and strolled to the YARTS bus pick up spot for the ride to the starting trailhead and camp for the night. The White Wolf Campground was nice, and wasn’t too crowded considering it’s summertime in Yosemite.
Day 1: The next morning we loaded up the packs and headed into the backcountry for a 4 day trip. The first day we descended almost 4000ft to the bottom of the canyon. While the miles of steep downhill were a bit rough on the knees, we were super stoked to have the packs on and start our hike.
The hike starts out in the forest as you leave the trailhead and climbs a bit to the edge of the canyon and then it’s time to descend!
This was the only day we experienced any smoke issues from the wildfires, fortunately it didn’t seem to effect our breathing. After a final cruise along the river we made it to Pate Valley and found a nice campsite. We had easy river access and a quick swim in the river to cool us off and rinse off the dirt was most excellent.
The Day 2 hike starts to follow the Tuolumne River, so we started to see small waterfalls and pools. After a bit we got to the good size climb up the Muir Gorge. We got really lucky with the weather, as we started this tough climb we got great cloud cover and little bit of rain to keep things cool. We saw 0 people all day on the trail.
That night’s campsite was almost certainly the best one I’ve ever had, with a waterfall and great swimming hole. After a quick set up in the rain and a little tent time while it down-poured, we dried out and went for a swim!
We got to relax on some big granite above camp to watch the sunset and then again to stare at the stars for a bit!
Day 3 was the day of so many waterfalls! There was more climbing than I thought, but it was totally worth it. Around almost every bend of the trail is a waterfall, pool or beautiful river view. We couldn’t help but stop to take so many pictures!
Waterwheel and Le Conte Falls were huge and it was so cool to be able to walk out into the rock right next to the rushing waters! We definitely spent a good amount of time with the packs off exploring these amazing features.
The afternoon of day three we finally started to see a few other people as we approached Glen Aulin, it was an almost weird experience after 2 1/2 days of seeing no one. We found a nice sheltered campsite and relaxed for our last night on the trail.
Day 4 was a great day of hiking. The climbs weren’t as tough, both White Cascade and Tuolumne Falls were awesome (and we had a great swim).
The last few miles are a great ending, as you walk into Tuolumne Meadows with it’s iconic granite domes and peaks. We stopped by the Parson’s Memorial Lodge, talked with a couple other backpackers and headed to the Tuolumne store for some ice cream!
After hiking out we headed to Independence for some me food, and hit up the Onion Valley campground for the night.
After a nice night in the tents at 9,200′ we headed towards Vegas so my friends could fly out the next day. After stops at the Möbius Arch, Star Wars Canyon, and Badwater Basin we cruised to our hotel. We relaxed for a bit in our rooms, went out for an excellent dinner, played a little gambling, and then crashed out!
Everything on the trip worked out so well, great friends, awesome scenery and hiking, and pretty much perfect weather. We only dealt with smoke from the wildfires on the first day, after that it was clear skies. I’ve never seen so many waterfalls, Yosemite is an amazing place and I feel so lucky to have such great long term friends.
Aravaipa Canyon, AZ
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!