Canadian Rockies

Oh, Canada!

4,500 miles driven, 15 days, 7 National Parks. Whew!

We did so much during our 2-week trip to the Canadian Rockies that I know I will begin to forget details like the places we saw and our timeline, so I wanted to make sure to chronicle it here while it’s still fresh in my mind.

We tried to take this trip 5 years ago but our plans changed drastically. Two days before leaving, I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that sidelined us for a long time. We cancelled the trip and thankfully got most of our money back from all the reservations we had made. I still thank God for the timing, for not allowing that tragedy to happen while we were deep in the wilderness. So. This was a re-do trip. Except this go-round we had more time and a little more money, which is always a win!

We started in Glacier National Park in Montana. Montana has been hit hard by forest fires this year and we were so sad to see just how much of the park had been devastated by fire, not only this one but from years past. We saw thousands of acres that had been scorched by fire. Some areas burned in 1967 and some burned just a few years back. The haze and smoke was so thick that it was pretty difficult to see the mountains on our first day there.

Lake McDonald with lots of smoky haze

 

On our 2nd day in Glacier, we hiked the famous Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet, which is a cool stone backcountry lodge where you can stay if you make reservations like 18 month in advance. We got an early start because this is the most popular trail in the park and we really wanted to avoid crowds. We spent almost the entire time hiking in the fog and clouds which was so cool!

 

After another day in Glacier, we headed on towards Waterton National Park in Canada. What a remarkable place! We stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel, which sits perched atop a hill looking over the Park and town of Waterton. We really only had enough time in Waterton to eat dinner, stroll through town, get a good night’s sleep and drive around in the morning. Of all the places we visited, this is the one where I wish we had more time to explore and appreciate.After Waterton we made a quick stop at a Canadian healthcare clinic because David got the Shingles. We were super impressed with how fast, easy and cheap the whole process way! After a stop at the pharmacy, we headed towards Banff. To be totally honest, I didn’t love the actual town of Banff. It was overly crowded, commercialized and it had a vibe like it was just catering to the rich tourists that were in town. Meh. Not a huge fan of all that. I did love the mountains surrounding Banff however – beautiful! We stayed in Banff long enough to talk with the Rangers about out backcountry trip, buy a topo map and set up camp while we prepped for our multi-day backpacking trip into the Assiniboine Provincial Park the next day.

This backpacking trip almost didn’t happen. Wildfires had forced the closure of Assiniboine and nearby areas for almost a month and we didn’t think that it wouldn’t open up in time for us. As luck would have it, it opened the day before we had planned to hike in. We did 10 miles on our first day and camped out at Marvel Lake. Bear activity was high and we saw…umm, evidence, of bears everywhere but we never actually encountered one thankfully.

 

Our goal on the second day was Lake Magog  which sits at the base of Mount Assiniboine (also known as the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies) and it has a campground that we were originally planning to stay at. But upon arrival we learned that the campground was actually not scenic at all. 20 miles in to this beautiful area and the camp sites were all tucked away in dense pine forests with no views at all. I was sooo frustrated!

Thankfully, the Assiniboine Lodge is also at the base of Mount Assiniboine. This is a luxury lodge and the only way to it is to either hike in or take a helicopter and they usually book out 12-18 months in advance. Rooms go for $650/night, cabins are $800/night and then they have cute little backcountry huts as well. We hit another streak of luck, the Lodge had so many cancellations due to the fire evacuations that they had several backcountry huts available for $20/night. Yes please! We took them up on that offer without hesitation.

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Lake Magog at the base of Mnt. Assiniboine

We spent several days hiking around the Assiniboine wilderness, reading on lakeshores and sleeping soundly in our little primitive backcountry hut.

Next came the highlight of our backpacking trip….the helicopter ride! We decided long ago that if we were going to hike 20 miles in to this place, we were going to enjoy a wonderful ride out and get an aerial view of the terrain we hiked. It was AMAZING!!! I loved not having to carry all our gear back out after hiking a combined 40 miles in the area, we were ready for someone else to do the work in getting us out haha!

We stayed the night in Canmore with enough time to do a load of laundry and grab a burger and beer before heading north. Our next stop was Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and the Icefields Parkway on our way up to Jasper.

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Lake Louise
Photo Aug 21, 11 40 44 AM
What some of these amazing places are actually like….bleh. so. crowded.

Jasper was the place we stayed the longest and it was probably my favorite. It’s absolutely huge and the opportunities to see and do amazing things are endless. It was also much less crowded, it seemed like most people just didn’t want to venture up that far north. We did so much in Jasper! Boat cruises, mountain biking, hiking, fishing. It was awesome! I was really sad to leave this amazing place because I knew that it meant our trip was coming to a close.

We headed back south and made our way over to YOHO National Park, Glacier National Park of Canada and Revelstoke National Park. These 3 parks are on the smaller side but they were all beautiful and I’m glad we had a chance to explore them! Glacier was the only one that felt relatively inaccessible. In order to see a lot of Glacier, you had to embark on a 10-12 mile hike which we just didn’t have the time for.

My overall impression is that the Canadian Rockies are incredible! We saw so many jaw-dropping sights, I lost count. The mountains are rugged, jagged and steep. The glaciers are thick, the water is silty blue and the people are kind.

I could have done without so many tourists at a few of the places we went to, but that’s what you get when you only hit the National Parks. I frequently got overwhelmed by the crowds and had to leave certain sites.

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Travels: Capitol Reef National Park

Photo May 14, 5 57 34 PM (1)This was our first long vacation in almost 2 years! Sometimes it seems like we’re always traveling but truly most of that is just long weekends away. This was a real trip!

We decided to continue our love affair with Utah, especially since it’s mud season here in the mountains. We love Utah so much, there is just something about the desert that has captured us. So far, we’ve done Zion, Arches and Canyonlands. This time, we aimed our sights at Capitol Reef National Park.

We left Friday afternoon and made it to the State line by about 11pm. We ended up in BLM land just off of the Interstate. We wandered around in the dark trying to find a place to camp for the night. All the campgrounds were full so we poached a site off a guy who was sleeping in his Airstream and wasn’t using his tent pad. We left Saturday morning before he was awake and kept heading towards our destination.

We decided to start our tour de Capitol Reef in the northern section, called Cathedral Valley. Cathedral Valley is only accessed by 4×4 roads so it’s really pretty empty. Most tourist in rental cars shy away from the river crossings and bumpy roads that lead into and out of the section of the Park. We dropped in from the northern area of Fishlake National Forest. It’s a windy and bumpy 4×4 road that offered some really great views of the Cathedral Valley area.

Eventually we came to the primitive Cathedral Valley Campground.We found a great campsite and set up our base camp. We spent the rest of the day hiking the Cathedrals Trail, driving through sandy washes and checking out the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. This area was probably my favorite in terms of scenery, it was so amazing! The monoliths just rise straight up to the sky out of the ground. It is really so beautiful!

Photo May 14, 3 51 23 PM Photo May 14, 1 19 10 PMSunday morning, we ate breakfast, packed up camp and headed towards the Fruita Historic District, which is the main section of Capitol Reef where most people go. The road out of Cathedral Valley was long, bumpy, winding, full of washed out creekbeds and eventually a large river crossing. We heard the water was only running 12 inches high, so our 4Runner had no problem crossing, it was pretty fun!

We snagged a great camp site in the Fruita District, it was on the edge of the orchard and looked over the red cliffs and apple trees. Deer grazed in the orchard every morning and evening, it was so peaceful!Photo May 15, 6 16 20 PM We headed to the Visitor’s Center to inquire about backpacking. We originally wanted to do a 2 night backpacking trip in the Park. The backpacking “expert” was probably the worst help we’ve ever received at a Park. Every question we asked, she would respond “I”m not sure, I’ve never hiked that trail” or “oh I’ve never been there before” or “I can’t really answer that question because I’ve never done that before.” We eventually ignored her and relied on our own intuition and decided on a 2 night trip up Pleasant Creek. We got our permit and left to explore more of the Fruita District.

We thought a good day hike would be a great way to see part of the Park. We chose the Grand Wash trail, which turned out to be our favorite hike of the entire trip! It leads all the way to Cassidy Arch, which is rumored to be where Butch Cassidy hung out back in his outlaw days. We did 7 miles all together with 1,000 feet of elevation in the last mile. On our way out we got caught in a downpour. It was actually really fun being in the wash and watching all the rain pour off the rocks. There is always a danger of flash flooding in the desert so we made sure to keep an eye out for higher ground if needed.Photo May 15, 2 50 31 PM

The rain that started on our hike continued for the next 2 days and eventually forced us to cancel our backpacking trip. It rained pretty steadily but we managed to sneak in a few more quick hikes and scenic drives as the clouds let up every now and then. Hickman Bridge was a favorite for sure!
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Photo May 16, 11 00 57 AMOn our last day in the Fruita District, we found a little trail that lead from our campground through the orchard and along the river. We just thought we’d take a morning stroll but soon enough the trail started going up! We weren’t planning on a hike, but the scenery was so beautiful, we just kept going and it turned into one of our prettiest hikes of the entire trip.

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We packed up camp and headed over towards the Waterpocket District which is the southern most section of the park. It’s a pretty remote area, and another one where 4×4 is recommended so not many people visit. We had a picnic lunch, hiked a little bit and then saw some pretty ominous storm clouds approaching so we decided to keep moving.

The goal was to head to Goblin Valley and camp since it was on our way back towards Colorado. When we reached the visitor’s center, the ranger told us he had one camp site available and that we should go check it out, so we did. We liked it, so we set up our tent and then went back to the ranger station to pay. I knew the second that rangers saw us that something was wrong. “Uh sorry guys, it’s first-come-first-served and I just sold that camp site to someone else.” Ummm, what?! YOU told us to leave and go check it out before paying! And then you sell it right out from under us? Gah! He totally screwed us, so we had to go back to camp and take our tent down and then find some BLM land to camp on. So frustrating! We did at least check out the Hoodoos, which is what Goblin Valley is known for. Photo May 17, 4 26 59 PM

Photo May 17, 4 13 18 PM

We found a great spot of BLM land that gave us a great view of the valley surrounding us. We made a fire, cooked dinner, listened to good music and watched the skies fill with more storm clouds. Photo May 17, 6 14 53 PMAnother night of camping in the rain didn’t sound appealing and thankfully we hadn’t set up our tent yet, so we decided to head out and grab a hotel room in Grand Junction for the night. A hot shower and soft bed sounded delightful after 4 days of camping in the rain!

Our trip home was uneventful and easy. To be honest, we were both a little sad that our trip had to stop at 5 days. I could have easily spent another week out in the desert. We are still living with David’s parents, which is going just fine, but when you don’t have your own home to return to…returning home just doesn’t sound like fun. Oh well, just another excuse to go back to Utah in the near future!

Wonderful Wyoming

I love Colorado, I really do. But so does everyone else in America and they all love to travel here and clog up my roads and scenic places, especially in the summer. It kind of drives me bonkers. By August, I feel like I’m suffocating in a sea of tourists. It’s usually about this time that we’ll head north. We live pretty close the Wyoming border, which I am thankful for for many reasons. I love everything about Wyoming (except for the wind!) and feel very blessed to be so close to such vast, empty, open beauty.

David and I headed to the Snowy Range, which is ridiculously close to us, all things considered. We wanted a long weekend away to camp and hang out in the mountains and that is exactly what we got. This place is so gorgeous, I’m amazed it isn’t a National Park, it really should be!

 David has this awesome boat that he takes out on lakes to fish with. He caught 30 fish! 

 We had sustained wind for 2 of our 3 days, but the 3rd day was so peaceful and calm. The lake in front of our campsite was so still, the reflection was incredible!

This was my favorite place of all. While David fished for an afternoon, I went nature walking and stumbled upon this gorgeous scene. The trailhead was decently crowded, but the weather was scaring people away, so while everyone was walking back to their cars, I discovered the Klondike Lakes all by myself. I had to scramble up some rocks to get this vantage point…something I could not have done 6 weeks ago, 6 months ago, 9 months ago…but now I can! Yay for healing!

Still working on those Milky Way shots. We lucked out with no moon, relatively clear skies and almost no light pollution at all. I even got a shooting star in this one (center of the photo, just below the Milky Way, you can see a straight line that goes up and down). Lucky shot!

Wilderness Therapy

Last week just felt haaaard. After the failed spinal tap, I struggled to keep optimism and perspective. I was easily irritated, virtually everything sent me into an emotional tailspin and I just didn’t feel like myself at all. Ugliness abounded.
I had an elopement in Vail on Saturday so we thought we’d turn it into a weekend away and try out a one-night camping trip. Most of the day really didn’t go all that well. We were stuck in 4+ hours worth of traffic to Vail, I was almost late to the wedding and stressed to the max. Once we arrived, the skies opened up during the wedding and I shot for an hour in pouring rain with a grouchy bride who wouldn’t share her umbrella. At the end of it all, we seriously contemplated just turning around and going home. The weather didn’t look promising and we were both so down that the thought of driving 2 more hours and setting up camp in a thunderstorm really didn’t appeal to us. 
I’m not sure what exactly caused us to keep going, but we did. We stopped for fuel and kept heading west instead of east. 90 minutes later we were in the Flat Tops Wilderness and utterly in awe of the beauty that surrounded us. It was then that my perspective started to shift.
Every time life gets too hard, a trip into God’s creation almost always seems to be the remedy for us. The last few months have been some of our hardest months and I haven’t felt physically capable of spending a full weekend away in the mountains, so I knew this trip was going to bring some spiritual healing to my heart. And it did. This was wilderness therapy at its finest!

 


 We spent a while driving around looking for the perfect camp site. We 4x4ed up dirt roads and through aspen trees. This was one of my favorite sites, but someone was already occupying it so we moved on.

Eventually we found a great spot! Well, technically it was a great site but there was a dead chipmunk in our fire ring and we didn’t really feel like cooking dinner over it, so we moved to the next site over, which wasn’t quite as good, but still very good!



Also, I *think* we may have finally resolved our tent drama. YAY! We returned the REI tent we camped with back in February because it flapped in the wind and was too loud and small. We noticed that Marmot had just released a new tent called the Tungsten2P. It’s lightweight, durable, easy to get in and out of, very spacious inside and best of all, no flapping noise like our previous 2 tents! A thunderstorm rolled through at about 3:30am and this tent held up beautifully! We stayed dry and had no issues with the wind at all. We’ll keep testing it out, but I think we finally have a keeper!

 I was really happy that I had a chance to bring my camera, tripod and filters with me on this trip. I spent a lot of time taking photos and immersing myself in our surroundings (while also taking it pretty easy, resting a lot, relaxing and going slow). It felt good to get back into landscape photography a little bit.  I’m really happy with how far I’ve come in learning and technical knowhow with night photography. 6 months ago, I could only really dream of taking photos like these, but each time I practice, I get closer to what I am aiming for.

It was right around this time that I started feeling a sense of peace and calm wash over me. There is something about standing under the stars that can put everything into perspective. The anger, doubt, frustration, irritation, sadness and discouragement began to fade away. I know God has everything all worked out. I know that trials are a part of life and that He will use them for His glory. I know that I still have learning to do when it comes to going through difficulties with a godly perspective. But those truths didn’t really sink in and make sense until I was looking out over this scene. It was like I could hear God whisper “I know it’s been hard, but chin up! I’ve got this Beck, and I will continue to carry you through, regardless of how easy or hard it may be. Calm down. Trust me.” It’s hard to stay mad/sad/discouraged when the Creator of the universe is speaking truth over you. Thank you Jesus!

Sunday we just took it slow. Slept in, drank coffee in the cool mountain air, David fished for a little bit and then we headed up a dirt road to explore. We checked out a cool looking trailhead that I definitely want to hike once I’m back to hiking more. We had a picnic in our hammock and then packed up to head out. We took the long way home, avoiding interstates at all costs. Our drive home took just as long as the interstate, but without people, accidents, motorhomes, tourists and stress. It was calm, beautiful and relaxing.

I am so so so so glad we didn’t turn the car around on Saturday. We both needed this trip so badly and I’m very thankful we stayed the course and went through with it. It definitely made me look forward to even more trips like this in the near future!

Winter Camping

Camping in the winter! That’s a new item I can cross off of my bucket list. We’ve talked about it for years but never actually acted on it…until now! We’ve had unseasonably warm temperatures here lately (except for today…it’s currently a blizzard outside ha!), so when we saw that last friday and saturday night were calling for a lows in the mid-30s (that’s really warm for the mountains in February!) we decided to pulled the trigger and headed for the hills. Crazy, I know.

We loaded up just like any other camping trip, maybe adding an extra set of gloves and an extra sleeping bag. 🙂 Quick drive to RMNP and we were in the campground. They keep one campground on the east side of the park open year round to accommodate crazies like us. 😉 To my surprise, there were actually a decent amount of people up there! Quite a few camp sites were already occupied, which completely floored me. I couldn’t believe there were other wackos who had the same idea as us haha!

We picked a great site that had a great views of Longs Peak and Moraine Park. We had two perfect pine trees for a hammock set up and for sunset watching.

 Our tent. Oh our tent drama. I know that I wrote this glowing review of our new tent last year. Well, truthfully that tent failed us miserably. The rainfly (outer covering which protects the tent from getting wet if it rains) made horrible flapping noises with the slightest breeze. It kept us up every night so we ultimately returned it with heavy hearts. We since got the REI Quarterdome 2(pictured above), which also has rainfly flapping issues. So it will be going to back and our hunt for a new tent will continue. *heavy sigh*

Saturday was full of swinging in the hammock, eating a slow fireside breakfast with coffee, reading, sitting in the sunshine and soaking in the views. I had an elopement to photograph, so we headed over to a different area of the park to take photos for my clients. Unfortunately, since Saturday also happened to be Valentine’s Day, the Park was absolutely packed with lovebirds driving around gawking at all the beauty together. It was pretty tough to find spaces for photos that didn’t include tourists in the background! 
We made it back to camp in time to watch the sunset and start a fire. The sunset was absolutely breathtaking! I was really surprised at how well we slept both nights. I was really afraid that I would just be freezing through the whole night. I had visions of me shivering and wide awake through the entire night, but that really wasn’t the case! My sleeping bag is rated to 20 degrees and I bought a sleeping bag liner that increases the temperature by 15 degrees, bringing the rating to almost 0 degrees. Smart layering and a down jacket added extra warmth and helped ensure a good night’s sleep! I woke up in the morning toasty warm and not cold at all! I’m not sure I’d want to head out when it’s 0 degrees, but it is good to know that we can make it through a really cold night!

 I’m still trying to get the hang of astrophotography. I would LOVE to one day be able to accurately capture the milky way. I spent the better part of an hour our first night trying different settings to get a sharp shot. This was my best try, which I still think is lacking compared to what I know can be done. Oh well, it’s good to have ambitions to strive for when it comes to these nighttime creative endeavors!

 On our second morning, we woke up to a pack of coyotes howling less than 100 yards away. I climbed up on the ridge and saw a group of coyotes circling a huge herd of elk. They were attempting to hunt, which I thought was remarkable because coyotes typically won’t try for elk because of how huge they are. It was amazing to watch the elk react. They grouped together tightly, putting the babies in the middle and the bulls on the outer edge. The coyotes chased them up and down the valley but were ultimately unsuccessful. We sat on the ridge and watched for a while as the sun came up.

As we turned our heads to the west and saw the incoming storm. We decided to pack up and get out before the snow set in. We got out just in the nick of time, the snow descended on the Park just 30 minutes later. But we were happy and warm in our car with hot coffee and a bag full of freshly baked donuts 🙂

Zion

Oh Zion, where to even begin…..

We had an incredible trip to this beautiful desert oasis. The entire time, we felt God’s hand on our plans. We encountered His favor everywhere we went. From keeping us safe in the backcountry to allowing us to see some of Zion’s most spectacular and popular locations all by ourselves. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe it. This was easily one of the best backpacking trips we’ve ever done.
All in all, we hiked just over 32 miles. At least 16 of those miles were spent hiking in water. If my feet never get wet again, I’ll be happy! 🙂 I reaalllly debated whether or not to bring my professional camera equipment. I so badly wanted to photograph this area with my camera. But ultimately I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to carry thousands of dollars worth of gear through so much water. I would be beside myself if anything were to get damaged. So I’ll have to settle with iPhone photos and pictures from our point and shoot. 
My only complaint is that we didn’t spend enough time there. There were just too many things I wanted to see and do. But I feel like I have unfinished business with Zion and it’s compelling me to go back. I doubt I’ll have to twist David’s arm to make that happen 😉
I feel so lucky that this beautiful area is just a day’s drive away from where we live. It’s a long drive, but still doable in a day. We opted to drive halfway there on Tuesday and stay in a hotel that night to help shorten the drive on Weds. Our arrival on Wednesday was nothing short of spectacular. We spent the afternoon setting up camp, hopping on and off the park shuttle (the only way they’ll let people see Zion canyon), doing little hikes to see some of the main attractions, taking pictures, eating at Zion Lodge and watching the stars come out at our campsite. Not a bad first day if you ask me!

The beginning of The Narrows, one of the many reasons we want to go back is to explore this area more. We simply didn’t have time to do more in this area. I need to see more of this place!

Cruising on the shuttle bus




Our second day was one that we had been anticipating ever since we won a spot in the lottery for The Subway hike. It’s a gorgeous 9 mile hike starting at the top of a canyon. The trail descends at a very steep rate down to the Left Fork Creek. The trail stops there! The creek becomes the trail. So it’s kind of like choose your own adventure as you navigate all the obstacles in your path. There are waterfalls to circumvent, logs to cross and flood debris to cross over. You hike upstream for several miles until you reach The Subway. It is a beautiful narrow area that looks just like a subway tunnel. The tunnel is full of pools of deep water and a waterfall at the end. We were brave and went swimming all the way to the end at the waterfalls. You only live once right?!

9 miles took the better part of 8 hours for us to hike due to the amount of zig zagging around you do in the canyon with all the obstacles in your way. On your way out, you have to climb back up the canyon. I’d say it’s probably 1000 ft. elevation gain in less than a mile. Steeeep! It was brutal, we were so tired by the end!

 

Our swimming hole for the afternoon 🙂
 


 After getting to the car, we ate a quick dinner in the parking lot, packed up our backpacks and headed into the Wildcat Canyon area to set up camp for the night. We found a nice spot in a meadow beneath some pretty sandstone and called it a night. We were soooo incredibly tired. We had moments while packing where we were so tired we could hardly form a fluid sentence.

 Friday morning we set out on a longer backpacking trek through Hop Valley into the Kolob Canyon area of the park. This area is a bit more remote and less visited by people because it’s on the north end of the park, away from the main areas people visit. It takes a lot of effort to get into the canyon, which weeds out a lot of day hikers and leaves the area for backpackers and crazy people who don’t mind a 15 mile day hike. 

 

The trail descends into a beautiful valley with a stream running through it. You follow the stream for about 2 miles until you reach the canyon edge and then the trail descends into the Kolob Canyon area. We got rained on but we didn’t mind because it made for a beautiful, mystical setting. We half expected to see dinosaurs roaming around, it felt so otherworldly.

 

Eventually we made it to La Verkin Creek, which runs through the bottom of the canyon and parallels the trail. We knew that our campsite was nearby! We saw a sign that pointed to our backcountry site on the north side of the river and so and we began to set up camp. It was a small site, but doable. After about 15 minutes, David looked around and saw a sign across the river pointing to the real backcountry site on the other side of the river. Arg! David decided that rather than break down the tent, he’d just carry it across the creek 🙂

The new site was even better, with a great view of the river and the canyon walls. It was the perfect place to spend the next 3 days! 
Our camp was half a mile away from Kolob Arch, which is the world’s largest freestanding arch. After we set up camp, we took a quick little hike up to see it. Pretty cool!
Saturday was probably my favorite day. We did a day hike up La Verkin Creek into Beartrap Canyon to see Beartrap Falls. The entire hike was gorgeous. The falls were so peaceful! I could have stayed there all day. 
 
 

He could’t seem to help himself 🙂

We got back to camp and spent the rest of our afternoon hanging out in our camping hammock, which was maybe our best purchase yet. This thing is awwwweeesome! We just snuggled together, spying on people hiking, watching the sunset on the canyon walls, listening to the creek. It was perfect!

Against his better judgement, David decided that it would be worth carrying the extra weight in order to have a couple beers with us on our trip. I have to admit, it tasted pretty good after all our hiking. The creek was nature’s perfect beer cooler!
Sunday, we woke up with the sun. Had a vanilla latte (yep, we keep it classy in the backcountry) and packed up. The hike out was much tougher than it was coming into the canyon. We had almost a 1,000 foot elevation gain on the way back to the trailhead. It was slow going at times with our heavy packs on, but we made it to the car. Then we packed up and headed back to CO with happy hearts.
David saying his goodbyes to Zion

This was me celebrating my last few steps of walking through water. I was so happy to have dry feet again! With as much water hiking that you do in Zion, footwear is pretty tricky. It’s tough to wear normal hiking boots because they don’t drain water very well. I opted for open Keen sandals, which drain water pretty well but aren’t quite as sturdy as hiking boots. David did about 14 miles of hiking in his Chaco sandals, I was so impressed!

My sister happened to be in Moab for the weekend, so we took a quick detour to say hi to her before a torrential rain storm settled in. The rain was intense but quick, leaving for some really beautiful cloud formations in Castle Valley as we drove through on our way back to Colorado.

We made it to Grand Junction for the night, got pizza delivered to our hotel room, enjoyed hot showers and crashed. Monday morning we headed back home and managed to avoid the holiday traffic. It’s good to be home for sure, but I’m pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in Zion. I’m already plotting our return trip 😉

Under The Stars

*Warning, this post is mainly a trip report and me geeking out over backpacking gear. Feel free to just scroll through the pretty pictures. 🙂

2014’s first backpacking trip is under our belts! We had the nicest weather last weekend so we decided to head for the hills! We went to a state park that’s just a 30 minute drive for us, very close to home. This time of year is mud season in the high country, so staying below 8,000 feet was a must if you want to avoid snow, which we did considering some of our previous attempts to backpack through snow. Since we were so close to home, we were able to take our time getting there and we had a really nice hike in. And then we got to spend some time setting up and getting acquainted with our new tent!
Ok, so maybe it doesn’t make sense why I’m making such a big deal about this tent, so let me explain. With all the camping, backpacking and adventuring we do, our tent becomes a little bit like a second home during the summer and fall months! We have had our current 2 tents for 11+ years, virtually the entirety of our relationship! So getting a new one is like… a really big deal for us 🙂 We spent weeks researching tents and going back and forth deciding between what we wanted. We wanted something that was light enough to backpack with, but also something that was also a bit roomier than a standard 2-man tent (which is what our old tents were) and something that was durable. Typically, backpacking tents are made of really thin material and they are uber expensive, neither of which we were crazy about. We’re rough on our gear and an ultra thin tent made me nervous. All you have to do is sneeze and you can rip a hole in it1
We ultimately settled on the Kelty TN3, a 3-man backpacking tent that is a bit more durable than most backpacking tents. Kelty just released this tent as part of their Trailogic series, so it’s only been out for about 4 weeks. Definitely not long enough to read any reviews on it, so when we bought it, we were kind of hoping for the best. Thankfully, it lived up to our high expectations! This thing is pretty sweet! First, it’s HUGE. A 3-man tent is perfect for both of us to have a little elbow room and also store some gear. Yay! Second, the tent itself is made entirely out of mesh, almost like mosquito netting, which makes for some amaaaaaaaazing star gazing at night! Third, the rainfly (waterproof cover than protects the tent during a rainstorm) rolls halfway up and clip to the top of the tent, so you can maximize your views when you want and then you can just roll down the rainfly and clip in if you want privacy or if the weather turns. And you can do it all from inside the tent! No getting out in the rain to put the rainfly on, no stumbling around in the dark trying to make sure the tent stays dry. Yipee! I can’t tell you how many times David and I have put the tent rainfly on in the pitch dark during a freak thunderstorm. So this was a big selling point for us!
We still have a summer’s worth of trips ahead of us, so the jury is still out on its ultimate performance. But for now, we’re happy with what we see!
Enjoying the views. David was clearly worn out from our trip up the mountain 🙂

 The state park we were at overlooks one of our nearby cities. It was so neat to be up so high and look down over our area! We could see downtown where David works, a local reservoir where we like to hike, and I’m pretty sure we could even see Wyoming to the north! 🙂
 Making dinner with our JetBoil, the greatest invention ever! It boils water in about 60 seconds. Perfect for coffee too!
 It was SO cool to look out over the city lights at night from our tent. Not your typical view when backpacking!

 The next day we broke down camp, had some coffee and bagels and headed out for a nice little 5 mile loop hike that would take us back to the car. It was such a beautiful morning, we had a beautiful hike with great views!

The highlight of our hike was on our way down the mountain we spotted 3 bears! There were 2 cubs (maybe 18 months old) and a momma (can you spot her hanging out in the trees?). We got to watch them play around, eat lunch and even climb a tree! They were making their way towards us, and eventually they got to a point where their path intersected the trail we were on. They came pretty close to us and I think the momma got a little freaked out by us. She started running around and standing on her hind legs….eeek! Thankfully, with bear mace in hand, we were able to get around the little family and circumvent their path. Phew!

And with that, our first trip of 2014 is done! Lord willing, we’ll have a few more nights under the stars this summer!