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Muddy Creek Utah

My approach to this years spring canyon hike was a bit different to say the least. The week prior to the hike, my wife and I went to Las Vegas! We ate, drank and gambled while we took in shows by Blue Man and Penn and Teller. Not quite the way I usually prepare for a week in the backcountry. Well, I did rent a Jeep TJ….so I guess that counts for something.

After our week of vice, Rylan flew home and I drove to Hanksville to meet up with the guys for our hike down Muddy Creek. On the way I drove through heavy snow and winds on the way up through Zion NP and towards Escalante NM. At times it was down right freezing in my Jeep as I had no rear windows (the guy said they had been stolen). So imagine cruising along at 60mph over 9000 ft passes with it snowing an inch an hour. Even with the heat up all the way, it was cold.
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Wind Rivers: Green River Lakes Loop

In 2001, we took our first hike in the Wind Wiver range of Wyoming. The range is located about 75 miles southeast of Jackon Hole, WY. The main “big town” near the Winds is Pinedale, WY. Our router started in the northern edge of the wilderness in an area called Green River Lakes and would continue up to the continental divide and then back down a drainage area in a loop to our starting point.

We spoke with a ranger before we got going and showed her our planned path. The ranger was very helpful and warned us that part of the route we had chosen had been badly burned many years back. The trail in this area was not very well maintained she told us. Of course we looked at the route on our map and it clearly showed a nice black dashed trail. How bad could it be? We went off-trail all the time. Any trail would be easy for us even if it was “not maintained” very well.

So on a beautiful crisp morning, we set out around the lakes on the northern side. I took a lot of pictures on the way around. Fairly soon we found our trail headed up to the north to Clear Lake. It was a fairly steep but fairly short climb which only got steeper as we neared the first plateau. Lots of bolder hopping, some trail, and a lot of just picking a path.
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Grand Teton NP: Death Canyon to Alaska Basin

A couple of years back we enjoyed a splendid hike in Yellowstone National Park, so in August of 2000 we set our sites a little further down the road to Grand Teton National Park. Brad found some nice routes in the northern most section of the park where we hoped to avoid some of the crowds but still get nice views of Mt Moran and the Grand Teton on a nice loop hike. It even included a canoe ride across Jackson Lake!

But as sometimes happens, nature had a way of changing our plans.
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The Sawtooths

David and Brad grew up in Idaho, home of the Sawtooth mountain range. So in 1999 we decided to venture up north to the great land of the “pointy peaks”.

We left on our usual Monday departure for Idaho. It was a long drive of maybe 8 hours or so on I-15 up through the valley with the Wasatch off to the east. Then we headed west on I-84 towards Twin Falls, ID and then north on route 75 on to our destination near Stanley, Idaho. We would make our way to a small campground near Stanley called Iron Creek campground which would be our trail head the next day.

On Tuesday we began our hike on a cloudy and drizzly morning. The rain was not a huge problem and eventually gave way to some sun and clouds as we made our way along a winding trail towards Goat Falls. The climb was not too bad and the trail was in the shade of a nice pine forest…all in all, a very nice walk. But then we got to the falls itself. The trail became very steep and not as much of a trail. In fact, it was more of a large vertical sandbox. Two steps forward, one step back. And the falls were in the direct sun. With increasing sand in my shoes, I remember being hot and wondering when the climb would be over. After maybe 800 feet of vertical we finally got to the top of Goat Falls. We stopped for a little lunch and a nice cool washing of our feet in the 35° water. It felt good to get all that sand and sweat out of our boots.

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Coyote Creek to Escalante River: Escalante National Monument

The right time of year to visit Utah’s high desert is the Spring which is what we did in 1998. I headed out to Salt Lake on April 4th for our annual hike. But since the snow was still falling and plentiful, we stole one day on the front end to visit the Alta ski area. 12″ or more of fresh powder awaited us on a warm spring day. I think we counted 38 people total on the mountain. And the lift tickets were half price spring skiing! Never felt so much like a theif as that day at Alta.

The next day we met up with our largest group of hikers ever. We had Dave Kenison, David Hansen, Brad Clements, Gary (a friend of Brad’s), Buce Craygun, and Kim Ashcroft. And we would eventually meet up with Davy Crockett who was then living in Arizona and would drive North to meet up.

As we drove down we enjoyed the landscape as it gradually got to be red and orange…the colors of southern Utah. We went past some canyon rock that looked a lot like Bryce Canyon NP rock (hoodoos) and stopped to take some pictures of the freshly fallen snow on the rocks. Very pretty. But unbeknown to us, the snow would prove problematic for our friend Mr. Crockett.
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Bechlor River Drainage Yellowstone NP

Following our successful climb of the High Unintas in Utah, we decided to go a bit farther and venture into Yellowstone National Park for our next adventure. We planned to start near the Old Faithful geyser basin and trek through the backcountry to the Lone Star Geyser. Once beyond that we would explore the Shoshone Geyser basin and continue over the continental divide into the Bechlor River drainage and on out to the West almost exiting the park into Idaho.

We would need a shuttle for this 30+ mile one way trip as the drive back was over 3 hours each way! And without a car at the end, that would make for a long end to a long hike. So we enlisted the help of David Hansen’s father and friend who live in Rexburg, Idaho.

We set out from Salt Lake in the morning and drove to Rexburg and stayed the night with David’s father. He made us feel right at home. Amazing how much David and his dad are alike. They both have that deep “radio personality” voice. Fun to hear them talking together. Anyway, for breakfast we got some home made hash browned potatoes…not just potatoes….Idaho potatoes! That got us ready for the 3 hour drive into Yellowstone.

Brad, David and I piled into David’s father’s pick-up truck for the trip up to Yellowstone. David’s father is a geologist so we got a great 3 hour overview of the history of the land we were driving around. One of the more amazing facts is that Yellowstone National Park is sitting on top of one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world. In fact, it is a “Super Volcano“. The last time it blew some 2.1 million years ago, it deposited ash as far away as the Texas gulf coast! With this handy information in hand, we drove towards the caldera!
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Kings Peak Wilderness

Following our overland adventure the year before, we decided to embark on a trek in a more popular area…and on an established trail! Imagine that. We would throw in a couple of summits of some 13K peaks as well including the highest peak in Utah, Kings Peak.

We drove the 6+ hours to the trail head with a much bigger group than the year before. On this hike I met Dave Crockett and Dave Kenison. Dave was a strapping man who seemed to take one step for every 4-6 steps of a mere mortal (me). No problem, I would just take my time and hang out in the back of the group. Luckily I had some company….Dave Crockett! He was an older gentleman and liked taking it slow due to his knee issues. Great! I had some company. Little did I know that years later, Dave Crockett would turn into this. But I will save that for later.

The trail began on a wide gently sloping path from the parking lot. We had a light day the first day of just 6 miles or so since we were getting a late start. It was an easy hike and we all took our time. We got to a nice campsite area near the trail around 4pm or so and pitched camp. Bugs were an issue, but we had rain coats and plenty of deet to fend them off.

The next day we set out early after breakfast. I remember the group got together for a short prayer before we left camp. I am not that religous of a guy and wondered if maybe I was getting into something over my head, but I went along and thanked god just the same. I remember thinking after last year, if it can help, why not?
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American Fork Canyon to Snowbird

For me (Carl), this was my first hike in many years…especially at this level of grueling pace and difficulty. It was also my first introduction to Brad Clements. While I had known David Hansen for a year or so (his wife and my wife worked together), it was also my first real exposure to David in the backcounty….not a pretty site!

I flew out to SLC with David back in the day when $199 would get you a round trip flight on an 80% empty plane. David munched on a rotten banana in the seat next to me on the ride out.

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