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West Needle Mountains: Crater Lake

Saturday & Sunday, July 13-14, 2019

This weekend I wanted to finally get out on our first backpacking trip into the mountains for the season. I was looking for an easier overnighter that wasn’t too far from home, preferably in the San Juan Mountains, and after looking at recent satellite images to see how much snow was left in the high country I decided that we would give Crater Lake in the West Needle Mountains a try. From the recent satellite images it looked like there might still be a little snow on the ground in the area, but nothing we shouldn’t be able to get through. All of the other options I was looking at still had considerable snow on the ground and would have to wait a while longer. This six mile trail starts out in the Andrews Lake Day Use Area located just to the southwest of Molas Pass and climbs up to Crater Lake, nestled on the north side of North Twilight Peak in the Weminuche Wilderness. Last year our first backpacking trip into the mountains was also in the Weminuche Wilderness, but thankfully this time we didn’t have to inhale smoke the entire time!

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River of Sorrows: The Dolores River

Slick Rock Canyon | Big Gypsum Valley to Bedrock
Friday – Saturday, June 14-15, 2019

Early Spanish explorers called it El Rio de Nuestra Señora de Dolores, or the River of Our Lady of Sorrows translated into English. Today it’s known as the Dolores River, which begins as snowmelt high up in the San Juan Mountains near Bolam Pass and empties into the Colorado River in Utah after traveling through the canyon country of western Colorado. For a long time I have wanted to float the Dolores River through Slick Rock Canyon, which begins at Big Gypsum Valley and ends at Paradox Valley, but since the water of the river is usually siphoned off at the McPhee Reservoir upstream there is typically only a very short window of time to actually do it, if there is any opportunity at all! So far I had never been able to make the timing work for a trip, however, with the high snowpack in the San Juan Mountains this year it looked like I was finally going to be able to get my chance!

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End of Trails in The Needles

Big Spring Canyon – Elephant Canyon Loop
Friday – Sunday, November 30 – December 2, 2018

After looking over the official map for the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park earlier this year, I noticed that I had hiked just about every single trail on it, so I figured it would be a good goal to try and finish hiking them all this year. After hiking a few of those remaining trails earlier in the year, I only had a few segments of trails in the Big Spring Canyon area left, so Diane and I headed down to The Needles this weekend so I could finish them up in one big loop on Saturday.

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Searching for Starvation Pocket

Southern Utah Wanderings | Thursday, October 4, 2018

After driving into The Needles on Wednesday morning and spending the day exploring the fringes of Canyonlands National Park, it was time for us to spend our first full day hiking into Starvation Pocket. We had originally thought about doing this hike as an overnight backpack, but we were running short on time this trip and already had a different overnight trip planned, so we decided to just do this one as a long day-hike instead. In hindsight it probably would have been better to do this one as an overnighter since we found a lot of cool stuff and were unable to explore the whole area we wanted to. I guess that just means I will have to return again in the future for another hike here!

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Top of Utah: Kings Peak via Henrys Fork

Labor Day Weekend | Thursday – Sunday, August 30 – September 2, 2018

Last August when Diane and I were driving home through the eastern edge of the Uinta Mountains from our first backpacking trip in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, I mentioned that we needed to go on a backpacking trip into the High Uintas Wilderness in 2018, so I put it on our calendar for Labor Day weekend when I got back home. Fast forward a few months and it was time to start figuring out more specific plans for the trip. After looking at maps and our options, I figured that we might as well go all out and hike to the summit of Kings Peak which is the highest point in Utah. There are a couple of ways to get there, but Henrys Fork looked like the easiest and most popular way to go, so we thought it would be a good introduction to hiking in the High Uintas. Since I knew this was going to be a popular spot, especially during a holiday weekend, we took off Friday from work in hopes of getting a little bit of a head start. We left right after work on Thursday and drove over Douglas Pass and through the Book Cliffs to Vernal, where we stopped for a quick dinner. We almost hit a deer as we were driving through Manila, but other than that the drive was pretty uneventful. We arrived at the Henrys Fork Trailhead in the dark around 10:00pm and found a great spot to camp nearby. We quickly setup our tent and went right to bed. The sky was very clear and the stars and milky way were bright tonight!

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