Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Beautiful American Southwest

I took my climbing buddy Francois on an American Southwest tour this last week.  He'd decided to come out for a visit from Montreal after seeing all my recent pictures of the area - not to mention it probably sounded nice with the weather in Montreal being pretty cold right now.

The places we visited were beautiful, of course!  The weather was pretty perfect - typical October.  Not too hot, sometimes chilly at night.  But overall mellow temps.  I'm not going to write a daily list of happenings like I've been the last few trips because that's getting boring even to me.  But I will include a few highlights and "Francois-isms."

Zion - great to drive through up high.  Saw some bighorn sheep crossing the road on the drive!  Trails down in the canyon were a little disappointing.  Whatever you do, don't bother with the Emerald Pools hike.  I need to explore the real trails of this park sometime.

Grand Staircase-Escalante - just had to stop here to see some slot canyons.  Never fails to disappoint.

Valley of the Gods - I could never drive thru this area and not take the scenic detour through here.  It's just gorgeous.

Arches - did a few short hikes here.  It's amazing to me how a few short hikes can fill up your day and make you tired enough to enjoy a big fat delicious bacon cheeseburger at Milt's in Moab afterwards!!  Never never never NOT stop at Milts if you're in Moab.
A camping note - when all the sites along the Colorado River are full, drive into the La Sal mountains.  It was dark when we drove up here - a little worried about not finding a spot, then I saw a bunch of cars on a short dirt road - I pull in.  It's a climbers campground!  I can never believe my luck sometimes.  Met a couple really cool people there of course.

Canyonlands (Needles district) - here is where the real hiking began.  But first we drove down a dirt road to find a campsite (really we were looking for a real campground, but my directions were wrong) - anyone who knows me knows once I find a dirt road that seems deserted, I really really want to see whats at the end of the road.  Along the drive, the first Francois-ism "Faye... I don't think this is a road.  It seems to have turned into a trail. .... Faye.  Really, this can't be a road..."   But we're in the indestructible Toyota Tacoma - so what could go wrong?!  So we continued.  No matter that I haven't been able to find a used spare wheel for the truck...
For our hike (which happened to be my birthday - cannnot think of a better way to spend my bday), I chose Druid Arch, with a detour thru Chestler Park.  This is one of my all time favorite top 5 hikes.  It's so much dang fun hiking thru the wash.  And even more fun to hike into Chestler Park from the wash closest to the Arch.  I'm being lazy and not looking at my map to get the names for you.  It's a lot of scrambling up rocky gullies, slabs, steep drops, etc etc.  And the next Francois-ism: After I scrambled up a particularly steep slab with a steep drop off from the slanty "trail" just before it, I turned back to see how he was doing - he comes around the corner, sees the route, and "Oh SURE!  What's next??  Sasquatch standing up on the ledge throwing rocks down at me???"
I really wish I had that on video.  Classic.
After the hike, we camped near hamburger rock (but in the free forest service land area) - I'd been sleeping outside under the stars this week.  When I woke up I found coyote tracks around my sleeping bag.  Yikes!  I can't believe I slept thru a sniffing coyote!!

Grand Canyon - Decided on the Kaibab trail down from the south rim, to the river, and back up the Bright Angel trail.  The weather was a nice 80+ degrees at Phantom Ranch - which probably felt like 90+ to most normal humans.  And it's just not an easy hike.  At some point, Francois sits on a rock, dripping sweat, and tells me, "If this is the test you give to your potential boyfriends, you're going to have a hard time finding one, and keeping him alive."

Well thats about it - after all that we stopped in Kingman and went to my favorite bbq joint down the street.

Next up - road trip to Washington!

Pics from Francois:

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