2016 Fall Break Adventure

Day 1: Bryce Canyon

On Thursday of our fall break Manina and the kids made the four-hour drive down to Bryce Canyon. Jake and I would drive down separately later that evening.

The girls (and Drew) stopped for lunch and met Rachel and Spencer and their family, with whom we would be spending the long weekend.

They went into Bryce, walking around the canyon rim, playing around and taking some pictures.

We had rented this older house in Tropic from VRBO, so it was fun to all hang out together that evening once we all got together.

We fired up the barbecue and cooked dinner  while the kids had fun playing out in the yard. Later that evening we watched the BYU vs. Boise St. game (unlucky outcome) and planned our outing for the following day.

Day 2: Peekaboo and Spooky

Friday morning we decided to drive out to do some of Utah’s more famous slot canyons near Escalante. We made the hour-long drive along scenic Highway 12 and turned off onto Hole-in-the-Rock road just on the other side of town.

We then drove 25 miles down the washboard-i-est road ever until we got to the trailhead. After turning off the road, we still had a some traveling to go on a road which required a high-clearance vehicle, so the Haymonds left their minivan and all piled in our Suburban for the last mile or so to the trail head.

There was a bit of a line to enter the Peek-a-boo slot. I had some webbing which was super handy to help haul the little ones up a pretty technical entrance. Once we were in the slot, the kids loved it.

When we got to the top of Peek-a-boo, we stopped for a while and had some lunch. Then we hike across the desert following rock cairns until we were able to find the entrance to Spooky.

As we headed down Spooky, we found out that it lived up to its name. We dropped down a large drop, then into really skinny stuff. So cool, but hard to capture in a picture.

After the hike, we were all pretty tired. We stopped to eat in Escalane and stopped at a place called Nemo’s drive-in. The kids decided they’d had enough adventure for the day, so we crossed the parking lot to eat Subway instead. We later found out that Nemo’s is pretty well regarded, one of the “hidden gem” places to eat in Utah. So it wasn’t a perfect day.

Day 3: Lower Calf Creek

Early morning Manina and I got up early to watch the sunrise over Sunrise point at Bryce. It’s a pretty spectacular place.

Jake wanted to get back in time to mow some lawns, so he left in my car to drive home alone while the rest of us headed along the Scenic Highway 12 again, this time stopping at Lower Calf Creek falls for a hike.

It was 6 miles long in sand, but pretty flat. Our kids did great, but the younger Haymonds struggled. The towering waterfall was a cool payoff at the end of the out-and-back trail.

When we got back to the parking lot we had to wait for the little Haymonds for a while, and by then we were all ready for the long drive home. We got home Saturday night at 9:30pm, having squeezed every little bit of adventure out of our fall break.

Timpanogos Summit Hike

Manina has wanted to climb Mount Timpanogos for quite some time. I have been up there several times with my scout troops, but never just with her. So, we decided to make a date out of it. I took the day off on Friday to hike it with her.

We sent all the kids off to school and headed up the canyon to the Timpooneke trailhead. We weren’t any particular hurry, since we had all day. It’s a 15-mile round-trip hike with quite a lot of elevation gain (4500 ft) so bagging Timp is an all day affair. The conditions were perfect, with temperatures in the 60s and a light breeze — it was a great day for a hike.

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We started out at 10am, a little later than we had planned. We stopped for a quick PB&J lunch, but mostly kept moving all the way up. Unencumbered by kids (or scouts), we made good time and got to the Timpanogos saddle by 1:30pm.

We paused for a bit at the saddle to take some pictures. We had some lingering clouds out to the west over Utah county, but the view to the east was clear and spectacular. We even found a couple mountain goats right by the saddle hanging out and enjoying their lunch too.

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The section from the saddle to the summit was pretty slow going. Lots of shale and some semi-technical sections. But we made it to the top. The clouds had lifted somewhat, so we took some pictures and hung out for a little while up at 11,753 feet.

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We didn’t rush things on the way down, just enjoyed the time walking and chatting and enjoying the views.

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We stopped for a while in the big meadow and enjoyed a late lunch of crackers, cheese, turkey and fancy mustard — fancy foodstuffs for a hike. We didn’t see a lot of people on the trail until we got within a mile or two of the trailhead when we encountered a couple scout groups heading up for an overnighter. Timpooneke is usually pretty well-traveled, so it was nice to do it during the week to avoid the crowds. When we finally made it back to the parking lot I was pretty exhausted and ready to get off my feet.

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As we packed up, I reassessed my gear like I usually do. My main lesson learned was that I had carried too much water (I only drank 2 liters). Our GPS data showed we hiked 14.8 miles about 7.5 hours total. Not bad for a couple old fogies on a weekday hike to the Timpanogos summit.

Orderville Canyoneering Adventure

Remember back in 2008 when I did the Narrows hike? Yeah, it’s been a while. Ever since being released as scoutmaster about a year ago, I’ve missed going on big adventures. Sure, we just went on a Labor Day hike with the family, and I took the big kids backpacking this summer, but I was in the mood for something fairly exotic.

So, I registered for a backcountry permit to do Orderville Canyon down in Zion National Park. They limit the number of people allowed in that canyon each day, so I picked a group size of eight, figuring I could find some people crazy enough to join me.

Orderville canyon is a fairly technical hike, an offshoot of the famous Narrows. It’s a little over 12 miles long from top to bottom, with some pretty challenging obstacles. The running water makes for some slippery conditions, so we planned on getting wet. Swimming is not uncommon, although having not seen rain for the last couple months, water levels were supposed to be fairly low.

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After a few cancellations and switching around some plans we ended up with a great group: me, Jake, Jesse (my brother), Tyson (Jesse’s friend), Ben (my cousin), Adam (Ben’s son), and Grant (my cousin).

The seven of us drove down to St. George Friday night. We stopped at Costa Vida in Fillmore for dinner and then five of us made our way to St. George for a quick sleepover at Gary’s house (thanks, Gary!).

A couple of the guys were running behind, so Saturday morning was more stressful than it should have been. I had booked a shuttle from Zion Adventure Company to take us from the town of Springdale to the Orderville trailhead at 9:30am. As I went to get the permit from the wilderness desk at Zion National Park, Ben called and had the shuttle come pick us up in the visitor center parking lot which saved us several precious minutes. We loaded up all our gear and piled in the van for the 90-minute drive to the trailhead.

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Loading up at Zion National Park

On the drive there we ate lots of snacks and listened to the driver, who didn’t stop talking the entire way. But, she was nice enough. The shuttle was definitely worth the cost. We were dropped off and suddenly alone in the wilderness.

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Jake, Tyson, and Jesse hiking along the old jeep trail

The first three miles of the hike were fairly downhill along an old Jeep road. But, before long we headed down into the beginning of the slot canyon which would our trail for the next six miles.

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The temperatures were perfect. In the shade it was just cool enough for us to avoid overheating with our packs on, but not cold enough to require any additional layers. We made pretty good time through this section. We are also all by ourselves. We were passed by one group of three, and encountered another group of four heading the opposite direction. Other than that we had the whole place to ourselves until about a mile before the confluence with the Narrows.

I had done a lot of research on sites like canyoneeringusa.com, so we were prepared for the technical obstacles. A short climbing rope was an absolute necessity to get down some of the bigger drops.

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Jake hand-lining down a pretty good drop

As we hiked further down the trail it got progressively more beautiful, more technical, and more wet.

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We ran into some muddy spots and then soon we were trudging though water. Most sections were ankle to knee depth, but some pools were a bit deeper. Since the water levels were low (it hadn’t rained for months), no swimming was required.

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Sometimes the water combined with a technical obstacle to really slow our progress. We had to carefully step along slippery logs and wedge ourselves into crevices and slowly and carefully inch our way down.

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The Guillotine
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Grant rappelling from the guillotine into a small pool

There were a few slips, a few awkward descents, but our group never even got a pack soaked, and no one got injured. We started to run into other groups heading up Orderville so we knew we were getting close to the Narrows confluence.

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We got to the confluence and celebrated for a bit before trudging down the Narrows. We knew we were close to being finished and that the technical obstacles were all behind us. Our feet were hurting, there were rocks and sand in our shoes, but it was pointless to adjust anything at this point since we still had 1.5 miles of the Narrows before we could change shoes and socks and walk the last mile on the paved path back to the Temple of Sinewava.

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Several of us had packed flip-flops or Crocs the whole way for the sole purpose of changing shoes for that last mile. We were a pretty tired bunch by the time we hopped on the park shuttle to take us back to the visitor center.

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We completed the hike in just over 7 hours. We weren’t in a hurry, but we never really stopped for any extended breaks. Because we made such good time we elected to make the drive back home that night. We stopped in Cedar City for a burger, listened to the BYU vs. Utah football game (BYU lost on a failed two-point conversion in the last few seconds), and made it home by midnight. Exhausted, but home.

It was a great trip, but here are a few things to remember for next time:

  1. Rope was an absolutely necessary for Orderville canyon. No harnesses or helmets were needed, but a short climbing rope made life much easier.
  2. Hiking poles were also awesome for stability in the water and probing for depth and hidden rocks or logs.
  3. Hiring a shuttle service was worth it for this hike. The road is long and bumpy to the trailhead, and it would have sucked to spend 3 hours to retrieve a second vehicle from the trailhead after that hike.
  4. I packed too much food. I could have done with much less, but I didn’t think we would get through it as fast as we did.
  5. I packed too many extra clothes. Sure they would have been useful had we had an emergency, but they just took up space and weight inside my dry bag in my pack.

Labor Day Lofty Lake Loop Hike

For Labor Day we decided to head up into the Uinta mountains and go for a family hike. I did the hike last year with my brother Eli and his dog, Bert (short for Albert Einstein). So, I knew what to expect and where to go.

We didn’t have any plans for the holiday, so we weren’t pressed to get out the door. It was nice not to have to rush, but we did end up fighting a few kids who were stubbornly refusing to go (hi, Jake!). After we narrowly averted WWIII and signed a treaty, we all piled into the suburban and made the 90 minute drive to the trail head.

It was a perfect day for a hike. Temps were in the low 60s and the sun was out. We elected to hike the loop in a clockwise direction, mainly because I had done it the other way a year before. We enjoyed the nice hike through the meadows at the base of Reid’s Peak and Bald Mountain.

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Then the trail turned up, and we had a steep climb up to Kamas lake. This was a tough section, but everyone made it just fine. We took a couple pictures and moved on.

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There was another good climb up to our next stop, Lofty Lake, but the scenery overlooking the basin was beautiful. Manina couldn’t bear to watch Jake and Megan taking some pictures while jumping high in the air on this ledge. So she pressed on, sure that one of her kids was going to die (spoiler alert: everyone was just fine.)

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The trail flattened out and started to head downhill just after Lofty Lake. Spirits were high and we made good time on the second half of the loop.

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We passed Scout Lake and Picturesque Lake, but by that time we were too close to the end to stop and take in the scenery. Everyone was pushing for the finish.

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For a family hike, we made really good time. We stopped for some well-deserved pizza on the way home, and everyone agreed it was a great way to spend our Labor Day holiday.

Finishing Summer Strong…in Bear Lake

We weren’t anticipating another trip this summer. Summer was winding down. Then our good friends (and relatives), the Rowberry’s invited us to go to Bear Lake with them and Nicol family. We couldn’t turn that offer down. So we booked a cabin and went to Bear Lake for four nights the week before school started.

I was worried it would be stressful to fit in with the back-to-school shopping and preparing we would need to do, but I managed to get nearly all of it done before we left. I am so glad we decided to go because we had a great time!

I love Bear Lake. I love just about any beach. Then you add in good friends and lots of yummy food and you can’t go wrong. Just like last year, we rented kayaks and paddle boards and brought them with us. They were a big hit and everyone took turns kayaking out in the lake.

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Don and Kim brought their boat and were so generous with it. They took all the kids out on the tube over and over again. I am not sure I saw much of Kim except when she was out driving, but she did tell me that is where she preferred to be…driving her boat.

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When we weren’t on kayaks or out on the boat, we spent time reading, visiting and building lots of sand castles. It was such a relaxing little getaway.

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Of course no trip to Bear Lake would be complete without a few trips to LaBeau’s for raspberry shakes. I am not sure what makes them taste so good, but they are delicious!

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Another Johnson Family vacation was a success!