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.

Grove Creek backpacking with the kids

Last year, I took Katelyn and Megan backpacking up American Fork canyon. This year, we brought Jacob and Claire along with us too. We were also joined by the Rowberry family. My Uncle Greg and I were out talking one night and he expressed some interest in exploring the trails just east of the Pleasant Grove bench.

We had been up Battle Creek canyon before, rappelling for a family home evening, but I hadn’t been backpacking up either Battle Creek or Grove Creek, nor the valley that connects those two canyons behind the “G” mountain.

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We planned on camping up at Indian springs (GPS Coordinates 40.3941925, -111.704204). Since we started later than we had planned, we didn’t have time to dilly-dally, but we couldn’t pass up on some of the incredible views of Utah county.

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As the lone rookie backpacker in our family, Claire did great. Just like the other girls did last year, Claire insisted on packing up her stuffed animal (“Lammy”). The trail was tough and steep, but Claire did great.

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We passed a pretty good camping spot in the pines, but decided to press on another half a mile until Indian spring even though it was getting dark.

Unfortunately, when we got there someone was already occupying the spot we had targeted, so we had to try to find some semi-flat ground and set up our camp in the dark. But, when we awoke in the morning we found we were in a pretty nice spot.

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We hiked back down after cooking some breakfast and filling our water bottles at the springs. The kids had an activity they had to be at by noon.

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It was another successful backpacking trip with the kids, even though this one was significantly more difficult than last year.

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Lessons learned:

  1. If possible, scout the location beforehand, especially if bringing new backpackers
  2. Leave stuffed animals at home
  3. Leave plenty early to avoid setting up camp in the dark
  4. Avoid the rush; allow for more unstructured time
  5. Brian said mid-May is an ideal time for that hike

 

A new commute

My commute to work today was much shorter than it has been for some time. You see, my employer, Ancestry, moved its headquarters to nearby Lehi. I’ve been working at Ancestry for about a year, and before that I was at a neighboring building at Morinda for 10 years. I burned about an hour a day in travel time working in those locations. Doing the math is pretty depressing – I’ve spent almost 4 months of my life driving to and from work at Morinda and Ancestry down in Provo.

The new commute is now about 5 miles right along the Timpanogos highway. That goes pretty fast in my car. Or on my motorcycle.

There is also the Murdock Canal bike trail which covers nearly 90 percent of route. So, I plan on bike commuting a lot too. But, because it is close and relatively flat I wanted to be able to ride in my work clothes instead of getting all decked out in my lycra and riding my fast bike.

So, it was a perfect excuse to buy a new bicycle.

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I found a 2016 Trek District listed on KSL Classified. It’s basically brand new; the little nubs are still on the tires. The owner blacked it out, and then had a hard time selling it, so I got it for a bargain. It’s a great bike and super quiet. Makes zero noise with the belt drive and internal geared hub.

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I’ll probably have to get a bell or something so I don’t scare fellow trail walkers, runners, riders. I’ve christened her “Stealth”.

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Anyway, change is good, especially when that change involves much less time driving and a new bike. It is nice to be close.

First Weekend of Spring Camping Trip

This last weekend Manina was out-of-town at yet another girls trip. Jacob, Megan, and Katelyn had a church “mini-mission” activity that would keep them busy (and supervised) all Friday night and most of the day on Saturday. I was home with just Claire, Drew, and Ellie.

So, instead of sitting around and playing on iPods all weekend, we decided to borrow grandma Jan’s trailer (nicknamed Cousin Eddy) and head west and find a camping spot.

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We went out to Manning canyon, out by Five Mile Pass. It’s a pretty easy place to get to, and we found a pretty good place to set up camp.

It was pretty chilly, so we got mostly stayed inside the trailer that night. We popped some popcorn over the stove in one of those tin-foil poppers (which was a big hit, and a great snack) and played a game of Candyland (Claire won by large margin).

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I woke up at 6am and looked up at the thermometer – it was 20°F inside the trailer. So I cracked a couple vents open and turned on the heater. It was soon up to a manageable 40°F temperature. No one died of carbon monoxide poisoning, which was a bonus.

We ate powdered doughnuts, blueberries, and oatmeal for breakfast as we waited for the sun to keep warming up. Then we went outside and decided to go for a hike.

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We made it to the top of the mountain and looked back down on our camp. The kids had fun looking for rocks, chasing crows, and looking for animals.

After our hike I cooked one of those take-n-bake pizzas in the trailer’s oven. It was a much more difficult process than it sounds because the oven is so “vintage” that it didn’t have any cooking racks. I managed to rig up a contraption to cook the pizza without burning it on either the top or the bottom, which may go down as one of the greatest engineering hacks in history destined for obscurity.

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The kids ate the miracle pizza for lunch while I started cleaning and packing up. As I watched them play together I remembered why it’s important to be outside without the modern gadgets. It was fun to see their imagination and creativity come alive in a new setting. We had a great time on our first camping trip of 2016. Hopefully we will have many more to report.