National Trails Day

trails   I have really been slacking on this blog lately, but I have been having lots of fun hiking with my children and have been spending a lot of time managing Zion Outfitter.  One of these day’s I’ll get around to being more social on the media front again, until then happy trails….

Finis Mitchell

Fish Camp

Fish Camp

The person, place and literature that have inspired me are all interconnected. The Popo Agie wilderness, specifically the Big Sandy area has been the biggest inspiration in my life for getting outdoors.


 I fell in love with the place before I even ventured into Wyoming.  In 2001 I came upon a guide book by Finis Mitchell entitled “Wind Rivers Trails”. It’s actually more of a back pocket nature journal. The bookincludes Poetry, hand drawn maps, detailed routes, gear suggestions and stories of stocking the alpine lakes with fish brought in on horseback inside kegs. The way Finis describes the area sparked a curiosity in me. I had never been in an actual wilderness area before.  I was instantly drawn to the remoteness. Upon completion of the book I began planning my journey.


Finis Mitchell came to the winds in 1906 with his parents, he began climbing the area in 1909 (age 8), he climbed all but 20 of the 300 peaks in the Wind River Range during his life time, his last solo ascent was at age 73. He fell on this ascent and was forced to hike out 18 miles with crudely built crutches he fashioned from some pine branches.  In 1929 he and his wife began stocking the alpine lakes with fish. They went on to open a tent camp at the Big Sandy Opening which is still in operation to this day but is now a lodge.  It was the first recreation area on the Pacific side of the Wind River Range. Finis would charge people $1.50 for horse Rentals and would guide fishing trips. He would not charge the people for his time, just for the price of food and the horse rental. He was quoted as saying “What show people the wilderness that belongs to them and make them pay for it? That’s selfish, selfish.”


The winds were more than I had expected, I had never felt so free in my life. I had no time schedule and my only responsibility was to enjoy nature. I drank from crystal clear rivers and sat beneath waterfalls allowing the force of the mist to penetrate my body. I watched a moose feed in the hazy morning lake and Witnessed trout catching mosquitoes in mid air. I watched the same fish completely disregard everything I put on my hook. I even had a chance to watch elk graze without anyone wanting to shoot them. At night I sat and pondered nature while the wolves howled in the cirque.

“We don’t stop hiking because we grow old – we grow old because we stop hiking”

— Finis Mitchell

Celebrate bike month


May everyone be fortunate enough to take at least one awesome ride this month.

Where the Hell is Price?

ImageWe pulled into Price, Utah and went directly to the liquor store. A craving for martini’s and Pabst blue ribbon needed to be addresses. After buying the gin and vermouth we headed to the grocery store for glasses, olives, toothpicks and beer.

Once the ice chest was full we were ready to begin our journey. Our destination was Leadville, Colorado but, with 3 days to get there and a trunk full of booze it was obvious that we would get sidetracked. The desert crept up on us as we left the city behind. I stared out the window and watched the never ending sea of sand unfold. I began to wonder why anybody would want to live in such a dreadful place. I thought of the first rancher riding his horse to the top of a sand dune and saying “this is the place” I will build a house over there and raise some children. I’m going to need lots of children so they can carry water to the house.

My day dreaming was interrupted by Sam telling me stories of his childhood and family get togethers out in this waste land. He began talking about the fun he had with his children in Goblin Valley the summer before. “I’ve never been to Goblin Valley” I blurted out. Before I even finished the sentence Sam had spun the truck around and sped off in the opposite direction. “Did you forget something?” I asked “no, we’re going to see the goblins, there only fifty miles out of the way”

Image                                                       We reached Goblin Valley about 5:30 p.m. and the campgrounds were already full. Apparently you need to reserve a spot 6 months in advance. Who plans a trip six months in advance to the middle of nowhere in Utah to see some rocks and sand? I mean come on this is the end of June, the hottest season of the year, who camps out here in this heat? I could not wrap my head around this concept.

junk 230

The ranger in the shack told us about a couple spots that we would probably enjoy just down the road outside the park. This meant we saved $16 by camping next to some petroglyphs. Unfortunately these petroglyphs had been graffitied over by idiots and it looked as though someone had taken souvenir pieces, some @$$%^&# used another for target practice.

I thought about how these petroglyphs came to be, were the ancients trying to tell us something or was this just a form of vandalism? I can picture two teenage natives out after curfew smoking peyote and playing around on the goblins, next thing you know they start drawing on the walls and cliffs.  Fifty years later the graffiti is found and some other teenagers add to it. Until one day some archeologist finds it and thinks “this must mean something.” Thousands of dollars and man hours are spent trying to interpret the meaning of the message. It say’s something about a bearded man and his 6 reindeer. The spirits of the teenagers laugh, for only they know what these pictures mean. Is there a difference between these petroglyphs and the spray paint on trains? Yes, the trains are mobile.

junk 231“James” yelled Sam “let’s go check out the goblins before it gets dark”   I cannot remember if we snuck in to the park or if they don’t charge for walk ins, either way I know we did not pay. We walk around the goblins, climbed on top of some and slid down others. It was fun but, not really what I expected, the pictures actually make this place look better. I would not suggest going here. You’ve seen one desert formation you have seen them all.

There is nothing to see here beside vandalism and rocks, so stay out! it’s a desert! There is no water and hardly any shade there.  I don’t see the appeal, I guess the toll booth is worth visiting it doesn’t really fit in with the landscape but it’s always nice to see something civilized out here in the middle of nowhere. It gives you a sense of security in case the rangers with guns did not.

We headed back to camp and drug out the sleeping bags, throwing them on the soft, bed of sand. We made a martini, and watched a hawk gliding above the cliffs. A few lizards scurried past our tent and we hoped to see the hawk swoop down for dinner, we needed some sort of entertainment. If only there was electricity out here so we could plug in our T.V. I’m sure we could dig up some coal somewhere. This is probably a prime place for a coal plant or a nuclear silo. Nobody would even know about it out here. Besides what is more important?  Human history, art and the geology of the earth or entertainment for the masses in the form of bright lights and television. Who really cares about these desert habitats?  The locals have already shot most of the coyotes and rabbits. What’s left to save? I’m sure the deer will grow larger antlers by a nuclear waste dump.

            We finished our martinis, stuffed our pockets with beer and climbed the plateau. From up top we could see all the way to Colorado and across Utah. We watched the moon slowly creep over the miniature mountains in the distance. The full moon rose in all its grandeur and pronounced its arrival.  I watched the moon beams bounce off the top of the goblins; it looked like a field of mushroom just waiting to be harvested. Across the canyon we heard coyotes howl. Sam tried to pin-point where they were with no luck. It turned out to be a couple people drinking and getting back to their roots. The two of us joined in, I tilted back my head and returned to nature with a long drown out howl. I bet the people below all snug and warm in their travel trailers were not amused.

I wondered why we had not heard any coyotes out here. Had they all been chased off by the tourist? Maybe the park rangers or drunken rednecks used them for target practice.

Why would someone kill these animals I began to wonder? I had talked to several good Christians in the past who had told me coyotes are pest. “They kill deer” I was under the crazy assumption that the coyotes were doing what they were intended to do.  I remember hearing in a church one time the words “though shall not kill” I understand that both humans and animals need to eat. I do not understand the desire to kill for sport. I recall being told that man is the only animal that engages in sport hunting. I cannot verify that it is true but, I have seen dead deer and elk with their antlers removed off the side of the road. I have never seen a coyote dragging antlers home to hang in the den.

 “Were out of beer”  “I still have a couple” I replied as I pulled one out of my cargo pants.

“We need to plan a trip to the Wind Rivers on a full moon” Sam stated.  Great idea, I thought to myself, pristine wilderness, untrammeled by man, except for those damn sheep herders. “I hate mountain maggots” I replied “what” said Sam “Yeah, Wind Rivers sounds great but, let’s go before grazing season”. “done”

We sat for several hours on top of the world watching the star and the moon and planning our next adventure.

Krooked Canyon

Last January I had the opportunity to do some exploration around Cedar City as part of a class I was taking at SUU. The purpose of the course was to find destinations that would appeal to tourist. Since I enjoy canyoneering I thought it would be awesome to find one close to Cedar. While I did succeed in finding a canyon I don’t think many folks would take the time to do it.

It took about 2 hours round trip for +Keith Howells and I, that included, hauling rocks and anchor building time. I decided to name the canyon “Krooked Kanyon”, at the time I was also trying to promote an online company I had started for another school project. I have neglected to keep up with that project. I always joked that the canyon would probably get as much business as my shop, anyway…..If your ever stuck in Cedar City with a flat tire or something, it might be worth your time to check it out. If nothing else there are a few free quick links up there. I posted two vids 1 of our first attempt (we ran out of webbing and had to exit) and 1 of the full descent.

Krooked Kanyon 3A I
There are 2 short slots by mile marker 3 up highway 14 in Cedar City. There is no easy access so you are on your own finding an entrance. I hiked up a steep shale mountain following a deer trail. I’m not going to lie this is not a great canyon, but if you are in Cedar City and have 2 hours to waste it’s something to do. The exit is a great place to park and it is in a wash on the left side of the road right after mile marker 3.
The canyon begins at 37°40’30.12″N 113° 0’36.41″W
The first rap is 15’ it overhangs a little.
Rap 2 is down climbable but we tied in as the rock is crumbly and we didn’t want to fall 10’
We built a dead man on the 3rd rap. The rap is about 25’. This is the best part of the canyon.
A 4’ down climb gets you out into the wash.
Follow the wash for a couple blocks and you hit the next section. There is 5’ down climb then a 30” rap out of the canyon. We rapped off a rock about 15 from the drop.

Originally posted as JamesM, Mar 19, 2013 in forum: Tech Tips and Gear

Canyoneering in Zion

keyI had the opportunity on April 13th   to go through Keyhole for my 4th time this year and Pine Creek for my second. My first time in Keyhole I drowned my camera at the first rap so there were no pictures of Keyhole or Pine Creek.

The second trip I did not turn on my Contour helmet cam. The third trip I left my Contour in the car, but on the fourth I was finally able to get some pics and footage of both canyons.I’m pretty happy that it finally worked out cause I’m pretty sick of smelling that rotten deer at the end of Keyhole.

I met up with a friend of mine I have not seen in two years and who has not rappelled since he was in boy scouts. He told me he would be fine doing any rap under 200’ so I figured that after warming him up in Keyhole he should have no problems with Pine Creek. My other friend Nick who owns Seldom Seen Adventures in Kanab hooked up with us as well.011


 This is always a fun canyon and I love how quickly you can get small groups through. It’s one of those canyons you can do on your lunch break , which I have done that a couple times.  I have been watching the water drop over the past couple weeks but it is full again.

The hole when you first come out of the slot before the 1st rap was completely dry the week before, but it was completely full this trip. I knew that there would be a bit more swimming this trip. The pool at the bottom of the first rap is at least 6’ deep. It’s kind of hard to tell due to the buoyancy of my dry suit.

There is webbing at every down climb which is not really necessary, but for my friend, the noob it made him feel a bit more comfortable.  To make a short canyon story shorter; we swam a lot then the wind blew deer hair in our faces. We complained about the stench and moved on to Pine Creek.


Stay tuned for Pine Creek Trip Report.

Playing in and around Zion

 Even though my “spring break trip” was not necessarily backcountry and the majority of it I was working at Zion Outfitter I still feel the story may have relevant information for those of you heading to Zion this summer. I also don’t have too many pictures as I thought it would be fun to dive into a pool and drown my camera in Keyhole canyon.

My journey began with an epic bike ride down the Par ’us Trail, For those of you who have ridden the Pa’rus you know I am using the word “epic” in a very sarcastic tone.  The bridges can be extremely slippery early morning with a couple inches of slush on them, sobikers BEWARE . After my 4 mile bike ride I went to work.

There are not a lot of people parking outside the shop as the shuttles dis not start running until March 24th. While I like the freedom of being able to drive and stop inside Zion. I don’t like being stuck behind the first time RV driver.

parking.jpg After a looooonnggg day at work I bailed out to find a camping spot outside the park. The first destination was Coal Pit’s Wash. A fence has been constructed and you are no longer allowed to drive inside, but there are still tons of folks sleeping in their cars outside the fence and a few brave souls who actually carried their tents, stoves, coolers and slack lines 20’ and camped inside. There are no signs that say “no camping” but I have a bed in my truck and I was feeling too lazy to try and put up my hammock, so I ventured on.

Side Note:  I sent both Zion and the BLM an e-mail asking about the new fence and camping restrictions on Coal Pits. The Park told me if I camped beyond the fence I needed a backcountry permit. The BLM told me I need to contact “Zion’s National Park”
Mosquito Cove is also shut down; apparently people don’t know how to clean up after themselves; so I was not allowed to camp on my public land.

My last hope was a spot a couple miles up the Kolob Terrace road. I heard there was a “camp by donation” sign on some private property. I found the sign, but didn’t see a donation box. I found a sweet spot by the river under a tree which should be pretty shady when there are leaves on it. While cooking up some bison dogs on my tailgate I noticed a tick cruising across my bed that was pretty comforting. I thought it was a little too cold for ticks, I guess that’s why he was in my warm bed. I moved him to a new location and told him not to bring any of his family back to my camp. He must have understood me because I came home tick free. It may have also helped that I moved my camp away from the bushes and the potentially shady tree.

Anyway this campground is great!! There was a little trash which I picked up. Seeing how this is the last spot we have to camp outside the park we should do whatever is necessary to make sure it remains open.

I had plans for hiking Shelf Canyon and Gifford Canyon, but I brought to many home brews and had nobody to share them with, plus my fancy smartphone was not smart enough to quit searching for service all night so my alarm never went off. Needless to say I was able to hike the Canyon Overlook and check out the conditions of Pine Creek.

Pine creek still had a little snow above the slot and it looked dark and cold inside the chasm.

The great thing about the overlook is there seems to always be Desert Big Horn Sheep in that area. I saw at least 7 on a couple different occasions during a 3 day period. The first sheep I saw was a momma and baby. That baby sure was cute and seeing how I only had my point and shoot I did the smart tourist thing and decided to see how close I could get. Momma and baby got scarred by my approach and fled to the bushes. I started to continue the trail when I realized that daddy and a couple of his henchmen were also in the bushes. To make a long story not so long, I gracefully backed away when they started coming after me. I lived to tell the tale and was able to play in the freezing cold water of Keyhole and Pine Creek the following day.

Cheers and happy camping.