December 28, 2012

Hike Review: South Park Peak and High View Trail in Joshua Tree

Location: Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California  near Yucca Valley
Distance: 1 mile and 1.3 miles
Difficulty: easy, kid friendly
Elevation Change: 275 and 400
Time of Year Best: Year round (very hot in summer)
Recommended Map: Joshua Tree National Geo Map

Directions: The parking area is located near Black Rock Canyon Campground in the northeast corner of Joshua Tree National Park.  Just before entering the camp, turn right the dirt road and follow this until it dead ends into a parking lot.  A trail leading north out of the parking lot and into a wash is the South Park Peak loop.  The High View Trail heads south.  The parking area for these hikes is on the border of Joshua Tree National Park and Yucca Valley.  The High View Trail is in the National Park and the peak loop isn't. 

Summary: The South Park Peak loop is just under a mile and climbs 275.  The High View Trail is 1.3 miles and climbs 400 feet.  These are very short, easy hikes that are not without some good heart pumping up hill exercise.  Both are kid friendly and both offer great views.  I hiked this in December.  The mountains to the west were covered in snow.  The temps were perfect and the skies were sunny.

Source: Deserts Summits: A Climbing & Hiking Guide to California & Southern Nevada

December 17, 2012

Hike Review: Baker Dam Loop at Joshua Tree National Park

Location: Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California
Distance: 1.3 miles
Difficulty: easy, kid friendly
Elevation Change: none
Time of Year Best: Year round (very hot in summer)
Recommended Map: Joshua Tree National Geo Map

When visiting from the west entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, the trail head is nine miles into the park on the left.  Road signs will point you to the appropriate parking space.  The hike is very easy to navigate and there is minimal elevation change.  Much of the trail is on granite rock.  The highlights: water in the desert, dam, cattle watering trough, rock piles, petroglyphs, and blue skies (usually).

December 10, 2012

Book Review: The Hobbit

Title: The Hobbit or There and Back Again
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

The Hobbit has captivated readers since 1937.  For generations it has fed imagination.  On December 14, those images will be presented on the big screen.  Enchanted lands, goblins, magical rivers, elves, lonely mountains, trolls, a dragon and much will this idea in our minds compare to the image put onto the screen?  Will it ruin or reconfirm our imaginations?

Bilbo, a sedentary homebody, is dragged into an epic story of life and death proportions.  He is forcefully volunteered to accompany 13 dwarfs on an unexpected journey to reclaim the Misty Mountains where Smaug, an evil dragon sits atop an amassed treasure.

Personal growth, destruction, life, death, happy, sad, joy, fear, anger, selflessness, selfishness, greed, and generosity, the story of contradictions is the story of life.

Movie Trailer - The Hobbit

The Hobbit Official Trailer #1:

The Hobbit Official Trailer #2:

The Hobbit Official Trailer #3:

December 3, 2012

Hike Review: Grand Canyon Hermit Trail

Location: Northern Arizona
Distance: 9.8 miles from Hermits Rest (trail-head) to Hermits Rapids; 7 miles to Tonto Trail
Difficulty: strenuous
Elevation Change: 6,700 feet to 2,300 feet (Colorado River)
Time of Year Best: Year round (very hot in summer)
Recommended Map: Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon East #262

Summary:  The hike down the hermit trail is beautiful, steep and rocky.  There is not words for the wonders and beauty that unroll as one descends into the Grand Canyon.  But haste not and marvel not while hasting, there is ample opportunity to twist an ankle especially when laden with a heavy pack.  Park staff stopped maintaining this trail in 1931, but fairly consistent hiker traffic has been sufficient in maintaining  an impression that would be tough to miss.  There are several small stretches that have been covered by the flow of falling rocks resting until a time unknown. Carefully maneuver these obstacles and enjoy the beauty.  The hike to Hermit Rapids is 9.8 miles.  The hike to the Tonto Trail turnoff is a long 7 miles.

November 30, 2012

Hike Review: Grand Canyon Tonto Trail

Tonto Trail Sign
Add caption
Title: Grand Canyon - Tonto Trail (portion Hermit Trail to Bright Angel)
Distance: 11.5 miles
Difficulty: 6 out of 10 (10 being the most difficult)
Elevation change: net change is zero, but there is a lot of up and down; in and out of side canyons
Best Time of Year: All year (very hot in the summer)
Recommended Map: Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon East #262

Summary: The Tonto Trail follows the mighty Colorado for more than 70 miles.  The section hiked here was a mere portion of that.  The trail is approximately a thousand feet above the river (tattooed into the Tonto Plateau) and offers many viewing opportunities of the churning waters.  Feeding the Colorado are numerous drainages, washes, creeks, and rivers.  The 11.5 mile section that connects the Hermit Trail and the Bright Angel Trail crosses at least four of these obstacles: Monument Creek, Cedar Spring, Salt Creek, and Horn Creek.  Each provides unique beauty and adventure and a back-country campground.  Monument Creek is the deepest and largest.  Overall the trail is well marked as it has consistent albeit light use.  Other than the climb out of Monument Creek, the trail is fairly easy.  The catch is that you have to hike 3,000 feet down and back out of the canyon to get here.

For a detailed trip report on the entirety of the Tonto Trail: Read Here.

Other Grand Canyon Reports
Previous Grand Canyon Backpack Trip

November 8, 2012

Grand Canyon: Colorado High River Flow Event

Grand Canyon High Water Flow

Received this in my email today:

Date: November 8, 2012

To: Grand Canyon N.P. Backcountry Permit Holders

From: Grand Canyon N.P. Backcountry Information Center

Subject: High flow event in November of 2012

You are being contacted because you are a Grand Canyon Backcountry Permit holder and will be in the canyon during a time when river levels will be higher than normal. The Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), will be conducting a high flow event. It is scheduled to begin on the evening of November 18th with Glen Canyon Dam ramping up to full power plant capacity (approximately 27,300 cfs). At midday on November 19th, bypass tubes at Glen Canyon Dam will be opened and releases will continue to increase up to full power plant and bypass capacity (approximately 42,300 cfs) by the evening of November 19th. Releases will be maintained at peak release for 24 hours and then begin ramping down. Releases will return to normal operations in the evening of November 23rd.

“Normal” river flows through GCNP over the last several years has been from 8,000 to 25,000 CFS. A flow over 40,000 CFS produces significant changes to the rapids as well as river campsites. While our campgrounds will not be affected, if you plan on hiking or camping along the river, you need to be aware of this higher than normal flow. Information on the high flow event can be obtained on the following website:

 This webpage includes links on how the high flow event may affect river campsites. If you have any questions regarding the high flow event, please reply to this email or contact the Backcountry Information Center at: (800) 638-7875.

Backcountry Permit Office Grand Canyon National Park 928-638-7875 (phone) 928-638-2125 (fax)

October 28, 2012

Hike Review: Wildwood Canyon State Park

Location: near Yucaipa, CA
Distance: various trails (.5 to 8 miles)
Difficulty: various (easy to dificult)
Elevation Change: 0 to 1,800 feet
Time of Year Best: Year round (hot in summer)
Recommended MapsWildwood Canyon State Park Brochure

October 23, 2012

Grand Canyon Backpacking Checklist

Below is a link to a PDF document created and provided by Four Season Guides.  This is a basic list that I will be using as a checklist for my Grand Canyon adventure.

Grand Canyon Pack List




October 10, 2012

Book Review: Blind Man's Bluff

Title: Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage
Author: Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October, 2000)
Genre: US History, Cold War, political thriller

From 1945 to 1991, the worlds super powers locked horns in a slow motion struggle for information.  The USSR and the USA did not trust each other and it became clear that an effective means to "watch" each other was waged via submerged sea faring vessel.  The era of the submarine began evolving at a furious rate to the point that a nuclear sub can remain underwater indefinitely, creating its own oxygen and water, food being the only limitation.

Blind Man's Bluff is a collection of stories, untold until the 21st century, of various missions made by the submariners during the Cold War.  From wiretaps into land lines made in Russian waters to men overboard, the stories are interesting, thrilling, and educational.

From a former Navy submariner, I have heard it argued that a lot of this book is compiled of exaggerations and even a little untruth.  These same former Navy also stated their displeasure with the book for its liberal manner in sharing tactics and strategy that are still in use today.

September 30, 2012

Hike Preview: Grand Canyon Hermits Rest Trail to Bright Angel Trail

Hermits Rest Trail-head
Location: South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Hermits Rest Trail Sign
Distance: 25 miles one way
Difficulty: difficult
Elevation Change: 5,000
Time of Year Best: Year-round
Recommended Maps: Grand Canyon Map Pack Bundle

Summary:  Hiking into the Canyon, obviously you are descending first.  Before going, know your limits, know the weather conditions, know the trail, and get yourself a good map.  This in particular is a tough hike; steep going down, and a long gradual hike out.  Water is erratically dispersed in different areas.  You will need a water purifier. I highly recommend the Katadyn Hiker PRO Water Microfilter. The conditions can be drastically different depending on if it is summer, winter, monsoon, or freezing.  The hermit trail portion of the trail has been reported to have been washed out in some spots.  So there will be some scrambling.

The Monument
This hike passes several camps and offers several side hikes to rapids, side canyons, overlooks, and springs.  The Hermit Trail (descending) has several washouts or rock slides that have covered the trail over the years and it may take some scrambling to maintain the trail.  This will slow down the hike and the huge climb out coupled with the distance of this hike make it very tough. It is highly recommended that you obtain a back country permit  and take at least two days to do this hike.

The Hermit Trail, Grand Canyon