Salome Canyon

by frank Monday, September 12th 2011

A few weeks ago, a group of us took a little canyoneering journey up to Salome Canyon. For those of you who may not know, canyoneering is an adventure activity that essentially entails making your way down the bottom of a canyon - by any means necessary. Sometimes that means hiking, sometimes it's sliding and sometimes there are technical rappels involved. Canyoneering is picking up steam as a mainstream activity but has long been an incredibly popular activity in the "adventure travel" realm, with canyoneering (or canyoning) being wildly popular in adventure destinations like Switzerland, Argentina, Costa Rica, and closer-to-home Zion. My first canyoneering experience came in Interlaken, Switzerland in 2007. This was definitely a tourist-centric trip but got me hooked on the sport! 

Salome is in the Salome Creek Wilderness north of Roosevelt Lake. There is only one necessary rappel – at the very end of the canyon – but there are plenty of scrambles, slides and swims! Although this was my first time down the canyon, it wasn’t Dave’s first and he was very quick to point out the water was incredibly low. Water levels here, as well as in most desert canyons, can vary drastically! If water levels are high, or if there is a chance of storms, it is probably best not to attempt the canyon.

The following video was put together using video shot by all members of our party – we had a blast and will definitely be back!

Necessary Gear: You WILL get wet! All of your stuff WILL get wet! If there is anything that needs to stay dry (electronics, wallet, etc) leave it in the car or put it in a dry bag -- or better yet, a canyon keg! There are tons of products out there made specifically for canyoneering, by brands like Imlay Canyon Gear, and all of them will make your day more enjoyable in some way. In our crew packs ranged from a pack made for canyoneering, to a simple CamelBak pack. All will get the job done! Footwear is also a matter of personal preference. I opted for my Chacos, Dave was wearing boots. About 150 feet of rope will get you through the one rappel. Also bring some webbing and be comfortable setting up an anchor at the rappel bolts. 

The Hike: The approach to the canyon is just about two miles (downhill on the way in - grueling uphill when you're on your way back, tired and hot!). The canyon itself is relatively short, about one mile, but can take some time, especially if you enjoy sliding down granite slides! We did the entire trip from car to car in just about 5 hours.

Directions: From Tucson, head north on Oracle Road (Hwy. 77) to Globe. Take Hwy. 60 west toward Superior, drive north on Hwy. 88. After 15 miles, turn right on Hwy. 288 toward Young. After 13 miles, turn left on Forest Road 60, also known as A Cross Road.  Watch for a brown forest service sign on the right side of the road. There is a small parking area next to the sign. Jug Trail #61 begins just beyond the sign.

Activities | Trails | Trips

Upper Muley Twist Canyon

by Dave Baker Thursday, September 1st 2011

Talk to just about anyone who has walked the loop trail in Upper Muley Twist Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park, and they’ll be happy to rant and rave about just how great the hike is. Hard to argue; this is certainly one of the finest and most rewarding hikes I have ever been on.

Upper Muley Twist Canyon

In Upper Muley Twist Canyon

The route includes an elegant loop which alternately pokes along the canyon bottom and then traverses the soaring rim of the Waterpocket Fold high above. There is so much to take in: a beautiful and fascinating canyon, spectacular geology, a bunch of natural arches, scattered prehistoric Native American artifacts, eye-popping panoramic views, not to mention a unique and unforgettable name – “Muley Twist”, who came up with that?

Natural arch in Upper Muley Twist Canyon

One of several arches in Upper Muley Twist

Upper Muley Twist Canyon runs just under the rim of the magnificent 100 mile long Water Pocket Fold, a gigantic geologic feature that dominates most of Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah. The trailhead for the hike is near the crest of the Fold, just off the Burr Trail Road, a great back road which runs from the Notom-Bullfrog Road in Capitol Reef to the settlement of Boulder on Utah’s highway 12.

About a mile west of the exhilarating Burr Trail Road switchbacks, turn north onto the Strike Valley Overlook Road. Passenger cars can navigate this dirt track for about 0.4 miles before it drops steeply into the bed of Upper Muley Twist Canyon. Four wheeled vehicles are needed to drive the next 2.5 miles to a small parking area at the base of the Strike Valley Overlook Trail.

Wingate sandstone in Upper Muley Twist Canyon

Wildly eroded Wingate sandstone

From the 4WD parking area, wander up the bed of Upper Muley Twist for about 1.8 miles. On the west wall of the canyon you will see Saddle Arch, and you may notice a metal sign on the east side of the wash which marks one end of the rim trail and the closing point for the big loop.

Two more miles up the bed of the canyon be alert for a bypass route marked with rock cairns leaving the wash on its east side. With this bypass, hikers avoid a narrow slot a short distance further up the canyon bottom. The cairn marked path continues up canyon until the narrows below are passed, and then drops back into the wash briefly. Not too far past the top of the narrows, watch for cairns marking the climb out of the bottom, up the east side of the canyon to the rim trail on the very crest of the Waterpocket Fold.

On the rim of the Waterpocket Fold

Walking the crest of Waterpocket Fold

Rock cairns mark the faint rim trail; follow the rim and cairns south for about 3 miles to a metal sign which marks the beginning of the descent westward to the bottom of Upper Muley Twist and the end of the loop.

Season: Fall and spring offer the best chances for pleasant outings. This area is hot in the summer and catches snow in the winter.

Water: Usually scarce; bring plenty of your own.

Note: Overnight backpacking requires a backcountry permit.

Difficulty: Moderately difficult. Those in passenger cars will park about 0.4 miles after turning off the Burr Trail Road onto the Strike Valley Overlook Road. The round trip distance from here is about 14.5 miles. Four wheel drive vehicles (and sometimes high clearance two wheel drive depending upon current conditions) can reach a parking area at the base of the Strike Valley Overlook Trail, which reduces the round trip mileage to about 9.5 miles. Elevation gain on the hike is 800 feet or so. The trail is more of a social trail than a constructed one; it pays to be watchful for the many rock cairns marking the route, especially on the rim portion of the trail.



Click map for larger image

Trails | Trips

Osprey Talon 22 Pack

by Jonathan Tuesday, August 16th 2011

One of the great things about commuting, or running errands, on a bicycle is that you can do those things while outdoors (sorry, driving a car is on the “in” side of the doors)!

The downside of cycling is that carrying all your stuff with you can be problematic, particularly in light of the fact that when you stop you must take it all with you.

Panniers, saddle bags, and handle bar bags are by far the best way to carry stuff. If, however, you are getting on and off almost as much as you are riding, the dismounting and remounting of these bags becomes quite tedious, and everywhere you go you look like a cyclist who just ran away from home.

Putting your stuff in a day pack and wearing it solves these problems. It automatically comes with you when you dismount, and everywhere you go you look like everyone else with a day pack.

While a pack will never match the efficiency and comfort of panniers, you can mitigate the packs shortcomings in two ways - keep the weight low, and get a superb pack.

First, mount your lock on the frame, this will save weight, and you will not be taking your lock with you anyway. Second, do not get a large pack, too much capacity encourages too much weight. Consider an upper limit of around 1800 cubic inches (30 liters).

Talon 22

My favorite pack for this application is the Osprey Talon 22 (22 liters or 1350 cubic inches). It is quite light in its own right, and unless you fill it with bricks its capacity will keep you within a reasonable weight range. Innovative features include a bladder sleeve outside the main body of the pack, and an outside pouch for overflow or quick access.

Water Bladder SleeveOutside Pouch

Bike-specific features include a tab for a tail light, and a retainer for fixing the helmet to the pack - this is a delight when you really want the helmet out of the way.

Bike Helmet ClipTail Light Tab

The pack comes in two sizes, both of which are widely adjustable. It is constructed in such a way as to support the load while remaining flexible enough to move with your body. Compression straps stabilize the load when the pack is not filled to capacity.

All these features make the Talon 22 a superb pack for the bike. They also make the pack superb on the trail. This double-duty feature may be the best of all.


Mount Rainier: Part Two

by Emily Thursday, August 4th 2011

Finally the day came. After three months of intense training and intense worrying, I was on a plane flying over the peak that I hoped to stand on top of. And then I was on a van driving through thick pine forests scarred by avalanche. In the parking lot we divvied up group gear and put on sunscreen, and as I rolled up my sleeves to get sunscreen on my shoulders, I struck a fake bodybuilding pose to explain to everyone the direction of the bathrooms. I was nicknamed "Guns" the rest of the trip. A short time later I was strapping a 50 pound pack on my back and 3 pound boots to my feet and hiking behind our head guide, crampons and snow shovel lashed to the back of his pack. I was the only girl and I was always in the front of the line.

Back home the desert was entering the driest 110-degree summer I'd seen since moving to Tucson, and so it was fascinating to see this old pine forest completely drenched with water. There was snow on the trail and meltwater surging down the ravine to a fast stream below us, gathering at the bases of trees. In flat spots in the valley below, water pooled with the pine needles. On the steeper slopes there were thin but fierce waterfalls only briefly slowed by rocks and downed trees. Every once in a while there was a break in the trees, with evidence of the slide that opened up the view, and we could look up to the glaciers and the jagged peak of Little Tahoma looming.

 Rainier part 2 pic 5   

Soon the dry ground disappeared altogether under snow as we made our way to Glacier Basin, a wide snowfield ringed with the last pines of the tree line. A few backcountry skiers were out, cutting wide loops down from the ridge line. We trudged halfway up the soft snowy Interglacier and stopped to put on Gore-Tex for our first mountaineering lesson: the self-arrest.

Rainier part 2 pic 2

The prospect that we might actually have to use this skill was terrifying to me. We practiced "tripping" sideways, backwards, and face first down the slope, stopping ourselves by digging ice axe and feet into the side of the mountain, a feat that usually required spinning or flipping around to get upright in the snow. I didn't want to know what this would feel like with full momentum on an actual slide, but I did want to know I could control my mind enough to stop myself. I tried not to think of whole rope teams sliding over an icy cliff edge into an abyss. It didn't help that they asked us to strap on avalanche beacons for the rest of the trip.

Camp Curtis, at 8,500 feet, looks back down into the forested Glacier Basin on your right and over a rocky pass into the white-tipped Cascades on your left. I want to live here. There is enough snow, I could build a little snow castle and watch the sun turn the walls blue and orange every morning. Camp Curtis itself is no more than a bench dug out of the snow on the side of the Interglacier. We smoothed out the snow and pitched tents as the guides went to work in the kitchen: they'd carved counter space at waist-height and a square cooler to hold water bottles. We had soup, and macaroni and cheese with sausage and veggies, and hot chocolate. It got cold quickly as the sun ducked behind the mountain, and we fell asleep with daylight still shining on the trail below.

The next morning we packed up camp, strapped on crampons, and learned to walk on the frozen snow. We split into two rope teams, tied in 30 feet apart from each other, and started a traverse of a steep mountainside into a basin under a crumbling rock face. Deep crevasses came into view, glowing blue on the mountainsides above us. As we stepped onto the Emmons Glacier, the physical space between us in the rope team led to a quieter, more introverted trek for each of us as we rest-stepped up the steepening slope. With my shins beginning to ache from the stiff plastic boots, I kept my eyes to the ground, planning each step to keep my feet as flat as possible. The instances I stole a glance up at the rock pinnacles above us or the vast folded landscape below became mental photographs that will stick in my mind, absolutely and forever.

Rainier part 2 pic 3

At Camp Schurman (9,450 feet) we built snow walls around our tents to duck from the wind. There was a ranger's cabin, and a good-natured ranger who checked in often with weather updates. Our forecast was not good. Raging winds up to 50-plus miles per hour, a freezing level dropping to 8,500 feet, and billowing clouds spelled a potential storm for our summit attempt. We ate dinner as we watched a wall of white cloud roll up quickly from the valley below. My shins had gone past the point of aching to pain so sharp and persistent I could barely walk to the outhouse. One of the guides chopped two pieces of foam out of my Ridge Rest pad which I taped to my shins and hoped for the best. We sipped water and crawled into sleeping bags by 5 p.m., hoping to be well rested if the mountain would let us up in the middle of the night.

The guides woke us at 1 a.m. with news of winds but no clouds. We began in the 3-foot spheres of light from our headlamps, a world so small that there was no mountain, just the wind and our crampons chopping through the frozen snow. I was roped behind our head guide, Eben, and I loved this man. He walked so slow. The first couple of hours was a meditation in the dark, the sound of kicking measured steps in the slope and the singular thought of going up, up, up.

The sunrise seemed to come quickly, like maybe we were so high up we saw it before anyone else. Suddenly our endeavor took shape: we could see our tiny orange tents far below, and look down on the tip of craggy Little Tahoma. We crossed a snow bridge and looked into the sculpted blue depths of the crevasse below. We stepped over a crack no more than a finger's width wide that was seemingly bottomless. And we kept going up, on slopes sometimes 45 degrees steep. The up was endless.

Rainier part 2 pic 4

Until we were right under the lip of the summit. Clouds boiled up the valleys, obscuring most of the terrain but for a few small glimpses. A steep push and we found ourselves standing on the rim of the huge caldera, the top of the volcano stoppered with snow and baring its ragged teeth. We ran around in the crater, sheltered from the wind and fueled by a couple of gulps of bourbon someone brought up in a Nalgene bottle. We could see Mount Adams poking his head above the clouds. I ran to the edge again to take pictures, got whipped by the wind, and promptly came back to the steam vent. Under a pile of rocks was an army canister with a green bound book and a few pens. I signed my name to a summit log which, once filled, will go on display in a museum with all the books that have been filled out by mountaineers since the first known ascent. I was so elated that when someone turned their camera to video mode, pointed it at me, and asked how I felt: I had nothing to say.

We turned out to face the Cascades as we stepped back down the mountain, and this was perhaps the most beautiful part. The steep slope seemed to drop off to nowhere, as if we were on the white pocketed face of the moon and about to step off into space, poised to land somewhere in the forests of Washington. Halfway down a cloud came up to meet us for a whiteout. I took photos, but it just looks like a blank screen. For just such an occasion, our guides had placed bright green wands with pink flags along our route, and as each one came into focus I could see what I'd missed in the dark: gaping cracks edging in from both sides of our route. Eben later told us that because of where the cracks had split in the glacier this year, the normally switchbacked and wandering Emmons route went straight up. Combined with the wind, it was the second hardest ascent he had done on Rainier. Out of sixty-four. Back at camp the guides cooked up pot roast and mashed potatoes, and sitting in the snow in a whiteout eating from a Nalgene mug with a plastic fork, this is the best dining experience I have ever had.

Rainier part 2 pic 1

On our last day we descended the Interglacier by glissading, which is an overly fancy word for sliding down on our butts. In the fashion of good amateurs, our water bottles and trekking poles went everywhere. It was a really good time. Like a good pro, our driver had a cooler full of beer for us when we made it back home.


The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!