The Camp of Hikes

Last week our family took our new-to-us tent trailer camping at Spruces Campground. While it wasn’t my first choice for campsites, it really was a good trip.

We ended up leaving on Monday afternoon about 3:30pm. That was a lot later than I had originally planned, but I could get myself moving on Saturday to get the trailer packed and ready. So, we did most of the packing on Monday.

After we got to camp, we decided to do tinfoil dinners first, because the dutch oven meals were still frozen. It was nice. We then settle in earlier than usual for camping, because we had worked hard that morning.

In the morning, I woke up before everyone else (which is typical). So, I decided that I would start the day in searching for a geocache. The is called New Name New Cache and it is located up the Days Fork Trail. It is accessible only through the Spruces campground, but you can park just outside the campground if you don’t want to pay the fee.

It was a rough hike at first, but it levels off near the end and is very pleasant. I was tempted to place another cache to attract people up there, but I really didn’t have a good container. So, I will put one up next year. Spruces seems to be an annual tradition in our family.

When I got home we had a big breakfast of biscuits, sausages, and eggs. The biscuits were done in the dutch oven, and as you would expect from the dutch oven, there were better than from a regular oven.

After breakfast, I got the geocaching but again. So, I offered to take my kids on a hike to find a geocache. We headed out in search of Health Come to Dog Lake. When I got to the trail head and saw that the trail was 2.6 miles, I should have known it was too much for my 4- and 2-year-old to handle, but when I am caching such common sense departs.

After getting about 1.5 miles into the hike, I contemplated turning around. It was a beautiful enough of a spot to call our final destination. There were hundreds of butterflies, a few bees, and thousands of beautiful flowers by the stream. It made a great resting place.

However, after eating the snacks that we had brought, I was renewed. So, we pushed on. I told my children that we would decide about turning back once we got the the fork in the trail. At the fork, it was only a half a mile left to Dog Lake, so we decided to do it. It was a lot rougher, but no more difficult than the first half of the trail. It was at this point I started to carry Capt. Z.

We finally made it to Dog Lake. It wasn’t much to see, but it was a good hike. We thought about pushing on the the cache. But realized that it was 2:30pm and that Mom would be expecting us home soon. So, we gave up on that cache, and decided to find the two that I had already found before. We found the first, but not the last.

We ended up not getting home until 5:30pm. So late, that my wife had called my dad, and was ready to send out the search teams. But my dad assured her, that I was just following in his foot steps and turning a short hike into a forever hike.

Sandy had dinner all ready to go by the time we got home, so I helped her get dessert ready. We had the Great Chicken Dinner that I have told you about again. But we finished it off with some very delicious Orange Knot Rolls. I will share the recipe with you tomorrow. After a long hike, it was very delicious and satisfying. I don’t remember ever eating that well while camping.

We started a game of cards that evening, but the younger kids were acting up, and we decided that we should call it a night.

Wednesday morning, I decided to stick around for two reasons. The first was because we were having German Pancakes in the dutch oven. The second was that I was tired from the 8 miles of hiking that I did the day before.

After breakfast, the kids relaxed and played in the nearby stream, and I didn’t do much. I did take a short nap, and played a little catch with the kids, but for the most part, I watched the trees grow.

After lunch, which was hot dogs and mac’n’cheese, we play a game of ‘May I’ (that’s pronounced like the request “may eye?”). One of these days I hope to explain it to you, because I believe that it is a Gazelem Family phenomenon.

Then for dinner we had barbecue country style pork ribs (if you need the recipe then you have never dutch oven cooked) and baked potatoes. The potatoes were done by wrapping them in tinfoil and then cooking them in the dutch oven. They were amazingly good.

I couldn’t let the day go by without some geocaching, so we decided to do some drive-by caches in the canyon. We started out with a no find, then we had a couple of easy finds by a restaurant and a trail head.

The cache by the trail head gave me an idea of where I wanted to go in the morning. So after an okay night’s rest, I started by going after perhaps the lamest virtual cache in Utah, and perhaps the reason GC.com doesn’t list virtual caches. Then, I headed back to the trail head, and head up the canyon to grab several different caches.

But the main goal to to get a possible First To Find. I knew from the description, and looking at my TOPO maps on my GPS that this wasn’t going to be a pretty hike. But I had to go for it. Because my database was a month old and it looked like a possible First Find experience. The hike up was rough. There was a couple of times that I thought about giving up. But I perservered, and I was the second to find the cache.

My only regret is that my camera batteries were dead and so there were no pictures taken of this beautiful site. I might just have to do this again for the great pictures. But I think that I saw an easier approach while I was up there, so I might try a different route next time.

Coming down was an adventure itself. I decided to follow in the steps of the person before me (not that I saw his tracks, just had the same mind set). And I headed straight down the hill. There were several times that I felt like I was going to fall and break something, but after slowing down just a hair, and keeping my eyes wide open, I managed to get to Willow Heights safely.

When I got home, we started packing up the trailer and started heading home. It was a fun week, and I am glad that despite my misgivings, that we went camping at Spruces. Next year, I will definitely place a couple of caches in the area. Because I know that I will be going often enough.

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Parunuweap Canyon

On a little lighter note, but something that is just as much fun for me, I would like to tell you what I did this weekend. While many in my county were working at the convention, I decided to get away.

Yep, I traveled down to Zion’s National Park and enjoyed an 18.4 mile hike through some of Utah’s beautiful red rock country. We started out the trip by meeting up with the rest of our party at the East Gate of Zion’s National Park. It was a beautiful way to start our trip.

Then we heading to beginning of our trail which was located just south of Mt. Carmel on a dirt road about a 10th of a mile from US89. At first we worked our way down the road past the first gate, but from everything that my guides read, we needed to park at the first gate. So, we dropped our packs off as far as we dared take the truck, then we drove bak to the first gate and hiked to our packs.

There were many great pictures of buttes and mesas along this trail. I couldn’t help taking picture after picture. But it was also perhaps the least interesting part of the trail, because he hadn’t yet entered into the red rock that I love.

The first part of the trail is both an off road trail and a horse trail. So, while were were mostly by ourselves (accept for one small meeting with some ATVs) there was plenty of signs of people having been in the area.

The sun was starting to set as we got into the red rock part of the trail, and more and more we spent our time walking in the water. This was actually really nice because it would be a nice refresher to tired and sore feet. When we arrived at Mineral Gulch we knew that we only had a few hours left and my guides had read that there were several beautiful rock formations in the gulch. So, we donned our wet suits, and I put my camera away (I didn’t want to get it wet), and we trekked into the gulch.

They were correct. It really was full of some beautiful rock formations. I truly regretted not having taken my camera for two reasons. First, it was very dry. The wet suits were completely useless, but mostly I regret not getting some great pictures. My party was probably tired of me, because it seemed that every time I turned around a new corner, I saw a face in the formation. I really wish that I had some pictures of them to share with you.

That night we settled down along one of the Sandy banks just at the mouth of Mineral Gulch. By the time we got out of the gulch is was getting dark, so we barely had enough time to set up camp and get a fire started. Then we ate dinner, and as soon as my food was eaten, I went to bed. I was tired, and I say no reason to stay up and talk.

The next morning, we woke up had breakfast and headed out on the trail at 9:00 in the morning. Again we saw many great rock formations. But there wasn’t a lot of time for picture taking because we had 11 miles of trail ahead of us, and the last 4 was supposed to be the hardest.

I wish that I could describe the beauty of the place, and the best part of the hike was knowing that we were one of very few people who have ever traveled in this area. However, we know that these trails have been traveled for many years. One of the signs were these fun petroglyphs that were located about 500 feet from the trail, and well worth the brief break and trip of the trail.

One of my main goals for this trip was to hunt for a couple of geocaches. But this trip proved a disappointment for this trip. There was one cache that was on the must do list. It was called Fat Man’s Misery, and from what I understand it was reachable from where we were. Unfortunately, we lost satellite reception when we got within 350 ft. and we didn’t pick it back up again until we passed it by a tenth of a mile.

There were a couple of other caches that we passed, but one of the men with us wasn’t interested in geocaching, and really didn’t seem to want to indulge me. So, I came home without even one find on this trip. I was hoping to find one after he had left our group, but by that time I was very tired, and my GPS just up and lost all of my personal waypoints. So, I was left with nothing.

But, before I get to the end of the trip, I have to write about the last 4 miles. It was by far the toughest hike of my life. The first mile was straight up. Not so bad that we needed gear, but there was definitely one point where I felt that one slip would have cost me my life.

The next two miles were up hill, after up hill, after up hill. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever head down, which according to the elevataion chart it was supposed to.

The last mile was still pretty rough. Yes, it was finally heading down hill, but like the rest of the trail is was mostly sand. So, that double the amount of effort you needed just to walk in a straight line.

During the last 2 miles, I kept trying to listen for cars so that I knew I was close to the end. But we didn’t hear any cars until we could see their headlight just a head of us. Yes, I said head lights. We didn’t get off of the trail until around 9:00pm, and I was purely beat. I took everything in me to make this trip, and I had a terribly wonderful time.