Look what I just bought!!!!

Sooo I just got this super nifty totally awesome watch! The Garmin Forerunner 610.

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So far it seems super user friendly. I’ve only set up basic settings. Time, date, what info I want to see on which screens.

What sold me on this watch over the other GPS watches was that it seems easy to use, it was half the size of all the others (and it’s still pretty big)… it had all the features I wanted (distance, avg speed, elevation, timer, compass, water proof) and more.

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The best part is that it’s TOUCHSCREEN!!! How cool is that?!?!?!?!??

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I’ve only had about five minutes to play with the thing so I promise a full report my next hiking trip!

Do you have a GPS watch? If so, which one and why do you like it? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Trip Report: West Clear Creek, Camp Verde AZ

This is the closest we have been to a complete group on our overnights. We are missing Doc since she is still in Colorado “learning” stuff. The FallGal and myself brought our 13 year old daughter along to fill her shoes.

Day 1

The drive from the valley started at 5am on Saturday morning and we quickly found ourselves on a forest road just outside of Camp Verde. The road is very well maintained and if dry, you could easily make it in and out with just about any vehicle. The road starts fairly normal with expansive desert views of the surrounding mountains on the horizon. As you drive along there are some mines mixed in with the views and unexpectedly a simple turn in directions places you overlooking a dramatic canyon filled with huge bright green trees. Although the water is not visible through the trees, you can make out the path of the creek as it cuts though the desert with trees zigzagging the canyon. As you make it near the end of the road there is a sign for Bull Pen Ranch; to the right offers disbursed camping locations right along the creek. To the left you will find a parking lot at the base of the trail head. This weekend was pretty full with overnight “car campers” that set up shop right in the parking area.

After squeezing into a parking spot we loaded up and set off to the trail. Immediately the sounds of flowing water fills the air as you walk along a very wide path with giant trees allowing little sneak peaks of the creek. Not to far into the hike the trail heads away from the creek slightly and climbs up to one of the largest “open plain” type areas I have ever seen in Arizona’s high desert. About a mile or so of amazing photo ops with the creek breaking through the thick tree cover you start dropping back into the canyon where you come face to face with the creek. This is not the crossing however, but offers a nice swimming hole. Veer off to the left and follow the trail a little further until you hit the crossing.

Crossing the creek and staying dry is not possible. Come prepared; strapped sandals, five fingers, water shoes are all good options. However, the rocks appear to be very smooth and the water is extremely clear so crossing barefoot is possible as well. With points of knee high water be sure you don’t have anything in your pockets that can get wet. The water was a perfect 60 degrees and flowing pretty good, enough to push you over if you are not being attentive to your balance. Depending on your shoe situation, changing from the 1st to the 2nd crossing is not necessary as they are very close to one another. The 3rd and 4th crossing however are very spread out and putting your hiking shoes back on is the smart choice.

In between crossings the trail brings you up and overlooks the creek from above. Exposure is pretty high in these areas and it can get very hot. The weather took an unexpected turn this weekend and was about 10 degrees hotter than what we were wanting. 90 degrees in the shade made each one of the creek crossings a welcomed opportunity to cool off. After hitting the 4th and final crossing we had two options, find a place along the creek to camp or continue up trail 17 to the top. The top would give us slightly cooler temps but little to no protection along the way, water would also be limited. We made the choice to find a spot along the creek, however we did not want to plop right down in a high traffic area, so we pressed on along the trail.

The trail heading up after the 4th crossing is steep, wet, and muddy. Trekking poles will be your friend here. About a half mile further we found a shady place to take a break while Chuck and I went scouting for access back down to the creek. Eureka! We found the most amazing place to camp…but it was going to take some work to get our way down. Following a seasonal wash down to the creek we would be faced with a 20-30 foot set of shelves that we would need to navigate all the packs and dogs down. The reward, a camping spot completely secluded from the world. There was evidence of campers in the past, but the odds of anyone coming across us was slim to none. A waterfall/rapid area filled camp with the sounds of rushing water, there was a nice little fishing hole and a great place to take a dip in the water. This was a slice of paradise just 2 hours drive from the city!

We set up camp and then found our own ways to start enjoying our home for the day. Chuck and Chick spent some time fishing while Breanna and I took a dip to cool off, FallGal and Wicked Witch started to explore the area. As the sun started getting sucked up by the canyon walls we started working on a fire, dinner, and relaxing. Surprisingly the mosquitoes were not bad, our guess was because the water was flowing so well there was no standing water. The spiders however were INSANE! I have never seen such a concentration of spiders in one area; they were everywhere. After dinner and a few laughs around the fire we decided to hit the sack. This turned out to be one of the funniest moments of the day. Breanna, being a 13 year old girl was freaking out about bugs and Wicked Witch discovered that leaving her gear under a tree would result in a coated pack of fresh bird crap. The silent canyon and the sounds of the flowing creek were drowned out by the repeated phrase “What IS that!”

Day 2

The morning came early and packing up camp was mixed in with breakfast, fishing, and filtering water. As we skip from boulder to boulder to cross the creek we said goodbye to our perfect camp paradise. and began shuffling gear back up to the trail. We were all fighting the idea of heading back to city life, but we also had a slight sense of urgency to finish the day out quickly, doing the best we could to beat the heat. As the sun pounded down on the trail we took advantage of each crossing to cool off. Along the way we passed a few others that had set up camp near the crossings, but other than that the trail was pretty quiet today.

Once we made it passed the final creek crossing it was a long hot way back to the trucks. The dogs were walking along the grassy edges of the trail to keep their paws cool and we were playing hop scotch along each little section of shade that we could find.

The Backpacking Journal gives this trip our definite seal of approval. Collectively I believe it is one of the most favorite trips so far. Make it a day trip, or a weekend adventure, this kids and dog friendly area will not disappoint.

Here are some more pictures

A quick video to show the water flow

Half Dome Cables Permit!

The Backpacking Journal is extremely excited to announce that we have received a permit from the lottery system to climb the infamous cables at Half Dome during our upcoming trip to Yosemite!

A huge focus of this trip is Half Dome and we have been impatiently waiting for the last 44 days to see if we were going to make it to the summit or not. To increase the odds of success we each individually entered the lottery with an application requesting 6 permits and it paid off.

Last night Chuck Norris  received an email “Dear Customer, Congratulations! You were successful in securing a permit to hike to the summit of Half Dome from the Cables on Half Dome Lottery.” While the rest of us got “Dear Customer, We are sorry to inform you that you were not successful in securing a permit to hike to the summit of Half Dome from the Cables on Half Dome Lottery.”

7 Weeks to go!!!!!!!!

The tale of two packs!

I’m only two trips into backpacking and have had the great fortune (insert sarcastic tone) of using a different pack for each trip. I guess in a sense that has given me a bit more “wisdom” in regards to how much the right pack can make a world of difference…and I know now, it is like night and day!!

Slimms’ research led me to two options…the “best bang for my buck” choices. The Gregory Deva and the Osprey Ariel 65. It was love at first sight with the Ariel. Beautiful pack…and IN RED!! My mind was set…like a first love, no one was gonna make me change my mind whether or not the pack was “right” for me!! That being said, I did go to REI and try on both packs. The Deva felt clunky to me…bulky is a word that fits better. It is packed full of features, lots of pockets for storage…don’t get me wrong…a great pack I’m sure. Just felt awkward to me. I wanted something a bit more streamlined.

Now the Osprey Ariel..the girl in me took over and I didn’t care…I like how it fit but I will say, the padding was lacking and I should have known then that I might have an issue. I never thought it would be the way it turned out to be. The pack is rather minimalistic compared to the Deva, but I didn’t mind. It had a huge front entrance that I loved. The sleeping bag compartment was quite ample compared to what I have seen with a Gregory. Lots of straps for compression. I did like the trekking pole storage location. They are stowed under the left arm for easy access. The side pockets left a lot to be desired. Hard to get my nalgene bottle in and out of. My biggest complaint (it was listed as a con on several REI reviews) was the skimpy padding of the hip belt and shoulder straps. Compared to other packs, it could be said to be non-existent. For me, they didn’t work and cause a tremendous amount of pain during the first overnight.

So with a sad heart, I went to REI to see what could possibly be the issue. First off, wrong size pack. WTH?!?!?! I purchased a medium on the recommendation of one of the guys there. When I went back, another guy measured me and I should have been in a small. I’m not even 17 inches in my torso. I’m 5’9″ though…all legs apparently. Ok..small pack it is. So I try on a small Ariel. Blah! Lack of padding still regardless of fit was forcing me to return my beloved pack and surrender my dream of the color red. The new Osprey Aura had just come out…I was excited to try it on…but no luck…still didn’t fit right. I tried on every other darn pack with the same capacity size. The closest I got to fitting right and feeling comfortable was a Deuter. I wore it around awhile and decided to no go that option as well. Apparently I am a freak of nature and all the packs do not sit properly on me or against my back. Huge gaping issue. 😦

The guy was a trooper and stayed late for me but had to finally leave me…alone…no pack…no idea what to do. I retried on the packs I had done before. I was beyond disheartened. There I was in REI…a scrawny freak with no hope. Finally I guess my sad face lead another guy who had been helping another customer to come and give me a recommendation (he had been around while the other guy was helping). He suggested I try on a youth pack.

A youth pack??? I’m a full grown, taller than average size woman!!! Hmmmm…this just made me feel even more annoyed. The word “freak” kept running through my mind. I know I said it to the guy a few times…perturbed at the whole situation. But I took his advice…I had nothing else left to try. They had one pack…the REI Passage 65. All the other youth packs are smaller in capacity and I did not want to sacrifice that. So..I put it on. HELLO WORLD! You have got to be kidding me.

It fit amazingly well against me. It has extra padding in the back compared to the adult packs…and with 30 pounds in it, did not hurt my contact spots. Since it’s made for 11-17 year old children (le sigh), it is almost fully adjustable…and easily done so. It’s minimalistic, not bulky..pluses for sure. It does not have a front loading option but the side panel entrance is large enough to allow easy access to the pack. Large sleeping bag compartment.The padding on the hip belt is just right and caused me ZERO issues. It also comes with little storage pouches on the belt that the Ariel lacked. Unfortunately there is no real suspension system like the adult packs have. I noticed the difference with that feature, but not enough right now to make me rethink this choice. It is green…blah…but I decided to sacrifice fashion for comfort. I honestly could not be any happier with the pack. Plus, I saved $120 bucks 🙂 Win, win all around.

I continue to learn with each trip, which makes each trip that much more exciting. I am now a happy “backpacker” as far as my pack is concerned. The difference was incredible and my trip, after the first few sickly hours of puking (do not drink and backpack 8 hours later), was better for the change 🙂

Trip Report: Secret Canyon, Sedona AZ

Even if you have not lived in Arizona chances are you have heard of Sedona and the breathtaking red sandstone rocks. The area is completely unique due to hematite (iron-oxide, aka rust) staining the normally white sandstone. It is difficult to explain, and I have never seen a photograph that can truly capture the way the morning and evening sun causes the hematite stained rocks to glow in brilliant colors of red and orange. There are many places around Sedona to experience the red rock up close and personal, however it is heavily populated by tourists. If you would like to get away from the over populated trails and groomed “parks”, Secret Canyon is the place to go. The road to reach the trail head is about 4 miles long and even in dry conditions it is almost necessary to have four wheel drive. This added “challenge” keeps the minivan driving disposable camera toting visitors away. Although the trip could be done in a day, spending the evening in the canyon to witness the sunset and sunrise is the only way to go.

Day 1

We got a pretty slow start this morning as Fall Gal learned a valuable lesson; drinking the night before your 430am wake up call is probably not the smartest of ideas! We had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us as we somewhat crawled our way to the truck. Wicked Witch is joining us for her very first overnight so although early, her energy was high and she was ready to roll. The drive up was pretty smooth sailing, as we came into the Village of Oak Creek we made a stop at the Red Rock Information Center in order to pick up our Red Rock Pass (this is a pass required for any vehicle that will be left untended near trail heads, the current fees & regulations can be found here). The staff was very knowledgeable of the area and the current water conditions of the trail we were headed to. They also have maps and other normal items you expect to find in a visitor center. From here it was a short trip into Sedona and to the turn off for for Forest Road 152. Because of the amount of unprepared tourists that visit this area the rangers have made it very known that the road ahead is hazardous and a high clearance vehicle is necessary. Lucky for us, my 4×4 Tacoma can take on anything this road has to give. Generally speaking these signs are over stated and usually exaggerated, this one is NOT. If you plan on making it all the way to the trail head make sure you have a vehicle that can handle it. The side of the road along the way was littered with cars and minivans that could not continue. At the trail head there is a small parking area enough for 5 or 6 vehicles but it appeared to be sufficient. Melman was ready to roll, our gear was packed and we began our 5 mile hike. The trail immediately crosses a creek bed that, if flowing, could prove to start your trip with wet feet. The first 1.8 miles of the trail sit in a high desert area with little to zero protection from exposure and even in early April proves to be hot, there were several spots along the way with pools of standing water, but nothing was flowing. Once you pass the David Miller Trail Junction, you descend to the canyon floor where the high desert is quickly morphed into a Ponderosa pine forest. The canopy blocks the sun and invites a much cooler temperature. There is almost a definitive line where your feet will step from red sandy desert floor to leaf covered damp canyon dirt. There are several creek crossing locations, but they are narrow and rocky. Unfortunately the water had stopped flowing about 2 weeks before we got there, but you could see several spots along the way that would make for some stunning waterfalls. We found an amazing little spot to stop and take a snack break where the sand stone cliffs created an overhang along side a creek. This could be a great spot to camp if you are looking for a shorter hike. From the point the trail begins to climb slightly and there are a few parts with short 30-100 foot sections that rise steeply, reminding your legs that you are in fact carrying a heavy load. There are a couple areas past the 4 mile mark where some fallen trees block the path, but with a little scrambling we quickly found our way around. We found a perfect spot for camp with a 1500 foot sheer wall overlooking us. After camp was set, we explored the area around us. Wicked Witch and Fall Gal took a break on a giant fallen tree and I discovered a small patch of snow tucked in a small shaded area. After a snowball or two was tossed around, the snow became a place to get our flask of whiskey and wine nice and chilled! The rest of the day was just relaxing and lounging around camp with the exception of the out of control bumble bees. I have never seen a bumble bee act so aggressive, but these things were making their presence known. Kamikaze dive bombs and flybys; one of them actually stung Fall Gal. A small camp fire, some great food, and cold whiskey made for a fun night at camp.

Day 2

The temperature had dropped to somewhere around 35 degrees if I had to guess (I need to get a small thermometer for my pack). I layered up and slipped out of the tent at 4:30, got the fire going, made myself some tea, and sat back to watch the sunrise. This was one of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. Eventually Melman made Wicked Witch get up and Fall Gal quickly followed. After tea and some breakfast we packed up camp and were ready to roll by 7:30 or so. Even though this was an out and back hike our surroundings were considerably different under the rising sun. The colors were more vibrant and the smell of the warming spring time forest gives you that feeling of being surrounded by fresh air. As we crossed into the high desert we were slammed with sun and higher temperatures. We took a break in a nice camping area right at the David Miller Trail Junction and then hit the final 1.8 miles at a quick pace, beating the afternoon heat that was sure to come. The trail changes frequently from sections of red dirt to sand and then to smoothed small stones. We passed the sign in log, celebrated our completion and began our trek back to reality. Our drive came to a quick pause when the highway was shut down due to a vehicle fire. After about 20 minutes, we were debating unpacking our gear and taking a nap; traffic slowly started to move. It turns out it was a semi truck full of potatoes that had caught fire. Baked potatoes anyone?! The entire drive home was filled with thoughts of turning around and going back, as none of us wanted to face the following Monday and getting back to the grind of day to day life.

Watch our slideshow with more pictures here, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

A time lapse of setting up camp

You can check out some 360 degree panoramic views of Secret Canyon by clicking the links below:

http://360.io/ajCrUp

http://360.io/K2jCzC

http://360.io/M2GKMP

Sedona Was Beautiful!

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We are heading back to reality sitting on the 17 south, literally! Looks like there is a fire up ahead and they have traffic stopped. I figured this would be a good time to post up a little teaser photo of our trip. Look for the full report in a few days!

Hey, at least if we are stuck here forever we have all our gear with!