Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gear Review: Red Fox Fizan Trekking Poles

World's Lightest?
Trekking poles give the wilderness walker that extra traction to go the extra mile. They save the knees on the downhills, and are great for balance. If you’re an ultralighter, they come in handy for pitching the tarp too. And there are a ton to choose from. People are generally overwhelmed when they walk into REI and see an entire aisle full of poles, but one feature they are always want is light weight.

 That’s why I was so stoked to review the Red Fox Fizan trekking poles. At 158 grams they make the bold claim of being the world’s lightest, and maybe they are. Compared to my Black Diamond poles they felt like feathers. In fact the 5.6 ounce weight is about half of the lightest Black Diamonds. But they’re tough too. There was a couple times in The Grand Canyon when I thought they would break after I got one or the other jammed between rocks while in cruise control, but the aluminum allow construction had just enough flex to make the recovery without any damage.

Breakdown
At around 23 inches they also get smaller than the high-end name-brand poles we’re used to. And if that’s not small enough, they’ll easily break down into three separate sections of less than 19 inches, which is short enough to fit in most carry-on luggage. 

Specs aside, it’s clear to me that the Red Fox Fizan trekking poles are exactly what other poles are trying to be. Even the locking system is superior. Most twist locks fail over time, or when pressed upon by a significant weight. The twist locking mechanism in the Red Fox Fizan poles didn't budge even when I leaned on them. In the two months I've owned them they've never slipped once.

Compact
In the short term these trekking poles have been the best I've ever used. In 5 days of hard backpacking they felt like an extension of myself more than a tool I was using for travel. All wasn't perfect however, as the rubber tips they came with were utterly destroyed by the rocky Grand Canyon terrain, but that isn't saying much.

Oh yeah.
You can check out the Red Fox Fizan trekking poles and other gear at:
http://redfoxna.com/

Disclaimer: I was given the Red Fox Fizan Trekking Poles at no cost to myself from Red Fox for the purposes of a product review. The opinions I express in the review about the product are my own.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cave Creek Deer Hunt

Dawn
Some of you may know that I took up the bow recently. I can't believe how much fun it is. I can't believe it took me 36 years to pick one up. Archery deer season began in January, and with it a new reason to get outside. Some people evolve from backpacking to climbing or mountaineering, but for me I'm evolving toward self-reliance. That's what I've always loved about backpacking: relying on myself for everything. That's why I chose a recurve. It's simple. It takes skill and instinct developed though practice. Hunting, I think, is the next evolution in that self-reliance concept that I'm pursuing. 

Jim and I decided on the Cave Creek area of Tonto National Forest for our hunt. We both know that area very well, and that played a big role in our decision. That area isn't exactly known for an abundance of mule deer, but a trail cam nearby at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area convinced me that it would bear fruit. I follow Spur Cross Ranch on Facebook and they post regular photos from their cam on their Facebook feed. Besides coyote, bobcat, javelina and mountain lion, I have seen plenty of deer on that cam, including at least one large buck. We hunted the area just north of the conservation area. 
Camp for the first 2 days.
I felt exhilarated as we hiked in under a full moon late Tuesday night. The desert was alive with night sounds and the many creek crossings kept us on our toes. About 4 miles in we camped high on a saddle near Skull Mesa. The wind was roaring and I was concerned that my tarp would take a beating. I set it up in a simple wind shield type configuration with the windward side nearest the ground. With the wind pounding my tarp I didn't get much sleep. I kept expecting it to collapse, but it didn't. It was dark when we awoke. After a quick cup of coffee we geared up and hit a hillside that we expected would be a good position for glassing. We had great views into a large valley that the creek ran directly through. To me it looked like a perfect spot for animal activity, but we didn't see anything all morning. There was an even higher peak just to the south of us, so we decided to climb that to gain a different vantage point. Near the top we saw javelina sign everywhere. Holes in the ground. Half eaten prickly pear. Dug out beds under paloverde trees... And just like that javelina were darting about all around us. We saw big ones, small ones, and even babies. We walked right into a javelina heard that had bedded down for the day. Most of them just scattered, but one particularly large javelina stood 10 yards away from me staring at me. I clutched my bow waiting for him to charge me, but he didn't. Frankly I'm not sure he could even see me very well. I told James that if we had javelina tags we would have filled them the first day of the hunt.

Rusted out old Ford.
Our new vantage point on the mountain-top didn't reveal anything new. The valley appeared void of any animal life. We glassed until around 1pm, and not seeing a thing, we hiked down to the valley to get a closer look. Down at the bottom we saw some really cool Hohokam petroglyphs. Although I've seen them before, I always have to stop to check them out when I'm nearby. It still amazes me what the ancient people of the desert were able to accomplish in this dry, harsh landscape. We spent the rest of the day scouting the valley we had glassed all morning. We saw javelina and coyote sign everywhere. We saw bobcat tracks, and a rusted out old Ford that someone had dropped very purposefully over a drainage to presumably act as a bridge. But we didn't find any deer sign at all. We needed a new plan.
Jimbo glassing
That night I saw my first ever wild scorpion. It crawled out from underneath a rock when I was preparing to start a fire. It only took 2 and 1/2 years of desert dwelling to see one! The wind on that second night was even more viscous than the night before. But despite the 40 mph gusts I slept much better. I think it's because I wasn't worried nearly as much about the stability of my tarp. I just knew it would hold, and it did. 

The next morning we moved to a spot that Jimbo had picked out from the map. It was closer to the conservation area and we reasoned that maybe the deer were staying closer to the park because they just instinctively knew it was hunting season, and of course hunting is illegal in the park. Hiking up a hillside Jim spotted a large buck not 30 yards in front of him. He said later that it was the largest buck he'd ever seen in Arizona (and he grew up here). The buck was onto us immediately and literally the second Jim stopped and whispered "buck", it dropped into a wash and out of sight. We came up with a plan of action right away. I would flank high up the hill and try to drive the buck down the wash into Jim's position low. I nocked an arrow and crept up the hill as quietly as I could. It's hard sneaking in the desert with all the pokey plants everywhere. I was stuck by multiple cacti during my maneuver. I reached the top of the wash and spotted Jim below. We both looked at each other and raised our arms as if to say "where did he go?" We spent the rest of the day trying to track that buck to no avail, but the good news was that new spot we were in was full of deer sign. We decided to move our camp lower so we wouldn't have to make the hard hike up and down the mountain the next day,



Our new camp was near the creek and the wind was nill. Some critter made a racket in a wood pile nearby, and the entire area was covered in Javelina tracks. A spider the size of a mouse scurried through the sand near my tarp, and I was briefly concerned that I would be sharing my sleeping bag with it or one of its friends. We enjoyed the peaceful night as we sat by the fire and planned out the next day. Even though we had come up empty so far, we felt good about our prospects for the next day in this new spot.

It's me.
Early the next morning we were glassing from a hill at the same location we spotted the buck the day before. We spent all morning out there searching in vain. The desert mule deer is not easy to find, and we reckoned that the deer were even closer to the park then we originally thought. All in all, our hunting trip turned into a 4 day scout, as we only spent one day doing any real hunting. We simply could not find the deer. But it wasn't time wasted. I learned a ton. The desert is an excellent teacher.

Jim crossing Cave Creek

Monday, December 29, 2014

Superstition Wilderness: Terrapin Pass Overnighter

Sarah and Bianca
 Backpacking during the holidays is great because everyone is at home. My Uncle Steve and I used to backpack every 4th of July. We relished the solitude and chance to have the wilderness to ourselves. So it was in The Superstitions last week. Although the Peralta Trailhead was jampacked with vehicles, we encountered only one other group of backpackers in an area that is usually extremely popular.
Rocco lapping up water
The trick with the desert, and indeed the Superstitions, is the lack of water. Due to the recent rains however there was plenty along the trail. It was great for Rocco who had lots to drink and plenty of chances to cool off. Water also gives the backpacker peace of mind. Up in the Pacific Northwest I always took water for granted. Down here in the desert it's a luxury. To have available water is a big confidence booster when backpacking in the desert.

The Superstitions
Our original plan was to connect several trails to make a clockwise loop from Peralta Trailhead and overnight at LaBarge Spring. We arrived at the trailhead much later than expected however and had to change the plan. After a relatively easy jaunt through thick desert scrub we arrived at Terrapin Pass near the base of the famous Weaver Needle. The pass offered amazing views of the desert mountains so we decided to make camp. The only drawback with this spot was that there was very limited space for pitching tents, and no cover from the wind. I pitched the tent and my tarp nearly right on top of each other on the only relatively flat spot in the area. 

Terrapin Pass camp. Weaver Needle in the background.
Lying under my tarp with Rocco that night I felt him shivering like crazy. I felt bad for him so I unzipped my sleeping bag and let him crawl in as much as he could. It didn't work. He was still shivering. I couldn't figure out why he was so cold because his body felt warm and was radiating tons of heat. Eventually he crawled into the tent with Sarah and Bianca. I'm sure it was cramped quarters in the tiny 2-man tent, but it was the only thing we could do to keep the dog warm. At about 3am the wind picked up intensity. I had to get out and tighten the guylines to prevent the tarp from flapping so much, The wind was blowing really hard up on that pass. I'm guessing 40 mph or more. When I awoke around 6am I saw that my tarp had partially collapsed. I also saw that the wind was hitting the tent at a direct broadside, which bowed it nearly in half. Normally when I anticipate heavy wind like that I would pitch the tent with the most aerodynamic end facing into the wind. but the area we were camping prevented me from doing that this time.

Sarah, Bianca and Rocco on Terrapin Pass.
Despite a freezing dog, a partially collapsed tarp, and a beat-up tent, we still had a great time. The temps were perfect and the scenery was amazing. If you've been wanting to get into The Superstitions, this is a perfect time. The recent rains have filled the springs and sprinkled the lowlands with pools of water. If I can find the time, I will return as soon as I can.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Gear Review: Red Fox Odyssey 80

Redfox Odyssey 80
On the south rim of the Grand Canyon.










I read somewhere that Red Fox was The North Face of Russia. It's so popular that even Vladimir Putin wears it. I don't know if that is true, and frankly it doesn't really matter. Brand popularity doesn't interest me, good gear interests me, and the Red Fox Odyssey 80 backpack is definitely good gear.

The first thing I did when it arrived was fit the pack. With a fully adjustable torso I had it dialed in pretty quick. I loaded it with 30 pounds and paced around the house. It felt too good to be true. I had to see more. An hour later I was on top of a mountain. The pack had performed beyond my expectations and had comfortably hauled my haphazardly packed load with ease.

A few days later I was standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The Odyssey 80 was brimming with backpacking gear, 5 days of food, and nearly 2 gallons of water. Even with a successful test-run, I wasn't looking forward to carrying that weight over the next 34 miles.

If there ever were an ultimate proving ground for gear, it’s the Grand Canyon. The place is extreme, and in all my adventures over the years I've never encountered anything like it. The rocky terrain, unrelenting sun and insurmountable giant-cliffs everywhere will test the mettle of any backpacker, especially if you veer far from the popular corridor trails like we did. Needless to say, the Odyssey 80 took a beating: It broke my fall after I slipped on loose rocks, and was repeatedly dropped and manhandled. It was forcibly squeezed through narrow openings in-and-between rocks, and was lowered by rope down a twenty-foot cliff… All that, all the time. The rocks tore holes in other packs from my group, but the Odyssey 80 still looks brand new. That’s what I love about it. It’s a beast!
Lowering the Odyssey 80 down a cliff.
This beast isn't just durable, it’s huge… and hungry. With a massive 80 liter volume the Odyssey will swallow just about anything you stick down its gaping maw, and with multiple pockets and compartments organization is easy. A variety of lashing points on the outside gave me options for securing my trekking poles when I needed my hands, and the zippered side pockets were long enough to fully secure Smartwater Bottles with an attached Sawyer Mini. The storage options are many, but with all that stuff comes weight. The Odyssey’s aluminum frame carried the near 40 pound-load admirably, while the heavily-padded hip-belt was a welcome change from the ultralight backpack I normally use.

All these amenities make for a very technical trekking load-hauler, but all the floppy straps dangling from my pack was annoying. Regrettably, the backpack doesn't have any lashing options on the lid where I really needed them for fixing my solar panels to keep the GoPro charged.
Adjustable torso is easy, but slips.
The only real problem I had with Odyssey was that the adjustable torso, which is essentially a strap, slowly slipped throughout the day. Whereas I would set my torso length at “medium” in the morning, by late afternoon it had slipped a quarter of the way to “small”. It wasn't a huge slip, but it was certainly enough to feel it in my shoulders. Eventually I got in the habit of checking the torso length every time I took the pack off. 

Despite a couple hiccups the Odyssey 80 is a nice backpack capable of hauling heavy loads over rough terrain. It’s large enough to accommodate any gear requirements with a variety of storage options, and will stand-up to even the worst abuse. Anyone looking to take their adventuring to the extreme should definitely give it a look.
Packs on the trip from Osprey, Deuter, REI, and Red Fox.
Check out the website for Red Fox North America

For the entire catalog, check out the Russian language page. I believe most of this gear will eventually be available through Red Fox North America.

Disclaimer: I was given the Red Fox Odyssey 80 by Red Fox at no cost of my own for the purpose of a product review. The opinions expressed in the review about the product are my own.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for the Outdoor Lover: Under $50

Have an outdoor lover in your life? Not sure what to get them for Christmas? Check out this list of really cool yet affordable gear that is sure to satisfy adventurers of any level. These prices reflect the current regular price at REI.



                                                       Black Diamond Ion $24.95

This 80 lumen headlamp is one of the lightest and smallest on the market, and It only takes 2 AAA batteries (instead of the industry standard 3). But the coolest thing about it is the "power slide" function which allows you to control the settings without any buttons. Great for running because of the size and weight. It's still fairly new to the market so not a lot of people have them.





Buck 110 Classic $44.95

The Buck 110 Classic is a beautiful knife with a design that has stood the test of time. This is the knife your grandpa used to own and is sure to score big time for nostalgia and aesthetics. Made in the USA with 420HC stainless steel, it also comes with a black leather case that will attach to the belt.


                                                   
ChicoBag $9.95
  
Some hikers just hate to carry a backpack. If you know someone like that then buy them a ChicoBag. It hangs over your shoulder like a satchel, and will fit most water bottles. In Phoenix they're a real hit with seniors, who come in REI frequently asking for them.
                                                 

                                                                                       Sawyer Mini $24.99

More of a specialty item but one that anyone will appreciate. The Sawyer Mini water filter will enable anyone to safely drink from water sources found in the woods. It is light, small, easy to use and guaranteed to 100,000 gallons. It's great for hunters and backpackers, and would make a good gift for any prepper in the family too.




                            Hydro Flask $24.95


The undisputed king of water bottles, a Hydro Flask will keep liquid hot for 12 hours and cold for 24. Great for morning coffee, hiking, camping, hunting, and just about any other activity you can think of. Owners are like a cult, and will swear by the Hydro Flask over any other piece of kit. Come in a variety of colors and sizes.    


                                                                            Brunton Torpedo 2600 $39.95   

Don't let the looks fool you, this is actually a sweet little gadget. Almost everyone carries electronics into the woods these days. With the Brunton Torpedo, you can keep your devices charged and not worry about battery life so much. The best part is you can charge it in your car on the way to the trailhead. This would be a good gift for anyone who uses a GPS or an MP3 player on the trail.





A best seller and winner of Backpacker Magazine gear awards, the Flash 18 offers mobility and versatility. Great for travel, it packs down very small and can easily fit into any carry-on luggage. Could also be great for bike commuting.




                                                                          Darn Tough Socks $19.00

You've never truly lived until you have worn merino wool socks. These from Darn Tough are made in Vermont, and are widely considered the best socks money can buy. Any outdoor lover would appreciate them, and they last forever.

                                                      
                                                       Nathan Trail Mix $45.00

Runners come into REI all the time looking for hydration belts because so many of them hate carrying backpacks. This one from Nathan securely holds 2 10 oz. bottles and has a nice sized pocket for your giant cell phone, wallet and keys. Also nice for hikers who go light.




Maybe my favorite item on the list, this cooler is great for easily carrying cold drinks. You can use it for fishing, picnicking, concert going, or hiking into your favorite swimming hole. It will hold about a 6-pack, and features a variety of pockets for stashing other gear. Also works great on road-trips.





Disclaimer: I work at REI, but I created this blog post separately and independently of REI. These reflect the top 10 items that, based off my own opinion and experience, would make great gifts.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Top 10 Desert Hiking Tips.


Whether The Grand Canyon, The Superstitions, or a park in town, hiking in 100 degree heat with the sun beating down on you is hard, and everything you do in that heat is harder than normal. You have to be prepared for those extreme conditions, because extreme conditions can produce extreme consequences. Here are my top 10 tips to ensure your desert hiking will be as safe and fun as possible. 

1) Acclimatize - The more you hike in the desert, the better you handle the heat. My first couple desert hikes left me feeling sick and demoralized. If you plan on backpacking in the desert or doing any serious day-hiking (like hiking to the Colorado River and back in one day in The Grand Canyon) I would recommend plenty of desert day-hiking beforehand. Start small. 

2) Temper Your Ambitions - Like I mentioned above, everything is harder in the heat. Expect routine distances and climbs to push your limits. What you can easily accomplish physically in milder climates will be a challenge in the desert. You'll need to be in better shape than what your used to.

3) Carry a Backpack - One of the strangest sights I see in the desert are people without backpacks... And I see it all the time. If you're not carrying a backpack then you are not carrying the essential supplies needed to safely traverse the desert, The problem is that nobody thinks anything bad will happen to them, but bad happens all the time. Every time you go out without gear is a gamble. Around the United States, unprepared hikers are constantly being rescued from avoidable survival scenarios that are usually preventable by bringing some common-sense items. You need a backpack to carry those items! You need a backpack to carry water, which is muy importante in the desert. Check out The Mountaineers list of 10 Essentials for what else to carry in your backpack.

4) Bring More Water - Unless you've hiked in the desert in summer, it may be hard to imagine just how much you can sweat, and how thirsty you constantly feel. I've found that bringing double the water I normally bring is just enough. Last Saturday I finished 4 liters on a 7 mile hike. Trust me, you'll need to drink much more water than normal. In The Grand Canyon we started off 3 out of 5 days with 2 gallons of water each, and we drank it all by the end of those 10 mile days. Also keep in mind that water is really going to dictate where and how far you hike. If you bring 4 liters and notice that you've finished 2 already, then its time to turn around and head back to the car. The bottom line is that venturing out into the desert with an inadequate water supply can easily lead to an evac by search & rescue and even death. Be prepared.

5) Wear Proper Footwear - Hiking in the desert isn't a walk in the park. The ground can be jagged rocks for miles on-end. Or it can be loose rock and sand that can slip tread and sprain ankles. Furthermore, any variety of cacti will poke the hell out of you at every opportunity. Wearing sandals in the desert is inviting pain and courting death. Wear shoes that will protect your feet from the flora and won't disintegrate from the sharp rocks. If you wear running shoes consider gaiters to prevent debris from getting into the shoe. Finally, if your going on a long trip, make sure your shoes are up to the task. The last thing you want is for your shoe to fall apart in the middle of the desert, I've seen it happen.

6) Seek Shade - Heat stroke is a serious risk, and keeping your body from overheating is going to take effort on your part. If you come across shade, take your pack off and sit in it for a few minutes. Drink some water. Let your heart slow down. Let your body cool a little bit. I usually plan my breaks around shade instead of distances. I'll say to myself, "The next shade I come to, I'll take a short break". Trust me, it really helps taking a break in shade, versus taking a break in the sun, which can be totally miserable and can sap your energy even further.

7) Sun Protection - This one seems like a no-brainer. Keep sunscreen in your pack. Wear a hat to keep the sun off your face. Wear a wide brimmed hat or drape a bandanna from the back of your hat to protect your neck. A buff works great at protecting the back of the neck and your ears. Another good idea is sun protective clothing. The Columbia Silver Ridge or REI Sahara line of hiking clothing offer sun protecting moisture wicking clothing that are great for the desert. Wear polarized sunglasses. I have forgotten sun screen multiple times, and got burned for my stupidity. Now I keep a tube in my day-pack at all times. 

8) Keep Track of the Forecast -. I like to use 100 degrees as a good mark of when to start and when to stop. If it's 100 in the morning when I plan to start then I stay home, because it will only get hotter. If it's 100 in late afternoon when I plan to start, then I'll go, because it will only get cooler. Hiking in 110-120 degree weather is too dangerous, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but 100 is doable as long as it's the peak temperature. You can beat the hottest times of the day by hiking near dusk and dawn. Just remember, your tolerance for the heat will be different than mine, so knowing what temperatures your comfortable with will be key for planning trips.

9) Electrolyte Replacement - I learned this lesson the hard way. For most climates, eating salty snacks like trail-mix and GORP is enough to replenish electrolytes lost during the physical activity of hiking. Since the amount you sweat significantly increases in the desert, supplementing your snacks with an electrolyte replacement can be vital, especially on rigorous days. Besides a whole mess of symptoms ranging from vomiting and dizziness to diarrhea and muscle cramping, electrolyte imbalance can lead to death. Check out brands like Nuun and Hammer that make tablets that easily dissolve in water.

10) Respect & Common Sense - Nothing is a substitute for common sense. Remember that playing in extreme environments can produce extreme consequences. Trust your gut and respect the land. You can't beat the desert, but you can travel through it by foot safely and comfortably if you use your brain. If you're out of water and come across a puddle: better fill up. If you are confused about the best way forward: turn around. If you start feeling weak or dizzy: take a break in some shade and drink water. If you see a sign at the trailhead warning you not to do something: don't do it. You aren't Cody Lundine and this isn't a movie. If you don't respect the desert it will punish you unmercifully. 

 *This post was adapted from a post I did last year called Desert Walker.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Grand Canyon: Royal Arch Loop - Royal Arch back to South Bass.


I awoke on day 3 feeling refreshed. The tranquil sound of slow running water lulled me into a deep sleep that was a welcome change from the blasting sand from the night before. After a quick breakfast we backtracked up the drainage. The day before on the way down I wondered how we would get out of there. Sliding down rock was one thing, but climbing back up seemed an entirely different animal. My worry was for nothing though, because the climb out was easier than expected. By day 3 all of us were so used to scrambling that it had become just like walking. You just did it without thinking. The path of least resistance came naturally. 
Climbing out of the drainage. Photo by Mike Scussel
After the last obstacle we reached a large plateau surrounded by gigantic cliffs. The views were spectacular, For the first time since early day 1, we were on an actual trail, and we made good time. Not that I necessarily wanted to hurry. The views were so amazing that I would have been content camping right there, it was that beautiful. When I hike or backpack, I usually like to take my time to just soak in the wonder of it all... But we had a 10 mile day, including a twenty-foot rappel. We had to move. 
The plateau on day 3. Photo by Mike Scussel.
 We got out first excited glimpse of the Colorado River far below. I kept thinking that it looked like a chocolate river out of Willy Wonka it was so brown. As the miles ticked by the terrain got steeper. The trail paralleled the edge of the canyon, and we were forced to walk precariously close to it most of the day. Sometimes the trail would put us right on the edge. I'm not afraid of heights, but we were so high up and so exposed that I couldn't help but feel that rumble in my guts every time I peeked over the edge. 
Hiking exposed on day 3. Photo by Bob Cagle
 Our destination that day was Toltec Beach. The problem was that the trail didn't actually go to Toltec Beach due to a cliff in the way. The only way to reach it was by a twenty foot rappel. For me, this rappel caused more pre-hike apprehension than even the Ledge of Death. Mainly due to the fact that I had never repelled in my life, and I would have to rely on someone elses equipment and expertise. The sight of the rappel was a narrow ledge that jutted maybe 5 feet out from the cliff-wall. We all removed our packs and sat with our backs against the cliff while Mike rigged the rope. My original plan at this moment was to volunteer to go first so I could get it over with, but Bob beat me to it. From our position on the cliff we were closer than ever to the river, and watched rafters float by as we waited. Out of the group of 5, 3 of us had never rapelled, and I think it's fair to say that we were all nervous... But it was a good kind of nervousness. An excited nervousness. Finally the rope was rigged and Bob took the plunge. We watched tensely as he leaned all his weight on the rope and harness and backed down the cliff. After he reached the bottom Mike looked over at me with a big smile on his face and goes, "Yes! That was my first time ever setting up a rappel by myself." I looked him and said, "Dude, couldn't you have waited until I was at the bottom before you told me that?" It was all in jest because by then Mike had definitely earned my trust. Besides, seeing Bob make it to the bottom helped to settle me some. After a crash course in Rappelling 101, it was my turn. I think the hardest part for me was just trusting the equipment. Once I realized that the gear would support my weight the descent was easy. The entire time down I kept thinking about how much fun rappelling was, and when It was over I wished that it wasn't.

Video Below: My first ever rappel.


After we made it down safely, it was just a short jaunt to the beach where we would make camp. At the beach we ran into a couple hikers, It was the first people we had seen in 3 days. As much as we all wanted to make camp and relax, our day wasn't yet done. We still had a 3 mile round-trip to make if we wanted to see Elves Chasm. The hike to Elves Chasm was actually the toughest we'd done all day, and when we arrived I was totally pooped. Elves Chasm is a beautiful little waterfall and swimming hole carved right out of the sandstone. I took my shoes off and just let my sore feet soak in the cool water. 
Mike and I at Elves Chasm. Photo by Bob Cagle
 Back at the beach we sat around laughing and joking about the day we had. I think all of us felt a real sense of accomplishment even though we still had 2 days to go. I fell asleep knowing that from then on the route would be all uphill. Working full-time, going to school full-time and still making time for family didn't leave me a lot of time to train. I knew from the start that climbing out of the canyon would be my greatest challenge.
Leaving the river behind. Photo by Bob Cagle.
 Leaving The Colorado River behind was bittersweet. It took so much hard work to get there that it felt like we should stay longer. But we had a schedule to keep. Before we left we topped off on water. Our destination at Copper Canyon was ten miles away, and there would be no water sources in between. We weren't even sure if we would find water at all once we got there. The day's hike was a moderate climb packed full of views. It was our first day without any scrambling, and it gave me time to enjoy the never-ending views and contemplate the amazing landscape I was in. I kept thinking that it was no wonder I had never seen any Discovery Channel survival show on location in The Grand Canyon. It's just too extreme. Looking around I wondered what it would take to survive there: treacherous terrain, scant shade, little water (except at the river), and barely any game or wild edibles. I couldn't help but feel respect and admiration for the native peoples that lived down there and even the first whites to explore it. The Grand Canyon is without question the most hostile place I've ever been.
Having fun at Copper Canyon camp. Photo by Bob Cagle.
We reached a bone-dry Copper Canyon late in the afternoon. We were nearly out of water, and the water we were hoping to find did not exist. We fanned out to search the 3 or 4 small drainages that fed Copper Canyon hoping to find something drinkable. Thankfully Mike found 2 large puddles about a half-mile up from our camp in one of the drainages. The day before, Mike's MSR Miniworks water filter completely failed, and David's Steripen was working only intermittently. Chris hadn't brought a filter and was completely relying on us for drinking water. Luckily I had a Sawyer Mini and Bob had a Sawyer Squeeze. What I love about Sawyer filters is the simplicity. There are no moving parts or complicated electronics. There is nothing to fail. 
Chris and I. Photo by Mike Scussel.
 The hike out was a bitch, at least for me. My stomach still bothered me from the day before. The terrain was steep, and it seemed like no matter how much progress I made I wasn't getting any closer to the top.  The day was a blur as I spent most of it just watching my feet, too tired to pay attention to any views. About 3/4 of the way to the top I had just a couple ounces of water left and was on the verge of upchucking. Chris ran ahead (despite his bum knee) and alerted Bob (who had already finished) who brought me down some more water. After a good 20 minute rest, I powered on out. I was glad the climb was over. 
Climbing out. Photo by Bob Cagle.
The Grand Canyon is an extreme place. I know I've mentioned that before in this trip report, but it's so true. It's something you can't quite understand until you've been there. If you ever get a chance to go, do it. Just make sure you're prepared. Any mistake in the canyon can quickly lead to disaster, especially if you aren't on the more popular corridor trails. Overall our trip was awesome. Everyone had blast even though it took us some time to recuperate. Thanks for reading.

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