Frequently (at least once!) Asked Questions

   I just got through looking at the Utah hiking pictures.  Thanks so much. It was really interesting.  You don't have the time to keep any sort of journal when you hike, do you?

Sorry, no one along with literary inclinations.

 I wondered if the altitude affected you.

Altitude had many effects. One huffs and puffs a lot on the uphill stretches, especially if one is not in superb condition (who might that be?) I was pretty religious in preparation, doing my half hour of hard work on the elliptical machine every day. The air also has a crispness that is not experienced at lower elevations. The sun (and moon) are much more intense (at 10,000 feet you are above nearly a third of the earth's atmosphere), the sky is a darker, more intense blue. When we first got out we all had some degree of altitude sickness-- general wooziness and lack of appetite being primary symptoms (not the kind that is life threatening, that is pretty rare and usually only happens at much higher altitudes.) I had a lot of trouble breathing while sleeping, especially when I moved to the more enclosed, leaky tent. (had to keep the boys dry!) I seemed to be much more sensitive to elevated CO2 in the tent, coming up short of breath. It was much worse when I zipped up the tent for bug or rain control.

Also what you heard and smelled. 

The quiet can be overwhelming. The wind is generally the only thing you hear, running water if you're close enough. (and, of course the odd airplane overhead). You get used to the sound of boots on rock as you hike and can tell a lot about what is happening by listening. In the pine forests there was a vague piney smell. Touches of ozone after the thunderstorms, but not generally a smell-rich environment. Much less organic stuff around than we're used to.

Did the air feel/smell different than Beantown? 

Yes. Adam complained for days about the soupy air after we got back. Almost no humidity in the mountain air (despite water everywhere)

I wondered if the air felt warm, cool by the snow? 

We were really surprised when we got back to the car on what felt like a warm day. I would have guessed high 70's-- it was 57deg! I think you get much more heat by radiation--direct from the sun, and less by convection from the air. So the air tended to feel warm, even with the snow around. It didn't feel quite so warm when it was actually snowing on us. There were also huge thunder/hail storms--one left about four inches of ice on the ground--that hit us while we were driving up to the trailhead. I was sure it was going to break the windshield. We had hail while hiking, but none nearly so bad--we found a nice boulder overhang to stand under.

How do you know how to arrange your days? 

We planned a route in advance with an intended leisurely pace of 6 miles a day or so. Some days it was longer, especially when we got lost. The trails were not always superbly marked. Because there were thunderstorms most afternoons we tried to hike early and be camped by 2-3pm. We woke up with the sun pretty much--we tried to camp where we would get early morning sun-- and I usually got up first and fired up water for coffee and hot cocoa. I'd then roust the boys while making breakfast-- a cycle of granola, oatmeal and fruit, pancakes and the disastrous dried egg concoctions. After breakfast we'd dry things out and get packed and be on the trail by 8 or 8:30. We'd then walk, taking breaks about once an hour or when we got to something interesting. Early on we tended to forget to eat lunch until after 1 or 2. Lunch was either peanut butter and crackers or salami and cheese with crackers. When we arrived at the day's camp (mostly a lake) we'd set up tents to have shelter against the rain and then nap, read, play chess or fish until dinner. I cooked earl in the trip, the boys made most of the dinners later. Dinners were all freeze dried food with dried soups. You can eat better with grocery store stuff, but packing for 11 nights we had hard volume and weight constraints. By then it was getting dark. Early in the trip we just crashed, later we'd build a fire and make some pretense of staying up a while before crashing, usually until about 8:30. Days when we got lost or hid from a storm just got extended, we needed to stay reasonably on schedule, both because we wanted to camp at lakeshores and we had a set meeting time with Garry.

Are there any 'mistakes' you can make on such a trip? (Beside getting hopelessly lost or eaten by something!)

Many, some life threatening and some not. We avoided the former (like solo river crossings over flooded streams or dropping rocks on each other during steep switchback climbs) but not others, like carrying 6 pounds of gorp we didn't eat, a tent that filled with water in the rain, and two completely inedible breakfasts. Planning and a little experience helps a lot.

 I assume you were following a map.  Did you completely plan out the trip ahead of time or is it more, hey that looks pretty, let's go over there.

The trip was extensively planned in advance, with routes and campsites chosen, menus fully laid out (you'd be proud of me!). That said, we modified as necessary. We stopped short of an intended side trip camp one day because we were just too pooped, and picked a different trail (more sheltered) at one point due to impending thunderstorms. A planned route also gives searchers some basis on which to come looking for you, should that become necessary.

  Is it a state/fed park? 

A combination of National Forest (USDA jurisdiction) and designated Wilderness Area (National Park Service).

I would think in August you would meet more people.  Is it because it's so vast? 

It's a long way from anywhere. There are other great short hike places to go 2-3 hours closer to SLC, and there is a whole lot of empty north to Wyoming, south to the Utah desert and east to Colorado. The other side of the main mountain ridge sees a lot more traffic, Garry reported seeing 10+ parties in one day coming in from the Wyoming side. Most people who make it there are packing in on horses, at least some of the country we traveled was too rough for horses.

Did Adam enjoy it? 

The boys seem to have had a great time. There was remarkably little complaining, even when there was plenty to complain about. I think they immediately figured out that we were out there all alone, we had what we had, and we had to make the best of it. At the end of the day I suspect they were pretty proud of having done something both real and non-trivial. We dealt with a reasonable amount of adversity and came through just fine. It is a remarkable place, there's not much wild in our normal environs, so it is really special to go somewhere where you are actually out on your own.

Were y'all in great shape?  A 50# pack seems really heavy.

No. Yes. I'd done a lot of conditioning at the gym, though not nearly enough. Adam has been doing crew and is much stronger than he was a year ago. Robbie seems just naturally tough. He's skinny, but is a serious sailor and used to having to be self-reliant. 50 lbs is too much, especially give the pass we had to go over on the second day. That said we survived. Did I mention that I lost 17 lbs? I should probably do it twice a year. By the time we got home I was completely beat. Once I didn't have to make sure the boys were OK I just collapsed for about 36 hours of sleep.

 Y'all wore shorts.  Aren't there any bugs or poison ivy to contend with? 

Tons of skeeters. 100% DEET from the REI does wonders. No PI at those altitudes.

Did you see any other animals 'sides the deerish one?

Lots of birds, gray jays and little birds (no mountain bluebirds--drat!), a zillion little rodents. Garry has nice new ventilation holes in his tent and stuff sack from forgetting a bit of food in the tent at night. Camp was very active with the pitter-patter of little feet at night. Mice, shrews and several kinds of ground squirrels (chipmunks to us easterners). In heavily used campsites we attracted crowds looking for handouts. Other places we saw few. I didn't include the picture of the mooses (meese?) We had them as close neighbors for the first two nights. We had deer in the camp most nights, usually after dark. Fortunately bears prefer lower altitudes, so we had no bear encounters.


Back Home Up