May 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm #1289515
Greetings everyone. I'll be backpacking in Utah for the first time in a couple weeks (starting last week of May). Manti La Sal for the Dark Canyon Wilderness, Canyonlands, and Zion. I'll be going on multiple 3-5 day hikes.
I've never backpacked in this part of the U.S. Most of my experience is in the PNW, South Florida, Smokys, and deep tropic jungle. Nothing like the dry deserts of the southwest. I;m fairly well suited with flexible gear. I'd just like any tips or recommendations from those with experience.
I.E. How warm of a quilt will be needed? Should I bring insulating layers? Will it rain? Any insects or critters to protect against? Any recommendations for staking the tent in particular ground types? I've got a lot more q's but this should suffice to start.
Also hoping this is the most appropriate forum,
BradMay 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm #1874187
Joe ClementBPL Member
Bring a pack that will carry a lot of water well, depending on your route. I wouldn't count on rain, but I always take a UL rain jacket for a wind jacket. It will be a lot more like what you're used to in the LaSals than it will be the other places.May 4, 2012 at 7:58 am #1874321
@davecLocale: The West Slope
Temps will depend on altitude. Probably unlikely to get very close to freezing in late May unless you're up above 6k or more. In fact, it could be really darn hot in the lower reaches of Canyonlands and the like.
Rain is unlikely, but can happen, and when it does is likely to be prolific. Check the forecast and decide if you want to gamble. Not a bad place for a poncho tarp.
In lower, wet areas you'll find mosquitoes, and even worse, deer flies. (The big brother of NE black flies.) I'd recommend not camping in canyon bottoms, especially near lots of water. If you do this they shouldn't be a big deal at all.
Depending on route, you may need to carry lots of water.
Bring excellent sun protection. Hat, neck protection, light LS shirt, and good shades.May 4, 2012 at 8:50 am #1874347
Bring a good water filter. Depending where you are, and what kind of stream/pool you are filtering out of, you may want to bring some coffee filters to wrap around the suction end of your hose to get out some sediment. Some may disagree, but I always bring them with me in the Canyonlands just in case.
I ‘d also bring a trowel to ensure you get that full 6”-8”, as biodegrading is next to non-existent here.
As David said, don’t camp in the canyon bottoms and you won’t even need to think about why you left the bug spray at home.
Don’t step on the crypto-crust!May 4, 2012 at 9:10 am #1874354
Tyler HBPL Member
Brad, I'm also planning a trip in that area. I started a thread for feedback on my gearlist which you might check out, you can at least see what I'm bring. I've camped in this area a number of times.
Just a comment on the suggestion to bring a hefty trowel for digging a full 6".
My research has indicated that because of the lack of organic soil to decompose your waste, the best method is a shallow bury. This insures that the waste gets good and cooked by the sun. Too deep and it will just remain.
Another method is the smear, only to be used in extremely remote and rarely traveled areas, far from any trail.
See this NOLS WMI article for more info!May 4, 2012 at 9:15 am #1874357
Brendan SwihartBPL Member
@brendansLocale: Fruita CO
mosquitos are pretty easy to avoid, but heads up that that time of year can be prime P/J gnat time. I'll take mosquitos any day over the gnats. They aren't just in the canyon bottoms. Moving to a new spot can usually be enough to avoid them, but if they're bad they can drive you mad and make you hurt. Deet doesn't work. You might consider a lightweight headnet. I never take anything, but there have been a couple times that I wish I had.May 4, 2012 at 9:48 am #1874364
Interesting point there, Tyler … talk to a ranger and you may hear a very opposite belief.
I was told by a Canyonlands staff member that there’s a section of Arches National Park where cattle used to graze. It’s been about 40 years since these cattle took dumps in the area, but if you were to go there today, they’d still look fresh.
I must say, I'm glad I don't regularly see fresh piles or your "smear" around the designated camping areas in our desert national parks. By burying your waste as deep AS POSSIBLE you are removing it from the surface of an area where virtually nothing degrades. Basically by burying, your poo just becomes part of the soil.May 4, 2012 at 10:00 am #1874370
@davidpasseyLocale: New York City
When it heats up in the southern Utah deserts, you can stumble on a scorpion or two. Pretty easy to anticipate, as they generally make little lizard-like tracks in the soft dirt and sand.
They range in size from pretty tiny to as long 3 inches or so, maybe longer. A sting can vary from wasp-like pain to severe swelling and delirium. They hunt at night and then like to crawl into warm nooks and crannies as it gets light in the morning, so you'll find them in a shoe, or under your bivy, etc, as you're packing up. I don't worry too much about them at night and often sleep outside of the bivy or tent. I figure, they're active hunting, and staying away from me. I've hiked down there a lot without ever being stung, but I have also seen a lot of scorpions, and had a handful of hiking partners get stung.
Years ago, a friend of mine got stung in his crotch. He'd laid his pants out on a rock overnight, and the scorpion had settled inside, and stung him when he pulled the pants on in the morning. At first it was funny–he was hopping around screaming for help pulling off his pants. But we were at the second set of falls in Coyote Gulch near Stevens Arch. Getting him out proved to be a grueling experience.
And don't forget rattlesnakes–easy to avoid, but orders of magnitude worse than a scorpion.May 4, 2012 at 10:15 am #1874376
@davecLocale: The West Slope
If you're in a designated site, in Needles for instance, follow the NPS procedure. I don't know what that is these days, but I assume many SW parks are moving towards wider and wider use of WAG bags (ie pack it out).
In undesignated but well traveled terrain (ex: Dark canyon) a deep hole up away from the canyon bottom is probably the best way to go.
In undesignated and more obscure terrain, digging holes in the sand of dry washes or a shallow bury in rocky ground seems best. If camping on slickrock way out there in places which might see 6 parties a year, frosting the rock has always struck me as the least impactful.May 4, 2012 at 10:23 am #1874377
@davidpasseyLocale: New York City
One other anecdote about bugs. Early in the season–say Apr-Jun, the deer flies can be really bad in the canyon bottoms. They look like a slightly smaller version of a housefly, but are a medium gray color. Their bite is more painful than a mosquito, and they leave a mosquito like welt.
DEET holds them back, but they seem more persistent than mosquitos. Once, in the Escalante Canyon my hiking partner and I were swarmed by deerflies that were dive bombing through our DEET. It was so bad, we decided to beat it–literally racing a couple hundred yards to escape. As soon as we stopped, we were immediately swarmed by deerflies. So we made a break for it again. Same problem when we stopped. The third time we sprinted off, I noticed a dozen or so deerflies sitting on the seat of my hiking partners pants. As soon as we stopped running, the flies attacked.
So, we sprayed DEET on our pants, and as much of our packs as we dared, which solved the problem. This was before Permethrin.May 4, 2012 at 10:39 am #1874385
Yes, WAG bags being the most preferred method, although I have yet to hear them (NPS) recommend, let alone enforce them… yet.May 4, 2012 at 3:46 pm #1874476
Tyler HBPL Member
–"I must say, I'm glad I don't regularly see fresh piles or your "smear" around the designated camping areas in our desert national parks. By burying your waste as deep AS POSSIBLE you are removing it from the surface of an area where virtually nothing degrades. Basically by burying, your poo just becomes part of the soil."–
Not to get into a thread-drifting argument about pooping but… a couple points.
You wouldn't see piles of my smear around because the smear is, by definition, the opposite of a pile. Maybe that's why the cow patties are still there, I don't know.
Second, you wouldn't use the smear technique around a designated camping area, where if there wasn't a pit toilet, the WAG bag would definitely be the best option. The smear, as Dave C points out, is for undesignated and seldom visited locales. I'm also going to provide the disclaimer here that I have never used the smear in practice.
And, as you point out Tim, there's really isn't much decomposition happening in the desert. There definitely isn't much you'd call soil, especially 8" below the surface. On the surface though, the sun will kill the harmful bacteria.
I'm with you all that bagging your waste and packing it out is the "best" way.May 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm #1874491
@oroambulantLocale: San Francisco
By far, I think gnats are the most dangerous living thing encountered on the trail. Coming in after a long day, just around dusk, gnats are up your nose, between your glasses and eyes, hanging out on the edge of your lips, getting sucked down your throat through clenched teeth. I have walked right off a trail being distracted by them when I was in a bad mood coming down a hot sweaty staircase loaded with other people's gear.
Bug net, bug net, bug net.May 4, 2012 at 4:52 pm #1874495
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"By far, I think gnats are the most dangerous living thing encountered on the trail."
Wait until you run into a cloud of no see ums in similar circumstances. Individually, they pack quite a wallop. In clouds, they will make you rue the day you were born.May 5, 2012 at 5:01 am #1874597
I was in Dark canyon in July last year. The bugs (mostly flies) were very annoying, but not intolerable. I would definitely make sure you have some kind of bug net. It didnt get very cold at night, maybe high in the 50s. I was very comfortable with a light quilt. I didnt need any insulating layers at all. I didnt experience any real rain, just a couple very light sprinkles. If youre doing the Woodenshoe-Peavine loop, there are several campsites set up along the way. The main concern is water. It was very sparse. I would suggest carrying 6 liters, and take a look at this blog:
The very first post has useful information about water sources along that route. Also, make sure you have a good map. USGS sells a 1:31k I think, that is very detailed. The route was washed out in places, so be sure your map/compass skills are up to par.
Keep in mind, I was there two months later in the year than you are planning, so YRMV.May 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm #1874715
You guys are frigging awesome. Thanks kindly for this wealth of info.
I think we will be spending most of our time in the Dark Canyon Wilderness. Does anyone have specific experience here? My main questions are regarding water.
BradMay 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm #1874740
Justin just saw your post. Thanks for the info and link.
Has anyone here hiked much in the Needles District of canyonlands?May 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm #1874748
Greg MihalikBPL Member
May 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm #1874764
Druid for the win.May 7, 2012 at 6:55 am #1875186
Looks like the new plan willl be Coyote Gulch (out and back), Zion Traverse, and then maybe a solo of Dark Canyon Wilderness. Very excited!May 7, 2012 at 11:51 am #1875286
Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Brad, I've backpacked Coyote Gulch.
> There are two main campsites and both have composting Clivus Multrum type toilets nearby. The first is the fantastic, giant "covered" bend in the stream. (The resident ravens WILL wake you early in the morning.) The second is the long rockshelter ledge campsite. At that site you can take a day hike to the spectacular arches and junction of Coyote Gulch with the river.
> Get good water from "seeps" on the canyon walls near both campsites and other places along the hike.
> DO take shoes that drain well as 3/4 of your walk will be IN the stream.
> With tents having ground level netting (like my TT Moment) windy conditions drive fine dust inside the tent covering everything. Nothing to do but shake it all out in the morning.
> Store food in hang bags to deter ring-tailed cats (like skinny racoons)
>Do NOT try to cache food for your return trip. Animals absolutely will find it and eat it.
> Be sure to get permits before you go. They can be had at the BLM ofices or in town. No cost but necessary.May 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm #1875293
Brendan SwihartBPL Member
@brendansLocale: Fruita CO
For Dark Canyon, I recommend not doing the woodenshoe/peavine loop despite it being the most popular loop . If you really want a loop, go down Sundance and do a Youngs/Lean To loop. Or just go down Sundance and explore down to the river and up as far as you want to go (definitely check out Youngs). The best section is between the Colorado and Youngs. There's running water year-round til around Black Steer Canyon.
Youngs/Lean To loop trip report here http://www.bogley.com/forum/showthread.php?55342-Dark-Canyon-(Young-s-Lean-To)-May-2011
Search bogley for more info. Pick up Allen's Canyoneering 2 for route in/out of youngs/lean-to.
Needles can be hot and dry by the end of May. Check the forecast. You might be better off in the other areas you've mentioned.May 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm #1875423
Thanks for the recommendation Brendan. Any reason why not to do woodenshoe/peavine? Is it just less impressive and more crowded?
Youngs/Lean To seems a bit more advanced, and longer in duration. This trip will be my first time backpacking in this type of environ.. so i dont want to overdo it.
Have you done this loop? Do you know the mileage?
BradMay 13, 2012 at 9:23 am #1877195
@seannevesLocale: City of Salt
There will be some sort of epic adventure within 5 miles. You can not go wrong. Some great discussion here. A few things about walking around out here:
1) Footwear. I have hiked for years down there with Chacos. Avoid big heavy boots. Trail runners are great.
2) Clothing. Full coverage and light is the key, unless you like being smothered for days in Deet and sun goop. Wide brim hat is almost required. Permithrin has changed everything for me.
3) Check the forecasts. Stay out of narrow canyons (or be very careful) if it's supposed to rain in your chosen river basin, not just where you are. I have been snowed on in June in southern Utah, but May is just great down there generally. Monsoon season usually kicks in at the end of June, but T-storms can happen any time. You have not seen anything in this world until you see (feel) a major flash flood roll by. Very humbling.
4) Vehicle. Know that many remote areas, including in the parks, require high clearance vehicles and a means of extraction. 4×4 makes me feel better. If you are renting, I would stay out of the Maze, Kaiparowitz Plateau, etc.
5) Water. Use local knowledge of sources. Year to year, water sources vary wildly. Talk to rangers, hikers as you pass, etc. If in doubt, have extra carrying capacity. I have been known to carry a collapsible 5 gallon container if I'm really out there.
Enjoy! You are welcome to PM me (I'm in SLC) and talk about specific areas.Jul 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm #1892043
I survived and thrived. Trip report here: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=65811
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