Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Power of Clarity


A friend and I were "Jeeping" deep in the backcountry of Canyonlands National Park. We had spent hours driving up and over a section that required steep climbs and low range gearing called Elephant Hill.

We had reached a point where were outside the park boundary and were soon going to turn around and head back over Elephant Hill to camp. 

When Canyonlands National Park was relatively young, my family explored this area in our old CJ5 Jeep and we went as far as Bobby’s Hole and made the steep climb up and then turned around.
I was curious to see how difficult Bobby’s Hole was, decades later when I was in the area with my own Jeep. 

As we got closer to Bobby’s Hole, my friend misjudged a section of the trail and ended up disabling his front differential, making it too risky to go back the way we came as he no longer had 4 wheel drive capability. 

I didn't have a detailed map of the area, but noticed on a very basic park map an alternate way out but it would be around five times the original distance. We really had no other choice so off we went without a map and just an idea of how to get back to our camp.

On the way “out” via Bobby’s Hole, we encountered quite a few roads branching off in different directions. None of them had and signs indicating where they would take us. I just simply chose roads that would take us in a north eastern or eastern direction, as a western direction would only take us further into an area called Beef Basin. All the while hoping we were heading on roads that would get us back to camp.


After many hours of travel, some very slippery wet sections of road, and a few detours we finally reached a point I recognized. I could see the paved road in the distance that would take us back into the main entrance to the park. Only at that point did I have some confidence we'd find our way back.

It was at the point in time that I also suddenly realized how beautiful the area we were in really was. I had been so focused on finding a way back to camp that I missed the amazing surrounding we were in!

I've been back many times since and love exploring the Beef Basin area. That first trip however, was focused on just finding a way through it.

Multiple lessons can be learned from that experience.

One example is I always take detailed maps whenever I venture into the back country just in case I need to change plans and take an alternative route.

Another lesson is the importance of having extra supplies which could include gas and food. Since that trip I also carry what I call my rescue bag to assist with extracting a vehicle out of a bad situation.

The biggest lesson for me was how not knowing where you are going can really distract you from the positive experiences being presented all around you at the time. 

Since that first adventure I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Beef Basin area as well as retracing the route original route we took all the back over Elephant Hill.

I also went back to that area to explore the possibility of hiking the Salt Creek area and have since completed 5 different Salt Creek hikes from the access road I was originally struggling to find my way through. All the time fully immersed in the present moment of such a spectacular part of the National Park and surrounding areas bordering the park now well-known as part of the Bears Ears National Monument.

The experience has helped me appreciate the value of having a plan and mapping out where to go. In life, most people really don’t have much of a plan for their lives.

Had we had a good map when it came to improvise our trip, we would have avoided wrong turns and backtracking, as well as been able to focus a lot more attention on the amazing scenery and enjoyed the journey a lot more.

Clarity of purpose and a plan is very powerful in helping us make the best decisions with our resources. 

Since that original experience of struggling to find my way back to camp I have had the excellent opportunity of helping people find clarity and purpose as a professional personal development coach. 

Since 2005 I have been able to refine the process into a powerful coaching program I call “A Life Well Lived.” This program with my individually focused assistance will help you create a plan that will cover the foundational principles of personal finance, goal setting, proper prioritization of resources, and how your own unique gifts and talents play a big part in your personal plan.

For more information, and to arrange a free 20 minutes introductory consultation, please email me at chris@deserttoad.net or go to www.dtesuccess.com.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Kayaking the San Rafael River in Central Utah

2019 is turning out to be an excellent water year for southern Utah. Something we haven't had consistently for more than a decade. As a "river runner" that has been frustrating at times.

I've learned to pay closer attention to the daily water levels on many of the rivers and streams in Utah in order not to miss an opportunity to raft or kayak a stream that has enough water.

My favorite small river/stream to run lately is Muddy Creek in the San Rafael Swell region of central Utah. The significant snow pack this year has me very optimistic that there will be multiple opportunities to run it this year.

But so far, the water measurements have been too low to go down Muddy Creek. Interestingly though, the San Rafael River to the north has been running strong for a couple of weeks now. Usually running under 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) the San Rafael has been above 300 cfs consistently for the last few weeks.

So along with other family members, we took off for a kayak trip down the San Rafael on Saturday, May 11th anticipating a flow of around 400 cfs.

We camped at the Wedge Overlook on a chilly Friday night once the sun went down. The roads out to the "The Wedge" were wet from an earlier rain storm. They were a little muddy, but well maintained and in great condition.



On Saturday morning we packed up quickly and headed out to Fuller Bottom where we rigged our kayaks and a small (13ft bucket boat) oar powered raft.



Research indicates that a flow of 150 - 300 cfs is ideal. Personally, I think anything less than 200 cfs would be possible, but a lot of work.



We were happy to see a flow of approximately 430 cfs when we launched at 11:00am on Saturday.


The current was swift but very manageable. I didn't feel at any point in the trip the oar boat would have a problem and the kayaks easily navigated the river, even through the occasional braided channel.

Floating past the Wedge Overlook is approximately the half way point. The canyon features through The Wedge are simply stunning and reminded me a lot of the Yampa River through Dinosaur Nat'l Monument as well as parts of the Escalante region.



Including a 30min lunch stop, we spent 5 hours floating all the way to Swinging Bridge. There are a couple of spots upstream to take out that are easier, but I didn't see what the road conditions were like getting to those take out areas.


Taking out just under the bridge is excellent for access to vehicles, but it is swift water only and a bit of a challenge making the stop. Anyone with some experience kayaking can do it and then assist the ones with less experience.


If the water level is lower than 400 cfs, anticipate a longer trip than 5 hours. I've heard of others spending up to 8 hours on the river. So give yourself plenty of time to complete the float, and enjoy a really peaceful and scenic trip.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Druid Arch - Canyonlands National Park


The day after Thanksgiving Day in November of 2010 my son Rob and I hiked to Druid Arch in Canyonlands Nat’l Park for the first time. Since the early 2000’s we had been all around that area by Jeep, but we had never made the hike to Druid Arch.



Late November 2010 was very cold, but the weather was clear and sunny during the day. There was snow on the ground and all water sources were solid ice from the Elephant Hill Trail Head to Druid Arch.

Upon returning to Druid Arch in November 2013, we found a different set of circumstances, but we loved the contrasting weather. This time there was still snow on the ground, but it was warmer than the 2010 experience. What was so different this time in addition to the temperature difference, we now had low clouds and fog.
We love doing the hike to Druid Arch in the winter because we’re unsure of any consistent water sources and with an 11 mile round trip (10.8 miles) hike, you could end up carrying a lot of water if you hiked in warmer temperatures.  This time there was plenty of pools of water in Elephant Canyon to filter. But because of the cool temps, we each used less than 2 liters per person and didn’t need any extra water beyond what we started out with.

The trail to Druid Arch is well signed and easy to follow. There are four different trail junctions on the way to Druid Arch. The only potential trouble is on the way back from the arch the junction that takes you out of Elephant Canyon can be easily missed and take you to EC 1 camp instead.
We like to start from the Elephant Hill Trail Head because it is the shortest distance unless you drive over Elephant Hill back to the Joint Trail. Even then you only cut off 4 tenths of a mile each way.




From the trailhead you work your way up to the next rock formation level, and you’ll stay at that level for a while, with some minor ups and downs.  The first two miles of the hike take you through a couple of sections of high rock formations by short-cutting through some narrow sections.




At the 1.5 mile mark you’ll reach the first junction in the trail. A turn east would take you back to the Squaw Flats Campground.  We turn west and head in the direction of Chesler Park .




We pass through another narrow section and head down a steep section and in to Elephant Canyon. On your way down look across the canyon to the north and you can see a nice sized hiker’s camp. That is EC1.



 Once you reach Elephant Canyon you are at the next junction. You can keep going west if you want to go to Chelser Park. But to get to Druid Arch you will stay in this canyon from now on.

Most of the way is along the canyon floor, but occasionally you’ll need to follow the trail up and around obstacles. We found that following the trails up was always a good choice. The only exception would be the spur trails to the camps, EC 2 and EC 3.
Side canyons appear on occasion but it’s easy to stay in the main canyon and find your way.

Periodically another junction will be reached, but just stay in Elephant Canyon and keep going.




At one point, if you know what you are looking at you can see Druid Arch from its north facing side view. That means in just a few bends you’ll climb out of the canyon to your left and start working your way up to the level of the base of the arch.




Eventually you’ll use a permanently attached ladder and metal pole to cross a big boulder. This can be tricky if there is snow accumulation as it’s sheltered from the sun in the winter time and metal bar can be very slippery when wet.
Then it’s up a rock fall to an awesome view of Druid Arch.




With the low clouds and fog made for some really nice photos of the arch and views down Elephant Canyon.



 If you go left at the top of the rock fall instead of the popular access point to the right, you can get some nice shots of the arch from a distance that is further away.



We like to stop for lunch and rest awhile near the arch. But we make sure we get back on the trail with enough time for the return trip as the daylight is short in the wintertime. Not being a huge hurry, we took about 2.5 hours to hike to the arch, and about 2 hours to hike back, with a stop of about an hour at the arch.



Back Country Camping: Camps EC2 and EC3 are found in Elephant Canyon and are very nice backpacking camps. EC2 is a bit of climb up while EC3 is not too far from the streambed.








Druid Arch November 2010

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Be Still


One of my favorite activities is to spend time in southern Utah with my family camping, Jeeping, hiking, or rafting. One of my other favorite activities is to study from and grow my library of personal development and business books. Recently I found a book entitled, “The Wisdom of Wilderness” by Gerald G. May. The author recounts many of the lessons learned while camping alone.





That got me thinking. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been camping alone, if ever. So I decided to give it a shot. I told my family I was going to go to Moab to do some camping, but this time I was going alone.





So I packed the Jeep and headed to Moab for a long fall weekend. When I arrived in Moab I bought a couple of bundles of wood in case the evenings got cold, made sure I had a full tank of gas, and called my wife to let her know the general area I planned to go and promised to call after two days since I would be out of cell phone coverage until I was back in Moab.





I picked a camping area about 20 miles from the nearest paved road at the base of the La Sal Mountains in a valley seldom visited by most people exploring around Moab. During the two days I spent there I never heard another vehicle or saw another person. The only noise was the noise I made or what nature created.




I learned some very interesting lessons in my exceptionally quiet time alone. I’ll share a couple of them here.


I was actually quite surprised how hard it was to get used to the silence. It took me almost a full 24 hours just to settle down and be comfortable in all that silence and stillness. I love the tranquility of the desert southwest, but rarely take the time to be still and just think for long periods of time.






After finally settling down I pulled out a tote full of books and began to browse through whatever caught my interest. I eventually started thinking about goal setting and personal achievement.







As I considered the value of setting goals I also thought about an idea I had been considering regarding the potential “let down” once a goal is achieved. Of course it makes sense to make sure we always set additional goals to avoid any kind of let down.





The challenge I was considering was the feeling of never being able to “arrive” since we always have additional goals identified and ready to pursue. As I thought about that idea, here’s what came to mind in the quiet of that valley far away from anyone else. I wrote the following in my notebook:






“Life is best lived in the gap—the gap between your plans and dreams and their ultimate achievement. There is joy in the journey.”


I realized that I can be at peace with living in-between my accomplishments and additional goals, as long as I’m continually moving forward and improving. And because I’m okay with living in “the gap” I can acknowledge each success and lessons learned from each mistake and have joy in this journey we call life.





Would I have come to that realization if I had never decided to go alone into the stillness of the desert? I don’t know. Was it worth going anyway? Absolutely! Learning to be still and living in the gap were just two of many lessons learned while on this particular adventure.






The question for you is when will you take your opportunities to be still and contemplate what matters most in your life? In today’s world of multiple sources of media bombardment, quiet time must be planned or it just won’t happen. You don’t have to go off into the middle of nowhere, but occasionally total silence from man-made noise can be very beneficial.



(C) DTE Consulting “Helping you Do The Extraordinary!”