Saturday, January 27, 2024

1/27 - Hiking the Anniversary Narrows by Lake Mead

Our friends Alex and Erin reached out to hike a trail that has been on his bucket list a long time - the Anniversary Narrows by Lake Mead. It is in the National Park so about an hour away from the house. The weather this time of year was a bit chilly in the morning so we decided to meet at 1PM at the trailhead. 

We let Winston and Koa say hi then drove the two miles on a dirt road to get closer to the actual narrows part. There was a decent sized ledge so we decided to park the trucks and do the rest on foot. After a couple hundred feet, we arrived at the start of the narrows. I've been to the narrows by Mt Charleston but this one was much longer and deeper. 

This trail had some scrambling to do where we had to pick up the dogs and put them on top of the ledge. But, there were a couple spots where there was a human path and a dog path. Winston loved going under or around the rocks on his own little trail. 

Once we crossed the narrows, we had a quick snack and turned back and went back through. Our total distance was just over 4 miles and took us an hour and 51 minutes. It was a short trail but worth it! 


Sunday, October 8, 2023

10/6 -10/8 - Camping and Off-Roading at Toroweap Overlook and Barracks Trail

As the weather got a little cooler in the day, it unlocked some of the lower altitudes trails that we don't normally enjoy doing during the summer. So, we put together a trip to do Toroweap Overlook into Barracks Trail. This itinerary is not new to me as I've done it multiple times; however, I've never completed Barracks Trail due to a large hill with deep sand that is very difficult to climb. So, this time, I decided that we would start on the South side of the trail so that we went down the big hill rather than attempt to climb up. Lou had been to Barracks before but hadn't been to Toroweap so I was excited to show him that awesome view. 

Day 1 - Friday
You need a permit to visit and camp at Toroweap and rule is that you have to pass the Ranger Station located a few miles before the rim before sunset. If you arrive after sunset then the gate will be closed and you'll have to drive the 60 miles back. So, I based all our planning on arriving at the gate 30 minutes before sunset to ensure that we would be allowed to pass with our permits. 

That meant that I departed Vegas around 12:15 on Friday leaving me plenty of time to pack up in the morning. I met up with our friends Alex and Lau who would be joining us on our adventure at the Valley of Fire gas station since the gas is cheaper. After initial hellos, we pushed out for the remaining 2+30 hours to meet up with Lou at the trailhead. For the 3rd trip in a row, Lou and the rest of the group arrived within 30 seconds of each other at the trailhead in accordance with the timeline, perfect! 

We were racing sunset so we aired down and got to it. Toroweap is about 60 miles with many turn offs but the trail is easy to follow. After a dusty 55 miles, we arrived at the gate that transitions between Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park land with about 20 minutes to spare before sundown. 

We met a nice couple in an older ranch truck coming out from Toroweap who were asking for directions. I pulled over to chat with them and after just a few sentences, the driver asked me if we needed any help. I didn't understand what he meant so I turned around and Alex had his hood up and was underneath his Xterra despite us stopping just 30 seconds prior! It turns out he blew his radiator hose thing that kept his A/C running. So he spent the rest of the trip with the window down....bummer....

Once we passed thru the gate, it was a short drive to the ranger station where he checked our permits and recommended we go to the group site that accommodates four vehicles. The nine other sites only accommodate two vehicles. Once we found our spot, we unpacked, admired the stars, and decided to call it an early night so we could hike to the overlook before sunrise the next day. 

Day 2 - Saturday
The next day we woke up early to do the short hike over to be in place before the sunrise. It was just our group and one other individual who also hiked over from the campground. It was awesome to essentially have the place to ourselves. Alex set up a time lapse video that I walked in front of many times. Sorry Alex! (Find more of his stuff here: Alex's IG )

After the sun came up, we hoofed it back to camp and had breakfast. Lou made some pancakes and after I remarked that I wanted a Mickey Mouse shaped pancake, he gave me a pancake that expressed what he thought of that idea. I ate it anyway and it was pretty good! Once we circled up to leave, we all decided to let Alex take the lead on the way out since he had to roll with his windows down and didn't want to get too much dust in the car. We had no further issues thankfully. 

Once back on pavement, we hit up Colorado City for a gas station and snacks at the Bee's Marketplace. The gas station was surprisingly nice and had a ton of pumps. It was clear that this was the only grocery store in the area and it was crowded. Would recommend! 

From there, we did the short drive still aired down to Barracks Trail. We decided to drive it South to North to ensure we went down the big sandhill rather than going up it. It was cool to be on the high side of the trail for the first time and see all the Elephant Buttes. They were pretty massive! I didn't know where the big sand hill was on the trail so I felt like we were on Splash Mountain just spiraling up approaching the big drop. After 2 hours, we arrived at the top while a group of ATVs were climbing it. That gave us a chance to get out and take a look. After they passed, down we went! I remembered a spot at the bottom that had a nice turn off into a dead end that I thought would be a great spot to camp so I directed our group to make a left at the bottom and find a spot by the flowing river. It was definitely one of the best camp spots we've stayed at.

Day 3 - Sunday
After sleeping like a baby along the babbling brook, we all got up to hang out for a bit. We had a lot of extra time this morning so no one was in a rush. We found a big log so Lou and I took turns getting our strongman on and doing log presses! It was fun and we got the blood flowing a bit.

Now that we got a good pump in, it was time to finish out Barracks Trail. This half of the trail was all the crossings of the Virgin River and although the river wasn't very high, the banks on either side were muddy. Lou had to break out the winch and help Lau through one section that was a bit deep. Other than that, we breezed through the trail. 

At the end of the trail is a big dirt parking lot right off the highway that is the spot to check out the Belly of the Dragon. We stopped here for lunch, to air up, and to walk through the cave. It was much cooler instead and was interesting to see! 

Once back in the cars, it was time for the journey home. Alex, Lau and I said bye to Lou since he was going the opposite direction. As we headed home, Alex radioed that he had to stop a few times to dose himself in water. Apparently it was getting a bit warm in the car. Other than that, a great time was had by all! 


Sunday, August 27, 2023

8/23 - 8/27 - Camping and Off-Roading the Alpine Loop and RimRocker Trail

Halfway through the Rogue trip in Moab (here is the link for that Rogue Overland YouTube video), my buddy Mike mentioned that he had heard of this new trail that the National Park Service linked together called the RimRocker trail. It was supposed to be 160 miles long connecting Montrose, CO to Moab, UT. Since I love both those areas, it was worth looking into. Well, after some research, I decided that we could put a trip together starting in the mountains of Colorado doing some old fan favorites like Imogene Pass combined with a few trails I haven't done before that I've always wanted to do like Engineer and Cinnamon Pass on the Alpine Loop. After a few days looking at maps, a trip proposal was born!

The plan was to drive out Wednesday after lunch attempting to cut the 10-hour drive into parts, finish the drive Thursday morning, meet up with Mike and Lizzy coming from Colorado Springs, run Imogene Pass, then run Ophir Pass and camp on the eastern side. Next, start Alpine Loop off of the Animas Fork entrance, complete the entire loop containing Engineer and Cinnamon Pass, finish with the other half of the Animas Fork and camp by Silverton. Then, drive the 45 minutes on pavement to the start of RimRocker, camp halfway along the trail Saturday night, wake up Sunday, finish it out then head home. It was ambitious but I wanted to make the most of the time since the drive was so far. 

The next hurdle to figure out was the time of year. Getting the timing right in the high Colorado mountains can be tricky - too early in the year and it's all thunderstorms, too late in the year and it's snowed in. With the advice of Colorado expert Mike, we targeted late August to early September. I ended up picking August 24-27th since Nina and I got engaged on August 26th, 2017 in the mountains around Ouray so I thought it would be cool to go back on the anniversary. Plus, it fit everyone's schedule.

We invited a number of folks but not everyone could make it since it was essentially a 5-day trip with a lot of mileage. My brother Lou was unable to attend since he was busy and Pa initially said he couldn't go but ended up changing his mind the day prior when he was already out in Vegas celebrating my birthday. The more the merrier! 

Day 0 - Wednesday
I had to work Wednesday but was able to leave a little early. Pa and I had done most of the packing the night before. This would be the first trip Shelly the trailer would go on but it definitely made packing up a bit easier. We rolled out of the house around noon, met up with our buddy Shaun at the last gas station by the Las Vegas Speedway before hammering out the 7-hour drive. Pa grabbed a good photo of the sunset while we were in Utah.

I continue to believe that Shelly is cursed because it pours each and every time I tow it somewhere and this day was no different. Thankfully, it's waterproof and everything stayed dry. After a few hours, we got a little hungry and stopped at Dairy Queen in Beaver for dinner and gas. I'm figuring out this 'parking with a trailer' thing and took up two spots. Easy! 

We kept rolling and arrived at our hotel in Green River around 10:15. This was about 3 hours from the Imogene trailhead so we were within striking distance for the morning.

Day 1 - Thursday
We only had about a 3.5 hour drive Thursday morning so I had time to get up early and log a short workout in the hotel gym. Wasn't great but wasn't bad either! Then, we all packed up, had a nice hot breakfast at the hotel then pushed off for our last section of highway. We met up with Mike and Lizzy at a local gas station in Ouray and after a short hello, had to make a decision about the weather. Our first trail was Imogene Pass which is the highest elevation trail we would do this weekend but there were dark clouds looming over the mountains. We decided to have a short lunch while we analyzed the weather; we knew we wouldn't have cell phone service again once we started the trail so we had to be certain before we started. We eventually decided that although it might rain, there shouldn't be any thunderstorms so we started off for the trailhead! 

I planned to run the trail northeast to southwest so we would end next to Ophir Pass. Once we got to the trailhead and aired down, I instantly remembered why Imogene is one of my fav trails. The scenery is amazing! It starts going up through a forest with a few creek crossings before breaking out above the tree line for the final summit push. The difficulty of the forested section is pretty easy; however, the section above the tree line was a different story. There were a few times that I needed both the front and rear lockers to climb up a section but I feel that a vehicle not towing a trailer could do it without lockers on the appropriate line. 

Once on the summit at 13,114 feet, the clouds started rolling back in. That would be the theme of the weekend. But, the clouds didn't block our view of the town of Telluride below and even Telluride airport, the highest commercial airport in North America, where I flew into a few months prior. Despite the questionable weather, the summit had a few other groups enjoying the trail as well so I had to wait in line to get a photo with the sign but it was worth the wait! 

The backside of Imogene is less rocky and more cliffy. Although not difficult, I left the Bronco in 4WD Low to have better speed control especially with the trailer even though the trailer had brakes that were helpful once I got a little more accustomed to it. During the descent, we were in a scattered to few cloud layer. I didn't think much of it at the time but little do I know that this was nature's way of foreshadowing for the Alpine Loop that we would do the next day. 

About halfway through the descent, we came across an old mining structure. This was not a surprise since most of these old trails were initially cut in for access to mines. Although it wasn't in good shape anymore, we stopped briefly to take a look. 

Near the end of the trail, Imogene offers a good vantage of Black Bear Pass which is nearby. Nina and I had done this trail the day I proposed years before but it was closed this time so we weren't able to do it. 

Once we finished Imogene, I realized it took us a little longer than expected. Although the plan was to do Ophir Pass that day as well, I didn't want to risk being high altitude in the rain as the sun was setting. So, we decided to change the plan and camp at a local camp site in town called Mary E Campground. We talked with the campground host and he gave us two sites tucked back in the woods that was remote enough that we didn't see or hear anyone else. Perfect! Until it started raining all night....

Day 2 - Friday
We woke up rested on Friday ready for a full day of wheeling. After a short breakfast, we packed up and headed to Ophir Pass. We took the pass west to east so we would end up near Silverton which was the next trail that we had planned. 

Ophir Pass started with us driving through the town of Ophir which is well off the beaten path. The town was very quaint and had many signs preventing the use of RZRs or side by sides. That was great news for us because that meant they weren't allowed on the trail either. The trail started driving through a forest before it eventually opened up into a big clearing and turned into a shelf road as we continued towards the summit.
As we summited at 11,789 feet, we had a good view of the trail going into the town of Silverton. This pass was short enough that it's actually about the same duration to go over the pass than it would be to take the highway which is helpful since that's where we were trying to go anyways. The terrain was fairly easy and only needed 2WD but high clearance always helps. Obviously, this way was more scenic! 

After Ophir Pass, Mike wanted to hit the gas station in Silverton so we made a short pit stop. It wasn't quite lunch time yet, but we all bought $5 gas station microwavable pizzas to tide us over. 

Once our hungers were satisfied, we started the Animas Fork western portion of the loop that connects to the Alpine Loop. Of course, it immediately started raining once we were on the trail but that didn't slow us down! 

Not long into the trail, we stopped at the Animas Forks Mining Historic Site. This was really cool since the Bureau of Land Management upkeeps the eight houses in the historic site so we could walk in them and get a feel for how the mining town actually looked in the late 1800's. This is a stark contrast from most mining towns I've come across that have all the windows blown out and are unsafe to enter. 

We broke for lunch while at the site which gave us all time to walk around and take it all in. Mike and Lizzy were able to get the dogs out of the truck and walk around too. They seemed to like it! 
We also had a discussion about changing our day plan since we were running late. Shaun knew a decent camp area on the western side of the trail, so we decided to run Alpine Loop from the South counterclockwise and exit on the western side and skip the 2nd half of Animas Forks. 

After Animas Forks, it was time to start the Alpine Loop! Our first ascent would be towards Cinnamon Pass. This was a trail that I haven't done before but both Mike and Shaun said they had. Despite that, Bruce and Shelly were out in front leading the pack! The climb leading up to Cinnamon pass wasn't difficult and we got up there pretty quick. It wasn't raining and the clouds were more of a scattered to broken layer which gave us great views of the surrounding area. Pa and I had to grab a selfie, of course! 

Next up was Engineer Pass. It was about 50 miles 
of excellent Colorado scenery between the two passes. Totally worth the long drive out to this area! Once we arrived at the final push to the summit for Engineer Pass, we started to notice the clouds were thickening. Once we summitted, we were in an overcast layer and visibility dropped to only about 50 feet. The section of trail after the summit followed the ridgeline on a shelf road that was quite narrow - a bit eerie to drive on when you can't see over the edge! 

To complete the otherworldly experience, Pa and I started hearing bells ringing close by but couldn't see far enough through the cloud to identify the source. Around that time, Shaun radioed that he saw sheep up ahead. Pa and I never saw them but we sure did hear them! I was driving less than 5 MPH so we weren't going to hit them unexpectedly. At one point, I looked at Pa and we noticed that there was a small puff of cloud actually inside the car, very surreal! It was too small to get a photo of, but it was there, trust me, I saw it. 

After the uncanny section, we started descending out of the cloud layer and were able to see a bit more. This was helpful since the backside of the summit was mostly switchbacks. By the end of this trip, I was a pro at using the Bronco's trail turn assist to help make these tight switchbacks with the trailer. It also helped that the trailer is equipped with a fully articulating hitch so there was no limit on how tight of a turn I could make. There were a few times that I had to reverse and the 12-foot-long trailer would jackknife quickly. 

The bottom of the switchbacks opened up into a beautiful meadow. Although there was an abundance of flowers, we were still above the tree line so there were no trees. It was a pretty cool sight to see up at 12,000 feet. After the meadow, we exited off of the Alpine Loop to the west side towards a camping spot for the night putting us in better position the next morning to be closer to the trailhead for RimRocker. We put a lot of mileage down that day so I think we were all ready for camp especially the fluffy huskies.

Shaun led us to a great camp site right by a creek in a forested area although it was a hard fought for spot down an hour-long rough trail. This spot was great since the trees kept the light drizzle from hitting the ground and broke the wind before hitting our tents. While the rest of us were getting the fire going, Mike pulled a classic Mike move and took a bath in the nearby river. I'm sure it was close to freezing but that didn't stop him! After dinner, we all hung out, drank for a bit, and talked about how crazy coming across a flock of sheep on the side of a mountain was. We called it an early night with some more miles to go in the morning.
Day 3 - Saturday
Saturday started as a sunny day with clear skies as we packed up camp and headed out. We drove through Ouray to Montrose for gas before jumping on the RimRocker trailhead. We started the trail around 11am and knew we had some miles to go. Since we were all driving home the next day, we wanted to camp as far into the trail as we could to minimize the time on the trail the following day. 

We were hopeful for a quick trail as the first 1/4 of the trail was fast. Like 40mph fast. We made great time! So about an hour in, we stopped for lunch thinking that we would make it through most of the trail in one day if the speed kept up. There was a turn off with a large enough area for parking called Tabequache overlook. Pa and I broke out the signature PBJ and had a nice lunch overlooking the valley below us. I grabbed a great photo of Pa reflecting on the scene while enjoying his sammie. After lunch, the trail took us down into the valley that we were looking at just minutes before. As we descended, we were quickly reminded that we were no longer above 10,000 feet as the temperature steadily rose as we steadily descended. It gave me an opportunity to break out my new solar powered fan hat which was a big hit with the group and kept my head cool! 

This 160-mile trail was originally put together in 2016 by a collaborative effort between the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service and spans two states. It is a collection of multiple trails and a few miles of road that go through some of the local towns. So, after the fast 40 miles, we drove through the town of Nucla. After Nucla, the trail took us up on a ridge overlooking the highway below. When the trail was originally cut in, it was decades before the highway was created.

A little passed halfway, we stopped for camp at the Buckeye Campground. This campground surrounds a huge lake completely isolated from any nearby town. Despite the downpour that started once we pulled in and a few other folks camping, we got a great spot right along the lakeshore. I put on my rain gear and set up camp right as the weather broke so we could make dinner. 
After dinner, we burned the rest of our firewood and just hung out enjoying the great scenery.

Day 4 - Sunday
We woke up Sunday morning to clearer skies and no rain - a pleasant change from the previous few days. After packing up, Mike and Lizzy decided to punch off the trail a bit early and start tackling the long drive back. So, we said our goodbyes as they turned towards the exit while Shaun, Pa and I continued on the 2nd half of the RimRocker. Not long into the day, the three of us decided that Mike and Lizzy had made the better choice as this portion of the trail was washed out and very bumpy. 

Although, I was glad we gutted it out (literally) because we came across the state line between Utah and Colorado. This reminded me of the Hoover Dam that had a similar sign depicting the difference between Arizona and Nevada. It was cool to see so we stopped to take a photo. 

After the sign, we kept pushing on and were able to finish a little before lunch time. We aired up in Moab and I gave a once over inspection of the trailer since this was Shelly's first big trip and am happy to report that nothing broke! The trailer held together like a champ despite many bumps in the road and even got airborne a few times. Super impressed! We started for home hoping to make it before it was too late.

After stopping for gas in Beaver, we arrived back in the Vegas area around 6PM. Not bad! Pa and I elected to just go straight to the car wash and give everything an initial spray. Shaun decided to join. After parting ways with our somewhat clean vehicles, Pa and I were home and unpacked, showered and had pizza delivered from Chicago Pizza Guys for a chill night at home. Pa initially intended to fly out the next day but some weather delayed him for a day or two so we got to spend a few extra days with Pa. Even though I had to work, Pa cleaned out the trailer real good which I appreciated. 

However, no one appreciated having stay at home company more than our fluffy boy who didn't get to come on the trip. Overall, it was a great trip and I was glad we could get the group together to carve out a weekend to go! Big takeaways: more time in Colorado, maybe skip the second half of RimRocker, and definitely go back to Buckeye campground.


Sunday, June 18, 2023

6/18 - Hiking the Rim to River Trail in the Grand Canyon

After training for a few months, it was time to see if all my hard work would pay off or if I would die in the heat of the Grand Canyon. The original plan was to hike North Rim to South Rim of the Grand Canyon but the years heavy snowfall caused a landslide on the North Rim knocking out their power and water supply. So, we had to adapt the plan and decided to do the Rim-to-River trail instead. Although this trail was 6 miles shorter, it still had the rigorous climb up the South Rim Grand Canyon wall. We picked descending on the South Kaibab Trail until the Colorado River then following the river to Phantom Ranch before climbing back up on the Bright Angel Trail. We picked this order since the water stations were turned on only on the South Kaibab trail so we thought we could carry enough water for the descent but would need to refill more during the ascent. We ended up choosing correctly. 

We drove out the day prior, on Saturday, to settle in to our hotel, get the lay of the land and relax a bit before the big day. We were going out with a group of 14 so we car pooled with our friend Brent and stopped at our favorite place for lunch to carb load - Panda Express. After lunch and a quick bathroom break, we continued our drive and arrived in time to meet the group for dinner at a place called We Cook Pizza and Pasta. Nina and I split a pizza to keep the carb loading going. Then, we decided to catch the sunset over the Grand Canyon and headed to the overlook. I couldn't find parking so we missed the sunset by only a few minutes but were still able to steal a glance at the trail we'd be hiking tomorrow. 
Once we settled into our hotel for the night, we called it an early bedtime since we had an early wake up for the big day! 

Hike day! We woke up at 4:00 to be at the trailhead by 4:30 to get started right as the sky was lighting up. Nina wasn't hiking so she took two trips driving everyone from the hotel to the trailhead at South Kaibab. I had planned on bringing my headlamp but decided I didn't need it so put it back in the car. I said bye to Nina armed with my 3.0 liter water bladder, 7 uncrustable sandwiches, some sunblock, 6 LMNT salt packets and 2 trekking poles. I was ready! 

As we started our descent, our first big view point was the Ooh Aah Point which offered great views of the entire Grand Canyon. We could even see where the North Rim trail would have taken us if it was open. I've read online that some people just hike to this point and turn around and head back up and I can see why. What made it even better was that the sun hadn't crested over the canyon walls yet so there were no shadows. This scenic overlook did not disappoint! 

During our descent, we passed Cedar Ridge and Skeleton Point. Although we didn't see any mules, you could see their hitching posts at all the major stops. Then, about an hour in, the trail started to hug the canyon wall as we were getting closer to the bottom. This was cool because you couldn't hear the person in front of you the second they went around the bend even if they were only 10 feet ahead. It made you really appreciate how big the Grand Canyon was and how remote you truly were. 

About 2.5 hours in and we came to a tunnel into the bridge that crossed the Colorado River. I used my Garmin inReach to text Nina my location while I was in the center of the bridge intentionally to get her to think I was in the river. I chuckled to myself as I finished crossing it. I found out later she thought I had fallen in the river until she zoomed in on the map and saw the bridge. Gotta enjoy the little things! 

This was also the first time in 7 miles that the trail was flat. It was a stark reminder of how much altitude we had to climb once we started our ascent. But, for now, it was time to enjoy the views of the river as we pushed forward to Phantom Ranch for our first and only stop.

Not long after the bridge, we arrived at Phantom Ranch. This is the only sign of civilization along the hike and is a campground that's almost always full, where the park rangers live, and is complete with a little store. The store opens at 8:00 everyday and we arrived at 8:00 right on schedule. It took us approximately three hours to descend and arrive here. We took a 30 min break to eat some snacks, hit the bathroom, top off our water, and buy some merch! I love merch so I bought a sticker for myself and a hat for Nina. You would think that she would like the hat since I carried it for 11 miles and over 4,600 feet of ascent but she doesn't wear it. In her defense, it's pretty ugly but options are pretty slim when all the merch is carried in by mule. It's the thought that counts right? By the time we departed around 8:40, it was already pushing 100 degrees outside. 

After Phantom Ranch, we had 3 relatively flat miles to hike along the river to get to the Bright Angel trailhead turn off where we would start our ascent. Although we stayed together clumped up on the descent, the group started to split up at each person's own pace once we started the climb. As someone who doesn't do much cardio with short legs, I found myself near the back of the pack. But that's okay, it wasn't a race against each other so much as it was a race against the heat. I didn't want to be low elevation when the heat of the day set in. Slow but steady! 

Phantom Ranch was the last water station until the 4.5 miles remaining station so we had about 3 uphill miles to go with just that water. It turned out to be more than enough as this initial climb wasn't as steep as some of the later sections. 

At the 4.5 mile remaining station, I topped off some water and had another uncrustable. I didn't stay for long since the day was definitely heating up so I decided to press on.

Before the 3 mile remaining station, the trail was straight forward with only a slight upslope until I arrived at the canyon wall then it all changed into switchbacks that were exposed to the sun and quite steep with a lot of stairs to prevent erosion. I was feeling pretty good until that point. My heart rate was in the 160s during my climb to the 3 mile remaining station. I filled up water, had my last uncrustable, and dosed my hat in water to help cool off since my body was getting pretty warm. My heart rate dropped by 20 beats a minute once I dosed my hat. The big mistake here was that I didn't dose my shirt as well as my hat to really help my body cool off. Nina texted me saying that she was going to wait for me at the 1.5 mile remaining station so off I went with the end in sight! 

The distance between the 3 mile and 1.5 mile remaining station was where it got real. I had plenty of water and one packet of salt left so I wasn't concerned about heat exhaustion/stroke but I was still really struggling to keep moving. My heart rate during this 1.5 mile stretch was consistently high 170s to low 180s. This stretch was nothing but sun-exposed switchbacks with more stairs. 
So many stairs. I was able to find one shady spot by leaning up against the wall. While trying to cool off there, a friendly squirrel hopped up on a log to see what I was up to before hopping away. When I fully climbed up into the 1.5 mile remaining station, I was out of uncrustables, sunblock and I felt I was getting pretty sunburnt. Needless to say, morale was low at this point.
 I was very happy to make it to the 1.5 mile station to find Nina waiting there with more sunblock and snacks! I spent about 30 minutes cooling off in the shade and getting my salt levels back up. At Nina's recommendation, I dosed my shirt at the water station which immediately cooled off my body. My heart rate went from 175 to 130 within seconds. I really underestimated how much of a load it took to keep my body cooled off. I gave Nina the hat I had been carrying for hours and she put it on for our one and only selfie. 

The last 1.5 miles went better than the previous 1.5 miles since I wasn't overheating anymore. However; I felt I was getting a little hypoxic as the trail ended at 7,200 feet. But I sucked it up and gutted it out with Nina by my side. Once complete, we took a group shot at the top before heading back to our hotel rooms for a shower then meeting up at a local Mexican place for a well deserved burrito and Margarita.
As expected, I was feeling pretty tired that night so I slept from 7PM to 7AM logging 12 hours of sleep straight. It was great! Nina, Brent and I departed the area pretty early so we could get back since Lou and Noah were coming into town to stay with us for a hockey tournament and we wanted to see them. 

Overall, the hike was 17.9 miles with 4,692 feet of ascent and took me 10 hours and 9 minutes. Our friend Will did a fantastic job setting up the trip. Despite the challenge, it was a great hike that I'd love to do again!