Friday, December 24, 2021

12/24 Hiking in Myakka State Park, FL

Over our Christmas break, Nina and I visited my parents down in Florida. As we enjoyed the warmer weather, we wanted to get some fresh air and explore the local area so we decided to spend the day at nearby Myakka State Park! This park is known for their wildlife including water birds and alligators. I don't care much for water birds but I'm all for seeing some alligators! 

As soon as we entered the park, there was a bridge covering the first bend in the river. It didn't take long for us to spot a bunch of large alligators. It's tough to judge the size of these beasts especially in the water but my dad educated the group that the number of inches between the nostrils and eyes is the total length of the gator in feet. We judged some of these gators were 8-9 feet long and probably weighed hundreds of pounds. Needless to say, we didn't jump in for a swim.

After we stopped for lunch at their cafĂ©, we pushed on to see what else the park had to offer. They had a nice, secluded hiking trail that offered us the typical Florida wetland scenery. Very different from what Nina and I are used to in the desert! Partially down the trail, we came across two towers with a suspension bridge across the middle. The taller of the two towers was 74 feet high and the bridge was 85 feet long. The height of this tower put us above the tree line giving us a great view of the total area. This helped us realize how truly secluded we were. I'd hate to get lost here! 

After our hike, we got back in the car to head out. We stopped at the river again to see how our gators were doing. A few of them were swimming around but a majority were on the shore sunning. We kept our distance and headed out! Definitely a memorable experience. 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

12/4 Hiking Mary Jane Falls at Mount Charleston, NV

After spending quite a bit of time indoors, Nina, Winston and I decided it was time to get out to stretch our legs! As we continued working towards hiking all the trails up on Mount Charleston, we picked Mary Jane Falls as our next adventure. We packed up and off we went. 

I've done Mary Jane Falls before but that was at the height of Covid when it was crazy crowded and now mid-winter, it was not nearly as crowded. There are two parking lots: one just off the road and one a little further up; you can park in either but one is definitely closer than the other. The first bit of the trail has a moderate up hill and very wide giving you a chance to warm up as you slowly begin the ascent. We took a few minutes to practice Winston's off leash recall. He was a good boy as always but we had our leash ready if other hikers came by. 

About half way through the trail, it starts a switchback up to the actual falls. This portion is more strenuous but very easy to follow. As we climbed, we started to climb out of the valley offering us some nice views of the Mount Charleston area!
At the top, there is a nice landing creating a perfect spot for lunch. The waterfalls had very little water flow but it was December so that was expected. The previous time I came up here was February and the waterfall was much stronger. 

As we started down, we quickly realized we were running out of time. Despite it only being 1:30PM, the sun set behind the mountains a little after 2PM causing the temperature to drop quickly. This is something we had not considered as sunset in the area was around 4:30PM. Lesson learned for next time. Overall, we made it back to the parking lot just fine and had a great time! 

Total distance was around 4 miles, climbing 1,624 feet and taking us 2 hours and 44 minutes including stops. The KML track was inaccurate due to mountain interference so I won't post it here but there are plenty online that are more accurate. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

10/21 - 10/24 Off-Roading and Camping at Lone Rock and Hole in the Rock in Utah

I received another invite from my good friends at Rogue Overland to head out to Monument Valley to explore an old Mormon Covered Wagon Route. The trail was called 'Hole in the Rock' and supposedly is the point where the Mormons in the late 1800's carved a Hole in the Rock to transit from Lake Powell to the Colorado River. Thankfully, my schedule was clear so I along with my brother Lou signed up! 

After telling the guys I'm in, I googled the rally point that we were supposed to met at Friday at 2PM. I quickly realized that it was over 500 miles away from the house so about an 8 hour drive. After discussing it with Lou, we planned to meet at Lone Rock Thursday night which is about the half way point for us thus cutting our single day transit distance in half. After work, I loaded up the truck and started the 4 hour journey to Lone Rock arriving around 9PM local time. It was a pleasant full moon so we could both see without any need for extra light. We caught up around the fire briefly then called it a night to rest up for what is sure to be a busy weekend. 

The next morning, we packed up and pushed off towards the trailhead. About 2 hours out, we passed by the Mexican Hat Rock which was a rock that looked like a Mexican Sombrero. Very cool rock to see! Shortly after that, the highway we were on turned into a gravel road as it switched back and forth going on the side of the cliff. Thankfully, it was excellent driving conditions but we still took it slow. From there, it was a short drive to the trailhead and met up with the group. It was great seeing the whole gang again! We aired down and pushed off leaving the world behind and our cell phone service behind!

The Hole in the Rock trail was a slow going and quite long trail so we decided it best to get a little ways in until we found a good spot to camp for the night. Then, we'd wake up and run the out and back trail the following day planning on camping at the same spot the next night. We found a good spot early afternoon and quickly unpacked. I, of course, was hungry so I made dinner before setting up camp. Dinner for me was 2 chicken quesadillas, very tasty! The best part about the Utah countryside with scenic clouds was that no one had cell phone service. We could just kick back and let our day to day worries drift away. 

The following morning, we packed up and headed out! Not long into the trail we came across old wagon tracks from where the Mormon's continuously pulled their wagons over the same rock face. Pretty cool to see over a 100 years later! We continued over rock and obstacle using spotters as required. We hit a few skid plates and relied on a few sliders but overall, no damage was done! A little after lunch, Nick brought the group together to share some bad news. It turns out we weren't progressing as quick as he'd hoped meaning we had a decision to make. If we turned back now, we would make camp before sunset but if we wanted to see the Hole in the Rock, we'd have to press forward guaranteeing our return would be well after sunset. Considering we all had 8+ hour drives the next day, we elected to head back early to get some sleep a little disappointed we couldn't see it.

As we rolled back into camp after a great day of wheeling, the sun was masked behind a low layer of clouds creating interesting sun beams. I wanted to get a video of it so I threw the truck in park, grabbed my DJI and ran out to the top of a nearby hill. The video was totally worth it and definitely the best video I've captured with the drone so far. 

After that, we all called it a night ready for an early departure the next morning. During the drive out to Utah, I received a call from the Ford dealer back in Vegas letting me know my long awaited Ford Bronco had been delivered and was ready for pickup. This made the trip very bitter sweet as I knew it was the last trip in the Tacoma. As we packed up and prepared for departure Sunday morning, I grabbed one last photo of the Taco in it's element thankful for all the trips and obstacles it has carried me on. This was a great send off for a great truck.


Sunday, October 10, 2021

10/8 - 10/10 Camping in Utah


“Camping doesn’t always mean roughing it” I thought our roof top tent set up brought us out of peasant status, but boy were we wrong! Enter our friends and fellow Winston dog parents, they opened our eyes to a whole new camping experience! 

Just to set the stage here: full electricity, running solar powered shower, a full on kitchen, a “theater” tent with a projector screen and gas heater! I mean we really have been roughing it compared to these pros! Suddenly we are both looking at trailers to buy, something we’ve sworn we would never invest in. 

We went to an amazing little known campsite; sorry followers were keepin' this one a secret! We rolled in after dark so it was hard to make out the landscape until the morning, but the views were well worth the wait. Camp was a 5 minute hike from the edge of the cliff, per usual I (Nina) lost sensation in my legs when seeing the giant drop! Scott got some great drone footage and used his fancy programs to capture some breathtaking views.

Winston happily played and chased around his friend Winston, a German short hair pointer.  How’s camping with two dogs named Winston and both go by the same nicknames like win and Winnie…. It’s an adventure! Both Winston’s were off leash for the majority of the trip and loved having their independence, hunting birds and new smells. The dogs enjoyed a sophisticated array of snacks from their barkcuterie board, while we devoured our charcuterie boards! 

It was a much needed weekend of relaxation and fun with friends! Here’s a friendly reminder to all our city friends that thought camping always meant being roughing it… news flash it’s 2021 and anything is possible even streaming bravo from your theater tent! 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

9/19 Wheeling at Sand Hollow State Park

One off-roading park that has always been high on my list is Sand Hollow State Park. I've had a few opportunities to go over the years but my schedule never allowed it until I received an invite for a day trip from the guys at Rogue Overland and thankfully, my schedule allowed it. So I packed up the truck and left Vegas at 6am to drive out.

After a short two hour drive, I met up with the group consisting of a 4Runner, 2 Xterras, another Tacoma and a Jeep Wrangler. One of the main reasons I enjoy wheeling with the Rogue Overland guys is their inclusiveness for every type of vehicle. I've been a part of groups in the past that have excluded individuals based solely on the make of their vehicle and I'm happy to say that the members of Rogue Overland welcome any and all! We grouped up and took the short drive to Sand Hollow, aired down and hit the trails.

The second we turned onto the dirt trail, we left highway and city life behind as we were greeted with beautiful desert landscape full of various colors. The trail we were planning on doing that day was called 'Fault Line' and it started strong! Almost immediately, we were all in 4Lo with lockers coming on as we started steep climbs and descents. After being on the trail for about an hour, we only traveled 300 feet. It would have been much easier to walk but that's not the point. After completing Fault Line, we merged with the West Rim Trail. Although more open than Fault Line, this was still a tough trail with many ups and downs. 

During this portion of the trail, there were not many rocks or boulders to climb over - the main obstacles were ledges. Going down a ledge is one challenge but maintaining traction to go up a big ledge is a whole different problem. I was the only member of the group without a front locker and only had a rear locker. This was pretty evident as I struggled to get my front tires to grab anything on some of these ledges. However, with good spotters, careful throttle control and maybe some burnt rubber left behind, we made our way through the West Rim Trail. 

Nearing the end of the West Rim, we entered an area called the 'Lunch Room'. This area was flat and had a decent amount of space for a large group to gather together. Although we had already stopped for lunch, it was a good spot to take a quick breather before going through our next obstacle - the Squeeze. The Squeeze was an obstacle where the trail was barely wide enough for a single vehicle to pass through. The FJ in our group had a plus 2 inch long travel kit in the front and those two inches on either side caused his vehicle to be wide enough to not make it. So, I jumped out, folded my mirrors and hoped for the best. It was a very easy obstacle but nerve-wrecking as my right mirror was pressed against a solid rock face the entire time. Thankfully, with the mirror folded in, I took no damage as I scrapped by - literally. 

After the Squeeze, we jumped on the Western Rim bypass route and circled around towards the Dunes near the end. I've never been a fan of deep sand but I still took a few minutes to drift around throwing sand every which way. For the first time in a few hours, we had a good view of the area since our vision wasn't been obstructed by rocks. I took a good look around before we continued out of the dunes back towards 'The Chute'. This obstacle was a short but very technical climb up a rock V where tire placement was paramount. The guys from Rogue as always did a great job capturing what the Chute looked like so please take a look. You can find their video here: The Chute

After the chute, we took a good look at the Sand Hollow Reservoir, aired up, and headed our separate ways for home. All in all, it was a great day trip and the only damage taken on that day was a moderate sun burn!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

9/12 Hiking at Stanley B Springs Trail in Mount Charleston

After a long and hot summer, we needed to get outside to breath the fresh air. However, since it was still quite hot down in the valley, we decided to head up to our favorite summer getaway: Mt. Charleston. We've done quite a few trails at this point so we wanted to try something new but we wanted a warm up round so something a bit shorter. We conducted some research on their website discovered the Stanley B Springs hike. I previously had not heard of this hike but quickly found a KML file on Gaia (my preferred app) and off we went! 

The trailhead isn't marked but it does start at a small dirt parking lot. It looks more like a turn off than an actual parking lot so you could miss it if you aren't paying attention. The upside is that since it isn't marked, it wasn't very crowded even for a Sunday. Once we started moving, the trail was very easy to follow as it climbed up in a dense forest. After the first half mile or so, we ascended on the side of the edge overlooking the town of Mount Charleston. We tried to get Winston to appreciate the views but he was too busy smelling all the good smells. 

As we continued back into the forest, we came upon an old tree that had fallen in our path. The tree appeared to have been there for quite some time since the route curved up and around the fallen tree. We thought this would be a good opportunity to test out all of Winston's latest off-leash training and see how he did! He passed the off leash test but unexpectedly, failed the tree crossing test. Needless to say, Winston always keeps us entertained. 

As we pushed on, we found ourselves walking into what started out as damp dirt but quickly became a small stream. This was a tell tale sign that we were approaching the spring! Since the trail was named the Stanley B Springs surely there would be a spring at the end? Maybe there would be but late Summer / early fall isn't the time of year to see it. The stream was so small in fact, we didn't think it was photo worthy. However, we did get a cool photo of what used to be the start of a mine. Over the years, we've learned that most of these hiking trails or off-roading trails have some historical significance to them; very rarely do the trails just exist for us to hike on. This one was no different. Maybe years ago, probably decades, it was used as a small mine. As the mine dried up, so did the trail. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy it! 

After reaching the end of the hike, we took a short break and headed back down. Since going down is always so much easier, we were able to grab a quick shot of Winston smiling for the camera. What a goofball! As we finished the trail, we all had some water, a few bites of snacks and headed for home. Our total distance was 2.64 miles climbing 652 feet taking us 1 hour and 34 minutes. Not bad! 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

1/10 Hiking at Lovell Canyon

After a long and frustrating bout with a wicked case of Pertussis (Whooping Cough) over the holiday season, we decided enough was enough; we had to get out of the house! We were tossing around the idea of attempting Gass Peak a 2nd time but good friends Alex, Erin and puppers Koa offered for us to join them with another couple Will and Allison on Lovell Canyon Sunday morn. This is a trail we haven't heard of previously located west of Red Rock Canyon in the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness. The plan was to meet up at Cottonwood Station in Blue Diamond for coffee before driving over to the trailhead. Unfortunately, Winston didn't get any coffee so he had to trot away empty-pawed. 

As we drove over to the trailhead, we were pleasantly surprised to see some spots of snow! Winston, the nine month old pup who has only known the desert, has never seen snow so we were excited to introduce him. However, the sight of snow also told us it would be a bit chilly at this higher elevation. Don't worry, Winston brought his fur coat. 

The first half mile of the trail was a bit steep ascend that had all of us couch potatoes gasping for air pretty quickly. The upside to this, of course, was that we didn't get too cold. Once we ascended through that, we were rewarded with some great views! 

As we continued through the trail, the best part was reconnecting with friends that we hadn't seen in awhile. Even though it had been a few short months, with 2020 and 2021 being two crazy years, a lot had changed. Additionally, this was everyone's first time meeting Winston and he was instantly the star of the show with his recent grooming and fluffy blowout. The only debby downer moment of the day was when Nina left the much needed snacks in the car causing Scott to quickly get a little hungry but he was a good sport about it and didn't complain that much. 

After halfway through the well marked, loop of a trail, we found ourselves on the backside of the mountain in a valley where the sun didn't shine as much as it did on the other side of the peak. This presented us with an opportunity to let Winston walk in the snow and catch a few snowballs. On the bucket list is taking Winston to deeper snow at some point but this was a good introduction. He had a great time making crunching noises with each step. He even left very cute little paw prints wherever he went. 

After we finished our hike, we all compared the slightly differing distances that we covered that day. Online it was described as 5.60 miles but I logged it as 5.38 miles. We knocked it out in 2 hours and 32 minutes with a 757 foot ascent. Not bad for being stuck in the house for the last few weeks! We all agreed we needed to do this more often as we departed after a great day.