Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bryce Canyon National Park (Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend)

Let's just start my acknowledging that 3 day weekends are the  I know that's a no-brainer, but 3-day weekends are just such beautiful things, especially when you live in place like Las Vegas, where there are virtually an unlimited number of outdoor adventures that are just an easy car ride away.

During this most recent 3-day weekend, Adam and I, along with a couple of our friends, traveled to Utah to visit another National Park that is within driving distance of Las Vegas: Bryce Canyon National Park.
yay! another stamp in my National Park Passport =)
I think there are two primary things that are recognizable about Bryce.  First, we have the brilliant red and orange rock, which looked even more spectacular against the clean, white snow.  Second, this place is covered in hoodoos, which are like narrow spire-like towers of rock that just rise out of the desert floor.  They are spectacular.

Now, we didn't drive all that way to just look at it.  Of course, we needed to get down and hike in it!  There are a lot of really well maintained trails of all lengths.  We didn't have a ton of time, so we selected a 3 mile loop hike that took us down into the amphitheater from Sunrise Point down the Queens Garden Trail through a magnificent desert wonderland.
The trail was really remarkable.  There were a series of switchbacks that led you further and further into the natural amphitheater.  In addition, there were countless overlooks that just took your breath away (and provided opportunities for shadow pictures).
V-O-L-S! Go Vols Go!!!
Once we got to the bottom, we began walking through a forest of hoodoos and incredibly tall evergreen trees.  
We coninued along until we came to a fork for the Navajo Trail.  This trail is normally a loop on its own that starts and finishes at Sunset Point (not to be confused with Sunrise Point, where we started our hike).  However, the part that walks through "Wall Street" was closed due to falling rock.  We climbed out of the canyon on the "Two Bridges Side" of the Navajo Trail.  We hiked back to the rim of the canyon at Sunset Point and the view was still inspiring.
We completed our loop by hiking the Rim Trail from Sunset Point back to Sunrise Point, where we left our cars.

Overall, it was a great hike.  It was just under 3 miles (2.9 miles) with about 550 ft in elevation change. I would highly recommend going to Bryce in the winter.  First, the red rock and the white  Second, it is far less crowded.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I think I've learned some things in the last year - Crabby Appleton (Card #20)

A little over a year ago, on January 5, 2013, I attempted my first hike with Hiking Las Vegas.  It was Oak Creek Overlook for the 4 of Clubs.  I say attempted, because I did not make it to the peak =(  Now, to be fair, I was getting over a nasty respiratory flu and was having terrible times with congestion and breathing.  

However, I just really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  The type of hiking that the people in this group were doing was unlike anything I'd ever done or seen done in my life.  I thought hiking was just walking on a trail and stopping to look at trees and waterfalls.  Yeah.....that may be hiking, but it isn't Hiking Las Vegas.  

The day I first hiked with Hiking Las Vegas was an incredible learning experience.  And, I haven't stopped learning since.  Every time I go out and I use my scrambling and rope skills and reach a new peak, I am so thankful for all the people who have taught me the hiking skills and continue to instill me with this new education.

Okay, I do have a point, I promise.  Last weekend, I hiked to Crabby Appleton Peak for the 5 of Diamonds.  This was a hike that, from the pictures, has intimidated me for the last year.  It starts with a long approach hike through the desert and then up a shoot that isn't technical, but it is pretty steep, so it takes a lot out of you.  Once you reach the saddle, the real fun begins:

First, we scrambled up this short crack in the rocks, using a rope that one of the organizers installed himself!
Once up that short, tricky spot, it was time to walk this incredible ridge line.  It was wider than it looks (these pictures were taken from the top), but the drops are approximately 800+ feet on each side.  Very intimidating.

As if the ridge wasn't intimidating enough, there was still one more obstacle between me and the peak. You reach a point on the ridge line that is blocked by a giant boulder.  At this point, you're faced with two options.  Option A, you can do a scramble up the boulder that would be super easy if it was 3 feet off the ground....however, it is 800+ feet off the, I declined that option.  Instead, I opted to use another rope and "hand-line" around the obstacle.
After I got off the rope, we walked up the ridge until we arrived at the peak.  The day was gorgeous.  We just laid in the sun while waiting for the other groups to join us.  It was so wonderful to have all of my hiking friends in the same place.  It was such a good day fitness-wise and mental health wise.
Of course, getting to the peak is only half of the hike.  Getting back down is often more intimidating to me than climbing up.  Especially, the rope around the obstacle.  But, I did it with flying colors, if I do say so myself =)

and when I got to the other side, I looked at what I had done, and exclaimed "It's almost like I learned something in the last year!!"  ... and I really have =)

I don't think many, if any, of my hiking friends read this blog.  But, just in case you do, I want you all to know how much you've changed my life for the better.  I've learned countless lessons from every person with whom I've hiked.  You are such important people in my life and I am grateful for all the moments we've spent together and all the adventures to come!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Park & Hidden Peak

As much as I complain about the Vegas weather in the summer, the winters truly make up for the pain that the summers cause.  This weekend we had two beautiful days of weather with blue skies and highs in the mid-60s.  Thankfully, I was able to take full advantage of this weather by exploring a new to me area of the Vegas wilderness to which I hadn't been in the past (The Park & Hidden Peak) and re-visiting one of my favorite spots (Windy Peak).  Whats more, I got to do all of this with some of my awesome friends.

Saturday, I started out with my pals from Hiking Las Vegas at 7:00am.  Our final destination was Hidden Peak in Red Rock Canyon NCA for the 7 of Diamonds.  There are at least two routes to this peak.  We took the "back" route.  To get to the start of the hike, we drove from Las Vegas toward Pahrump, NV and, ultimately, drove the 3.1 miles down Rainbow Spring Road until we couldn't drive any further.

Warning:  you'll definitely need a high clearance vehicle back here and 4-wheel drive is probably a good idea.

Once we parked the car, we started our adventure.  Our first surprise was a thick sheet of ice covering the road/trail for the first tenth of a mile.  Apparently, there is normally a stream running down the middle of this road, but thanks to a series of very cold days/nights a few weeks ago and the fact that this is in the shade, the stream is now ice.
My hiking friends double as figure skaters, obviously
Once we got past the ice, we followed the somewhat faint trail, a series of cairns, and the GPS waypoints through the limestone and fir trees over a ridge, etc.  After about 2.5 miles, we arrived at the most beautiful place I've ever been inside Red Rock:  The Park (aka Little Zion).
This place was incredible.  We were hiking on a limestone trail and then *poof* we were walking on beautiful sandstone.  "The Park" or "Little Zion" is a sandstone plateau located at 6000 feet of elevation with tall evergreen trees and, when you get to the edge, breathtaking views with fantastic drop-offs.
You can sort of see the stark line where the gray limestone suddenly turns in to creamy sandstone.
I really enjoyed walking around this area.  I can't wait to take more of my friends to this sandstone oasis in the sky.
We also discussed that this would be a great backpacking trip to test gear before longer backpacking trips.  Because the park is located above 5000 ft, you can get a BLM backcountry permit.
After frolicking at The Park, it was time to head to our real objective.  We started along a sandstone ridge and before long, we were treated to this:
From there, the peak was just an incline away.  It was steep at points and I was definitely breathing heavily when I got to the peak.  Once we all got there, I ate snacks (including honey stinger waffles - yum!), took pictures, and just hung out with some awesome people.  
Hiking to The Park and Hidden Peak will definitely go down as one of my favorite hikes in Las Vegas.    I really wish I could take everyone I know here.  

I do NOT recommend going out on this hike unless you're either with someone who knows the trail or you feel really comfortable navigating in the backcountry using a description (either from here or Branch Whitney's Book), a GPS unit, and GPS waypoints. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thursday [Retail] Therapy

We're approaching mid-January.  This is the time when the excitement of the holidays has worn off and the weather outside is cold and dreary.  I think we all need a little pickup in the form of a little retail therapy.
.....I hope your credit cards have recovered a little from the holidays.....

So, I spent some time last night looking at my favorite websites for running clothes and found some *awesome* deals to lift you out of any January blues that you may be experiencing.  (Just to be clear, the links below are NOT any sort of affiliate links.  I do not benefit monetarily if you click on/purchase any of these items.)

Option #1:  Running Outside or Hiking:
Zella Seamless Cable Training Top
Original Price: $58.00
NOW: $39.90
Brooks Infiniti Tight III
Road Runner Sports
Original Price: $74.99
NOW: $59.95 (w/ VIP: $53.96)
**Limited Sizes Available**
Brooks PureFlow 2
Original Price: $100.00
NOW: $70.00
The 3rd generation of the PureFlows came out recently, so now you can snag a pretty great deal on the PureFlow 2s!

I found several options for running tights, in case the limited sizes that are still available in the Brooks tights above don't work for you:
GapFit gFast Leggings
Original: $54.95
NOW: $28.99

GapFit gFast Heathered Leggings
Original: $54.95
NOW: $32.99

Option #2:  Slogging it out on the Treadmill

MPG Valencia Hoodie
Original: $60.00
NOW: $41.93
**for wearing to and from the gym**
Nike Dri-Fit Knit Women's Running Tank Top
Original Price: $55.00
NOW: $34.97
**additional colors available at this price**
Nike Twisted Tempo Women's Running Shorts
Original Price $45.00
NOW: $26.97**Limited Sizes Available**
Option #3:  Hitting the Pool
This is also a great time of year to check out deals on the swimwear that is left from the summer/fall.  For example, I really like this floral, polyester one-piece by Nike.  Nike is probably my favorite brand when it comes to workout suits.
Nike Cut-Out Floral Burst Women's Swimsuit
Original Price $78.00
NOW: $59.97
**Have you scored any awesome post-Christmas deals??**

Happy Shopping!!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

That time I went snowshoeing in Mount Rainier National Park!

Okay, just one more post that I should have posted more than a week ago, then I promise I'll shut up about our trip to Washington for Christmas.  (yes, yes I know, Christmas was nearly two weeks ago)

I knew that I wanted to get some sort of hiking in while we were in Washington, but I'm not that familiar with the area, so I started my research with the National Parks.  My quick googling turned up two excellent options: Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park.  Ultimately, a couple of things led me to settle on visiting Mount Rainier.  First, it was about half the distance from our hotel compared to Olympic.  Second, duh, Mount Rainier is beautiful and iconic.  Finally, I read about a fun opportunity to go snowshoeing, something I've always wanted to try.

Warning:  this is a picture heavy post.  I had a hard time limiting myself to just a few because I'm just obsessed with the beauty of Mount Rainier
Often times it is difficult to see Rainier because of  frequent cloud cover, especially in the morning.  However, the morning we drove in that direction it was surprisingly clear and we had often views of the mountain as we drove.
We left our hotel fairly early, at least for a vacation day and arrived at the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park around 9:00am.  I had no idea until we visited that Mount Rainier was one of the first National Parks.  More precisely, it was the fourth national park, established on March 2, 1899.
It was still a decent drive from the entrance of the park to the visitor center.  But, it was the most beautiful drive I've been on in a long, long time.  First of all, GREEN!!  Second of all, SNOW!!  Two very exciting things that I love and don't get to see very often now that I live in Vegas.  In addition, we drove by beautiful waterfalls and took in breathtaking vistas of Mount Rainier itself.
Our ultimate goal was the Visitor Center at Paradise located at an elevation of 5400 feet, which meant we had some serious climbing to do in the car with some serious snow along the way.  The temperature was just slightly over freezing, so the roads weren't terribly slippery.  Nevertheless, this sign made me a little nervous when coupled with the snow, etc.
But, never fear, we made it to our destination.  The parking lot was covered in a sheet of ice, which even made our car slide when it was in park before we turned on the emergency break.  Once we survived the parking lot, we could turn our entire focus to how beautiful and charming the visitor center was.
And, the inside was even more lovely than the outside.   I loved the high ceilings with the exposed rafters and the openness of the entire place.
The bottom floor primarily consisted of the Ranger station and a cafeteria, this came in handy after snowshoeing b/c we were starving!  The second floor was sort of loft style and housed a gift shop and a small museum about the mountain.  I visited the gift shop and purchased a lovely mug and my National Parks Passport. 
I now have two stamps in my passport (Rainier and Zion), but Rainier was my first!
We arrived with plenty of time to sign up for the snowshoe hike.  In fact, I think I was the first to sign up!  Let me first say, the snowshoeing was excellent!  For a donation of $4/person, the park provided snowshoes and a guide that led you through the sub-alpine forest and discussed the plant life and how it adapts to this harsh climate.  The hikes are limited to 25 people and they only do two Ranger guided hikes per day.
Getting my snowshoeing legs under me.
Snowshoeing was actually not as challenging as I expected it would be.  I'm pretty uncoordinated, so I legitimately expected to fall many times.  Surprisingly, I fell only once and that was when I was trying to be cool, but I just ended up displaying how very not cool I am.  
Oh yeah, that fall that I told you I had?  Let's just say I didn't exactly stick this landing.
I will admit, that the snowshoeing was likely easier here because the 5 feet of snow that make up this trail is already pretty packed down, which makes for a smooth walk.  

The trail took about 2 hours and we traveled a total of 1.5 miles and stopped every few minutes to learn about the area around Mount Rainier.  In summary, we burnt calories, learned a little ecology/botany, and looked cute in our winter coats, boots, gloves, and hats.
Sadly, our snowshoeing came to an end and it was good timing too because the clouds started rolling in and the snow started to fall.  We headed in doors, grabbed a snack, and started the drive back down to Seattle.  

Remember that lovely photo with the stream and Mt. Rainier that I posted at the beginning (the third image, to be exact)?  Yeah, this is that very same creek, but I took the picture several hours later on our way out of the park. 
The cloud cover had gotten so thick, you'd never be able to tell there was a giant 14,000+ foot tall mountain hiding back there.  Or, as Adam's wonderful grandfather would say, I think they took the mountain out for cleaning.

I was sad to leave Mount Rainier, but I have plans to return in the not-so-distant future.  I'd really, really  like to backpack the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail that circumnavigates the base of Mount Rainier.  If I have time between leaving Vegas and heading to DC, that might be my plan.

Leaving Mount Rainier wasn't a total loss because that meant I could go back to my sister-in-law's house and cuddle with this adorable dude. 
I know, I know...this picture is random and has very little to do with the subject of this post.  But, I love this guy and doesn't he look like an Ewok here?  God, I love Star Wars.

Anyway.....I promise that soon I'll start posting about the present and stop reliving vacations I took several weeks ago, but I really wanted to post about my snowshoeing and to tell anyone who will listen to definitely try it out!  I'm going to be doing more in the near future because my awesome parents purchased a set of snowshoes for me for Christmas (they just didn't arrive in time for me to take them with me to Seattle...thanks a lot UPS)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bumming around Seattle (December 26th)

So, last week at this time, I was just waking up in my own bed for the first time in a week after a great trip to Seattle for Christmas.  Sadly, the last week has passed so quickly and was so busy, I haven't had time to finish this blog post from the day after Christmas.  However, we had such a fun day seeing the random sights of Seattle, that I still wanted to post it for posterity...or something like that.  

Our first stop of the day was, quite possibly, the one about which I was most excited:  the REI flagship store in downtown Seattle.
It was amazing inside!!  Seriously, I could have wandered around this place for hours upon hours.  Fortunately, I limited myself to 2 hours =)  The shoe department alone was bigger than my REI here in Vegas.  
In addition, they had this huge rock climbing apparatus.  If you look at the top right, you can see Santa Claus rappelling down!  Even Santa hangs out at REI.
We had a lot of fun exploring the grounds surrounding the store too.  REI definitely knew that groupies like me would want to visit this place as a tourist destination.   I got pretty excited about this kayaking picture set up.  I'm not sure why because I've never been kayaking and don't have a desire to.  
They also had these fun clocks outside that showed the local time at various outdoor adventure locations.  For example, Everest:
After dropping some cash at REI, we headed over to Pike's Place Market, home of fish tossing.  
I wasn't really looking forward to walking around the Market.  I've been there before, so I needed a really good reason to brave the crowds and the pervasive smell of fish.  Those reasons are:  lunch at Le Panier and delicious, freshly-made donut snacks from the market.
After the market, we headed towards two sights that I've wanted to see since high school (when have of my conversations consisted largely of quotes from 10 Things I Hate About You).  I'm not usually one of those people that seeks out sights seen in movies, but 10 Things was my #1, top, favorite movie for many years.  Because I'd previously visited Stadium High School, or Padua as it's known in the movie, we first made the short drive from downtown Seattle over the Aurora Bridge and around to see the Fremont Troll, who resides under the Aurora Bridge.
After the obligatory photo taking, we headed towards my final stop on my 10 Things movie tour:  Gas Works Park, the sight of an old gasification plant where they've left up a lot of the plant fixtures.  This was the sight of Kat Stratford & Patrick Verona's afternoon of fun with paintballs.
We started by walking up to the top of the Earth Mound, a man-made hill to see a view of the Seattle skyline, including the Space Needle.  It was really beautiful and I could have sat there and watched the boats and sea planes for hours.  I imagine it is even more beautiful when the sun is setting.
After visiting the Earth Mound, we walked through some of the tanks and pipes that make up the background of the park.  Walking in this area reminded me of the 3 years I spent working at a food ingredients plant before I went to law school.  Rather than opening the tanks and testing corn syrup within, I decided to perch on top.  It was only afterwards that I saw on the signs that said "Do Not Climb on Structures."  Oops...
I'm basically the Gas Works Park gargoyle =)
The final stop of the day was at the Brooks Running Outlet Store in Bothell, WA.  It took us like 45 minutes to an hour to get there from Gas Works Park, but it was definitely worth the trip!  We got a bunch of pairs of first generation pure project shoes for $10/pair!!  The sizes were very limited, but the had size 12, the size that Adam and my dad wear, in just about every type of men's shoe.  The women's sizes were even more limited, but I did leave with one pair of PureGrits.  I don't really do a lot of trail running, but for $10, I was not leaving without these.
Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for our bank account, the space for taking things back home to Vegas was limited.  But, if you ever find yourself in the Seattle area, check this place out!  So many awesome deals on excellent Brooks running clothes and shoes for men and women.  Next time I go to Seattle, I will be leaving extra space in my suitcase for purchases from the Brooks Outlet.

I don't think I'll be wanting to move to Seattle anytime soon....too much rain and cloud cover...but, I really enjoyed exploring the city and completing my 10 Things movie scene tour.  We'll definitely be back to visit family in the future and I definitely won't be complaining.  In fact, we have tentative plans to go back to explore the National Parks in the area next summer!