Friday, May 1, 2015

"The Water Shoe"

Adidas Hydro Pro and Hydro Lace

(canyoneering boot)

Many people envision The Narrows as walking up a river with a nice sandy bottom, lined with small river rocks. However this is not the case. The river bed in The Narrows is best described as walking on bowling ball sized cobbles, with occasional sand spots.  These cobbles can be extremely slippery and awkward to walk on with a normal shoe or barefoot,  but thanks to Adidas technology, walking in The Narrows does not have to be uncomfortable.

images (32)The Adidas Hydro Pro and Hydro Lace have the most comfort, the best traction, ankle support and toe protection you could ask for in a “river shoe” .  These shoes have the finest sport technology for all day comfort. The patented Adiprene helps absorb shock in the heel and provides energy rebound in the forefoot, giving you the all day comfort you need when hiking in The Narrows.

2 separate Velcro adjustments can be made to the collar of the shoe. This design not only assistshydro pro with keeping those pesky pebbles out of your shoe, it also allows you to find the perfect amount of support and comfort for your ankles.

The Narrows  water temperatures ranges roughly from 40 to 60 degrees, making it a cold hike anytime of the year.  The Adidas Hydro series have a neoprene liner which aids  in keeping feet warm, unlike other shoes that are used for The Narrows.  The Hydro series is designed to keep the warm water in. Other styles of canyon boots are mesh so the cold water is free to move in and out of the boot instead  of trapping warm water inside
How does Neoprene work?

Neoprene works by trapping a thin layer of water between the neoprene and the skin. The body temperature of the hiker heats this water giving a nice warm water blanket. The thicker the neoprene used the warmer your foot will be. This is why getting a neoprene sock that fits well is a must, topped off with an extra layer of neoprene from the Adidas Hydro-lace your feet will stay warm no matter the season you come to visit The Narrows.

What is so special about the traction?

Stealth rubber is a state of the art technology designed by the founder of a rock climbing shoe company, which is now owned by Adidas.
“Stealth Rubber soles increase the amount of body weight a climber (or canyoneer) could exert on his feet before the rubber bond broke away from the rock”
Adidas use a Stealth composite in their “traxion”, this keeps you from slipping and sliding while on your adventure, leaving more time to enjoy the scenery. You won’t find that kind of assurance from on your old gym shoe.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hiking Safety in the Virgin River

The Zion Narrows are a beautiful place and they are one of the most sought after hikes in Zion National Park. Many people come to Zion and are ill prepared for the conditions of the river. That is one of the many reason that our shop opened it’s doors, we want people to be able to explore the narrows in a safe and comfortable fashion.

Every day  we have people walk into our shop and ask us if their sandals are the right thing to wear or if their  tennis shoes will be ok.  While thousands of people hike the narrows every year barefoot or in sandals, this leads to much discomfort.  Improper footwear leads to ankle sprains,broken bones, foot entrapment and blisters. I’m sure the Zion Search and Rescue Team would prefer not to hike up a river to rescue someone who decided they could hike sandals.

A little know fact about Zion SAR is if your injury is not life threatening they will not come save you for 24 hours. This means that your friends or concerned citizens will more than likely be the ones assisting you out of The Narrows. Not only will you be uncomfortable the whole time you are putting other people at risk. If others are supporting your weight and caring for you as they walk they could trip, fall and injure themselves while at the same time dropping you which could lead to you sustaining more injury.

I truly hope that you readers understand this is a worst case scenario type of thing, but it does happen,  on a daily basis I see someone limping out of The Narrows. I’m not trying to scare people off or say you must rent the proper attire or else. I am just a very safety oriented person and the best way to get peoples attention and think about their own safety is to be brutally honest.

To be blunt if your footwear was the right thing to wear that is what we would be renting. You would not wear cross country ski boots to go snowboarding, so why would you wear trail running shoes or sandals to go canyoneering?

For those of you who would like to argue that hiking in The Narrows is not canyoneering I have a few things to say. The Narrows may not be a technical canyon route, but according to the standardized canyon rating system you are going in to a 1 CIII. For those of you who do not understand the Canyon Rating System I will define each character.

Class 1 canyon: Non-technical; no rope required. May involve some easy scrambling requiring the occasional use of hands for balance and support. Travel is possible up or
down canyon.
Class C canyon: Normally has water with current. Waterfalls. Expect to do some deep wading and/or swimming in current. Wetsuit or drysuit may be required depending on
water and air temperatures.

III: Normally requires most of a day

Due to the fact that the majority of people only spend a half day or less the canyon could be rated a 1 CII for more info on canyon rating systems follow the link.

There are many online blogs and social media sites that tell people all you need to hike The Narrows are some water shoes and a trekking pole. While that statement may be correct it is deceiving.  Things like aqua socks, teva sandals, keens etc… are not proper attire for hiking The Narrows. The reasons why are as follows.

  1. You are hiking on bowling ball sized sandstone cobbles. Not only is sandstone abrasive it is slippery when wet. Most water shoes soles were not designed with The Narrows in mind.  The traction you want on your “water shoes” is Stealth Rubber or Traxion. Stealth is what they use on rock climbing shoes and canyoneering boots.Traxion is used on Both canyoneering boots and approach shoes. If the shoe/boot you are looking to purchase for your trip to Zion does not have Stealth or Traxion on it, than the salesman at your local retail shoe shop does not know what he is talking about. There are two companies that use Stealth Rubber on their “water shoes” One of those companies is Adidas the other is 5.10, a company that Adidas owns.

  1. Ankle support and comfort are other key factor to walking in the Virgin River. Sandals do not have ankle support!  The cheap aquasock you bought at the grocery store does not have ankle support!  Neither one is comfortable and you will be stopping every 2 minutes to dig sand and pebbles out from under your foot. I maybe a little biased but I suggest the Adidas they last longer and are more comfortable. Trust me I have worn both over the last 5 years and have sent a thousands of people to The Narrows in the right boots and it is unanimous that Adidas make the most comfortable “water shoe”

  1. Trekking poles come in all shapes, sizes and materials and they are great for their designated purpose which is trekking. The Narrows however is not a trek it is a water hike. That being said water helps things like metal rust and most trekking poles have a metal spring or metal mechanism inside them to aid in adjusting the pole. If you do not take your pole apart after your hike and dry out the inside you may find on your next trek that your pole is rusted shut. Sand  will also find it’s
    1. way up inside your trekking poles internal mechanism, sand will also jam up your pole and when you twist the pole to extend it you might just break your internal mechanism. Last but not least most trekking poles will break under pressure, just jam one in between  to rocks than try to pry it out and, Voila! ,50% of the time your pole will snap. Smooth,sanded wooden hiking staffs are very sturdy and they come in one solid piece, therefore the chance of oak or hickory snapping in half is pretty minimal. Locally grown sticks/logs that you find along the Virgin River are soft and brittle not to mention full of splinters. A piece of wood stuck in your hand just might ruin your hike.

    Now that you have been given all this information let’s look at costs. A nice pair of trekking poles will run you around $100 and waterproof hiking boots or “water shoes” from your local outdoor shop will run you upwards of $100. If your nice new poles don’t get destroyed in the Narrows; will you hike in other rivers? if the answer is no, save your money for Zion souvenirs and just rent the right gear for $22 from any of the outfitters in Zion.

    Now let’s look at cheap gear. A cheap trekking pole will cost about $15 and since it was such a great price it was probably cheaply made which leaves it even more susceptible to breakage than the $100 trekking pole. A cheap pair of aqua socks run about $5-$10 and will get thrown away after the hike or will be discarded in some foliage off to the side of the river when the sandstone eats through the sole and you realize you’re better off barefoot.  For the exact same price you could have rented gear from any of the shops in Zion and had a more comfortable experience.

    If you are a starving student with an old pair of trekking poles and some beat up shoes you don’t care about sure go for it, but please keep the risks in mind.

    If you are a family with young children, think about how much whining happened in the car on the drive to Zion. Then think about putting those same kids in a cold river without hiking poles and proper footwear for 4-5 hours.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Where in the hell is "Wall Street"

The Narrows
Thousands of people come to our shop each year with the same question “Where is Wall Street?” Being the smart you know what that I am, I have proclaimed: in New York!!  This lead many tourist to believe that I did not know what I was talking about and at first I felt a little embarrassed that I did not know what they were talking about, after all I am supposed to be a professional and know everything about the park; so I asked a ranger and was given the answer in New York.

            In an effort to better accommodate people I did what every intelligent professional does.  I sought out the advice of the all-powerful Google. The first 3 results I received were about New York, A newspaper and a movie. I broadened my search and added Zion to the end of my “Wall Street” search. Voila!!!!  Now I was getting somewhere. Obviously the National Park website pops up first, but nowhere was there any info on this famous “Wall Street” section I kept hearing about.

Wiki-Pedia was my next stop.  While nothing about the famous “Wall Street” was found in wiki-pedia either, I did come across the names of 3 influential people who were involved with the finding of The Narrows. I guess I should rephrase that and say the naming of The Narrows since the Paiutes knew about the area way before the first Europeans showed up. The Paiutes had called this place Makuntuweap which translates to Straight Canyon. There is a long rich history to the canyon and I encourage you all to read about it, but in an effort to not completely bore you with details I have provided a condensed history below.

It wasn’t until 1858 that the first white man explored the area. Nephi Johnson was that luckyman. With the help of an un-named Paiute, Nephi set out to explore Makuntuweap. The Narrows was first descended and named in 1872 on horseback ,from its head waters of Navajo Lake  by geologist and explorer Grove Karl Gilbert as part of the Wheeler Survey.  That same year John Wesley Powell visited the area now known as the Narrows.

Having this new information I set out looking through the National Park archeology archives and the Zion Human History Museum webpage, still nothing to be found about “Wall Street” Then I found the answer I had been looking for, a YouTube video which was entitled Wall Street in the Narrows, after watching the video I still had no idea where “Wall street” is.

I searched through numerous blog posts about how “Wall Street” is the most fantastic section of the Narrows but none of these posts could really show an exact location in The Narrows that was designated as “Wall Street”. Then I found a map it looked similar to every other map I had seen of The Narrows, but this map had one distinct difference. The section just past Orderville Canyon had the name Wall Street. I compared all 500+ maps (ok that is a slight exaggeration), but all these others maps show The Narrows where this map proclaimed “Wall Street”.

The outcome of all this research, besides learning some fantastic history about Makuntuweap and The Narrows is:  The internet lies! It seems that one person or multiple people with too much time on their hands, much like myself today; decided to spread this name across the inter webs and single handedly tried to change the name and leave out the history of The Narrows. With such a rich history beginning more than 7,000 ago I will never comprehend why the name was changed from Makuntuweap to The Narrows. I mean doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? Come on, take a minute to let that roll of your tongue Ma-coon-ta-weep, is that not fun to say? Say it again!! Ok, enough of my non-sense

After all this research I now have a new question. Did someone think it was clever to call it this because that is where the money is made? If so than I find the term “Wall Street” is a bit of a slap in the face to tourists. Or…. did someone just absent mindedly refer to it this way in a video that went viral? I may never know the reason, but I feel more enriched and educated on the topic and if you stop by the shop you can guarantee that I will send you to New York if you are looking for Wall Street.
View from Lunch Rock

I have however decided to jump on the bandwagon and single handedly change the name of a feature in The Narrows. I lay a new claim on the 3 mile marker, which some people call Floating Rock. From here and hence forth said rock will be named: Lunch Rock, because my favorite lunch spot is on top of that rock. Please put forth an effort to spread the name through your personal blogs, make viral videos and tell all your friends of the name change and send us some pics of you and your friends taking part in the new lunch time tradition.
If any of you faithful blog followers know the answer to my wall street conundrum please share with me so I can further my Zion Knowledge.

Join me next week when I tackle “How far from Orderville is The Subway?”

Monday, December 9, 2013

Winter in Zion National Park

I am still stunned by the fact that Zion National Park received 14 inches of snow in one day and at the same time I am glad to have been there to witness this event. When I first heard that a storm was coming to the park I was under the impression that the news man knew what he was talking about and the park would get 2-3 inches of snow. 
I thought this would be a great time to hike The Narrows and do a little snow photography as an advertisement for winter trips offered by Zion Outfitter. I definitely received far more than I had expected. Due to the mass amount of snow in The Narrows it was almost impossible to get a decent photograph. Camera lenses kept fogging up and mini avalanches of snow would fall and blur out imagines. Obviously thousands of snow flakes landing on the lenses did not help out the cause. Needless to say between the 4 of us on the adventure team we were able to compile a few images for your viewing pleasure.

The day started out fairly mellow and most of the good shots were taken in the first hour of the trip. The more we walked into the canyon the worse the storm became and the larger the avalanches became. Once we reached Orderville we figured we better head back, every time we talked a large amount of snow would come crashing down into the canyon. I could write for hours about what an amazing experience this was, but if you have not experienced The Narrows in winter I don't think you could possibly comprehend the beauty and danger of this hike. In closing I do offer a few suggestions for anyone that may attempt a trip like this.
  • If you are not a seasoned winter hiker you may want to consider a guide. 
  • Double up on the neoprene socks, We wore two pair of 5mm any less would have been uncomfortable. 
  • TAKE A FULL BODY DRYSUIT, waders will not cut it. 
  • Dress warm, Down is your best friend
  • Bring Yaktraks or similar type of crampon.
  • Keep your head up. I mean that in a literal sense. Snow accumulation on the canyon walls can and will fall. Falling snow can carry rocks, ice or other debris from over 1,000 feet above the canyon floor.
Stay safe out there!!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Canyoneering Zion

I had the opportunity on the 13th  to go through Keyhole for my 4th time this year and Pine Creek for my second. My first time in Keyhole I drowned my camera at the first rap so there were no pictures of Keyhole or Pine Creek.

The second trip I did not turn on my Contour helmet cam. The third trip I left my Contour in the car, but on the fourth I was finally able to get some pics and footage of both canyons.
I’m pretty happy that it finally worked out cause I’m pretty sick of smelling that rotten deer at the end of Keyhole.

I met up with a friend of mine I have not seen in two years and who has not rappelled since he was in boy scouts. He told me he would be fine doing any rap under 200’ so I figured that after warming him up in Keyhole he should have no problems with Pine Creek. My other friend Nick who owns Seldom Seen Adventures in Kanab hooked up with us as well.

This is always a fun canyon and I love how quickly you can get small groups through. It’s one of those canyons you can do on your lunch break , which I have done that a couple times.  I have been watching the water drop over the past couple weeks but it is full again.
The hole when you first come out of the slot before the 1st rap was completely dry the week before, but it was completely full this trip. I knew that there would be a bit more swimming this trip. The pool at the bottom of the first rap is at least 6’ deep. It’s kind of hard to tell due to the buoyancy of my dry suit.

There is webbing at every down climb which isn’t really necessary, but for my friend, the noob it made him feel a bit more comfortable.  To make a short canyon story shorter; we swam a lot then the wind blew deer hair in our faces. We complained about the stench and moved on to Pine Creek.

Stay tuned for Pine Creek Trip Report.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Finis Mitchell

The person, place and literature that have inspired me are all interconnected. The Popo Agie wilderness, specifically the Big Sandy area has been the biggest inspiration in my life for getting outdoors.

 I fell in love with place before I even ventured into Wyoming. In 2001 I came upon a guide book by Finis Mitchell entitled “Wind Rivers Trails” It’s actually more of a back pocket nature Journal. It included Poetry, hand drawn Maps, detailed routes, supplies and stories of stocking the alpine lakes with fish brought in on horseback inside kegs. The way Finis described the area sparked a curiosity in me. I had never been in an actual wilderness area before; I was instantly drawn to the remoteness, upon completion of the book I began planning my journey.

Finis Mitchell came to the winds in 1906 with his parents he began climbing the area in 1909 (age 8), he climbed all but 20 of the 300 peaks in the Wind River Range during his life time, his last solo ascent was at age 73, he fell and was forced to hike out 18 miles with crudely built crutches he fashioned from some pine.  In 1929 he and his wife began stocking the alpine lakes with fish. They went on to open a tent camp at the Big Sandy Opening which is still in operation to this day but is now a lodge, it was the first recreation area on the Pacific side of the Wind River Range He would charge people for horse Rentals of $1.50 and would guide fishing trips. He would not charge the people for his time just the price of food and the horse rental. He was quoted as saying “What show people the wilderness that belongs to them and make them pay for it? That's selfish, selfish.”

The winds were more than I had expected, I had never felt so free in my life. I had no time schedule and my only responsibility was to enjoy nature. I drank from crystal clear rivers and sat beneath waterfalls allowing the force of the mist to penetrate my body. I watched a moose feed in the hazy morning lake and trout catch mosquitoes in mid air. I watched the same fish completely disregard everything I put on my line. I had a chance to watch elk graze without anyone wanting to kill them. I sat and pondered nature while wolves howled in the cirque.

"We don't stop hiking because we grow old - we grow old because we stop hiking"
Finis Mitchell

The Hunt

The sun had begun to set, bring the hunt to an end for the night. Seyib loaded our rifles into the back seat of the Isuzu Hombre.  We would resume again in the morning, it would be our last chance to bag a buck. On the long, winding, drive home we discussed our plan of attack for the next day. We rounded a corner and saw a doe lying dead in the middle of the road. Seyib swerved to avoid the animal.

Looking out the window, I spotted a pair of fawns and began to wonder what would become of these young deer with no mother to look after them.  The image of the babies quickly left my mind as exhaustion consumed me. I managed to stay awake for the rest of the drive but, was out like a light when I finally made it to my bed.

I was awakened by honking outside my window, I had slept through my alarm and I had hunting to do. I quickly threw on clothes, grabbed some snacks and ran for the door. We spent the day hiking, in and out of gullies, through scrub oak and over mountain tops; not a buck in sight. We ended the last day of the hunt unsucsecfully, once again Seyib loaded the guns in the truck and we began our journey home.

We drove the same long, winding road as the night before. My mind began to wander. The image of the mother lying dead, while her children stood and watched, entered my thoughts. I shook the image out of my head and looked out the window.

As we approached the curve, I thought of the two fawns and wondered if they were ok.
 Off the side of the road sat a vehicle, its emergency flashers blinked impatiently. Seyib stop to make sure everyone was ok. The driver was standing in front of his vehicle, as we approached, he stated “I didn’t hit it”. “Didn’t hit what” asked Seyib, “Bambi” the man replied.

I looked down at the fawn and instantly knew that it was one of the dead doe’s children.

 In a desperate attempt to escape the deer tried to stand. Its hind legs remained on the ground; broken. The animal struggled to gain traction on the black top road. It appeared as if it was trying to ice skate for the first time. It would scramble for a couple inches than its front legs would slide out from under it. Again the man stated “I didn’t hit it”. I knew he was lying as I could see the blood and hair embedded in the grill of his vehicle.  The deer was trying its hardest to get away from the chaos, slipping, sliding and dragging its hind legs.

Seyib turned and asked “is there an animal sanctuary in town”, “Not that I know of” I replied. “We need to get this deer and ourselves off the road before we cause an accident” Seyib said

I walked over to the injured fawn and began to stroke its head, it looked up at me with its big brown eyes as if to say help. I picked up the deer and set it down in the back of the pick-up. I continued to pet it while Seyib spoke with the driver. The deer appeared calm; it was no longer trying to escape. It was as if it knew I was trying to help.

I got in the truck and opened the rear sliding window; I continued to keep the deer calm.  Seyib started making phone calls as we drove towards town. First he called the Division of Wildlife Resource but, nobody answered. He tried calling the sheriff but, nobody answered. He even tried to call a veterinarian but, nobody answered.
As we started to get closer to town he became worried that we would get in trouble for transporting wildlife. We discussed options like putting a tarp over the bed of the truck. We even thought of scenarios of what a cop would do if he saw us driving down Main Street with a deer hanging out in the truck.

Seyib told me they had a sanctuary in Ogden, which was on the way to his home. He did not think the animal would remain calm for the hour drive unless I came with him. I agreed to make the drive with him.
We pulled into the small town of Logan and noticed the sheriff’s office on our right about a block before Main Street. We decided before heading to Ogden we should stop and talk with the Sheriff, Seyib went in. I got out of the truck, went to the bed to check on the animals conditions. It appeared ok, besides the obvious broken legs. It just kept staring at me and I knew that it felt safe; I told the animal everything would be ok and we would take care of it, it seemed to understand and laid back down.

Seyib returned with two officers, the deer must have sensed something. It popped up from the bed of the truck and began trying to climb out. One of the officers panicked and went into defense mode and grabbed for his gun, he began yelling get back. I about shit my pants.  I reached for the deer and again told it everything was going to be ok. It calmed down and lay back down.

 We explained to the officers that we were going to transport the deer to Ogden and we would pay to have its legs fixed. They kind of chuckled at the thought. The older officer asked us why we didn’t just shoot the animal. Seyib said “I was not going to take the chance of getting arrested for shooting a firearm on a road and UDOT probably would have charged me to fix the hole”.

A call was placed to DWR and we sat outside the station anxiously waiting for permission to go to the shelter. About a half hour passed before the officer came back out to talk to us. He said that the game warden was not going to allow us to transport the animal and there was no shelter nearby to take it to. He had said that we should put it out of its misery. I rebelled, I had gained the trust of this animal, I had told it I was going to take care of it and everything would be ok. I felt like I would be betraying it if I did not resist the outcome. I was then threatened with being thrown in jail for interfering with an officer.

The pigs went to retrieve the animal from the truck and again the deer began desperately trying to escape. Again the spineless cop went for his gun, I thought to myself what a little bitch. A full grown man scared of a defenseless, injured animal. I calmed the deer, said my goodbyes and lifted it from the truck to the ground.
They asked me to carry it to a more secure location so they could execute it and I refused. I set it on the ground and got back in the truck, a few tears came to my eyes. I wiped them away before Seyib returned to the driver seat; we did not speak the rest of the way to my house. I could tell that Seyib was also troubled by the outcome of our evening.

That night I played through all the possible outcomes in my mind. Should we have shot the fawn and put it out of its misery before I befriended it. Why did we stop in the first place?  Maybe we should have bought a tarp and covered the truck bed, I’m sure we could have made it to Ogden without any problems.

I often look back and think about this experience, especially when I hear people say things like animals don’t have feeling or their just a stupid animal.  I have seen firsthand the personality of a fawn. I can attest to the fact that deer know when they are in danger. I would go as far as to say they can sense good and evil.
I tried hunting again a few years later but, my thoughts kept returning to the tragedy. I began to wonder what became of the other fawn.  Was it hiding from a hunter deep inside a thicket? Had it already met its demise?  Would it walk in front of me and if so would I shoot it?

The hunt ended with great success… for the animal community. I gave up my rifle and vowed never to hunt again.