Monday, July 6, 2015

Battle Creek Falls

If you are looking to get away from the crowds this is not the hike for you. If you have small children who picked all the marshmallows out of their Lucky Charms for breakfast, then this is the perfect hike to get some of that sugar out of their systems.

When I originally researched this hike I found 3 different site, all 3 gave me different mileage ranging from 1.2 to 1.8 round trip. I am a firm believer that there is no way this hike is more than a mile round round trip. It took me 15 minutes to get to the falls and 7 minutes to get back to my car. I was stuck behind 20 eight year olds for about 6 minutes on the way up. They had way too many marshmallows for breakfast.

At Battle Creek Falls the trail splits. You can go right which takes you down below the falls or stay left and get above them. For those of you who like to rappel there are 3 bolt (no webbing) on the left side of the wall about 10 feet from the falls.This means if you want to rappel your rope will be strung across the trail and hikers coming by will have to duck under your rope to get past. Hopefully hyperactive children don't decide to play (grab and bounce) on the the rope while you're on rappel. The other issue issue I for see with rapping here is the loose rock. While it may not affect the rapper, it will fall and could clobber some unknowing victim that's playing below

If I could make a suggestion for you thrill seekers out there. Walk across the river above the fall. There is a sturdy tree one could rap off of and you wouldn’t be in the way of hikers and rock is less likely to fall from this spot, but you will be directly in the falls. another option would be take a bolt kit with you. There is a nice slab of rock about a foot above the riverbed which would be a nice place for bolts and you would be out of the way of hikers and you could still stay dry.

Anywho, let’s get back to the hike. Battle Creek Falls is roughly 50’ and most people turn around after sitting by the refreshing falls. The force from the water makes it nice and breezy on a hot day. If you’re lucky you might even score some booty. I came out with a hat and some girly sunglasses. I could have had some sweet smelling pink socks and some earplugs, but I forgot my rubber gloves.

You can continue hiking above the falls all the way to Dry Canyon (depending on which USFS sign you follow it is either 1.1 miles or 2.5 from Curly Spring. Curly Spring is 1.3 miles from Kiwanis Park according to the Forest Service sign which seemed right to me. It is a little over a ½
mile from the 50’ falls. There are several small falls on the way which are more scenic than the main fall, in my opinion. The spring was not that impressive however. There was enough water to saturate the ground and the Mountain lion print was quite impressive
I chose not continue on to Dry Canyon as I had all ready ate all my granola bars….maybe another day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I have never been the type of person to pay to go camping. Seeing how we are on an extended family vacation I thought showers and pool would be a nice thing to have. That thought process has lead me to the most miserable night of my life. It’s almost 6 in the morning and I should be out fishing, but instead I am here at the Springville KOA wondering what their refund policy is and if this coffee will ever kick in.

The glamping started out pretty decent, I took the kids swimming, we played the Camp board game and I drank some tasty IPA’s..The best part of this KOA is the liquor store across the street.

Everything seemed to be going good, The family was sacked out by 10 after a fun day. Then the train came. Most places have a noise ordinance and you would really expect that all human beings would want to respect the silence of sleeping people. The Union Pacific does not fall into that category of considerate people. Just 5 hours of sleep and here comes the damn train horns.
I was a little annoyed, but I figured it will be over soon. Boy was I wrong the train managed to wake up every bird in the nice little refuge adjacent to the park. They must have really been annoyed by the train because it’s been 3 hours and they won’t shut up about it.

At least my kids are sleeping through it. They will be nice and rambunctious and ready to tackle the day while my wife and I will be more than likely zombified and trying not to pull our hair out while the toxic fumes of what can only be burning tires blow through the campground.

Monday, June 1, 2015

When you’re on the wrong path, the universe will put you on the right one.

Back of Beyond Expeditions When I started my career path 13 years ago, my goal was to be my own boss. I have always had this problem with authority and having a “boss” has never been an appealing idea. Due to family responsibilities I succumbed to the dark side and compromised my goals.

Now I am at a major turning point in my life. I have been given the opportunity to achieve my goals. The owner of the shop I was previously managing came down with a severe case of disloyalty and quite possible greed.  I left the shop being told that a severance package would be deposited into my bank account. A month later and I have yet to see this money, but I don’t need his help and I’m not going to sit around and get pissed that I was lied to after turning a $100 a day company into a $3,000+ a day company. I made his dreams come true, but now it’s my turn…..

We give up our home this Saturday, June 6th. We intend to camp, fish and enjoy life. Our home for the next few weeks will be a Mountainsmith Conifer 5+, my dresser will be a Mountainsmith Scream 25 backpack (stay tuned for the gear reviews if you’re into that sort of thing).  We have no set plans, just camping and working on our career goals.

My wife, Jennavive Milligan will be documenting this trip through photography on her blog: The
Adventures of the Utah fantastic 4. While she works on making her photography business successful, I will search for those back of beyond places to camp, hike and fish. Hopefully some canyoneering routes will fall into my lap along the way.

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!!

Back of Beyond Expeditions

Back of Beyond Expeditions