I have been dreaming of Utah these past nights. Not those kind of dreams you have when you are wishing you could go somewhere. Not the melancholy type. But the kind of dreams that are had from experience, when your subconscious is so full of an experience that it pours out of you after you have had it. The dreaming is rich of the landscape. They are not full of saga or people, or any far-fetched narrative. They are full of the place, the feelings, textures, smells, and colors. Every night after I close my eyes I relive the place. The overwhelming beauty.
I have never had such realistic and vivid dreams before of a real place, portrayed in a true and actual dynamic. I am wondering what this means for my psyche. Have I found my spirit home? Or was the experience simply overpowering that my subconscious is relishing the intensity of the memories?
I have been in many places across this landscape of Utah, visited it’s canyons, rivers, plateaus and rock formations. But never for as long as I will when leading Quest. So today I begin the great “count down” for departure. In planning the trip I referred to the Utah Gazeteer, map book extraordinaire. But the scale of the plateau of southeastern Utah is immense and leaves me with only a fragmented sense of this expanse of landscape. I wanted a map that would guide me across this place that I could look at whole. I chose a map to order sight unseen, yet thinking it would reveal the mystery as a whole . Today as I review the readings the program participants and I will read encamped on some mystical spot of sandstone I unfold the map. Ha! The map covers the southern edge of the area in question. But the northern portion if the area I am interested to study is not to be found . Looking back to the map guide selection , you know the little overlapping boxes that denote which map covers what area, I realize the map I want does not exist! Maps ring the area in question , but not the place. And that is the magic of the upcoming journey. Seeing, feeling, touching, smelling for ourselves that power of a landscape we do not know from reading a map or previous experience. Soon the days will be of this journey, dust trailing behind us as we get to know the mystery.
We are working through the final details, but here is the current itinerary for Quest.
Quest Dates: May 13-May 22, 2014
May 13: Meet in St. George, orientation and depart for Zion (camping)
May 14: Zion, hike (camping)
May 15: Zion, hike and depart for BLM immersion (camping)
May 16: BLM immersion and depart for Arches (hotel)
May 17: Arches (camping)
May 18: Arches (camping)
May 19: BLM Immersion (camping)
May 20: BLM Immersion, Depart for Grand Stair Case Escalante (camping)
May 21: Escalante, (hotel)
May 22: Return to St. George (hotel)
A note about the BLM immersion dates. During these periods we will be investigating place and your creative process. We will be exploring how intuition is engaged, how you think about the world, and how you express yourself through the things you create.
While we are visiting Zion, Arches, and Escalante we will be hiking, intensely exploring, learning landscape and soaking up the place.
The area of Utah we will be traveling through is considered high desert, elevation at 4,000-8,000 above sea level. Which means that it is typically hot during the day, and cools of at night. The humidity is low or none at all. We will be out in open terrain that does not have a lot of cover of wind breaks making any change in weather dramatic. Rain can be particularly impressive and dangerous depending on where we are. We will consider the weather patterns every day to best prepare for what to bring and commitment to hikes. These conditions also necessitate layers (see the list below). In the morning it could be mid 50s and will warm up to 80s, and by evening cool back down again. The normal high is 83 for the day (with extreme high at 102) and the normal low is 52 (with an extreme low of 22) . For the month of May there is an anticipated 8 days above 90 degrees. Which means that the weather should be perfect for our trip. Not too hot, not too cold. But the sun will be extreme.
First. Since we will not be backcountry camping, you do not need a large pack. Instead, it would be best (and less expensive if you need to purchase new) that you fit everything into a duffel bag, except your day pack. Don’t bring a different set of clothes for everyday, plan on rinsing or washing as needed along the way.
Below is a list of the things you should bring. If you need more information or description on an item read through this post for the items in the list. This is our recommendation for the most comfortable trip. Edit as you need. If you are in a place that has a second hand store for outdoor gear, these can be the best places to pick up many of these items at a greatly reduced price. Or you can borrow some of the gear from a friend, such as head lamps, and rain gear. But you need to know what you are looking for. If you want to read about gear check out this article in Backpacker magazine or you can search for gear reviews on the internet.
Shoes. Primary: hiking boots or hiking shoes, water sandals, an old pair of hikers for walking in water.
3 pair of shorts
1 pair of light, quick dry, pants (could have zip-off legs)
Hiking quality socks. 8 pair, plus 1
5 Short sleeve t-shirts
3 long sleeve t-shirts, or long sleeve base layer
1 long sleeve light weight, quick dry, button up
rain gear. at least a jacket with hood
hat for sun
light weight jacket with some insulative quality
light weight thermal base layer bottoms
1 mid-weight layer
towel (for showering while camping)
hiking poles (optional)
water carrier, bottles or bladder
Smart phone, with camera (if you don’t have one, let me know)
Sketch book with pens, pencils, small water color kit
Following is a description of the gear and an explanation for their use:
Why so many? We will be on our feet a lot, and in various terrain and conditions. You can certainly take the trip in one pair of shoes, but I do not recommend it. Read on to understand the strategy:
Hiking Boots/Shoes: We will hike on dry and wet trails. For this reason you will be best served if you have a pair of good hiking shoes for dry trails and a second pair of older hiking shoes for water hikes in canyons. The water hikes with the silt of the sand ruins a good/new pair of hiking shoes. So you will not want to hike in water in dry trail boots. Also, you will want closed toe shoes when we hike in water because you will hike in various conditions from sand to rock. Hiking in water can be its own sort of additional challenge from dry hiking. The choice or low hikers or taller boots is up to you. Here are some considerations: If you have weak ankles you want a taller boot for support over the length of hike. You may also want taller boots to protect you from debris getting into your boots or scratching your ankles. However, if these issues don’t concern you than a shoe type hiker could work. Look for brands such as Garmont, Vasque, Oboze, or Merrell if you are buying new. Please break in your shoes before you come so that you know your shoes fit and you will not get blisters. Make sure you put some real miles on the boots, at least 4-5 after they are broken in. Take the shoes outside and try to find some terrain to walk on. You will not know if the boots really fit until your feet sweat and swell in the boots.
Hiking Sandals: Simply put, at the end of the day you may want to have a different pair of shoes to wear. And for some people, when on developed trails, hiking in sandals works just fine.
SHORTS AND PANTS
We recommend that you have lighter weight, quick drying shorts. You can double up if you want and buy a pair of pants that have zip off legs. These are great in changing weather conditions. Or bring 3 shorts and one pair of pants. There are even hiking skirts if you prefer. Quick dry is valuable not only for wearing in changing weather conditions, but also to dry quickly if you are sweating or after being washed by hand. Denim is NOT recommended for the trail for the reasons mentioned above. They are heavy, thick, hot and take a long time to dry. Save them for the arrival and departure days of your trip. Brands to look for include Columbia, North Face, and Patagonia.
There are socks and then there are hiking socks. Normal “athletic” socks are not durable and do not have the reinforcing that a hiking sock has. Hiking socks cost more but last longer. They are developed to work on the trail and be comfortable for miles. Typically made from a wool or other wicking fabric, while athletic socks are cotton and stay wet once you sweat in them. If you have no hiking socks and the total cost it too much for 8 new pair of hiking socks, get at least 3 or 4 and bring the best socks you already have. Socks can always be rinsed along the way. Brands to look for: Smart Wool, Thorlo. Here is a great link to a review for socks for warm weather: http://sneakerreport.com/news/the-10-best-hiking-socks-for-warmer-weather/7
Why the “plus one”? Because I have found that hiking in water, which the sand and silt ruins your socks. You can dedicate a pair to these experiences. And once you are home try to revive them in the washer.
Liner socks: If you are prone to blisters, or have never hiked a lot, I recommend 1-2 pair of sock liners. These are light weight socks and they allow your feet to move freely within the shoe without rubbing blisters onto your feet. (see the image above, to the right).
T-SHIRTS AND BASE LAYERS
As stated at the beginning, being prepared and dressed well for the hikes and the trip requires layering. We will start the day in cool weather and within a few hours it will be quite warm, and the weather conditions could shift during the day. The base layer is the one closest to your body. In this instance it could be a short sleeved cotton t-shirt (or tank top) or a light weight thermal. Bring a selection of short sleeves and long sleeves to layer and adjust to the conditions. I also recommend one pair of base layer bottoms for the cooler nights. 55 degrees and breezy can feel quite cool. Brands to look for: Patagonia, L.L. Bean, Columbia.
This is what we typically recognize as Fleece. You probably have something that will work. But don’t use a sweatshirt, they are typically cotton and like, denim, heavy and difficult to dry quickly. If you prefer, you could bring a quilted jacket, as described below, and may not need the mid-weight layer. This choice should be made when thinking about how cold you could get in the early morning or evening in mid-50s temps. Think about layering….
I cannot say enough how valuable a hooded rain jacket can be for such a trip. This item is one of those that you may bring and never wear, but if you need to wear it, it could make a considerable difference in happiness and health. I do not recommend a cheap jacket. I have watched a participants gear shred off them before on a hike because they brought cheap “plastic” rain gear. It is best to have a jacket that is more water proof than less water proof (or more breathable) because if we actually need the gear we will need it to STAY DRY and WARM. (If we are in a light rain, the sun will come out and we will dry quickly.) The hood is critical in the instance we need to stay dry. These jackets also work well as a wind shell. This jacket can also serve as your outer layer over a mid-weight thermal, providing the best warmth in the evening, I am not convinced you will need rain pants. Usually the quick-dry pants work well enough. But if you have some, and they fit in your bag, why not bring them.want to learn more: http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Rain-Jacket-Reviews Brands to look for: Columbia, Mountain Hardware, Marmot.
There are a few different types of light weight jackets. One is more of a shell that has some wind-stopping capabilities and rain repellant. The other is quilted, very light weight and is either down filled or primaloft. (Sometimes these are caller down sweaters.) Either can be full zipped or half zipped. I prefer the light weight filled one because it can be an outer layer or be worn below your rain jacket it is it cold, wet and rainy. But the choice is yours, and may depend on what you already have. Brands: Marmot, Patagonia, North Face.
Head lamps are better than flash lights because they leave your hands free. And if we need to hike in the dark, or cook in the dark (always be prepared for an emergency and the unexpected) a head lamp more easily lights the way.
SLEEPING BAG and MAT
We won’t experience terribly cold temperatures during Quest. If you have a decent sleeping bag it will work just fine. The sleeping bag needs to be in a compression sack to save space and make it easier to carry and move around. If you need to buy one consider these details: primaloft or down. When down gets wet it take a long time to dry. Bags are rated by the minimum temperature you will experience. A 30 degree bag would work just fine. If you want to make sure you are warm in future cold temperatures I recommend a zero degree bag. I like a mummy bag because it minimizes the area that your body needs to heat. Also, bags are sized relative to your height. Brands to consider: Marmot, Mountain Hardware, Sierra Designs.
Also, you are going to want a mat to put between you and the ground. These insulate you from the ground if its cold, keep you more dry if its raining, and comfortable on a hard rocky ground (where we will be camping.) These are compressible, too. And come in multiple sizes and thicknesses. I use a Thermarest.
Learn more about sleeping bags and compression sacks, check out this blog entry…http://sticksblog.com/gear/my-current-gear/sleeping-bags/
Number one! A book bag is NOT a day pack for back packing. The primary reason is that a day pack is designed for back packing and carrying gear a long time and long distance. That means that it is designed for a different function and comfort level than a book bag. A day pack is also designed in sizes, short, tall, medium build. Please have a professional size the bag on you. If they don’t understand what you are asking, you are talking to the wrong sales person. I have been carrying an Osprey for about 7 years, mine is the blue pack on the right. I love it. Which does not mean there aren’t other great ones. Look for these features: side pockets for water bottles or poles, a back accessible pocket for jackets or maps, two zippable compartments; one for bigger gear, one for the little things. There should be adjustable, cushioned shoulder straps and a slightly cushioned waste belt. My waste belt has front zip pockets for a snack, smart phone, etc. This pack will be your home away from home for 10 days, so choose with care!
DAY PACK ESSENTIALS
What goes in these packs? take a look at this image, and if you want read the post associated with the image at : http://will.lyster.us/toolbox/2012/02/29/day-pack-essentials-what-should-i-carry/ .We will provide the snacks and water for the day. But this image gives you a good idea of what other items you may want to carry with you, including a pocket knife. IN addition to these items we will also be carrying sketch books, pens, jackets, socks…
DUFFEL BAG for GEAR
Put all of your gear in one of these. Does not need to be an expensive bag, just hold your gear. If you can find or afford one that is weather resistant that would be the best option. We will have limited space available for everyone’s gear, so please pack tight and light. The gear in the list above is really what you need. You could also leave some things in the car that stays in St. George while we all travel together.