The summer is passing and like all things, the seasons drift by. Sometimes the milestones we strove for in the past escape us unnoticed, then we are all one year older and the passing seasons can never be recaptured. With our family and probably with most families, as our children grow, their interests take center stage and the family traditions are set aside for greater ambitions. Such is the case this year.
This summer has loaded with adventure and opportunities for our kiddo to spread her wings and grow her talents, but it is still important to spend time together in the quiet, forced to just be as the natural world just exists. So, with the next few weekends filled and time slipping by we made a mad dash to the Current River for a day. That's a two and a half hour drive each way and 10 miles of river on this section full of past adventures and it was worth it.
This section of river is familiar to us, numerous days have been spent gliding upon this spring fed water and numerous nights have been spent on these gravel bars. I couldn't help but flash back to places we had camped as we took in the scenery, paddling past areas that jar memories into place. Yet, one thing was crystal clear; the river had changed too, gravel had been remolded by the floods of 2017 and this year, nothing stays the same. So the sentiment that embraces me at this time is one of reflection. Happy we took the time to make past adventures happen and thrilled that our daughter still enjoys these family outings, and now paddles at the bow of the boat every opportunity she gets! I can only hope we continue to Make time for these outings as long as we can.
Richland Creek Wilderness Area, Arkansas. Since this is a wilderness area there aren't any "maintained" trails to traverse. I explored the Richland Creek Wilderness with some friends about two years ago. We followed a trail that was hard to follow, but helped with some navigation, the majority of it stuck to the edges of the water and made for some easy travel, this time was different.
We traveled through some intense rain on our way to Richland Creek Campground, our goal was to set up camp before midnight. We hit an intersection in Snowball and my buddy, Kyle suggested we take a "shortcut", sure, what could go wrong. So in the spirit of adventure we head up a hill on a gravel road. I engaged the subaru and double timed the windshield wipers to disperse the rain that continued it's humdrum song on the roof of my car. As we climbed an Ozark mountain we became engulfed in fog so thick that I had to find my foglights, you couldn't see anything. A couple of stream crossings on the downhill and Voila! A long stretch of water (not moving) that had no way to tell how deep it was stretched across the country road.. I ventured in slightly, door open, marking the depth with my hand. Kyle volunteered to Chaco up and be the depth gauge, walking through the water as I followed. We made it! Only to reach a hard flowing stretch of water that submerged our road with a raging fit of noise and turbulence. Sooo.... We backtracked to the highway and found our way to Richland Creek Campground. Kyle and I chatted as the rain fell and decided to set up camp and the campground, then start hiking the following day.
The storm came and went throughout the night. By daylight it was evident that we wouldn't be crossing the creek and a decision was made to take the bridge near the campground and begin our cross country trek using map and compass.
We crossed the bridge, found a shelf and began your regular map and compass traverse. The ground was soggy, slick, and covered with leaves, Due to the creek flowing with great force, we couldn't drop down to the trail we'd traversed a couple of years ago, we had to stay higher on the ridge, this forced us to navigate on very steep terrain and small boulder covered shelves. The boulders were wet and covered with moss, making things slick as snot; and the spaces between the boulders were leaf covered, sometimes hiding deep holes in the ground. We navigated this terrain for about 1- 1.5 miles, with full packs on. Dangerous and slow was the name of the game. This lead to up to a scramble where I was on hands and knees with a full pack, scrambling up a hill. A quick lunch and look at the map lead to a plan of action that produced more of the same.
Finally, with tired legs, we saw the confluence of Long Devils Fork and Richland Creek. Next, we saw three rafts make their way into this confluence and stop at and established campsite across the creek from us. Some quick waves from the local paddlers and a thumbs up gave notice that we were ok. At this point, we were very near our destination of Twin Falls and the water was easing. We started up the creek toward the falls, even traversing a wet rock ledge a few feet above the creek with out much room to move, a few handholds and water dropping onto us from the ledge above. this lead to a beautiful view of the falls where Long Devil's Fork and Big Devil's Fork met to create the twin falls. Without anywhere to go we found ourselves in a dead end and we began to prepare for a wet crossing. The flow of the water was still intense so we pursued plan B, and decided to climb the steep hillside. Once again, I was on hand and knees, sliding down a precarious slope and reaching for roots, rocks and anything solid to stop the slide.
Standing above twin falls and our campsite in view across Big Devil's Fork, we began looking for a safe place to dip our toes into the cold water without being swept over the waterfall. Donning our Chacos and unbuckled packs on we made our way across the drainage on to our campsite. We slept well to the sound of roaring water.
A chili morning with mist rising from the thundering falls creates and orange sunrise amongst the moist air. My tent and sleeping bag are heavy with condensation. The totality of sleeping between two waterfalls.
We looked at the map once more while firing up the stoves and taking in some coffee. We decided to return to Richland Creek Campground by heading past the Sandstone Castles, then walking out a well used trail to the gravel road that surrounds the wilderness area. It was interesting to find these "Castles" carved out in the cliffs. There were a few that could hold a few tents, but had water on the floor. Our 12 mile walk back to the campground was worth avoiding the stone filled traps that we'd navigated the previous day. Yes, We will be back.
Grand Teton National Park, Paintbrush Canyon Trail-
Grand Teton National Park has a certain amount of backcountry campsites throughout their park that need to be reserved. The reservations aren't specific, they relate to camp zones, not particular campsites. Luckily they also hold a certain amount of reservations back for those that walk in and intend to begin their hike within the next 24 hours. Intent on obtaining a backcountry permit for our backpacking trip, I woke the family and we drove to the Moose visitor center in GTNP to line up for a backcountry permit. We arrived before the visitor center was open, adding to the line that had already begun to form. We were able get a permit on 7/3/18 for the lower paintbrush canyon camp zone and a permit for the upper paintbrush canyon campzone on 7/4/18. The information from the park rangers said there was significant snow at Holly Lake and portions of the Upper Paintbrush canyon camp zone. Ready for an adventure, we went with it.
We arrived at Leigh Lake TH and started pulling our packs out of the car. The sky's began to darken as we prepped for our departure, the rain began to fall just as we tightened our packs, it was raining hard enough for us to take off our packs and put on our raincoats, then packs on our backs once again and we were off.
The first .8 miles of our hike circumvented string lake to Leigh Lake. It was flat with numerous people on the trial, but there were amazing views to be had of the Teton Range. We stopped to take a picture with the mountains in the background, this also gave us an opportunity to remove our rain gear since the sun popped out and the precipitation had ceased.
Once we were ready to proceed with our hike we ran into a volunteer park ranger. She informed us that she was from Boston and asked to take our picture since we had little American flags strapped to our packs in honor of the Fourth of July. We talked about our trip plans and the volunteer ranger informed us snow travel was very difficult on the last portion of the trail to the Upper PB Canyon campzone. I informed her that I had wanted to stay in the Lower PB Canyon camp zone for both nights but that wasn't an option when I acquired the back country permit. The park ranger said she could change that and asked for our permit, she wrote on it and Voila! we had two nights in the Lower PB Canyon Camp Zone.
By the end of our conversation with the Volunteer Park Ranger we had numerous mosquitoes extracting blood from our legs, so we applied Deet before taking off once again. The trail wasn't too bad, a fairly easy ascent most of the way. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall of snow melt for a breather, soon after the waterfall we entered the lower PB camp zone. We looked at the 2nd camp area available, it was a very nice spot with picturesque views of the mountains; we arrived at this camp spot at about 5pm so we decided to make camp. As we started putting up camp some mosquitoes started bothering us, and when we began making dinner it was evident that the mosquitoes would be relentless. After dinner we tried to enjoy our surroundings, but the mosquitoes drove us inside our tent. There Sophia and Kelli took turns reading a book Sophia brought for some good entertainment.
That night, Kelli had ventured out of the tent. She prompted me to come outside. I stepped out to take in a sky full of stars that called to us from the Back Country. The moon lit the steep mountain face that bordered us, the air was refreshingly frigid and the bugs had gone to bed. these are the moments I live for.
The following morning I unzipped my tent door allowing a rush of cold air to enter the tent and a blazing sun peeked over a rock to greet us. I pulled my thermarest and sleeping bag out of the tent and perched on the nearby rock. The mountainside with its white snow and speckled colors of wildflowers lit up with the rising sun in a light I have only seen in the mountains, almost glowing in a radiant light.
While Sophia and Kelli got ready for the day, I went to the kitchen area and prepped food. I was getting ready to go back to the tent when something caught my eye; a yellow bellied marmot. The next thing you know, like magic he pops up next to the kitchen. I shooed him away and watched him make his way down to camp. I told Kelli and she took action, making sure our gear was safe. The Park Ranger at Moose informed us that these critters like to eat the salt from trekking pole handle and backpacks!
We discussed plans for the day, the previous evening was so relentless with mosquitoes that we decided to hike out after a day hike to upper paintbrush canyon camp zone. I carried snacks, 1st aid kit, water filter and layers, then we were off.
The day was filled with incredible scenery. As we gained elevation forests thinned and we entered the beginning of alpine country. We crossed a scree field covered with snow, adventured into canyons with edges rising brilliantly over us. All the while the sound of rushing water filled our ears as new snowmelt created crystal clear trickles, then streams that turned into rushing white water. I can't find the words to convey the beauty that surrounded us. After about 3 hours of hiking and playing we turned back, 1 hour later we were at our camp.
Everyone was feeling pretty good when we returned to camp. It was much hotter when we reached the lower elevation (approximately 7,600 ft) The mosquitoes were beginning to make their appearance once again, so we packed up and headed out. The long day of hiking accompanied by the increased activity of the mosquitoes began to take its toll. We finished the hike, returning to the Leigh Lake Trailhead feeling a sense of accomplishment and embracing the beauty from which we had just emerged.
Our whitewater rafting experience was wonderful. We used mad-river.com for our guides on the Snake river. They were located in Jackson Hole, made it super easy to get what we needed and the features on the section we took were thrilling. The flow was moving at 1200 CFS and we tackled some class III water. I was in the front paddling and Sophia decided to join me, Kelli rocked the back with a paddle in hand. It was a great adventure and we got soaked from the get go. Luckily I had rented a wetsuit top and Sophia had a top and some booties. Up front, we didn't get just wet, we got drenched. Some of the rapids were Lunch Counter (the biggest), ground meat and Champagne. We spent the rest of the day laughing about the thrills and lounging in Jackson Hole.
On to Yellowstone! After a quick stop at a rest area for a PBandJ sandwich we made our way to Old Faithful. I really wasn't feeling it, the parking area was huge and packed! The whole situation had a Disney type of feel, but when we approached the geysers with their steam, crust of mineral and bubbling water, I quickly embraced the other worldly feel of this natural treasure. Old Faithful went off just about as predicted, this impressive also, glad to experience this one. Next we traveled to Grand Prismatic. The incredible colors, steam and the surrounding landscape was beautiful
We spent our nights and evenings at Lake Lodge. We rented a cabin that was a short walk away from the main lodge. The accommodations were clean and met our needs. We spent the evenings taking advantage of the Lake Lodge porch, overlooking Yellowstone lake and the Absoroka Mountains in the distance. Every evening we were greeted by two bison that walked through the field in front of the lodge, almost on que for the sunset.
Lamar Valley turned out to be a wonderful day hike. The landscape was almost too immense to comprehend. We saw many buffalo and a black bear that was safely in the distance. This was one of those places that I wish we could have spent more time exploring and finding out what was on the other side of the various mountains surrounding us.
Shoshone Guest Lodge and Ranch, Shoshone National Forest, just outside of the Yellowstone east entrance. https://www.shoshonelodge.com.
Horseback riding is always on the agenda. We decided to use Shoshone Guest Lodge and Ranch. We booked a two hour ride, but arrived quite a bit earlier than we needed to. No GPS in the mountains, so weren't exactly sure how long it would take us to get there. Since we had a little extra time we ordered breakfast before our adventure and what a fantastic breakfast! The staff was very kind and helpful. We ventured down to the horses and greeted them. Soon we were joined by other adventurers and asked about our experience with horses. One of our leaders, William, gave a great introductory lesson about how to work with the horses. The horses we rode was based on our experience and the horses temperament. I rode "Drummer", Kelli rode "Otis" and Sophia rode "Trixie". The trail was in the Shoshone National Forest providing some excellent views.