Monday, May 16, 2011

Quest for the Barracks: Day 1

I first heard about the Barracks 2 years ago and I’ve been dreaming about going there ever since. So, the venerable guru of bushwhack hiking himself and I planned a trip. Our hiking team also included first-time backpackers Pete & Casey. I’m so glad they came because they only fed my already ridiculous excitement with their eagerness for a new adventure.

Friday we drove down to Zion’s, registered or checked in (you have to get permits for back country hiking), then ditched the car on a pull off next to your entry canyon. That was at about 6:30 pm. This was a nice little narrow canyon. We heard and even saw some bullfrogs in the water pools embedded in the sandstone. The temperature was just about perfect for hiking. The end of this canyon is a steep sandy ascent to the “saddle”. I called it the gateway because it was kind of the gateway between the more populated Zion’s Canyon area and the more desolate back country. You look ahead and it’s just vast, rolling desert.

Bark on a Ponderosa Pine, looks almost like lace

Side note here. Zion’s Canyon is incredible. Love it. Its beauty is nearly unmatched. On the other hand the back country has its own awesomeness in being so desolate and feeling so untouched. We heard a couple of hikers pass by our camp below, but the only people we actually saw the whole hike was right at the end when we were coming out of the final canyon. Two friendly, portly gentlemen asked if we made it to the saddle. Ha! Yes, and about a million steps beyond. There is a deep sense of adventuring that is not equaled in a highly populated trail. If you know how much I love adventuring, you may understand me when I say I was saturated with bliss the whole weekend.

Bobcat and a squirrel were playing tag

We came into a stretch of land called Checkerboard Mesa. Our first adventure was getting to a location to make camp before the daylight hours were spent. When night hits in the wilderness the darkness is much more intense than in the city. We wanted to get past the border of Zion’s park. I think the only time Jake came close to even ruffling his calm patient demeanor was when he announced we had 7 minutes left of civil twilight and needed to pick up the pace a bit.

Twilight has levels. Twilight is when the sun is even with the horizon (0 degrees). Civil twilight last from 0 degrees to 6 below horizon, approx 50 mins. Nautical twilight is 6 to 12 degrees, about 50 mins. Astronomical twilight is from 12-18 degrees, another 50 mins.

Seed pod of a yucca, I love all the textures and designs in nature

We had to put our headlamps on but the guru found a perfect spot to make camp and we were able to set up and cook a feast of sweet and sour and orange chicken worthy of PF Chang’s. Packing tip—take frozen food for the first night. It will defrost by the time you make camp for dinner and is infinitely better tasting than the dried out (and expensive) pre-packed backpacking foods.

The white speck in the middle is our base camp

1 comment:

Casey said...

love it, especially when you taught the different levels of twilight.