Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mount Timpanogos

I hiked most of the way to the top of Mount Timpanogos last Saturday with my friend Bryan and his friend Molly. We were planning to leave Provo at 6 a.m., but we moved our departure time up to 4 a.m. (yuck!) to try to beat an incoming thunderstorm. We made it to the saddle (about 800 feet below the summit) a little after 10 a.m. and got a nice view of Utah Valley and Utah Lake. We decided to turn around so we wouldn't be on top when the storm came, and we made it back to Aspen Grove a bit after 2 p.m.

As always, I took lots of pictures.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Canyoneering in Echo Canyon

[If you don't want to read my novel below, you can skip straight to the pictures.]

When I went hiking with John last week, he told me that one of his friends was going down to Zion National Park to go canyoneering this weekend and asked if I'd be interested in going. I told him I was, and so this weekend I went down to Zion with Art (John's friend) and Adam (a guy in Art's ward). Art has been to Zion tons of times, and was our guide. Adam has been down a couple of times. This was my first visit to Zion since a family vacation when I was about ten years old. I definitely got a bigger dose of adventure this time around.

We drove down to Zion on Friday night and arrived at a BLM campground a few miles outside of the park a little after midnight. We pulled up, threw our sleeping bags down on the sand, and went to sleep under the stars. The stars were pretty amazing out there. The sky was clear and dark, and I could see way more stars than I have for quite a while. The Milky Way was particularly impressive.

We woke up at 5:30 a.m. the next morning, quickly packed up, and hurried to the park to make it in before 6 a.m. since there's an entrance fee if you enter after then. We were the first people to the permit window, so we hung out until the rangers opened the window at 7 a.m. We wanted to go to Mystery Canyon, but all of the permits had already been issued the day before. We had a reservation for Echo Canyon, so we just picked up our permits, grabbed our gear, and hopped on the shuttle to the trailhead.

We left the trailhead around 8 a.m. The route began with a hike of a little over 1000 vertical feet up to the canyon entrance. We had great views of the sun rising and casting beautiful colors on the sandstone as we hiked. We entered the canyon not too long after 9 a.m.

Canyoneering is a technical descent through a canyon, and our first technical section came up pretty quickly when we rappelled down ten or fifteen feet off a dead tree. Some of our rappel anchors were definitely more sketchy than I would have rock climbed from, but since the rappels were pretty short, I didn't worry too much.

We alternated between hiking, downclimbing, wading, swimming, and rappelling as we made our way further down the canyon. There was no water flowing through the canyon, but we had to pass through several pools of stagnant water left over from the last They were really murky, with lots of debris floating in them. The smelly methane bubbles that floated to the surface when we moved through the water were a pretty good indication that things were decomposing down there. Most of the pools were shallow enough for us to wade through, but we had to swim ten feet or so through some of them. We just walked right into some of the pools, but others were at the bottom of a rappel.

After the first swim, I started getting pretty cold. Even though the weather forecast said it was supposed to be 92 degrees, we were deep in a canyon where the sun rarely shines, and it was pretty cold. My whole body was shivering, and I couldn't talk very well because my teeth were chattering, but I warmed up pretty quickly when we got back into the sun.

As we neared one place, Art noticed some bird droppings on the canyon floor and looked up to discover a pair of roosting owls perched on a tree above us. I snapped a picture of them.

The canyon became deeper and darker as we moved further into it. As we neared the end, we reached a the section that probably gave the canyon its name. There was an amazing echo, and we amused ourselves by yelling, singing, and making weird noises.

We exited the canyon and followed the same trail that we took up back down to the trailhead. We decided to go a little further into the park and hike a little way up the Narrows to Mystery Falls. We were hurrying so that we could get back to Provo in time for a ward activity that Art and Adam had, so we zoomed up the river, saw Mystery Falls, zoomed back down, and hopped on the shuttle.

It's been over a decade since I went to Zion, but my next trip won't be that far off. I'm taking a canyoneering class at BYU this semester, so I'm sure I'll be back down there soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

South summit of Mount Nebo

On Saturday I hiked with my friend John to the 11,877-foot south summit of Mount Nebo, which is the tallest mountain in Utah's Wasatch Range. We hiked to Nebo's north summit, which is the highest of its three peaks, on the same weekend last year. This year we took the Andrew's Ridge route to the slightly-lower south summit.

We left Provo around 4:45 a.m., drove down toward Nephi, and reached the trailhead a little before 6 a.m. When I went to change from my Chacos into my hiking boots, I discovered that I had brought only one sock. (The silly things you do early in the morning....) Rather than wear one boot without a sock, I decided to just wear my Chacos.

The weather was perfect, and the hike went pretty quickly, especially considering how little hiking I did this summer. The sandals worked pretty well, and we made it to the top in a little over four hours. After a nice 40-minute rest on the summit, we headed down.

My Chacos didn't treat me quite as well on the way down. After a couple of hours of hiking, I had developed quite a collection of blisters. I kept hobbling down, but after a while I had to stop. Thankfully, John had brought moleskin, and I covered my feet with it. He even let me wear his socks, which was a lifesaver. (Thanks John!)

I made it the rest of the way down, and we reached the car a little before 3 p.m. In spite of a little podiatric pain, I really enjoyed the hike. John and I had some good conversations, and I had some time to think about life.

My pictures from the hike are online.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Kite Runner

I bought The Kite Runner in audiobook form a couple weeks ago to keep me busy on a couple upcoming road trips. I finished it last Saturday somewhere in northern Utah on the way back to school.

The Kite Runner tells the (fictional) story of Amir--a man who grew up in Afghanistan during the 70's and later moved to the U.S. The story focuses on Amir's relationships with other Afghans, especially a boy named Hasan, who he grew up with. It is a sometimes heartwrenching, but always engaging and interesting narrative.

I feel like I understand Afghanistan a little better now. The author explores the political situation, racial tensions, traditions, and social structure of Afghanistan. He doesn't explicitly address any of these topics; they just kind of fell out of the story. If you're looking for an easy way to get a rough picture of some aspects of Afghanistan, I'd definitely recommend the book. It's obviously not an exhaustive treatment of any of these topics, but it will give you a general idea and feel for the country.

Next up on the reading list: Hamlet.