“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
The wilderness… It isn’t for everyone. It truly is for me. I get a real thrill exploring where few or limited people visit. The wilderness is primitive and untamed despite the world filling up with people. The first key is to stay safe. Every traveler knows that accidents happen and inevitably situations arise where you wont be safe. Preparedness is secondary.
One day, hiking in the Utah wilderness I found myself in a bit of a sticky situation (The Day the Desert Tried to Kill Me – Stories From the Front Seat). Luckily, I had basic essentials like food, water, and sun protection. There were some items, looking back, that would have come in handy. It can happen. A traveler can only have luck for so long until something goes wrong. A shipwrecked truck, a broken ankle, an allergic reaction, losing your way, and getting mugged are all situations wanderers have nightmares about. The severity of the event can be altered based on behavior and planning of the travelers involved. Here are my tips to staying safe when an emergency strikes in the wilderness:
A $400 investment will get you a phone and a plan that will work in the remotest of areas. Using a satellite phone in my situation in Utah would have solved all of my problems. I could have called AAA or a tow company without fear of losing connection. Another feature about satellite phones is its GPS. Along with connection a traveler can also send exact GPS coordinates to someone trying to help.
Disasters can bring out the best and worst personality traits. Just remember the more time you spend panicking the, longer it will take to remove yourself from the situation. Similarly with arguing, stress and fear tend to make even the best of friends argue. Again, work together to come up with a solution.
A healthy person needs sixty four ounces of water per day to survive. When you exert yourself one hundred ounces is suggested. I plan on a gallon and a half of water per person, per day. I carry all of my water in the vehicle as well. Water in the refrigerator back at the hotel is all well and good but, account for an emergency and load up the vehicle as well. Carry gallon jugs to keep in the vehicle and transfer water into smaller bottles that will fit in your back pack. Water is the MOST important survival tool especially in a desert.
Injury happens as frequently as flat tires and broken equipment. A first aid kit with simple items like disinfectant, wound bandages, ankle/wrist wraps, and a sewing kit can fix an issue temporarily until medical help arrives. I also keep a snake bit kit in my back pack as the risk of getting bitten here in Arizona is great.
Speaking of flat tires… Pack basics like jacks and tire changing kits. Stuck in mud or sand? To keep a stuck tire from spinning out and digging in deeper let air out of the tires to create a larger surface area. A tire with a greater surface area will have more grip and give you more mobility to maneuver out. A tire can be let out to almost 10% in emergencies. This would be an argument to carry an inflation pump as well.
In an emergency it is best to just stay together. It may seem like a constructive idea to cover more ground but in the wilderness anything can happen. Chances of getting lost alone, injury, or predator attack rises as the number in your party decreases. A pack of coyotes would attack a single person as well as bears, mountain lions, and even elk if they saw you as a threat.
Wild animals will be more apt to approach if you have an animal traveling with you. Even a large dog like a German Shepherd or a Pit Bull could be subject to becoming prey. If you are forced to hike at night or at sundown keep your pets close and be aware of your surroundings.
Keep a headlamp or a flashlight in your pack. It is also important to keep a mirror or reflective material for signaling a plane, car or a rescue team
Know when it is time to stop or move on. Choosing to wait out a thunder storm is logical if you are in a sheltered safe location. If you are off the trail and lost, staying put may not be an option. If night is approaching and rescue is not foreseeable consider setting up shelter before it gets too dark. There are a plethora of ‘ifs’ in an emergency situation. Go with your gut – usually it knows what it is doing.
This is vital. Storms can be devastating especially in desert wilderness. Risks include flash flooding, lightening, obstructed trails and continued bad weather. Hike knowing if and when a storm might be brewing. Also note storms in surrounding areas. For example a storm north of a river will cause fast moving water or unseasonably high water levels. Even a storm miles away can still effect you. This is especially important if you are hiking in a canyon.
Dress sensibly for where you will be hiking. Layers allow protection from the sun and adjustments for temperature. Check this post out for some cold weather layering inspiration! 8 Outfits I Wore in the Arctic
Stay safe out there! Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
The beating heart of Split, Croatia holds the UNESCO Palace of Diocletian. The ancient Roman behemoth was built in between the 3rd and 4th century by retired Emperor Diocletian. Fortunately for us, he didn’t use his full name – Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus. He likes names as much as Daenerys Targaryen. The Diocletian Palace is special as it reflects transitional architecture from Greek occupation to Byzantine rule. The seven-acre fortress looks over the sparkling Adriatic Sea and is sheltered by Mount Mosor. My best suggestion, lose yourself in the narrow, granite alley ways. The palace reminds me of walking in an Arizona slot canyon. Steep, claustrophobic walls that become maze. Enter for free through one of four gates – Golden, Silver, Iron, and Bronze.
I knew nothing about Split, let alone Croatia when I decided to visit. When my carefully planned, six-month itinerary went out the window and a cheap flight popped up on Skyscanner it all seemed chalked up to fate.
Firstly, embrace your inner Cersei Lannister and enjoy the greatest local reds. Wine is a trade that has been produced in Split for thousands of years. Coastal wine made in the Dalmatian region tends to be fruity yet, bold. Pick a light white to accompany a fresh fish dinner. Speaking of the Lannisters… there are several Game of Thrones filming sites in and around Split. The first site is the Fortress of Klis (about ten miles out of Split) and recently for GOT season 5, the Diocletian Palace itself. One of the best feelings is recognizing a place you have visited on screen.
I entered through the buzzing Iron Gate from the equally as ancient, residential area of Varos. The Iron Gate is truly the place to be for food and is lively from 10AM to late in the evening. Split offers hundreds of local eateries and shops in and around the Diocletian Palace. Croatian food? They have it. Sparkly sandals? Check. Italian cuisine? Yup. Gelato? Please, don’t get between a tourist and a gelato stand or risk foot prints on your forehead.
The Iron Gate leads directly to Peristyle Square. Want to see the square empty? You have to rise with the sun. I took this at 6AM as the sun was waking up. The morning is an incredible time to start exploring the city however, entry into the paid sites are normally not open. Another notable time to be in the center of the palace is noon. At noon actors present changing of the guards. It’s completely kitschy but, fun to watch! What girl doesn’t want to watch muscular, Roman guards march about?
My favorite find was through a tunnel leading to the subterranean palace. The arched hallways are untouched and seem completely original. How many years has this cavern seen? Oh right, thousands. Likeness to not being able to visualize millions of dollars, thousands of years doesn’t seem to make sense. The world was such a different place. Echoes produced by the tall ceilings are harrowing as you wander about. The buzz of the city above is haunting. Here you can wander about in yet another maze. The rooms below used to be under water when the palace was first built. Afterwards, the rooms were used as a home for the Roman’s pet dragons. Um, kidding. But, it was used to produce wine – see a picture of the press below!
The Temple of Jupiter represents the old gods. Jupiter was the top Roman god. The vaulted ceilings create an acoustic sweet spot. There was a group of German tourists singing in the center of the temple. The result gave me goosebumps.
Right outside Jupiter’s temple is the narrowest alley in Split. Two adults are unable to squeeze through!
St. Duje Cathedral and the bell tower reigns supreme over the Split skyline. The bell tower, located next to the Peristyle is the tallest building in the city. The octagonal Christian Cathedral did’t exist until the 13th century as Emporer Diocletian was a persecutor of Christians. Climb the spiral staircase for a panoramic view of Split and surrounding areas.
Facing the Riva is another quiet corner of the palace. Here you can also find the Ethnographic Museum of Split. I highly recommend stopping by this museum! Here you can learn about dress, weapons and wine making in Split throughout history.
In closing I’m completely in love with Split, and the bits of Croatia I have experienced. I cant wait to go back. A quick side note – watch that sky. The weather changed in a matter of hours.
Love, your Queen of Travel, Clearer of Cobwebs, Mother of Ferrets, Twister of Ankles – Kate
Hoodoo: A natural geological pillar formed by wind and rain erosion
The last leg of the journey led us to Bryce Canyon National Park – 52 square miles of strange rock formations and other worldly views.
My fellow adventurers and I had packed up our belongings in Zion and headed to Bryce. It took about two hours of straight road, nothing complicated – after trying to find a spot in Zion, we wanted to be super early with the hope of not fighting for a site. Much to our surprise we had the campground to ourselves. After settling in at Sunset Campground ($30/ night) – food was a priority. As it was our fourth day of camping perishables were starting to run low – so our options were slim. In town before the entrance to the park were some shops, tourist traps, a gas station, and some food options. NOTE: the only diner is in fact not a diner, but a re-purposed Burger King that now sells pizza, burgers, and hot dogs. I would not recommend this place unless you were desperate – I would have opted to visit the camp store for hot dogs. Overall food options were slim – maybe we should have saved our perishable for here instead of Zion.
Anywho, now for the reason to visit to Bryce! There are a plethora of activities to do in Bryce –hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing, and even Snowshoeing in the winter. The landscape is a Ponderosa Pine forest, however when the canyon starts the forest literally goes away and becomes desert. This is actually how the terrain of the southwest works. We walked the rim for quite some time given that there was so much to absorb. The hike chosen was the Tower Bridge considered a moderate three mile hike through the hoodoos. The Tower Bridge takes you downhill the entire way down and uphill the complete way back, nevertheless there was so much in one hike! You could view the Queen’s Garden overhead; you could walk along the China wall and after that the Tower Bridge at the bottom of the canyon.
The China Wall was my favorite despite having to walk down hill for 2.5 miles then, back up 2.5. My big toe sported a nice bruise at the end of the day. That section of the hike that was just that a long, looming wall with sheer drops on both sides.
That night temperatures plummeted to 34°F which we all knew was a possibility, but somehow we just neglected to believe it. We had the clothes and the heavy, heavy sleeping bags, but our tents were not meant for late fall/winter camping. Ooops. The best part of the campsite – the heated bathrooms – ah, in the morning it was heaven. If you have ever sat on a freezing toilet seat, then you know the relief of a heated bathroom.
We finished our tour of Bryce by driving the fire eaten seventeen mile road to the highest point on the rim. At a staggering elevation of 9,110 Rainbow Point was breathtaking. My other favorite pull off was the Bryce Canyon Arch – erosion and wind blew a gaping hole right through the wall of the canyon.
Overall Bryce has much additional sights to appreciate and do without a permit and is less crowded than Zion. The park is much smaller and feels intimate. The campsites have a larger space and did I mention heated bathrooms?
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
If you don’t have religion you may find it in Zion. Whatever you believe, Zion offers proof that there is a larger spirit at work. It doesn’t matter if there is single grand architect or gods and goddesses who built a fortress of sanctuary, but the sheer cliff faces and green vegetation will take your breath away. The road to Zion twists and turns through the highland before the descent into the canyon. The last thing you see before you enter into the National Park is a farm which happens to be raising buffalo. I don’t know about you, but there is something about a buffalo that takes me back in time. They always remind me of the old west and thanks to Lieutenant John Dunbar I can only refer to them as Tatonka.
After you enter the park, my companions and I quickly became distracted by the change from prairie to mountain scape as we were greeted by Checker Board Mesa. The rock scape swooped and swirled with red, white and brown in the fashion of a twisted ice cream cone. It was preparing us for the best scene of all. The heart of the national park lies just beyond a dark 1.1 mile tunnel straight through the cliff side. It works as an interesting sensory deprivation; when you reach the other side everything pops from the light hitting the cliffs to the shadows that the arches cast.
We arrived in Zion Monday afternoon in a thunder and lightning monsoon that lasted through the night. Excellent for tent camping eh? Being confined to the tent could have been terrible, but luckily we had card games and a fun-flask. The next morning brought fair weather so we packed up and headed out to find a spot in the South Campground. We were in luck following our restless night we were rewarded with the best campsite – #77 with a fantastic view of the cliffs.
We went to several of the main attractions. It is easier to use the complimentary shuttle service that runs at various times during the day. We stared at the end and worked our way to the front:
Temple of Sinawava – This is the gateway to the Narrows which are popular slot canyons. There is a riverside walk and access to the Virgin River. The Virgin River is responsible for creating Zion Canyon.
Big Bend – Views of the Great White Throne and the Angel’s Landing Bridge. This stop has no access to trails but has great angles for taking pictures.
Weeping Rock – This stop has access to the weeping rock trail which features hanging gardens.
The Grotto – This is the entrance to Angel’s Landing and other trails. We took the Kayenta Trail to the emerald pools and then to the Lodge where we got lunch.
Court of the Patriarchs – The three largest peaks in the park named for the three Biblical fathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Also can be seen is the Sentinel and Mount Moroni.
Touring the park took roughly 6-8 hours. We took our time and enjoyed the day. The park is goliath and I am sure you could spend a week there and only see a small percent of what it has to offer, but with our time constraints and weather restrictions we saw a lot of what the park has to offer.
My best advice: If you plan on camping get there early! It would seem that the ideal time is around 7am-9am – any later and you risk not getting a spot in the park. There are three campsites: The Watchman campground which is for reservations only, south campground (where we stayed) which are first come, first serve, and Lava Point which is a primitive campsite and closes in October. Fear not, if there is no camping available in the park there are several other locations that would be happy to accommodate. The first night we arrived later than we liked but stayed at Zion River Resort in Virgin, UT.
My issues with Zion: the park was terribly overcrowded. Even in the off season my three companions and I had to squeeze into a shuttle to each location. As we hiked to each location of the shuttle stops we felt rather like cattle. Instead of enjoying the scenery and spectacular views – I was too busy dodging slow walkers or being caught up in a sea of fellow sight seers. In the parks defense several of the harder hikes were closed due to the un-seasonal monsoons from the previous nights. We would have attempted Angel’s Landing had the trail not been closed.
The crowding however, could never ruin the experience – the scenery was incredible. I can’t wait to return to the canyon and explore all of the areas that were closed and hopefully obtain permits to enter the protected sections.
Costs & Fees (all subject to vary):
Zion National Park entrance fee: $30 per vehicle (lasts for seven days)
Shuttle through the Canyon: FREE
Camping Fees: South Campground $16
Watchman Campground $16-$20
Zion River Resort: $45 (we stayed here the first night)
Your Cobweb Clearer ~ Kate
Today I am going to talk about a magical, lonely place somewhere between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT. As you approach the pull off there is a parking area and a sign highlighting the Grand Escalante Staircase (National Monument). To the right of the parking area is a twelve-mile dirt road leading to the most beautiful place I have ever had the privilege to visit. I strongly suggest that you attempt the last few miles if you have a four wheel drive truck or a high clearance vehicle as most of the road can be washed out at times.
I couldn’t help but hum, “can you paint with all the colors of the wind?” – I have serious Pocahontas moments whenever I visit. Half way down the road you climb on green, purple, red, blue and white striated ridges that take your breath away for two reasons; for one, you can get up close and personal looking deep into the valley which has been carved out by the Paria river. Secondly, if you walk out far enough the ridges become narrow with significant drops on both sides. Walking on the ridge is not for the faint of heart. My brother, who is terrified of heights refused to walk out on the trail with me. His wife eventually coaxed him onto a shorter ridge.
Further down the road is the old Paria town site and film site. Only the foundations exist due to constant flooding and unfortunate arson. Bored teenagers decided to have a bonfire. Too bad. I admit, I have not had a look at the town site because of the rough the roads but, a lonely cemetery below the town site which holds townspeople and some native Paiute people. It is worth a stop to pay tribute to the Paria’s past residents.
At the furthest point the road stops dead at the river bank. Let me make myself clear this is an extremely remote area. When I visited in December the shallow river was frozen over and you could slide across the center. When we visited last week it was all mud – the mud people pay big money for at a spa- slimy and full of minerals. It was so muddy that we left our boots on the bank of river and continued barefoot; not to worry, we were one of two groups in the whole area – nobody would bother them. The mud was slippery and ankle-deep in some spots but it contributed to an experience of a lifetime. It was strange walking in the open canyon with no one around – surrounded by antelope, deer and bobcat tracks. We only found one other set of human tracks but they were washed away. I felt primitive as my lizard brain instincts took over – taking notes on the smell of sage, the heat of the sun, and the mud beneath my feet. As an interesting note my mom and I both noticed the varying temperatures of the ground in different spots. At one point we noticed that as we crossed a section of shaded, moving water – it was warm like stale bath water. I can’t say this for a fact but I believe it to be a geothermal spot. Which is super exciting!
After a mile and a half of trekking we came across caves and an abandoned mine carved into the sides of the canyon (after later research I concluded it may have been a gold mine). We paused to take a break in the shade. We would have explored further, but we all became wary of the remoteness and a fear of being eaten by mountain lions as it was reaching sundown. It was strange to be afraid like that so we walked on only a bit further to where the river disappeared behind the next canyon.
It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go back! The Paria is quickly becoming my most favorite place I ever visited. Please stay tuned for my reports on:
Your Cobweb Clearer ~ Kate