In 2020 I plan to offer trips in five locations.
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We’re excited to return to southern Utah for 2020!
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is one of many gems on the Colorado Plateau, but thankfully it lacks the hordes of tourists that swamp other locations like Grand Canyon, Zion, and Arches.
At 1.8 million acres, the Monument gives us many options to roam. We normally depart from near the adorably quaint towns of Escalante or Boulder. For the duration of the trip, you will not cross a road or see a wheeled vehicle, and we rarely see other parties.
Our routes stay within the watershed or the Escalante River, a perennial tributary of the Colorado River that flows into Lake Powell. We’ll follow canyon bottoms, scramble across slick rock, traverse sandy benches, and pass by cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. We avoid technical canyoneering, but there may be a few spots where a pack haul or hand-line is beneficial.
Late-April is prime time in southern Utah. The temperatures are mild, the vegetation is vibrant green, and water sources are usually reliable.
The Colorado Plateau is a unique environment, and thus has a host of unique challenges. We’ll help you learn to manage water, understand the underlying geology, and navigate in deep canyons and across featureless benches.
If you want Appalachian Mountain-specific instruction and/or cannot justify the travel expense or time for a 3- or 5-day trip out West, this is the location for you.
West Virginia is charmingly rural, and its backcountry areas are as wild as the Appalachians get. May is a prime season here: the forests have just greened up, and temperatures normally are mild enough for refreshing swims in pristine mountain creeks.
Seneca Creek and Dolly Sods have environmental conditions typical of both the southern and northern Appalachians. In the lower elevations, we find lush hardwoods and understory, like in the Blue Ridge; in the upper elevations, guard spruce and soggy peat bogs, like in the Whites. The setting is ideal for teaching regional skills, like how to sleep in hammocks, manage rain and wet gear, and navigate through indistinct terrain with limited line-of-sight visability.
Monongahela National Forest is reasonably accessible from many eastern metro areas. Imagine drawing a box with corners at New York City, Columbus, Knoxville, and Raleigh. Anything in that box is no more than about 5 hours away.
The Brooks Range is the greatest wilderness in North America, and these trips are designed to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It was undoubtedly the most magnificent part of the Alaska-Yukon Expedition — at one point, I went over 600 miles and 24 days without crossing a road or seeing another human being.
The Brooks will redefine your concept of wilderness. The range is immense, about 1000 miles long and usually about 100 miles wide. There are no trails, save for those made by wildlife, notably caribou. It’s intersected by just one road, the Dalton Highway (aka Haul Road). And only one town sits firmly within the range, Anaktuvuk Pass, a native village with a population of about 350.
Our trips will be in Gates of the Arctic National Park, which encompasses much of the western Brooks Range.
The High Sierra is in my Top 3 for backpacking locations in the Lower 48. The range is huge and intricate; the scenery is superb; the off-trail travel is blissful; road access is very limited; and the crowded, high-use areas are easy to leave behind. The range encompasses two famous National Parks — Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon — as well as “American’s Most Beautiful Trail,” the 224-mile John Muir Trail, which links these two parks.
The trips will be in Yosemite National Park, and the 5- and 7-day trips will follow sections of the newly minted Yosemite High Route, starting from Tuolumne Meadows, the base camp for the Yosemite high country.
For five years we ran trips in my backyard, the Front Range mountains of Colorado, specifically in Rocky Mountain National Park.
For 2020 I’m seeking an alternative top-rate location in the Rockies, either in Colorado or Wyoming. Obtaining outfitter-guide permits is a lengthy and uncertain process, which explains why this location was not finalized prior to the opening of registration.
Rest assured, it will be a fantastic location, or we won’t run the trips.
Update (December 27, 2019):
I have two promising leads. One I cannot yet mention. The other is Rio Grande National Forest, which manages to the west side of the Sangre de Cristo Range and the eastern half of the San Juan Mountain, two of the wildest and most spectacular ranges in Colorado.
I will know more in the first week of January, once everyone is back from the holidays, and will share information when it comes in.
Returning to Rocky Mountain National Park is not an option. Nor is running August trip in one of our more certain locations (Utah, Alaska, Yosemite).