Notice Every Detail of Creation…

This excerpt is from the post Thanksgiving at my other blog brandonandress.com.  I thought this portion was a perfect perspective for those of us who love nature and the outdoors.

The Spirit cries out to me: See the wonder! See the glory! See the beauty! And move forward in awe!

Listen.

Smell.

Feel.

Take it all in and delight. Let the wind blow at your back and let the sun shine down on your face.

Listen to the conversations.
Joy in the laughter of your children.
Celebrate that you can give your baby a bath.
Delight in the songs of the birds and the rustling of the leaves.
Be enveloped by everything and everyone around you.
Count your blessings.

Smell the autumn fragrance.
Let the preparation of your meal be a prayer and a blessing.
Savor every bite as if it is your very first.
Feel the textures.
Let the work of your hands be praise.
Count your blessings.

Sit in the woods and notice every detail of creation.
Close your eyes and absorb every note and harmony.
Glory in every drop of your morning coffee.
Embrace the touch of another.
Join in the chorus of all creation in praise.
Count your blessings.

Can any one of us even utter a grumble…in the midst of creation’s immeasurable wonder?

It is good.
It is good.
It is good.

From the depths of my soul and with every breath…thank you God. I am an unworthy man.

Advertisements

Utah: Canyonlands National Park- Upheaval Dome Syncline Trail

After we finished the Grand View Point Trail we drove to Upheaval Dome for the highlight of the day’s activities, Syncline Trail in Canyonlands National Park.

IMG_5444Upheaval Dome is believed to have been created by the impact of a meteorite, as you can see from the crater and concentric circles in the picture above.  Syncline trail is a loop trail that follows the perimeter of Upheaval Dome for 8.3 miles, opening up midway through the hike.  This particular hike takes about 6-8 hours and would classify as strenuous, involving quite a bit of scrambling.  The trail is marked by cairns for the duration of the hike.  The trailhead starts at 5680 feet elevation and slowly descends over 1000 feet for the first half of the hike.

IMG_5448

IMG_5575

IMG_5462

I have to admit, from everything I have read about this trail, that April is the perfect time to be in this area and an ideal time to hike this particular trail.  July temps easily reach in the 90-100’s.  That would make me reconsider what time of day I would attempt to hike this trail and what I would pack (like a gallon of water).  Our April hike stayed in the mid-60’s and allowed us to pack a couple of liters of water.

IMG_5481

IMG_3708

The stunning beauty of this desert area is comprised primarily of sandstone and shale, which make for some amazing formations and sights.  There was one particular area (picture below) where we sat down and just took it all in.  It was absolutely quiet, not a sound to be heard… just complete stillness.  Such artistry in what we saw and the stillness of being enveloped by all of it.  A person does not get to experience that very often.  It was heavenly.

IMG_3712

IMG_3715

IMG_5501

No… Patrick was not drinking the water!  It was staged.

IMG_5528

IMG_3750

IMG_3727

IMG_5518

At the midpoint of the hike it open up with the opportunity to take a trail to the center of the crater.  Although we initially wanted to take that trail, we realized that the first half of the hike took longer than we had anticipated… because we stopped for so many pictures!  We decided to not make any stops for the second half of the trail so that we could finish in reasonable time.  Take note: if you travel counter-clockwise on this trail… the most strenuous portion is the last mile with a 2000 foot vertical ascent to get back to the parking lot.  Needless to say, I didn’t take many pictures during this time.

IMG_5556

IMG_5576

IMG_3758

Syncline Trail, which loops around Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park, is an absolutely amazing and rewarding 8 mile hike that will not only give you an amazing full body workout because of the hiking and scrambling, but an opportunity to see views and formations that will give you glimpses of heaven.  I highly, highly recommend this hike.

Brandon

Indiana: Charles Deam Wilderness- Peninsula Trail

We recently took a weekend guys hiking/camping trip to Charles Deam Wilderness, which is south of Bloomington, Indiana and nestled right up against the Hoosier National Forestry. If you remember… a handful of us braved a single-digit weekend excursion to Deam this past January, putting all of our survival skills to the test! In January, we navigated Axsom Branch as well as portions of Grubb Ridge Loop. This time we set out without any sort of plan, except that we wanted to spend some time on Monroe Lake.

We parked at the parking lot southwest of Axsom Branch and headed northwest on Grubb Ridge Loop. Being that we started the hike in the evening, we didn’t want to be too ambitious. Our goal was to set up camp close to the split of Grubb Ridge Loop trail and the Peninsula Trail. The temperature that autumn evening was a fantastic and cool low 60’s with a low overnight in the high 40’s (perfect Indiana camping weather). We set up the tents in a really nice area with thick pine needle covering and spent the late evening around a fire.

The next morning we decided to continue on the Peninsula Trail until we hit the end of the trail at Monroe Lake. We took our time packing up and got a late morning start. With no agenda, our only goal was to enjoy our time venturing through the wilderness. With many of our trips it seems as if we are always moving and trying to get to the next destination at a reasonable time to set up before sun down. It was actually really nice to take our time. It was around noon when we made it to the end of the trail at Monroe Lake. As I looked out into the lake I saw what appeared to be an island about 1/2 mile offshore. I jokingly commented that we ought to swim out to it. And of course a few guys got really serious about it. For the next ten minutes they were just waiting for someone else to say let’s do it! I finally began to take off my boots and socks, “Let’s do it boys.” We stripped and gingerly made our way over the jagged rocks to the lake’s edge. We began to wade slowly into the cool water and then just began to swim. Our amateur voyage to the island took about 40 minutes and we were all glad that the swim was over. We walked on the other bank, looked at each other, and then wondered aloud how we were going to get back to the other side.

Never one to do more physical work when I can use my brain to avoid work, I suggested that we wave down one of the boats on the lake to take us back to the other side. Being that is was turning into a really nice afternoon, the lake activity was beginning to pick up. Our first victims came over in their speed boat and assured us that they had no interest in disrupting their fishing expedition to take us to the other side. Not to be disheartened, we began to wave down a pontoon boat that was around the bend of the lake. We thought it was unlikely that they would see us, but we began to hear cackling and merriment and knew that our arm-waving had become a source of great entertainment. Fortunately enough for us, the pontoon began to creep in our direction…and the jovial uproar grew. It was infectious, as we began to laugh as well. And we laughed even harder when we realized the boat was full of 50-60 year old ladies who had been imbibing the spirits as breakfast and lunch. Needless to say, they were more than happy to pick up some hapless, beleaguered, and shirtless hunks on beach. We boarded… became the focal point of all sloshy conversation, and then were greeted by heckles and jeers from the rest of our contingency. What a story. Too bad we don’t have photos of that huh? : )

After lunch, we decided to stay along the lake side and hike to one of the campsites on Monroe Lake.

This was a stunningly beautiful hike along the lake. The sun brought out all of the early fall vibrancy- the yellows, greens, and browns. Just being able to breath deep and enjoy such beauty recharges one’s batteries and refills one’s soul. As much as I would highly recommend this particular hike and route, there were a couple of things to take into account. Our decision to hike along the lake overall was a good idea because we didn’t have to backtrack at the peninsula. However, there were about four areas where we no longer had a path to walk so we had to hike up the steep hill, walk through the woods, and then back down to a walkable path on the lake’s edge. Maybe the greatest challenge hiking along the lake’s edge was when the terrain turned almost exclusively into an angled pathway comprised of wet shale rock. It was incredibly slick and we had at least two or three guys slip and fall. The final thing to take into account is pumping water. We brought our pumps and at our final camping destination we went into the lake to pump. It was a slow and laborious process because the water was so green that we had to clean our filters several times to get a few bottles of water.

Nonetheless, the sunset on Monroe Lake was exquisite and it was a joy to watch it settle in behind such a magnificent backdrop.

peace…

brandon

Colorado: The Boulderfield- Rocky Mountain National Park

I remember sitting outside of my tent, which was set-up right smack in the middle of the roughest terrain I had ever camped, and thought- Am I on Mars?

The Boulderfield is located on Long’s Peak Trail at 12,750 feet above sea level. It is one of those places where pictures just can not adequately describe. You just have to go there yourself to see it. And believe me… it will not let you down. While it certainly is the hardest terrain on which I have ever camped, it was the most gratifying.

The most difficult thing about simply looking at pictures of the Boulderfield is that one can’t appreciate the scale of the picture, the enormity of the rocks, or the vastness of the entire field. The only way to appropriately contextualize the pictures is to see a person or an object in the very midst of the field, especially from a distance. In the picture below, the red circle contains a cluster of tents including my orange and brown North Face tent. This picture was taken from the Keyhole (only a few hundred feet above the Boulderfield).

If you decide that you would like to camp at the Boulderfield there are a few things that you will need to take into consideration while planning:

1. There are a limited number of designated camping spots in the field. I would suggest registering months in advance to guarantee that you have a spot. However, my impression is that the Boulderfield is easier to get a camping site than other backcountry sites because more people tackle Long’s in one day and do not want to deal with the hassle of packing extra weight for tents and gear, but I would still HIGHLY RECOMMEND camping there for the experience and registering in advance. The individual spots are not marked and they are nearly impossible to figure out on the official Boulderfield camping map, so just make sure that you have your paperwork with you when you select a spot.

2. The temperature at 13,000 feet can drop significantly at night. During our end-of-July trip, the Boulderfield low the night we camped there was 47 degrees. Being that building fires are prohibited in the Boulderfield (there isn’t anything to burn in the Boulderfield anyway), it is wise to take appropriate clothing. During the day when we arrived in the field I was wearing shorts and short sleeves, but as the evening approached I zipped on pant legs and then later added sleeves, and then a sweatshirt, and finally a windbreaker. Maybe it was overkill, but I really got chilled. I eventually went into the tent at 10pm in order to warm up in my mummy bag. Without proper clothing and protection, I believe that a person will be extremely uncomfortable and could potentially become hypothermic. Plan well.

3. Running water is available at the Boulderfield, but it must be filter-pumped or cleaned with iodine tablets. This is important because if you plan to make a summit attempt you will want to take a minimum of 32 ounces with you, and you will have likely consumed most of your water on the trek to the Boulderfield the previous day. At high altitude, you have to stay well hydrated. Make sure that you plan accordingly.

The greatest piece of advice I will pass along for the Boulderfield is stay awake to see the stars at night! I had every intention to stay awake, but as I mentioned earlier I was cold and decided to go to sleep. It was a bit cloudy that night anyway and seeing the stars was limited. FORTUNATELY for me I woke up in the middle of the night because I had to relieve myself. My general rule of thumb when camping in the cool/cold is if it is before 3am I will get up to relieve myself (otherwise it is too long to hold it), but if it is after 3am I will suffer through it. I figure that the discomfort of having to pee is less than the discomfort of stepping outside the tent in shorts and t-shirt in the cold.

Anyway, it happened to be 1am which meant I had to get out of the tent to go. When I stepped out of the tent I was completely frozen in my tracks as I looked up to the sky. I have never in my life seen such beauty as I did that night. So much so that I stood in the cold in the shorts and t-shirt for 20 minutes just staring upward. No city lights competed with the light coming from the distant stars, planets, and what looked like other galaxies. No joke. I have NEVER seen anything like it EVER. I turned to my left and saw the Big Dipper. I felt so close that I could almost reach out and touch it. It was a spiritual experience. Praise God. I only hope others will get the opportunity to experience that as well.

peace…

brandon

Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park- Long’s Peak Trail- Day 5

We woke up early on Thursday to make our way to the parking lot and trailhead (TH) for Long’s Peak Trail. The day before we had just finished the 25-mile North Inlet/Tonahutu Loop trail which was simply spectacular, but summiting Long’s Peak, towering over the park at 14,258 feet was going to be an adventure. The first leg of our journey would take us to the Boulderfield which would involve nearly a six-mile hike and a climb near 3400 feet in elevation.

Day 5 (Thursday, July 26)

Longs Peak Trailhead (9400 feet) to Boulderfield Campground (12,750 feet)- 5.9

Total Day 4- 5.9

Elevation- 3370 feet

The journey to Long’s Peak (via the Keyhole Route) is quite an endeavor. Before I discuss the details of this hike I would like to share a few thoughts. This is not an easy or casual hike. It is tough terrain that involves a lot of physical exertion for many miles. Additionally, people have died trying to summit Long’s when proper precaution has not been exercised. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to dissuade anyone from hiking this trail. I am simply saying that, while this is a very popular peak to summit, do not just show up and start hiking. Do your homework and be prepared.

Here are a few important factors to take into account when preparing:

– Wear (and potentially pack) appropriate gear. The temperature swing from the TH to the summit may surprise you. Be prepared with sleeves and long pants.

– I would HIGHLY recommend sturdy hiking boots. Leading up to the Boulderfield and beyond you will thank me for this advice. It is very rough terrain. Headgear and sunglasses are also recommended.

– Take plenty of water. This is a long hike with a significant altitude difference. Dehydration is a serious concern at higher elevations. If you have a pump, the Boulderfield has accessible water to pump.

– Make preparations to summit and be below the tree-line before early afternoon, as afternoon showers typically roll in with lightning.

– If it has been raining or is continuing to rain, I would not pass the Keyhole or continue to the summit. Many people have fallen off of the shear cliffs to their death because of wet and slippery conditions. The same can be said for wind. If it is a really windy day, take precaution. It is not worth risking injury or death to reach the top.

– Follow the designated route to the summit. There are bulls-eyes marking the best and recommended route while scrambling over the rocks. Always know where your next bulls-eye is located and go straight towards it. Not following the suggested route can, once again, put you in a very precarious situation leading to injury and potentially death.

– Before beginning your hike, talk to the ranger at the trailhead to get up to date information about the trail and conditions.

 

Despite the significant elevation gain from the TH to the Boulderfield, it is made easier in that it is a gradual incline over six miles rather than a steeply graded incline. That definitely makes this trail more enjoyable to hike. Be prepared for a lot more people-traffic going up and down Long’s. The alpine hike continues for over a couple of miles before it breaks out around 10,500 feet into Mills Moraine and then onto Granite Pass. You will know why the Rockies are called the Rockies when you get to this area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we approached the Boulderfield in the early afternoon, I had a lot of different feelings. I was relieved to be at our end destination so that we could set up camp and get ready for our summit attempt the next morning. I was overwhelmed by the Boulderfield and how surreal it was to be hiking in a place I had studied about for so long. And then, I was confused and a bit frustrated as we approached the reserved camping spots and noticed that many people had already pitched their tents. What made this frustrating is that none of the spots were marked in any way and it was hard to determine who was supposed to camp where. Ultimately, after much investigated and talking, we decided to simply take two open spots. We had our reservations and the appropriate paperwork, so we wouldn’t have any problems anyway.

We decided to stay overnight in the Boulderfield for several reasons, but the main reason being that it is just a REALLY COOL place to camp. In my next post I will write about the Boulderfield specifically.

peace…

Brandon

 

Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park- North Inlet/Tonahutu Trail- Day 3

We left July backcountry campsite, where we stayed at the end of Day 2, early on Tuesday morning.  We would be ascending over 1700 feet as we continued on North Inlet Trail to reach our connection to the Tonahutu Trail, which travels along a portion of the Continental Divide.  We would then drop 1800 feet altitude to finish up our 7.5 mile hike at the Renegade backcountry campsite.

Day 3 (Tuesday, July 24)

July Campsite (10,650 feet) to Renegade Campsite (10,500 feet)- 7.5 miles

Total Day 2- 7.5 miles

Maximum elevation gain- 1713 feet

As we started out the morning… the name of the game was elevation.  We were climbing by switchbacks along the mountainside which overlooked an absolutely brilliant valley.  In every way this spacious vastness just screamed life…and we took it in with every breath.  Forget about the heavy packs and trudging upward fighting gravity…this was heaven on earth man.  It was just good.  But it didn’t take long before we were left standing still in our own tracks.  As we looked 25-feet uphill… a 6×6, 600-pound bull elk was hovering over us chewing on this green breakfast.  He thought we were interesting, but his breakfast was more interesting.  He was close enough that we did not want to move for fear that he might get defensive, so we stayed put.  Eventually he began to move away but only to move ONTO OUR TRAIL AT THE SWITCHBACK.  He never snorted.  He never stomped his hooves.  He was definitely cool.  But we didn’t have the courage to move forward.  So we retreated back by 30-feet and had to climb straight up the mountain to connect to our trail.    Some fellow hikers, without our knowledge, was below us on the mountain and snapped a couple of pictures for us.

Photo by Melanie Glissman

photo by Melanie Glissman

Once we made it above the tree-line into the alpine region… my heart began to skip from the striking beauty.  These are the places you see in magazines and say, “I wish I could be there.”  And here we were.  It was so surreal.  Forget my words… just look at the pictures.

The beauty speaks for itself.  You find out very quickly how the area got it’s name because it is definitely rocky.  Some of the boulders and boulder configurations baffle the mind.  The temperature on this July day was in the mid-60’s at this elevation (over 12,000 feet).  We needed light shirt with sleeves… but it was the ultra-violet radiation which was the concern.  We wore our UV sunglasses and put on sunscreen for our exposed skin areas.

We could see the valley opening up with a mix of wildflowers and pine.  The final leg of our hike along the Tonahutu Trail would take us to Renegade.  This final section, in my opinion, was rough hiking.  The rocks were many times the size of baseballs and softballs, which made our steps rough.  We also began to see a ton of marmots running out from the rocks across the trail and into other rocks.  Pretty amazing stuff.

We set up quickly at Renegade and went down to the creek to cool off and wash up.  We ate supper early and sat back to relax when the storm clouds rolled in.  It started to rain at 7pm and we hopped into our tents.  We ended up falling asleep as it rained all night long.

This was one of my favorite days on the hike.  Day 4 will take us through the Big Meadow and back to the TH.

Day 4 (Wednesday, July 25)

Renegade Campsite (10,500 feet) to Tonahutu/North Inlet TH via Big Meadows (8540 feet)- 9.2 miles

Elevation- downhill

Read North Inlet/Tonahutu Trail- Day 4

Peace…

Brandon

Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park- North Inlet/Tonahutu Trail- Day 1

In my previous post I discussed some of the preparations we made leading up to our five-day-long backcountry hiking trip in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado. A significant part of our planning and consideration was altitude. Coming from Columbus, Indiana, where the elevation is around 650 feet above sea level, transplanting ourselves in an environment two to three miles above sea-level and doing significantly rigorous hiking involved careful attention.

As I also wrote before, I began taking an altitude medication, Diamox, in addition to Aleve and Aspirin a couple of days before reaching elevation and then as I hiked throughout the week. Being that the effects of altitude are somewhat out of my control, I wanted to take as many preventive measures as I could to have a successful hike.

Additionally, we decided to arrive in Denver (approximately 5200 feet) on Saturday and then travel to North Inlet/Tonahutu trailhead (8540 feet) in Rocky Mountain National Park to begin our hike on Sunday afternoon. Our hiking plan had us only traveling 3.4 miles with 300 feet elevation gain on that Sunday to our first day’s destination near Cascade Falls. This first day plan was encouraged by the Rangers at the Backcountry Office in RMNP in order to give us essentially one more day of acclimation before hitting significant mileage and elevation. This wisdom and precaution, I believe, set us up for a very successful week.

Sunday’s itinerary:

Day 1 (Sunday, July 22)

Tonahutu/North Inlet TH (8540 feet) to Cascade Falls Campsite (8840 feet)- 3.4 miles

Total Day- 3.4 miles

Maximum elevation change- 300 feet

The North Inlet/Tonahutu TH parking lot is located near Grand Lake, which is in the southwest portion of RMNP. There are plenty of spots to park at TH parking lot and both the North Inlet and Tonahutu trails are connected to it, which makes entering and exiting very easy. We parked, geared up, had some fellow hikers snap a couple of pics of us, and headed out on North Inlet trail, which we would traverse until Tuesday when we would connect to Tonahutu. The entirety of the loop trail from North Inlet to Tonahutu and then through Big Meadow would take us just over 25 miles with an elevation gain over 3500 feet.

The first 3.4 miles of the North Inlet trail start off in a welcoming and un-intimidating manner leading hikers among pines and open meadows. If you are not overtaken by how surreal it is to be hiking in such a beautiful place, take just a second to close your eyes and breathe deep- the fresh and crisp wind blowing through the pine makes you forget everything you are walking away from in the parking lot. Prepare to leave everything behind and be completely enveloped.

Camping at our first backcountry area near Cascade Falls requires a permit. This camping area is dispersed, which means that you may camp anywhere within the designated zone. However, it is important to keep in mind that backcountry camping encourages setting up tents 70 adult steps away from creeks/rivers and dead trees. I have to admit that it was somewhat challenging finding a clear area meeting those requirements, but we eventually found a nice spot upon a large rocky area about a hundred feet above the creek that runs parallel to this portion of North Inlet. It had an outstanding view above the creek and was still close enough access for pumping water.

Our itinerary for the next day:

Day 2 (Monday, July 23)

Cascade Falls Campsite (8840 feet) to July Campsite (10,650 feet)- 5.1 miles

Total Day 1- 5.1 miles

Maximum elevation change- 1810 feet

Read north inlet/tonahutu trail- day 2

peace…

brandon

Love All of Creation…

Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. The Brothers Karamozov- Fyodor Dostoevsky