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Oh, the Places You’ll Go

20 02 2012

691-1

Originally published September 18, 2009

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

–Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I promised that I wouldn’t talk only about the don’ts and the warnings, and so here we are, finally, at the first post about The Good Stuff.

But, Her Side, what exactly is The Good Stuff?

Why, I’m so glad you asked.  The Good Stuff is the other side of the Rules.  In the Rules, we’re talking about things you should think about, prepare for, caution against, and learn about in order to make solo camping and hiking as safe as possible.  And you do those things, making this activity safe, so that you can go out and enjoy yourself.  So that you can leave your worries at home and focus on…wait for it…

The Good Stuff.

The first one is very simple.  It’s so simple, in fact, that you’re probably going to roll your eyes.  Ready?

The Power is in the Possibilities.

I know, I told you it was simple.  But just give it a second, let it sink in.  While you’re taking a moment, look at this photo:

DSCN0293

by joanarc4.

That’s Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  Pretty spectacular, right?  Oh, wait.  While I’m thinking about it, here’s another one:

DSCN0585

by joanarc4

That’s the Great Smoky Mountains on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.  You can really see why they’re called that, right?  Oh, just one more, for the heck of it:

DSCN0413

by joanarc4

That’s the Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah.  Yes, there you hike in the river.  It’s amazing.

So have you thought about the possibilities yet?  Hiking lets you see incredible views, be in incredible places, and feel incredible things.    And that’s just possible locations you can find yourself when you hike.  Why should you have to wait to gather a group to explore those possibilities?

What are some other possibilities?  I know that when I set out on my road trip, I wasn’t sure I could do it.  I was worried I’d be lonely, or not be able to handle the driving, or take care of car problems, or handle the physical activity.  You know what?  I found out I could do all of those things.  When I returned to “normal” life, I was suddenly more confident that I could handle all the ins and outs of daily life on my own, too.  So another possibility is conquering your fears, squashing your insecurities, and getting to know your own capabilities.

It’s a rush.

One more thing, and then I’ll let you think of your own possibilities.  I’m going to quote Dr. Seuss again:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the [gal] who’ll decide where to go.

–Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Where do you want to go?  It’s YOUR decision, when you hike and camp solo.  So what’ll it be?

(c) Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.

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Hike to an Oasis: Zion National Park

12 10 2009

by joanarc4

by joanarc4

Zion National Park, in Utah, is one of my favorite places in the world.  There are reasons for this: it’s got a landscape of heart-stopping beauty, is an oasis in the middle of arid country, has a rich history (ask me about the man-made tunnel sometime), and is spectacularly well-managed and maintained.  It’s also a very easy park to visit, whether you’re solo or traveling with company.   The trails are well-marked and detailed descriptions are available in the Zion newspaper or from the helpful rangers.  The little town of Springdale, at the base of the canyon, has shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, and safe private campgrounds, and provides a free shuttle that runs up the main street and right into the park.  The park itself does not allow private automobiles to drive up into the canyon, but rather runs a squeaky clean and frequent shuttle that stops at all the main trailheads.

All of these factors mean that visiting Zion can be very relaxing (you don’t have to worry about traffic, like at Yellowstone, and parking, and finding your way), and it’s also a great place to travel solo.  There will be other solos, and the shuttle, trailheads, lodge, and museum (and Springdale) provide many opportunities to interact with other travelers.

However, it’s not just these very practical reasons that make Zion so amazing.  There’s a certain extra something about the park and the area that gets the blood pumping and…just sort of wakes you up.

One hike at Zion that’s a great starter hike for a solo hiker is the Emerald Pools Trail.  It’s populated (sometimes too populated, see below), it’s accessible, and it’s not a huge commitment.  Hiking the entire loop and the branch to the Upper pool is approximately 3 miles round trip, a 2-or-so hour hike.  Most of it is easy to moderate, with the exception of the moderately strenuous Upper pools branch.  So grab your gear and your camera, have breakfast (or lunch) at the Zion Lodge, and go for it.

The Emerald Pools Trail has three sections: Lower, Middle, and Upper.  The Lower and Middle section start from the same place, at the Zion Lodge, and meet up at the Lower Emerald Pools, while the Upper section branches off for a one-way short but steep climb to an upper pool.  The trail is so named for the algae in the pools that, particularly when the sunlight is just right, give the pools their emerald brilliance.

The Lower trail is an low-intensity trail that meanders along the Virgin River and then one of the tributaries, protected by the shade of the lush Zion greenery.  After just over half a mile, you’ll reach the Lower pool.  In the spring, waterfalls from the Middle pools up above cascade into the Lower pool, but even in the drier months this section is quite beautiful.

by joanarc4

by joanarc4

The Middle trail climbs at the start from the trailhead at Zion Lodge and then levels out, and while not difficult, the hike offers incredible views of the canyon as the path winds along the side of the canyon wall parallel to the Lower trail below. After about a mile, you’ll reach the middle pools, which cascade into the Lower pool.  Between the middle and lower pools is a series of switchbacks that take you between the falls — and the pools, so that the Middle and Lower trails can be done as a loop.

by joanarc4

by joanarc4

The Upper trail branches off from the Middle pools and heads up a steep, rugged path to the Upper pool.  Many people choose to forgo this section because it is strenuous, but it’s worth the effort.  There will be scrambling (particularly if you’re short like me) over dusty boulders, but after just a quarter mile (and another couple hundred feet of elevation gain), you’ll reach an oasis set in the side of the canyon.  The sheer canyon walls stretch straight up over the pool, and in this spot, it’s easy to forget that you’re still, in fact, perched on the side of a canyon.

by joanarc4

by joanarc4

Make no mistake: this is a popular trail.  Its location, just across from the Zion Lodge, makes it an easy hike for people to find.  It’s also somewhat iconic, a classic Zion hike, and people (I was one) are anxious to see what the fuss is about.

I have hiked this trail twice, once on a Thursday in mid-September and the second time on a Saturday morning in August.  The first time, I encountered others on the Middle and Upper trails, and the Lower was more crowded, but I did have moments to myself.  The second time, it was a bit like hiking in a shopping mall — I had to pay more attention to not stepping on the heels of the people in front of me than I did to the scenery, which isn’t ideal.  Even the Upper trail was crowded the second time, making finding a spot to sit and eat lunch difficult.

The lesson I learned: the Emerald Pools is a great hike for a solo hiker if you go mid-week while school is in session (I don’t hate kids…I actually like them; but in droves when their parents aren’t teaching them proper trail etiquette it can be a bit much).  There will still be other people, which is what you want as a solo hike when you’re just getting into it, but you’ll also be able to find yourself alone every now and then.

Second lesson: Hike the Middle trail, and not the Lower.  The Lower trail is an easy, paved, low-intensity stroll, and this route is therefore popular with families and those with less mobility.  Many people will stroll the Lower trail and reach the first pool, take photos, and troop back, making this section of the trail the most dense, particularly during the summer.

Because many people start on the Lower and return on the Lower, and others start on the Lower, climb to the Middle pools and then return on the Middle, I prefer to do the reverse — going against the flow of traffic, it allows, even when the trail is crowded below, for some quiet time on the Middle trail.

by joanarc4

by joanarc4





Oh, the Places You’ll Go

21 09 2009

691-1Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

–Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I promised that I wouldn’t talk only about the don’ts and the warnings, and so here we are, finally, at the first post about The Good Stuff.

But, Her Side, what exactly is The Good Stuff?

Why, I’m so glad you asked.  The Good Stuff is the other side of the Rules.  In the Rules, we’re talking about things you should think about, prepare for, caution against, and learn about in order to make solo camping and hiking as safe as possible.  And you do those things, making this activity safe, so that you can go out and enjoy yourself.  So that you can leave your worries at home and focus on…wait for it…

The Good Stuff.

The first one is very simple.  It’s so simple, in fact, that you’re probably going to roll your eyes.  Ready?

The Power is in the Possibilities.

I know, I told you it was simple.  But just give it a second, let it sink in.  While you’re taking a moment, look at this photo:

DSCN0293

by joanarc4.

That’s Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  Pretty spectacular, right?  Oh, wait.  While I’m thinking about it, here’s another one:

DSCN0585

by joanarc4

That’s the Great Smoky Mountains on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.  You can really see why they’re called that, right?  Oh, just one more, for the heck of it:

DSCN0413

by joanarc4

That’s the Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah.  Yes, there you hike in the river.  It’s amazing.

So have you thought about the possibilities yet?  Hiking lets you see incredible views, be in incredible places, and feel incredible things.    And that’s just possible locations you can find yourself when you hike.  Why should you have to wait to gather a group to explore those possibilities?

What are some other possibilities?  I know that when I set out on my road trip, I wasn’t sure I could do it.  I was worried I’d be lonely, or not be able to handle the driving, or take care of car problems, or handle the physical activity.  You know what?  I found out I could do all of those things.  When I returned to “normal” life, I was suddenly more confident that I could handle all the ins and outs of daily life on my own, too.  So another possibility is conquering your fears, squashing your insecurities, and getting to know your own capabilities.

It’s a rush.

One more thing, and then I’ll let you think of your own possibilities.  I’m going to quote Dr. Seuss again:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the [gal] who’ll decide where to go.

–Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Where do you want to go?  It’s YOUR decision, when you hike and camp solo.  So what’ll it be?

(c) Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.