Different hikes Different Likes
What you like may be different, but the preparation is similar
Going hiking can be a complicated affair.
Or it can be simple. It depends on what you are planning.
However the best and safest approach is to cover all contingencies. We often hear of someone who took a one hour hike and who ended up being rescued because they either weren't prepared or didn't know anything about going outdoors. Sometimes it is over the fact that they fell or got hurt. But a lot of times it was because they didn't know what they were doing or had planned poorly.
Getting all the equipment together, making sure everything is there and operational, checking out the vehicle and gassing it up, loading up food and beverages and getting it all in the car to go is a job. But it is only part of the job.
Also wear the right clothes and footwear for what you are doing. Don't wear flip flops to hike and while we always see people wearing shorts of all kinds while tromping through the outback, I have found that branches, weeds and insects love that uncovered skin. Finally protect yourself from the sun with sun block and a broad brimmed hat.
Equipment and materials for any hike, whether it is for all day or for a few hundred yards should consist of at least some basic things. After years of hiking I have seen many lists that sometimes includes a huge backpack of things. I have found in my experience that I can put most of what I really need for a day hike (depending on temperatures) in a small backpack. Water is very important. Make sure you stay hydrated. In the desert a gallon of water, especially in the summer, is the minimum. That alone weighs over 8 lbs. Whether it be in store bought bottles, a canteen or a Camelback device. If you have a cell phone take it. Have waterproof matches and a way to start a fire. For a day hike take a lunch, but even for a short trip have some kind of trail mix. It never hurts to have too much nutrition on board. I like to also pack a sharp knife or multi tool set as well as some strong rope at least 15 feet long. I also include at least one lightweight thermal blanket in case a stay overnight is required. A small first aide kit is also important. Have a compass with you and always, always carry some kind of light source. You may not want to spend $150 on a super powerful LED head lamp, but the more light you have the better should you be out or stranded after dark.
I also carry one other thing that seems not to make sense. A small roll of duct tape. Believe me the uses one can find for either of these when stranded or in trouble can be immeasurable. Duct tape can be used to fix things, bind things together and to hang a broken arm so it is out of the way.
Many people, and officials say that you should always include pepper spray for hikes in the mountains. This would be to ward off bears, but after all the years of hiking in the mountains I have done, I have never run into a bear. In fact I have only seen bears in nature twice and one of those was in Yellowstone National Park, the other ran in front of my truck on Reservation Ridge. If it makes you feel better though, carry a deterrent.
And, finally, something that people never think of, is a secure place to keep your vehicle keys. It can be a terrible experience coming down from a long hike after a day in the desert or mountains and then finding you have no way to get home because you lost your keys. Preferably keep them on your body and not in a back pack that could be pushed off a cliff or into a stream where it could be carried off.
Also be sure to tell someone where you are going and try to be specific about it. Use recognized names of places that are on maps you leave behind to point your proposed location out to someone. Don't use your pet names for places when describing where you are going, use the official ones. That way if you don't come back they will come looking for you in the right place. And give someone a time when you expect to return.
Then check the weather. If you think it will rain and you still want to go, dress appropriately. Lightweight rain gear can be bought and carried in it's own little bag.
Finally when it comes to all of the things you take, take your good sense with you as well. Nature may be beautiful, but that beauty can turn into pain and danger quickly.
Let's look at two different kinds of experiences. One close to home, the other a bit farther away, although no one needs to go too far to get either the mountain or desert experience.
First there is the Price Recreation area. The site actually sits 18 miles northwest of Price and has 18 developed campsites with handicapped access. It also has three large group day use sites set aside for parties and reunions.
The campground features improvements like fire pits, picnic tables, and some fairly nice rest room facilities.
Interestingly, despite its closeness to the center of Carbon County, it is seldom busy. A quick glance at the log book at the front of the campground tells the story. Many of the campers are one nighters, many from out of state, just passing through.
One of the unique features of the site is the nature trail that heads off into the mountains at the top of the campground.
At the beginning the trail winds through oak and cedar, with some pine thrown in. All along the way hikers can see good examples of both local mountain flora and fauna, and the trail gives up some side jaunts that allow those who venture down them to also see some great vistas.
There are numbered posts along the trail. The trail is very easy up to about post six and then it starts to get just a little harder. Past post 10 it begins to really climb more as hikers pass through a well worn path spaced between lots of oak brush. It then becomes a moderate type of hiking trail. Once a hiker reaches post 12, there is a big rock just behind some trees that is a good place to sit and have a cool drink of water from a pack bottle or canteen.
Once the hike is resumed, between 12 and 14 the trail really starts to climb. The difficulty becomes more as the vistas of the campground below and three mile road from Highway 6 to the campground come into view. At some points between 14 and 16 hikers must climb over rocks and tread on soft trail material that can be difficult for some. This part of the trail also takes some considerable exertion.
Post 16 is the last on the trail and where it was intended to go from there is anyones guess. But it does go on, higher and higher to approximately a 9,000 foot altitude where a person can stand on a ridge dotted with pine trees and look down on the highway, and almost straight across to Reservation Ridge to the north. Looking toward the east and south a hiker can see the buildings in Castle Valley, Cedar Mountain and the book cliffs north of Green River.
As with most trails, this trail has no real end. It goes farther toward the north and west spanning across open faced hills and almost surpassing the tree line.
Depending on how far one wants to hike the entire thing can be done at a moderate speed in two to three hours. But count on a full day if you intend to spend some time enjoying the sites and vistas.
This is also one of those trails that is almost more spectacular going down as it was going up. Multiple viewpoints present themselves as hikers wind their way back to the starting point.
In many ways it is mountain hiking at its best because it offers so much to so many different kinds of hikers from the casual tennis shoe jaunter to the avid mountain goat. It just depends on how far you want to go.
The desert experience can be had in a lot of places in Utah. And short hikes abound. Let's talk about one in a different part of the state, in fact in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. This particular jaunt is a short hike, and very different from the Price Recreation Area experience. It is called the Toad Stool Trail.
The entrance to the trail lies a short distance from the east entrance in the southern part of the monument on U.S. Highway 89. The trail head is about 40 east of Kanab and can easily be missed because there is only one small kiosk and an interpretive sign.
The trail is a simple one, but without taking care during the hot summer months it could be deadly, because the temperatures soar. It is less than a two mile round trip, but these are the kinds of trails are the ones that get those that are unprepared into trouble.
The trail goes straight in at first crossing by a mesa to the west and then starts up a wash where in places stone acts as stairs. While I was there in late February, I encountered about three groups of people and the day was nice. However in the summer, not taking water could create a big problem for the novice.
Eventually the trail ends up splitting into a million directions at the end, but it is well marked until that point. What to look for is a bit confusing at first because "toadstools" in one form of development or another are about everywhere. But that also means not a bad photograph can be taken, unless it is of your feet.
Toadstools are formed when hard rock falls off a cliff and then softer rock underneath erodes leaving the hard stone on top of a pedestal. These kinds of formations are all over the Grand Staircase, but this trail is one of the easiest ways to see them up close.
However those "million trails" can get a little confusing and people who are not familiar with the landscape or keeping direction might get lost. The best thing about it for the first time hiker is that since it is so close to the highway, people are usually in that area all times of the year.
The trip back is slightly downhill. There are some ankle buster rock drop offs if one is not careful however.
When desert hiking remember that it is very different from the mountains. There is little water and often little to burn if you get into trouble. While both kinds of areas usually have limited cell phone service, with mountains high spots can often get ambient signals. Low land deserts especially slot canyons and areas below mesas often get no reception at all.
While people warn those who hike in the mountains about bears, mountain lions and moose with young, in the desert the warnings usually relate to rattle snakes. However, in truth, the most dangerous thing in both places is gravity, and human mistakes, which causes more injuries and deaths than any of those other things.
Utah has great opportunities for everyone from the hard core back packer to the person who wants to just venture off the asphalt road a little. It's something that should be taken advantage of.