Friday, February 25, 2005

Camping and Hiking

This article in today's NY Times reminded me of my 9 day trek through the Grand Canyon in Feb 2002. Wow, it's been 3 years. It was about 19 degrees at the top of the canyon the night before we started our descent down and it snowed while we were in our tents. Four days later, when we hit the bottom of the canyon and the Colorado River, it was about 75 degrees and perfect. One of my best memories, the kind that you keep stored away and pull out whenever you need a smile, involves practicing yoga along the Colorado River at 7 in the morning just as the sun began to crest over the canyon's edge and perfectly reflect the canyon walls along the still water's surface. The purple, green, burnt sienna, and blues were vivid and quiet and all I remember is feeling completely immersed and transported.

It's a shame that so few visitors to the Grand Canyon (or any other national park for that matter) rarely venture beyond the well hiked and populus trails. Just a day or so out, once you hit backcountry territory, you can find the real goodness of the wilderness.

Mmmm, all this talk about backcountry hiking is making me long for my trip to Patagonia. I've finally settled on a general time frame. Since Oct is the beginning of the hiking season it's still a bit nippy. I think I'll be heading south around the Christmas/New Years time frame. That way I take full advantage of the holidays and I don't have to eat up all of my vacation days. I think I'm going to do the Torres del Paine trekking circuit, which usually takes anywhere from 7 - 10 days. It covers about 70 miles and I think there is an ascent of about 5000 about the same as the Grand Canyon. My biggest debate now is if I do this with a couple of mates and we set our own agenda or if I do one of those pre-fab treks where you are led by a guide. There are pros and cons to both options.

One of the things I love about camping is all the gear. I could spend hours wandering around REI. Did you know they made ice cream makers for campers? That's 1 lb 10 ozs that I don't need to schlep around for 10 days. Anyway, I think I'm gonna finally splurge and get myself one of those nifty self-inflating sleeping pads.

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