Day 4 – Umbrellas with Cacti

Over prepare, then go with the flow.
~Regina Brett, from 45 Lesson Life Taught Me

Colorado River Crystal Rapids to Colorado River 94 Mile Creek

I don’t do well in heat. I wish I did, but it is always a mental challenge. This day brought back many challenging memories of crossing the Great Divide Basin last summer on the Continental Divide Trail. The Grand Canyon is beautiful, but unforgiving and requires a traveler to be on alert at all times.

Our route today to the next water source went back up to the Tonto Level, traveled a few miles east, then down 94 Mile Creek to the Colorado River.

After leaving the river this morning, we scouted out a route back up to the Tonto level. We all were hauling 6 liters of water, so going straight up on slippery rock, dirt, and scree was super tricky. I got cranky a few times, feeling my pack pull me backward from the weight of the water.  I quickly figured out a better way to distribute my water bottles. One…hand one to Dan and second…load the water closer to my back. Huge difference.

It took longer to get up to the Tonto Level than anticipated and the sun was already strong. Luckily, we used our umbrellas as portable shade. Dan rigged up a hands free system that working beautifully on our packs. This way we could continue to use our poles to navigate through the cacti, cat claw, yucca, and various other sharp plants. To beat the heat we stopped periodically under cool rock overhangs. Arrow even discovered by holding your body close to the shaded rocks that it cooled the core temperature down quickly. Great tip.

Dan measured the temperature at 100 degrees and measured the temperature under the umbrella at 5 to 7 degrees cooler. We love our umbrellas.

After a long day of walking on the Tonto, we descended down to 94 Mile Creek, a dry creek bed. Spirits were high because we had read on an online trip report that it would be an easy walk down to the river. Well that was not to be.

Shortly after entering the canyon, we encountered impassable dry falls (rock drop offs where waterfalls once flowed). We spent the next few hours picking and climbing our way around the obstacles. Because it was late in the day and all this very unexpected, it was tough stuff to handle at the end of a long, hot day.

We are camped on the warm beach at the Colorado River. We were able to get cleaned up and eat dinner in the dark. The campsite I picked is exposed and close to the beach. Gusts of wind are beginning to blow loads of sand into our tent. Not good. Note to self: do not camp on an open sandy beach.

Tomorrow WILL be better!



Moon at Sunrise – Colorado River


Climbing up through the Layers


Dan Scouting a Route Up


Maneuvering Up


Up to the Tonto Level


Arrow, Rockin’, and Dan at the Tonto Level


Prickly Pear in Bloom


Walking with Umbrellas


Beating the Heat Under Cool Rocks


Dodging Cacti


Colorful Lizard


Beautiful Views


Entering 94 Mile Creek Bed (before the Dry Falls)


Day 3 – Water is KING!

The route is penciled in, it is just an estimate.
~ Says Rockin’ to Dan

April 16 – Phantom/Crystal Creek Loop
Shiva Saddle to Colorado River Crystal Rapids

With a very early start to beat the heat and maneuver off and through the layers once again of Shiva Saddle, we headed down 5 miles to our next water source, Dragon Spring. Five miles cross-country can be very slow (1 mile an hour) and hard work, so we did not want to take any chances. The night actually went well, cool with no wind and our little group remained in good spirits.

At first sight of Dragon Spring, we ALL promptly downed our last sips of water. A welcome sight indeed!

At the spring we all downed multiple liters of water, ate, regrouped, and planned for the rest of the day. It is a beautiful little area with plenty of water springing from the ground.

The afternoon was glorious. We walked in water down Dragon Canyon and then Crystal Creek leading to the Colorado River. Along the way we were greeted with thousands of frogs, many beaver dams, and small pools.

We are now camped at the Colorado River by Crystal Rapids. This will be our last source of water until the end of the day tomorrow. Right now I am a bit nervous about that. We are going up to the Tonto Level where it is exposed and hot, traveling to 94 mile Creek (that is dry) to the Colorado River again.

The night is hot, I am cleaned up, the rapids roar loudly, moon is shining bright and I can relax for a moment.


Descent Down from Shiva Pass

Dragon Spring

Dragon Spring

Dragon Canyon

Dragon Canyon

Hundreds of Frogs in the Creek Beds

Hundreds of Frogs in the Creek Beds

Beaver Dam in Crystal Creek

Beaver Dam in Crystal Creek

Walking in the Cool Water of Crystal Creek

Walking in the Cool Water of Crystal Creek

Checking out Location on iPhone and Map

Checking out Location on iPhone and Map

Crystal Rapids on the Colorado River

Crystal Rapids on the Colorado River

Day 2 – AGGRESSIVE Itinerary!

“It is the unknown around the corner that turns my wheels.”
- Heinz

April 15 – Phantom/Crystal Creek Loop
Below Cheops/Isis Saddle to Shiva Saddle

Arrow and I have hiked a lot of difficult and strenuous cross-country hikes and climbs over the last 12 years including: Enchanted Gorge, Muro Blanco, Great Western Divide, Sierra High Route, peaks over 14,000 in the High Sierras and many other difficult treks in Utah. Today was by far the most dangerous and strenuous days of all. Between getting very low on water, getting stuck between the geologic  layers, class 3 and 4 chimneys with exposure, heat, route finding confusion, and falling short of our next water source… it was scary. To Arrow’s credit, the route descriptions online and in the guidebook were vague and left a lot of vital information out. I think our team made some good choices, but I have to admit this was the first real time I have been in a very dangerous situation in the back-country.


On a positive note, the Grand Canyon is beautiful, inspiring, vast, and ever changing.

Last night we woke up just in time to view the Lunar Eclipse. Just as the moon’s eclipse evolved, stars appeared bright over the night sky and the moon shown orange. It was incredible.

Our route up Trinity Canyon to the Isis/Shiva Saddle was slow and hot. Just below the saddle we used rope to haul our Gossamer Gear packs up a tight chute. It was the first of many that day.

After getting to the top of the saddle we assessed our water situation realizing that we would not make it to our next water source, Dragon Spring.

To access the next saddle, Shiva Saddle we then saw that we had to maneuver up several shear layers. We were overwhelmed, but rallied up and between the 3 of us scouted out routes up. Arrow is very tall and was able to reach and perform some pretty incredible moves. Several times we discussed turning around, but it was so far back to water and down climbing the chutes this late in the day was too crazy.

After reaching the correct layer, donning headlamps we made it to the Shiva Saddle after dark. During this stressful afternoon and evening no one really took photos and the thoughts that kept running over and over again in my head is what I taught the kids in tHInK outsidE about:
S – stay put
T – think
O – observe
P – plan

It really works and kept me calm and focused.

I am so grateful to be alive and thankful for this group. Everyone is exhausted, sore, and dehydrated (we have 1/2 liter of water each rationed for the next 5 miles in the morning), but believe it or not we still have a sense of humor.



Trip Permit


Day 5 – Dancing with Clouds

Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
~Regina Brett, from 45 Lesson Life Taught Me

April 17 – Phantom/Crystal Creek Loop
Colorado River 94 Mile Creek to above Phantom Creek

Today was much cooler with cloud cover, easier terrain, little rock exposure, no real fear factor, and had a fun class 3 climb from the Colorado River at the beginning of the day. Life is really good.

Arrow stayed up last night and came up with a new and safer plan to get us to our next water source without difficult obstacles. She is an amazing map reader and devotes a lot time and expertise in studying maps closely.

Our route took us back up to the Tonto Level traveling east, then dropped down into Trinity Canyon, and up again to meet our entry route  a mile or so before Cheops/Isis Saddle. It worked beautifully. Because of the gift of cloud cover, our 6 liters of water was plenty with enough left over to dry camp (camp without water).

We are pitched on a flat, perfect overlook of Phantom Creek with light rain beginning to fall. Tomorrow we will be heading down to Phantom Ranch for snacks and water, then out the Bright Angel Trail.


Colorado River at 94 Mile Creek


Fun Class 3 Climb Up From the River


Nice Hand Holds


Navigating Cactus on the Tonto Level


Descending into Trinity Canyon


Fine Shed


Cheops/Isis Saddle at Sunset

Day 1 – Grand Canyon Extremes

Nothing is safe here.
~ Dan

April 14 – Phantom/Crystal Creek Loop
Grand Canyon National Park South Kaibab Trail Head to Below Cheops/Isis Saddle

No matter how many times I have visited the Grand Canyon, the first glance over the edge is a scary, humbling moment that takes my breath away. Everyone should experience it at least once in a lifetime.

We got an early start at the South Kaibab trail head and descended quickly through the geological layers. After a quick break at the first restroom stop (there are 3 on the way down), a fun group of ladies were coming up the trail from a backpack trip. They started asking me about my small pack and our trip itinerary. I gladly started rattling off some of my favorite gear choices and all the advantages of going lighter. One of the ladies asked if I had a blog and made the connection with Lady on a Rock! Turns out Stephanie is from Colorado and follows the blog. She is dreaming of solo hiking the JMT and is working on getting her pack weight down. It was so inspiring talking gear with engaged female hikers.

After getting water and some snacks at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, a ranger stopped Dan to let us know that at 11:00 tonight is a Lunar Eclipse. We agreed to set an am arm and enjoy the show.

Our route then ascended steeply to Utah Flats leaving the established trail behind.

Soon after, the heat and fields of cacti to navigate through began.

To get to our next and last water source for many miles, we descended 1000 feet down on a very slippery slope to Phantom Creek. It was scary. Every step in the Grand Canyon has dire consequences. Either exposure that will send a hiker to sure death or one of the many spiky plants ready to impale a body.

After loading up on 5 liters of water, eating dinner, and cooling off in the small pools of the creek we decided to get a head start on the next day by camping on the Cheops/Isis Saddle. The saddle proved to be gorgeous and dramatic, but was narrow with a 1000 feet of exposure on both sides. Dan hiked ahead to find a camp without cacti and sharp rocks.

We are settled in for the night with a faint sparkle in the distant darkness from the South Rim in anticipation of the Lunar Eclipse. Can’t think of a better place to be.












Grand Canyon Awaits

Grand Canyon Phantom/ Crystal Creek Cross-Country Loop

Grand Canyon Phantom/ Crystal Creek Cross-Country Loop

Destination…Grand Canyon National Park.

Dan and I are on our way to meet Arrow, my good friend for a 6 day backpack. Arrow spent a good amount of time planning this adventure in the Grand Canyon. The trek is mostly off trail, winding through canyons, passing by Indian ruins, and dipping down to the Colorado River 4 times. Because of the difficulty and lack of water sources of the trip, she communicated with the Backcountry Rangers quite a few times for them to issue the permit.

The Google Earth screenshot above is our general route plan that I created using Viewranger’s online mapping software. Pretty cool, huh?

This is the perfect opportunity to not only train for our upcoming Scotland trip, but to also test some new gear choices. I am again back on my phone posting journal blog entries realtime from the trail (or in this case, from my car). It is not an easy task writing on a tiny little keyboard at the end of a long day. I am trusting that once I get back writing on this limiting little screen as I am doing right now, it will be great! I think it is so important to share during an important trip, rather than coming home and reflecting back.

We are looking forward to using and testing: Gossamer Gear Gorilla and Mariposa backpacks, ZPacks Duoplex cuben tent, Viewranger GPS app, Golite Crome Dome umbrella, Sawyer Squeeze Mini, Cascadia 9 trailrunners, EZ Share SD card, iPhone 5s with Lifeproof case, map navigation skills, variety of new hiking clothes, Smartwool toesocks, and Sea to Summit long spork.

With excitement I am writing this, in anticipation of traveling on foot with all I need on my back. We hit the trail tomorrow morning.

Thank you readers for following along on my treks and constantly encouraging and amazing me. I am looking forward to you all sharing your stories and thoughts in blog comments during the upcoming months!


The Hiking Life: Cam “Swami” Honan Visits tHInK outsidE

Swami and Rockin'

Swami and Rockin’ at tHInK outsidE Presentation

Cam “Swami” Honan, a long-distance hiker who has hiked more than 50,000 miles in some 55 countries gave a very informative and entertaining presentation to my 5th-6th grade tHInK outsidE class. This humble, positive, and giving man took time to visit our class just after finishing hiking from the lowest point in Death Valley to the highest point, Mount Whitney with friends Malto, Dirtmonger, and Bobcat. Swami has devoted hours to creating his website The Hiking Life, which is packed with hiking information and photos. A couple of years ago, I met Swami while hiking on the PCT and have written several times on this blog about him: June 16-Blessings and BIG Party, Swami Hikes over 14,000 Miles, and ADZPCTKO 2013.

Malto and Swami after Lowest to Highest Adventure

Malto and Swami after Lowest to Highest Adventure

Continue reading

Freebie: April Wallpaper

Happy April Showers! Free April 2014 Calendar Desktop/Smartphone Wallpaper

I am so grateful for our recent rains in California. Over the last couple weeks it has rained off and on with snow, hail, wind, and cold sprinkled in. Tremendous. Last night I enjoyed pings of rain on my rooftop. Big smile.

I do realize that this is April 5 and I am just now sending the monthly wallpaper. This date just slipped by as I was with students last week at Camp KEEP, an environmental education camp. Good excuse don’t you think?

Bear Valley Springs Double Rainbow – This month’s photo was taken shortly after a down pour in my beloved valley.

  • iPhone 4/4sTip: If you are using iOS7 and are having trouble resizing your wallpaper on your phone (I was), turn on Reduce Motion. Go to  Settings>General>Accessibility. It is magic.
  • iPhone 5/5c/5sTip: Same setting change for the iPhone 5
  • Desktop - Large
  • Desktop – Small

Desktop photo without the added calendar:

Desktop Wallpaper Tips:
These monthly wallpapers are available in different sizes for your device of choice. Just click on a size of image you need to make it larger and download from there by right clicking, select Save as or Set as Desktop. Need help changing your wallpaper? Here are instructions for iOSAndroidOS XWindows 7 and Windows 8.
Additional tip: Choose an image larger than your screen size, and set the position to “center” or “fill screen” (not “stretch”).

A Walk in the Rain

It all begins.

We just hosted our first Pacific Crest Trail hiker of this season. Katie is hiking the PCT section between Hiker Town at Hwy. 138 to Kennedy Meadows during her Spring break. It was great fun talking gear, water reports, trail, and the cello. She is a professional cellist and was kind enough to snag my cello out of hiding and play for us. Due to water shortage, Katie left Hiker Town hauling 12 liters of water, yes 12 liters and was ready to do the same again as I bid her good-bye.

Little did I know that just a few hours later our area would be hit with wind, rain, fog, and cold. The PCT can quickly become unpredictable, unforgiving, and dangerous. I can’t wait to hear her stories after finishing this section. Katie blogs at A Skirt in the Dirt.

PCT hikers out there…Katie is updating the latest water information on the Pacific Crest Trail Water Report. This section of the PCT is historically one of the driest, but this year it is especially dangerous. The drought year has depleted the springs and Warner Springs Monty has reported that the important water caches at Kelso Valley Road and Bird Spring Pass will not be stocked this year.

Katie - PCT Section Hiker

Katie – PCT Section Hiker

Heading out from Hwy. 58 - Tehachapi

Heading out from Hwy. 58 – Tehachapi

Today I took advantage of our very rare rain storm and headed out with my Chrome Dome umbrella. It kept me and my pack dry and I was able to take pics without getting my camera wet. Nice. Here is my view while taking a walk in the rain.

A Walk in the Rain

A Walk in the Rain

Hey Class of 2014 PCTers!

Pacific Crest Trail Southern Terminus - 2012

Pacific Crest Trail Southern Terminus – 2012

Many of you have followed me since I first stepped on the Pacific Crest Trail,  June 12, 2010, when I started hiking one section of the PCT at a time. I am thankful I have shared the triumphs and defeats on this journey by posting on-trail journals every day. I cherish this record and you the reader’s words of encouragement, advice, and questions.

I have finished 1830.4 miles spanning from the Mexican border to Crater Lake, Oregon and have 833.1 miles to go! This summer I am hoping to complete this monster of a dream and finish the remaining miles through Oregon and Washington. The prospect of actually making this happen is pretty exciting. My heart races just thinking about it.

My journey into the world of thru-hiking with the big goal of completing the entire 2,650 miles of The Pacific Trail is attributed to many small and powerful experiences. Namely, meeting the “Lady on a Rock” just below Muir Pass on the John Muir Trail, the nudge of my family with the attitude of “OF COURSE you will do this” and our family’s first experience with PCT thru-hikers, Skyward and Yellowstone. After housing, transporting, and throughly enjoying being a small part of their journey, my husband Dan and I became hooked Trail Angels. We have since reaped the joy of hosting many other inspirational hikers in our home.

We live just outside Tehachapi, CA where the PCT passes 11 miles east of town. If you are a 2014 PCT hiker that would like some “Trail Magic” while passing through Tehachapi, just email us at rockin’

If you live near a trail town and have ever been interested in finding out what all this Trail Angeling is about, I would like to encourage you. The act of giving, comes back around a thousand fold. Need more motivation?

My fellow Gossamer Gear Ambassador and Trail Angel, Beekeeper wrote about her trail angel experiences in “Getting My Trail Angel Wings in Drakesbad“. Her post was published on Gossamer Gear. You can follow all of her adventures on her blog at Jan’s Jaunts and Jabberings. 


In my ongoing pursuit to Simplify my professional and personal life, I have organized all of my PCT resources into 3 handy web pages for future PCT section, day, thru-hikers, and dreamers.

Rockin’s Pacific Crest Trail Resource Pages:

  • Trail journals – List of blog posts featuring: before hike preparations, hosting hikers in Tehachapi, on-trail journals, after hike reflections, and a great Google Map with all my campsite locations.
  • PCT Gear/ Resources - PCT gear lists, links and resources I use before and during the hike, and hiking food links.
  • PCT Media - Links to my PCT videos and Flicker photo collections.

If you are new to my blog, I invite you to follow all my outdoor adventures on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Flickr, and You Tube. Also, do not miss a single post by signing up to receive new updates by email. Just add your email address under “Get Post Updates” in the bottom left menu.

Bring on the new class of 2014 PCTers!

TGO Challenge 2014 Gear List

Photo from Colorado Trail Head Sign
“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling”
~Margaret Lee Runbeck

I like making and sharing gear lists. Reading fellow hiker’s lists posted on the Internet has been a huge asset in my journey to go lighter, faster, and safer. The document serves as a weight monitor, shopping list, and organizer and can is a perfect check list for that last-minute backpacking trip. For me, it is that secret motivator to get my dreams into reality and start the hard work of detailed planning and training.

The Great Outdoors Challenge is just 8 1/2 weeks away.

My TGO gear planning is close to being finalized. For the crossing, a few items will serve to protect from Scotland’s cold, stormy, and wet elements. I will be packing full Gore-Tex rain-wear, gloves, neoprene socks, fleece, and hiking umbrella. Gone is my beloved Solar Charger (not enough sun). Highlights of new items I will be using in 2014: ZPacks Hexamid Duplex (20.9 ounces), ez Share wi fi card, and LIfeProof Nuud iPhone case.

Below are 2 ways to view my gear list. If you prefer a visual with shopping references, I have added my gear to Pinterest or view the gear on a Google spreadsheet with links, weights, and calculations.

2014 TGO Gear List

Click to view complete 2014 TGO Gear Spreadsheet

View my TGO Gear List on Pinterest

View all my gear lists and favorites:

Freebie: March Wallpaper

Windows of Mount Whitney March Wallpaper 2014

Happy March! Free March 2014 Calendar Desktop/Smartphone Wallpaper

Windows of Mount Whitney – This month’s photo was taken early morning looking at the east face of Mount Whitney. We summited that day via The Mountaineers Route.

Check it out the climb at:  Mount Whitney – Mountaineer’s Route

  • iPhone 4/4sTip: If you are using iOS7 and are having trouble resizing your wallpaper on your phone (I was), turn on Reduce Motion. Go to  Settings>General>Accessibility. It is magic.
  • iPhone 5/5c/5sTip: Same setting change for the iPhone 5
  • Desktop

Desktop photo without the added calendar:

Desktop Wallpaper Tips:
These monthly wallpapers are available in different sizes for your device of choice. Just click on a size of image you need to make it larger and download from there by right clicking, select Save as or Set as Desktop. Need help changing your wallpaper? Here are instructions for iOSAndroidOS XWindows 7 and Windows 8.
A tip: Choose an image larger than your screen size, and set the position to “center” or “fill screen” (not “stretch”).

It’s Official! TGO Route Vetted

Our TGO 2014 Route Summary

Our TGO 2014 Route Summary

Yaaaaaay…happy news! The route we created and submitted crossing Scotland from the west coast to the east coast for The Great Outdoors Challenge was vetted and APPROVED. This is largely due to the amazing help from the Challenge Forum of experienced TGO Challengers: Humphrey, Colin, Section Hiker, Vicky, and Gayleybird. Colin Tock, our vetter graciously sent us meticulous notes with camping, town, and route suggestions. Thank you everyone for your encouragement and very helpful suggestions.

Rockin’ and Dan’s TGO Route Stats:

  • 13 days
  • 218 miles or 351 kilometers
  • elevation gain – 43,566 feet or 13,279 meters
  • Start point – Shiel Bridge – May 10
  • Finish point – Stonehaven – May 22
  • Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) – 12
  • COUNTLESS water crossings

The Challenge requires a detailed plan with daily kilometers traveled, meters ascent, overnight camps, GPS coordinates, and Foul Weather Alternate routes. The Foul Weather Alternates are routes to take for safety in case of storms (Scotland is known for them) and dangerous water crossings. This winter Scotland is currently experiencing record snow. From the notes from our vetter, Colin Tock:

“At the time of this writing Scotland is experiencing some of the heaviest snowfalls in living memory with greater accumulations at the main ski centres than most of the European resorts, Whistler and even Sochi. By May snow is usually – but not always – restricted to the higher tops, although snow melt can obviously add to river difficulties.”

TGO References

TGO References

This was by far the biggest project I have taken on. At first, I was more than frustrated, but after finding a few tools it was fun. After experimenting with mapping software, websites and apps, I ended up using Routebuddy mapping software to create our route and Viewranger iPhone GPS app. The process required hours of analyzing maps, reading books, and plotting routes on software.

Gotta say I printed a ton of maps and taped them together. At one time the floor of my office was completely covered in a taped together maps offering possible routes. This visual made a great reference and helped to make important decisions.

Route Planning Using LOTS of Printed Maps

Route Planning Using LOTS of Printed Maps

It was the moment that I first looked at a topographical map of the area we would be crossing in Scotland that I knew this was a different kind of undertaking.

The map language was Gaelic, which may well have been in Swedish.

Place Name charts were very helpful, but don’t even ask me to pronounce even one name. That learning curve is for another day.

Gaelic Place Names

Gaelic Place Names

Scotland Map with Gaelic Place Names

Scotland Map with Gaelic Place Names

Scotland Map with Gaelic Place Names

Scotland Map with Gaelic Place Names

Check…Route has been vetted…
Check..Transportation arrangements are reserved
Check…New rain gear bought (gear list upcoming)
Check…Started training
To do…Still tons

Always be able to look back and say “At least I didn’t lead no humdrum life. “
~Forest Gump

Bring on the Class of 2014 tHInK outsidE

Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
~Regina Brett, from 45 Lesson Life Taught Me

tHInK outsidE Website

tHInK outsidE Website

So excited to share that tomorrow starts a new tHInK outsidE class. This year I will be teaching 10, 70 minute classes to 5th and 6th graders all about the PCT, hiking, getting outside, gear, survival, food, and map reading.  Students are divided up into 2 classes of 22. This makes it very manageable to have lots of computer and group activity time. This year I am planning for the class to Skype with an upcoming triple crowner (Wired), welcome our local Search and Rescue back as guest speakers, and visit with a very famous long distance hiker (fingers crossed on this one). It is going to be GREAT!