Canyonlands National ParkEric Frater

The trip I led went to Canyonlands National Park: Needles District. We spent 6 nights and 138 hours in the backcountry, camping in a different location every night except our first two nights in the Salt Creek Canyon backcountry zone. Our first night in Utah was spent at Dead Horse Point State Park where we explored some enormous cliffs that surrounded the entire park.

The first day in Canyonlands we had a short hike to the Lost Canyon 1 (LC1) designated site and took a break from the backpacking to do some climbing on the first canyon walls we encountered. The second day was one of our longest hikes with the packs and we settled down at a previously disturbed site along the trail in Salt Creek Canyon. Our long hike got us to a site that was relatively close to the Angel Arch trailhead so that we could make the day-hike to the arch and back. The arch was absolutely amazing to see, and we found a way to climb up to the base of the arch and appreciate its true scale (it must be at least 80-100 feet tall and slightly less across).


After spending a second night at our site along the Salt Creek Canyon trail we made our way into a really cool side canyon of Salt Creek Canyon by walking up a wash I explored last year when I went to Canyonlands. Our afternoon was spent doing some pretty hardcore rock climbing/scrambling as I showed the group some of my favorite spots in the canyon.  On our fifth day we made our way back out of Salt Creek Canyon, hiked the Peekaboo trail to get back to Lost Canyon, then we made our way to the Squaw Canyon 1 (SQ1) designated backpacker site. This hike was about 6-7 miles total. Once we got to Squaw Canyon we spent the remainder of the day exploring the canyon without the packs. On the sixth day we had some snowfall during our hike from Squaw Canyon to Big Spring Canyon 1 (BS1). The snow was very wet because the air was still in the upper 40's or low 50's and posed a problem when we had to climb high up a canyon wall to cross between canyons. After we passed this difficult obstacle the rest of the hike was a nice gradual downhill, and we arrived at site BS1 very early. This site is situated right by a very nice sheltered canyon wall that was both fun to climb and kept our gear dry. The weather cleared up so that we could have another long afternoon of climbing the canyons. Big Spring Canyon was a very fun place to explore because you could easily get to almost anywhere you wanted to go. The last day was a .5 mile hike to the Suburban which went by way too fast. This marked the end of the best trip I have ever been a part of.

A couple useful notes I would like to add: The MSR water purification pumps (we brought 2) both failed on us and the only reason we could still drink water was by using iodine and Chlorine Dioxide tablets to purify it. Furthermore, it was the tablets provided by Kristina and me that supplemented those provided by ORC to give us exactly the amount of water needed for 6 nights. The lesson here is: test and know your water purification devices VERY well, and bring a lot of water purification tablets even if the pumps do work well. You just might rely on them in the end. Also, those freeze-dried backpacker meals that you make in the bag are perfect for this long-term backpacking and great for avoiding dirty dishes. It's definitely a good idea to bring at least some of this kind of meal. Everything else went nicely for us, so I guess you can just talk to me for other planning details.



Paddling in the Southeast—Tom Beneke 

Destinations: Nantahala River (by raft and whitewater kayak), Tybee and Little Tybee Islands (by sea kayak, and Cumberland Island (by sea kayak)

The eight of us loaded up eight sea kayaks, two whitewater boats, tons of gear, food, and booze and headed out for 8 days of paddling in NC and GA. 

We spent our first day and night in the Nantahala Gorge with another group of ORCers who were heading to South Carolina.  We rented rafts and a few inflatable kayaks for both trips from Adventurous Fast Rivers Rafting in Bryson City, NC. Steve and I got a chance to break out our playboats for the first time this spring.  The Nantahala River cuts through the Nantahala Gorge, tucked inside the Smoke Mountain National Forest.  It’s absolutely stunning country down there.  Everyone had a great time on the river after a long drive through the night from Wisconsin.  We camped out on the river right near the rafting company and hung out with some old friends of mine from when I used to work down there.  Good, good times.

The next morning we packed up and drove down to St. Mary’s, GA to pick up our backcountry camping permits for Cumberland Island. We needed to get them three days ahead of time to guarantee we could get the Brickhill Bluff camping spot (the best one to go to sea kayaking).  It was about a 9 or 10 hour drive, and the reservation office wasn’t open until the following morning, so we tried to camp at nearby Crooked River State Park.  I had camped there a few times before and it’s a great spot, but somehow I didn’t remember that the park closes at 10PM.  When we arrived at 11:30PM we decided our best option was to camp in the ditch outside the park in just our sleeping bags.  Needless to say, the next morning I woke up to a park ranger with a thick southern accent asking me if we had really camped in the ditch.  We really did.  Fortunately, he didn’t really care all that much and let us go without any trouble.  We ate some dry oats and headed into the St. Mary’s to pick up the permits. 

 

When we got the permit’s for Cumberland we drove up to Tybee Island (about 2.5hrs North).  We paddled out to Little Tybee at high tide, which I think was around 1:30 or 2PM.  Little Tybee is a uninhabited island surrounded by miles of savannah, marshland, tidal creeks, etc.  It’s a pretty incredible place considering how much the rest of the area has been developed.  There are no camping permits required, or any regulation measures really, on Little Tybee Island which has its pluses and minuses.  It’s nice to go there whenever you want, but a lot of visitors leave behind trash and smoldering fire pits.  Albeit, our paddle was incredible.  The only problem was the wind.  A few people on our trip had never been ‘real camping’, let alone in a kayak.  So the 11 mile paddle into the wind was a little rough.  I think the dolphins, cormorants, egrits, pelicans, and lack of civilization helped.  We made it to our campsite at about 7:45PM that night.  It’s basically just a huge sandspit jutting out into the Atlantic ocean right where it meets Bull River.  I stayed towards the back of trip to make sure a couple people made it in.  We were paddling right up to slack tide, transitioning from high to low, so the wind and shallow water on the shoreline made it virtually unnavigable.  While I was waiting for them I noticed a pod of dolphins out in Wassaw Sound.  I wasn’t concerned with getting to land quite yet, so I paddled out to see if I could get closer.  Of course, once I got within about 20 feet they disappeared back into the murky water.  Content with the sunset, I sat with by boat pointing towards the West and waited for nighttime.  About five minutes later an adult dolphin shot out of the water about 5 or 6 feet from my boat with the sunset as the backdrop.  Does it get any better than that??

Wow.  This is getting long.  

The next day we took it pretty easy.  It was a beautiful day aside from a really strong wind.  Everyone spent most of their time doing yoga on the beach, drinking out of the Franzia bag, or sleeping in the sand.  Steve and I decided to take a paddle up Little Tybee Creek.  I was looking at the map and tide charts and realized that we could make it about 2.5 miles into the island for a few hours.  We didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife, but the paddle itself was really great.  It’s nice to have a variety of paddling settings.  Since it was approaching high tide we just got pushed right up the creek.  We made it to a nice little hammock that had plenty of dead trees.  We spent an hour or two just walking around the little hammock and collecting firewood, breaking it up, and putting it in our boats.  It was a pretty primitive few hours.  I think the only time we spoke was when one of us had a question about the burning properties of a specific piece of wood.  Adam had run all the way down the beach and around the marshland, and met us on the hammock.  We harvested a lot of firewood.  That night we had a successful fire.  I think it lasted about 4 or 5 hours.  A group of college students from a GA university had driven out on a boat to camp for a few nights, so they joined us.  I felt like we were bartering explorers in the age of exploration.  As soon as I knew they had a cooler, and COLD beer inside the cooler, I was trying to figure out how I could get my hands on one.  And yes, I got one..or two…or was it 10?


 

Anyway, we paddled back the next day on the coast side of the island.  The water was like glass.  The surface was only broken by the breath of a dolphin or the dive of a pelican.  The paddle was pretty short.  I think it ended up being around 7 or 8 miles.  When we got back we loaded up the vans and took them to the Ultimate Frisbee team’s house on Tybee Island.  Lawrence’s UItimate Frisbee team plays a tourney in Savannah every spring break and they rent houses on Tybee Island.  We used there yard and driveways to clean our gear and vans before driving down to St. Mary’s.  We were all starving so we decided that the best solution would be sea food.  We went to this place outside of town that felt like one of those gross, tacky themed restaurants in the Wisconsin Dells.  But we had a good time.  After dinner we drove down to St. Mary’s.  Our plan was to camp out at Crooked River State Park, and launch our sea kayaks from the park boat ramp, paddle up Crooked River to Brickhill River, and take Brickhill River to our campsite on Cumberland (on the west side of the island).  Now I knew that the park closed at 10PM.  I had one of my overconfident moments in map reading before dinner, and had affirmatively decided that the drive would only take an hour and a half, maybe an hour and 45 minutes.  Guess what? I was wrong.  As we got closer, we all realized we’d be about 45 minutes late.  Luckily, Meghan has an apple phone.   I searched around the internet from the inside of a car!!!  I found a hotel nearby that gave us two rooms for $100.  Not a bad deal. 

The next morning we drove to the Crooked River boat ramp, packed up, and paddled out shortly after high tide.  Of course, the dolphins were there to greet us about a half mile into our paddle.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Little Tybee Island, but Cumberland Island is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been.  It has like 10 miles of undeveloped beach, armadillos, alligators, wetland, upland, savannah, live oaks with Spanish moss, dolphins surrounding it, no people, mansions, ruins of old forts, a preserved historic church, miles and miles of gorgeous trails, snakes, and….HORSES.  Some horses were left behind early settlers (late 1700’s I think?), and now there is a stabile population of about 250-ish feral horses.  Pretty cool. 

We stopped at the Plum Orchard Mansion for lunch.  We hiked around a bit, peaked in the windows, and spotted our first armadillos and an alligator.  After lunch we kept on paddling to our campsite.  We were the only ones up at Brickhill Bluff.  Everything during our entire trip to kinda fell into place like that.  It was perfect.  We set up a really nice campsite and cracked open a few beers.  There is nothing like drinking a warm miller highlife with a sandy rim, while you’re sitting on the woods in wet neoprene, a tired body, and a warm breeze off of the ocean.  Nothing. 

We spent two wonderful nights at Cumberland.  We hiked out to the West side of the island the next afternoon.  We really wanted to swim and make sand castles and all that.  The weather was perfect.  Yet again, some people did some yoga on the beach, others swam and made sand castles, and I buried myself in a little sand and took a nap.  I woke up to a horse trotting down the beach.  How many times does that happen in your life?  I hope more than once.  We celebrated our last night on Cumberland with a full bottle of Bulleit Bourbon.  Steve has started a tradition of bringing a bottle of Bulleit to Cumberland for the last night.  It was fantastic.  We passed it around until it was gone.  This would have taken about 10 minutes, but we made a game out of it where you had to say something that warranted a drink from the coveted bottle.  This made for a pretty entertaining night, to say the least.

The next morning we paddled back to Crooked River not long after low tide.  It was a pretty easy paddle.  The wind magically changed directions and was at our backs for most of the trip.  We made one last stop at Plum Orchard, and paddled straight through the Crooked River.  When we packed all our gear up we headed straight for Waffle House.  Why the North hasn’t adopted Waffle Houses I’ll never understand.

Well. That was our trip. It couldn’t have been better. Thanks to everyone on the trip for being super sweet people. I’d go back any day with that group.


 

Smoky MountainsTove Nordstroem

We spent the first day of break rafting on the Nantahala River in North Carolina. We were 17 Lawrence students floating down a river in kayaks and rafts! The second day, nine of us went to Sumter National Park in South Carolina where we stayed for four days. We backpacked along the Chattooga River exploring and playing in some amazing waterfalls. We climbed a peak inhabited by butterflies and confronted two snakes tanning on the trail. We made delicious dinners, swam in the river, and watched the stars at night. Before heading back to Appleton, we went to Charleston and the Atlantic Ocean where we chilled at the beach and explored the city's food and architecture.