Tag: Hiking

Hiking Horseshoe Canyon 15 April 2023

I hiked into Horseshoe Canyon with my friends Bill, Peter, and Kurt on 15 April 2023. We aimed to see the Barrier Canyon-style pictographs on the canyon walls. We arrived at the remote Horseshoe Canyon unit of Canyonlands National Park the night before. We were able to camp very near the trailhead.

Camp at Horsehoe Canyon
A nice place to camp

We met Ranger Jared at the trailhead for a guided walk. Bill had previously called and found there were ranger-guided tours; this was an excellent idea.

Meeting our Ranger Guide
Ranger Jared

One of the first things Jared pointed out was a dinosaur track.

Dinosaur Print

We descended about 150 meters (500 feet) into Horseshoe Canyon during the cool morning. The trail was well maintained; this is a moderate hike. One caution is that an early start would be wise in the summer months as hiking back up in the afternoon sun would be some hot work.

Barrier Creek
We crossed Barrier Creek several times

We saw four separate pictograph sites. First up was the High Panel, tucked into a small area among trees, a bit off the main trail. These pictographs were high off the ground. A short walk across the canyon, perhaps ten minutes, led to the Horseshoe Panel of pictographs was intriguing. I wondered what the artist meant to communicate with the trapezoidal figures in the panel. I had seen petroglyphs before, but this trip was my first exposure to pictographs; there was a lot to ponder.

Horseshoe  Panel Pictographs
Horseshoe Panel Pictographs

After some time at Horseshoe Panel, we headed to the Alcove Panel.

Alcove Panel Pictographs

We noticed the acoustics were interesting; we wondered what ceremonies were associated with the pictographs. Some epic tales, the equal of the Iliad in the Western tradition, might have been told at these sites.

Hiking along Barrier Creek

Next, our group trekked about a mile to the Great Gallery. 

The approach opened up to the initial view of the Great Gallery.

Approach to the Great Gallery Pictographs

The pictographs spread over a 20-meter (60-foot) expanse of rock tucked under the cliff; this was the most complex set I’d seen. There was a repeated motif of trapezoidal figures. In this gallery, some of the darker figures had lighter shadows next to them, perhaps like the soul of the darker figures. The panel had more miniature figures; I considered them humans among the gods.

Great Gallery Pictographs

The mysterious “Holy Ghost” section left me wondering what it might mean.

Great Gallery Pictographs

We had lunch on some benches that let us gaze at the Great Gallery and contemplate this great art. Afterward, we wandered up the canyon toward our camp.

Leaving Horseshoe Canyon

Along the way, I spotted a butterfly near Barrier Creek. I spent a good five minutes chasing it down.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

It was a Mourning Cloak butterfly, a common species I had seen in my home state of Washington. When I posted this observation on iNaturalist, I found that Nymphalis antiopa has a wide range across the Northern Hemisphere. Whether common or rare, it was still worth chasing a butterfly.

While taking a break before ascending to camp, I talked to a couple who are volunteers at the park. They had seen an unusual wildflower, a paintbrush species, on the opposite rim of the canyon. They gave me directions, and I was off on a botanical boondoggle. The hiking up to the opposite rim was more challenging.

Hike down the far side of Horseshoe Canyon

I made it to the top and found the flower, a Rough Paintbrush ( Castilleja scabrida).

Castilleja (Paintbrush)

I decided to head along the trail on this side of the canyon for about 20 minutes; the payoff was a great view of Sugarloaf Butte with the Henry Mountains in the far distance.

View from Horseshoe Canyon Rim

We had brought radios, and I could contact my friends at our camp on the opposite rim. As I headed down, I had a great view of Horseshoe Canyon. After an hour, I returned to camp and settled in for dinner. It was a fine day of hiking. As a bonus, we had some excellent star gazing in the evening. 

Book review of Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia

Let me begin my review in the middle of Outlive. The author  asks us to list the ten tasks we want to do for the rest of our lives. He calls this list the centenarian decathlon. Here’s the top of the list for me: hike up to Third Burroughs Mountain. It’s 9 miles (14 km) in Mount Rainier National Park with 2500 feet (760 m.) of elevation gain. Why? I’m a hiker, and this is my favorite hike worldwide.

Up at Third Burroughs
Early morning at Third Burroughs 2003

I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to keep hiking as I get older. I turned 65 in 2022; I would like to keep exploring mountains as long as possible, this is just the book to help me achieve my goal. Let me explain why.

First, Attia starts with the concept of healthspan – how well you live. There’s a tight coupling between healthspan and lifespan. As we age, we have left less of each. One difference is that lifespan is a discrete quantity; one day, you are alive, and the next, you are not. In contrast, our healthspan gradually diminishes over time. The author details three vectors (components) of healthspan: physical, cognitive, and emotional. The good news is that we can usually improve these components and our overall healthspan. How we do so is the core of the book.

The book’s first part outlines our current situation and a target goal. The most important lesson I learned: “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” a quote from Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese military strategist. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. So, how can I do better? The author has a great framework: first, objectives, then strategy, and finally, tactics. The author trained as an engineer, became a physician, and has worked in business consulting; his background shows throughout the book. I touched on objectives in the discussion of the centenarian decathlon; how about strategy?

The second part of Outlive is the science that can help you develop a strategy. There is a chapter on the science of centenarians; I think of this as a boundary condition. What are the factors that helped get someone to their 100th birthday? (I have a hiking friend who still gets out on walks at 101, I want to follow in her footsteps.) Next is a chapter on the details of how nutrition affects longevity. The last four chapters cover the science of how most of us die: metabolic disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding these problems will help you develop tactics to mitigate some issues. There are no magic bullets in these chapters; instead, it’s a well-researched survey of what we know as of 2022. Now that we know objectives and strategies, what tactics can we employ?

The final part of Outlive lays out four tactics: 

  1. Exercise (cardio, strength, and stability)
  2. Nutrition
  3. Sleep 
  4. Emotional health.  

At 260 pages, this is the longest part of the book. It was detailed and beneficial to me. Rather than outline each section, let me list some tactics I am adding to my strategy: 

  1. Work on stability, specifically starting with a yoga class. 
  2. Use a continuous glucose monitor for a few months to optimize my diet. 
  3. Ensure I am getting enough protein intake of lysine, leucine, and methionine.

The last chapter on emotional health was the most impactful in the book. Attia opens up to the reader about his emotional health through the lens of a patient rather than a physician. It touched me deeply; I had some trauma in my teen years when my mom died. Fifty years later, I realized I should address some of these issues rather than wall them off. 

Outlive is a book I will read several times. The book is challenging; I spent four weeks reading the book.

Reading Outlive in Utah
Reading in camp at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

I made a ton of margin notes and back-of-the-book scrawling. There’s a lot to digest, and there are many references. For example, I want to read the paper Hallmarks of Aging by Carlos López-Otín and colleagues. This book catalyzed some great conversations with my friend Bill about healthspan. I will recommend Outlive to anyone interested in taking action to improve their healthspan.  

One closing thought; there’s a missing chapter in the book. I believe social interaction and engagement can improve healthspan’s cognitive and emotional components. My experience is that forty years of marriage have improved my emotional health. I decided to ask ChatGPT: What studies have shown that social interaction and engagement can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults? Here’s the answer: 

“There have been several studies that have shown a positive correlation between social interaction and cognitive function in older adults. For example:

The Rush Memory and Aging Project: This study found that older adults who had higher levels of social activity experienced a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who were less socially active.

The MacArthur Study of Successful Aging: This study found that older adults who were more socially engaged were less likely to experience declines in cognitive function over time.

The Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study: This study found that women who reported higher levels of social engagement had a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment than those who were less socially engaged.

Overall, these studies suggest that social interaction and engagement can play an important role in maintaining cognitive function and reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.”

Practical SoCal PCT Section Hiker Guide

Practical SoCal PCT Section Hiker Guide

I found Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California: Section Hiking from Campo to Tuolumne Meadows by Shawnté Salabert a helpful reference while hiking 110 miles of California Section A of the PCT in April 2022. The author starts with a 60-page introduction covering the history and logistics of hiking the 943 miles of the Southern California PCT. It’s worth reading, even for experienced hikers. 

The following ten chapters, each roughly 60 pages, describe the sections that comprise the Southern California PCT. In our April 2022 six-day hike of Section A (from Campo to Warner Springs), I found it helpful to read the description before the day’s hike. Here’s one great example: “The climb out of Hauser Canyon is serious business – you face over 1000 feet of elevation gain in about 1.5 miles. Dehydrated, overheated, and underprepared hikers are rescued near here every single year; sadly, one hiker died after making the grueling climb in 2014. Consider timing your ascent for a cooler time of day, make sure you’re hydrated, and ensure that you eat enough to keep your motor running.” I can attest to the truth of those words (See Day 1 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022).

The maps were effective for planning. Each chapter had an overall map that divided the section into legs based on distance and elevation.

The author suggested itineraries of varying lengths and times to cover an entire section. For example, she recommended trips of 7 to 9 days to walk from Campo to Warner Springs. Being a little crazy, we did this in six days; however, we used her legs for planning. Each leg had its maps, which I appreciated. While writing in my blog about the adventure from Campo to Warner Springs, the chapter photos and maps refreshed my memory. 

The author’s description of the section hikes of the Sierra, from Cottonwood Pass to Tuolumne Meadows, also matches my memory of my past tramping in this region. The book finishes with some valuable appendices, especially the description of trail towns and services.

Recommend this book for section hikers in Southern California; my rating is 4.5 stars. I read the paperback book but subsequently bought and reviewed the Kindle version. 

Day 6 Hiking and Summary of PCT Section A SoCal April 2022

Day 6 Hiking and Summary of PCT Section A SoCal April 2022

Our last day of section hiking was an easy eight miles. We’re well-practiced in the morning routine and on the way to the trail near dawn. On the way, we encounter a hiker and give her a ride to Ranchita. We learn that she’s from Denmark and is hiking 700 miles of the PCT. She and I posed with the Ranchita Yeti.

Mike and I hit the Montezuma Valley trailhead and set off for Warner Springs on a cold and clear morning. We had an exciting wildlife encounter: grazing cattle. These bovines didn’t seem to want us in their area. Mike led the way as we navigated the herd without incident.

In the distance, we started to see Eagle Rock, a prominent feature alongside the trail. We got here early and had the rock to ourselves and the lizards for a pleasant 15 minutes. We met several groups day hiking to Eagle Rock from Warner Springs as we walked out.

We talked a few minutes with a thru-hiker with the trail name Incline. He’s hiking the trail with his dogs; his wife has been accompanying him in an RV. I suggested a trail name for his wife: Recline.

Mike and I made it to Warner Springs at about 1030. There wasn’t must to see here; everything was closed. We were happy to complete our hike as planned. Our walk covered about 4% of the PCT (110/2650). Here’s a summary:

DateDayStartFinshMilesGain (ft)Loss (ft)
4/8/20221CampoLake Morena County Park2031602990
4/9/20222Lake MorenaDesert View (Mount Laguna)22.647501880
4/10/20223Desert View (Mount Laguna)Sunrise Trailhead16.926103560
4/11/20224Sunrise TrailheadScissors Crossing17.815404280
4/12/20225Scissors CrossingMontezuma Valley Road23.936702480
4/13/20226Montezuma Valley RoadWarner Springs8.312001600
Total 109.51693016790
Summary of PCT California Section A Hike – Miles, Gain and Loss are from Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California by Shawntee Salabert

Another way to visualize this section hike is to look at a map. The map on the right shows the entire PCT through California, Oregon, and Washington. My fingers cover the section of California that we did.

Our next section hike will be Oregon Section A in June 2022, covering 82 miles in 4 days. We will start at the California border.

Mike and I split in Warner Springs; he would explore more of Southern California with his car. I headed over to visit my nephew at Cal State San Marcos. I ate several burritos while we talked and then got a campus tour. After that, pedal to the metal for the drive north to Seattle.