UD Honors Adventure Club “On the Road Again”

September 15-19, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

HAC sends 7 to Utah

HAC sends 7 to Utah

Today we started our much anticipated trip to Utah. #myCampingTripToUtah. I had planned (almost) all of it out and couldn’t wait to show everyone some awesome places! We all met at 3:30 pm on Thursday after class and piled into Nicole’s car! Thanks for driving, Nicole!

Leaving Philadelphia on Thursday evening

Leaving Philadelphia on Thursday evening

Arriving in Vegas late Thursday night, with a time change

Arriving in Vegas late Thursday night, with a time change

The drive flew by! We left Nicole’s car in the parking lot, and journeyed onto the ~Philadephia International Airport~ (cue crowd cheering). We had plenty of time to grab some sandwiches before our flight, or in Navika’s case, internally bullied into ordering Chick-Fil-A. We boarded the flight, saw some bodybuilders, and were officially the funniest group on the  plane!

When we arrived in Las Vegas, the airport looked a lot different from Philly’s- slot machines, risqué advertisements, and excited visitors. We got our bags, and made our way to the Rental Car desk. Navika somehow fumbled words out of her mouth and convinced the attendant to give us a free upgrade! Ford Expedition, heck yeah! We got directions to our campsite printed in order to have a GPS-free weekend! Everyone’s bags and bodies fit comfortably in our car. By now it was almost 10 PM Vegas time and we were ready for bed! We ~almost made it out of Vegas before we missed a turn and opted for quick GPS assistance. Back on track, we winded up mountain roads, where a wild horse hid around one of the dark bends. One of my fears, the wild horse still haunts me.

We arrived to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Hilltop Campground, where our friendly camphost had stayed awake to greet us and offer us a rundown of all 35 available spots in the campground. We opted for the one that was closest to our vehicle, as we were exhausted.

A dark and cold first night in Nevada

A dark and cold first night in Nevada

The group collaborated so well to set up tents and sleeping bags in the dark and COLD. Go team! It was 46 degrees at the campground- much different from 100 degree Vegas; which could be seen from the forest. We learned how to spit our toothpaste the Leave No Trace way, and talked about how to keep bears away from our tents (important). We all crawled into the big tent for a quick chat and journaling time before we fell asleep, alarms set for only a few hours later.

-Madi Gutekunst, Trip Leader, Honors 2017

Friday, September 16, 2016

I woke up this morning nose still tingly from the cold, curled up in a ball next to Katelyn, and “ready” for the day. It was 4:40 a.m., so “ready” has a loose definition here. We packed up camp in less than 30 minutes (teamwork, once again on display) and were on our way to our next destination…Zion National Park!

4:40 am - on the road to Zion

4:40 am – on the road to Zion

So, the reason we were waking up at 4:40 a.m. was because we were trying to get one of the first-come-first-serve campsites in the park. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Zion, you know how amazing this would be. If you haven’t, go do it now. It’ll make this blog post much more enjoyable and make the rest of this story much more enviable 🙂 Anyways, so it was about a 3-hour drive back through Las Vegas, a small part of Arizona, and into Utah. Along the way we listened to Madi’s music (no explanation needed), podcasts, and a car full of snores. We stopped along the way at a gas station outside of Vegas to grab some snacks. There were slot machines in the gas station convenience store WHY. But it’s okay; my solace was in a few hours we’d be in one of the most beautiful places in America! About halfway to Zion, we call the office and ask if they have any open camping spots left. The woman tells us that if we get there in the next 45 minutes, we might have a chance. We finally get to Zion (an hour later) and everything is FULL. We’re a little upset, but honestly, everyone’s just so excited at what’s around us that we’re not too worried about the campsite (sorry Madi, I know it was stressful!!!)

Upon arrival to Zion

Upon arrival to Zion

After driving around, getting in various lines for campsites, and trolling around the entrance, we decide we need food. We stop at a hippy dippy grocery store and pick up food for the next few days. We got bread, vegetables, pasta, cheese, sausage, peanut butter, all great things. At this point we were starving. We hadn’t really eaten much since the very early morning. So, we get our multiple carts of groceries, literally open up food like savages right outside the grocery store and make ourselves some awesome sandwiches. It was super satisfying and just what we needed for what was coming next.

Fuel for the hike ahead

Fuel for the hike ahead

-Navika Gangrade, Honors 2017

Once we were well equipped to take on the hike to Angels Landing, we started our journey. We took a trolley ride from outside the park to the Visitors Center and then to a stop within the park where we would start at the foot of these beautiful, gigantic cliffs that we would soon summit. Starting the trek to the top, Madi pointed up to a point on one of these cliffs to where we would be once we made it to the top. We were all in shock. The idea that we would be able to climb so high was daunting, but it was also exciting. This also made it clear that it was going to be no easy task if we wanted to make it to the top to see the view we had all heard so much about. Full of anticipation and wonder we began our journey, that would test us but bring us so much joy. The beginning of the hike was a bunch of steep switchbacks, which were paved, but definitely challenged us physically. We took the necessary breaks, and pushed each other to make it through this portion of the hike. But, together, we overcame the struggle.

Happy to start the climb

Happy to start the climb

Switchbacks we finished climbing

Switchbacks we finished climbing

After the switchbacks, the trail turned to scaling rocks which were lined with huge cables to help hikers. This part we took a lot slower. Each step seemed precarious and needed to be more calculated than when walking on the switchbacks.

viewpoint

Steps at Angels Landing

Steps at Angels Landing

zion-hikeSome parts only allowed a single person to pass at a time, others had us leaning over the cliff looking straight down. This part for me was so exciting. The difficulty made the reward of the summit that much sweeter. And let me tell you, the view was spectacular. There are hardly any words I can come up with to accurately describe how sensational it was to be on top of Angel’s Landing. It is truly something you need to see for yourself. Our pictures surely do not do it justice. We spent some time taking it all in, enjoying the diminishing feeling one gets when staring out into such a vast landscape. It was incredibly freeing.

Resting on the rocks

Resting on the rocks

ud-group-shot

Once we were finished at the top, we raced back down the mountain. We were running for most of the time, using our momentum from the steep trail to barrel down to the bottom. We had a meeting with a park ranger to get to! We made it to the bottom on time and met with Adrienne Fitzgerald, the bubbly and passionate Head Interpretive Ranger at Zion. She had so much to share with us. She taught us how to enjoy the National Parks without disrupting the environment. She explained Leave No Trace principles we could use, so that parks can be enjoyed for future generations. She was incredibly engaging and we all took a lot away from the meeting with her. We got the chance to ask her questions, about where the park service was going in the future and things we should do to ensure the longevity of such an amazing part of this country. At the end of the meeting she gave out adorable stickers to help remind us of our time at Zion and also the new policies she had taught us. I made sure to bring them home with me and share them with my friends, so I could pass what I learned on to them.

ud-group-2

After our meeting, we stopped in the gift shop to do some tourist shopping and Madi and Katelyn went over the the Watchman Campground to see if there were any last minute cancellations. And they came back disappointed… JUST KIDDING they tricked us! There was a last minute cancellation and we got a campsite in Zion, actually in the park, right inside, in the National park, surrounded by the incredible cliffs, how cool! We were all so stoked. We rushed to the car, got firewood, and went to set up camp.

We were all starving, so we immediately got to work setting up a fire, chopping veggies, and slicing sausage for our meals.

We were all starving, so we immediately got to work setting up a fire, chopping veggies, and slicing sausage for our meals.

We were making a meal pack, where we put sausages, onions, peppers and sweet potatoes in tinfoil and put them right on the fire. They came out delicious (maybe the potatoes were a little undercooked, but nothing to complain about).

We were making a meal pack, where we put sausages, onions, peppers and sweet potatoes in tinfoil and put them right on the fire. They came out delicious (maybe the potatoes were a little undercooked, but nothing to complain about).

fine-dining-2 fine-dining-3

Once we were finished with dinner, Madi made a camping-style bananas foster with sugar and cinnamon, and it was the perfect end to the day.  We wrapped up the night with reflections and sharing of our thoughts on the day, which really brought it all full circle. We had done a lot in such a short amount of time, it was a good chance to really look back on the day and see how much we had accomplished together. I think it’s safe to say we all had a journey of a lifetime together, and this was only the start of the weekend.

-Nicole Wenzell, Honors 2017

Saturday September 17, 2016

We had the opportunity to sleep in late today, but I woke up automatically at 8am. Maybe because it is already 11am at home? I slip out of my sleeping bag carefully, trying hard to not wake up the other people in the tent. As I crawl out of the tent, I feel the cool morning air. I still cannot believe how dry the air is here. The sun is already out and shining on the top of the Navajo Sandstone mountains that surround us on all sides.

Alexis journaling before the others wake up.

Alexis journaling before the others wake up.

Brandon and Madi are choosing to stay warm.

Brendan and Madi are choosing to stay warm.

As people wake up, Nicole and I start a fire. We warm up the remainder of the meal packs from the night before for breakfast.  Then, we start preparing food and pack snacks for the day ahead. I make myself a peanut butter jelly sandwich and a vegetable-hummus wrap, and pack away an apple and Belvita for snacks.

camp-morning

waterfallToday, we decide to explore the Emerald Pools and the Narrows. Emerald Pools is an easier three-mile trail that provides the much-needed respite from yesterday’s hike up Angel’s Landing. The trail runs through lush vegetation and along a stream that creates a waterfall.

The same stream feeds into three major pools that are scattered along the trail. These pools are breathtaking because of how they stand out against the rock-heavy scenery. On the way back, we take a different, scenic route to the Lodge.brandon-awe

At the Lodge, we get on the shuttle bus to go on our next adventure to the Narrows.  At this location, we hike a mile alongside the water to access the Virgin River, where we wade upstream in knee-deep water. I marvel at the canyon walls that extend a thousand feet upwards.

 

 

Wading in the pools

Wading in the pools

The narrowest section of Zion Canyon can be accessed by walking further upstream. There are points where the canyon walls are only twenty to thirty feet apart. Although we are not able to hike out as far as we’d like, we thoroughly enjoy the cooling effects of the water and take a few cool pictures.

Goats!

Wildlife!

 

After returning from the hike in the narrows, we pack ourselves in the car and set out to our campground at Bryce Canyon National Park.

-Jayesh Gupta, Honors 2017

car-ride-2

After a seemingly endless 1 and a half hour drive we pulled into the parking lot of…SUBWAY! Now don’t get me wrong, this Subway had nothing on the Subway in the Harrington Pod, but it did have three incredibly wonderful things. First, Subway had a soda fountain and ice which we used to refill our very empty—but stylishly covered in new stickers—water bottles. Second, this subway had a restroom. Enough said. Third, this Subway had two weary visitors from afar who had travelled from California (11 hours away) and Provo, Utah (3.5 hours away) to join us on #OurCampingTripToUtah. Patrick, a recent UD grad and friend of ours, and Cassie, a childhood friend of mine who goes to school in Utah, instantly became part of our camping crew.

We piled into the cars, rolled the windows down and the music up, and set out for the Dixie National Forest to scope out a good camping spot along a service road. Once we found a place to call our own for the night we broke up to start setting up camp, which by this point, felt a lot like home. (Sorry Redding…I needed something new in my life!) Three tents popped up within minutes and sleeping bags were unfurled excitedly by Brendan.

Navika, Cassie and I set to work chopping vegetables and all sorts of leftover food scraps to be thrown into our gourmet mac n’ cheese. Nicole, Jayesh and Patrick worked some collective magic to start a beautiful fire over which we would cook our food. Katelyn provided head lamps to all as the sun set below the horizon line. camp-night-3

fine-dining-4 fine-dining-5

We set up camp together, cooked together, enjoyed s’mores together, and laughed and told stories and reminisced together. The sky was dark, but shimmered with constellations as clear as those projected inside a planetarium. Weary from our hikes, but filled with the joys of friendship and the wonder of nature we crawled into our tents where we burrowed deep into our sleeping bags. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons put it best, “oh what a night!”

-Alexis Holzmann, Honors 2017

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

We decided to wake up on the earlier side this morning, in order to make the most out of our last day exploring!

Navika, Katelyn, and Brendan ready to explore.

Navika, Katelyn, and Brendan ready to explore.

Our breakfast consisted of a mix of the leftover macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jellies, and granola bars~ but we wouldn’t have asked for anything else. We were pretty impressed that we had bought very close to the perfect amount of food for the trip. After eating, making our lunches, and packing up camp, we were ready to depart for Bryce Canyon.

toothbrushing

As we enter Bryce, we found this park to be a little different from Zion. Instead of having to hike to see all the incredible views, there was actually a good amount of pull-offs, where we could drive to see some of the amazing landscapes. With our energy levels a little low after two days of hiking, it was nice to get to see the views with less physical effort!

Outside of Bryce Canyon

Outside of Bryce Canyon

As we enter Bryce, we found this park to be a little different from Zion. Instead of having to hike to see all the incredible views, there was actually a good amount of pull-offs, where we could drive to see some of the amazing landscapes. With our energy levels a little low after two days of hiking, it was nice to get to see the views with less physical effort!

hoodoos

viewpoint-bryce

After stopping to view from four different areas, it was time to start our hike of the day from Sunset Point, following the Navajo Loop Trail.

navajo-loop

This hike challenged us in a different way, for it was the opposite of the hikes we had been doing. Instead of starting uphill, the hike started going down into the hoodoos and once we reached the bottom we had to work our way back to the top. Although this meant the harder part of the hike was at the end, we all felt it was worthwhile because of the unique and breathtaking views we got to see.

jayesh-awe

Jayesh observing the view

Climbing in reverse

Climbing in reverse

A view from below

A view from below

Hoodoos

Hoodoos

Once we were back at the top, we piled into the Ford Expedition for the last time and headed to Vegas for dinner and our flight home. We flew on the redeye and arrived back on campus around 8am – just in time for most of us to make our early morning classes, meetings, and jobs (that was fun, haha!). Being back at UD, we quickly realized the obvious lack of canyons and elevation and the excess of humidity and showering. It was nice to be back in a comfortable environment, but the absence of our adventure lingered prominently in our minds that Monday and into the next several days.

Overall, the trip was an incredible experience, getting to know six other people and the natural world on a different level (hey, try hanging out with people who haven’t showered in 4 days!). We want to give a giant thank you to our trip leader Madi Gutekunst, for not only being extraordinary for having this opportunity to take six others across the country to incredible national parks, but also for perfectly planning and executing the trip, keeping everyone safe, calm, confident, happy, healthy, and inspired. Madi has provided once in a lifetime experiences to the rest of us, making us beyond grateful for her. Thank you to Outdoor Nation and the Honors Program for helping make this trip possible, and thank you to the National Park Service for preserving our parks so that we can enjoy them for years to come!

-Brendan Hickey, Honors 2018 and Katelyn Murray, Honors 2017

-HAC UTAH TRIP 2016

 

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