The family recently went off to explore the closest state park to our new house in Aurora Colorado. Cherry Creek State Park is a surprisingly open park in the middle of the busy area of east Denver.
There are a ridiculous amount of activities to do here and we can’t wait to explore the park even more. After driving around and checking out the place a bit and figuring out the photography permit process we headed over to Pho 75. This was our first restaurant to try to find the best Chicken Bun in town. It was really good but it was lacking the mint and according to my wife, there was a bit too much of the fishy taste in the fish sauce. 🙂
So I just arrived in Denver not to long ago and started getting things ready to go for hikes.
Things I though I would need.
- Warmer Clothes
- Garmin Files
- Education (avalanche & winter survival)
I was a bit sad to learn that Green Trails doesn’t make maps for Colorado. However, REI has a big stockpile of all the maps you might need. I started out grabbing the following:
- Colorado Official Map to Scenery & Adventure
- NATGEO Rockey Mountain National Park (#200)
- NATGEO Longs Peak (#301) – Came in the map pack
- NATGEO Vail, Frisco, Dillon (#108)
Next I need some new files for my Garmin. I went to GPS File Depot and found some pretty decent free files.
More and more people are relying on cellphones and smartphone applications for safety and navigation in wilderness areas. People seem to push themselves beyond their comfort zone using a cellphone and 3G or LTE driven navigation programs like googlemaps. Once applications like this lose connection to the network they are useless. Additionally, the accuracy and availability of map data for even the more popular trail leave something to be desired. There are some programs for both Android and iPhone that offer both accuracy and offline modes (no cellphone connection required) like OruxMaps for android and Motion X for iPhone. Beyond that, battery life of the phone raises concern. According to Tom’s Guide, the average for smartphones is 8 hours 27 minutes. You can mitigate some of this by carrying a backup battery for your phone and keeping it on airplane mode when it’s not in use; but there is still a risk in relying on something that is that battery intensive.
Tucson and the Catalina Mountains have fairly decent coverage and due to the terrain you can get line of sight to an antenna most anywhere. There are towers located on both Mount Bigelow and Mount Lemmon on Radio Ridge. Additionally, there are some towers located on Swan Road that have decent line of sight into the canyons. However if you are in a dip or around a bend don’t expect anything. Another consideration is distance to the towers. Just because you can see Oro Valley, Tucson or even San Manuel doesn’t mean you will be able to use those towers. In populated areas towers generally use less power to make up their cells and limit the number of users per tower and then the power level of your cellphone may not be able to reach all the way to those towers.
So how do you avoid these aggravations and navigate reliably in the wilderness? Get a map. Get a simple compass. Then practice using them and make sure they are in your bag when you go hiking or mountain biking. I’m not saying don’t use cellphones at all, they’re great tools and very convenient; just don’t go out and do something that you wouldn’t do without a cellphone.
How Cellphones Work
Recently I went on a drive through Redington Pass leading north east out of Tucson then going south on San Pedro River Road. Its was all going fine until the turn onto San Pedro River Road when the tire pressure sensor when off. Got out to take look and sure enough the sidewall was blown out. After spending a few minutes changing out the tire I was back on the road.
Now these tires had about 12,000 miles on them. I put 50 miles on the full size spare to get it back to Tucson. The next day I went to get a tire priced out and there is a safety rule that most places won’t sell you a new tire by itself unless they are within 2/32nd of an inch of the rest of the tires. My plan was to have them switch the other to the spare and put a new tire on in its place, thinking the new tire would be the same size and the barley used spare… wrong. The spare measured at a 10, the others at an 8 and the new tire what at a 14. That means my tires had worn to about 60% tread in 12,000 miles and my spare had somehow worn to 70% in 50 miles. I have yet to find and explanation on why my spare had less tread than a new tire but the wear on the other tires was not normal. After doing some research and reading through reviews I found that the stock tires that are put on the Tacoma are pretty sub-par and in some cases dangerous. In my case I’m glad nothing more serious happened.
I ended up getting four Duratrac tires with an amazing sale price from Discount Tire here in town and got the tires a little bit bigger (265/75 R17). The did increase road noise slightly but not much. The next weekend I got to test them out on a power line road during a callout. They preformed great and they ride beautifully and the little bit of added clearance worked out great.
This afternoon we took advantage of the weird weather we are having in Tucson and the family headed up to the General Hitchcock picnic area on Mount Lemmon. It’s the stop right before Windy Vista. It was a beautiful day and the pines provided just the right amount of shade. After a bite to eat we went up the Upper Green Mountain Trail. We just went up to the first vista and turned around, it ended up being about 1.5 miles round trip. One thing the area did have is a lot of trash. Water bottle caps and glass everywhere. Even down the first bit of the trail there were plastic wrappers and food bits that the birds were running off with. I wish people would keep these areas clean, we all go out to areas like this so we can experience nature and it’s sad when you see two beautiful blue birds fighting over a Cheeto. I picked up a bit of it but there was just so much everywhere, everyone needs to do their part and leave no trace.
So… we are moving to Denver!
I was accepted to an amazing job up there for three years. I am so looking forward to moving too. I have not lived somewhere where it snows on a regular basis in over 11 years, so the family will need thicker jackets. I am very excited to get to somewhere that has so many outdoor activities to. Just from some quick browsing there are some high altitude passes that you can drive too, lakes and rivers, and more hiking than we can shake a stick at. Once we get there I’d like to get into mountaineering. My time doing search and rescue has left wanting to learn more, collect all the skills! I want to learn high-altitude and ice/snow skills. So if anyone knows any clubs that will help a complete newbie get started please send me the info.
One of the most difficult things to plan for is my sleeping situation whether it’s for my 24 hour search and rescue pack or for camping. I’ve seen more and more people switch over to a full hammock setup for camping and they are light enough to just keep in the SAR pack so I thought I’d give it a try.
Deciding to get a hammock was the easiest part. After that you need to decide if you want to make one yourself, or buy one. Then there are cinches and whoopie slings and tree straps….then what material… then a tarp… The best explanation that I found was a series of videos from Shug on YouTube.
After figuring out what I wanted to go with I found recommendations for where to buy from on https://hammockforums.net/ and decided to go with Dutchware Gear. Almost every set up I saw had something from this guy on there. I went with a 10′ PolyD with 4′ tree straps, whoopie slings and an adjustable ridgeline. The customer service was some of the best from any company I’ve dealt with and they answered any questions I had via email within the hour. When I got the hammock the quality was amazing and I was glad I decided to buy my first one rather than make it myself. I can’t wait to get out and use it for an overnight!