Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Why just have one? 2007 Adventure Contest by Christian Paul


Each year at Backcountry.com, we have a contest from May to October in which you earn points to enter a gear raffle. We also have the opportunity to write a story about an adventure we had during the contest. It is like the "Best Adventure of the Year Award" for the contest. I thought that I would do something different this year. Since I had so many adventures, I thought I would share with you, the reader, my Adventure Contest from start to finish, and what this contest as a whole means to me. I decided that a month by month recap would give all of you reading this a chance to see the life of a Gearhead in the flesh. I will share with you my passion for what I love to do, why this passion exists and why I love working at Backcountry.com. Follow along as I break down this year's contest month by month- here we go!

May 2007

This story begins with an end, an end to snowboarding here in Utah for Season 2007. I was shooting for a goal of 60 rides - I got 67. May 3rd, 5th, and 6th were legendary indeed. We had a freak set of storms hit the Cottonwood Canyons, and the mad rush for the pow pow was on. The 3rd brought blowing snow and whiteout conditions for my last run home from Hidden Peak. The 5th's conditions were also whiteout, but incredible runs in Peruvian and a great day in Gad valley on my Ride Society. The 6th was all about exploring new terrain that had not become a speed bump field, getting really steep freshies and just having a great time until I was exhausted. To get 3 out of 4 powder days in the end of a season is like a return of unimaginably good Karma.

So on to hiking for the summer it is. The 10th and 12th I hit Bells Canyon and on the 14th I hiked Big Willow with the new gear from Golite that I was chosen to test. In pursuit of my never-ending search for unexplored territory, it was time to get out the trekking pack, and discover a new area.

I have been to just about every wilderness area imaginable in Utah, but Escalante was one spot I had yet to explore. So my friends Jared and Marc and I headed out on a Wednesday night and pitched camp next to the Paria river at about 2 a.m. Upon waking, it was time to hit the trail. Packs loaded, we headed into the Paria Box. We spotted cougar tracks as we headed out into Old Paria. Steadily, we followed the river, and finally stopped in the mouth of the canyon we wanted to get to. Out came the Sirius 2 and we had camp! We had water right off our site and shade from foliage that makes a living surviving the flow of water that comes from the slots and high desert here. Waking up to the sun just beating us down, we decided it was time to head for higher ground to get cooler. Off to Hogeye Canyon it is. I am walking in the river all the way there, in my Keen Arroyos, keeping me cool in this 100+ degree inferno. Finally after a nice 40 min walk, we arrive at the mouth of Hogeye. It follows a stream outlet into the Paria. One minute we are in desert, the next a real life oasis. The thunderstorms that day broke overhead. Into full rain gear and we pick a spot to wait it out. Everywhere, there are ferns, moss and plant life, it felt more like a jungle not a desert. This canyon stays that way till you get up top, then you proceed in the sand the rest of the way. The view was beautiful from up there, and our trip, ending 3 days later, was another adventure itself and finally pitching camp in BLM land for we were too tired to drive all the way back that 4th night.

Not to have lost the adventure bug, we hiked part of the Black Hawk Trail on the 27th, camped at 8,000 feet that night in Payson Canyon, and hiked the Mount Nebo trail the next day till the snow was too deep and steep in the North Cirque. I would say the May turned out to be a great start this year, but the adventure has only just begun.

June 2007

June was very strange climate-wise. We started off hot, then had some stormy weather. I started the Month on the 2nd, and hiked the road in Millcreek Canyon from Terraces to Elbow Fork.














Then a short hop up to Bells Canyon on the 3rd. Behold, snowboarding is not over. A freak storm puts snow up Little Cottonwood Canyon, so I do a road side camp up the canyon and I am up at the crack of dawn and hiking Gad Valley for freshies. Found them! Hiked past Mid Gad and rode to the bottom. That Saturday there was some really good slush, so I hiked Collins and rode it all the way down. Sunday was the last day of the year to ride, with some drop-in runs on my Burton Malolo in the Brighton Half-Pipe. After putting away the board for the year, I decided that just hiking a gulch was not seeing everything, so I did a stint of canyon traverses this year.

On the 16th, I hiked from Alta to Brighton via the Catherine Pass trail to Catherine Pass to the Brighton Lakes Trail to the Brighton ticket office. The 17th I made my weekly visit to Bells Canyon. Made a mid-week stop on the way home to Rocky Mouth Falls. The 23rd was another traverse from Big Cottonwood Canyon to Millcreek Canyon. Starting at the Upper s-turn trail head,
I hiked Mill B North. This was a steep and strenuous climb to get to the West Porter Fork Pass. Once there, you traverse a cirque below Mt. Raymond, and head to the Porter Fork Pass. After 3300 feet of elevation gain and a lengthy traverse in really hot temps for this altitude, descending Porter Fork was brutal, to say the least. Eight miles later, I could have not been more happy to see my wife there to pick me up.

The 24th was a relaxing day where I got to go catch some sun on top of some boulders in my personal favorite, Bells Canyon. A long day at work on the 27th took me up to Rocky Mouth Falls to get a break from thinking about things, and a lot of thinking I had to do. The 30th of June I decided I wanted to get another traverse in, so I hiked Little Cottonwood Canyon to Big Cottonwood Canyon via Grizzly Gulch to Twin Lakes Pass Trail to Silver Lake. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and at the pass, the temperature was about 75 degrees, a far cry from the 100+ degrees the valley was getting, As I descended the Twin Lakes Trail to the lake, I pondered on where the next adventure would be and how far I could really go this year.

July 2007

Seeming to always navigate back to this place for meditation and tranquility, July 1st I find myself hiking Bells Canyon again. This canyon does a wonderful 4 season transformation, and July puts it in summer mode.














Being that in the United States, Independence Day was approaching, me and fellow Backcountry.com mate, Jared, headed out to catch a night in the Wasatch because of the full moon. The hike in began after work on the 3rd. We made good time to Willow Heights Lake and up the saddle to the ridge for one hell of a sunset. We built camp, and watched day turn into night. With my Sirius 2 pitched, we settled in for a fantastic evening on the ridge. With a midnight show from our trusty friend the Moon, it was stellar to say the least. The next day consisted of taking in the wild flowers that were out everywhere, a hardy breakfast made with the Brunton Raptor stove I just love, not to mention percolated coffee at 9,000 feet, and a great trek out. July 6th took me and my wife on a short hike above Cecret Lake, with a picnic and a great view, this was a pleasant way to start off the weekend.

The 7th took me to one of my all time favorite hikes,Lake Blanch. This is a strenous hike well over 2700 feet to the lake with one incredible back drop, Sundial Peak, looming over the lake. This is by far one of the most beautiful places I have been on this earth, and right here in my back yard. The 8th my wife and I decide to hike Dog Lake from the Lake Mary Trail, fitting since my wife's name is Mary. A great day for us together with really big things to come, but I will get to that later.

Reconnecting with a long time friend Marc on July 11th, we decided an evening hike to Catherine Pass would be a great getaway for the day. We got really close to a bull moose that parked it along side the trail. At the pass, the sound of thunder caught our attention and we made a quick descent to the meadow below. The rain started pouring, and out came the rain gear. Nothing like having an Arc'teryx Alpha SL to keep you bone dry in times like these. So staying dry, even when it was dumping, we took a ton of pictures and just enjoyed the moment. Sometimes I think we forget to do this, and it is days like this one that remind you to stop and smell the flowers.

By far the most amazing adventure was about to happen. Friday, July 13th, 2007 my daughter Milora was born. I have been to so many beautiful places, and have had so many adventures, but this by far takes top honors for adventures I have been on. Becoming a parent is a very good life-changing experience. Being that I did not want to be far away right after she was born, I hiked Bells Canyon again on the 17th and Stairs Gulch on the 21st. Needing a longer journey, I decided to hike to Snake creek Pass on the 22nd. This was a great day with great lighting and wonderful views. Got shots of my Solio Charger in action on the pass. Getting off work on Friday the 27th, I headed up to Rocky Mouth Canyon.

Finishing the month out with surely one of the best hikes of the season, I visited White Pine Lake in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Really a nice note to leave this month on, kind of hard to top off the greatest adventure of my life.

August 2007

This is the month of my birthday, and it was not a boring one to say the least. On the 4th, I hiked Collins Gulch to Germania Pass, to feel the first chill since April at this altitude. The 5th I hiked the Pipeline Trail to the Burch Hollow Trail to the Millcreek Ridge. Getting enough time to snap a few photo's and have a snack, then out with the rain gear for the heavens fell from above. I returned to Bells Canyon on the 10th, to visit the Boulder Field here that I love to traverse. Monday after I left work, I decided to head to Ceret Lake for some great sunset photos. The 16th and 17th I camped at a last minute opening in the Albion Basin and the next day headed up to Red Pine Lake with my trusty Camelbak Trail Blazer. The 24th was a hike to Bells Canyon, and the 25th was a hike up Mill D North to Dog Lake. The 25th I explored the Big Willow Trail with some great views and ever-changing terrain as you climb this steep and fun gulch.

This month was a shorter month for me. Family in town and a newborn did limit my activity, but I was still able to get out there. Let that be a lesson for new parents: With some cooperation, and understanding, there is no reason you have to stop living your life.

September 2007

Well with my luck, September 1st landed on a Saturday. And with it still being very warm in the valley, a hike to Sunset Peak was in order. Great views and one of my favorite peaks to bag in the Wasatch. The 2nd brought me to do one more traverse hike starting in Big Cottonwood Canyon following the Mill D North Trail to Dog Lake, then down the Little Water Trail and ending in Millcreek Canyon to be picked up by my oh so understanding wife. The 3rd I decided to head to the mine up Cardiff Fork, which was very relaxing indeed. Friday the 7th was a return to Bells Canyon. Saturday I was slated to DJ at Saltair Resort for a huge House and Drum and Base event. With how late I had to play, I decided to camp on the beach. Sunday was so exhausting, I could only muster up the energy to hike to Bells Canyon once again.

With some paid time off needing to be taken, my mini vacation started with a hike to the boulder field in Bells Canyon on the 14th. The 15th, with rumor of fall colors setting in up Diamond Fork Canyon, I hiked to the ridge, then back to the hot springs for a soak. The 16th was the last backpacking trip of the season, so I loaded up the pack, and headed out with Jared for one more time this season. With a hairy traverse in the dark on the 16th to camp, we found a little paradise in this rugged wilderness in the Uinta's. Watson Lake was our destination, for we both had not done any fishing this season. When we awoke, we had no idea how great of a spot we had found, and the rush to get the lines wet was on. After about 2 hours, I landed a 13 inch Cutthroat Trout. Being that both of us had to be back the evening of the 17th, we broke camp and headed out. Not bad for an overnighter, and what a great place to visit. I will go back here for sure next season. The 22nd started out sunny and I decided to get up early and hike Cardiff Pass. On the way down the weather came in and once again, the Alpha SL rain jacket saved the day. Sunday the 23rd the upper canyons got their first snow. I hiked to Bells Canyon because it sits much lower in elevation, therefore no snow.

Tuesday the 25th, I hiked to my favorite spot up Rocky Mouth Canyon. Saturday the 29th, I headed up to Bells Canyon with my CamelBak Trail Blazer, even though it was cold and raining severely with snow reported to be on the way. The weatherman was not wrong. It snowed! It was coming down so hard, I knew if I got up early enough the next day there might be some snow to do turns on. Sure enough, Sunday the 30th, I got to ride! I hiked the Albion Basin to Cecret Lake, and took Home Run that had very little rocks and was a pretty smooth ride to the bottom.
Nothing epic I assure you, but to get turns on my Malolo and a run to the base in September is something I will never pass up. What a priceless place Utah is, to start a month bagging a peak in shorts and ending it snowboarding is unreal.

October and Summary

Our contest has finally come to an end. It will snow soon, and all the fall colors are out. Time to reflect on everything I have done this year. No other job I have ever had gives you the opportunity to push yourself to the limits in what you love to do and still provide you with a fulfilling work environment with some of the most talented, kind, understanding and gifted people as I get the pleasure of working with everyday.

So to sum it up, I got 7 rides in for the contest, 58 days hiking, 56,482 vertical feet of elevation gain, I wrote 108 product reviews, picked up 1,090 pieces of trash, and spent 10 nights camping under the stars. Not bad, for getting married this year, having a 60+ ride season snowboarding, having a baby, and then doing this all on top of working a 40 hour a week job. This would test the metal of anyone. But it was the activity that kept me sane, the return to the wilderness for peace and clarity, and the opportunity to get in on some great gear that made this year all that much more incredible to me.

I can say that Backcountry.com is the best job I have ever had. I get to work with the gear that I love everyday, help my company reach a goal of providing the best gear in the business, and back that gear with our dedication to the activities that we all love to do. I can tell you this, when I did not think I could go any further, I pushed it just a little bit harder because of this contest. Of course everything has to come to an end, and what would there be a finish line for if it were not the end? 6th place overall in points is not that bad considering. I am very happy to have archived that and look forward to next year's contest.

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