Tag Archives: Backpacking

Spyderco Rescue Assist

The more activities you do outside, the more you’ll find yourself looking for a reliable well-rounded knife. I’ve looked at hundreds of knives over the years from many different retailers and varying brands. I’ve consistently been disappointed… until now.

Spyderco, a Colorado company, makes the perfect knife for every outdoor enthusiast; The Spyderco Rescue Assist.

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Built to perfection for paramedics, this multipurpose tool deserves a spot in your pack for any activity potentially requiring self rescue. This purpose built knife can cut or “chomp” just about  anything, including climbing rope, rappel slings, seat-belts and clothing. It can break glass with its built in retractable carbide tip that protrudes out from the base when compressed and can alert others using the embedded handle whistle.  The high friction handle can be securely gripped in any scenario and the base lanyard loop makes for easy carrying on your alpine rack. From canyoneering to alpine backpacking, this rescue knife will always be with me.

Spend your time underwater blowing bubbles? Scuba divers should snag the “salt” version.

Colorado Chicago Basin

This past August I had the pleasure of exploring an area of Colorado called the Chicago Basin with my friends Tim & Catone. The area is very remote, requires at least two nights and includes lots of hoofing it to access the Basin. The main back country camping area provides access to three of the states most remote 14ers (Windom, Sunlight and Eolus). The Basin is absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to visit again.
The best way to experience the Basin is to utilize the Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad. The train will drop you and your pack off at the start of the main trailhead, cutting the hike to the main camping area down to ~8 miles. The train is a true piece of Colorado history operating just like it did back in 1880. The train conductor operates in a very casual manner, as long as you paid for a full round trip ticket you can pretty much take it out of the Basin any day you want. So, once you get there and decide to spend another day enjoying the area, don’t worry about the date on your ticket :). As an added bonus, if you end up taking a different route out of the Basin simply flag the train down at any point in the valley and they’ll stop and pick you up.

The Basin supports a very healthy goat population that has been desensitized to humans. Make sure you goat proof your camp before heading out to bag the 14ers. The goats are very aggressive at sniffing out your scraps of dropped food and love the salt in your urine. Our camp was overrun by goats multiple times. The goats are harmless, but you can help minimize the blending of the worlds by hanging left over food instead of burying it and urinate on large rocks instead of the dirt.

If you haven’t already bagged these peaks, make sure you put them on your list for next year. Exploring the area is definitely worth 14 hours in a car, 5 hours on a train, 16 miles by foot (not including the miles required to summit the peaks) and three nights in a tent at 10,000 feet. Enjoy!

Black Hawks, FEMA, and the Red Cross?


This was one weird backpacking trip… It was both my sister’s and my partner Nicole’s first backpacking trip ever. The goal was to reach the crystal clear waters of havasu. I had done the trip 3 times prior and was confident in my ability to be the trip leader. After a brief 16 hour drive to the south rim of the Grand Canyon we all crashed in the back of the Jeep and tried to get some sleep. We had spent the last few hours of the trip driving 140 miles in a very remote area through the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever witnessed. The rain was so heavy and the lightning so bright that at times we could only drive 5 mph.

Fortunately the storm passed after a few hours and we made the decision to proceed with the trip. We left the Jeep at 4am and started our 10 mile hike by head lamp down the Grand Canyon to Supai. After six miles of hiking we finally reached what should have been the calm crystal clear 70 degree Havasu creek… it looked more like the Colorado river. It was a dirty fast flowing river that had overflowed its banks by 50 feet! The bridge to cross the creek was inaccessible and was covered with large tree branches. Unbeknownst to us, a few hours prior an earth dam failed and sent an wall of water down the canyon.

As we sat at the bank of the river a privately owned helicopter combing the canyon spotted us and landed in a clearing a few yards away. The pilot waived us over and two officers from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) helped us load our packs into the helicopter. We were told that more water was expected to come down the canyon and we had to get out of there immediately.

We were taken the rest of the way to Supai where we mingled with a hundred other campers. We heard story after story of other backpackers that had spent the entire night hugging trees or scrambling up the side of the canyon trying to escape the flood waters. People lost hundreds of dollars of gear including wallets and car keys. To put this into perspective, the amount of water rushing down the canyon was so great that it leveled several homes, completely destroyed one of the waterfalls, and created two new falls in its wake.

We were stuck at the village all day (all foot paths in and out of the village had been destroyed). After a few hours the BIA informed us that FEMA helicopters would be joining the rescue efforts and that the US National Guard would be bringing in Black Hawks to evacuate the village… I couldn’t believe this was happening!

Eventually the three of us were strapped into a Black Hawk and flown out of the canyon to a Red Cross mobile command center. There we had to sign in and give our story and observations of the situation in an attempt to account for everyone in canyon. We were given a bottle of Gatorade and told to drive 200 miles back off the reservation to the nearest hotel. What a day.

Both Nicole and my sister told me they had no idea backpacking was so exciting and they couldn’t wait to go again. I tried to convince them this was a once and a lifetime but not sure they believed me 🙂

 

 

 

p.s. If you’re ever being evacuated by a Black Hawk in a dusty environment don’t take pictures… it will trash your camera. These are the last photos this digital camera ever took.