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The Colorado plateau is a tilted block of uplifted earth that occupies the four corners of the American southwest.

Best encapsulated, it’s the result of western Colorado, northern Arizona, northwest New Mexico, and the southern half of Utah smashing together in a momentous red, grey, and beige collage of towering walls, bizarre stone configurations, craggy valleys, and dark, plummeting gorges.

Adorned with every life-zone found from Central America to northern Canada, this perpetually-studied region of North America is an edgeless canvas of heart-stopping vistas and savage environments, a place to be reckoned with and at the same time, loved.

Where can I find a slot canyon?

It’s no surprise that the Colorado Plateau has the greatest number of named National Park Service units outside of our nation’s capital.  This geographic area is also home to a large concentration of incredible slot canyons.  Gateway towns such as Escalante and Boulder, both located in Utah, are teeming with these mysterious canyons in need of your visit.

Cutting through the Colorado Plateau is a winding, sandy web of slot canyons that serves as a natural channel system, moving water from the smaller individual plateaus into the region’s primary architect, the Colorado River, and its feeders, the Green, San Juan, and Little Colorado.

Narrow then wide, sunlit then cooled black, these incredible formations have cracked through the desert as a result of centuries of erratic, tumultuous rainstorms, sand-spitting winds, snowmelt, and geologic upheaval.

Best of all, they’ve provided countless Wildland Trekking guests with bucket-list memories and thrilling adventures.

How do Slot Canyons Form?

Most slot canyons start as minute, low-cut undulations in the topsoil, eventually becoming a serene creek or periodic path for run-off.

Over time, these ankle-deep waterways continually become subject to the wrath of much greater natural forces, often in the form of runoff that has gained momentum from storms miles away.

The rapid onset of frothing water full of rocks, sand, and debris carve, chisel, and smooth canyon walls and downcut their floors, deepening a trench by fractions of an inch after every spring melt or late summer thunderhead.

Canyon walls have no choice but to acquiesce to their raging aquatic content, bending and twisting to its will.

What type of rock is involved?

Rock quality and makeup also determine the shape and depth of a canyon.

As the canyons are cut, water will meet more durable rock types, forcing it to find another path. This helps explain sudden turns and varying slot canyon depth.

Sandstone is the most evident rock type making up slot canyons, as its makeup of compressed sand is more susceptible to the chemical and physical erosional forces of water.

However, as evidenced by the Grand Canyon, with enough time and force, anything can be broken down, especially when water is charged with the task of having to be somewhere.

Slot canyons occur in many other places around the world, but few offer the variety and sense of awe as the Colorado Plateau’s.

Come explore these incredible natural wonders with us this spring or summer. See what water is capable of.

The post How do Slot Canyons Form? appeared first on Wild..

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Despite the satisfaction of ending a fun day on the trail, the calming twilight breeze, and general exhaustion, it’s not uncommon for our backpacking guests to have a hard time sleeping that first night or two in the desert.

Although subtle, the chirps, rustling, and the certainty of sandy footsteps can create a strangely unsettling chorus outside of your tent. The good news is that the sounds you’re hearing are easily explained and in most cases, worth staying awake to experience.

In the desert, life’s hours flip. It’s a nocturnal world to which we nine-to-fivers aren’t accustomed. At night, the desert becomes a flurry of activity as animals venture forth to forage and frolic.

So, what exactly might you be hearing outside the nylon barrier of your sleeping quarters? The explanations are many, here are merely a few:

The Kangaroo Rat

More mouse than rat, this fast and crafty rodent is just one of the many small furry types responsible for the network of thin, sandy highways fanning throughout stands of cacti and mormon tea. They hustle from one spiny enclave to the next to avoid predators like snakes and owls.

It’s not uncommon for shifty rodents to repeat their itinerary many times a night, and we often end up camping right in the middle of their intersections. As a result, kangaroo rats and their many relatives often dart along the edges of our tents, rustling fabric and climbing over backpacks.

Mule Deer


In most of the locations our trips traverse, deer are quite comfortable with our presence. The desert’s most common hoofed mammal is not shy about munching plants merely feet from our tent stakes.

You’ll know the sound of deer from the sporadic way they move about, nibbling branches or shrubs in one place for several minutes, then moving on by only a step or two.

You can also recognize them by their stoic eyes reflecting in your headlamp beam as you scurry for the midnight privy.

Owls


Even when you know full well the source, some desert calls are just too hard to ignore. The owl is one of them and with any luck, one will perch near camp.

Note that in the desert, owls often sit on low branches or in rocky alcoves, so their hoots may be startlingly close by.   

Lizards


You’ll be surprised at just how much ruckus can be made by the many species of small desert reptiles.

Everything from tree lizards to side-blotches stomp through loose cottonwood leaves, dart after prey, and sprint under our tents.

Keep in mind that the general silence of the desert tends to help accentuate any form of audible activity, the movement of lizards especially.

Coyote


If you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience the American west’s most iconic voice.

While the “song dog” is just about everywhere today, there’s something truly unforgettable about hearing their yips, barks, and wild ditties when deep in the canyons and shrubby hillsides of the southwest.

Hearing this nighttime howl is tantamount to hearing Willie Nelson at the Ryman, or an opportunity to have heard Bob Marley around a Caribbean beach campfire. It’s all about the environment.

Rest assured, there’s little to worry about on a Wildland Trekking trip into the desert.

Except trying to find a time to come back and do it all again.

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Hiking the labyrinthine canyons and corridors of the desert southwest invokes an air of awe and mystery. Along the course of your canyon adventure, you will likely discover a puzzle that has baffled naturalists since the time of Charles Darwin. Along the walls and atop the boulders along your route, you might notice a dark coating ranging from a dark brown rust to a polished gunmetal blue. This coating is broadly known as desert varnish or desert patina.

The ingredients for desert varnish.


When a rock surface is exposed to the air, it comes into contact with aeolian (wind-blown) dust. 50-90% of desert varnish is composed of wind-blown clay particles. The broken and decayed fragments of clay minerals provide the template for one of the most intriguing ingredients of desert varnish; Manganese oxide.is a relatively rare element found on Earth, making up only about 0.12% of the weight of the crust. The mystery that has plagued scientists is that the elemental concentrations of Manganese found in desert varnish may be anywhere from 50-300 times higher than the surrounding soil. The leading hypothesis for these high concentrations are tiny manganese-oxidizing microbes that live on the rock face. These microbes provide concentrated amounts of manganese oxide which, paired with oxidized iron particles found in the aeolian soil, cement the clay particles to the rock face forming desert varnish.

How is desert varnish useful?


Even though the major components of desert varnish are manganese and iron, the coating is generally too thin to be mined in any useful fashion. But, there are other trace elements that become trapped in the clay particles that scientists can study to investigate changes in Earth’s climate, and the layering formation of desert varnish provides a reliable timestamp to date these changes. For example, wetter environmental conditions form more manganese-rich layers and drier periods, more iron-rich layers. Some scientists also speculate that there may be desert varnish on some Martian rocks, suggesting that there may be active colonies of these microbes or at least fossilized evidence of this extreme form of alien life.

Does all desert varnish look the same?


Some desert varnish may appear as a dull black or rusty brown coating. Some may have a glassy blue sheen. Generally, the blacker the varnish coating, the higher the concentration of manganese. When desert varnish appears glossy or shiny, it has been coated with a hardened gel-like coating of silica that leaches out of the rock.

How long does desert varnish take to form?


Although it has been extensively studied, there are still a lot of uncertainties surrounding the formation of desert varnish. The underlying cause lies in the fact that the average rate of formation for desert varnish is, get this, one MICROMETER per MILLENNIA! That means that, on average, it could take as much as 50,000 years for a coating of desert varnish the reach the thickness of a piece of paper. The length of this process and the extreme hardness of desert varnish (almost as hard a quartz) make it a little difficult to reproduce in a lab setting. Ancient peoples, however, took advantage of these qualities of desert varnish. A nice, flat rock surface coated with a thin sheen of dark varnish made a perfect canvas for ancient Native American rock art. The native peoples would chip away the thin, dark coating of varnish to expose the lighter rock underneath, leaving behind images of spirals, bighorn sheep, people, and other petroglyph (petro=rock, glyph=carving) forms we can see today some hundreds and even thousands of years later.

So keep your eyes out for this natural wonder the next time you find yourself hiking the desert. You may even find a message from the Ancestors.

See desert varnish for yourself on any of our Southern Utah or Grand Canyon Hiking Tours.

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Whether you are navigating one of our backpacking trips in Yellowstone this summer, or taking on an adventurous day hike in Utah’s mighty desert, it is very important to follow smart hydration practices.

When hitting the trail, make sure to follow these simple tips and tricks for drinking plenty of water while enjoy the beauty of our public lands.

Remember, we all need water.

Water is critical  for all sorts of daily bodily functions.  Water helps us regulate body temperature, aids in smoothe digestion, delivers oxygen all over the body, protects and cushions joints, and flushes out unwanted toxins from the body.  Additionally, the human body is roughly 60% water, which means it is necessary to keep a solid baseline of hydration for all systems to function well.  While the amount of water intake varies widely by individual, if you are out for a day of hiking, we like to suggest 3-4 liters of water for the entirety of the day to keep you at “happy camper” status.

Develop a strong pre-hydration game.

No matter where you live, we all wake up dehydrated simply because the body was deprived of water for likely 6-8 hours.  Rather than waiting until you are working up a sweat on mile one up Observation Point in Zion, consider pre-hydrating while eating your breakfast.  Pre-hydrating can go a long way when you arrive at your gateway town for a trip too, as often times the places we love to hike may be located at higher elevations than most people live.  At higher elevation, the body needs more water to perform well.  So, if you are heading to a place like Bryce Canyon National Park (elevation ~7,700ft) from sea level, drink plenty of water upon your arrival to Utah!  

Consider using a hydration bladder.

You may think these seem silly on the trail, but on a backpacking trip they are the most ergonomic way to ensure you have enough water between streams and rivers fill ups.  Nalgene water bottles are great too, but can be cumbersome and make you have to stop more often to strip off a heavy pack to access the bottle.  A hydration bladder offers a convenient straw that is always right near your mouth.  The added bonus I find with my bladder is, because it is so close, I tend to drink more throughout the day just because it is always available to me.  REI or any sports store is a great place to shop for one.  We recommend a 3-liter bladder as a good starting point for any Wildland Trekking trip. 

Go to bed with a full water bottle near your tent.

After a huge day hiking in the mountains, you will likely arrive back to camp happily tired and with a totally empty hydration bladder.  Great job!  But, your work doesn’t stop there.  As it was mentioned earlier, once we head off to sleep, our body will work without water all night.  Most of our guides fill up one water bottle and set it just outside their tent every night.  This ensures that if you wake up thirsty, water is easily accessible and when you wake up you can begin that pre-game of fueling up.  

Practice “LNT” with your water vessel choice.

We all know disposable plastic water bottles plague our oceans and landfills.  You can extend your Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics to what you choose to bring on a trip with regard to water bottle choice.  Go green and commit to purchasing a Nalgene or two as well as a hydration bladder if you are opting for longer hikes.  All of these items can be cleaned with hot soapy water, and can be used for much longer than a 16oz Nestle bottle.

Replace your lost electrolytes.

This is especially true when you are sweating hard in the spring/summer heat of the desert.  When you sweat you loose things like sodium (salt), potassium, and chloride. These are essential components your body needs to continue running effectively throughout the rest of your day.  You can opt for electroylyte rich drinks like Gatorade or coconut water.  You can also make sure to add some extra table salt to your dinner or lunch to replace the sodium that you sweat out on the trail.

Winter Water Options.

When the mercury drops, making for a cold day hiking, it is easy to let hydration fall by the wayside.  But, drinking plenty of water when it is cold and you are exercising, is just as important if not more!  Tea is a great hot beverage to use, or even warm water with a small amount of a sport’s drink mixture to make the water more palatable in the cold.  Pre-hydrating before a winter hike with things like juice or water are great ways to get ahead of the curve.  In winter your body generally has a higher output–it is working harder trudging through snow and sweating under all those extra layers. Also, while people tend to hate on coffee, if it is used in moderation, coffee does offer at least some hydration benefit.  

Be knowledgeable about your backcountry water sources.

If you are doing a day hike at any one of our national parks, potable, purified drinking water is available.  You can fill up your hydration bladder anywhere and most likely purchase a tea at a concessions space.  The true test of becoming a hydration Jedi Master is when you move into hydrating in the backcountry.  On a backpacking trip you will need to fill up your water bottles from streams, rivers, and sometimes from murky puddle-like sources in the desert.  The key to hydrating yourself safely in the backcountry is filtering and purifying.  On a Wildland trip all filtering and purifying is done and taught by trained professional guides.  However, if you want to continue hiking on your own in the backcountry, your next steps would be to look into products like the MSR gravity filter, and chemical purification systems such as Aqua Mira.

Stay on point with your hydration and get the most out of your next hiking adventure!

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Basecamping: “all-inclusive” day hiking.  Backpacking: beauty and solitude you have to work for.  Both types of trips offered by Wildland are a great way to immerse yourself in the natural world.  Take a look below to decide which trip style is right for you!

Basecamping: You want wild meets comfort.

Basecamping is for those adventurers who are looking for an outdoor experience with all the amenities of home.  On one of our basecamping trips expect to have access to hot showers every evening and wonderful meals complete with fresh produce daily. You can get the satisfaction of hiking hard during the day, and return to the campsite knowing a large comfy sleeping pad awaits you.

You want to introduce your kids to the joy of an outdoor adventure trip.

While youth are absolutely able to join in on a backpacking trip, sometimes this can be a hit or miss experience for the child based on many variables.  Backpacking tends to be more constrained by non-negotiable factors like weather, water sources, and time.  On a basecamping trip you go on day hikes within a national park or wilderness area.  Each hike is planned and can be further customized to meet a families’ needs.

You want it all taken care of.

A basecamp trip could be described as an “all inclusive” sort of trip.  Everything you may need to think of is taken care of for you by the guides.  Food, local stops for souvenirs, the daily itinerary, bathroom breaks for the kids, hiking gear, equipment set up and take down, all of these things are pre-arranged for you prior to your trip. We even pack a bath towel and shampoo if you end up forgetting your toiletries!  If you want to be in an awe inspring place and just focus on appreciating the natural beauty, choose one of our basecamp trips.  One of our favorites is the 5-day Escalante Basecamp tour.

You have a larger group of people in mind.

Due to the nature of permitting and regulations in backcountry areas, oftentimes, backpacking trips are confined to a smaller amount of guests.  Therefore, if you want to share an experience with more friends/family (i.e. 6 or more generally) consider a basecamping trip as oppose to backpacking.  Because these trips have more access to local ammenities, a trip like this can accomodate a variety of needs on the fly.

You are a solo traveler looking to meet new like-minded friends!

Solo travelers rejoice!  If you are someone who enjoys traveling alone, but also enjoys swapping fun stories across a campfire with fellow singles, this trip type is a solid choice.  A basecamping trip by its nature, has a built in communal aspect.  We eat our meals together and hike together, which tends to bring people close quickly.  So, if you are interested in a sunset hike with a few new friends just waiting to happen, a basecamp is definitely for you.  It it important to note on these trips that, while the social aspect is true, there is always the option to create space for alone time.

Backpacking.  You are someone who thrives on a physical challenge.

Backpacking is hard, hard work.  It will be challenging to your mind and your body for 3-7 long days, depending on your trip.  You are on your feet most of the day, taking in the sights around you, with a 35-50lb pack on you at all times.  You will not be able to shower on a trip like this, but you will get in touch with your feral, inner wild child side.  A trip like this is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth every once of effort.  If you do a backpacking trip, expect to come away from it with a new self-confidence that comes from doing hard things.

You are craving solitude and a true digital detox.

Oftentimes you will not seen anyone besides your guide and fellow trip goers for 3-4 days. Even with the pervasiveness of cell reception,  many of the backcountry areas we operate does not have cell reception.  Unplug, know that your responsible guide carries a satellite phone in case of emergencies, and relish in the fact that the only notification you will get is from the birds or squirrels.

You want to learn a new skill as part of your vacation.

Backpacking is not something many of us do regularly.  On a backpacking trip you must be able to pack and unpack all of your worldly possessions daily.  While it may not seem too hard, imagine putting everything into a 90 L space!  If you are ready to have a spiked learning curve for a few days, consider backpacking with us.  Your guide will show you the tips and tricks needed to make everything–sleeping bag, sleeping mat, a tent, clothing, food, and water–all fit on your back.  The satisfaction that comes from doing something this challenging will get you hooked for life as a thru-hiker.

You value simplicity in meals.

Any meal you eat on a Wildland trip is going to be amazing, guaranteed.  However, due to the fact that we must carry all the group’s food for the whole trip in our packs, this puts some limits on menu options.  You can expect some fresh produce on the front and back end of a backpacking trip.  During the middle of the trip, most meals are dried goods that are rehydrated and cooked by your guide.  So, think along the lines of hearty stews, pancakes and sausage, soups, and pastas.  

You prefer a more smaller group setting.

Our backpacking trips tend to have a smaller amount of people, whether that is a few couples or 5 solo hikers.  On a backpacking trip we hike long hours in the backcountry. As long as you keep your guide in sight you can be as introverted as you need. Downtime happens more frequently on a backpacking trip once the next camp is all set up.  So, if you are craving a hard day’s hike in exchange for time to read your book by the creek, consider a backpacking trip.

Choosing a trip style can be a big move.  However, regardless of trip style, you can expect a high standard of excellence and safety that is unparalleled in the industry. On each and every hike our guides deliver interpretative knowledge of the flora and fauna of an area, as well as cook up great food at the end of the day.  Whether you choose a base-camping or backpacking, you will receive a memorable adventure!  

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Get off the beaten track.

Our six-day Capitol Reef Backpacking trip traverses the remote Waterpocket Fold District to the very southern boundary of Capitol Reef National Park. Here are 10 reasons to go.

1. Off the Map Our trailhead: 7 hours from St. George, and right next to the middle of nowhere. Notice the laccolith Henry Mountains in the background. This was the final mountain range to receive cartographical scrutiny contiguous US.

Less than a century ago, the Waterpocket Fold became the last-mapped region in the West. This is remote country that hid Butch Cassidy and kept local Paiute Indians safe long after pioneers encroached elsewhere. Our seven-hour drive to the trailhead passes through what was the final horsepacking town in America. And even today, this route has an edge-of-the-earth feel that is unworldly.

2. Wagon Tracks

One of the neatest things about backpacking through Canyon Country is the first-hand human history. In 1881 Mormon pioneer and entrepreneur Charles Hall was looking for a better way to cross the Colorado River to serve the settlements along the San Juan River. He created a wagon route up Grand Gulch (Halls Creek) from the Colorado, through Lower Muley Twist and Silver Falls Canyon to Harris Wash. Our Capitol Reef Backpacking trip traces much of this route through Halls Creek and Lower Muley Canyon.

3. The Slide

The Red Slide is a break in the edge of the fold, where weakness between the Jurassic/Triassic sandstone layers allowed an 800-ft ramp to form between Halls Creek and the top of the Fold.

4. Slot Canyon Serenity

Seven miles from Lake Powell, Halls Creek closes in to form some of the most tremendous canyon “narrows,” in Utah.

The Halls Creek Narrows is similar in both scale and spectacle to the famous Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park. But unlike the Zion Narrows, Halls Creek remains largely untraveled and unknown. Expect to see thousand-foot canyon walls, spectacular hanging gardens and very few people. In fact, thanks to its extremely remote location, Halls Creek receives just a 10th of a percent of the visitation of its better known cousin. Our Capitol Reef Backpacking trip spends a full day exploring this surreal slot canyon environment.

5. Hamburger Rocks

These fat burger-shaped hoodoos (geologic term for a column of rock) grace the postcards and coffee table books for sale at the Capitol Reef National Park Bookstore. But few ever get to see (or feel) these peculiar pygmy pinnacles.

6. Tanks

Tanks. Potholes. Tinajas. Waterpockets. All names for eroded holes that host life in the deserts of Canyon Country.

7. Double Arch

On the first day of our Capitol Reef Backpacking trip, we’ll take a day hike to Brimhall Natural Arch – a stunning example of one of the few double sandstone arches anywhere in the world.

8. Cowboy Cave

More of an alcove than a true cave, this massive overhang served as shelter to generations of travelers. Inscriptions from the 1920s back to 1896 decorate the desert varnished walls, and trinkets like tobacco tins and coffee cans can be found on the sandy floor.

9. The Lower Muley Twist

With “enough turns to twist a Mule,” Lower Muley Canyon provided an amusing segment of Charles Hall’s 1881 “road” to San Juan County (see Wagon Tracks). Still just as isolated as a century ago, the Muley Twist continues to delight backpackers today.

10. The Fold

If a waterpocket is a pothole, then what’s the fold? 

Essentially, the Waterpocket Fold is a wrinkle in the earth. Sixty-five million years ago, the same compacting forces that created the the Rocky Mountains also made this monocline fold that sits like a mangled spine in the middle of the remote Colorado Pleateau region. The fold makes up the proverbial “reef” (essentially a barrier) in Capitol Reef National Park.

Our Capitol Reef backpacking trip through the Waterpocket Fold District is one of Canyon Country’s true, off-the-beaten-track pleasures. Trips run March through May and September through October. Space is limited on our small group backpacking tours. For further information, visit our Capitol Reef Backpacking trip page, or call 800-533-4453 (HIKE). 

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Progress Report as of late-summer, 2017.

Grand Canyon Area

Donated $5,000 to Grand Canyon Association’s Trails Forever Fund for their centennial campaign to raise $15 Million by 2019. Donation was matched by a corporate donor.

Contributed $250 to Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project to help sponsor their annual film festival in Flagstaff.

Gave $250 to become members of the Grand Canyon Trust.

Havasu Falls

Donated $4,200 to the Arizona Animal Humane Society to sponsor a two-day veterinarian clinic for horses at Supai. Twelve veterinarians and vet techs treated over 70 horses while Wildland Operations Manager Larry Abels and Wildland Philanthropy Coordinator Doug Campbell made fajitas for volunteers and tribal council members.

Gave $800 to Wildhorse Ranch Rescue in Gilbert, AZ.

SEDONA

Donated $250 to Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund.

Pacific Northwest

Donated a Wildland hiking trip to Washington’s National Park Fund annual spring dinner/fundraiser. The trip was packaged with lodging and sold at live auction for $3,200. Several hundred thousand dollars was raised, and will go to Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park. Pacific Northwest Program Manager Guy Dobyns attended the event.

UTAH

Donated $250 to Grand Staircase Escalante Partners for advocacy efforts to oppose a reduction in the size of this incredible National Monument that is home to our favorite Utah backpacking tours.

Utah Staff fundraiser underway for the Zion Forever Project. Wildland contributing matching funds.

Great Smoky Mountains

Donated a trip for live auction at the January 2018 Evergreen Ball, which is the bi-annual fundraiser for the Friends of the Smokies. This year’s event raised $700,000 for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Smokies Program Manager Chris Hoge guided 5 members of Great Smoky Mountain Association on their bi-annual members’ backpacking trip. Thanks to Chris for cultivating our relationship with the Great Smoky Mountain Association.

Yellowstone

Yellowstone Program staff fundraising effort underway for backcountry project sponsored by Yellowstone Forever. Wildland will match up to $500.

TETONS

Donated $250 for business membership with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the non-profit conservation organization responsible the Yellowstone Ecosystem, including the Teton, Wind River and Gros Ventre mountain ranges.

COLORADO

Staff fundraising effort underway for backcountry project sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Matching contributions provided by Wildland.

Yosemite

California Program staff fundraising effort underway for backcountry project sponsored by the Yosemite Conservancy. Wildland will match up to $500.

Community and Guest Participation

Wildland is sponsoring a September fundraiser on behalf of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance where Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Elyssa Shalla and Matt Jenkins will give a presentation on their 700-mile Grand Canyon through-hike. Raffle winner will receive a Wildland Adventure.

Renewed membership with Outdoor Center for Leave No Trace Ethics.

Voted on several grant proposals as members of the Conservation Alliance.

Donated $500 to Camp Colton — an environmental science camp for 6th graders in the Flagstaff School District — towards construction of new cabins.

Our post-trip guest thank you emails now invite guests to contribute to the conservation organizations entrusted with the protection of the lands where they’ve just traveled. Thank you guests!

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“Hiking is one of those rare activities that allows you to fully explore a place at your own pace, taking time to truly appreciate your surroundings, proving that the journey often rivals the destination. On Wildland Trekking’s 5-Day Smoky Mountains Hiking Experience, you’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the most naturally and culturally significant mountain landscapes in the country. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is both a World Heritage and Biosphere Reserve Site, renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, as well as for the beauty of its ancient mountains. It’s also an icon of Southern Appalachian culture spanning back to the late 18th century. And the best way to experience this majestic national treasure is to do what the original settlers and explorers did – hit the trails.

“At over 500,000 acres, with an elevation range of more than 5,000 feet from the valley to the highest peaks, the park’s behemoth size is difficult to fathom. Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s a hiker’s paradise with more than 800 miles of maintained trails and nature walks where casual hikers or experienced trekkers can enjoy the most gentle or rugged terrain imaginable in the eastern U.S. The scenery is magical with cascading waterfalls, bucolic valleys, verdant forests and sweeping vistas everywhere, along with abundant wildlife and wildflowers. And if you’re wondering about the park’s namesake, “Smoky,” it refers to the natural fog that often hangs low over the park’s forests, a result of the collective exhalation of organic compounds by the forests’ vegetation. That explains why from a distance the mountains appear as if they have large blue smoke plumes emanating from them.”

Read more at http://nationalparktraveling.com/listing/hiking-the-great-smoky-mountains/.

Check out our Smoky Mountain hiking adventures at https://www.wildlandtrekking.com/great-smoky-mountains/hiking-tours.html.

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“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt”…John Muir

And more specifically red dirt! Here in Sedona, miles of red dirt trails lead you to amazing vistas, roaring creeks, and an abundance of adventure.

Sedona, Arizona is Wildland’s newest destination and has quickly become a guest favorite. Conveniently located just south of the Grand Canyon and north of Phoenix, it can be reached in a half day’s travel from almost anywhere in the country. The 19-square mile city is surrounded by 6 wilderness areas and 1.8 million acres of National Forest that feature towering red rock formations, breathtaking canyons, and fascinating cultural history: pictographs, petroglyphs and ruins scattered over the Sedona area reveal some 5,000 years of human history. Native Americans built communities high in the red cliffs and farmed the land using spring-fed water, these primitive people tapped into a resource and way of living that we have only begun to understand.

The town itself boasts shops of all types offering local fares, chic art galleries, Vortex Tours (Sedona has a reputation among enthusiasts as a vortex site), and compelling architecture including brilliant churches that hide among red rock. With so much going on inside the town and out, there is a lot to offer the intrepid adventurer and the more relaxed tourist.

Here are five of our favorite things about Sedona:

1. The Hiking….Of Course

You guessed it! The hiking is our number one reason to love Sedona. Sedona has over 100 trails, each with its own unique character and history. The variety of trails cater to any type of hiker. Mitten Ridge is a guide favorite, offering challenging yet rewarding traverses up slick rock features to a beautiful saddle where the views are sure to blow your mind.

2. Climate

With an average of 278 days of sunshine a year, Sedona’s climate makes it one of the best in the world for outdoor enthusiasts. Sedona’s high elevation (4,500 feet) and dry climate keeps humidity away, making even the hot days a little more pleasant.

In the Spring, manzanita bushes blossom and the peak bloom of flowering trees offer a captivating contrast against the red rocks.

As Summer approaches, the days begin to heat up, but the anticipated monsoon season (mid-July to mid-September) brings afternoon showers, cooler evenings, and wondrous displays of lightning and roaring thunderstorms over the red rock cathedrals. Summer is a season that should not be overlooked. Our RED ROCK BASECAMP TOUR is nestled right on the banks of Oak Creek which offers a lovely summer retreat and access to some premier trails.

As Autumn nears, the vibrant colors of red and yellow coat Oak Creek Canyon. The crisp air and cooler temps make it the perfect time to hit the trails and watch as the seasons bring about a beautiful and natural change in the valley.

Winter in Sedona is mild with an average annual snowfall of only 7-8 inches. With the peak tourism season coming to a close, opportunities for solitude among the red rocks are abound.

3. Culture

Sedona has been a well-known art scene since the early1950’s. Sedona is home to many artists from all over the world and boasts over 40 unique art galleries. Sedona hosts yoga, music, and film festivals annually and is home to many spiritual retreat centers. On top of all of that, Sedona has become a “culinary hot spot”, with a variety of delicious cuisine available for your enjoyment.

As James W. Cook said “You know you’re an Arizona native, when in your heart, you’re sure that at the end of the rainbow there is not a pot of gold—but a good Mexican restaurant”. Our INN-BASED SEDONA HIKING TOURS offer the perfect opportunity to dine at a variety of local restaurants.

4. Flora and Fauna

As for plants and wildlife, Sedona is home to 8 plant communities: Ponderosa Pine-Fir Forests, Chaparral, Pinon-Juniper, Woodland, Evergreen Oak Woodland, Arizona Cypress Woodland, Upper Riparian-Lower Riparian and Desert-Grassland; Sedona is home to 300 species of vertebrate animals, 55 types of mammals and 80 types of fish, amphibians and reptiles. There is so much that can be seen on our featured RED ROCK DAY HIKE TOURS and our interpretive guides are among the best.

5. Location! Location! Location!

Lastly, another byproduct of Sedona’s greatness is that the South Rim of Grand Canyon is only 119 miles away! This presents the opportunity to see two amazingly beautiful, awe-inspiring places in one trip. Our Grand Canyon and Sedona Tour offers the opportunity to see them both and highlights the best of the Southwest.

Oh, Sedona! We love this area and are excited to extend our knowledge and share our passion for this unique landscape with you and your family or friends. Please get in touch with an Adventure Consultant to see what trip is right for you! See you out there!

Mikaela Ray, Sedona Program Manger, Passionate Explorer

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do I need a guide to Get around Zion?

     Well… Think Sistine Chapel. Expect to find well-marked trails in an easy-to-navigate Park. So no. But like any other great wonder of the world, the enhancement of having a guide can turn a simply stunning experience into transcendent one.

Your guide is your very own augmented reality.

There isn’t an AR app that can compete with the insight and erudition of a Wildland guide.  While we can’t escape the swarm, enhancing your “sense of place” is the #1 reason to hire a guide in Zion National Park.

What else should you expect?

1. Solitude?…  Sorry.

The name “Zion” may inspire feelings of tranquility and originality, but you probably won’t be surprised to learn that you’re not the first, or only, person to visit the canyon. Over 4 million people came just last year.

Your guide can’t transcend these crowds. But what you should expect is a sense of awe that eclipses that of any manmade work of art or architecture. And it’s your guide’s job to turn that awe into “awesome.”

2. Fantastic Food…. Definitely!

Unlike many great manmade sites where you might be inclined to hire a guide — e.g. Notre Dame, Machu Picchu, Hagia Sophia — you are allowed to eat in Zion Canyon!

Before your trip, your guide will contact you to learn about any dietary restrictions, likes or dislikes that you may have. They’ll then design a custom meal to suit. No bag lunches here. Expect fresh food with a beautiful backdrop, and an assortment of tasty snacks to keep you fueled throughout the day.

97% of guests rate their Wildland eating experience as “Excellent!”

2. Great Gear… of course.

While you don’t need much to enjoy a great day in Zion National Park, the right equipment will help you be prepared to enjoy the Park to its fullest. Our guides supply you with a top-of-the-line backpack to tote your personal belongings and sturdy trekking poles to ensure sure-footedness on the trail. For icy winter hikes, your guide will also bring a set of crampons and several cups of tea (see Fantastic Food, above).

Your guide, of course, carries your lunch, as well as emergency preparedness gear like epinephrine, an outdoor first aid kit and a satellite phone. All Wildland guides are certified Wilderness First Responders (a high level of medical training), CPR practitioners and Food Safety Handlers.

Our commitment is to hire and train the best guides in the industry. These extraordinary men and women have the ability to turn a great get-away into an unforgettable, inspiring – and sometimes truly life changing – adventure.

The most obvious thing about Zion Canyon is its tremendous beauty. The more you know, the more you’ll appreciate. Your guide is there to show you the story behind the stone.

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