Hikers’ Blog

2023 OVERNIGHT TRIPS

Due to higher fuel prices, the Hiking Committee is opting to stay closer to home this year, with all three of our overnight trips in-state: Fruita, Silverton and Salida. By staying closer to home with our overnight trips, we also plan to eliminate some of those long drives on day hikes by dovetailing them with overnighters.

FRUITA, COLORADO (MAY 15-19, 5 DAYS 4 NIGHTS)

Many of the hikes we’ve scheduled for our spring trip to Fruita we’ve done in the past as day hikes. But, in the past, I’d heard complaints that Fruita is “too far” to drive for such hikes. On the other hand, I’d also heard that Fruita was “too close” for an overnight trip. Make mine smoked gouda on a Triscuit with that whine.

We’ve reserved 25 rooms for this trip at the Fruita Comfort Inn with a group discount of about 16%: currently $93/night, single king or single queen; $97/night double queen, plus taxes. Please note, however, that the rate you’ll pay will fluctuate with the rate currently available to the general public at the time of your booking. And because the rate will likely increase in the future, it behooves you to book early. Every room includes free wireless high-speed internet, free hot breakfast, in-room flat-screen TV, coffee maker, microwave and minifridge. There are an indoor pool and hot tub, fitness center, business center and laundry facilities, as well.

To reserve your room in our block of 25 rooms, simply click this LINK to launch the reservation page in your browser with our group’s prevailing discount prices. You should note that there are other rooms & suites that may better suit your particular needs, as well, but at higher rates. But we expect most of you will be happy with the selection of rooms described above. Simply select the room you wish to book. Your credit card will be billed the full amount of your reservation (i.e., for all 4 nights) when you book it, but you may cancel up to 7 days prior to check-in (May 8) and receive a full refund.

SILVERTON, COLORADO (AUGUST 7-11, 5 DAYS 4 NIGHTS)

We are proud to announce our first-ever overnighter to this historic frontier mining town. Today, the only silver being mined there is from the pockets of wealthy…and not-so-wealthy…tourists who travel from far and wide to visit this icon of the American Southwest. In fact, it was 1974, when I was still living in Miami, that I first learned of the equally iconic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Although I’d never heard of a bucket list back then, it was one of the first items on mine. But it wasn’t until 1983 that I finally checked it off.  Since then, I’ve ridden those rails 5 times, summer and fall, with 8 different companions.

We’ll be staying at yet another Silverton icon, the Grand Imperial Hotel, just 2 blocks from the railway station. Fortunately…or unfortunately, depending on your point of view…we’ll be on one trail or another when the iron horse(s) pull into the station. There can be 2-3 trains rumbling into Silverton each day during the peak summer season, and you wouldn’t want to get anywhere near one of the local restaurants at lunchtime as rail-riders do their impression of a Le Mans start to out-race their fellow passengers to a table. By dinnertime, however, Silverton returns to its normal laid-back pace of life. But what do I know. I’ve only spent one night in Silverton, in the winter, to ski the steep and deep.

The Grand Imperial is to Silverton as the Brown Palace is to Denver, the Hotel Jerome is to Aspen, or the Hotel Colorado is to Glenwood. The grand dame of Silverton still retains the same ambience and “charm” as it did when it opened 140 years ago. But I’d be willing to wager that its saloon back then put the “wild” in Wild West. After all, this was a mining town. And no one parties heartier than a miner.

The Grand Imperial has 32 rooms, of which we’ve reserved 25. We’ll receive a 20% discount if we book at least 20 of them. Room prices below (tax included) are based on the 20% discount, and we would prefer that you book with the hotel versus VRBO or AirBnB to ensure that we receive the discount. Call (970) 387-5527 to book a room or suite and be sure to specify that you’re with the 100 Club. Your credit card will not be charged until 30 days prior to check-in, and you may cancel up to 7 days prior to check-in (July 31). Before I continue, in the interests of full disclosure, our rooms are on the second and third floors (there are no rooms on the first floor…that’s where the lobby…and the aforementioned saloon…are located). And there’s no elevator… something to consider when booking your room. The only elevators in the area may have been in the now-defunct mines. So, book early if you want a second-floor room.  In the table below, the columns labeled “#” are the number of each room type available as of Nov 28.The Family Suite has two bedrooms (single king bed in one and two queen beds in the other), one bathroom, and a common area with fold-out couch, microwave and mini-fridge. The Mini Suite would be perfect for two singles or a single and couple who don’t mind sharing a bath. It has two double beds in one bedroom and a fold-out couch in the common area. Hotel amenities include free wi-fi, flat-screen HDTV in every room, room-controlled heat (at 9400’ elevation, you might need this), private baths, and hair dryers.  Second floor units have step-in showers. Third floor units have clawfoot tubs with shower heads and curtains. Unfortunately, those of you who enjoy the creature comforts of a pool and jacuzzi, might be disappointed. And there are no microwaves or mini-fridges in most units. But there’s an ice machine on the second floor, free coffee and tea in the lobby, and you can purchase breakfast for a reasonable price at the hotel’s cafe. Since most of our hikes will be a short drive from Silverton, we won’t need to make a zero-dark-thirty start.

SALIDA, COLORADO (SEPTEMBER 18-22, 5 DAYS 4 NIGHTS)

We’ve reserved a block of 22 double queen rooms at the Loyal Duke Lodge 525 Rainbow Blvd (US Hwy 50) in Salida for $666.48/4 nights (15% off the regular rate), including taxes. Call (833) 550-1286 to make your reservation. Be sure to specify that you’re with the 100 Club when you make your reservation. The hotel will honor this discount until August 18, after which any unreserved rooms will be released to the general public. You may reserve your room at any time before the August 18 deadline, but you will be charged the full amount of your reservation ($666.48) at that time. However, you may cancel and receive a full refund up to 7 days prior to check-in (Sep 11). No refunds will be made after September 11, but if you must cancel after that, we may have a waitlist of people to fill your vacancy.

The Loyal Duke Lodge offers the following amenities: Complimentary continental breakfast from 7:30am to 9:30am; indoor heated pool, one indoor and two outdoor hot tubs; outdoor gas firepit; in-room Direct TV, air conditioning, mini-fridge and microwave. Coffee makers are available at the front desk for those who would like one in their room during their stay.

The Lodge does not offer daily housekeeping services.  They do offer free trash pick-up and fresh towels, as needed.  Guests should leave their trash and dirty towels outside their room by 12:00pm for pick-up. Guests can pick up any additional room supplies they need at the front desk.

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Four nights, 103 hours (just guessing). In any event, it was a long time…or a long, long, long, looonnnggg time if you were in John’s boots.  I like to refer to terrain, with its ups and downs, as undulating.  For most of us, those 4 nights and 5 days were undulating alright…like a roller coaster. Only Friday morning, when the Incident Commander (IC), Vance, told me they’d rescued someone who’d been lost for 14 days, did I dare to hope for John’s safe recovery.  But where in hell was he?

We had a brief moment of elation when we found his car near the Canyon Overlook Trail. Finding his car was a major coup, because we now had a place to start searching for John. But that emotional high was short-lived, because John was not with the car, and the search area was still enormous (marked down from mega-ginormous). Surely, though, helicopters, drones, scent-sniffing dogs, and boots on the ground would bring the search to a rapid and happy conclusion. That was but one night and 31 hours into John’s not-so-excellent adventure.

Earlier in the day, we’d activated 9-1-1 and reported John as a missing person who hadn’t returned from a hike the previous day. Then, the search area stretched from Kanab to Duck Creek, 40 miles north, where we thought John had gone after hiking. Finding his car, still at the trailhead, meant that John had never made it to Duck Creek. It also meant that the search was now under the purview of Zion National Park, not the Kane County Sheriff. And before John was found on the 5th day of his marathon ordeal, personnel from Zion, Washington County Sheriff Search & Rescue and K-9 Units, and Nellis Air Force Base would be involved.

After Nancy Nordell and Cheri found John’s car, Farshideh, Mehrdad and I hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail looking for any sign of John.  At the end of the trail there was no obvious path forward, only the intimidating, steep, slickrock face of the East Temple. “He wouldn’t have gone that way,” I said with almost absolute certainty. Well, he would, and he did. But we wouldn’t know that for 3 more days.

One thing about slickrock, especially steep slickrock, is that it’s a lot easier to climb than it is to descend. I don’t know if John planned to take the East Temple loop when he set out, a route I’d recommended against taking due to its difficulty. Compounding John’s difficulty was the absence of any trail down Pine Creek Canyon, a little snag that Gerry Vanderbeek discovered while trying to find a route to the Mountain of the Sun. That route, had he found it, would have provided John an escape route from his predicament.

But that’s all speculation…something I criticize the media for. What we know is that during his 103-hour adventure, John must have crossed over from Pine Creek to Lodge Canyon. Though it’s not labeled on any map, I surmised that Lodge Canyon is the hanging valley above the Zion Lodge. John confirmed that he had a view of a cluster of buildings. “Did they have green roofs?” I asked, as we too had seen the lodge from Deertrap Mountain on the day of John’s disappearance. “Yes,” he said, “but I couldn’t find a way down.” Indeed. This hanging valley, from which John eventually would be rescued, is “suspended” 400’ above the valley floor.

I don’t know if this is where John made his phone calls to Soraya, Lee and 9-1-1, but it makes sense with help so close…yet so totally inaccessible due to the unforgiving terrain. Unfortunately, he could only leave two voicemails and got cut off when he called 9-1-1. If that wasn’t frustrating enough, John told me that 2 days into his ordeal, a helicopter flew over his position. But they didn’t see him and left the area. Nevertheless, those phone calls told the rescuers that they were dealing with a rescue mission and not a recovery.

Flash forward 2 days to John’s rescue: John is finally able to get the attention of a Blackhawk helicopter that had been circling his position. What a welcome sight that must have been for John. Once they sighted him, several Air Force EMTs rappelled from the helicopter. At this point, the family had not yet been notified. Only after the medics confirmed who their victim was…that it was our missing hiker…did they let the family know that John was alive. Aside from a few cuts and scrapes from a trip-and-fall, John didn’t suffer any broken bones. After a triage of John’s condition on the ground [I understand they even administered IV fluids due to John’s dehydrated condition], they loaded him onto a litter and hoisted him up to the hovering helicopter. One of the EMTs accompanied the litter and helped load John into the chopper, which flew him to the hospital in Saint George.

It was from his hospital bed on Sunday morning that John called me. He was a little hoarse and had a cough…not unusual, given his situation…four cold nights without sleep, with little food or water, save a stagnant pool “full of bugs” John found. John might have eaten those bugs for a little protein, but I suspect he didn’t…not intentionally, at least.

The good news is that John was released from the hospital, and by now he’s probably in Tucson with his family. It may be awhile before he’s fully recovered from the ordeal…more than the 5 days of fasting it took to achieve his new svelte physique. That’s a dietary regimen I wouldn’t recommend, though.

Gerry

P.S. John sent me this link to an informative article about his rescue.

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