Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated mattress

The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated mattress, with a 4″ thickness and advertised R-value of 3.8, seems like it should be a good addition to the backpack.  My size Regular is about 71″ long and tapers from 21″ to 15″.  The actual weight is 472g (16.5 oz) instead of the advertised 15oz.  In addition the stuff/pump sack adds 55g for a trail weight of about 19oz.  In comparison, my Exped Downmat Winterlite is 7g heavier, 1/2″ thinner, double the R-value, and only a bit more expensive.

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Chaco Canyon

Chaco Culture National Historical Park encompasses an important collection of ancient Puebloan ruins in NW New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and a visit here has long been on my to do list.  A big difference here as opposed to places like Canyon de Chelly is that you can see the ruins up close and generally even walk through them.  I took 350 photos here over a day and a half and only 100 over 3 days at the Grand Canyon so I guess that says something.

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Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly (pronounced də-SHAY) National Monument in NE Arizona wasn’t on my radar when I started the trip but some folks in Kanab convinced me to consider it, and I’m glad I did.  I was headed from the Grand Canyon to Farmington NM via US160, so it was not far out of the way.

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Grand Canyon

I couldn’t go through the area without a trip to the Grand Canyon, could I?  In fact, a week of backpacking from the north side of the canyon was the original reason for the whole trip but stuff happened so I found other things to see and do.

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Kanab Utah & Escalante National Monument

I spent about 3 days in the Kanab Utah area, which has lots of stuff to see and do, and is kinda the gateway to Escalante, Bryce, Zion, and more.  Kanab’s own Visitor Center and the BLM’s Grand Staircase/Escalante Visitor Center (on the east edge of town) have useful information.  In addition, most restaurants and motels have racks of brochures.

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Glen Canyon Dam / Lake Powell

The Glen Canyon Dam is an impressive bit of engineering but I can’t help thinking that J. W. Powell would be ashamed to have his name associated with the lake behind it.  A big surprise for me was that the whole enterprise is operated by something called the “Bureau of Reclamation“.  I kinda think “reclamation” would be taking the dam out.

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Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater isn’t a hiking destination but it’s a great side-trip if you’re ever 40 miles east of Flagstaff on I-40.  It’s big – 3900′ diameter and 560′ deep – too big for me to get it all in one photo, and the force required to create it is incomprehensible.

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Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park covers an area of 230 square miles with a chunk of the Painted Desert in the north end.  A 28-mile road runs north-south, with many pull-off areas to see various sights.  There are several short hikes available but there are also 43000-acre and 7000-acre Wilderness areas – in the north and south respectively – for longer hikes and overnight stays.  Even if not venturing into the Wilderness areas you can spend most or all of a day here seeing the sights, which include desert and badland landscapes, the remains of ancient pueblos, petroglyphs, interesting geology, and more petrified wood than you can shake a stick at.

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Palo Duro Canyon State Park – Lighthouse Trail

My first hike in Texas, and the first stop on a 2-week sightseeing and hiking excursion through the southwest.  Palo Duro Canyon, just south of Amarillo, is billed as the second biggest canyon in the U.S.  The State Park encompasses only a small part of the canyon but it’s still pretty big, with about 45 miles of trails open to hikers.

Palo Duro Canyon

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Winding Stair Mtn – Boardstand & Old Military Road loop

It was my second time around this 22-mile loop.  The first trip 7 years ago was also New Year’s weekend and was my first time in the Ouachitas.  I remembered some things but was surprised at some of the nice scenery I forgot.  Accompanying me were RC – back for his second time as well – and CC & TC, both visiting the Ouachitas for the first time.  We started at the Holson Valley Road trail head Friday afternoon and went counter-clockwise – along the Old Military Road trail up and over Winding Stair Mountain, then along the ridge on the Ouachita Trail, then back on the Boardstand Trail, arriving back at the trail head late Monday morning.

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