SA Guide: Mile 70 to Bowknot Bend Saddle, Bowknot Bend Saddle, Bowknot Bend Saddle landing to Twomile Canyon, Twomile Canyon, Twomile Canyon to mile 54

July 15,  1869 - "We go around a great bend to the right, five miles, and come back to within a quarter of a mile of where we started. Then we sweep another great bend to the left, nine miles, and come back to within 600 yards of the beginning of the bend. The men call it a 'bowknot' of river; so we name it Bowknot Bend." J. W. Powell

Famous Colorado River explorer John Wesley Powell saw and did a whole lot of things I'm never going to see and do. But for a long time I'd planned on Bowknot Bend being an exception. For years I had seen iconic pictures from two perspectives on this massive knot in the Green River. And I was determined, were we ever lucky enough to paddle this stretch, to leave my footprints and take my own pictures from one of those spots. The first, I came to realize, is nearly always an aerial view of the feature taken from the east side - so not an option (at least on this trip). The other is taken from the vantage of the Saddle, a low spot in the giant monolithic walls. This ridge welcomes hikers who've climbed the 0.4 miles and 430 vertical feet to a spectacular view of the river as it passes astoundingly close to itself, having doubled back over seven miles.

We'd been shut out on our previous day's attempts to investigate beyond the river's banks. But I really wanted to hike the Saddle and take that picture, and this morning I was hoping to make it happen.

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SA Guide: Mile 84 to Ten Mile Canyon, Tenmile Canyon to Launch Marguerite, Launch Marguerite to mile 70

Now and again one is lucky enough to experience a near-perfect day. The morning arrives with a sense of expectation, but little pressure; the temperature feels, well, like there's no temperature at all; clouds obscure the blue sky enough to offer some shade (just when it's needed, of course); the scenery continually surpasses itself; and the evening is capped off by a flawless, star-studded firmament. I say "near-perfect" for two reasons: one, I don't want to tempt the Hopi gods (we were once informed that Hopi Indians leave an imperfection in their arts and crafts so as not to induce jealousy in their - apparently rather volatile - deities), and two, special days often include some moment of agitation or distress - just enough to enable an easy triumph over the problem, and perhaps a smile and some laughter when it's remembered.

Day two of our paddling trip down Labyrinth Canyon in Utah was unforgettable in all of the above ways, and more. Truth to tell, if I hadn't nearly lost a sandal and coated myself in waste-deep mud, I might have had to drop the "near" qualifier - Hopi gods notwithstanding.

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SA Guide: Ruby Ranch to mile Trin Alcove Bend, Trin Alcove Bend to mile 84

The things that we humans dream of in our personal "philosophies" are doubtless many and varied, and surely run the gamut from mundane to majestic. Certainly there are those who crave the obvious: fast cars, romance, financial independence, as well as some who harbor less material desires - maybe a year off to write the proverbial great American novel.

When Laura and I dream, we dream of wild places. Oh sure, we have our mundane ambitions: for Laura it's usually the chance to luxuriate in sleep all morning long (and maybe even into the afternoon), and for me, well, I've been searching for the perfect Margherita pizza for quite a while now. But when we dream big, we imagine landscapes of surpassing beauty and diversity; plants and animals never previously encountered, and night skies bursting with stars...quiet, unspoiled, preternaturally natural places.

Well, Horatio, a trip down Labyrinth Canyon in Utah satisfies that reverie and then some, even adding a dose of adventure for good measure.

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SA Guide: Panoramic Point, North Grove Loop, Buena Vista Pk., Big Trees Trail

When Laura and I visit a national park, monument or preserve - or anywhere we're going to hike - we like to pack as much as we can into our (usually) limited time. To that end, we nearly always plan our outings to favor the longer trails, the less frequented destinations, and any interesting off-the-beaten-path spots we've read about in advance. This tends to result in us having bypassed visitor centers, nature and interpretive paths, and shorter trails. We often refer to these as "the little things," as in, "Someday we're going to have to come back here and do all the little things that we've missed." This isn't a problem we've felt a pressing need to correct, especially since the kind of attractions we skip are often quite crowded. But of course there's usually a good reason these spots have grown popular, so they remain on our list, if so far down that they rarely get checked.

Well, as luck would have it, we recently got a chance to cross off some of that backlog during a visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. All thanks to a different class of little things.

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SA Guide: Grant Tree Trail, Congress Trail

There are times for superlatives: the birth of a up-close encounter with a whale...your first look at the Hubble deep-field image. To describe these experiences with reservation is to miss the wonder. Some things really are captivating, monumental...awesome.

Case in point - put me down as an unabashed fan of the giant sequoia. In general, I'm more interested in animal biology than I am plants. But I make an exception for conifers; a class (actually a division, Pinophyta) which includes some of my favorite organisms (botanical or zoological). Why? Consider coastal redwoods - the tallest trees in the world, or bristlecone pines - the oldest trees in the world. And, of course, Sequoiadendron giganteum, the giant sequoia - the largest living thing there is.

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