Photographer & Olympian Chase Adventure From Baja to the Arctic


Hi everyone! We are Kat and Craig traveling in our 2002 4x4 Z71 Suburban, named Hooper. It's a poor man's Sportsmobile! Build thread HERE! The build thread says his name is Aberdeen, but after only a few weeks of owning him, we changed the name to Hooper. Craig just retired from his professional track & field career, so we thought he could use a year long road trip. I'm a photographer so the idea of living and playing outside for a year and capturing it all along the way sounded like a dream. We set off in late June from San Diego. Our course from from Baja to the Arctic isn't exactly linear or the most efficient route. It's all about chasing the best weather for our outdoor activities in each region, and meeting up with friends whenever possible. Check us out on Instagram at @katcarney & @craigasaurus.

LEG 1: Late June to Late July, 2016

The trip began with a beeline to Mt. Shasta on the way to Eugene, OR for the Olympic Trials where Craig was coaching his training partner in the javelin. After making the Olympic team in 2012 and being the top placing American javelin thrower at the London Olympics, Craig moved to the Olympic Training Center in San Diego, CA. In early 2016 he injured his elbow and was unable to vie for a spot this year, however, he stuck around to coach his training partner, Sean Furey, who made his 2nd Olympic team.

NOTE: Captions are written above the corresponding photos. Don't forget to go to page 2 after reading page 1 (it's not that obvious)

Craig and a hitchhiker we picked up in the Shasta area.

Our first night in the Suburban we had a killer view of Mt. Shasta.

This was Craig's first time in the Cascades and he is loving all the bodies of water he can jump into. Here he is jumping into Castle Lake.

If you haven't been to the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon add it to your list. This is a premiere United States destination. Epic waterfalls are a dime a dozen. I asked Craig to go nap on this log and he lay face down. Who naps face down? I told him he knew what was good for him he'd flip over. Now you know who wears the pants.

As a photographer I find it hard to be in front of the lens. Plus Craig is just a baby photographer. But sometimes (if I set up the shot, and I'm patient enough to stand still) he gets the shot.

Craig is a true canyon nerd, so when he sees a waterfall he usually is wondering, "What does the watercourse look like above? Are there more falls? Is it safe to rappel in the watercourse with this much flow?" Many canyon descents to come in Leg 2 of the trip.

Time to get naked in the outdoors! More Umpqua National forest spendor.
Tasteful nude #1

Crater Lake has some of the clearest water in the world. We threw a pebble in and watched it fall for what seemed like over a minute. Craig belly flopped on the landing. Just kidding.

Our live-in hippos from left to right, Hedgehog and Rufus. The cabinet down the side allowed us to make a low sleeping platform while still having enough room for our gear. The bed is 6'6" long and 49" wide and 56" wide at the top.

Quick stop in Medicine Lake via the backroads of Lava Beds National Monument. When the dirt turned to pavement we got the skateboards out for the downhills. Craig bit off more than he could chew and had an impressive wipeout. He seems to be doing a lot more of that since his retirement from track & field.

There is something wrong with Craig, whenever he sees cold water he feels the need to plunge. This may have been a personal record as he jumped through a hole in one of the icebergs floating around the lake. Helen Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

We prefer National Forests and BLM land to National Parks because of the plentiful free campsites. When you are in most National Parks you have to drive out or get a permit and hike into the backcountry. We opted to hike in this night. We still need to get mosquito netting for the tarp. Bugs suck.

We headed south to Tahoe and ended up at Secret Beach. It was the best nude beach atmosphere we have experienced. 50/50 nude to clothed ratio and people of all ages, not just the creepy people. Sorry no tasteful nudes here though!

Craig's training partner Sean made his second Olympic Team, so we headed back down to San Diego for Craig to finalize logistics for his trip to Rio and to coach Sean for the last couple weeks before heading the the Games.

The trip picked back up when Craig returned from Rio.

Leg 2: August 26-Sept 11 San Diego to Moab via the Yosemite, Mammoth, and Escalante coming soon!


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shelf life

Cool set up! Can you show more details of the shelving, a friend has a 'Burb and this would be perfect for him to build!:ylsmoke:


Cool set up! Can you show more details of the shelving, a friend has a 'Burb and this would be perfect for him to build!:ylsmoke:
Thanks! It has been working well for us. Check out the build thread for a little bit more on the shelves. We also are working on a short video tour of the truck where there will be a closer look at the storage.


Leg 2: San Diego to Moab via Yosemite, Mammoth, Escalante and more

Craig and Kat here (Craig writing this time). We're back! After a quick detour to Rio, I returned to San Diego to put a few last touches on the burb before heading North again.

Leg 2: Late August to Mid September, 2016

First stop was a Upper Jump Canyon in the Kings Canyon area with some of our best adventure companions, Mikey and Jason. Mikey is an ultra-marathon runner who was on the track team with me in college. Her husband can't keep up with her, but he tries. Really, it's nothing to be ashamed of, we don't know anyone who can keep up with her. They are both PhDs, so we typically feel dumb and unaccomplished in their presence. Warning: Shaky Video

We had planned on spending more time in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon area, but wildfires, warm temps and an invitation to stay at a friend's in Mammoth pushed us north to Yosemite. Our first time in Yosemite we hiked from the Valley up to Glacier Point. We hit the trail before sunrise and had the trail to ourselves, only to arrive at the top amongst flip-flop clad photographers and tourists. We missed the memo about the road to the top. On our way down we cursed the park service for defiling such an iconic viewpoint, cursed the weak who dared to drive, and generally felt self righteous about our victorious trek amongst the throng of hunched, pale, fresh smelling drivers. So naturally our second time back to the Valley, we drove, and felt sorry for those tired sorry hikers.

A couple hours later, from the same spot but looking in the other direction. Kat also hit some buttons on her camera I think.

There is no doubt that Yosemite Valley is a spectacular place, but when you look down from the rim and see so many roads, buildings, and swimming pools, you can't help but think that this is one of the great failures of the Park Service. And then when you accidentally turn down the one way valley loop for the second time in a row, you KNOW this is one of the Park Service's great failures. You can see where you need to go, but damnit it's hard to get there. And when you do, you better hope it isn't a weekend or else you're going to find yourself getting ruthlessly cut off by a perfectly nice person who has now gone mad because this Valley traffic is more LA-like than NPS-like. This is why we like Tuolumne better. And because we didn't get enough of Half-Dome from Glacier Point, or the Valley floor, we hiked out to a pass where we could once again glimpse this ruggedly handsome spit of granite.

It's hard to convey the relaxation and serenity I experienced at this lake after the hike. After forgetting the toilet paper and hurrying back to the trailhead while holding in what turned out to be massive explosive diarrhea, I relaxed by the lake for a while in complete calm before the next wave hit.

Welcome to Mammoth. With a commanding view of the high Sierra from the east, and more outdoor activities than you can shake a stick at, its a pretty neat mountain town. Kat's climbing partner and all around mountain badass friend (also a PhD...what's with all our smart friends making us look bad?) invited us to crash at her A-Frame. When Rachel and mountains are around, there is a good time to be found. Here she is at Crystal Crag.

I don't climb much, but now in track & field retirement Kat has forced me to get into it. This might look like a glory shot for me, but remember, Kat climbed this before me hauling her camera gear up and is hanging off the wall above me taking photos. She is woman, hear her roar.

View from Minaret Vista, the best of the Sierra that I've seen.

What's better than hitting the trails in one of the coolest mountain towns around? Hitting the trails when there is a free shuttle up the mountain from town! Whaaaat? We bought Kat a bike from the outgoing rental fleet, named it Scott, rode the shuttle a couple thousand feet up and hit the trail. It was Kat's second time on a mountain bike, and she nearly freaked when we got to this tiny bridge over a tiny stream. We are talking tiny. 2 feet up at the most. With 10 miles of intermediate trail ahead, I'm starting to think its going to be a long day. After she crossed that raging river though, she was golden. Whooping and hollering for 10 miles. I think she's hooked. Later I would find out that she may be spoiled beyond repair by this never riding uphill thing...

More mountain biking...

This trail has the most vertical feet of descent of any in the US. Or something like that.

This little dude might pee on you if he gets scared, or happy, but man can he run. Border collie/husky mix, he was right by our side on this 18 mile descent. Rachel says he can actually tow a biker up a trail. We didn't see any of that because who wants to go uphill anyway? But forget about the dog, check out that outfit I've got on back there.

How do you fit three bikes, three people and a dog into a hatchback? Lube.

To me Bryce is a viewpoint park. Take a view and beeline to Escalante, Zion or something else more interesting. Kat hadn't seen it so we stopped in. The trails are like sidewalks, and the terrain lacks diversity. As I write this, Kat is literally mocking me, "Are you really going to keep complaining about how much you hate Bryce?" I don't hate it, it just isn't worth much more time than it takes to look at it from the rim.

When we say Escalante, what we really mean is The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. There is a town called Escalante, but the real magic happens in the backcountry. The monument encompasses much of the area to the north of Glen Canyon (Lake Powell). Countless beautiful, sculpted sandstone canyons drain into the Escalante River and into Lake Powell. It's not crowded, it has almost no facilities whatsoever... It's heaven. The Hole-In-the-Rock road runs south east from the town of Escalante through the monument and down to Lake Powell following the old wagon trail built by the Mormons. It's insane to think about how they got 80 wagons safely down this ridiculous road. This is the Golden Cathedral, the last rappel in Neon Canyon. We enjoyed 6 days of canyon glory without leaving the backcountry. Time is limited by water capacity in the truck.

Early start for Neon.

A remake of a photo Kat took in 2008, our first time to the Glen Canyon/Lake Powell area. I have never seen transparent leaves anywhere else.

Until the purchase of the burb in December 2015, we always cooked exclusively on a Pocket Rocket, a tiny little lightweight backpacking stove. A buddy of ours named Moose would be making bison burgers with grilled onions, while we'd scarf down dehydrated potatoes. His backcountry butler ways inspired us to eat like we do at home when we are in the backcountry. The fridge and the double burner have allowed us to blossom into our best backcountry butler selves.

This tree is only 2 feet tall, but man it looks big in this photo!

Non-technical canyon fun. Spooky Gulch. That's my, "How did Kat get up this so easily" face.

Peak-a-boo Gulch

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Leg 2 Continued...

After we ran out of water in Escalante, we headed back out the Hole in the Rock road to Escalante. Our water coffers filled, we headed to Boulder Utah and back into the Monument on the Burr Trail. Awesome switchbacks down out of the monument and into Capitol Reef National Park.

As a geology undergraduate student, Capitol Reef was a pretty cool thing to witness. Almost the whole park is a massive fold (monocline) in the sedimentary layers, called Waterpocket Fold. The layers to the west which were once deposited and resided at the same elevation as those to the east, have been uplifted 7000 feet by a major fault zone deep beneath the surface. The resultant fold is called a monocline. Much of the fold has since been eroded, and where the fold is steepest, the layers are nearly vertical. If you were to hike across it you would travel backward or forward in geologic history depending on your direction of travel. The escarpment below the mountains to the far east, is pointing upward (west) in the direction of the fold. If not for the erosion that created the valley below, those layers would stretch up and over, connecting to their corresponding formations in the west.

Not exactly what you think of when you think Capitol Reef, but this picture really gives some perspective to the scale of the landscape.

From Capitol reef we headed south to Bullfrog Marina to see Lake Powell from another perspective, and to wash off a weeks worth of desert grime. Lake Powell in September is THE place to be. Summer crowds are gone, the desert heat is wearing off but the water is still warm. I'm evil eyeing Kat because she's complaining about the water being cold...The water is over 70 degrees. Get a grip.

Kat tends to hyperventilate when she sees sunsets, rainbows, or lightning. Often times shouting "RAINBOW!" or "SUNSET!" loud enough to make me swerve. She shot this out the window of the burb heading to Moab, while my heart was still racing.

Moab is a pretty rad town, with a very high concentration of badass vehicles. But the town and trucks don't compare to the landscape. I am consistently shocked by how few hardtails we see on the trail. Everybody and their mothers have full suspension. A wise man once told me, "It's 95% rider, 5% bike" but it doesn't seem like anyone else has heard that. There are people all over the trails struggling with 6 inch ledges on 3000 dollar bikes. I don't get it. Kat again had some choice words for the uphill sections of this trail. Maybe we should have started out with uphill only biking? If that exists.

You may notice a few changes to Hooper. We finally found the time to install the craigslist cargo box, the bike mounts, the 12v fridge and the solar array. Expo user evldave says that calling the solar panels a solar array makes you sound like an madman hellbent on world domination, so solar array it is. Living is easy now that we have the solar array to charge out laptops so we can stay up to date with our inspiration, Dora the Explorer, and the fridge to keep our cookie dough from getting cooler-soggy.

To be continued...
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Leg 3: Moab to Lake Powell via Southwest Colorado

WELCOME TO COLORADO! There is no place in the world that I love as much as the Colorado Plateau and the redrock desert, but sometimes the mountains come a calling. Kat’s parents were headed to Lake City, Colorado from Wichita and invited us to join them. Lake city is nestled in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern CO. The steepest, most dramatic landscape in CO, and arguably in the American Rockies. Glacier National Park in Montana is the only other area I have been to in the Rockies that holds its own against the San Juans.

LEG 3: Mid-September, 2016 to Early October, 2016

Kat is a badass, and clearly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Whenever Kat’s parents go to Colorado, they pick a new 14er to do. With 53 in the state, there is no shortage. Her parents have around 10, her brother has 30. They are a hiking family. Here are her parents heading up Handies Peak, 14,048. That's me back there eating their dust.

Crystal clear and cold on the ascent. The American Basin displays it’s massive cirque.

Mom and Dad topping out on Handies.

We were the first on the summit, around 10:45am and an early storm rolled in around 11:15am on the descent. I’ll take snow over rain on the trail any day!

The road to the upper trailhead was pretty rough, but it was a shock to see a TRD Tacoma, and a Wrangler parked a ¼ mile below the upper trailhead on the way down. I bet the Wrangler parked just to be safe and the Tacoma assumed it must get pretty nasty ahead and parked too. Little did they know we had no problem in a fully laden Suburban.

Did I mention Kat’s parents like to fish? They called it quits this afternoon when the storm was rolling in, and 5 minutes later we see them at this new spot casting away. They can’t get enough.

From Lake City we knew we wanted to head towards Ouray. By paved road it’s 2 hours 45 minutes and 136 miles. Or you can take Engineer Pass, a 4x4 trail that is part of the famous CO Alpine Loop for only 22 miles. 22 sounds better than 136. The trail from Lake City is super easy well graded dirt. Then it gets rougher with a sign stating “4x4 RECOMMENDED”. No problem. A little ways further a sign stating “HIGH CLEARANCE SHORT WHEELBASE 4x4 RECOMMENDED.” Getting specific, huh? I was waiting for a, “SHORT WHEELBASE TWELVE INCH GROUND CLEARANCE REAR LOCKER THIRTY FIVE INCH TIRES DIESEL FIVE SPEED RED EXTERIOR BEIGE LEATHER POWER WINDOWS” sign, but alas, it never got any more specific. Some of you are thinking, a Suburban is not a short wheelbase vehicle. But we are very sneaky. Everything ended up fine, but it was certainly butt-puckering at times on the way down to Ouray with our entire home inching down some tight steep sections. The extra couple inches of lift and the fresh shocks definitely are paying off. I am amazed at the burb’s ability to climb, even in cross-axle situations. It’s the descents with the fully loaded truck that seem to cry for lower gearing. Maybe someday. It turns out we definitely would have covered 136 mile of pavement faster than those 22 miles of trail.

Stone statue pose so I don’t get yelled at for making the long exposure blurry. It must have been 15 degrees cooler down by the water course than is was looking down on the waterfall from above.

September in the Colorado high country is hard to beat in terms of colors.

A couple days of climbing and relaxing in Ouray (we’d have pictures if all our hands hadn’t been climbing/belaying...It pays to have a friend around!) had us itching for another 14er. We hear Mt. Sneffels is good. OK, I'll climb it when I'm done laughing at the name. But don’t judge a mountain by its name! Sneffels is in the conversation for the most beautiful 14er in CO. Here was our campsite in the Yankee boy basin the night before.

You may recall a similar photo from back in Escalante where I was wearing much less clothing. It’s amazing what a couple hundred miles and 7000 feet of elevation will do to the temperature.

We ascended via the southwest ridge which was mostly 3rd class with a few 4th class moves. Big exposure and big view to match. We probably should have brought helmets, there was a ton of loose rock. There was only one other guy ascending via the southwest ridge, but there were more on the peak and a horde taking the easier way up a long nasty scree/talus slope. Personally, even with the exposure, the ridge seemed much safer to me. With all those people lined up in that steep scree gully, rock fall is a serious threat.

Kat’s favorite color is blue. You’ll soon see why she has been talking about Ice Lakes Basin near Silverton for a long time. For some reason I was tired and needed to be coaxed out of bed. Windy and rainy weather wasn’t helping. I hiked this exclusively for Kat and her photos. You’re welcome.

We get into our Explorer 200 packraft/pool floats pretty regularly. They will make an appearance or five in upcoming posts. 16 dollars can’t buy you any more fun or freedom than this. When we saw Island Lake we simultaneously groaned, knowing that we should have brought the rafts! Next time.

A couple weeks in the high country of Colorado turned out to be enough, and back to the desert we went through an area on the Colorado Plateau neither of us had ever been. Adios Colorado!

Kat and I met back in 2008 working on Lake Powell between years of college. She’s a Kansan, I’m a Nutmegger (Connecticut), and neither of us had been to the southwest before. She had a boyfriend at the time, so our relationship began as friends. We bonded on boat trips and while exploring the endless side canyons of Glen Canyon. The first time we stumbled across an Anasazi ruin in the backcountry was really something. We wakeboarded down the canyon as it narrowed, cutting turns, spraying water and sweeping fingertips along the walls. Where the slackwater of the lake ended we followed a stream where we spooked some wild horses and watched them gallop away as their hooves echoed between the canyon walls. Up and over a waterfall, and we discovered dinosaur tracks in the slickrock above the falls. Further up canyon we found a small hanging garden and a perfect spring squirting a garden hose-like stream. As I gazed in amazement at the spring, my eyes wandered and I noticed some shallow Moki steps (carved hand/foot holds to aid access up the canyon walls) in the wall above the canyon. Above the steps was a small undercut in the sandstone and a ledge. And there it was, a walled in room on the ledge about 25 feet above the spring. What a place to live.
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Leg 3 Continued...

The Anasazi are the ancient people who lived in the four corners region between 200 A.D. and 1300 A.D. They left behind countless dwellings, many of which are still standing, most famously in Mesa Verde, Canyon De Chelly, and Chaco Canyon. With most of our experiences with Anasazi ruins coming in the backcountry, I was wary of the crowded Mesa Verde. With so many other people around, it was a different type of experience, but it did not disappoint.

If you want to walk among the ancients without the crowds, or the backcountry trek, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument is tops. To the west of Mesa Verde, it may not have the massive cliff cities of Mesa Verde, but it was all but deserted. Canyon of the Ancients houses the smaller Hovenweep National Monuments, which are the gems of the area. We spent hours amongst the ruins, discovering more around every bend. We sat on a ledge above a small cliff dwelling in pure silence and observed the valley below. With the valley empty of the tourists of Mesa Verde, the imagination runs free imagining what life would have been like here. A jackrabbit bounced over a half fallen wall of what once was a kitchen. How would we catch that rabbit with none of our modern technology? How much of the local flora is edible? How many Anasazi had to die to determine what was edible?! Two crows called to each other from tree tops on opposite sides of the canyon. We listened. I started calling back. They seemed confused. Kat started calling the moment the first crow opened his beak, cutting him off. That's messed up.

Natural Bridges National Monument has some...bridges! And some big ones at that. Three mondo bridges in close proximity. I spotted a little technical canyon from the rim of the canyon, but Kat's back was bothering her, so maybe someday we will return for a first descent.

At this point we had very little gas, and a whole lot of desire to see the Valley of the Gods. So in we went nearly on fumes. Our gas gauge is broken, so we rely on mileage. When the driving is mixed between 4Lo 4Hi and highway driving it gets tougher. I always say, if anything goes wrong, Kat can hike out to save my ***. In all seriousness though, we have everything we need for a multi-day bike pack back to civilization if need be. Fortunately we made it through without having to resort to human powered rescue. I think we filled up 30 gallons at the next station of our 31 gallon tank. Also, check out this video of our night view.

We like Horseshoe Bend, and heard Goosenecks State Park was similar so we made a quick stop. There is a little dirt road that gets rougher as it stretches across the mesa. If you have high clearance it's worth the half mile drive to watch the view of the gooseneck change. If you don't, then try your two foot drive.

To be continued...

Stay tuned for more of the southwest. Plus we are almost finished with a video tour of Hooper.
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