#Nationalparks

unEXPLORED

Re-exploring the last great quest of the American West. Major Powell’s 1869 Grand Canyon River Expedition

It was here Major Powell took off his life preserver and handed it to me, saying he would have no more use for it and would make me a present of it. I told him he had better keep it on, but he said that he felt safe with any man who could come through the way I did between the rocks, and that he would make me a present of it. I thanked him, and said I would keep it to remember the Major and the daring trip and hardships down through the entire length of the Colorado River Canyons. I have the life preserver now in my possession, although it is unfit for use by reason of old age.
— "Billy" William Wesley Hawkins, explorer on first trip through the Grand Canyon
 Billy Hawkins (right) next to Walter Powell (General Powell's brother)

Billy Hawkins (right) next to Walter Powell (General Powell's brother)

Have you ever wished you were born 200 years ago, so that you could live in an age with uncharted land? I'm sure I'm not the only kid who pretended to be an early explorer, discovering new territories like Lewis and Clark. Being the first to discover something new is extremely rare these days, but adventure is still out there, and this story is living proof. In 1869, my great, great grandpa, Billy Hawkins, accompanied his former Union Army cohort, General Powell, on what was called "The last great quest of the Southwest" (the very first successful voyage down the Green and Colorado Rivers). The 99-day, 1,000-mile journey through the Grand Canyon forced them to resort to extreme measures, but resulted in them literally putting the region on the map. The previously unexplored area was scarcely better known than Atlantis at the time.  

I'm William "Billy" Wesley Hawkins' namesake. A Civil War soldier, mountain man, and settler of Eden, Arizona, he was one of the 10 men who dared to launch "Down The Great Unknown"on May 24, 1869. Billy, being the second youngest on the expedition, served as camp chef on the expedition for $1.50/day. His colleagues boasted that "Billy roasts the best coffee west side of the Mississippi."  The adventure began in Green River, Wyoming and concluded in St. George, Utah, with only 6 still alive but near starvation. After planning for over 2 years to follow in my Grandpa's footsteps on this incredible journey, it's finally time to launch my own quest. 

To commemorate Billy's trip I will be traveling in my Kokopelli Packraft mostly on the Colorado River, while camping, backpacking, and documenting the trip through the Green River, Flaming Gorge area, Canyonlands National Park, San Juan River, Little Colorado, and the Grand Canyon by means of videography, time-lapse photography, and blogging.

   This summer I'm planning on exploring the highlights of the trip that I've read about in "Down the Great Unknown," by Edward Dolnick. My route will begin in Green River, Wyoming on May 26th (2 days after my grandpa launched almost 150 years ago with nine fellow ex-union Civil War soldiers).  Eight of the adventurers were friends of my ancestor and men who, despite having learned to live off the land as Mt. Men, had zero experience rafting at that point. It is said that while they waited for their boats to arrive (2 days after the railroads met in Utah for the Golden Spike) that they did their best to drink the only saloon in Green River dry of its whiskey a couple of nights before they launched and were a bit hung over the first couple of days of the trek, so Michelle and I intend to do the same tonight before we launch to raft at least about 30 miles to get a feel for their launch date. 

This is just the beginning of a lifetime journey I will be taking down their path, telling my own story, and attempting to recreate some of the anecdotes from their near-mythical expedition. I will be visiting the same locations, at the same time of year, with about as much experience (very little) as the 10 brave men who dared to venture in to the unknown.

This is the first of many trips on my quest tp follow the 1869 expedition of General Powell through the unexplored Grand Canyon. More info on my blog at www.utahtravelers.org Music by Heart Pharmacy

Best kept secret of Zion National Park, Observation Point.

 Down below sits the infamously overcrowded Angel's Landing.  I liked my quiet view up here MUCH better. 

Down below sits the infamously overcrowded Angel's Landing.  I liked my quiet view up here MUCH better. 

Taking the Trail less traveled in Zion National Park..

What if I told you the ever popular hike Angels Landing in Zion is not even in the top 3 best hikes there?  
I'm reluctant to even write this article about Observation Point, since its seclusion is what I enjoy the most but with the rapid growing popularity of the park, its a good thing to know. This one of my favorite hikes and in my opinion, best views in the National Park. One of my favorite things about it is not dealing with busy crowds.  It overlooks Angels Landing, which most of the buzz is about on social media. But if you dont like hiking in line with hundreds of others, this may not be what your looking for, although it is a great hike. Personally though, I like some seperation from my fellow outdoor entusiast alot of the time on the trail. So if you like a more quiet experience with breathtaking views, check out Observation Point . Here's what you need to know. 

 Early Birds get the worm, but the birds who got to their spot the night before, get to sleep in and watch the early birds working hard to get to the top of Angels Landing. I caught these first few hikers of the day with my Telephoto lens above them. 

Early Birds get the worm, but the birds who got to their spot the night before, get to sleep in and watch the early birds working hard to get to the top of Angels Landing. I caught these first few hikers of the day with my Telephoto lens above them. 


Its about 8 miles round trip and has alot of switchbacks, so eat a solid meal before hand, wear comfy shoes and bring plenty of water (especially if your hiking in the mid afternoon, to avoid it hike late evening or early early morning.) If your a backpacker try and get an overnight permit a few days in advance. If you do, you can camp right on the on edge of Zion enjoying some insane views of a vivid milky way moving across the sky, swinging in a hammock counting shooting stars(I counted over 20, no joke) until you fall asleep only to wake up in the best seat in the house for an epic sunrise overlooking Angels Landing. Below you can admire the thousands of years of work from The Virginia River carving through the park and watch Zion come to life as all the campers wake up.

 Below sits the campers fires and the Virgin River along the valley. Above sits one of the most brilliant displays of the Milky Way I have ever seen. It was a week before a major meteor shower and I saw over 20 shooting stars. You can even see one in this photo if you look close, to the right of the middle of the Milky Way. 

Below sits the campers fires and the Virgin River along the valley. Above sits one of the most brilliant displays of the Milky Way I have ever seen. It was a week before a major meteor shower and I saw over 20 shooting stars. You can even see one in this photo if you look close, to the right of the middle of the Milky Way. 

 I woke up to this view in my hammock after falling asleep to shooting stars.                                         Couldn't ask for a better start to your day.             

I woke up to this view in my hammock after falling asleep to shooting stars.                                      

 Couldn't ask for a better start to your day.