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Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

West Michigan
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Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

We are doing a quite aggressive road trip in September and are including several parks (badlands, yellowstone, grand teton, capitol reef, bryce, zion, page, momunent valley, moab parks and black canyon). I have done a lot of research and have a few questions that I have not seen addressed yet...

1. We would like to get some binnoculars to enhance the viewing capabilities of some of the places. The problem is, I know NOTHING about binnoculars and have no idea what to look for. I would like to an inexpensive pair that would meet our needs for this trip, but not a huge investment. Any suggestions on the power? or other 'characteristics'?

2. I keep seeing in every recommendation that people should drink a gallon of water p/p a day, especially if you are hiking or it is hot. but...this IS the wilderness...what are the bathroom situations like in say the national parks and on trails? How about on all the scenic roads we are taking like hwy. 12, moki dugway, and all the smaller, scenic routes in route to our bigger destinations (we plan on taking the scenic roads going from point A to point B as opposed to the 'fastest way'.) Should I pack TP in my backpack?

3. Lastly (for now)... I am very into photographing everything I see, and am especially eager to capture wildlife (I understand the precautions and will respect the rules and have a telephoto lens!), but am wondering about the crawly 'critters'. Although I HATE them, I would love the opportunity to photograph one if I see them (at a distance!). I was just wondering how often these guys are actually seen. I am specifically referring to rattle snakes, tarantulas and gila monsters. I know this is their habitate, but have never read about anyone seeing them. Have any of you encountered them (without going hunting for them!) and if so, in what areas. We plan on doing some of the shorter hikes in each of the park, but also plan on getting up early each morning and entering parks for sunrise.

thanks ;)

Edited: 29 July 2013, 21:12
Mesa, AZ
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1. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

Rattlesnakes and tarantulas, in my experience, just show up when and where they want to. One day, a long, long time ago when I was a lifeguard at the Zion National Park swimming pool (which is no longer there), there were three in the bathhouse at the pool.3! yikes! And while hiking here in Arizona we met up with one sauntering across the trail during an early morning hike. The only rattlesnake I have encountered was holed up in the rock wall as we rode the mules down into the canyon on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. A rule of thumb is, snakes are not out when it is cold, and anything can be under the rock you were thinking of stepping on or picking up.

Park City, Utah
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2. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

Great trip plan. A few thoughts for you.

I'm horrible on binocular directions. Best bet is to go to a great outdoor website (or retail store) like REI. In fact, I just threw out the REI one-pager on binoculars yesterday. But they'll have it on their website and it will give you all the details you need. They're not cheap!

Yes, drink lots of water. It won't necessarily mean that you need to find a bathroom more frequently as it will get absorbed. But, nonetheless, we always carry TP in our Jeep when out in the desert. You never know. But you will also find many bathrooms at trailheads in parks and on BLM land.

You will be lucky to see any of the noted critters. You'll likely see lots of little geckos or lizards, but unlikely any Gila Monsters. Most likely thing to see would be a rattlesnake, but they're also rare if you're in the regularly traveled parks. If you get out into the hinterlands of Canyonlands, more realistic to see one. Precaution here is to NEVER put your hand or foot somewhere you can't see. NEVER. If you do see one, don't freak out. They're not going to chase you down. Just keep your appropriate distance and photograph. Was going to post a rattlesnake photo but didn't have it on my Flickr site. But here's a little gecko:

www.flickr.com/photos/tkellyphoto/5738905654/

Have fun. Will be a great adventure.

West Michigan
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3. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

Thanks for the all info!! and sweet picture! I hope to get some ones like that :)

Park City, Utah
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4. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

On that note, also get a copy of Photographing the American Southwest. It's a literal roadmap on how to create your own version of many of the great iconic photographs of the region - amazing resouce. And ... make sure to create some of your own originals while you're at it.

West Michigan
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5. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

awesome--Thanks! I will look that up next!! you have me too enthralled in the REI expert advise section now! I never knew all this existed and there are great, helpful topics. Started with the binoculars, which was perfect and now onto many more!.

South Jersey, USA
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6. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

LOL...be advised that most of those "bathrooms" on or at the trail heads will be pit like...meaning no running water!!

The majority of them are very well maintained, but definitely keep a roll in your vehicle!!

Enjoy

SJG

Salt Lake City, Utah
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7. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

1. I've used some standard binoculars and seen black specks (Galilean Moons) passing in front of Jupiter in the desert night sky. If you want something lighter and more compact, with the same power it will be more expensive. Not sure what the cut offs are for good power/weight ratios.

2. A gallon a day is a relative to the heat the amount of activity. If your body needs the water, you'll absorb it and won't be going to the bathroom. Many trail heads have pit toilets and there are always big rocks to hide behind for a minute.

3. I've seen way more rattle snakes in the Wasatch Mountains next to Salt Lake than I ever have down the desert. Never a gila monster or tarantula. I have seen skunks, badgers, big horn sheep, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bald and golden eagles, jackrabbits, elk, scorpions, deer, and what I swear was the silhouette of a mountain lion running across the road on Boulder Mountain one late evening. But all of that is over the course of a lifetime. Odds are you'll see a lot of lizards and maybe some jackrabbits and deer. That's it. Most desert animals are nocturnal. They might be around but you wouldn't notice as they try to avoid people and probably won't be close to heavily populated trails. It is special and rare to see these creatures and they typically do not surprise humans. I've never felt threatened or in danger because of animals in the wild.

NJ
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8. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

for binoclular nikon monarchs (under 300.00) were excellent in yellowstone, they work in lower light while watching wolves at dusk. having said that when something really cool is going on folks with scopes are set up and generous with their sharing of the view. so you could go less expensive. i just bought binoculars a couple of months ago - wanted travel size. Sales person from cabelas gave me all the time in the world and brought several models outside to look and see what was the best. basically the "higher" the lower number (usually 8 or 10) the more steady a hand you need. you want to get a lot of light inside your binoculars.

start here: rei.com/learn/expert-advice/binoculars.html you don't have to take their recommendations, but it will help you evaluate.....

West Michigan
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9. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

thanks!

Mesa, Arizona
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10. Re: Binnoculars, bathrooms and bites--oh my!

Binoculars.com is also a good source for suggestions and reviews. In my experience, REI prices are a bit higher - my new binoculars are from Sportsman's Warehouse. Cabela's and BassPro are also good sources. I would stay with a less expensive full size pair.

We always have one of those pocket size kleenex packets in our backpack (from the dollar store!) with extra in the car.

We've done a lot of moderate hiking in the six years we've lived in Arizona and have only seen a rattlesnake once (in South Mountain Park in Phoenix) and have never seen a gila monster or tarantula. We did see desert big horn sheep after we left Zion, after the tunnels on the way to Kanab.

You may want to take powdered Gatorade or another electrolyte drink with you as well as water.

Have fun - it sounds like a great trip! I recommend stopping at Natural Bridges National Monument - not far from the Moki Dugway.