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Rainbow Bridge via North Trail - 2 members in 6 triplogs have rated this an average 5 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Apr 04 2015
Lucyan
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 Routes 1
 Photos 11,257
 Triplogs 707

39 female
 Joined Jan 18 2011
 In the Wild
Rainbow Bridge via North TrailSoutheast, UT
Southeast, UT
Backpack avatar Apr 04 2015
Lucyan
Backpack18.00 Miles 8,000 AEG
Backpack18.00 Miles
8,000 ft AEG20 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Distance: Moderate, +20 miles over two days
Elevation: Moderate
Wilderness: Moderate (some hiking in sand)

While Rainbow Bridge is a site to see, the hike to it is just as good if not better. The icing on the cake was the return boat ride 50 miles through the spectacular Lake Powell. The journey included challenging backpacking with 20+ miles of trail hiking spread over 2 days. The scenery varied from grand vistas to narrow canyons. We saw cliff dwellings, Navajo hogans, and cross multiple creeks and canyons. On Sunday, we got to Rainbow Bridge, the world’s largest natural arch before boarding a boat for a 2 hour return trip.
The trip was absolutely awesome, great weather, fantastic views and great group of peeps. We had a lot of fun.

Don’t let the mileage mislead you. This is a tough backpacking trip with lots of ups and downs, long treks through deep sand, stepping from boulder to boulder to descend steep hills.

I think there is always something that goes wrong on every trip. Once we got to the Rainbow Bridge (we were there before 10am!) we hang around, took pics and chilled. I was so happy that everything went well, nobody got injured and we all had great time. Our boats were scheduled to arrive at 1pm with coolers full of beer so our plan was just to relax. Then we saw ranger running uphill to us from Lake Powell. I thought she is coming to check our permits so I was ready for her. Then she said there is the tour boat just about to leave and they claim somebody from the boating company called them that morning asking them to pick us up. We were confused and didnt know what to do but I had to make judgment call. Better one boat then no boat. If we miss this ride and our boats are not coming then we would be forced to spend the night at the bridge. After we boated the tour boat we find out that the speed boats are coming for us (they forgot the coolers though!) and somebody made a mistake at the office. We got back to the marina, got back our coolers, drank our cool beer at the parking lot and reflected on our trip. Seems like we all got free boat ride out of this mistake!!! :D

Here's more information:

nps.gov/rabr/planyo ... .pdf
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Wildflowers Observation Light
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1 archive
Mar 29 2015
TheRationalOpt
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 Triplogs 11

34 male
 Joined Oct 01 2012
 Phoenix, AZ
Rainbow Bridge via North TrailSoutheast, UT
Southeast, UT
Backpack avatar Mar 29 2015
TheRationalOptimis
Backpack18.00 Miles 3,800 AEG
Backpack18.00 Miles
3,800 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This really is a great trip! It has a ton of variety and fantastic scenery. Logistics can be a bit of a challenge as it requires a car shuttle to the trailhead from Wahweap Marina then a 40 mile boat shuttle from Rainbow Bridge back to Wahweap when you finish (oh yeah, and permits). With that being said, we did see a group that was doing a 4-day out and back, so that's a possibility. Elevation posted above is just a guess. It's much closer to that than the 8000 I've seen on a couple other trip logs. It is a tough ~3800 though!...a lot of up and down throughout most of the trail.

Late March/early April is the best time of year for this trip. The snow on Navajo Mountain starts to melt which provides plenty of water in the creeks. It's a very secluded area so make sure you cover all your bases and are an experenced desert backpacker.
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Mar 27 2015
gunungapi
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 Photos 67
 Triplogs 9

48 male
 Joined Mar 17 2014
 Tucson, AZ
Rainbow Bridge via North TrailSoutheast, UT
Southeast, UT
Hiking avatar Mar 27 2015
gunungapi
Hiking14.00 Miles 500 AEG
Hiking14.00 Miles
500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This is a beautiful hike, with sweeping vistas, claustrophobic canyons, towering rock formations, and of course Rainbow Bridge. While Rainbow Bridge is impressive, this is not just a “destination” hike: this would be a fantastic hike even without Rainbow Bridge.

My friend Sam and I took six of our kids (ages 10-17) plus a friend on this hike. We hiked it as an out-and-back, taking two days each way. I would not have wanted to hike it in less time. We hiked it out-and-back because the one-way trip with the lake and van shuttle was too expensive for us (too many kids!), and we didn’t have enough vehicles for the north-to-south trail loop. I’m not a huge fan of out-and-back hikes, but this one had so many things to see that the hike back was as enjoyable as the hike out.

The end of March was a good time for this hike. Navajo Mountain is visible throughout much of the hike, and it was covered with snow when we did the hike. Being able to see its snow covered peak offered some relief (if only mental) from the heat in the canyons below. And, all of the creeks were running from the snow runoff.

We drove north from Flagstaff to get to the trailhead. We bought our permits in Cameron on the way. The Navajo office in Cameron is a small pink structure at the roundabout – easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. The drive took about 4-1/2 hours, including buying permits, stopping for directions once, and backtracking once after a wrong turn.

We used the directions on the National Park Service Rainbow Bridge North Trail pdf (you can find it online) to locate the trailhead, though it turns out that these directions are outdated: Indian Road 16 has more paving, the Navajo Mountain Trading Post no longer exists, and there are more forks in the road than are mentioned. If I had to give directions to the trailhead, I would say to follow Indian Road 16 all the way to the community of Navajo Mountain (about 35 miles past the turnoff from 160), and then go straight through the four-way intersection where Road 16 appears to end. You will immediately be on an unmaintained dirt road. Follow this road straight through several intersections in “town” and then when the road forks thereafter always follow the larger road or, if both roads are about the same size, take the left fork. The road to the trailhead basically hugs the base of Navajo Mountain in a counter-clockwise direction, so if you stay as close as possible to the mountain you can’t go too wrong. After several miles you will see a high ridge on your left that looks like an earthen dam (though it’s obviously a natural formation), and a small road will branch left toward it. Take this road up and over the ridge, to the trailhead. Sam and I both drove four-wheel drive vehicles on the road without a problem. The clerk at the Navajo permit office warned us to display our permits in the trailhead vehicles' dashes or the vehicles would get an "automatic tow", but we had a good laugh about that when we got to the trailhead. It would take one heck of a tow truck to get the vehicles towed out of that trailhead.

We also used the NPS Rainbow Bridge North Trail pdf as a trail guide. It was adequate, and the mileage seemed about right until mile 11.5, where the trail joins Bridge Canyon. Beyond that point the mileage figures given on the pdf are obviously wrong – it is definitely not 17.5 miles from the trailhead to Rainbow Bridge. I think the true mileage is 14-15 miles.

We found the trail to be well marked for the first four miles and somewhat spotty (though adequate) thereafter. The trail surface is rough throughout, even when well marked. This is not a groomed trail.

Day 1: Trailhead to N’asja Creek

We left the trailhead at about noon and hiked relatively slowly. We soon stopped in Cha Canyon and were in the middle of eating lunch when a herd of 14 hikers stampeded up through Cha Canyon toward us, and then turned and headed out on the trail ahead of us. I thought at the time that perhaps they had just gotten a little lost, but I figured out later that they were probably downstream viewing cliff dwellings as described in Gossamer Gear’s guide for this hike (google it, it’s excellent). The group was from the BCH Backpacking Canyoneering & Hiking club out of Phoenix. I wish I had read the Gossamer Gear trail guide more carefully before our hike – we missed the side trip to the cliff dwellings.

The highlight of the first day for me was Bald Rock Canyon at about mile 3.5. It’s full of neat sandstone formations, and it seems to come out of nowhere. You’re hiking along a broad ridge when suddenly there’s a deep canyon right in front of you. Water was running in the stream at the bottom and there were multiple places to camp. Several caves/overhangs in the cliff walls look like they would be fun to explore if you had the time. Unfortunately the trail doesn’t spend much time at the bottom before you have to climb out the far side, which was a bit of a grunt in the heat.

We arrived at Surprise Canyon/N’asja Creek at about 4:30. This is mile 6.5 or so. There’s a Surprise Canyon sign located about ½ mile up the trail from N’asja Creek, but according to the topo map N’asja Creek runs through Surprise Canyon, so I think the sign is wrong. (Someone else evidently thinks so too because they’ve written “No it’s not” and “Nope” on the sign.) There’s a nice (modern) horse carving on the sandstone wall on the left as you come into the N’asja Creek area.

The BCH group of 14 had already set up camp when we arrived. Luckily there is enough room at N’asja Creek for an army to camp comfortably, so that wasn’t a problem. I counted four or five fire rings in the area. We camped on the east side of the creek not far from an old sweat lodge. We spent a pleasant evening around the campfire, telling jokes. (My favorite was a Bil Keane pun: What do you call a “WEYATHIRE?” Answer: the worst spell of weather we’ve had in quite some time.)

Day 2: N’asja Creek to Echo Camp (& Rainbow Bridge & Lake Powell)

We started hiking about 9 am. The first mile or so of trail follows a canyon. Owl Bridge is about ½ mile up the canyon. An old hogan and sweat lodge are nearby. The trail has some impressive construction as it climbs up through the canyon and then out a narrow pass. A fair amount of labor must have gone into building this portion of the trail, unlike most of the trail.

Once through the pass the trail crosses a broad plain with expansive views of Glen Canyon to the north and Navajo Mountain to the south. It is quite a change from the narrow canyon just left behind. The trail has minor ups and downs for a couple of miles until you reach Oak Canyon at about the 10 mile mark. Like Bald Rock Canyon on the first day, this canyon came as a surprise. Unlike Bald Rock Canyon, it is not especially scenic. The treacherous trail in and out of the canyon is steep and covered with rocks varying in size from marbles to grapefruits. A small area at the bottom near the creek is free of rocks, and there’s a decent spot to camp if you can ignore the SUV-sized boulder perched on an inadequately-sized (in my opinion) dirt pedestal directly above the camp site. I would not want to be camped there in a rainstorm or during an earthquake.

Within a ½ mile or so after leaving Oak Canyon the trail starts its descent through the ravine that takes you into Bridge Canyon. The start of the ravine is not obvious, and I would have had trouble finding it without the footprints of those who had passed before to guide me. Even with the tracks, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t just a side track until we came across an obviously human-built portion of trail after several hundred yards. The ravine turns into a canyon before too long, and this canyon was quite pretty. I don’t think the descent through this ravine/canyon is much more than a mile long.

There’s a nice shady camping spot where you reach Bridge Canyon. The BCH group of 14 was planning to camp here for the second night of their three-day hike to Lake Powell. We continued downstream though. We lost the trail several times in the canyon because it’s a typical canyon trail that gets washed away every time the canyon floods. For the most part the walk consists of trudging through sand or hopping from rock to rock. I ended up longing for a nice hardpack trail surface by the time we got to Echo Camp.

The junction with Redbud Creek and the South trail is probably about two miles downstream from where you enter Bridge Canyon. There’s a large cairn but no sign. Given that many other landmarks along the trail were signed, it seems strange that the one junction in the trail is not. If you’re coming back this way like we were, be sure to take a good look around so you’ll recognize the junction when you reach it coming from the other direction. It would be easy to take the wrong fork if you weren’t paying attention, like a couple people in our party did the next day.

The canyon really opens up after the trail meets the South trail. The deep canyon walls are truly beautiful. Within ½ or ¾ miles of the junction, the trail goes through a nice clearing with a fire pit. When I make this trip again I will want to set up camp in this clearing instead of at Echo Camp. It was in shade both times when we came through and it would be easy to drop the packs here and make a round trip to Rainbow Bridge, which is maybe a mile or so distant. The canyon walls tower overhead.

We got to Echo Camp at about 3 pm. It was hot, with the amphitheater of Echo Camp facing directly west into the afternoon sun. The kids explored the pond, climbed under the overhang to make echoes, and bounced on several of the more than dozen steel bed frames scattered around the camp. We rested about an hour and then headed downstream about ½ mile to Rainbow Bridge, which thankfully was cooler.

I don’t have anything to say about Rainbow Bridge that hasn’t been conveyed better in the hundreds of photos on of the Bridge on the internet. It’s neat. The leader of the BCH group had told us that there is a dinosaur track at the bridge, but we couldn’t find it. I wish I had known about it before the trip so I could have googled it to increase our odds of finding it. It is not obvious. There were only two lake tourists there when we were there.

The trail to the lake was so inviting that we all decided to visit the lake too. After two days of struggling over rough trail surfaces, the mile-long semi-paved tourist trail to the dock felt like a super highway. Several of us may have jumped off the dock to cool off (swimming is officially not allowed in Rainbow Bridge National Monument), but if we had, we would not have stayed long in the water because of some UFOs (unidentified floating objects) near the bathrooms on the floating dock.

We were all pretty tired when we got back to camp. We didn’t stay up too late. Two of our party slept on beds (one bed frame even fit in a tent).

Day 3: Echo Camp to N’asja Creek

We stopped on our way out of camp to gaze at Rainbow Bridge one last time while I read a semi-creepy meditation on the “real” Rainbow Bridge -- the bridge leading from pet purgatory to Heaven (it comes up in a google search for Rainbow Bridge). Most of us laughed but my ten year old daughter asked why it was funny.

Sam and I were a bit apprehensive about this third day of hiking after all the miles we had done the day before, but this turned out to be our easiest day. I guess our muscles were getting the hang of it. We left camp just before 9 am and got back to N’asja Creek by early afternoon. We considered going on to Bald Rock Canyon to camp there instead, but we ended up staying at N’asja Creek because of the heat. Sam and I did the lazy adult thing and laid around in the shade all afternoon, while the kids built a dam.

Day 4: N’asja Creek to Trail Head

We left camp at 8:30 and arrived at the trail head a little before noon. There was another large group camping in Bald Rock Canyon so it was just as well that we had stayed at N’asja Creek the night before. There would have been enough room for both groups to camp, but it’s always nice to have a camp spot to oneself. Nothing of note happened on this day except that we had to leave this wonderful place for the long drive home to Prescott and Tucson.
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4 archives
Apr 05 2014
Lucyan
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 Routes 1
 Photos 11,257
 Triplogs 707

39 female
 Joined Jan 18 2011
 In the Wild
Rainbow Bridge via North TrailSoutheast, UT
Southeast, UT
Backpack avatar Apr 05 2014
Lucyan
Backpack18.00 Miles 8,000 AEG
Backpack18.00 Miles2 Days         
8,000 ft AEG25 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This is one of the great backpacking trips in the Southwest!

We backpacked for two days in some of the most remote and beautiful country in the U.S. On the western slope of 12,000' Navajo Mountain in southeast Utah, we enjoyed scenic slick rock canyons, beautiful riparian areas, breathtaking vistas, and towering canyon walls.

While Rainbow Bridge is a site to see, the hike to it is just as good if not better. The icing on the cake was the return boat ride 50 miles through breathtaking Lake Powell.

The journey included challenging backpacking with 10+ miles of trail day hiking spread over 2 days. The scenery varies from grand vistas to narrow canyons. We saw cliff dwellings, Navajo hogans, and cross multiple creeks and canyons. On Sunday, we got to the Rainbow Bridge, the world’s largest natural arch before boarding a boat for a 2-hour return trip through awe inspiring Lake Powell.

Don’t let the mileage mislead you, this is a tough backpacking trip with lots of ups and downs.

Itinerary/Trip Description:

Friday (4/4/14) 5:30 pm -- drive to Lake Powell and getting in around 11:00pm and car camp/crash at the Lake Powell campground.

Saturday -- Get up early, have a quick breakfast and meet with shuttle driver at the Marina by 7:00 am. It is about a 2 - 3 hour drive from there to the trail head. We were hiking by 10:30am. Hiked almost 13 miles and crashed at campground at 7pm.


Sunday -- Get up early and hike the last 5 miles out to Rainbow Bridge to meet up with the boat that will shuttle us back to the Marina. We wanted to get to Rainbow Bridge early enough to take lots of pics. The boat ride back down Lake Powell is spectacular in itself and takes about 2 hours.
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Mar 22 2013
Sarae
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 Guides 1
 Routes 9
 Photos 681
 Triplogs 92

39 female
 Joined May 14 2008
 Tucson, AZ
Rainbow Bridge via North TrailSoutheast, UT
Southeast, UT
Backpack avatar Mar 22 2013
Sarae
Backpack18.20 Miles 3,772 AEG
Backpack18.20 Miles3 Days         
3,772 ft AEG
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Phred lead us on a fantastic trip through the red rock canyons, around Navajo Mountain, and to Lake Powell, where a boat shuttle met us. It was a 2ish hour boat ride back to the marina.

Betty shuttled us to the North trailhead. Quite a rough road for a 14 passenger van, even tho it has high clearance. The narrow dips into washes were the worst, but Betty got us almost all the way to the TH and we walked roughly 3/4 of a mile to the start of the trail.

The views immediately started and there was never a point after that where we didn't have our cameras out. Apparently I had a setting wrong on my camera, but Tyler took some great pics.

1st night's camp in Surprise Canyon was next to a stream. There wasn't too much water flowing, but there were a couple of good sized pools near camp. The wind was pretty crazy during the day, but it died down enough at night for us to have a small fire. Temps were pretty chilly. There are a couple of trees to hammock from at this camp.

2nd night we decided to head all the way to Echo Camp. This was a fun place to camp with the amphitheater, history, and water source. We had a great night of games and laughs.

The last day we hiked the short distance to Rainbow Bridge, took a bunch of photos, explored in the stream under the bridge, and then continued on to the boat dock where our shuttle met us.

Just a really, really fantastic trip. I'd love to go back and do the South route.
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Wildflowers Observation Isolated
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In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~John Muir
Apr 21 2005
Ben
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 Guides 2
 Photos 20
 Triplogs 3

77 male
 Joined Dec 27 2004
 Glendale, AZ
Rainbow Bridge via North TrailSoutheast, UT
Southeast, UT
Hiking avatar Apr 21 2005
Ben
Hiking14.00 Miles 8,000 AEG
Hiking14.00 Miles
8,000 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
North Rainbow Trail Report
In The 1913 Footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt and Zane Grey

For the purpose of reality, this report used aboriginal names for the participants. Aboriginal humans did not significantly alter their surroundings. They ate food they found or caught, slept on the hard Earth, drank water from streams, and watched the flames of a campfire at night. Televisions came much later. Our back packers were close to aboriginal for this trip.
The crew was made up of five back packers and four drivers/hikers. They drove from the metro area to the Arizona/Utah border in order to begin the adventure. Being 90 miles from the nearest town, they were able to psychologically adjust away from an urban mindset. They left the vehicles in Cha Canyon. Cha, the Navajo word for shit, was an appropriate place to begin the trek as adventurers could be heard muttering, " Ah shit, I forgot the ....!"
The four driver/hikers returned to Page, Arizona. They began by practicing driving 4/4 vehicles with which they were unfamiliar. After few rocks were Hummered, They began the exploration of Antelope, the most famous slot canyon on the planet. It had been featured in a Brittany Spears commercial, many movies, and publicized for the 1997 flash flood deaths of eleven European tourists. The hikers included Michele Aching Back, Cheryl Camera Clicker, and Fran Down a Gopher Hole. Lizardman Mike preferred to investigate his namesakes near Lee's Ferry.
The five back packers chose to carry needed items over sixteen miles of rock slide trail by walking around the north side of snow covered Navajo Mountain. This group included Susan More Hills, Freddy Fast Film, Benny Many Shoes, Roger Snores in Tent, and Mikey Two Sticks AKA Duck Tape Foot.
The first night was cold. Bald Rock Canyon was quite elevated and close to the snow. The back packers shivered to background music provided by a two member snore band. Snores in Tent and Duck Take Foot performances were enjoyed by all shivering aborigines. By morning all were ready for a day of watching, listening and hearing the beauty of the wilderness. Bald Rock Canyon was so picturesque that Fred considered building a cabin and starting his retirement. When a person, accustomed to walking on floors and paved surfaces, walks with a heavy backpack up and down hills on a rocky trail, the feet, lower legs, upper legs, hips, back, and shoulders get sore. The crew was able the enjoy this experience. The pain was not noticed as the surrounding beauty trumped it.
Surprise Valley was a surprise. A green valley surrounded with Zion sized formations on all sides and a background of a snow covered 10,388 foot mountain completed the picture. It was easy to see why the 1913 visit by Zane Grey led him to use Surprise Valley as the setting for his, Riders of the Purple Sage, and On The Rainbow Trail. A couple arches along the trail helped a bit also. The purple sage was becoming green due to a wet winter.
Bridge Canyon walls loomed overhead. A few more miles of elevation changes and the hikers were ready to camp in Horse Camp. It was located just outside Rainbow Bridge National Monument. The moon was full. Ever changing moon shadows were cast by sculptured high rock formations. Later, after the moon left the sky, deep space could be seen as it could have been observed by aboriginal ancestors who had no artificial background urban light to destroy it.
Early morning sunlight allowed Freddy Fast Film to create high expectations for a future slide presentation. The 58 mile trip back to Wahweap and Page involved a boat ride through Monument Valley on water (Lake Powell). A shower, a Mexican food feast, an Antelope Canyon visit, and a slight sewer problem completed this trip through reality.


Why do they do it?

Why do people chose to leave the comforts of an air conditioned room, a soft leather recliner, a full suspension SUV, tasty meals, and a pillow topped mattress on a king sized bed for a back pack experience?

Perhaps the seven million years of their DNA adjusting to Earth's conditions explains why looking at a campfire beats a TV performance. Possibly being able to sit on a rock strewn creek of snow melt water while looking at the Earth's greatest rock bridge as the sweet morning light turns it golden red helps explain why modern humans leave their comfort zones. Also, knowing that endless generations of our aborigine ancestors could have sat on the same rock and watched the gradually changing pictures before our modern urban escapees might answer the question. Wondering if one's thoughts regarding the views were similar to those of the early explorers and adventurers such as Teddy Roosevelt may help to explain our enjoyment as well.

A painting is a facsimile of life. A photograph is an image of it. Back packers get to actually see it and live it without most of the altering impacts of the last 150 years of mechanical manipulation (except for Gortex and few other changes).

Since food and some water were carried throughout the trip, the back packers did not get to hunt and gather as would a true aborigine. That experience was not needed. Our crew had hunted for food at Safeway and gathered goods at Wal-Mart. We had a great trip.

This report was from the mind of Bennie Many Shoes AKA Many Words, No Cha
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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