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Adventures

I started vloggin!

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I started vloggin!

Moonset at Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona

Yooooo! What's up, friends? I'm so excited to announce the MAX LEVEL ADVENTURE vlog! The first 4 episodes are out now on YouTube. Check them out here! I have an injured shoulder at the moment, but I'll have another video coming out next week. Don't you worry your pretty face. ;)

This photo was taken during episode one. That's actually the moon setting on the horizon! How wild is that?

You start the vicarious series below with episode one! If you like it, please subscribe because there will be plenty more coming and they're only going to get better!


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And, if that's not enough, I also started a podcast with my good friend Alyssa Rojas! It's called Raw Sugar and will be in a different vein than most things I do on social media. Our podcast will encourage discussion of all things nerdy, sexy, and controversial. We don't claim to have the right answers, we just want people to think critically while having a good time. I'll make another post with information about that when we start releasing those episodes. You can also get an early start by following us @rawsugarpodcast on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

There's almost an hour worth of content in my first 4 vlogs, so I'm gonna keep this post short and let you guys check that out. I've had positive feedback so far, but I'm always looking for ways to improve!

P.S. If you're interested in portraits, collaborating on a video, or would like to guest on the podcast, let me know!

 

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First Official Portrait Shoot!

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First Official Portrait Shoot!

Sun Flare Portrait

I've photographed people many times before, but never exclusively. I had been passively looking for an opportunity when a friend asked me to shoot his girlfriend's graduation photos. I was nervous despite the confidence in my abilities; this wasn't just for fun anymore. I had no idea what I would end up capturing or how they would turn out, but Rachel selected a fantastic location and turned out to be a natural model.

The first click of the shutter cut through my anxiety and I became consumed by my task. I pointed and she did the rest. The wind kept messing up here hair; it drove her crazy, but it make her laugh and provided some gorgeous candids. There were some great shots early on that she loved - which continued to lessen the pressure.

We continued to shoot even after she was satisfied and I'm glad we did because it gave us some of my favorite photos. The shoot was a total success and I can't wait for the next opportunity.

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Return to Arizona

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Return to Arizona

My time in Oregon was short and bittersweet. I went broke and was robbed, but I would do it over again just for the new experiences. I knew moving back could feel like a failure if I let it, so I stayed busy, continued to explore and searched for new places.

One of the most inspiring things to happen during my time in Oregon was getting robbed - more specifically, what came after it. I posted about the unfortunate event on Facebook, which I normally avoid. This prompted a friend to create a fundraiser in my name. I honestly didn't think anything would come of it, but 5 days passed and it collected $900 to help me replace everything that was stolen from me. I have never felt more encouraged and loved than in that moment. It made me realize that a lot more people cared about me than I knew and any though I had of giving up was completely erased.

I bought a new wide angle lens with some of the donations when I got back. That choice made a huge impact on the direction of my efforts. In the months that followed, I became more and more obsessed with photography. I took several trips to Sedona and Flagstaff within the first month. One of the locations is a local secret that took quite a bit of research and exploring to find, but the challenge is what made that adventure so rewarding.

These last few months have reminded me to find the silver linings and remain consistent, because it leads to incredible experiences.

 

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How To Have Fun Without A Plan

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How To Have Fun Without A Plan

My trip to Washington started with a simple desire to see something new. I decided to center the trip around Olympic National Park, of which I knew almost nothing. I punch it into Google Maps and drove 7 miles to reach a dead end. It was a beautiful dead end, but I was expecting to find an a visitor center or something. I stopped for some shots and headed back to find cell service.

Staircase Campground, Olympic National Park, Washington

I called a friend who had been recently. She dropped a few suggestions and that was enough for me. Another two hours later, I made it to Ruby Beach. The sun had long set, so I just made a pb&j, made room in the back of my SUV and went to sleep. I woke before sunrise, ate another sandwich, grabbed my camera and headed down to the beach. It was brisk and very foggy, which worried me because I didn't know how the shots would look. They turned out to be some of my best captures to date! 

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

After I left the ocean, I headed inland to explore the Hoh Rainforest, which was way cooler than I expected. The weather had warmed a little by this time and the sun was streaming through the vibrant green canopy above. I couldn't have had a better day.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington

After hiking on a couple trails and taking some pictures, I began the long drive back to Oregon. I had only driven a few miles when I saw a sign for a big dead tree, so I turned off and drove down some back roads until I found it. I had lunch at the big dead tree then continued driving back home. At some point, I realized that I had enough time to make a detour for Multnomah Falls, so I headed east when I reached Portland to see the famous sight. It was beautiful from below, but the best views were at the top. 

Multnomah Falls from the top - Oregon

I made it back home around midnight and went to work the next day, totally inspired for the next weekend!

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10 Waterfalls in a Day!

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10 Waterfalls in a Day!

Trail of Ten Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

If you want to see waterfalls, then check out Oregon because it's drowning in them. You can see 10 from just a single trail at Silver Falls State Park. Naturally, that's where I found myself a week into my stay. My new friend Charity and I got together for this one; we spent the day chatting away while enjoying the incredible views around us. The trail winds along, over, and under the North and South Fork Silver Creeks as they flow through the valley in spectacular fashion.

I expected some of the falls to be a little lackluster, but I was pleasantly surprised. All of them were beautiful and some of them were even huge! I had a rocky start in Oregon, but places like this quickly changed my mind.

 

 

 

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Havasu-pie for the eye!

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Havasu-pie for the eye!

It took 1,250 phone calls to get through, but I finally nailed a reservation on the third day. Then we just had to wait 5 months. The big day finally came and we all headed up. 4 guys in one car 4 girls in the other, probably wondering what the other group was talking about the whole time. Or maybe that was just me.

We had lunch in Flagstaff and drove through an apocalyptic swarm of beetles in the dark before reaching the trailhead. Setting camp was awkward, but we managed to MacGyvered hammocks between SUV roof rails and a hitching post. I woke before sunrise and gently roused the other sleepy heads. We made it to the village 7 miles later and confirmed our reservation. After half the group used the wifi to catch up on their snapchat game, we continued our trek to the campsites still 3 miles away.

Havasupai Falls poured into view on the way down, introducing us to the kind of beauty we were about to enjoy during the next 4 days.

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It was a weekday, July 4th and we arrived pretty early so we had a several great options to set up camp. We found one then I scouted ahead for a better one - which ended up being an incredible location with plenty of room for all our hammocks right on the river. Matt and I suspended our hammocks over the river - which was cool for the first night, but ultimately more of a nuisance.

The first day was just a lot of hanging out and exploring nearby Mooney Falls. On day two, we hiked down to Beaver Falls and I found a great place to do some cliff jumping! We explored more on day three by visiting 4 waterfalls. We spent some time at Havasu, Secret, Little Navajo and New Navajo jumping and swimming at each. Despite being the hottest time of the year, the weather was actually perfect for such cold water. It wasn't too hot at night and the canyon walls protected us from being in the sun all day.

During our stay, squirrels ate through several backpacks and meals. The fuckers even chewed through a string to drop two packs on the ground so they could get into them. Brilliant bastards.

We hiked out early on the final day to beat the heat, stopping at the village again for a select few... Despite the gravelly sandy terrain, we made it up much faster than we made it down. I still can't believe how much fun we had on that trip. We'll definitely be going again next year...

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The "Utah Quickie"

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The "Utah Quickie"

Holy shit! 4 days left in Arizona! I'm going backpacking in Colorado 2 days from now, then I return for 2 days before moving to Oregon! What a crazy schedule. I just finished editing the photos from my road trip to Horseshoe Bend, Zion, Bryce and Arches National Parks. I still have to edit Havasupai, but it's looking like I won't get to that until I make it to Oregon on the 31st. 

That aside, let's talk about my quick road trip with Rachel Pulice to Utah! Only 1 of the 4 places we went was new to me, but I got to explore a little more so it was totally worth it - plus I had a decent camera with me this time! We made a pit stop at the famous Horseshoe Bend and I'm glad we did! The lighting was the best I've seen, with scattered clouds leaving a cool impression on the scene below.

We made it to Zion with enough time to do just about nothing. We found a parking lot to sleep in and passed out. After eating breakfast the next morning, we hopped on the first bus to hike Angel's Landing at sunrise. The weather was perfect! Warm and clear skies. It started to get hot by the time we made it back down, but it was time hit the Narrows so it was perfect. The famous canyon is about 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the valley. The Virgin River keeps you cool as you hike through the gorgeous canyon with narrow walls rising 1,000 feet on either side of you. This was just as amazing as I remember. We went a lot further than I did last time and it was totally worth it! We found a beautiful waterfall and stopped for a snack before hiking back.

We found a place to camp outside the park, slept in the car under the stars and reached Bryce Canyon around 10am. We snagged a campsite and headed out to explore! I was fairly unimpressed as we drove from one viewpoint to the next, so we returned to the camp for some lunch and a nap. I slept for a couple hours despite the loud music blaring from an adjacent campsite. I finished a book, ate a snack and woke Rachel to get some sunset pictures. With the sun lower in the sky, the park suddenly came alive with color! We hiked around and snapped photos until the sun went down. Then we waited in the car for 3 hours while listening to one of my favorite podcasts. When the sky was sufficiently dark, we strapped on the headlamps and hiked down into the canyon for some night captures. The sky was unfortunately cloudy, but we made the best of it.

Instead of returning to the campsite, I drove us 4+ hours to catch the sunrise at Arches. At the time, it felt like a mistake. And it didn't stop feeling that way until we arrived. As if she knew what I did to see her, Mother Nature put on a spectacular show! We arrived at one of the most stunning sunrises I've ever seen without a minute to spare. After snapping some shots, Rachel and I explore a couple of the arches. Then I passed out in the car for a couple hours.

I woke up around 10am after a quick nap and drove us home. 

What a trip! I still can't believe we crammed all of that into 4 days! Havasupai photos and story coming after I move. I'll post a few updates on my travels before then.

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Going Out With A Bang

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Going Out With A Bang

I couldn't live in the Grand Canyon State without hiking to the bottom for a night at Bright Angel Campground. I've had this trip and the last two planned before I decided to move so it feels a little bittersweet checking them off the list. If you're going to make that trek yourself, avoid camping near the summer solstice. The campground gets hot as fuck -- even at night.

We drove up a day early so we could sleep in, but an officer found us car camping around midnight and kicked us out. We relocated to a legal place just outside the park that he was nice enough to tell us about.

Morning on the forested rim was a chilly 45, but it was going to reach 110+ at the bottom that day. Alex, Liz, Jon and I started down South Kaibab Trail around 5:30am and had to ditch the jackets within an hour. The hike down is pretty ugly, but in a majestic sort of way. The canyon is massive and your view changes constantly as you weave through passes, switchbacks, people, mules and horses. After reaching Bright Angel Campground around 10am, we spent most of the day relaxing in the eponymous creek that runs through the campground. We explored Phantom Ranch a little, played cards and then jumped in the creek one last time before heading to bed wet so we could stay cool through the night.

The hike out was much prettier. Bright Angel Trail is gorgeous, mostly for being a lot less dead than South Kaibab Trail. I wasn't expecting a hike through wooded areas and creeks on the way up, but it was a pleasant and welcome surprise. The canyon walls protected us for most of the day and we soaked our clothes at every water station to keep cool. The trail gets pretty steep near the rim and the sun was doing its thing by that time so I started to sweat a little, but we made it to the top by 10:30am! I found some shade and waited for the others to catch up. We laughed and groaned about our sore muscles while enjoying the moment and our accomplishment. 18.4 miles and over 5,000 feet of gain/loss in two days. Not bad, baby!

I'd do it again in a heartbeat! What a great time and a great crew. Thanks for coming Alex, Liz, and Jon! You were a blast!

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A "Quick" Trip to Colorado

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A "Quick" Trip to Colorado

I'm still so stoked about this trip. Normally, I plan my bigger trips months in advance, but not this one. With just a few days notice, I decided to go mountain biking in Colorado. So I went to bed early Friday night, woke up at 3am Saturday and drove for 11 hours to Crested Butte, CO. I biked for a bit then set up camp on a breathtaking ridge. I took some pictures of the stars after sunset and enjoyed a peaceful sleep with no one around for miles. The next morning, I biked the #1 trail on Mountain Bike Project in the US. It was insane.

The views were gorgeous and the weather was perfect. Aside from the challenging climb, I also had to cross a very strong a chilly creek with a pack full of expensive electronics... Unfortunately, I didn't get to complete the circuit. I hit knee-deep snow near the trail's highest point (11,254ft), but I didn't want to give up so I carried my bike for half a mile hoping it would clear up. It didn't. I still had 300 feet to climb and, obviously, the snow wasn't going to get better before it got worse. I doubled back, but it's hard to be disappointed with that kind of scenery.

I made it back the car safe and exhausted. The drive back was another challenge in itself. I made it home by 11pm Sunday and went to work at 5:30am Monday. Good weekend.

Trips like this are my favorite. They're last minute and I play the whole thing by ear. I risk failing miserably and wasting a whole weekend, but even that kind of wasted weekend is still a better memory than most people will make in those moments.

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Jumping Off Bridges With A Stretchy Rope

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Jumping Off Bridges With A Stretchy Rope

There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush just before leaping off a bridge with nothing but a bungee cord tied around your ankles; actually, the cord is fastened to two thick velcro anklets. Anyway, this was my third time at the Bridge to Nowhere in the Angeles National Forest, jumping twice during each visit. Nothing I've done compares to the feeling, not even skydiving. It's just one of those things you have to experience for yourself. 

I planned the trip for a few friends, but they all cancelled a week before and I already bought my ticket. I knew that I'd still have a good time so I went anyway, partly because they don't offer refunds. Aside from my dog, a few people joined from my Meetup group - which is always an adventure in itself.

One of my favorite parts about the experience is the hike to the bridge. It's gorgeous! You ascend through a valley for 5 miles, navigating the pointy yucca plant and crossing a brisk river several times. The bungee crew starts the hike at 7:30AM, so we got there a day early and backpacked down to the the river to spent the night. I'm still a little bummed that my friends bailed, but it was still a rad time with some new faces so I don't regret a thing!

I'll upload the videos from my jump later, but here's the edit from last year until then :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k5AXXgLEtY

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Returning to Chiricahua National Monument!

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Returning to Chiricahua National Monument!

I went back to Chiricahua National Monument to see what it looked like without snow. It's definitely less magical, but still beautiful and unique. We ran into some angry forest rangers, but the trip was still super fun and I got to hang out with 4 new people and 1 that returned from the previous trip! All for about $15!

We hiked to a natural bridge the first day, swapped stories around the campfire and hiked a gorgeous and geologically diverse trail the next day. Despite the rude forest rangers a fire that burned down many of the trees, it's still a beautiful park and I would suggest it to anyone! Not many people know about it, so it isn't very crowded.

As the move to Oregon gets closer, I'll be looking to fill the remaining weekends with places I've have not yet been to here. Keep an eye for those last few events to fill in the current gaps!

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Return to Fossil Creek Spring

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Return to Fossil Creek Spring

I know I say this every time, but it's always true! This event has to be one of my favorites. We crammed 9 people into two cars and met up with 3 more at the trailhead. The hike down was filled with the usual mingling and sharing stories until we reached the waterfall almost two hours later.

To my relief, the water was much warmer than it was at Wet Beaver Creek last weekend. We jumped from the waterfall, swam into caves and through underwater tunnels. Joval, who has been to the last three events, brought a 90-foot slackline with him. He had the genius idea to set it up across the stream and hang our hammocks from it. Yeah... :D

I ran into a friend down there and met another guy who does what I do; we swapped info to combine forces on a future event! Even though I forgot my chest harness, goggles and scratched the shit out of my knuckles swimming out of the toilet bowl, the trip was still a total success! Until next time!!!

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An Accidental Birthday Celebration

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An Accidental Birthday Celebration

I didn't realize that I had planned this event on my birthday until it was too late - which was fine because I don't think I would have wanted to do anything else. Nearly 20 people showed up before it was all done, one whose birthday was the day after mine! Once again, they were all amazingly cheerful and interesting: real adventurers; they are the kind of people I've spent the last year searching for. Many of them will be leaving Arizona within the next few months, while others have only just arrived.

Rock climbers, outdoor enthusiasts, college students, world travelers and more gathered bright and early. Most of us had never met, but it's hard to NOT along with these kinds of people. The group condensed into fewer cars, then left the heat and population of Phoenix for cooler air and adventure. I spent the 2+ hour drive getting to know the 4 others in my car, then the 3+ mile hike doing the same as a group.

We spent most of the day jumping in, freezing, warming up, and repeating the process. I led a short little hike up the canopied stream, we relaxed, ate snacks and eventually hiked back. I'm pretty sure everyone left with a little sunburn and a great memory. :)

Our lives intersect in such curious ways. I don't believe in destiny or fate, but that doesn't make the process any less magical; if anything, it is only more fascinating.

I'm super excited for this week's trip to Fossil Springs and even more cliff jumping! Until next time, cheers.

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Wave Cave: Get Pitted, So Pitted!

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Wave Cave: Get Pitted, So Pitted!

When a friend invites me for a day outside, well, I can hardly turn him down - can I? Wave Cave immediately came to mind; Aidan had never been and I wanted photos for a guide. We agreed and met up with Micah at the trailhead.

Unfortunately, Xaley is still getting used to bumpy car rides so I spent a few minutes cleaning up a large pile of partially digested dog food before we began the modest ascent to the cave. While we enjoyed the view and our snacks, Xaley played in the thick fluffy layer of dust just like Allarah did when I went last year.

Although the clouds weren't ideal for photography, they offered shade and perfect temperature so I'm not going to complain. Thanks for inviting me, Aidan!
 

P.S. Don't forget about this weekend! We're cliff jumping on Sunday at Wet Beaver Creek and it's my birthday! It's also someone else's birthday!!! Also, I'm going backpacking Friday and Saturday if anyone is free; I'll post the details tomorrow!

Happy Adventures,

Max

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Fossil Creek: Biggest Meetup Yet!

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Fossil Creek: Biggest Meetup Yet!

The Meetup group is becoming more successful than I expected. Seven people attended the second event I posted there - which is about the number of new people I met after posting events on the Facebook page for an entire year. I think we can call that a success. I don't have a clue what this means for the future, but I'm ready to enjoy the ride!

Fossil Creek Waterfall (Trail) was the second event posted on Meetup; eleven people (and three dogs) showed up for a gorgeous day of cliff diving in great company. It was awesome to meet so many cool new people. Driving home, I told Andrew, "I don't think there was a single person that wasn't just cool as fuck." That group set the bar pretty high for future events, but I'm excited to see where things go from here.

I'll probably go to Fossil Creek again this year - despite the permit system that goes live in May, but if you would like to plan your own trip, check out my guide.

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Montrose Pools and Meetup

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Montrose Pools and Meetup

I created the Meetup group on a whim - not stopping to think until I reached the payment screen. I had been there before, a year ago, when Max Level Adventures was just beginning. I was afraid again, afraid it would be a waste of money, energy and time, but I've learned to consume fear since then, instead of letting it consume me. So I signed up.

The truth is that I don't really know why I do any of this. I genuinely enjoy doing things alone or with few people. It's a lot less stress: I can modify plans, cancel, reschedule, take my time or pick up the pace. I do enjoy meeting new people, but I think the real reason I do anything is because I have a natural desire to create. Before Max Level Adventures, I played video games that required or allowed for creative play. I'm currently writing a fantasy novel. I went to school for art and game design. Life just feels empty when I'm not creating.

As usual, my fear was unfounded. I copied over events from the facebook group and watched as the RSVP's rolled in. I had 200 members within a week! As the first event on Meetup, the hike to Montrose Pools was fairly short notice. Only one person signed up, but even that was more than I was expecting. My friend, Eric, came too and we met Rebecca at the trailhead.

The trail itself wasn't too long or difficult; it rose steadily along the valley slope, occasionally managing the elevation change with switchbacks. Various cloud types broke up the blue sky, casting shadows on rolling hills of muted green scattered with several blooming species of desert plant. It was a beautiful day to meet someone new and share experiences while making a new one.

Until next time, happy adventures!

-Max-

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Backpacking through the Superstitions

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Backpacking through the Superstitions

I did a rare amount of research for this trip. It was just a one-nighter, but it was a through-hike. I spent hours looking at routes in the area. I found a couple land formations I wanted to explore, but there was no route that went by both, so I made my own. I spliced 3 routes to make one of my own and then bought a physical map. I was hesitant to bring my 4 month old puppy on a 15+ mile hike, but she's been mountain biking with me so I was confident in her abilities. I sent my friend, Alex, a rather last minute invitation and he accepted like the badass yes-man he is. The three of us got a later start on Saturday than we planned for, arriving at Peralta Trailhead around 2pm. We only managed 4 miles that evening, but ended up staying the night near a stream with a killer view of Weaver's Needle so you won't hear me complain. The Superstitions aren't nearly far enough from the city to escape light pollution, but it was still a beautiful night. The temperature wasn't bad either - maybe 40 degrees, but I had Xaley inside of my sleeping back and she makes a fine fuzzy space heater.

Sunset in the Superstition Mountains, Arizona

We woke shortly before the sun reached out little camp and crawled from the warmth of our bags to capture a few pictures. By the time breakfast was made, beams of sunlight warmed our skin as oatmeal warmed our bellies. We fooled around for a while, catching up and just enjoying nature. Eventually, we packed up, double-checked our position and made for Battleship Mountain!

I won't lie; we spent most of the next 11 miles hoping we were on the right path, but I loved every second of it. The weather was perfect, we had the trail was mostly to ourselves and Xaley was trucking adorably along between us. We saw less than 15 people throughout the day, passing Battleship Mountain without even realizing it. Several hours into the trek, we took a break and made a course correction with the help of some well-timed hikers. Sore, sweaty, hungry and absolutely drained, we reached First Water Trailhead with plenty of light to spare!

Camping at Weaver's Needle, Superstition Mountains, Arizona

After hiking 15 miles, the old Pontiac's seat felt like a cloud as we bounced down the dirt road. It was another hour before we reached my car. I transferred my gear and helped the tired Xaley into my SUV. I hugged Alex and we left the parking lot as the sun set literally and figuratively on another glorious adventure.

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An Unintentional 1st Anniversary Celebration!

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An Unintentional 1st Anniversary Celebration!

I was already home from hiking Flat Iron with an awesome group before I realized it was the 1st Anniversary of Max Level Adventures. Hiking Flat Iron was also the very first event I hosted. It was a perfect accident. The hike was challenging and beautiful, but my favorite moment was being dared to strip down at the top and pose for Mother Nature - and I'm not one to shy from such a challenge...

From the Peak of Flat Iron

It was fun returning to one of my favorite places while leading several people up for their first time! The turnout was great; 10 people showed up to help kick off another year of amazing adventures that will be even bigger, better and more frequent than the last! I will absolutely be returning here so don't miss out next time if you couldn't make this trip! There are also a bunch of new events posted on the facebook page so be sure to check those out.

Interested in planning your own trip there? Check out my guide.

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Last Adventure of 2015

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Last Adventure of 2015

You don't need an elaborate plan or a lot of money for a great vacation. This one certainly didn't have those. Thanksgiving dinner was over and people gathered on the couch to watch dogs play and offer sincere compliments to the various chefs. I was wondering if it would be acceptable to eat a fourth slice of pumpkin pie when Andrew, without prompt, said "I have five days of PTO I need to use." Temporarily forgetting the pie, I allowed a faint smile and asked, "where are we going?"

I'm not fortunate enough to have PTO, but that's hardly going to stop me. We discussed possible locations before deciding on a few. Having driven to Alaska and back in 19 days, I felt confident we could visit several places and play the details by ear.

A month passed and there was still no real plan, even as we crammed the bikes and gear into his Jeep. There were three destinations: Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon. We had a time frame: 5 days. For some, that may have been stressful, but it was plenty for us.

We reached Joshua Tree around midday, found a campsite, rock climbed by moonlight, slept and rock climbed some more the next morning. On our way to Death Valley, we took a scenic detour through Big Bear Lake hoping to get a quick ride in. Unfortunately, it was already covered in snow. We briefly discussed driving up the Highway 1, but decided to stick to the "plan". After hammocking that night in Death Valley, we drove all over - modifying the itinerary after every stop. The two of us set foot on the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, biked to a waterfall, explored sand dunes and watched the sun set from the eastern rim. We made Vegas by nightfall and crashed at my cousin's. The next day was spent entirely inside of a harness at Red Rock Canyon. The last day was saved for riding the trail Allarah died on in September that year.

Suffice it to say the trip was amazing. Until next time! I'm not sure what I'll do this weekend, but I'll figure something out :)

Happy adventures!

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Chiricahua: Arizona's Secret Beauty

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Chiricahua: Arizona's Secret Beauty

As drives go, it wasn't a bad one: Chiricahua National monument is just three and a half hours southeast of Phoenix - 40 miles from the border. It was a bit bland on the approach; there are no major towns, just fields with softly rolling hills that blanket everything west of the mountains. A winding road leads you from the park entrance at the foot of the range into the steep slopes and tall alien-like spires. I was fortunate to arrive the day after a nice snowfall. I left Xaley in the car to get a map from the visitor center. The nice lady at the desk suggested a 3.6 mile loop based on the daylight left. It was a good suggestion... Xaley kept up without issue, despite the snow. In fact, she loved it! The hike became more beautiful as we hiked. A stunning view from one of the higher points in the park turned into a well-maintained path on the side of a steep slope with killer views of the countless unusual rock formations. The path wound slowly downward, providing views of itself beyond the switchbacks ahead. Then I entered "Echo Canyon". The echos weren't that great.

After ascending the switchbacks out of the canyon, we reached my favorite section of trail. The tall spires we had been admiring from a distance became obstacles. The carefully planned path wound through the amazing formations with grace. Remember, it had snowed the day before. Everything in shadow was freshly blanketed in snow and ice while the sun had already melted anything it could touch. This created a truly beautiful contrast that can't be fully appreciated in photographs.

Xaley and I finished the hike as the sun set behind us. It was a perfect end to another perfect day.

Happy adventures!

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