Viewing entries tagged
biking

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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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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Don't Waste Time on the Details

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Don't Waste Time on the Details

Many of my favorite trips are ones that I didn't spend much time planning. I picked a destination and invited anyone who wanted to go, then I went - even if I had to go alone. Now that I think about it, that describes most of my trips in the last several months. I'm posting a little out of order. Chronologically, this should have been my first post after the road trip to Alaska, but this is how I began my first weekend back home.

I woke up Sunday morning and planned my day while cooking breakfast. After eating, I packed my bike and camera then headed north to Flagstaff. My plan was to hit the trail around Hart Prairie then stop in Sedona on the way back for some night photography. I knew there might be snow on the trail, but I would cross that bridge when I came to it. The conditions slowed me down, but it made for an interesting challenge! All-in-all, I'm so happy I went, as usual ;)

After driving an hour to Sedona, I discovered that my pack was nowhere to be found. I put it out of my mind for the moment and took a few pictures of the Milky Way at Cathedral Rock in Sedona. Check out this post for those photos.

Hoping it was still at the trailhead, I drove back to Flagstaff and found my pack right where I left it. Phew! I threw on a podcast and relaxed as I drove home at the end of another perfect day.

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Cool Stuff Coming Up!

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Cool Stuff Coming Up!

I'm sorry it has been so long since my last post, but I've been keeping busy in my absence! After the road trip to Alaska, I put my two week notice in at one of my jobs, took photos of the Milky Way in Sedona (more below), mountain biked in the snow at Hart Prairie in Flagstaff, summited the tallest mountain in Arizona, took a two-day road trip to Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley. I don't know how things are going to work out financially, but I'm okay with that. I'm just going to focus on my passions and see where they take me :)

Since I bought my camera just before going on the road trip, I had no time to practice with it, so I'm lucky my shots came out as well as they did. When I got back, the first thing I did was take it out for some night shooting to fool around with it. I'm stoked with the results and can't wait to refine my technique as time goes on!

I'll post again tomorrow with more on what I've been up to! Thanks for reading and happy adventures!

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Photo Gallery Update!

I finally editing my favorite photos from the trip and posted them. The dashcam video is coming soon! I went on a snowy mountain bike ride in Flagstaff yesterday too so I'll post some photos from that soon! Tips and more cool locations to see coming soon!

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Adding a "Places Worth Going" Section

I've finally started working on a section to post descriptions, directions, pictures, tips, and reviews of my favorite places. My first one was for one of my favorite hikes: "Flat Iron"! I hope to build a list of cool places I've been for those looking to get into the adventure lifestyle or just looking for new places to check out. I have a lot of work to do, but you have to start somewhere! http://maxleveladventures.com/where-to-go/hiking/siphon-drawflat-iron-trail/

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Summer 2015 Mountain Bike Highlights

An update on my 24-day road trip is coming, but here's this video I forgot to post until that's ready! I bought my first mountain bike in early 2015. I've had a blast learning to riding it and pushing my limits over the last several months! This video highlights some of my favorite moments!

Locations: The Whole Enchilada Trail, Moab; Cave Creek Cactus Classic, Cave Creek; Hawes Red Mountain Trails, Mesa; Slim Shady, Sedona; Los Burros, Pinetop

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Phoenix to Fairbanks (and back): Day 4

A lot of people have been requesting pictures. I will upload edited versions later, but here are some temporary ones to keep you at bay. It's the end of Day 4 for my Phoenix to Fairbanks (and back) trip. I spend the first day driving to the coast and reached it just as the sun set on the Highway 1. I got up before sunrise the next morning and drove up the coast to San Francisco and spent some time at the Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding area. Then I drove up through central northern California until I reached my friend's place in southern Oregon and passed out for the night. Yesterday I woke up and drove to the Redwoods, drove through a tree, spent a little time at the beach, then quickly drove over to Crater Lake just in time for sunset pictures. Today, I woke up drove straight through Washington and made it to Canada with enough light to check out a really cool waterfall just off the coast.

Tomorrow, it's back on the road as I head to Anchorage, Alaska. I should be there by the night of the 7th.

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7 Months in a New Life!

I still can't believe this is my life sometimes, but it hasn't been this way for very long. I only made the change less than a year go, so it just goes to show that you never know what you can do until you try!

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Tribute to Allarah: an Incomparable Companion

On Sunday, I opened the hatch to my car so I could begin packing. Allarah excitedly leaped inside and waited, patiently panting in the Phoenix heat as I packed my bike and gear around her. Then we drove 4.5 hours to my cousin's house in Nevada where she met their two dogs and got along great - as she always did. That night, I picked out a 7 mile route so she could go with me. We left in the early morning when it was still fairly cool for what would be her last adventure.

During the ride, I made a wrong turn fairly early on that would extend it by another 2 miles, but still far less than the 15 she did 3 weeks before, so I decided to keep going. She began showing signs of fatigue much earlier than usual, so we stopped frequently for water and I encouraged her while massaging her muscles and checking her pads. Everything seemed pretty normal aside from her diminished stamina. At this point, there wasn't anything to do but complete the circuit.

We had just reached the dirt access road that led back to the car when she laid down and wouldn't get back up. I tried giving her more water, but she could barely even drink. She had been on a much longer ride 3 weeks before and experienced temperatures 20 degrees hotter, so I didn't expect what was to come. Still, I didn't push her, but I knew she had to cool down.

I carried her over my shoulders 100 meters to where I'd left my bike. Then I rode with her over my shoulders as far as I could. Eventually, I couldn't carry her anymore, so I set her down and rode the remaining 3/4 mile back to my car and drove quickly back down the access road to her. I put her in the back and packed all my stuff as quickly as I could.

With the a/c maxed out, we headed back. Having seen her exhausted on challenging trips before, I expected her to be fine. This was a dog who hiked Camelback Mountain before she was even 6 months old. She jumped off cliffs with me, hiked many miles in 100-degree weather. 3 weeks ago, she went with me on a 15-mile ride at 7,000 feet of elevation. She ran a whole mile with hundreds of La Cholla needles in her body and paws without stopping or making a single sound. So this fucking trail, ironically named "Good Call", had no right to take her from me, but it did.

When I looked back the second time to check on her, a frozen face starred back at me. One I had never seen before, but one that I will probably never forget. I panicked, calling her name and tapping her nose. I turned back again hoping she would wake up, but she wasn't coming back. I cried - harder than I've ever cried before - like I am right now.

I drove to my cousins house so I could pick up my stuff and head home. I had already called the only person with any land that I knew, Courtney, and asked if I could bury her there. She and her wonderful parents agreed. My cousin, Brenda, insisted that I not drive 4 hours with my dead dog in the back of my car, so I agreed instead to go to the pet cemetary down the street.

Brenda, the incredibly kind and generous person that she is, nearly insisted on paying for everything. But I think I had already made up my mind to bury her myself. So I asked if they could store her body in a bag. As the guy that kindly bagged Allarah's body rolled the cart to my car, he asked if she had parvo. In fact, he seemed almost certain that she was ill with something based on his observation and her active lifestyle.

I suppose it was possible and certainly made me feel less guilty. She was sick a month prior, but showed no signs in the following weeks. Brenda later brought up the possibility of a bite or sting during the ride. Allarah, having shown no reasonable signs of pain in the past from torn pads and her run-in with the La Cholla farm, probably wouldn't have even noticed.

Unfortunately, I'll never know why such a seemingly routine outing became her last nor stop blaming myself. I just have to be content with her short 3 years of life being more full still than most dogs or even humans get to experience.

It was a long, lonely, and tearful ride back to Phoenix. When I finally arrived at Courtney's, her dad had the most generous and sweet idea for the area and I cried again.

It began to rain shortly after we started digging (how poetically cliche). When I finished, I carried her from the car and lowered her into the grave. Removing the bag broke the dam of tears again as I looked down and recalled the day's events and countless amazing ones before it. I took her purple bandana and crawled out of the hole.

The rain had mostly stopped by the time I stood up and emptied the first wheelbarrow of earth onto my friend's body. I cried again as I emptied the second. Leaving room for the tree, I headed for my car to go find one worthy of the honor.

I still can't believe it...
I still can't believe it...

Stopping 30 feet shy of the car, I laughed in joy at the sight before me. Directly ahead was a huge vibrant rainbow. When I turned around to tell Courtney and her dad, the sun was shining beautifully through the clouds on the other side of Allarah's grave. I don't believe in gods or fate, but even I'll admit that was a pretty damn perfectly-timed coincidence. (I'm thankful Courtney took a few pictures before the rainbow faded completely)

I didn't see anything I liked at the store until Courtney pointed out a Bougainvillea; I immediately agreed. I've always loved that plant and the purple blooms perfectly fit Allarah. Her leash, collar, harnesses and bandanas have always been purple since the day I adopted her at the shelter.

We drove back after stopping for some comfort donuts and planted the tiny shrub before filling in the rest of the hole.

It was a relatively nice end to one of the worst days of my life.

Allarah was an amazing intelligence that loved everyone and was always ready for an adventure. She was so smart and picked up everything I taught her very quickly. She didn't bark, bite, or tear stuff up. We hiked, biked, swam, slept, ate and did almost everything together. I'll miss her always and forever. I love you Allarah. I'm so sorry.

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A weekend in the pines.

Andrew rappels down an ant-covered rock wall.
Andrew rappels down an ant-covered rock wall.

I decided the night before that I wanted to bring my dog even though I wasn't sure how she would react to being in a kayak or sleeping in a hammock or if she had the stamina for a 15 mile ride. I prefer trial by fire anyway.

I cooked breakfast and threw everything into my car before meeting up with the rest of the crew. We drove to Blue Ridge Reservoir and unloaded the kayaks. Allarah eventually relaxed in the kayak and we spent the day paddling around, stopping to climb and jump wherever we wanted. After the sun had baked me, we retired to a local diner for some dinner.

I found this after walking and driving around for about an hour.
I found this after walking and driving around for about an hour.

The guys headed back home while Allarah and I went back to the reservoir and drove around through the back country until we found a nice place to make camp.

It took some time, but I finally found a place that I couldn't pass up. Allarah and I walked around until I found two trees that would give me an unobstructed view of the night sky.

Allarah is the best cuddle-buddy.
Allarah is the best cuddle-buddy.

I set up the hammock and hoped Allarah would find the sleeping arrangements to be agreeable. It took quite a while for the both of us to get comfortable, but eventually I feel asleep and woke several times throughout the night to the clearest night sky that I've ever seen.

We slept until 6 and began the 3 and a half hour drive to the trail I wanted to check out. I was a little nervous about taking her on such a long trip, but the temperature was cool and she had done 7 miles in the heat and I could stop as much as she needed. It only took about 1 mile before I realized what a treat this ride would be - and it just got better as we went.

The scenery was amazing. We made our way through pines, dogwoods, grass fields with colorful wildflowers and elk.

The 14+ mile Los Burros circuit.
The 14+ mile Los Burros circuit.

We made it back home just as the sun was setting and closed out another perfect weekend. I love my life :)

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The first 7 months of my new life and "Max Level Adventures"

The list that began it all.
The list that began it all.

It's been just over 7 months since I started the Facebook group. Holy shit. When I started the group on January 31st, I had tons of ideas! It only took two months to do things I thought it would take me a year to accomplish. I went skydiving, bungee jumping in California, explored Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon (pictured), competed in an obstacle course, and biked/hiked in places I'd never been before. Running out of ideas began to seem like a very real possibility, but it never happened. The ideas weren't always specific, but they didn't have to be. All I had to do was decide what activity I wanted to do and pick a location. Cliff jumping? Let's check out Fossil Creek. Hiking? Let's check out Flat Iron, Biking? Let's check out Sedona.

Many of my ideas came from word of mouth. I would tell someone about my adventures and they'd say, "oh, man, have you heard of ______?!" And most of the time, my answer was "no" or "yeah, but I haven't been there." They'd tell me enough to pique my interest and I'd add it to the list.

The solution was pretty simple; I just started planning adventures for myself.

As time passed, I realized I had become a little *too* inclusive. I found myself planning too many events for people that would cut trips short because they didn't take it seriously or came underprepared. Or they would bail entirely. It took me a while to make the change because I didn't want to exclude certain people for the behavior of others. The solution was pretty simple; I just started planning adventures for myself. Then it didn't matter if anyone showed up because I still got to do what I wanted.

I suspected that being more selfish and exclusive would result in reduced interest - and it did to an extent. The number of sign-ups decreased, but the turn-outs remained about the same. In hindsight I realize that I was creating more serious followers while reducing the source of my stress. I had solved my problem just by relentlessly pursuing my passion - which is what I had set out to do all along.

It cost me a few old hobbies and friendships to get here, but those sacrifices taught me the difference between happiness and complacency. I've never been more excited about my future.

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Mountain Biking: Raw Passion at its Finest

It's 6am. The Sun is still rising over the mountains behind me and I've already reached the peak of the first climb. I take just a moment to appreciate a gorgeous panoramic view of the valleys and mountains before letting go of the brake. I upshift and grin as the wind becomes a hurricane in my ears...

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