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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!

Grand Canyon, indeed.

I've lived in Arizona nearly 5 years before visiting the state's geological claim to fame. I generally avoid popular destinations as I find crowds distracting. However, like many other popular national parks I've visited, it is popular for a reason. We only had an afternoon to spend, but those few hours were enough to convince me I should get an overnight pass and return asap. We snapped a few pictures from the South Rim before hiking a mile down the South Kaibab trail. It was a beautifully maintained path with incomparable views and, despite my initial reservations, I could only wish I had more time.

As soon as I get my pass, I'll be hiking the 20 miles in and out of the world-famous canyon! I plan to descend the South Kaibab trail and ascend the Bright Angel trail.

If you haven't been, go! It's incredible! There are also some really cool places within a few hours if you have some extra time to spare. Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly are all fairly close and definitely worth checking out.

Happy adventures!

 

Camping at Elephant Arch

I guess, in a way, I'm spreading the word about another amazing place to check out! It's a wonderful side-effect of my tales and explorations. I found about this little hidden gem of the Superstition Mountains on Instagram. I wish I could recall the name of the account; I would give them credit for the inspiration. I was looking to increase my experience with my camera, so I planned an overnight stay to practice my night, sunrise and basic captures. I was joined by two good friends for the trip.

I didn't return from photographing in Sedona until 4, so it we had no daylight by the time we reached the coordinates I had for the arch. It was on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with no trail to the arch. After navigating various cacti species and steep rocky terrain, I spotted the arch 50 meters away.

We found a spot to set up the tent, so we went back to the car, grabbed our packs and hiked back up. There were so many cacti, that I had to carry Xaley in my jacket until we reached the arch. Eventually, we got everything set up, ate and spent the next hour or two just taking photos and enjoying nature.

Night Photography at Elephant Arch, Superstition Mountains, Arizona

We woke before sunrise and took photos until well after sunrise. We ate breakfast before packing up and heading back home. Overall, this has to be one of my favorite trips. I feel like I say that about every adventure, but I guess that just means I've having a good time.

Tomorrow I leave for 5 days. We're bringing the bikes and climbing gear to hit Joshua Tree NP, Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon! So pumped! I still have another batch of photos I took at Chiricahuah the day after Elephant Arch. I'll get those up when I return!

Happy adventures!

Doing Touristy Things in Sedona

I met up with a new face through the facebook page and headed north into Sedona. My goal this trip was to check two places off my list. They're pretty touristy, but Devil's Bridge and Red Rock Crossing still deserved a visit. First stop: Devil's Bridge. It was a nice day, despite being early December. When we arrived around 10AM, the main parking lot was already near capacity. You can take a dirt road to the trailhead, but I didn't risk it in my 2WD SUV. From the main parking lot, it was a 3.6 mile round-trip hike over mostly flat/easy terrain. My 3-month old puppy made it there and back without an issue! Despite the crowd, the bridge was quite pretty with some fascination rock formations around it.

Second stop: Red Rock Crossing. It cost $10 to enter the park and, like the rock bridge, it was also fairly crowded without too much to do. We walked along the footpath running parallel Oak Creek. The park has a great view of Cathedral Rock and some interesting rock cairn gardens. I will probably go back in the Spring just for some better pictures.

Afterwards, we returned home and I packed up for an overnight camp with some friends at Elephant Arch. That post is coming soon!

Happy Adventures!

Rock Climbing at Camelback

It's 8 am on Sunday morning; I'm searching for a harness and climbing shoes when I send a text my friend who gets a discount on this stuff. He calls me 10 seconds later and says, "we're about to go rock climbing; I'm coming to pick you up." Not a bad way to start a day. It has taken nearly a year, but I've managed to surround myself with others who truly love adventure - almost as much as I do. That's an amazing feeling. After the three of us stopped at REI for a few things, including a map of routes, we met up with a fourth for a beautiful winter day at Camelback Mountain. We headed for the Praying Monk based on a few tips and set to it! It was my first time sport climbing, so I was a little nervous about untying my rope 30 meters up to thread it through the bolt, but I didn't drop the rope and made it back down alive!

The last part especially opened me up to the excitement of rock climbing and I can't wait to climb some more this weekend!

Happy Adventures!

Touring the Apache Trail

Not every adventure needs to wear you out or empty your pocket. Sometimes it's nice to just fold the Jeep's top back and spend the day exploring dirt roads. I joined a couple friends for a tour of the Apache Trail (aka SR 88) that runs along the Salt River lakes. The initial plan was to turn back at Tortilla Flats, but we decided to keep going all the way to Roosevelt Dam. As usual, it was much cooler than expected. We happened upon a couple sights we did not expect... 4x4 is not required for this trip, but the pavement does turn to loose dirt a few miles east of Tortilla Flats, so it helps. Happy adventures!

Exploring Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley!

It feels pretty amazing to be the person your friends seek when they need a getaway. I considered my list and picked a place that's been on it for a while: Canyon de Chelly (pronounced: shay). Rachel, Michelle and I packed our gear and headed north for the two-day trip. It was cold, rainy and snowy; I don't think I could have asked for a more beautiful weekend in the desert! There are a lot of overlooks, but not much else unless you take one of the guided tours into the valley - which we didn't do because there were none at the time. Still, it kept us busy for a whole night and the next morning. We drove around, took a lot of pictures, slept in the car, got harassed by rez dogs, played in the snow then took a detour to Monument Valley before heading back home. The girls had never been before and I was eager to return with a decent camera.

That's one more wonderful weekend in the bag! I definitely recommend visiting Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley if you haven't. Both are worth visiting separately, but close enough to make a great combo if you ever get the urge!

Happy adventures!

Summiting the Tallest Mountain in Arizona

Let's be real. Mount Humphreys is only 12,637 feet tall, but a 4,000ft ascent is still nothing to sneeze at! With no real plan or expectation, Andrew, David and I left for Flagstaff to summit the tallest mountain in Arizona! I don't know why I waited until it was covered in snow, but I'm glad I did. The hike was as challenging as it was beautiful! It's an in-and-out hike totaling 10 miles with 4,000 feet of elevation gain. The wind was a fiercely chilling bastard after we broke the treeline. Eventually, we reached the summit and took some pics before making our way back to the safety of the pines. We were reduced to traveling by ambient light before the end of the hike, but that's what I get for starting the hike late and leaving my headlamp in Oregon...

I plan to do this again in the Spring/Summer for a different experience. Keep an eye out for the event if you feel like joining me :)

Phoenix to Fairbanks (and Back): Day 10

What a trip this has been so far! The first 5 days were absolutely incredible! Unfortunately, things didn't quite follow the plan after that... By the time I reached southern British Columbia, my sleeping pad was flat, I was out of cooking fuel, the temperature dropped below freezing, and many private gas stations were shut down for the winter already. Towns and other cars became increasingly rare sights. By the time I reached Yukon on the 6th night, I had decided not to spend any more time in Canada than I had to. I made excellent time that day so I decided to head to bed early and finish the remaining 16 hours in the next day. I got up at 5 AM and reached the capital, Whitehorse, by 10 AM where I changed my oil. Stopping only for gas and occasional pictures, I pushed on to Anchorage and arrived shortly before midnight.

My couchsurfing hosts are insanely amazing, kind, and hilarious! The last three days here have been rainy so I haven't managed to explore much. Today is still cloudy, but I'm taking the opportunity to see what I can! Wish me luck!

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

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.