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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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Grand Canyon, indeed.

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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!

 

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Camping at Elephant Arch

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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!

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Doing Touristy Things in Sedona

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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!

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Rock Climbing at Camelback

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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!

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Touring the Apache Trail

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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!

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Exploring Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley!

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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!

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Summiting the Tallest Mountain in Arizona

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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 :)

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Phoenix to *Anchorage* (AND BACK): DAY 19

I finally made it back home! Almost 9,000 miles and 19 days later, I arrived home greasy, tired, and unbelievably stoked. It doesn't feel like I just spent nearly 3 weeks away from home - not in the least. In some ways, it feels like it was already a lifetime ago. I had a lot of time to explore, enjoy, and think. I really appreciated the last of those three. I have some really cool plans for the future of the site and really want to give back by providing information on cool places to go, how to get there, and ways to get into the adventure lifestyle! Anyway, my last leg of the trip was pretty rushed due to weather, but I still thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! I spent some time in Jasper and Yellowstone national parks - as well as a few others. All in all, I estimate that gas was more than 90% of my cost for the trip. Food was cheap and I never paid for lodging. I slept in my car, stayed at a friend's, and couch surfed for every night of the trip.

A rock did shatter my windshield and I got a speeding ticket in Canada, but my insurance will cover the glass and the speeding ticket was super cheap so this ended up being very affordable considering that I was gone for almost 3 weeks! It really reinforced the pursuit of my passions. It proved that you can do anything you want if you just commit yourself to your dreams. It sounds corny, but it's true.

Locations and trips coming soon! For now, enjoy these pictures from the last leg of my trip home! Much love.

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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!

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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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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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Bungee Jumping in the Angeles National Forest!

This time 3 people went with me! We got to California fairly early, set up camp, explored for a while, and then made spears while playing cards until finally retiring for the night. Nicole almost froze to death because she brought the thinnest sleeping bag we've ever seen, but we all made it back to the car alive by 7am. We met with the Bungee America crew and the rest of the jumpers for sign-in and the 5 mile hike to the bridge. We arrived nearly 2 hours later and had an amazing time jumping and watching everyone else jump. The 5 mile hike back was a nice wind down and a perfect end to the day before driving 6 hours back home.

We stopped along the way home to stargaze where there was still minimal light pollution.

What a weekend!

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