Viewing entries tagged
sports

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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Photoshop Workflow

I am by no means a professional (yet). I've only had my camera for 2 months, but I've learned a lot in that time and it's all credit to passion and consistency. Unfortunately, I don't edit most of my photos to the level they deserve. Most just get blanket adjustments because I'm editing 50+ photos at a time, but practice has made me more efficient, so I can do more in less time. Test

This example is why you should always shoot in RAW. The files are huge, but you get some much more to work with. I gave the details a little more attention here, but it still didn't take that long to edit. I've also stitched a few panoramas now and will be experimenting with HDR when I start on the most recent shoot from Elephant Arch in the Superstitions.

For this image, I imported the photo using Photoshop Camera RAW, applying auto adjustments, then slightly tweaking each one. Then I add levels, brightness/contrast and vibrance layers. I tweak each one, sometimes adding layer masks to target specific areas. I will usually add a color balance layer as well. Then I duplicate the background and apply shadows/highlights, auto color and/or auto tone to the copy(ies) so that the base layer is untouched. Finally, I play around with the opacity of each layer until I get a look that I like - adding layer masks if needed.

I learn something new with almost every batch of photos, so my workflow constantly evolves! Experiment and don't be afraid to use google if you get stumped! There's a tutorial for everything these days!

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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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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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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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Timelapse Crosscontinent Roadtrip

I thought this video would take a lot of time to edit, but it was actually fairly simple. After inspecting all 7,290 photos, I found the right speed and added some basic effects to clean things up. Now you can experience my road trip from Phoenix, AZ to Anchorage, AK and back from the dash of my car at 1,800x speed! Enjoy! :)

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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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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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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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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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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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