Archives for category: Trail Angels

I have this coffee pot.  Well, it’s no longer, technically, a coffee pot.  By that, I mean, it doesn’t have its guts.  The percolator and coffee basket are long gone.  But, from the outside, it looks just like one of those old Coleman coffee pots your dad used to have.  I still make coffee with it, only now I am far more sophisticated…I use a French press (insert snobby-nasal “hoh hoh hoh” here).

I got out of the Marine Corp in mid-1991.  I had asked to be stationed in Yuma for my last duty station because it was close to home.  My mom, brother and sister lived in Tempe, or thereabouts.  When I got out, I moved into my mom’s house, until I could get on my feet.  I took various odd-jobs including telemarketing and door-to-door sales.  In fact, one of my favorite post-service jobs was that door-to-door sales.

Fast forward a year or two and I’m staying in a condo in Tempe, working in restaurants and at REI.  I got into camping as a kid on family trips and continued “camping” when in the Marines.  I was hooked.  So it was natural for me to start accumulating camping equipment.  That’s where I purchased this coffee pot.

Most of my first camping trips were car-camping at bike races.  I’d use this pot to make coffee for my teammates.  We were really into coffee…primarily because it suppressed the hunger-pangs.  We were poor and the less we thought about food the easier our days would be.  I remember at one race, I and one of my teammates were coming around this turn and there was Jim Huntley.  He was in a different class so he had some time before his start.

Anyway, he was making a pot of coffee, and the aroma was wafting along the trail for about 50’.  More than a few racers mentioned it later.  “Did you smell that coffee that guy was making?” “Yea man, I almost stopped to have a cup”.

We loved coffee.

Some years later I was on a long, cross-country trip with my future ex-wife.  We decided to drive through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and eventually back home to Arizona.  We had stopped at some high-mountain camp in Idaho, right next to a fast running, cold stream.  It was iconic.  I can still see the place in my memories.  I distinctly remember that Idaho was so beautiful that I HAD to come back some day.  I will, someday.

One morning I wanted to rinse out my coffee pot.  I went to the river and dunked it a few times.  At one point I realized that I’d lost the innards of the pot.  I have no recollection of the precise moment they disappeared, but I came to realize it, and I was pissed.  I remember that I threw a bit of a tantrum.  I looked up and down that bank trying to guess how far it might be swept down in the rushing water.

It was gone.

The next trip I took it on was a backpacking trip into the Superstition Mountains.  I was brand-new to “civilian” backpacking and this was my inaugural trip.  We were driving along the AZ-60 and I must have been going too fast because all of the sudden there was a police officer on my tail, lights-a-flashin’.

He saw my wallet and noticed that it had a rasta-marijuana leaf embroidered on it.  He used that as probable cause and asked me if I had any drugs on me.  Instead of lying to him, I volunteered to show him where my meager bag of brown-frown pot was.  His next question was “do you have any meth?”  I immediately said “NO!  I’m going to out there to relax, not clean up the forest.”

Well, he thought I was a good guy, so he wrote me a ticket and sent me on my way.  I was a bit shaken but intent on going backpacking.  We continued on.  I remember this first hike into Angel Basin.  We’d lost the trail at the top of the big descent down into the spot.  We bushwhacked our asses off and arrived at the basin only to find that the Scottsdale Community College Outdoor Club was already there.  The club seemed to be mostly young girls.  Bonanza, right!?  NO – again, I was with my future ex-wife.  The only time I’ve ever encountered a gaggle of girls in the woods was when I was with a girlfriend.

Anyway, it’s not worth dwelling on.

We set up camp, made our (looking back), horrible dinner and retired.  The next morning we awoke to the Girls-Gone-Wild leaving.  We were just getting our day started when a guy walked by, without a pack.  He was one of the chaperones of the trip but had to stay back at the trailhead with a girl that had sprained her ankle early in the trip.  He was trying to catch up to the rest of the party for some reason I can’t remember.

Coffee Pot2I started a pot of coffee.  By now I was going all Cowboy on my Java.  Boil water, add coffee grounds, stir and set; pour a little cold water on the top to sink the grounds and pour gently.  Well, this chaperone came back through and the smell of coffee brought him into our camp.  We shared our magical-black liquid and started chatting.

Within 5 minutes he offered to smoke pot with us.  I looked at Patricia and said “I told you we’d still find a way to get high in the woods!”.

There have been more than one magical moment in my life as a result of this coffee pot.

Today, my backpacking skills have progressed.  I’ve probably walked a couple thousand miles across Arizona’s amazing landscapes.  Deserts, forests, canyons and mountains.  I even tried to do a thru-hike of the AZT.  As part of my learning curve I’ve cut untold pounds out of my pack.

This coffee pot only makes it into a few of my backpacks; it all depends on the trip.  One one annual foray it’s the “water-heater”.  It resides somewhere on the fire heating water for someone.  When you want water, just go fill it up and put it on the flame.

On this sojourn it has taken its place, central on my stovetop.  It sees daily use in making my coffee, oatmeal and evening tea.  It’s a comfortable friend that’s been with me for over 20 years.

Like the Tinman of Oz, it never really needed guts or a heart because it performs its job perfectly as is.

This is my Linus-blanket and I intend to use this pot until I die, or it falls apart, whichever comes first.

Can I pour you a cup?

 

 

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Remember when you were a little kid?  I do…well, at least parts of it.  I was a pretty shitty kid so I try to block a lot of memories; no – I wasn’t an unlawful or mean kid.  I was just an insecure, hypermotherfuckingactive, in-my-own-world kinda’ kid that threw tantrums.

SIDE NOTE: To all of my close friends, STFU…I’m working on it.

Anyway, I have few flashbacks of my earlier years; hell, I’m so good at blocking out memories I need Google reminders to inform me of my wife’s birthday and our anniversary.  No, I’m not good at remembering things…but I do remember it taking geological time to get from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  I mean, fuck…how long should a month really take (rhetorical question)?

Well, that’s the time-warp-hell I’m living in right now.  I have only two weeks until I’m able to pack up my castle-on-wheels and head up north to play trail angel again.  It actually keeps me up at night…not the waiting, no that just makes me antsy to GTFO.  What keeps me up is how much fun it is, and how much reward I get, to be in a place where a tired, broken down hiker could use just a little love.

What keeps me up is that I’m plagued with trying to find a place that has a strong enough mobile signal to maintain my real façade (a guy that’s living the dream by starting a guide company that now FINALLY pays bills), be close enough to the trail that a hiker is willing to make the trek (SOMEBODY has to eat these oranges and drink these beers), and remote enough that I don’t have to share the space with the diaper-leaving-Bush beer-drinking-turd-burglar-families that seem to permeate our “wilderness”.

I know…you’re probably thinking “what a bitch; this is a first-world, white-person, living-the-dream kinda’ problem”!  Probably because I typed it and you’ve just read it, but you might have pre-thought it…I don’t know.

Anyway, the shortened version of this long-winded, first-world, white-person, living-the-dream kinda’ problem story is that I should be able to get out of hell-oven-Africa-hotville (Phoenix) sometime after May 10th-ish.

I know that my last post indicated that I’d be heading straight to Jacob Lake but two things have transpired since then.  First, is that the people that I was hoping to get in front of are moving fast and will most likely be done by then.  Second, is that I re-realized that there is a 14 day limit for camping in our public lands.

I can only stay in a place for 14 days, then I have to “be gone!”  Each management area is different, AND interprets their rules differently (yea, it’s a commercial-operator permit nightmare…ask me how I know!). What this basically boils down to is that I can’t stay in any 25-mile radius for more than 14 days.

This all adds up to me having to move around quite a bit more than I want to.  Also, I don’t want to piss off the already-overworked-underpaid forest service workers, by June.  I’m hoping to wear out my welcome by, at the earliest, August or something.

The final result is that I might head to Pine or Flagstaff…I don’t know.  I’m going to play it by ear.  Because while a plan is useless, planning is everything.

Anyway, Mousie – The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley!

I’ll keep you updated as to my whereabouts…mostly because my mom gets worried.

See you outside…

So, I’m home.  And I’m busier than mustard trying to ketchup.  See what I did there?

In the interim I cut the lawn, catered a wedding dinner, went to a wedding, and rode my big-ass motorcycle to Casa Riviera with some friends.  Those burritos don’t change size…they’re still huge and, in my opinion, are one of the best examples of family Mexican food you’ll ever get in Arizona.

Now, I’m stuck in Phoenix, doing what I love…running my business.  This is our peak season and we’re the proverbial chickens with heads-cut-off, except that we’re in control.  I need a better analogy.  On top of that, we recently lost a couple of guides so now I actually have to do things around here.

But I miss being on the side of the trail.  I don’t miss it nearly as bad as hiking the trail, but it’s still a hole in my heart.  When I was hiking the trail I knew there were things left undone, and ultimately that’s why I pulled off; it wasn’t because of injury or boredom, but because I had a career that needed me to love it back.

This is different.

When I was doing trail magic I was able to continue working at my job.  In fact, a few times, I was more involved in the work than I could be for the hikers.  I think it turned out OK because I had a lot of oranges and those usually kept people enamored.

But I miss being out there.

As it turns out I won’t be able to get back next to the trail until May 8th or so.

I’m thinking that I’ll post up near Jacob Lake because I know there’s this nice little spot, with 4G, just short of the Orderville Trailhead.  Seriously, it’s only a .5 mile from the trail to where I’m hoping to camp.  Here’s the directions:  https://goo.gl/maps/RwShtBM8WrE2

Once I get up there I’ll post again and if I’m not at that spot I’ll let you know where.

Anyway, I figured I’d just let you know what’s up…sorry I can’t be in Pine, where I wanted to be by now.  Trust me, I wish I were…it’s getting hot here now.

See you outside.

 

Well, I’m almost done with this tour of duty.  I arrived on March 20 and tomorrow, April 3rd, I’ll be heading back into Phoenix for a wedding and a re-supply.  This has been an amazing experience!  I am totally a trail geekangel.  The people that have passed through have been some of the most amazing & genuine people you’d ever meet.

Here’s who came through most recently…

Wednesday, 3/29

Dead Cow

Mojave

Thursday, 3/30

Top Shelf (left) & Two Liter (right)

Joey

Friday, 3/31

Sarah (l) & Kate (r)

Saturday, 4/1

Justin

Dynamic & ???

Rebo also came through but I forgot to get his photo.

Tom & Alicia

Sunday, 4/2

Purple Pants (l) & Numbers (r)

Dead Cow got her name because on another trail some hikers came by and thought she was a dead cow…way cuter than a dead cow though.  Them Mojave came through, he was bookin’.

On Wednesday night I got the phone call from Two Liter saying he was going to spend a day in Oracle to heal his feet but would I hold Top Shelf there until he was able to get a ride from Marney.  It worked out perfectly – Top Shelf rolled in about 8am and Two Liter arrived at 9:30 or so.  It should be noted that Top Shelf has done the CDT and PCT…and is a dead ringer for my ex-wife; only we get along better. 😉

Joey, the friend of Melanie & Bryan rolled in that evening.  The weather was fixin’ to be windy & rainy so he actually stayed in my van that night.  He’s a GET hiker and left in the morning.  Apparently he’s been thru-hiking and adventuring all over the world for the last few years.  I’m not jealous.

The next day Sarah and Kate came in.  They were pretty tired so I convinced them to lay low for a while.  They did and when Melanie & Bryan arrived for me to shuttle them to Oracle they tagged along and bought my dinner at Casa Riviera…this is a MUST stop in Oracle.  Amazing food, good & spicy salsa, and CHEAP.  And the burritos are the size of a donkey!  The ladies bought dinner and all three of our meals only came to $23.  Did I mention CHEAP!?

20170331_185947 (1)

I ordered too much…

The ladies also stayed the night in the van because the weather was still a bit threatening.  Think about this for a moment…two ladies got into a stranger’s van, in the middle of nowhere.

Only on a thru-hike!

Saturday evening saw the arrival of Tom & Alicia, also hiking the GET.  A lot of GET hikers…THEY also took advantage of the van, but for simplicity’s sake.  Eventually Dyno rolled in, but she was expecting some friends who showed up a few minutes later.  The girl that’s pictured with her joined her for the next segment(s?) and I confess that I forgot her name.

Justin also came in Saturday afternoon.  He was one of the guys that came by earlier in the week and cached some water; another trail angel had dropped off Tom & Alicia’s water.

Oh, I did an informal poll and NOBODY that I’ve asked thinks it’s cool to take other people’s water.  So, that that turd-burglar on Facebook that think’s it’s OK can wrap their lips around my furry marble bag!

Rebo came through, but only briefly.

On Sunday Bryan and Melanie finished their segment just about the time my first bike-packer (Purple Pants) came through.  He had been riding/hiking at about the same pace as Numbers.

Anyway, it’s only 1:30 on Sunday, so there might be more people.  I’ll update in another blog.

I’ll be pulling out of here tomorrow morning and heading into Phoenix for a week.  Then I’ll be heading up north and hopefully be able to find a place that has some cell service but is also close to the trail.  We’ll see…

See you outside.

Sequioa Log 03302017

Hikers continue to pass through. So do other trail users; mountain bikers, people scouting the trailheads for future endeavors, and even trail stewards doing routine maintenance on the trail. Oh, and Marney, from Chalet Village. Not a day goes by without someone stopping by. The best part is that by now, thru-hikers know I’m here.

But most of the time I’m alone, with Kika and Emmie (backup). The sun has been shining but the temperatures have been sublime. The nights are perfect sleeping temperatures. The wind picks up, usually after noon but they’re not constant. They’re just enough to keep it cool. Every once in a while a ranch truck drives by at about 70.

During the days I’m “at work”. There’s plenty to do but there’s still a lot of “quiet” time. So what I’ve been doing, to break up the day, is to check out the local flora; there is no shortage. In fact, I’m willing to wager that every single hiker that’s hiked this section would agree: this desert is lush!

Not only is the desert wide open out here, it’s a sea of rolling green. Crest a hill and look around, in addition to endless mountain ranges in the distance you’ll see more vegetation than dirt or rock. It’s f’n LUSH I’m tellin’ ya!

Interspersed with the myriad shades of green are reds, oranges, purples, whites . . . and sinews of yellow, weaving through other plants. If you’re up early, you’ll see golden sun-rays illuminating these red-silvery puffs of flowers. It’s truly a kaleidoscope of color!

So, what are these wondrous species? Are they edible or do they have any medicinal benefits? Not that they have to…flowers this beautiful don’t have to do anything more than just BE. Seeing them makes me happy, which in-itself is soul-nourishing enough.  But still, what are these happy plants that make it look like Walt Disney came through with leaky paint cans?

Well, I’m here to tell ya’!  And yes, a couple of them do have edible/medicinal benefit…

Yummy in my tummy

Let’s start with one of my favorites – the banana yucca.  I wrote about this a while ago, but this is one of the sweets of the Sonoran Desert.  The flower buds, fruits and leaf-bases are edible.  The natives would pit roast some parts or they might dry the flowers. For example, they would roast the fruits then remove the skins and seeds.  The resulting pulp was formed into dry cakes.  Then, they might reconstitute them into sweet drinks.  The flowers can be cooked into soups or dried and formed into burgers with acorns.

 Hmmm, that almost sounds good…minus all of the labor involved.

People often ask “how did the natives survive?”  My response is always “they didn’t just survive, they thrived!”.

I once heard a statistic: that of the 3400 species native to the Sonoran Desert, 550 of them are edible.  I admit that I have never verified either of those numbers, but it sounds reasonable enough.  When you start digging into edible plants you’ll discover that there are quite a few…probably 550.

These ain’t one of them…at least not for us.

The Fairy Duster

One of the many species of penstemon

Not sure…Chinese Lantern

Sanddune Wallflower

This is just a small collection of photos from my morning coffee-walks.  There are more, like the Desert Globemallow.  The globemallow is also known as “mal de ojo”, which is Spanish for “bad for the eyes”.  It got this name because it’s one hell of an allergen – it’s pollen strands are long, and when observed in cross-section looks like a star…bad for eyes.
The hedgehogs are starting to flower too.  Pretty soon the palo verdes will explode in yellow, so will the brittle bush.  In just a few weeks you’ll look across the desert and it’ll be aglow in yellow.

I think it’s pretty universal to assume that because it’s a harsh desert that not many plants exist.  Not in the Sonoran Desert though…being the warmest & wettest desert in the world we have quite a few plants.  In fact, this is one of the most bio-diverse locations on the globe.

And if there really ARE 550 edible plants in this desert than it’s not a stretch to think the natives really did thrive.  They sure didn’t know any better.

HOWEVER – I’m willing to bet that none of these edible species tastes as good as a pizza delivered to the trailhead by Old Time Pizza in Kearney, or a burrito the size of a donkey at Casa Rivera’s Taco Express in Oracle.  I can vouch for the pizza…I’ll be chompin’ on the burrito this Friday night.

See you outside…or at Casa Rivera’s

 

I’ve officially been here a week.  It’s been quite a busy trailhead – way more than I’d originally expected.  Well, that’s not true – I don’t know what I expected.  In fact, I don’t remember setting any expectations.  I remember hoping that there would be enough cell coverage to work, and not too hot.  So far, it’s been better than I could expect.

With regards to hikers, I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  My friends Melanie & Bryan had been out here hiking & doing trail magic a few weekends prior and didn’t see anyone.  I hoped that I’d get a couple thru-hikers…I mean, I have all of these supplies just sitting here.

Most of the supplies were intended for my thru-attempt, but as you all know, that didn’t go as planned.  So, I have Cliff Builder Bars, Cliff Bars, pop-tarts, cookies, coffee packets, trail mix & Skittles…hell, I even have some unused, home-made, dehydrated dinners.  All the stuff that a hiker is probably sick of by now.

The thing that has gone over the best has been the oranges.  At the last minute I plucked a couple of bags of oranges and tossed them in my stash.  The wide-eyed looks of lust has come over every single hiker I’ve offered them too…I knew my drug-dealing days weren’t over.  Now, I’m just peddling a different buzz; this time it’s a natural insulin burst as the sweet orange slips into the blood stream.

Anyway, to make a long story less long this trailhead has been abuzz…in more ways than one.  In fact, about 2 minutes ago a swarm of bees passed through…I shit you not.  A loud buzzing noise started getting louder.  By the time I knew what was happening the bees were flyin’ by my open trailer door.  I toyed with the idea that I should quickly shut the door, but in order to do I would have had to poke my head out the trailer.  I opted to just sit tight and hope…you see, bees and me don’t really mix.  Luckily they had bee places to go and bee shit to do so they keep moving.

It’s also been abuzz with hikers.  Yesterday I had two groups saunter in as well as a guy that’s scouting out the trail by bike/truck/motorcycle.  He has this Toyota truck that he puts his bikes in; he drops off the mountain bike, drives a few miles away and parks his truck, then rides his motorcycle back.  Finally, he rides his mountain bike, along the trail to his truck then returns to get his motorcycle.

This group came in pretty early.  They sat for a while and chatted.

Iso, Lee and Beans, on their way out.

Mark and Illona also stopped in…

Well prepared for the desert sun!

Finally, later that afternoon Pirate Two-Sticks and CC returned.  Pirate (real name: Rick Obermiller) has some pretty amazing experience.  This dude is a volunteer park ranger, does trail maintenance, used to be an AZT Trail Steward, and even wrote the geology section in the AZT guide.  He gave me a signed copy!  SCORE!!

 One of the best treats so far has been pizza.  Kearney has a place called “Old Time Pizza”.  They are smack dab in the middle of town.  They are willing to deliver pizza and water to the Florence-Kelvin trailhead.  Anyway, I decided to patronize them because they’re taking care of the hikers.  I had the teriyaki chicken pizza.  It wasn’t bad.  Unfortunately, because I was shuttling hikers, I didn’t get to the pizza until about 45 minutes later.  By then it was a bit cold.  It was still pizza though!

Anyway, I am sure having a great time.  There’s NOTHING to do but hike and get work done…so, as you might expect, I’m getting quite a bit of stuff accomplished.

Well, that’s it for now…see you outside.