Archives for posts with tag: travel writing

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?

 

 

Well, I’m back at my Mogollon Rim Camp…this is the one that I referenced in my last blog (that was apparently 25 days ago), just next to the General Crook road, overlooking the big Green Valley.  I’d spent the last two weeks camped north of Flagstaff at this easy-access camp and, apparently, didn’t write jack-pooey.

Anyway, I’m about here:  https://goo.gl/maps/138RreCiecu.

Lol…”about here”.  With today’s location technology there’s no such thing as “about here”.  It’s more like “Iamf$#@%!&righthere”.  Every time I come to the realization that I’m so damned track-able, I think about the “preppers”.  These are the people that spend their time planning for the next Armageddon…without knowing what brings about the aforementioned Armageddon.

“You’re wearing camouflage, and carrying a Samsung S8″…

But I digress.

I have to say that I’m really excited to be back at this camp.  The primary reason is because I’m just outside the city limits of Pine.  My new, favorite, Arizona town.  Yea, I love Flagstaff, but they get enough press.  And every time I visit Flagstaff I realize that I can go into town, without having showered for days, and not stick out.  That can’t be good, can it?

Anywhooo…this camp is actually pretty cool…the wind rips up the face of the rim, blowing the dust of the UTV/motorcycle/ATV crowd away from me.  I can see for miles and miles (The Who song just evicted all other thoughts and now I’m singing it in my head) and I have a wonderful trail right outside my hovel that I can play with.

In fact, there are some crazy good trails around here.  All along the base of this huge abutment is the Highline trail.  It traverses about 52 miles from Pine to the 260 trailhead.  Legend has it this trail used to connect the homesteads in the area way back in the day.  It has spur trails that join from above and below, making it easy to create a great loop.

I’m sure I mentioned that the Arizona Trail uses the segment leading out of Pine, eventually ascending near Washington Park…which is right below where I’m camped.  It’s a segment that I have not hiked…yet.  Passage 26 is just over 20 miles, making it a great two day trip, presuming you have a shuttle.  Otherwise it’s a 4-day, out and back trip.

In fact, as I type this I’m wondering if I should beg one of you to join me for a two-day, shuttled adventure…hmmm?

Digressing again.

So, my plan for the next two weeks is to head into town on a few occasions to try other restaurants.  My biggest challenge is going to be avoiding Mi Familia, the local Mexican food joint.  I hear it’s pretty damned awesome!

Let me know if you’d like to arrange for a shuttle/hike…my only real opportunity would be the weekend of June 17/18…just a thought.

I’m finally back on the road.  This time I’m posted up on top of the Mogollon Rim, right near the General George Crook trail.  The history books tell us it was constructed under the direction of General George Crook in the early 1870’s as a supply/tactical road joining Fort Whipple to Fort Apache a couple hundred miles apart.  This route is still visible today, in many parts, and I’m sitting right next to it.

Every morning I walk the trail with my coffee and dogs, and as I do, my mind whooshes back in time to when this trail was a well-traveled thoroughfare.  The “Wild West” was in full swing and the Civil War was still fresh in everyone’s mind.  Arizona had just recently become a territory and was, by all accounts, still a very primitive landscape.

It’s easy to romanticize the era of the cowboy, even if it only lasted a couple of decades.  But the truth was that life was still very hard back then, especially in a region so remote.  The Apaches were on the warpath.  This was, in part, why General Crook was even in the area, to subdue the restless natives.

I am about half way through a book about the original colonies right now.  By the end of the 19th century most of the native peoples in the east were already subjugated.  But not in Arizona.  In fact, “The Apache Wars” were just getting started.

20170511_172657Anyway, I’m here in my camp right next to the trail.  I’ve got a commanding view of the foothills below.  Every now and then a car drives by, but for the most part I’m out here alone.  I wanted to post up closer to the AZT, but I’m also bound by the need for a good mobile signal.

Camping in a travel trailer is really different from the camping I used to do.  In fact, I almost don’t consider this “camping”, rather it’s “staying in a trailer in the middle of nowhere”.  I don’t know why I have this bias toward RV camping, it’s not really fair.  Most of my camping in the past was while backpacking.  Even when I “car camped” I still had a tent.

Also, I’m so close to the the rim road that if I’d passed by this camp back then I’d most likely think to myself “why even come out here if you’re going to be that luxurious and close to the road”?  Heck, I might take my tent and sleeping bag a mile or so into the woods just so I can pretend to be in a remote area.

Until then, I’m going to sit here in my “office” and roast weenies over a fire.

I know what you’re probably thinking…”isn’t Arizona “hell-oven-Africa” hot in the summer?”  Well, the answer is “yes and not really”.  The yes part applies to the lower elevations, in the middle of the day, while in the sun and not near any water; the “not really” means that there are myriad ways to avoid that oppressive “dry” heat.  I’m a native of Arizona and my family has been in this state since the 1880’s AND I happen to be a heat-wuss, so I know what I’m talking about.

Before I get to my list I want to mention two words that make Arizona even possible: air conditioning.  Seriously.  I love history, particularly frontier history; when I think of the pioneers I’m struck by how hearty they were as a people.  Think about it…they didn’t have AC, their cell reception was probably worse than T-Mobile (maybe), they were being hunted by other people and to top it all off they had to do all of this in wooden underwear.  People today, by comparison, are so soft.

Air conditioning makes being in the desert possible, for us marshmallows.  But there are other ways to enjoy Arizona while being outside.  So, without further ado, here’s my top 5 ways to enjoy our state without spontaneously combusting like a Spinal Tap drummer.

NUMBER 5:  Swimming Pools.  If you come to Arizona and book a room at a hotel or resort without a pool then you deserve to sweat your crotch off!  I’m not sure how hard you’d have to work to find a place without a pool but I’m sure there are some seedy places that don’t.  The Arizona heat only really sucks when the sun is at its peak AND you’re in the direct sunlight.  Yes, 110°F is still hot, but it’s the combination of heat and sun that’s the killer.  Factor in a swimming pool and a cabana boy or girl and you’ve got the makings of a great afternoon.  Too warm, jump in the water.

Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

Mother of Pearl swimming pool at The Phoenician Resort & Spa

NUMBER 4: Animal Activity.  During the summer the animals come out to play at night.  In fact, it’s so prolific that we even have a stargazing & night-vision tour that you might want to consider.  You can’t get the night-vision portion during the winter because the animals are hibernating.  But at summer you’ll see coyote, javelina, Jack-hares, and snakes (don’t freak out, seriously…they want nothing to do with you).  In fact, there’s a statistic about who gets bit the most: males between the ages of 18-35, drunk, bitten on the hand, and a low “TTR”.  TTR stands for “tooth to tattoo ratio”.  Ladies, you’re safe!

NUMBER 3: Less Traffic/People.  Every November the population in The Valley increases by about a billion people.  Most of these people are what we lovingly call “snow birds”.  These are the seasonal visitors that descend upon our city with their motor-homes and basically clog up our roadways, shops & restaurants.  Don’t get me wrong – we make our living serving these guests; and I love people, just not when they’re driving.  But during the summer our population literally drops by thousands of people…and they’re not on the roads.

NUMBER 2: High-elevation activities.  Most people don’t realize that Arizona isn’t all desert.  In fact, we have a mountain that’s over 12,000′ tall.  The south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000′, and the north rim even higher.  The town of Flagstaff, one of our lesser-known gems, is a hub of adventure and activity and also sits at 7,000.  Their record high temperature was in 1973 and it was only 97°F, and considering it’s a “dry” climate it’s downright beautiful.  There are also other high elevations throughout the state so don’t think that coming to Arizona during the summer is going to cause you to catch fire.

Flagstaff

Flagstaff, Arizona

NUMBER 1:  Resort Discounts.  Because the entire world knows that even Satan has a summer home outside the Sonoran Desert in the summer the local hotels and resorts cut their room rates embarrassingly low.  They used to just close for the summer but lately they figure that some revenue is better than no revenue.  You can book a room at a high-end resort, in the summer, for about the same cost as a Bate’s Motel in the peak season…almost.  Factor in the premium level of service and the manicured pools and grounds and it’s a no-brainer.  Perfect time for a family get-away.

Well, that’s just the top 5 reasons to visit Arizona in the summer.  There are more but I know your attention span is at it’s limit right now.  In fact, if you’re still reading this then I’m amazed and honored.

See you outside.

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.