Archives for posts with tag: Vacations

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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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.

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!?

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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

 

There has been quite a bit of activity at this trailhead. As I mentioned last time, I saw my first thru-hiker on Monday night, only 3-hours after I arrived. Then, the next day, Ralph’s wife & sister(?) were my first mule-rider-thru-hikers.

Since then I’ve seen Aaron (no trail name) who is hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail…see below.

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Then “Slow Bro” and Mike made their way through heading north.

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Later that day “Farmer” and “HD Momma” rolled up to cache some personal water. At the same time Marney, the owner of the Chalet Village stopped by to drop off Public water AND some for specific hikers. It was nice to meet her. She’s really invested a lot of time & effort into helping hikers. I mentioned how some bottles with initials and a date, that was in the future, were empty. Her look said it all “what a shitty thing to do”. Since they were already crushed I had to fill some other bottles and mark them again.

When I posted this on Facebook some guy suggested that there might be some confusion because on the PCT all of the water is “public” and on the CDT it’s all personal because there is no culture of magic. I guess that the AZT is somewhere in between – we have people caching their own water and volunteers like me and Marney, who cache water for strangers.

Anyway, later that night “Sage Brush” stopped in. He came too late to take a photo because it was dark, and I wasn’t in the frame of mind to figure out the flash. Anyway, he came in and sat for quite a while. He was also hiking the GET. This is a 770-mile trail that goes east-to-west from Albuquerque to Phoenix. Come to find out there are quite a few “National Scenic Trails”.

So far, today (Friday) I’ve already had some visitors…Jamie & Rebecca are two of three people that will be unicycling the AZT. Apparently someone already became the first, but Rebecca is the first female to attempt it on a unicycle. Then, two hikers bagging sections parked their truck at the TH and are hiking north to Florence-Kelvin TH…where I’m picking up two friends this evening and shuttling them back to my pad so they can also complete section 15.

Jamie & Rebecca givin’ it the thumbs up..

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Pirate two-sticks and CC heading north; they’ll be back Sunday to get their truck.

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In all this whole experiment has been fun, so far. I wonder when it’s going to start to suck…I hope never. I think my biggest challenge will be finding spots with good mobile service. Right now I have 4-bars of 4G…I have better service out here than in my own living room or office. I wonder how much money Verizon spends to make sure your mobile device doesn’t work in the places you go most. It’s like they’re trying to chase you outside so they can help collect big data…where’s my foil hat?

So, it’s “Sequoia Log 032517” now… Last night I went to the Florence-Kelvin trailhead to pick up Brian and Melanie; they’re hiking section 15.

Here’s Brian & Melanie…she doesn’t like her trail name so I won’t repeat it.  He doesn’t have one…yet.

20170325_073644.jpgAnyway, there’s this pizza place in Kearney called Old Time Pizza. Apparently they are willing to deliver pizza to the FK trailhead. So I stopped in and patronized them, to show support. I had the teriyaki pizza…it was decent. If you were hiking along the trail then it would be a royal feast.

So far, things are going smoothly. I’m having a great time.  I am enjoying the solitude broken by bouts of trail camaraderie.  I could get used to this.

The last time I wrote I told you that I’ve decided to be a rich and famous travel writer.  I remember listening to a motivational speaker (that didn’t live in a van, down by the river) and he said that speak in the present tense when you speak about dreams.  For example, don’t say “some day I’m going to be a millionaire”; instead say “I’m a millionaire, the money just hasn’t made it into my bank account yet.”

So, I’m a rich and famous travel writer, it’s just that the money isn’t here yet and nobody knows who I am (except for my friends but they’re certainly not going to pay me to write shit; maybe to shut up, but that’s a different blog). I just need to travel and write.  My plan for the summer is to take my travel trailer around the state, to higher elevation cities, and write about what there is to do and places to eat.  Done deal, right?

Well, the “travel” part is proving to be a challenge.  You see, I discovered that a skylight in my travel trailer was cracked, and as a result it leaked…into my shower (yay) and vanity (boo).  So, I bought a replacement skylight and removed the old one.  Only to discover that there was some pretty significant water damage to the substrate.  I learned that word, “substrate”, after watching about 20 YouTube videos about how to repair RV roofs.  I discovered that this is an easy project as long as you’re handy and have tools.

I have a backpack and a bong.  I have a few tools but I’m better at watching professionals use them than I am at using them myself.

But I’m going to learn.

It’s part of the new “me”, and shit.  Yep, I’m trying to grow up and learn how to actually do things other than run a business.  I’m almost 50 so there’s time.

Anyway, my plan for the next few works is to learn how to replace rotten wood and resurfacing my travel trailer roof.

So I got that going for me, which is nice.