Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

Oct. 18,2010

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I left Phoenix about 10 am and headed north on highway 87. In less than an hour, the road climbed higher into the foothills of the Arizona Central Mountains and I entered Tonto National Forest.  At the time, I found it difficult to warm to the idea that a National Forest included desert and brust, but as I came closer to Payson, I was at an altitude that produced thick and tall pine trees. 

I stopped in Payson for some supplies and then drove north to Tonto Natural Bridge SP. Over the centuries, the Pine river eroded the soft limestone underground and formed the world’s largest natural bridge.  Well… It all depends on how you define largest-there is another one somewhere that is higher but not as thick.  I took a few pictures but didn’t walk to the bottom of the gorge where the best views are-I am still babying my knee. 

I’m writing this in a camping place in the Coconino National Forest, about 50 miles south of Winslow. There are pull-outs with fire-rings all along the forest road, so I don’t think anyone will mind if I stay. The altitude must be around 7000 feet and it’s getting dark and cold. No signal so I will try for a wifi spot tomorrow. 

Rae Lakes Loop – Sierra Nevada Mountains

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

On the second day of our hike, I realized that this was going to be way harder, way harder than anything I had ever done before. The path led up through the mountains into the rarefied air of increasing altitude, over granite boulders arranged for erosion control in a cruel stairway with treads knee-high, switch-backing ever steeper to the top of Glen’s Pass. As I approached the pass, I had to will myself… no, force myself to keep climbing – I had little will left. My lungs gasped for air and my body cried out to stop this torture. The mountain was kicking my butt. Every step was a struggle.

All I wanted was to lie down and be at rest for a very long time. Unfortunately, to lie down meant that I would have to return to my feet, hoist a 40-pound pack to my shoulders, and conjure up the energy to move forward again. And so I trudged on with all my agony, unable to stop and little will to go on, coping with altitude sickness and extreme weariness, ignoring the aches and pains and the pounding in my head.

The irony of all this is that with all the work and discomfort of backpacking the Sierra Mountains, there are few places on earth more beautiful. Unless you’ve seen it up close it’s hard to describe how gorgeous it is: Mountains soaring into the sky for as far as you can see; pristine, mountain lakes like mirrors set into the landscape; cascading waterfalls through ravines of woods lined with giant pine trees. It’s a neat thing to know that only a few people, relatively speaking, get to see the backcountry in this way, and it feels good to know that I’ve gone to a place not many 62 year olds would even attempt.

After almost a year of planning, Daryl, Karen and I completed a 45-mile, four-day hike through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At times we were skeptical that it would even happen: I couldn’t commit to a time because of complications at work and travel details; Karen had to schedule flights and arrange her work schedule; Daryl was nursing an injured knee. The trip was pushed back so that it would be into early October before we could start and that put us dangerously close to the winter weather in the High Sierra. And then to top it all off, we realized it would be over 600 miles of driving just to get to Kings Canyon National Park where the hike started. I really didn’t want to cancel the Sierra adventure, but I wrote Karen that we should plan something else. She must have sensed my disappointment because she wrote back: “What could be better? Backpacking and spending time with my Dad and Uncle on a road trip.”

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After ten hours of driving from Phoenix, a restless night in a rundown cabin/motel, we are all set to go on a chilly fall day. The date was Oct. 7, 2010.

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Karen took most of the pictures so there are more of Daryl and I than of her. The hike was easier for Karen (although she said it was the hardest hike she has ever been on) so I delegated her head photographer as I fought the demons of altitude sickness. Daryl also had more energy and less affects from the altitude than I did.

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This was our campsite on the second night – a place called Rae Lakes. We awoke to a beautiful but cold morning of 25 degrees that made it hard to crawl out of our snug and toasty sleeping bags. The altitude here was 10,500 feet and I was already feeling nauseous, woozy, and no appetite. It would have been nice to build a fire to warm up but fires are not allowed above 10,000 feet. We had to get in our bags when it got dark and start hiking as soon as we broke camp in the morning.

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Daryl and I climbing switchbacks above Rae Lakes.

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The sky was dark blue in the rarefied air.


The scenery was awesome here in the Sierra.


Everything seems to grow big in the mountains.

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This was the end of the loop. It was only two miles from the parking area and a short drive to showers and restaurants. It feels good to take off your pack and relax into the car seat, but it feels like your 100 years old when you sit for a couple hours and then try to walk into a restaurant.

Slow Poke

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I took it pretty easy today. I’m already stopped at a park by Lake Mcclellan in Texas. I only drove about 100 miles today. It would be nice to have that Golden Pass, I could have saved some money.

I thought it would be a good choice to stay at that city park last
night, but it turned out to be kind of a sleepless night. There were kid squeeling their tires and thumping base of their radio kept me awake, and then about midnight, their was a knock on my door and two State Troopers wanted to know what I was doing. I explained that I was looking for the National Grasslands campground and when I couldn’t find it, pulled in here to sleep for a few hours. They said that it was perfectly all right and were just making sure I was ok. Well, I didn’t get back to sleep for a while after that.

This morning I visited a historic battlefield called Washita Historic Site. It is one of many places that Custer was sent to wipe out Indians. They attacked in the dead of winter, killing 40 warriors, women, and children. Then Custer had his men burn everything

Ok in Ok

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I’m still in Oklahoma. This is a honken big state! I’m starting to feel the heat as I get further west but at least I didn’t have to go through Kansas. There are more hills and green on I40 than I70.

I took Mom’s advice and stopped at the Ok City Memorial. It was quite interesting and so very tragic. I left right at rush hour and that was quite a nightmare, especially with all the construction in the city.

I also stopped at a rest area that had a mini-museum about Will Rogers who was born and lived near here. One fact I learned about him was that he was a very bad speller and I liked that very much.

I’m at a city park by Big Kettle National Grassland which I will
look at tomorrow and then to Texas to visit the place Dick suggested.

Wow! 3G Full Bars

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I’m at a SP in Oklahoma called Twin Bridges. It’s just over the border from Joplin, Missouri. Now, it may look like I’m way out west but I’m not even half way yet. There was not much I wanted to see in Indiana, Illinois, or Missouri but I will slow down and make some detours out here.

It’s awfully hard to get Jane to let me do much sight seeing, she has a fit if I get off the Interstate. Yesterday, there was a bad accident on I70 and all traffic was routed over to Rt40. Jane insisted that I turn around and go back to the interstate even though I explained that it was impossible. She just wouldn’t listen.

The weather has been beautiful – 70s and sun – and I hope it holds for these long southwestern states. It might be a good idea to change the title of my blog to something more appropriate