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Published on March 14, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/14/14 – 267 miles.
I never did find the water tank that was mentioned in my guide. It was only 90 feet off the trail so it seems funny that I missed it. All the AZT signs say not to rely on cow tanks – they are the property of the ranchers and you are supposed to get permission to even use them.

I started out early while it was cool and rationed what remaining water I had left. The flat desert soon changed to canyons and tall hills. It was a lot prettier to walk through but the climbs made me more thirsty. I arrived at Florence – Kelvin Highway -where there is a water cashe – about noon and drank a half-gallon of water before filling up my bottles and moving on.

This next stretch follows the Gila River for 16 miles so I will have water for a while. The trouble with the Gila is that it is muddy. I filled my bottles and will let them sit overnight to see if any of the mud will settle before running it through my filter.

I have seen 4 snakes, countless deer, 1 wild pig, jackrabbits, 1 mountain lion, 1 scorpion, 1 turtle, and hundreds of cows. None of the snakes were venomous, I squished the scorpion, and everything else ran away.

The cows that are pastured in the desert sometimes make a mess of the trail. They are forever making their own path and breaking down the edges of the trail. And they cut switchbacks all the time. They think the shortest distance is the best route.

 
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Published on March 14, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/13/14 – 253 miles.
Today was a crazy day. I had planned on hiking 20 miles today so that I would reach the next water tank by evening. I made it to the Freeman Road water cashe about 8:30 this morning and the next water was 18 miles up the trail. I figured 20 miles over relatively level ground was doable so I filled my bottles and started out. I would have been fine if I hadn’t gotten lost.

Getting lost is unsettling enough but getting lost when you are low on water is frightening. The trail followed a powerline for a few miles and I made good time to a side road that was only marked with a stick. I finally figured out that I was supposed to go that way and I followed cairns for a mile or so. Then I came to an area where ATVs had cut through and made a mess of the trail. Somehow I got on one of the ATVs tracks and followed it out to the powerline again. Even though it didn’t seem right my GPS said I was on the trail. I must have gone three miles down the powerline before I was sure something was wrong and turned around. Once I got back to the end of the ATV tracks I found where I should have turned off.

I hiked until almost 6 trying to find the water tank but I had to stop and make camp before dark. I have no idea how far I am. I hope the tank is near and I will find it early.

 
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Published on March 13, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/12/14 – 233 miles.
Thank goodness for ranchers that have cow tanks along the trail. This section is so dry that without the occasional tank, you would have to cashe all water along this part of the trail. I found three gallons by the trail this morning with a message saying they were for backpackers on 2/22, which was two weeks ago. I didn’t need any water as I had filled up earlier at Mountain View Tank.

I haven’t seen anyone since I left Oracle. There were a lot of ants on the trail and I found myself stopping to watch them work. They didn’t seem interested in foraging away from the nest, just all carrying a piece of sand from their hole and then scurrying back down again. Maybe they are home builders. Maybe it says something about me because I would stand there and watch ants.

With all the cactus through this area, sometimes the only place to set up my tent is in a wash. The only problem with that is getting my stakes to hold in the sand. As I write this, sitting above my camp on a rock, a jackrabbit has come out and is nibbling grass. He is getting awfully close to my tent so I think I will make a noise.

 
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Published on March 11, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/10/14 – 219 miles.
I really miscalculated Sunday when I came down from Oracle Ridge. I thought Oracle State Park and Rt. 77 were close together, but in reality they are 8 miles apart. Richard and Dianna ended up waiting two hours for me to arrive. Richard even hiked a way south to meet me.

I really needed a zero day to rest my legs after 200 miles and it was good to see my support crew and spend a couple days with them. They had some shopping to do so it worked out well for my resupply too. We had enough time on Monday to drive through Saguaro NP and learn more about the Sonoran Desert.

Probably the funniest and most bazaar thing happened last night. We all felt like ice cream so after dinner Richard and I drove down to a nearby, new Walmart we passed coming home that afternoon. We thought it was strange that few cars were in the parking lot and even fewer in the store shopping. The shelves were all neatly stocked and everything was clean and bright. We found some ice cream and went to the checkout to pay and noticed a young lady at a table by the front door. We started questioning her about the lack of people in the store and she informed us that the store wasn’t open yet. What an odd situation that was. You would think they would have put a sign on the door, or had someone to stop customers, or even locked the door. Oh well, we found a better variety at the Fry’s down the road.

Dianna feeds me so well that I think I gained back whatever I lost since the
last time they rescued me from the trail. I have one more place I may need resupply but it might be difficult for them to meet me there. They have done so much I can’t ask for better Trail Angels!

I hit the trail about 10 am today and hiked about 10 miles. The terrain is mostly rolling hills with a deep wash to dip into every mile or so. The high desert is not as spectacular as the mountains I just came through but my body likes it better, especially since I’m carrying full food and water for this stretch.

I’m camped near a wash and a broken windmill. I think there is water a few miles up the trail so I will get up early and head there tomorrow. The temperature was perfect today and I’m hoping tonight will be as well.

 
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Published on March 9, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/8/14 – 193 miles.
When you’re hiking you have a lot of time to think. Usually I just daydream, which gets me into trouble when I come to an obscure trail junction, but sometimes I get a song in my head that I just can’t get out. For a while it was a song from the old movie Ghost, that I watched with Richard and Dianna last week, called I’m Henry the 8th. Its one of those songs you can’t quit because it ends with, “second verse, same as the first”. Then, embarrassing as it may be, those wild, college frat kids were singing some baudy, pirate song that starts out, “I put my hand upon her knee, yo ho! yo ho!”, and it gets more bawdy with each verse. I can’t get the stupid thing out of my head!

It was cold when I woke this morning. One of the things I wish I had remembered to pack is a pair of light gloves. Every morning these last days in the mountains I have taken down my tent with socks on my hands. Its not easy to do but better than numb fingers. The hike up to Summerhaven was through an awesome canyon. Giant boulders made for a mase of passages, tall trees shaded a gentle stream, and the best thing, it was nearly level walking. The trail finally entered a parking lot and from there it was an uphill walk for about a mile to reach town.

I entered the first restaurant and changed clothes in the restroom. I would have eaten there but they had things like cookies and pizza and I was really hungry for a hamburger. So I slipped out the back door and walked to the Sawmill
restaurant up town. It cost $20 for a bacon cheeseburger and Coke but I guess it was worth it. It tasted good.

I stopped at the country store and bought a couple supplies, and then went over to the Community Center and used their Wifi to upload to my blog and read my emails. Then I went in their restroom, changed back into my stinky hiker clothes, filled my water bottles, and hiked out of town.

It was an awful trail down the Oracle Ridge. This is the place where Kristen “Pockets” in her trail journal tells of spraining her ankle, and I can surly tell why. The path was covered solid with fist-sized rocks that left no place solid to put your foot. Imagine walking accross a truck full of potatoes. The views were spectacular but every seconds attention had to be on your feet.

It was so rocky and steep that it took me a long time to find someplace to put up my tent. I finally found a fairly level spot, moved some stones and cow pies, and bedded down for the night. Tomorrow I will meet R&D and take a zero in Oracle.

 
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Published on March 8, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/7/24 – 180 miles.
Today reminded me of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The trail dropped me way down into Sabino Canyon on many switchbacks and then turned up the West Branch Canyon on a 4000′ climb. For a while the trail followed the river but then the last few miles were almost straight up. In some places you had to use your hands to climb up through the rocks. For the life of me I don’t know how they could get pack animals through there.

I’m camped a few miles from Summerhaven. I’m looking forward to a hamburger tomorrow. It will be another cold night as I am high up in the Catalinas.

 
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Published on March 8, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/6/14 – 166 miles.
Another day without data signal. There was a brief spot coming over one ridge where I found enough cell to let Richard know I am still okay. I hope he passes the news on to everyone so they don’t worry.

I met a couple of day hikers towards the end of my hike today. They were the first people I have seen in two days. It was a long stretch accross the Redington Pass hills, and for as much water as I saw up in the Rincons, it was the complete opposite today. Everything was dry as a bone between the mountain ranges.

I crossed the Catalina Highway about 3:30 and walked into Molino Basin campground looking for water. There was none but some nice people gave me two bottles of water. Trail Magic!

I moved on to a campground a few miles further and pitched my tent for the night. This campground used to be a prison that held Japanese US citizens in the early part of the war. They were put here just because they were Japanese.

Along about 9:00pm, long after my bedtime, a bunch of roudy kids came into the campground and stared a beer party. I was sort of hidden so they couldn’t see me but their whooping and hilarity kept me up. After about an hour they all piled into vehicles and left. It was the only time I have felt apprehension in my tent. Give me the woods to sleep in any day.

 
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Published on March 7, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/5/14 – 152 miles.
Todays hiking was the reverse of yesterday with a little excitement thrown in. I got cold in the night and broke out my emergency blanket, which had deteriorated from years of carrying it around, and ended up being a clear piece of plastic. I got it spreed over me inside my sleeping bag, finally, and it warmed me up until morning. I crawled out a little later than usual with it being so cold and snowy and had a hot breakfast to warm up. By the time I got on the trail it was almost 8am.

The trail was very confusing when I left Manning Camp but I managed to find the AZT amidst several side trails. The guide book labels trails differently than the park does so it wasn’t long before I took the wrong turn. To make matters worse, the trail climbs another 600′ past the camp and right onto more snow. It started out with just a couple inches, but as I climbed higher and worked my way towards the north side of the mountains, it became 4″ and then 6″ deep. When I discovered my error, I had gone a half mile out of my way. I returned to the marker where I turned wrong and noticed someone had scratched AZT with an arrow in the right direction. I guess I’m not the only one to make the wrong turn. I’m pretty sure they want you to use a GPS.

When I finally started down the north face of the Rincons, I ran into more problems. The snow had thawed and frozen back into a sheet of glass. Sometimes I would break through with a bone crushing jar and sometimes it was so hard and slippery that my boots wouldn’t even make a mark. On several, long switchbacks, the snow was drifted across the trail in a smooth, glacier like accumulation with the path filled in with frozen snow. The only way to get across those areas was to kick foot steps into the snow and go slow. It wasn’t just the fear of falling because a couple places had dropoffs of a hundred feet. Who knew I would need an ice axe on the AZT!

I didn’t go too far today. I am camped only a few miles from the Redington highway. I just made a detour of one mile to get water. When I got back to the trail there was a nice camping spot so I am settled in for the night. This will be 4000′ lower than last night so it should be a lot warmer.

 
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Published on March 7, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/4/14 – 142 miles.
I’m camped high in the mountains at a place called Manning Camp. It was a strenuous hike up here and I’m glad that it was overcast as that helped to keep me cool. But with the relentless climb and humidity leftover from the rains, I was sweating buckets anyway.

When you gain 5000′ in altitude over a 13 mile hike the terrain changes dramatically along the way. It began as all cactus and sand for a few miles, then the landscape changed to junipers and tall grass, and finally at about 7000′ turned to Ponderosa Pine. Manning camp is at 8000′ and there are just a few patches of snow still around. I am the only one here so as soon as my campfire dies down it will be off to bed. I’m thinking it will be pretty cold tonight.

 
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Published on March 4, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/3/14 – 129 miles.
It was a fun weekend of exploring and relaxing with Richard and Dianna. We drove south yesterday on I19 towards Nogales to visit the old Tubac Mission and Tumacacori National Historic Park. There were tons of history and old relics at each location. Very interesting. And we also stopped at a decommissioned Titan Missile Site and toured the underground control area and silo. Richard and I really like stuff like that because we are both geeks, but Dianna was not interested in taking the tour again and waited for us.

Thanks again R&D for all you do for me!

After a quick stop at the Saguaro National Park visitors center to pick up a backcountry permit, Richard and Dianna dropped me off at the trail this morning and I continued north on the AZT. The hiking was easy and I only had 7 miles to the place I would camp for the night so I took my time and enjoyed the nice weather. After a weekend of storm and clouds, it looks like I will have clear sailing through the Rincons and Catalinas.

When I arrived at Rincon creek I was shocked to see no water anywhere. I had just assumed with all the rain there would at least be some pools in the bed. Wrong! This is serious! I have about twelve ounces of liquid to get me 8 miles in the morning, and then if the next source is dry, I am really up the creek without water. Don’t worry, I will be okay, just a thirsty boy.

Am: found water this morning, crisis averted

 
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Published on March 1, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/28/14 – 122 miles.
With the threat of nasty weather moving into the area, I hiked 7 miles to a picnic area below Colossal Cave where Richard and Dianna rescued me from the trail. It was a well planned and well timed pickup. I needed to resupply, replace a plugged water filter, do laundry, get a permit to hike through Saguaro National Park, and cleans the grime and sweat from my body.

After hiking for several days and eating dried food I am always hungry for something greasy, so the first thing we did was stop at a Carl’s and get a big juicy burger and fries. Then with my belly full we went to a Flying J where I could take a long steamy shower, much overdue after five days on the trail. The lady at the counter kept asking if we wanted a “team shower?”, but Richard and I assured her that we didn’t want to take a shower together. We finally figured out that she was talking about a truck driver “rewards” program for free showers.

We stopped at several places on the south side of Tucson where I looked for a new filter, but no one had what I was looking for. We ended up driving all the way across town to an REI in the Tucson Mall to find one. The detour to the other side of town gave us the opportunity to revisit the old neighborhood where we spent time growing up so many years ago. Even though things have changed a lot, it still brings back memories.

When we finally made it back to their trailer, Dianna fed me one of her delicious meals and we sat around watching TV until sleepiness overtook me at the abnormally, early hour for hikers. It has been so nice having them near to help me on and off the trail.

Tonight I am staying in Richards truck. The sleeper equipped Volvo he pulls his house with is a luxurious apartment compared to a night in my tent, and I will be warm and dry in the morning.

 
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Published on February 27, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/27/14 – 115 miles.
On a sweet fragrance meter I would be two levels below the cow pie. The flies flock to me over anything on the trail. It is sad to say but at times I can hardly stand my own smell. And my trail angels / support crew, Richard and Dianna, are coming to pick me up tomorrow to take me off the trail a day or two. I hope I can clean up a bit before I get in their nice clean car.

It is no wonder I’m tired tonight; I walked 20 miles today. The trail was pretty easy with only gentle hills and smooth path. I think this section was laid out with mountain bikes in mind because the trail wound around every knoll and wash like someone would drop spaghetti on a plate. There were a lot of useless turns and twists that didn’t get you anywhere, only to make it fun for the bikes.

The vegetation has changed now that I have come down out of the mountains. It was a garden of Prickly Pear, Ocotillo, and Creosote bush for many miles, so I couldn’t find a place to sit in the shade when I wanted a break.

I’m camped just north of I10 near the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead. Gabe was one of those killed at the event with Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 and this area is a memorial to him. The only other interesting thing today was the tunnel the AZT uses to go under I10. It is 6’W x7’H and very long. Cool!

I’m tired.

 
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Published on February 27, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/26/14 – 95 miles.
I will hit 100 miles tomorrow. I remember how excited and proud I felt when I passed that mark on the AT. All your hiking buddies shared in the accomplishment and congratulated each other for pushing on. And even though we felt bad for those who had fallen out, somehow we were a little better, a little more determined, convinced we would make it all the way. There won’t be any of that tomorrow because this is has been a solitary trek.

I’m not saying I haven’t met people on the AZT or that I feel lonely, just that the journey you share with your fellow hikers on the AT is a one of a kind experience. I have met bike riders and quite a few day hikers but not anyone that is going 100 miles.

Today’s hiking has been nice. The trail follows the foothills of the Santa Ritas for several miles, dipping in and out of canyons, and climbing ridges that give ominous glimpses of the Rincons and Santa Catalinas ahead. I passed a hiker today that told me the weather forecast for this weekend is rain and snow in the mountains. I’m not sure yet how that will affect my plans.

Tonight I am camped on cow pie hill. It was the only place level I could find. Apparently, the cows liked the spot too. I just hope they don’t come back tonight and move in.

 
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Published on February 26, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/25/14 – 79 miles.
It is nice to be finally headed north. For the first 60 miles the AZT travels almost directly west, leaving you with the feeling that you’re not getting any closer to your destination. I will definitely be glad to get a little farther away from Mexico.

The hiking today was pretty easy. The trail was many miles of level walking as it followed a ditch that was built in the early 1900’s to deliver water to a mining operation. The ditch, or flume some say, was an enormous project involving many workers and a lot of money back then. There was a tunnels dug through one hill that was 1000′ long, and one canyon was crossed by 24″ pipe buried underground. All this architecture is just a trace now as the land reclaims itself, but the nice part is that the AZT follows the route of the flume and tells you all the history with strategically placed signs. It was quite interesting. The project cost $200,000 to build and they took $3,000 worth of gold from the land before it went bust.

Tonight I am ay a place called Kentucky Camp. It is a few restored buildings to preserve the history of the old mining camp. I met the caretaker of the camp when I got here and asked him where I could set up my tent. He told me I was welcome to stay in the main building – kind of a restored ranch house turned into a museum – and sleep on one of the beds and use the kitchen facilities. I was glad to accept.

There is a faint odor of skunk in the building but I think I’m getting used to it now. I was glad to find a place to plug my phone as the solar charger I borrowed from Daryl didn’t get any sun today. At least I will be out on the wind for tonight and be able to make meals on a table. And water from a tap! What luxury!

 
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Published on February 25, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/24/14 – 66 miles.
After catching the latest episode of *The Walking Dead* in my motel last night, a relaxing slumber in a real bed, and a hearty breakfast at the local coffee shop, I felt rested and ready to hike this morning. The trail started out pretty easy for the first few miles, but then it started an excruciating climb, and it wasn’t long before I was hiking like one of those zombies.

Within a mile of town I met a man out for a run who told me he and his wife hosted a thruhiker last year. He said he was sorry he didn’t see me in town yesterday to offer me the same hospitality. How nice to see trail angels on the AZT. I met a Border Patrol vehicle a little later that slowed down long enough to realize I was 100% Gringo, and then passed by with a wave.

I stopped about 3:30 because the guide book says there are no good camping spots above here. There is a pool of water in the rocks above my camp that looks stagnant but at least no cows can get to it.

I will soon enter the Wrightson Wilderness and a section of historic hydraulic gold mining. I will be interested to see what’s there. I keep hoping to find an overlooked gold nugget. On second thought, I wouldn’t want to pack it out!

 
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Published on February 23, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

I was up at 5am and on the trail by 6. The trail town of Patagonia was only a short 7 miles ahead and I was looking forward to taking the afternoon off to rest and eat some restaurant food.

The trail into town was pretty easy with a three mile road walk at the end. I walked for about an hour with my headlamp,and shortly after it became daylight, I met four backpackers going my way. They were two adults and two scouts out to earn backpacking merit badges. I walked with them into town and even secured a slackpack down the road with their ride.

Richard and Dianna met me at my motel with resupply goodies, and we had a nice lunch at the local coffee shop. I don’t know what I would do without all the help they have been kind enough to provide.

The next section through the Santa Rita Mountains is longer and drier so I will be carrying even more weight. I will hike out in the morning, after breakfast of bacon and eggs, of course.

 
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Published on February 22, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/22/14 – 44 miles.
I wondered why I was having trouble keeping warm last night. I had on all my clothes and still felt chilly towards morning. When I crawled out of my tent the cold hit me like an iceberg. The water in my bladder was frozen solid and I am lucky it didn’t crack my filter. It must have been I’m the low 20’s to freeze that hard.

The first thing I did was build a fire. I’m not certain they are allowed here but this was a desperate situation. Once I had a good blaze going I made coffee and sat very close to the flames. It was hard to move away from the heat but eventually I packed up while returning often to the fire to warm my hands.

When I had been hiking a few miles up to Canelo Pass, I met two men who crossed my path while I was sitting on a rock. They were both carrying large, canvas rucksacks, a gallon of water, and when I spoke to them, answered back in Spanish. Can we say illegals? They seemed harmless but I wasn’t going to pick up my phone and call Border Patrol, that’s asking for a confrontation.

Later that afternoon I met a Border Patrol Agent on the trail. I told him of my encounter and he said they were looking for them. He told me that this has become a popular crossing area, and just last night officers raided a group nearby.

I told the Agent about my lion encounter and he said he has seen many in this area. I thought it was rare to spot one.

This area has been tough for water. Even though I load all my containers I still struggle to find good sources. A place called Down Under Tank was another cow pond but I took some there to make it to the next tank. Tanks that are fed by a pump are much tastier than ponds – at least the cows don’t poop in them.

 
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Published on February 22, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/21/14 – 31 miles
I started earlier this morning but it was really cold. There was ice in the hose on my water bladder, and every task froze my fingers. I kept wishing the sun would hurry up and warm me up, a complete opposite of what I would wish for in the afternoon. When the sky is clear in Arizona, the nights are cold and the days are hot.

I finished Passage 1 at 9am and descended into Parker Canyon. There was a nice stream that flows from Parker Lake and I rested and filled my water bottles. Then the trail starts into the Canelo Hills on a seemingly never-ending ups and downs. The steep downhill hurt my toes and knees, and the uphill hurt everything else.

After a few miles into the Canelo Hills, I came to a road the AZT guide book said to follow. After a few miles I became worried that I had missed the turn off the road and began to doubt the route. The guide book gives descriptions and turns but not distances. I wasn’t sure if the turn was in 100′ or three miles. Luckily, my GPS said I was on the trail and eventually found the turn.

Tonight I am camped in a nice shady area a couple miles from Canelo Pass. I’m hoping there is water at the road crossing – I will be pretty low when I get there. I took a liter from a cow pond half a mile back, but it was so gross that I’m using it only for cooking.

While I was eating my supper I looked up and saw a cow staring at me through the trees. She continued to stare for about 20 minutes until finally moving on. I guess she doesn’t see many hikers in her woods.

 
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Published on February 22, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/20/14 19 miles.
It was really late when I started hiking today. I woke up early but couldn’t drag myself out until the sun warmed my tent. Then I had oatmeal and coffee and didn’t get on the trail until almost 9.

The AZT was a lot easier today. For 5 miles it ran along the crest of the Huachuca Mountains and then dropped several thousand feet into Sunshine Creek. Not long after I started hiking this morning, I rounded a bend, and there 50′ ahead of me I saw what I thought was a large dog walking down the trail. When he turned and loped into the trees I realized I was looking at a large Mountain Lion. Well, as you can imagine, that really spiked my adrenaline. Every time I would come to rock outcroppings above the trail I would keep looking up.

Tonight I am camped just a few miles before Parker lake. It should be warmer here. I haven’t had any cell service since I left the ridge and I don’t expect to get any for a couple more days.

 
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Published on February 22, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2-19-14, 8 miles.
First days on the trail are always hard. After only a couple miles into my Arizona Trail hike I realized how out of shape I am. A few extra pounds in my pack and a few extra pounds around my waist contributed to a very slow and tiring climb to Miller Peak. I had a conversation with my body that went something like this:
My body said, “This hurts! What would possess you to go through the agony of hiking into the mountains again?”
I replied, “Because it’s fun!”
And my body said, “Why you idiot!”

A couple of hours earlier Richard and Dianna had dropped me off at Montezuma Pass in the Coronado National Memorial where I would start my hike on the AZT. Thanks R&D! I had planned for an easy day up to Millers Peak and down to a camping spot where it would be out of the wind and a little warmer. The trail started out okay, but in a couple of miles as I entered Millers Peak Wilderness, the path turned steep. There were great views but the hiking was strenuous. By the time I reached the side trail to the peak, it was getting late and I didn’t have the heart to climb to the top, so I continued on to Bathtub Springs and made camp there.

I was so exhausted that I layed down in my tent for a rest, assuming I would get back up to make supper when I felt better. The next thing I knew it was dark. I grabbed a couple treats from my food bag, ate them, turned over and went back to sleep. The wind blew all night, and being over 8000′ I kept putting on more clothes to stay warm.

There really is a bathtub at Bathtub Springs. There is a pipe that trickles into the tub, but the flow is too slow to fill a water bottle, so you have to drink right from the tub. I think this is the first time I’ve drank out of a bathtub since I was a little kid.

 
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For me the hardest part of writing a blog post is getting started. It has been a long time since I’ve chronicled my wanderings here, but most of my excuses are in some form of procrastination.

I had a wonderful Christmas. Karen invited me to join her and Noah for a week of fun and adventure at her time-share in Sedona, AZ, giving me one of the best presents I have ever had. We hiked all over the gorgeous hills and valleys, climbed cliffs of rock, took a Jeep tour to Native American ruins, played miniature golf, and joined tourists at shops in town. It was a great time and the best part was being with those you love.

Home base for the last two holiday seasons has been Mesa, AZ. I really enjoy seeing my Mom and spending precious time with her, and I thank Donna and Daryl so much for all they do for me. They have all opened their hearts and homes, giving me joy that is worth more than anything else in this world.

The year 2014 arrived along with my big brother and his wife on their yearly migration to the southwest. I always look forward to Richard and Dianna coming to Arizona where we can spend time together at our favorite winter locations. Right now we are boondocking near Quartzsite, AZ. The big tent and RV show in town has created an influx of mobile dwellers, turning the surrounding desert into a suburb of motorhome and trailer mania. Everywhere you look in every area surrounding Quartzsite, hundreds of RV’s dot the landscape in every direction.

Today we are headed to Yuma, AZ., where we will probably stay for a couple of weeks. Yuma has a lot going for it. The nights here in Quartzsite are still chilly and Yuma is a few degrees warmer. The city has everything you need so supplies are only a short distance away, combine the weather, Walmarts, Home Depot, good cell service and TV, and its not hard to see why so many Snowbirds call Yuma home in the winter.

2014-01-21 07.29.07

Eighty degrees today and a sunrise like this.

 
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It has been a fun trip to the bottom of Arizona. I’m not sure why but I had visions of this land as flat barren desert. It’s not like that at all. There are mountains, canyons, rolling hills of grasslands, and trees of all varieties. Some of the landscape is so rugged that border patrol has to go on foot to catch smugglers and illegals. It is what makes this area so popular for border crossing.

Two days ago I drove to Patagonia, AZ, to check on a camping area I had heard about. I spent the night at Patagonia Lake State Park. State parks are usually avoided because they are expensive, but this one had a shower and drinking water, which both I needed. I also washed some clothes in the shower so that was another savings.

The next morning I hiked a short trail around the lake. There are cattle pastured beside the lake where you sometimes will walk through the herd. Once, while coming close to a cow, I put out my hand in a friendly gesture, and she lowered her head and started to charge me! I think it was one of those false charges but it unsettled me anyway.

I met some nice people on the hike. One couple had done a bit of hiking on the AT so we kind of had a starting point of commonality. We talked about travel and the pros and cons of hauling around a giant home or living in a ‘go anywhere adventure vehicle’s, and eventually came to the conclusion that there is no conclusion.

I left Patagonia and followed the Harshaw road east. The road is paved part way but then turns dirt for 15 miles until it hits route 83 outside of Canelo. There were many beautiful places to camp along the road, but the area seemed to desolate – no cell signal or TV signal or people – to stop and camp there. Every once in a while I would pass a ranch but saw no campers and met no vehicles except a border patrol 4×4.

I eventually made it back to the same area I camped in before. The nights have been very cold, and I don’t run my propane heater while I am asleep, so I have been bundled up in my down sleeping bag wearing a knit hat until morning. All the cold has forced me to remain inside a majority of time, so I have been using more media than normal. Yesterday I raised my solar panel with two metal legs, tipping it towards the low, winter sun, gaining a tremendous amount of charge.

Each day I go for a hike. I can hear drones flying overhead and boarder patrol drives by several times a day. I have to admit that I am sometimes concerned about walking into an uncomfortable situation. I really don’t know how the early settlers could live in this area. They didn’t have to worry about the Mexican Cartel, but can you imagine seeing an Apache War party riding your way?

I will be heading back to Mesa soon. Next week Karen and Noah are coming to spend Christmas with me. I’m really looking forward to that!

Did anyone hear the booms last night? I thought someone was setting off explosions, but apparently it had something to do with meteorites entering the atmosphere.

 

AZT

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Published on December 7, 2013, by admin in Adventure.

It was a windy Wednesday with deteriorating forecast for the next several days, but bright sunshine and rising temperatures gave me hope for a good hike. I unloaded my motorcycle at the visitors center and drove the van to the top of Montezuma Pass. My plan was to hike the trail from the pass down to the Mexico border, return part way and take a side trail to the visitors center, where I would pick up my motorcycle and drive back to the van.

The AZT is like the AT in that there is no road to the starting point. You must hike an approach trail or backtrack for three miles. I figured if I ever want to hike a section of the trail it would be good to get this part out of the way, and I could do it downhill without a full pack.

The wind was really blowing when I left the pass and climbed the first hill, but as I descended the ridge towards Mexico, the slope seemed to help slow the wind to more of a stiff breeze. The trail is mostly a gravely consistency that is known as scree. I slipped a couple of times going downhill.

I soon arived at the border. I thought there would be a solid fence of some kind but it was only a broken barb wire fence. You could tell that this was a place where illegals come through; the fence was broken and pulled apart, and the grass was beaten down to a well used path. I took several pictures of the marker from the US side and then walked a few yards into Mexico for more. I have to admit that I felt a little naughty crossing the boarder.

The climb back to the ridge was uneventfully, but when I reached the saddle, the full force of the wind tried to knock me off my feet. It reminded me of some of the wind we encountered in the White Mountains of NH. I’m glad I had my trekking poles with me to brace against the wind.

Once I cleared the ridge line and started my descent, the wind eased and the air felt warmer. The trail down through Joe’s Canyon was nice. The builders constructed a path along a rock wall and the views into the canyon were spectacular. I arrived at the visitors center after three hours hiking and rode back to the van.

Because I liked the area I came through on Tuesday, I drove back over the dirt road to Parker Lake and stayed one night at the campground there. This morning I drove to a secluded spot in the national forest where I may stay over the weekend. It has been raining since last night and tonight it has started to snow. I just took inventory to see how long I can survive if I’m snowed in.

 
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Published on December 6, 2013, by admin in Adventure.

Of all the dangers I faced while hiking the AT, I was never afraid of meeting a bear. In fact, I was eager to see one. Of course, the bears I encountered along the trail were at a safe distance, and not at all interested in me. Now, as I hiked a portion of the Arizona Trail, precariously close to the boarder, I found myself in that same frame of mind. No, not that I was hoping to see a bear, but wishing instead that I would see some illegal Mexicans trying to cross into the US. Of course, the illegals would not be interested in me, hopefully headed in the opposite direction, definitely not smugglers, and naturally with Boarder Patrol Officers in hot pursuit. I guess the thought of a little bit of dangerous adventure is what keeps me hiking.

Two days before, on December 2, I drove south from Mesa to explore the Coronado National Forest, Coronado National Memorial, and the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail. Instead of driving I10 to Tucson, I chose instead the slower pace of routes 87 and 79 through Coolidge and Oracle Junction. The scenery was nice but not very remarkable. I made one stop at a roadside monument honoring the early cowboy star Tom Mix, who was killed when he drove his car – witnesses say over eighty mph – into a dry wash in a construction zone.

I spent the night in the Coronado NF, south of I10 on route 83. I was able to pick up many TV stations out of Tucson but Internet was very spotty. There were a couple of other RVs camped near by, and the only traffic I saw was a pickup pulling a horse trailer and a couple of hunters on a ATV.

The next day I drove to the Coronado National Memorial. I like scenic roads but not so much dirt roads. If I had known how rough and dusty the highway from Parker Lake to Coronado NM was, I may have gone the other way. My van is getting relatively old now and not as air tight as it once was. By the time I reached the memorial, everything inside and out was covered in a layer of dust. And, the road was very rough, covered with large stones, like a badly cobbled street. Poor gas mileage from driving slow, wear and tear on my van from the rough road, and dust permeating everything would make you believe I would not return the same way, but… you could be wrong.

I crossed Montezuma pass and descended 1500 feet to the visitors center. There is not much to see at the visitors center but I did get information on some trails in the area. I found out about a cave a short hike from the parking lot and decided it would be fun that afternoon. It is called Coronado Cave. There is no tour or guide through the 600 foot passage so you are on your own in the cave. They tell you to take two flashlights just in case.

The entrance requires some rock scrambling but once in the cave the floor is quite smooth. I could see light from the entrance for about halfway back and then it was completely dark. I went almost to the end. The cave narrows until you have to crawl on your belly, which I was not prepared to do. It would have been better if my lights were more powerful. I’m not sure if my headlamp needs new batteries or if my eyes still hadn’t adjusted to the darkness, but it was a little scary coming out and not knowing if I had taken a wrong turn. I’m sure none of the side passages go very far but it would be very easy to become disoriented in the dark. It was getting on into the afternoon by the time I got back to my van, so I left the park and headed to Sierra Vista to find a place to stay.

I noticed a campground on my map, still in national forest land, conveniently located a few miles south of Sierra Vista. On the map it didn’t look to be far, but it was on a difficult, steep, winding road, causing me to clench all the way to the top. When I finally found the camp I was sure it would be free but dismayed to read there was a charge. I’m usually pretty honest when I stay at campgrounds, realizing that I sleep better knowing a ranger won’t be knocking on my door wondering why I haven’t paid, but I weighed several variables and decided not to put my money in the slot.

I figured there was little chance I would get caught. I was the only one at the campground, miles above civilization on a terrible road, with bad weather moving in. And besides, they had turned off the water.

The wind picked up in intensity throughout the night and the temperature dropped close to freezing. I broke camp early and hurried down the mountain. It was a relief to reach the bottom of the road and I headed back to Coronado NM for my AZT hike.

 
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I was sound asleep last night when Donna knocked on my door with news that there was a Mesa Police Officer at the door. We learned that there has been a rash of tire slashings in the area, and I had been targeted. Whoever is doing this punctures one tire on the vehicle and randomly moves on down the road to their next target. I park my van in the street and sometimes worry that it is more vulnerable to vandalism and theft, but even cars parked in driveways were hit.

Tires are not cheap! I have been pinching pennies lately, trying to live within a budget, saving for dental work this spring, and this is not an expense that I was planning on. With some of the violence we hear about, I guess it could be worse – that’s something to be thankful for anyway. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 
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Published on November 27, 2013, by admin in Adventure.

There is an area of land north of Phoenix that is frequently written about in blogs by full-time RV travelers. Administered by the BLM and designated multi-use, it is available for many outdoor recreational activities, including hunting, off-road vehicle sports, and camping. Even though it is 40 miles from downtown and actually closer to Wickenburg than Phoenix, it is about as close as you can get to Mesa and camp for free. I wanted to explore the area and review it for future reference, so I set aside a few days and headed north.

My first stop was in the Tonto NF at the Phon D Sutton recreation area. Each year this area is popular as a boondocking location for RV’ers and I was interested to see if there were any changes this season. I found only a few rigs parked in the lot and no one was around to check that I was even registered. It is still early in the season so it may fill up later on. There was definitely a chill to the air and it rained through the night and for most of the next day, so I stayed inside and ate snacks the entire time. The next day I felt so guilty from binge snacking that I hiked five miles out into the hills. On the third day the sun finally broke through the overcast and I packed up and headed northwest to Hwy. 74.

It seems like they named a lot of the places and roads north of town in an attempt to drug your sub conscience into a state of nirvana. I drove by Happy Valley road, turned along Carefree Hwy, and just past Lake Pleasant found the BLM land. Some of the roads out into the desert were muddy from the recent rain. I chose to rule out anything that was remotely challenging, instead selecting a well traveled road with signs telling you where to camp and unload your ATV. I knew it was going to be like spending the night in the middle of a motocross race but figured it wouldn’t be too bad for one night. After a bit of zooming and noise, one by one, all the racers loaded up their toys and left the area, leaving me to enjoy the quiet of the desert.

The next day I drove a few miles back to Lake Pleasant. I asked the girl at the gate if I could go in and look at their campground to see if it was someplace I would like to stay. Most places will let you drive through and look for a site without paying but she was determined to charge me the entranced fee just to look around. I used the excuse that my brother has an extremely big RV and he wanted me to make sure he could fit when we met up next month. She said, “I will still have to charge you the entrance fee to drive through.” I guess they must get people with all kinds of stories that try to sneak in. I told her to forget it and then she relented and gave me a 30-minute pass. I was not impressed with the park. Maybe if I had a boat, or wanted full hookups and didn’t care how much it cost, it would be ok.

I found another dirt road that went back into the desert near Saddleback Mountain. On first examination it looked like a nice, quiet area with good roads and few ATV trails, but as I drove deeper into the terrain, I was disappointed to discover I had entered a shooting range. I parked and set up camp near the main road, and later walked back to explore the wash that is used for target shooting. I was dismayed to see such devastation in the desert. It wouldn’t be so bad if the shooters used the same area for their sport, but instead several acres in all directions were littered with the remnants of their destruction. It was as if a tornado had come through a city dump and scattered the contents for miles.

It is apparent that the shooters love glass bottles as targets, but what was amazing was the amount of trash riddled with holes: washing machines, TVs, computers, tables, lamps, even an old boat shot full of holes. I got the impression that when they replaced an appliance, instead of taking the old ones to the dump, they carted them out to the desert and blew them up. If cartridge casings had a deposit on them like pop cans I could have made a lot of money. I’ll bet I could have picked up 100 pounds of shells in ten square feet.

I’m not ready to give up on Saddleback Mountain just yet. There is still a lot of land I didn’t get to explore. At least I know where not to park on a weekend.

 
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Published on November 8, 2013, by admin in Adventure.

After five wonderful days at my brother Don’s home, I packed up and began my journey to AZ. I plan on going slow at first and then I may ease up a bit. I’m sorry, its just the way I travel.

I had a great time with Don and family, they made me feel like one of the…. well, you know! We went out for breakfast on Saturday, Thai food on Sunday, and Mexican on Monday. I actually liked most of the Thai food which even surprised me. We went to the movie Ender’s Game after breakfast on Saturday, then stopped afterwards to see Betty’s Daughter Jen at her new apartment. All of Betty’s daughters, Ann, Jen, and Michelle, are super cool young ladies and I was glad I got to see and spend time with each of them.

On Sunday Don took me out to where he works. Thinkom is a company that designs and manufacturers leading edge antennas. If you fly somewhere next year, there is a good possibility that the antenna on the roof of the airplane that allows you to connect to Wifi will be one of theirs. It was all pretty fascinating, and although much of the technology involved in antenna design was over my head, I actually learned quite a lot. It was very special day to spend together.

I just want to thank Don and Betty for their gracious hospitality. It was hard to say goodbye but good to realize that they will travel to Phoenix in December where we will see each other again.

On my last night in LA, after almost three years, I saw Julie Widener again. Don and I met Julie at a local yogurt shop and had a wonderful time catching up. I think we spent most of our conversation about our kids and new grandchildren, but in a way, that’s what it’s all about. It was great to see her again.

I remembered a nice campground in the San Bernardino NF, so when I drove by yesterday, I had to stop and see if it was still open. It was. I stopped. It is quite high up, about 8000′, and very cold at night, < 30 deg, so I will most likely pull out tomorrow. I will probably stay a couple of days in Quartzsite and be in Mesa shortly after.

 
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Published on October 23, 2013, by admin in Adventure.
Marshall Statue

Marshall Statue

It sometimes amazes me how addicted I am to technology. I will pass up a beautiful campsite in the forest for a parking lot where I can charge my battery and get on the internet. Even the bloggers I read, always preaching solitude and enjoying the quiet of nature, are lost without their data signal. I know a lot of them make money through their readers, but I’m sure their interactions with followers are therapeutic on lonely nights.

I guess we all strive for stimulation of some kind. For the adventurer like me it is the anticipation and satisfaction of seeing what’s over the next hill, relishing in the freedom to go where I want and do what I want. But when I’m parked late at night on a dark forest road, deep in the mountains, isolated miles from another human being, it wouldn’t hurt if I could pick up a couple of TV stations.

I have been camping at a beautiful little wilderness campsite, near the Silver Fork River, in the Eldorado National Forest. This is gold country so I have been doing a little gold panning. The water is too cold to keep my hands in for very long so my hobby only lasts about an hour a day. I have found a few flakes to add to my collection.

Last week I went to the James Marshall Gold Discovery State Park to see where it all happened in 1848. It was quite interesting to read and learn about the history of the famous California Gold Rush and see how they lived back then. They will let you pan in the American River where the first nugget was found but I thought that sounded silly – the area has been mined to death.

I need to head south soon. The days are still nice and warm and I have been riding my motorcycle exploring the roads, but the nights are chilly with occasional frost on the ground in the morning. It may be harder to find free camping as I get near the metropolitan areas south of here, but I may know someone that lives near LA where I can park for the night…

 
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Published on October 11, 2013, by admin in Adventure.

2013-10-09 09.48.36

Oregon has a lot of log trucks. It seems like half the traffic in the National Forests is long, log-loaded semis, twisting down narrow, two-lane roads to some unforeseen destination in the valley. And get out of their way because they’re really rolling and they don’t want to get behind some camper-van that is strolling through the forest!

Day two in Oregon took me over the Cascade Mountains to Willamette NF. I drove farther than I normally do because I was leery of the weather in the mountains and didn’t want to get caught in some freakish snowstorm. I found a forest road that went by a closed campground and then opened up to a level spot by a bridge where I parked for the night. It rained all night and I didn’t see another soul. I woke very early in the morning and drove carefully in the dark, fearing a mudslide that would bury the road. The log truck drivers were not worried, however, as they sailed by me like I was standing still.

Day three took me south on I5 to Roseburg, OR where I turned east on 138 into the Umpqua NF (I love saying that name!). I couldn’t pass by Sutherlin, OR without stopping to take a look at the Escapee Park where Richard and Dianna have their name on a list for a permanent site. It is a beautiful spot, nestled in a valley and surrounded on three sides by trees. I’m sure they will have fun exploring all the back roads and coastal attractions.

In the Umpqua NF I pulled onto a forest road that followed the Umpqua River and in less than a quarter-mile came to a campground. There were several campers there already, and although it wasn’t a designated campground, had numbered sites and a vault toilet. I took the last site.

I walked over to the toilet and noticed a sign tacked to the door saying it was closed because of the shutdown, but the door was open and everyone there was using it. I’m not sure why they didn’t lock the door; maybe they didn’t want people pooping by the river, or maybe closed meant no toilet paper, or maybe the ranger was a good guy and left it open. I walked a way on the trail that follows the river through a stand of giant redwoods and on the way back stopped to talk with one of the campers.

I could tell that he had been there a long time. He had several tarps strung up from trees and camping gear was scattered all over. When I got closer I saw that he had laid in a huge supply of firewood. Two cats ran around the camp like it was their back yard.

“How long have you been here?” I asked.

“Most of the summer. About 2 ½ months, I guess.”

I tried to be diplomatic, “Don’t the rangers tell you you have move after a couple of weeks?”

“Naw! They changed that rule. You can stay in the forest in the same spot for as long as you want now!” He seemed convinced so I let it go.

I had intended to travel down the coast of Oregon but bad weather changed my mind. Every morning the sky was overcast and fog drifted through the trees. I didn’t want to drive along the ocean and not see anything so I left Umpqua NF and drove the interstate south to Grants Pass where I took 199 towards Crescent City, CA. Ten miles short of Crescent City, I pulled up a road in the Six Rivers NF. As the road climbed higher and higher into the mountains, I was sure I would be able to communicate with the outside world, but even when I was at the very top, with views in all directions, I got nothin’. It was a nice campsite though!

Redwoods

Where is this?

This morning I drove through Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. I may go back and stay one night in the campground even though it is expensive. The redwood trees take my breath away! They are so….. BIG! You feel so insignificant as you walk among them.

The Walmart in Crescent City has no signs that prohibit overnight parking. It will give me a chance to catch up on my blog, watch a little TV, and see how the debacle in congress is progressing. They must have settled this shutdown by now, right?

 
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Published on October 7, 2013, by admin in Adventure.
Camping Place

Camping Place

For the last few weeks I have been loosely following the Oregon Trail. Every few miles there are historic sites with information boards marking the early, westward route, and at all the roadside rest areas, billboards and literature describe the wild, wagon train adventure of families bound for Oregon and California in the mid1800’s.

I hiked a long way on the AT, but my adventure was nothing compared to the hardship these people endured. They were attacked by Indians, ravaged by disease, died by accident or drowning, and caught in snowstorms in the mountains. And they didn’t have a town to stop in every few days so it was necessary to carry many supplies.

The route I chose on my way to the west coast just happened to take me near the city of Boise, Idaho, home of the Holsingers. Robin texted me with an invite to stop in and see them on my way through, and I am so glad that I could stop and spend some time with them. They have a beautiful home in a great neighborhood and they made me feel like one of the family. I gave Steven a motorcycle ride and we had fun playing chess and geocashing. Megan is now in high school and spends a lot of time practicing ballet for her anual performance in the Nutcracker. On Saturday Robin invited me to watch her dance at the studio. She is a beautiful young lady and a very talented ballet dancer. Steven also has a part in the Nutcracker and Robin works at the studio designing and making costumes, so as you can imagine, they keep quite busy.

Ken has been working long hours at his company. They have a new software release coming out and it required him to work right through the weekend. I did get to visit his office, meet some of his staff, and see his amazing collection of cameras he keeps there.

I had a wonderful visit and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and generosity. Tonight I am in Oregon, camped in the Malheur National Forest. I was planning on driving further but this place is so neat I may stay a couple of days. The weatherman says rain for a while so I will wait a little before crossing the Cascades.

 

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