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Published on October 20, 2010, by admin in Adventure.

This morning turned out sunny with the promise of warm weather. I drove along the rim of Canyon de Chelly and stopped to admire the view from several overlooks. The view are totally awesome – sheer cliffs of hundreds of feet, colorful sandstone formations, meadows nestled in the valley below. 

The park is located on Navaho Indian land so they take advantage of every oppertunity to sell their wares to the tourists. Every place you stop the Indians have their tables set up to sell jewelry and other trinkets. There is only one trail leading to Pueblo Indian ruins that you can go to unguided, all the rest require that you hire a guide or join a tour.  You can probably guess which trail this high plains thrifter took. 

It was a fun walk down the cliff face to the valley where the ruins lay. Some of the trail was chisled from the rock face and in a couple spots tunneled several yards through. At the bottom, I had to pass more tables of jewelry and a fence kept onlookers back over 100 feet from the ruins.  

On the way back up it started to rain. I ducked under ledges when the showers became steady and hiked when they let up.  At the top, I could see lighting in the distance so I decided to call it a day, get something to eat, and head back to the campground. Tomorrow I will head to Mesa Verde NP. 

 
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Today I visited Petrified Forest NP. The visiters center has lots of information about prehistoric animals and vegitation and a walk through scattered remains of petrified trees. The rest of the park is mostly a long drive, spaced with turnouts to view the colors of the Painted Desert, which by the way encompases all the area from the Grand Canyon to Abq NM. 

I stopped at one site where ancestors of the Hopi Indians lived about 1250ad.  Foundations of buildings and artistry on the rocks made more sence to me than the colors of the desert. 

I’m staying a couple of days at a free campground in Canyon De Chelly Nat.Monument while I tour the area. I have given up on wifi and will just use my phone to post. Back east, every store, restaurant and motel has wifi, but out here it seems to be only truck stops and they want to charge you to connect. At least if I can get a cell signal, I can put something up. 

 
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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. 

 
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Published on October 16, 2010, by admin in Adventure.

On Friday 10/15/10, Daryl and I traveled to Tucson. I was hoping to revive some memories of my youth and maybe bring back some of the feelings I had while growing up in Flowing Wells. It would be interesting to see what I recognized from over 40 years of absence. It seemed like such a long time ago, and amazingly still only just yesterday.

Most of the buildings I remember as a boy had been torn down and replaced with something else. Our house was no longer there, instead an apartment building with paved driveways. Daryl and I drove around the parking lot and tried to imagine where the shop and pool once were. Many hours were spent shooting at the basketball rim on the shop, and grass out front of the house would never grow because of our play. I thought about all the circles we made on motorcycles around the driveway before we had licensees.

Even Kilburn road seemed different – more rundown and strange. I thought I remembered more grass in front of houses and less trash scattered about. Maybe I just wanted to think that.

Some of the classrooms at Flowing Wells High School were as I remember them but that was about all. The football field was in the same place and I found the old cafeteria, understandably now used for something else. The parking lot was different and there were new buildings jutting from all sides. I had a desire to look inside some of the buildings and browse through the trophy cases, but in this day and age it is not a good idea for strangers to wander around a school. Donna later told us that school was probably closed because of a winter break and it might have been OK to ask if we could look around.

One thing that seems to stay the same is the names of roads. It was reassuring to know that most of the roads still went where they used to, or you still took this road to get here, or we could find something by going down this road. Oracle Road Rent All was still a business although the building is much larger. We drove out to see the area where Shamrock Dairy was and still is in business – an area where I loved to play, collecting wax to make melted hands and riding bicycles with my friend Wayne.

Before we left, Daryl drove across town to Davis Monthan AFB. One of my favorite things to do in Tucson was drive along the fence by the base and look at all the stored aircraft. You used to be able to drive for miles and view row upon row of obsolete airplanes abandoned to the ‘bone-yard’ of the dry Arizona desert. There were a few places where we saw planes but mostly now they keep you back and away from them. We did however find one spot by the fence, along an off road, maintenance path, and Daryl tried out his 4WD SUV.

It was a good nostalgic trip. Daryl and I did a lot of reminiscing and I want to thank him very much for taking me there. Maybe someday I’ll go back, but for now I’ll leave the past behind and try something new.

 
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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.

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The scenery was awesome here in the Sierra.

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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.

 

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