Monday, July 31, 2006

Mountain Days

Summer in Phoenix means get out of Phoenix if at all possible. Even better, head to the mountains.

Here’s a brief log of my summer trips to date:

June 9-12--Flagstaff and Sedona. Hiked from Schultz Pass on the ninth. Just did three or four miles. Really felt the altitude. Hike began around 8,000 feet. Despite the elevation, it was even hot up there. Spent the tenth in Flag working a festival for WGU. Headed to Sedona for 1.5 days after Flag. Very hot in Sedona, too hot for my pup. Getting Jake cooled down curtailed a hike in Boynton Canyon.

June 21-July 5. Had an epic East Coast trip covering New York City to Tampa. Nice weather.

Outdoors highlights: riding through Maryland's Green Spring Hunt Country, kayaking the Pretty Boy River--days before the floods of June 2006. Also time in Florida at Sheik Island Farm with Kim and John--the birds they had on their property may have turned me in to a birder. My favorite: The sandhill cranes.

City highlights: seeing Philadelphia for the first time (other than the view from the interstate), touring Stine and ________ of Denmark around D.C., and seeing Tampa, and fireworks in honor of our nation's birthday, from a friend's very nice condo in a highrise downtown.

July 14-16--Utah. Hiked Toll Canyon out of Summit Park. Hiked Little Deaf Smith Canyon aka North Fork, Deaf Smith Canyon, this hike is one of my favorites! Mountain biked at Sundance and was reminded what it was like to mountain bike down a real mountain. Found the steep downhill difficult and scary, and the serious exposure we rode along terrifying. It dropped a thousand feet immediately next to us on one stretch. Ended the day at Sundance at my favorite bar in the world--The Owl Bar.

July 23--Santa Rita Mountains. My first time in this range between Tucson and Nogales, Mexico. Started up the Mount Wrightson trail. Did 2.5 miles with an ascent of about 2,000 feet, then returned to my car—five miles total. It was the end of the day. Very unique flora and lots of birds. Chatted with some ravens. Saw a boy scout memorial from a November 1957 tragedy. Signs of fire damage.

July 29--Hiked the Pinaleño Mountains, first time there as well. Like the Santa Ritas and Santa Catalinas (next) the Pinalenos are “sky islands” rising dramatically from the Sonoran Desert. We hiked to just over 10,000 feet through an area that had a major burn sometime in the not too distant past. Cloudy, rainy day, but no thunder or lightning while we were there. Felt like the Pacific Northwest or places I’ve been in northern California. Did not feel like late July in southern Arizona. This is a remote range that took some driving--would love to go back. The Pinalenos have the greatest relief of any Arizona range rising off the desert floor at 3,000 feet, going up to 10,700 feet.

See my article on the Pinaleño Mountains in Wikipedia.

July 30--Santa Catalinas near Tucson. Mountains were socked in just like the Pinalenos the day before. Did our hike at a lower elevation, about 5,000 feet in the transition zone between Sonoran Desert and alpine. It was scrubby, not too attractive, desert, but still a nice hike. After the hike we drove up above 8,000 feet to get a piece of pie in a mountain town called Summer Haven. At $6 per slice from a place that left a lot to be desired on the cleanliness front we chose not to buy anything. Summer Haven was worth the drive though. It too was burned in recent years and they were rebuilding. Still lots of pines survived.

The weekend saw the most rain in Arizona in probably more than a year. Northeast Tucson got more in a day than the aiport had seen year to date.

The desert was alive with streams and waterfalls. Tucson area roads were covered in flood debris. The Tanque Verde Wash was a torrent. A group of locals we met in the Pinalenos told us the rain those mountains received Friday night/Saturday morning was highly unsusual.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ben in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Photo from Racing the Planet, 2006.

Update: Ben finished seventh out of more than a hundred.

How many deserts must young Ben cross?

. . . Before they call him a man?
The answer my friend
Is blowing in the wind
The answer is . . .

He's at it again, first the Gobi Desert, then the Saharan, now some God forsaken place in Chile!

My cousin, the family's obsessive over-achiever, is also blogging his experience at

One good quip from his blog: "Stage 3 should have had a sign posted at the start: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Dante would’ve written an appendix to his Inferno if he could have witnessed today’s stage."

After stage four he's in ninth place. Seems to be consistent with his previous amazing efforts. And oh yeah, this time he sprained both ankles early on.

Ben, what did they do to you as a child?

Cheers bud.