Friday, December 30, 2011


Well, I just wanted to take a second to thank everyone for reading the blog since it's inception in 2010. It started as a way to clue my family in on all these adventures so far away from home, and has turned into so much more. I'll keep posting throughout 2012, as I continue my pursuit of outdoor exploration, hiking, trail and ultra-running across the Southwest.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year in Review - 2011

Is it really over? What happened to 2011?

It's getting harder to differentiate the passing years, to me it still feels like 2010, I guess putting everything down in writing helps remember all those events and adventures. Personally, this year began a little rocky, so I channeled all of my energy into running (of course), and found myself pushing the physical limits and testing my mental toughness. Beyond that, a few more unexpected surprises unfolded as the year progressed and most of my immediate family visited the valley of the sun for the first time.

Shall we start with the running? I ran two of the Arizona series Xterra races early in the year as part of my training regimen for the upcoming ultras I signed up for in March and April. Placing top ten in both events was a good start and certainly a confidence boost heading into my biggest challenge yet, running 50 miles! A few short weeks later I was standing at the starting line of the Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run in Southern Arizona, ready to take on my longest run to date. Then came Zane Grey. Regarded as the toughest, roughest 50 mile trail race in the country, it held up to it's reputation, at least for me it did. Never before was I concerned about actually being able to "finish" a race. I almost didn't. Finishing that run was a major accomplishment, and having the opportunity to compete against some of the country's best ultra-runners was quite memorable.

There was no time to ride that high any longer, another opportunity arose that changed my focus for the remainder of the year. More on that later. The month of April stood out in my mind for a couple of reasons; finishing Zane Grey was a big one, and the rim-to-river trek in the Grand Canyon with Bob and Mark was surely one of the best weekend trips in a long time. To top it off, I met Brittney. Then summer rolled around and it was hot, really hot! We had nearly 40 days over 110 degrees, so weekend trips up North were a must.

It started with a large group outing to Fossil Springs in June, followed by kayaking at Watson Lake and Walnut Canyon in July, rafting the Salt River, and finally a camping trip up Mount Lemmon in October (October is still considered Summer here), which was a blast! Oh, and did I mention plenty of time at the pool?

I accepted a scholarship to run cross country for a junior college here in Phoenix for the fall semester of 2011. Hesitant at first, I decided to put ultra running aside for the time being to race against athletes 10 years younger than myself. I enjoyed the competition, yet one thing is for sure, racing is a entirely different experience when everyone is fast! The highlight of the season came in October during the Mt SAC invite, where we faced off against several West Coast teams. I put everything I had into this race, leaving nothing on the table. I battled my way into an 11th place finish on one of the fastest, most brutal cross country courses in the nation. My best race of the year was also my undoing, leaving me sidelined with a season-ending hip injury.

Several weeks of uncertainty, and a lot of discomfort in my hip prevented me from doing the things I love to do. Although, I did have a great deal of support and discovered something I enjoy almost as much as running...sleeping in! Thanksgiving weekend was great, and the trip to San Francisco (see earlier post) with Brittney turned out to be one of my favorite vacations ever! The holidays are always nice in Phoenix, especially now that I am back on my feet and running with my friends. Total mileage on the year was a little less than the last, only logging 1,601 miles and approximately 260,000 feet of elevation. Next year will be different, I am aiming for 3,000 total miles in order to be more successful running the ultra distances. Let's see how it goes!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mount Ajo Peak

Mount Ajo Peak - Hike
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Ajo, Arizona
Mileage - 9M
Time - 4:30
AEG - 2800ft

Winter weather in Arizona creates the opportunity to explore areas south of Phoenix that would otherwise be too hot during the summer months. The ongoing search to discover new places (and summit a mountain in the process) continued this weekend a mere five miles from the Mexico border. Matt, Ryan, Justin, Bob, and myself made the long haul down south for a challenging, yet scenic hike through a very pristine desert environment.

Mount Ajo Peak (pronounced Ahh-ho), is the 33rd most prominent peak in the state, and awaited our arrival the day after Christmas. At 4,808ft above sea level, the mountain is rather impressive in stature, and gains it's prominence by towering over the surrounding Sonoran Desert. The real draw here is the plant life, particularly the Organ Pipe Cactus, with the largest concentration in the United States found only in this region. The conditions in the park are ideal for cacti, we saw some of the tallest Saguaros and Cholla outside of Saguaro National Park in Tucson.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

San Francisco 2011

No race report for the North Face 50 Mile Endurance Challenge, although I did spend a few days in the city, which was awesome!

An early flight on Friday put Brittney and I in San Francisco around 8:30am, on a sunny morning in the bay. We picked up the rental car and headed over the Golden Gate Bridge, past the Marin Headlands to our first stop; Muir Woods National Monument. Since we visited the park on a weekday, the crowds were pretty slim, at one point we actually had the trail to ourselves for a while. These Redwoods truly are magnificent, a real natural wonder. The park itself is not all that big in terms of land mass, but the volume of trees in one condensed area will make you think otherwise. We had a little time before check-in at the hotel, so a side trip to Muir Beach sounded like a good idea. The weather was unusually warm (70 and sunny everyday), so the two of us relaxed in the sun and listened to the crashing waves for a while before going back into town.

I reserved a pair of road bikes for us to tour the city on Saturday from Bay City Bike, which we picked up at their shop downtown and rode over to check out Fisherman's Wharf. I'm not going to lie, even though the sun was out, it was a little chilly on the bikes. After riding through the city, we headed uphill towards the main attraction; the Golden Gate Bridge. This part of the ride was quite a rush. The wind whipped across the bridge making the exposure more dramatic. Clear skies made the views of the city and surrounding hills unbelievable, and literally, there was not a cloud in the sky! Finally some downhill as we coasted into Sausalito for lunch and a break from those bike seats! My timing to catch the ferry across the bay worked out perfectly, and we enjoyed an upper deck boat ride back to the city. The day concluded with shopping at Ghiradelli Square and a Sushi dinner.

A vacation to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a trip to Alcatraz. After breakfast on Sunday, we boarded a relatively crowded boat departing for the island. It wasn't long before we arrived, maybe 15 minutes or so. The group received instructions from the rangers, grabbed our headsets, and ventured into the compound for a 45-minute self guided audio tour of the prison and listened to some of the most infamous escape attempts in Alcatraz history. Pretty cool! Brittney and I explored the island a while longer and then caught a ride back to the mainland. The day wasn't over by any means. We had to keep the tourist streak alive by going for a ride on the trolley. It worked out nicely though, and made short order of the hills leading into Chinatown, where we stopped for a late lunch. Then it was back to the hotel to relax, order pizza (yes, I've been know to eat pizza occasionally), and watch Sunday night football. Wow, now that I really think about it, this was an awesome vacation!

It's hard pick a favorite part of this long weekend, everything we did was so much fun...and way less painful than running 50 miles! Brittney was excited because I believe she is now the un-official "mayor" of San Francisco. I'm pretty certain we'll be back to the bay sometime next year.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Groom Creek Loop

Groom Creek Trail #307 - Hike
Prescott National Forest
Prescott, Arizona
Mileage - 9.84
Time - 3:22
AEG - 1771ft

Today's trek wasn't so much about the hike itself, more so about reconnecting with friends and enjoying what we like to do best. That would be getting out on the trail for a little exercise, enjoying the scenery, and sharing a few good stories (and laughs) along the way. Brian, Anne, Duane and myself met in Phoenix in the morning, stopped for coffee and headed North towards Prescott to find the trailhead for Groom Creek.

This particular trail was new to everyone, so we had no expectations going into the day. It really turned out to be a nice hike, and with weather this good in Arizona, you really can't have a bad day. The summit offers an incredible view of Prescott and Grantie Mountain (below), and good signage makes travel through the forest relatively carefree. There is a neat collection of boulders to climb on near the trailhead, so be on the lookout within the first mile if heading in a clockwise direction. After a couple hours we were back at the car and drove into town for a late lunch at the Prescott Brewing Company. If you're in the area, go check this place out!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ford Canyon Trail

Mesquite/Ford Canyon Trail Run
White Tank Regional Park
Waddell, Arizona
Mileage - 9.4
Time - 1:36
AEG - 1540ft

Here's a question for all my Phoenix trail running friends; "Why hasn't anyone taken me out to run this trail before?" Nick, Jamil, Michael, this question is aimed in your direction. Seriously, this has to be one of the most exciting routes to run in the entire valley!

I had two choices this morning, go shopping on Black Friday or get out for a run in the mountains. I think the choice was clear, and so glad I did. There's nothing like discovering a new trail this close to home. With the Mesquite Canyon 50K still a few months away, I wanted to start familiarizing myself with the course before race day. If anyone needs a good reason to run 30+miles in early March, this section will make your effort well worth it. No spoiler alert here though, you're going to have to see it for yourself! Sign up for this event and get ready for a few surprises, along with some of the best singletrack in Arizona.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's new?

Well, in case anyone was wondering... I've been partially sidelined with this hip injury for about 5 weeks now, which is the reason for the lack of posts. This has given me some time to think; mainly about the upcoming year and what I would like to check off the ever-expanding list. Next year is sure to be full of new adventures. There are several more peaks to summit, trails to explore, and plenty of marathons and ultras to run across Arizona and the Western United States.

Right now the list looks like this:

Winter Ascent of Mt Humphreys - Arizona
Grand Canyon Trail Running Expeditions - Arizona
Mesquite Canyon 50K Ultra - Arizona
Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Race - Arizona
Zion National Park Excursion - Utah
Keet Seel Ruins, Navajo Nation - Arizona
Pikes Peak Marathon - Colorado
Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Mile Ultra - Nevada
Mount Lemmon Marathon - Arizona
Death Valley to Telescope Peak Trek - California
Mount Wheeler Summit - New Mexico
Mount Baldy Summit - Arizona
Tucson Marathon - Arizona

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ballantine Trail

Ballantine Trail - Hike
Mazatzal Wilderness, AZ
Mileage - 10.17
Time - 4:11
AEG - 2,207ft

Now that the cross country season is over, I have the freedom to get out and hike at my leisure, which is something I really missed doing over the last few months. Matt and I drove East on Highway 87 towards Payson with hopes of summiting Mount Peely on the Western side of the Mazatzal Mountains. A freak winter storm passed through Phoenix Friday night and lingered in the mountains this morning. Conditions worsened as we gained elevation driving up toward the trailhead, and by 4,000ft, low visibility and freezing rain made our decision to turn back pretty easy to make.

Plan B; the Ballantine trail. We had no idea what was in store for us just a few miles away from the Highway. A landscape so unique, Matt called it a "Suburb of Mars." Not sure exactly what he meant, but we had a good laugh about that one. The best way I can describe this area would be something along the lines of a rock forest. Heavy cloud cover allowed us to hike comfortably through this totally exposed area and and enjoy the scenery without the intense rays of the sun that are normally present. Matt and I hiked up past Boulder Flat in search of a cabin, though I don't believe we went far enough to find it.

There are certain times when you're out in the mountains and you just know your chances of seeing wildlife are much greater than usual. I can't explain it, but today was one of those days. We saw Javelinas on our way into Boulder Flat, and several more on the way out (in the exact same area). Then, just a mile from the trailhead, I spotted a fox across a ravine from where we were hiking. We watched as he cautiously disappeared into the hills, and we pressed on to put an end to a great hike.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

and just like that...

The season is over.

My hip injury (resulting from the Mt SAC race) prevented me from running the Mesa Classic and the Regional meet this morning. Not racing at regionals meant no chance at Nationals, and just like that...the season is over. As of now, I'm not quite sure how long it will take until I am healthy enough to run again, although my sights are still set on a few personal bests come 2012.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mount Lemmon Adventure

Catalina Highway
Mount Lemmon
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage - 18.5
Time - 2:45
AEG - 2,413ft

This state never ceases to amaze me, there's so much to be discovered, you just need to take the time and get out there. I could go on and on about how unique and diverse the Santa Catalina Mountains are; they really have a little bit of everything in terms of outdoor recreation.

After a fun night of camping with Brittney, Lindsey, and Brandon at the Spencer Canyon campground, I set out early Sunday morning to put in a few miles for my weekly long run. This one was a mixed bag of roads, dirt roads, and a little bit of trail in an attempt to explore the area. It's nice to familiarize yourself with a place you plan on re-visiting in the future. There are so many trails I have yet to run or hike, I just need to know where to start. As far as the run went, it was a little slow. Running above 8,000ft may have had something to do with that, or perhaps it was fatigue from the Mt Sac race on Friday. Either way, it's always nice to be up in the mountains for a run, especially during the fall when the apsens are changing color.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Besides keeping my family and friends in the loop, another one of my intentions for creating this blog was to share notable experiences within the great state of Arizona. This is such a unique and diverse place to live, the opportunities are endless if you enjoy pursing outdoor activities and recreation.

As far as 2011 is concerned, the Southwest Wildlife Center just might top the list for things to do here in town. We took a guided tour on Saturday morning to get up close and personal with all the native animals, unique to this state. The SW Wildlife Center has everything from bears to mountain lions, several coyotes and bobcats, and a few other interesting animals that you'll have to see for yourself. The center also rehabilitates the Mexican Grey Wolf, an endangered species with only 40 estimated to be left in the wild of Arizona. Go check it out!

Lost Dog Loop

McDowell Mountain Trail Run
North Scottsdale, Arizona
Mileage - 15.23
Time - 2:15
AEG - 1,401ft

Another strange monsoonal storm blew through the valley Saturday night, creating some interesting weather patterns and leaving the morning sunrise partially blocked by dust. Windy conditions left heavy (cloud-like) particulate matter in the air, once again, I had no choice but to run through it. The first few miles were a little rough this morning, then I was able to get into a good rhythm and it turned out to be a pretty good run.

I created a new loop in the McDowell Mountains, connecting the Lost Dog trail with the Paradise, Gateway, Westworld, and Taliesin Trails. The route wasn't all that difficult in terms of elevation, it did have enough variety to make it interesting though. The best part of the run was when I encountered a pack of javelinas that stood their ground when I startled them in a wash. I realized why they didn't run away when I saw their young. After seeing how large, and sharp their teeth are at Saturday's tour at the wildlife center, I wanted nothing to do with them.

Monday, September 5, 2011

AZT #34 - Trail Run

Arizona Trail #34 - Trail Run
Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Flagstaff, Arizona
Mileage - 13
Time - 2:00
AEG - 1500ft

Staying the night in Flagstaff gave me an opportunity to hit the trails with the "ultra" guys that live in town. Brian, Ian, and Eric treated me to an easy 13 mile segment of the Arizona Trail, that turned out to be some of the best (and most breathtaking) singletrack I have ever set foot on in the area. Simply beautiful. The nice part about this run was the soft surface of the trail, which felt good after running in racing flats the previous day. Partially overcast skies and temperatures in the 60s, along with frequent changes in the landscape made those 13 miles disappear underneath our feet in what seemed like a matter of minutes. Great catching up with you guys, always a pleasure running together.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

West Fork of Oak Creek

West Fork Trail 108
Sedona, Arizona
Mileage - 6.21
Time - 2:46
AEG - 200ft

When it comes to hiking in Sedona, The West Fork of Oak Creek is arguably one of the most popular destinations in the area. On Saturday, Brittney and I discovered what the hype was all about, and it didn't disappoint. Simply put, this canyon is beautiful. In just a matter of 3 miles (one way) you'll walk through a healthy forest of pines and low-lying ferns with steep red and white canyon walls hovering hundreds of feet above you on either side of a crystal clear stream. Within this space are endless photo opportunities, whether you're into taking landscape pictures or just having fun climbing on the interesting rock formations, there is something for everyone. I wouldn't want to give away all the surprises, go check it out for yourself! Oh, and did I mention we saw paw prints from a bear in the sand?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sunset Crater NM

Sunset Crater National Monument
Flagstaff, Arizona
Elevation - 8,026ft

Another famous Arizona landmark was checked off the "must-see" list this weekend as we made a side trip to Sunset Crater National Monument. This area is a fascinating piece of geologic history, the surrounding landscape shows just how recently the land was shaped by volcanic activity, and most of the area is closed to hiking. Although, Matt and I did tour the Lava Flow trail to get a better look at the bizarre rock formations.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bear Jaw Trail Run

Bear Jaw/Abineau Loop Run
Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Flagstaff, Arizona
Mileage - 7.4
Time - 1:57
AEG - 1936ft

Matt and I headed up to the high country for a trail run, and a much needed break from the heat here in town. This summer really seems to be taking it's toll on me (both physically and psychologically), more so than the previous couple years. Perhaps it's the air quality that is responsible for my suffering, or maybe we're paying for the 8 months of perfect weather us Phoenicians are accustomed to. Either way, a trip to Flagstaff would hold us over for another day.

I took Matt to the back side of the San Franciscan Peaks to explore the lesser traveled trails, deeper into the Kachina Peaks Wilderness. Matt and I chose a clockwise route connecting the Bear Jaw, Waterline, and Abineau trails through a dense forest of pines and aspens. We spent two lesiurely hours enjoying ourselves in the cooler temperatures, and I took in as much fresh air as possible.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Flagstaff Fest 2011

Travel plans to Mexico fell through, so Brittney and I decided Flagstaff would make a great weekend getaway. One of my goals for 2011 was to make the extra effort to visit some of Arizona's famous landmarks and spend more time in the towns I have passed traveling through the state. This trip would provide an opportunity to do just that, and it turned out to be better than expected.

Arriving at Buffalo Park around 10:30am on Saturday, we unloaded the mountain bikes, packed our camelbacks for the day's ride, snapped a few photos, and headed off into the hills. After riding trails for a while, we took a more leisurely approach back into town by way of bike path, by this time the two of us were ready for lunch.

Flagstaff is such an interesting town, a crossroads to the West so to speak with a cast of characters unlike anywhere else I've been. There is definitely a little something for everyone here; history, art, music, culture, and of course, endless outdoor recreation for all seasons. We truly immersed ourselves downtown this weekend, and took in the best of what this place has to offer. The hotel Monte Vista is a fun hang out at night, especially to see some live music. The Weatherford hotel is very inviting, they have a great restaurant with excellent service, and pictures and artifacts that will certainly take you back in time.

The highlight of the trip may have been our visit to the Walnut Canyon National Monument just a few miles east of town off Interstate 40. I didn't know much about the site, other than that it holds NM status, so I figured it would have some significance to the state. To our surprise this place was fascinating, basically it's a canyon with tiered walls where natives built their homes underneath the rock overhangs. There is now a path which takes you through these well preserved villages for an up close and personal view of the ancient dwellings.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Windgate Loop - Trail Run

McDowell Sonoran Preserve
N. Scottsdale, Arizona
Mileage - 14.5
Time - 2:14:30
AEG - 2671ft

It's been a while since I have had (what I would consider) a really good run, today was a different story. My legs were firing on all cylinders as I cruised up the hills and ripped the downhills. Summer runs in Phoenix are tough, and even tougher when the monsoon storms roll into the valley bringing high humidity along with them. I lucked out this morning, an overcast sky provided enough relief for me to get in an exceptional multi-hour run on some of my favorite trails in the preserve.

The route looked like this:

Gateway trailhead to Windgate Pass (3.7m) to Dixie Mine trail (6.75m) to Coachwhip (9m) back up to Windgate Pass (10.8m) finishing up at Gateway (14.5m)

Watson Lake 07/09/11

Watson Lake, another gem in the great state of Arizona, and here it took me three and a half years to find the place. Resting only a few miles from downtown Prescott, the lake features fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, camping and provides a great place for picnicking. The lake is about 380 surface acres and is distinguished by its sky blue calm waters surrounded by granite boulders with protruding vegetation.

The Fossil Springs trip was so much fun, I wanted to plan another summer outing and Watson Lake seemed like the perfect day trip. I arranged solo kayaks for the ten of us to tour the lake and explore the coves and rock formations surrounding the majority of the area. We were treated to an abundance of wildlife, including a handful of cormorants and a large soft shell turtle. After a couple hours on the water, we had lunch, hiked a few miles, and ended the day with a water balloon fight (compliments of yours truly). Everyone had a blast, and I look forward to returning to the area sometime soon. Check out Prescott Outdoors for kayak rentals.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chicago Lakeshore Run

Lincoln Park Trail
Chicago, Illinois
Mileage 15.17
Time - 1:45
AEG - Zero

There were several things to be excited about as I returned to the city following a three and a half year absence. Visiting family was at the top of the list, along with a run by the lake, throwing the football around at North Ave Beach, walking through the green grass, riding bikes, watching a little baseball, and finding the nearest Caribou coffee.

Now let's talk about that run. Starting out, my legs felt good enough to put 4 or 5 miles in, after getting on the bike path, the excitement carried me through another 10. Other than the pavement, traffic, humidity, and crowds of runners and cyclists, it was a great run. The city skyline makes for an awesome visual backdrop, the vibrant blue color of Lake Michigan is quite refreshing, and the sheer volume of people exercising in one place is very motivating. Talk about a sensory overload!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Humphreys Peak via Inner Basin

Mt Humphreys Peak - Hike
Inner Basin/Weatherford Trail
Flagstaff, Arizona
Mileage 22.55
Time - 8:56
AEG - 5600ft

A "big mileage" weekend was in order after logging only 3.1 miles last Sunday at the Arizona Road Racer's 5K, and what better place to do it than Flagstaff? Mark and I chose to begin the extended trek to the summit from the Inner Basin Trail because Locket Meadow is closed, meaning we would have this side of the mountain to ourselves. A true wilderness experience, so to speak.

A new trail into the Inner Basin took us through the healthiest (and greenest) aspen forest I have literally ever seen. Mark and I kept commenting to each other about how impressed we were with this incredible section of trees. Sadly, our hike through this area came to an end as we gained elevation and intersected the Weatherford Trail. Beyond Doyle saddle, we climbed several switchbacks, crossed the snow fields, and made our way to the Humphreys saddle. Along this stretch of trail, we picked up another hiker/runner named Justin. Come to find out, he finished the Zane Grey 50 back in April, although we didn't cross paths at the race.

The three of us reached a crowded summit (hikers from the Snowbowl Resort side), and met up with a handful of people from our hiking group. They were huddled among the rocks to block the wind while taking a lunch break, everyone appeared to be in good spirits despite the blistering gusts. We chatted a bit, talked about the hike, and a few minutes later Justin went his own way and the two of us were ready to make the lengthy return trip.

Nine hours and almost 23 miles later, the car was in sight. It felt so good to be off my feet for the moment. On the way down, I noticed a small dirt road leading to a meadow on a nearby mountain. "That is where I want to camp" I told Mark. A few minutes later we found the way up to what would become one of my all time favorite campsites. This is the third camping trip with Mark in 2011, so we have a pretty good system down as far as setting up, cooking food, clean up, etc. So before long, we were enjoying a hot bowl of chili and watching the sun go down over the mountains and Grand Canyon in the distance.

-Aspens in what we considered to be the enchanted forest

-A glimpse of Doyle Peak from the Inner Basin

-Our campsite on a plateau just East of Forest Road 418

Bear Jaw / Abineau Loop - Trail Run

Bear Jaw - Abineau Loop
Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Flagstaff, Arizona
Mileage - 12.45
Time - 2:19
AEG - 2615ft

Sunday morning Mark and I woke up, made breakfast, and broke down camp by 6:45am. We hit the road (FR 418) and headed around the mountain for approximately 10 miles in order to reach the Abineau-Bear Jaw trailhead. This was new ground for both of us, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore the area North of Mt Humphreys. I wanted to run, and Mark planned on hiking, so we set out in opposite directions on this loop trail. I ran (or should I say, fast-hiked) the Bear Jaw trail first, while Mark went up Abineau.

This area of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness is incredibly pristine and teeming with life. The gusting winds made the forest come alive, leaving my senses heightened with all the extra noise and activity along the trail. The occasional mule deer would cross my path, startling me temporarily, I tried to make as little commotion as possible and leave them undisturbed. With a heavy presence of deer, elk, bear, and mountain lions, running solo in "big game" territory is quite a thrill. Mark and I crossed paths after an hour, he snapped a quick photo, and then I rushed off the mountain in hopes of thawing out my extremities.

Knowing Mark would take a little longer to complete the loop, I decided to run a few extra miles on FR 418. I'm so glad I did, it was pure bliss. As you can see from the picture below, the scenery was breathtaking. Tall pines, aspens, green meadows, and a mountain range partially covered in snow provided views I could have enjoyed the for another dozen miles or more.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fossil Springs 2011

Fossil Springs Day Hike/Swim
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Strawberry, Arizona
Mileage - 8.02
Time - 6:00
AEG 1391

Summer is quickly approaching here in the valley, so it just seemed like the right time to make the annual trip to Fossil Springs. I led a group of about 15 friends, co-workers, and fitness center members for a day hike on the Fossil Springs Trail to the main falls for a fun-filled day of swimming, climbing, cliff jumping, and a little exploration into the water caves.

There are only a handful of places I return to each year, and this is definitely number one on the list. It's hard to describe how beautiful this area is, the natural spring creates a tropical paradise in the middle of the mountains that you'll just have to see for yourself if you've never been. I really enjoy sharing the experience with all of those taking their first journey into such a truly unique wilderness area. To everyone that came along, thanks for making this such a memorable trip! See you next year...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Samaniego Peak/Ridge Trail - 05/28/11

Samaniego Ridge Hike
Santa Catalina Mountains
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage - 11.96
Time - 5:32
AEG - 2800ft

Memorial Weekend came about so quickly, I felt pressured to plan something good with the extra time off of work. Typically I try to avoid lines, traffic, crowds, and every other headache that goes along with holiday weekends. So I sent out an invite to a group of friends for a day hike and car camp on Mount Lemmon, which is North of Tucson, AZ. I had a feeling this area would be a little less crowded than say Sedona or Flagstaff, the payoff is often much more rewarding in terms of scenery, and on top of that, the hikes tend to be more challenging.

Mark, Katie, and I made the drive from Chandler early Saturday morning past Tucson and up the scenic Catalina Highway (home of the Mount Lemmon Marathon), beyond Ski Valley to the summit at 9157ft. This is where our hike would begin, descending over 2000ft into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness on the way to Samaniego Peak. Everything was going fine, given the first half was cooler and all downhill. In order to reach the peak, we had to abandon the ridge trail and scramble the last half mile through dense manzanitas and other spiny shrubs. After roughly 30 minutes of fighting our way through the brush, and seemingly going nowhere, we decided the peak wasn't worth the effort of summiting. A quick break for lunch recharged the battery and away we went...uphill.

A tough climb, and several miles later, our complaining ceased as we took in the stunning views of this far underrated mountain range. There is so much to see in such a small area, it's quite overwhelming at first glance. Instead of calling it quits on the hike, we stopped at the Mount Lemmon fire tower and were treated to a tour and look into the life of a Forest Service watchman. Before returning to the site we found at Spencer Canyon to set up camp and cook dinner, the three of us stopped to take a look around the little village of Summerhaven. We all agreed this is a great area for a weekend get-a-way. There is an endless system of trails to hike, plenty of camping at different elevations, a lake to fish in, and views that rival anything in the state. We'll definitely be back for another excursion.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mt Wrightson via Florida Canyon 05/22/11

Florida Canyon/Crest Trail - Hike
Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
Mileage - 15.8
Time - 6:45
AEG - 5500ft

Mark, Katie, Bob and I were looking to do a decent hike, so we set out to conquer Mt Wrightson, which is the high point of the Santa Rita range (SE of Tucson) standing at 9453ft. We chose to do the more strenuous, less traveled route up Florida Canyon trail (4.7) to the Santa Rita trail (2.3) and then connect to the Summit trail (.9) from the Baldy Saddle. The trek was nearly 16 miles round trip gaining over 5500ft, and yes, we definitely had to earn every mile. It was tough, it was hot, but it was totally worth it. We finally finished in roughly 6 hours and 45 minutes.

Mark, Katie, and I agreed that this was the toughest hike we've done since Cactus to Clouds last October. Even though we struggled with the heat, elevation and exposure, the four of us had a blast today on one of Arizona's most challenging hikes. There is something special about Mt Wrightson (and Madera Canyon) that continues to bring me back year after year, and I love sharing the experience with others, expecially for their first time.

Boone, Bob, and Mark just getting started, with the jokes that is...

Crest trail, looking east from Mt Wrightson Summit Trail