Monday, March 31, 2008


Tuesday March 25th:

I have to admit we were both a little surprised when we woke up without incident under the overpass. We quickly had some breakfast (cereal with cold milk- oh we had gotten the fridge working off of the propane, we don't really need it yet, but I'm sure it will be very nice when it gets a little warmer) and headed off towards the trail. We wanted to try to get an early start because we knew we were in for a long day. The guide book described the trail as a 13 mile downhill on killer single track. Sounds perfect, if you have 2 cars- we decided to pedal the 3,000 feet to the top. It was all on a dirt road, and the views just kept getting better as you went up. It was pretty neat biking from desert to pine trees to above pine trees, and neither of us minded the climb. Well at least not until the last 3 or 4 miles, by that time I was pretty ready to start going down.

After 2 hours we were finally at the top (no pictures cause we didn't want to chance crashing on the camera) and we started into the snow- 85 degrees at the bottom and snow at the top. The whole first bit was hundreds of feet of calf deep snow, not solid enough to ride on, and yet not melted enough to ride either. Then we got to a barbed wire fence- I'm thinking this is gonna be a long 13 miles. Mike steps over the fence with the grace of a gazelle, and I'm stuck there puttering away with my mini legs. I got the bike over and then one leg, as I'm stepping the other one over my first leg pushes further into the snow and sure enough that barbed wire dug right into my hamstring. It wasn't particularly deep, but we exchanged some words all the same. As I caught up to Mike he wasn't all that sympathetic, and asked me why I didn't just open the which I replied "gate? that was a gate? AAARRGH"

So not the greatest start, but we were sure as we lost elevation the snow would go away. The only problem was anytime we got out of snow and could get back on our bikes we would turn the corner and there would be a giant tree down in the middle of the trail. This went on for quite a while, get on coast 10 feet get off hop over a tree, another 30 feet on the bike, off for a tree. Every now and then we could actually get a feel for the trail- and it was great, tight twisty single track that was super narrow in parts- tons of pine trees and these crazy fun switchbacks. But then there would be another tree. There was even a time that we completely missed a turn because there were 3 ginormous trees in the path right as it turned. We climbed over the trees and kept going straight, to our great confusion- we were hoping no one could ride this stuff. Oh and the other thing, we were supposed to be going down the whole time, but every now and then this all down hill trail would have a super ridiculous climb- during these times I was not so sure my legs were gonna keep spinning.

So anyway, what we could ride was great, and we were getting excited to be getting out of the trees into the rocks so there would be less dead fall. However, I was following the bad habit I sometime get into of watching where I don't want to go, instead of where I should be putting my wheel, and was having a bit of a rough time. Meanwhile Mike is having a blast hopping and dodging and generally being a very good bike handler. We got to one point where the trail narrows and if you stray, the ground just crumbles and takes your wheel with it. Sure enough that's where I was watching and where I put my wheel and slammed my left hand down on a very solid rock to catch myself. Painful, and frustrating, but not all that bad. After some encouraging words from the other, reaffirming the fact that I am not the worst mountain biker in the world and so on, we were flying down some more boulders over a couple creeks and down down down.

I was trying to stay with Mike, through a relatively non-technical section, when suddenly he hopped over a rock, landed, and then got thrown 3 feet in the air, slammed down on his side and skidded for another 10 feet. We had been going pretty quick, and he was a little slow to get up and walk it off. The only good thing of the crash was that he was still wearing arm warmers, and they likely kept his left arm severity down to a deep 3 inch abrasion rather than a bloody mess. We pretty much limped down the rest of the trail. Intent on finishing it, but not truly enjoying it quite as much.

Then suddenly we popped out at a campground (glittering in the sun because of all of the broken glass) and couldn't find the right trail to get back on. There was a road, and there was a different trail, but our trail was no where to be found. We were really stuck, not having any idea where the other trail went; the last thing we wanted was to end up back at the top of the mountain. We decided to take the road down, and hopefully meet up with our trail, but we never did- just went about 8 miles on the road- very disappointing. And then once we got down it wasn't even the right road, so we had to ride our bikes another 6 miles on dirt roads- half of it up (I wasn't very happy) to get back to our car.

We took a very relaxing shower in the stream that we parked next to, and decided to set up camp for the night.

Wednesday March 26th:

We spent the next day healing our wounds and hanging out at the Globe library. We went across the street for lunch to this little Mexican restaraunt. I got enchiladas for 3 dollars mmm- and we got horchata too- it was really yummy. We wanted to ride the next day, so we headed towards Payson AZ.

Payson seems like a nice town, a lot bigger than I was expecting, and pretty piney for Arizona. We headed for the Mogollon Rim to find the trail for the next day and camp for the night. It looked promising. The site we picked was pitch black and surrounded by pine trees. We built up a big fire and had a nice dinner under a thousand stars.

Wednesday March 26th:

Looking forward to trying out another trail in pine country we got on our bikes and rode the 2 miles to the trailhead. The trail started on the other side of Christopher Creek, which was swollen with snow melt, making the crossing a bit harrowing. The water rushed by under the logs we walked across, and it looked awfullly chilly. According to the book the 1st 2 miles generally take about 30 minutes. The only thing I can figure out is that he is just lying. There wasn't much snow here, but it is obvious that it hasn't left that long ago. And somebody was using the trail when they shouldn't have been. There were 8 inch deep horse prints all over the trail, and it was just a mess. It had obviously been very muddy, and had since dried up very hard. There were points where I would be pedaling, I'd fall into a horse print and my wheel would just stop. The ground was so hard that climbing in and out of the prints was 10 times rougher than the rocks.

Those same 2 miles that were supposed to take 30 minutes took us 2 hours to get through, and the trail was 20 miles long. The worst part was that the loop is really a lollypop and we would have to ride those first 2 miles back at the end. This riding was pure tortue and we decided that as soon as we could bail to the road we would. We got on top of the ridge and the trail improved a little bit, but it still wasn't great. Mike was really feeling it from his crash, and everytime he would hit a bump, especially one of those dreadful hoof pits it would painfully bounce him around.

So we're tryin to get off the trail as soon as we can when suddenly my bike wheel stops spinning. I stop immediatley and call Mike back to look at the damage. I had run over a large stick and it had managed to not only wedge itself into my derailleur but bend it in the most underailleur position I had ever seen. Mike the mighty magic master worked on the thing for 45 minutes when suddenly boom he snaps it back into place, and then gets it working perfectly. I was amazed since I was hoping to just get it ridable enough that we could get it back and then most likely buy a new one.

Finally we got off the awful trail and had a nice 6 mile ride back to camp, which was actually some of the most enjoyable riding we'd done that day. We decided to stay the night in our nice site and then move on to better trails in the morning.

Mike in a hurry to get the fire started

Our nice piney view

Still working

Mike and I had a face off to show our displeasure about the trail, who do you think won?

Friday March 28th:

We decided that after a couple of rough trails it was time for some rest and relaxation. Cottonwood was our destination, back to Frannies, the nice lady who let us stay in her house, and time for some showers! Enjoy the pictures.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Oak Flats Campground March 17th-24th

March 17th:

Monday morning came and we happily brought the car in to the shop- although the clutch still wasn't as bad as it was in Tuscon it seemed to be on its way, and we were excited to hopefully have it taken care of for good. We dropped the car off and biked over to the library and sat around most of the day waiting for the car to be done. They called just before 5 and $250 later we were on our way again. So far everything has been cooperating (cross your fingers for us). In celebration of the car functioning again we bought ourselves Little Ceasers and feasted.

The next course of action was to head out of Phoenix, but not too far- so that if the car started acting up again we could get it back without too much trouble. We decided that Queen Creek Canyon was the place to go. We got in late to Oak Flats the free campground and were surprised to find it very full on a Monday night. Strange, but for the moment didn't think too much of it...

Tuesday March 18th: Home

Oak Flats seemed like a nice enough place- so we decided to settle in for a while. It was the first time we filled the vans 13 gallon water tank, did laundry and filled our camp shower (thanks Amber!). When we went to town to fill the tank we got a little excited about being in one place for a while and bought all sorts of heavy food- like chicken breasts, avocados, and tater tots. Then we got to the dairy section, and milk was $1.80, we just couldn't pass that up. So we trudged back up to the campsite with one very full car. We cooked all the chicken over the camp fire and feasted once again.

Sunset from camp

So as we're sitting around the fire getting dinner ready, we begin to notice that this campground doesn't really feel like a campground. I had the distinct impression that these people around us were not camping at all. It was more like we were in the middle of some glorified trailer park, and we were just passing through these peoples homes. Weird enough, and then about 8:00 pm a school bus pulls into the campground. They pull up about even with our site; the door opens-and teenage kids just start spilling out the door and scattering. These kids just started running towards various campsites and behind trees and stuff. Mike and I were both watching in awe. As far as I could tell they all seemed to be urinating. A few minutes later everyone piled back in and the bus drove further back in the campground. We never figured out what it was, or who was driving the bus- but they were gone by morning....verrry bizarre.

March 19, 2008
Today we had the crazy idea to ride our bikes down a mountain to the pull off for the climbing area called the pond. After waiting for the semis and the hauling trucks to barrel down the hill we saw a clearing and it was our turn. After 3 or 4 swift pedal strokes we let gravity take over and we were on our way. Even with danger lurking it was hard to wipe away the giddy look I had on my face as the wind contorted it. Luckily we didn't get passed by any trucks because there was no shoulder, just a guard rail with a few dents in it (probably other less fortunate bikers).

We arrived unscathed and anxious to get on the rock, which was welded tuff. For all you non geology folks out there it is a fairly fine grained rock which consist mostly of ash spewed out of a volcano and welded by the heat and lithophied as it cooled. There are some more coarse grained fragments scattered throughout, just enough to tear up your hands (very sharp rigged stuff).

The climbs were a 2 minute walk off the highway, but still in a really pretty place. Looking at the guidebook like 2 lost fools, we spent most of the afternoon just wandering around. By the time we finally located the specific climbs we were looking for, we decided that it would be best to just enjoy the view for the day and come back the next and start climbing. The reason it took so long to find it in the first place is that you practically had to climb up a waterfall to locate the upper pond. There was a well hidden rope and ladder drilled into the rock that takes you up there. It was really neat, but even with the rope and ladder, a little scary because you were so high up.

Once you got to the top, this was the view that greeted you, another 50 foot crystal clear waterfall.

The water was very refreshing-bordering on brain freeze

That night as we sat around our picnic table someone started walking towards us in our site. We didn't think much of it at first, seeing how this seemed to be a pretty common practice throughout this campground, (everyone just seemed to wander through everyone elses sites, another rather strange thing). However, in this case this guy was actually coming to talk to us, not just pass through as had been the case previously. He asked if we were climbers, and asked if we would want to go climb with he and his wife tomorrow. We agreed to meet up in the morning.

Thursday March 20th:

We went back to the pond, with our new found friends Dave and Chris (the friendly couple we had met the night before). They are a mostly retired couple from Colorado who have been climbing for about 6 years. Now that we knew where to find the climbs it was a lot easier and we spent most of the day there, although it got pretty darn toasty by mid-afternoon. We ended up doing 6 climbs that day ( a 5.6, 5.8- with bolts really far apart, 5.10b-top rope, 5.7, and another 5.6), which is quite a lot for us. Climbs range from 5.4- 5.14, with a 5.11 being the hardest climb that I could ever ever conceive trying to climb. Usually we're lucky if we get 3 climbs in.

However, 2 months ago Mike was apparently playing too much soccer in his sleep, and woke up with a pulled toe/ball of foot area. He found out pretty quickly that it still really hurts and wasn't able to do as much climbing as he wanted to.

That little ant like critter is me scrambling over some ledgy stuff to cross the lower pond, Emilie is taking the picture from the top of the falls which we had to climb up to get to the upper pond.

The group with our welded tuff climbs in the background.

After a fulfilling day of climbing we headed back to town to fill the water tank again (we had done lots of laundry) and bought some essentials, tp, more laundry detergent, cosmic brownies, and about 500 lemon cookies.

Friday March 21st:

Today we moved on to a different wall in the same area. Instead of the pond we went to an area called Atlantis. We did another 4 climbs there (5.6, 5.7, another 5.7 on a fin, and a really tall 5.8). The fin was actually really scary because you had to climb up some rubble to get to it, and then started it about 30 feet off the ground without any protection until you reached the 1st clip- with only jagged rocks and sharp trees to break your fall-luckily everything went smoothly.

Me climbing up a strange 70 foot 5.8

Saturday March 22nd:

With Mikes toe still bothering him we decided to take a day off from climbing and just relax around the camp site. Big mistake, there was no relaxing to be found. An entire Hispanic village had moved in across the way and were fiestaing from 9pm Friday onwards. Then just down the block there was another family reunion in full swing. There was so many people crammed into this campground that the screams of young children were bouncing off the surrounding cliffs with that echoing affect of being at a swimming pool. To try to get away from all this for a bit we decided to try out an ATV trail on our bikes, not expecting too much, but figured it was better than sitting around listening to blaring country tunes. (The following night it had been blaring mexican polka and moved on to the twangy stuff early in the morning). The ride was actually ok, and the best part was as we were riding back along the road we found another campsite, much more secluded than in the campground. So when we got back to our site we loaded up everything and ran down the road before anyone else could take it. We arrived and thought we were safe, until we saw this jeep parked at the very bottom. We knew we were in big trouble because undoubtedly our space at the campground would be full by now- but luckily the jeep wasn't staying and we had the place to ourselves.

New camp site we had to ourselves- yay!

Every now and then we would go back and check on the campground, and use the potty, and boy were we glad we had decided to move on. Apparently Easter weekend is the 4th of July of the Southwest. As more people moved in, so did more ATVs, even though the campground clearly states that they are not allowed. By the end of the weekend it looked like someone had just leveled the place- it was pretty sad really.
Sunday March 23rd- Happy Easter:
Mike and I had decided that we would spend one more day in the area and then it would be time to move on. We went back to the upper pond again and did 3 climbs (a 5.6, 5.8, and a 70 foot 5.10). To make things extra fun for the ride back up the hill I accidentally fell in the pond. The worst part about it was that the rocks were so slippery I couldn't get myself out, so I was sitting there splashing around for a good 15 seconds before I could set foot on dry land.

Mike getting ready to tackle that wall

The top of the 5.8- Mike was so strong he actually pulled a hold off the wall on this one. ARRRGH!

Kermit Rappels- sorry you'll have to turn your head sideways for this one

This is a picture of the 5.10 (pocket puzzle). That's not me climbing, it's just a picture from the internet, but that's the one I climbed, so I feel cool- I led it too, which makes it a lot scarier, just to brag.
To celebrate Easter we had a wonderful dinner of potatoes and canned vegetarian haggis. Which to both of our surprise, was really tasty. The surprise was because it kinda looked like dog food, but tasted delectable- a recommendation for all.
Monday March 24th:
We spent the morning doing chores and using up the water in the tank. Next destination, Globe Arizona- a mining town with an epic downhill mountain bike ride. We packed everything up and were on our way, stopping only to get more cheap milk. We got it for a dollar, 1$, can you believe that? We did a milk dance for quite a while.
It was beginning to get late by the time we got to Globe so we had to figure out where to stay for the night as soon as possible. We followed a highway into the National Forest, sure we'd find something around the bend. 20 miles later we finally happened on a dirt road and pulled over. As we got out of the car, we weren't so sure. All the trees were pointing down, a sure sign that it was going to be a creepy night. (Trees pointy up mean happy little birdies and sunshine, trees pointing down obviously mean terrible witches and monsters). We decided that we would just tough it out, and built a big ol' fire to keep the evil things at bay. Plus we had never camped under an overpass before, and any true homeless, should at sometime in there life.

Creepy homeless campsite
As promised the night was full of creepy, chains being pulled, water splashing noises. We made sure all the doors were locked that night.

Phoenix March 14th- March 16th

Friday March 14, 2008

Still having problems with the clutch we decided our next mission would be to find a VW place and try to fix it. After using McDonalds for their Internet we found a good sounding place less than 10 miles away. We called them up and explained the problem, and they actually listened- we knew we had stumbled onto something special. The shop is called Affordable German in Phoenix. With old Vanagons littering the place I figured they knew what they were doing. Very friendly people, easy to talk to, and listened to what I had to say about the car. They bled the system and figured out from where the air came out, it had to be the slave cylinder. They answered all my questions and actually demonstrated there answers. I'm always interested in learning what things do and how they work, so I thought that was pretty cool. The best part is that they did all that for no charge as long as we passed the word around about their shop; So anyone who is travelling through Phoenix with a VW or German car, this is the place. They ordered the part and said it they would get to it first thing on Monday. That made us feel safer for the weekend.

March 15, 2008
After a lovely night in the REI parking lot we headed to South Mountain to hit the National Trail Loop(a puck 10 trail). According to Cosmic Ray (our all knowing often hard to interpret author of our Arizona mountain bike guidebook) the Puck-o-meter or Puck factor goes from 1-10, with 10 being "ultra postal psycho descents" and "wicked rough terrain with high speeds and big drops". It had some of that and lots and lots of other people on the trails.
We both managed to stay on our bikes for the majority of the ride, but were smart enough to get off for other parts, with no spills to relate. That night we decided to get out of the city (Parking lots really lose there allure after awhile) and headed to the McDowell Mountains about an hour East of Phoenix. We even had heard rumors that there was a campground with showers.

There were indeed showers- but, it being the weekend, the campground was full. There was an overflow camping area- but it was 12 $ to park in a parking lot. We could have done that for free in Phoenix. However, the parking lot also had showers. We ran in there and enjoyed the hot water as long as it lasted and then moved on to the National Forest just down the road, where we could sleep for free, with a much better view.

View from our spot in Tonto National Forest

Sunday March 16th:
We woke up the next morning to this beautiful view of the McDowells-and ATVers doing donuts in the wilderness by our door.

We decided to bike to the trails in the Recreation Area to save ourselves a couple bucks (1 $ per bike or 6 $ per car). What we didn't realize was this ride on the road was going to be longer then the trail, but it was a pretty view anyway. The trails were fine, but somewhat lacking in intensity compared to the other day (these were only puck 5). We finished up, and jumped into those handy showers again. The ride back home was all down hill, never a bad thing. In total we did 12 miles on the road and about 9 on the trails.

That night we moved a little further down our road to a free campground that had been full of ATVers all weekend. Yikes- the place looked very run down, and of course, as has become a theme anywhere people camp, there was plenty of trash. We had a nice fire- when it's dark you can't really see all the trash, and finished dreading my hair. Here are the results...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mexico March 12th and 13th SPRING BREAK 08!

March 12, 2008-
-Bought some Mexican car insurance in the border town Nogales and hit the road into Mexico. Customs went smooth but the traffic wasn't so smooth. Amazingly nobody hit me, I made it through town with great skill, some sweat and lots of luck. After what felt like hours we finally reached the open highway in route to Desemboque. Eventually we got to a town to fill up and as we stopped we were immediately swarmed by the local window washers and candy sellers. We managed to break free from them and with a sparkling clean windshield we filled up con la roja gasolina. 5 hours later after cresting the sand dunes we could see and smell the ocean, and the quaint town of Desemboque. Feeling very out of place we drove around the sandy streets with the whole town staring at us. Finally we pulled into a restaurante and ran towards the ocean with frisbees in hand. With no footprints on the beach and only tire tracks we were a little nervous to swim so we just wandered around and tossed the frisbee around.
Mexican open highway
Practicing my flute skills while catching a frisbee
Mary at her beach
Tire tracks and Mary throwing a frisbee at the ground
Spring Break 08
Blue jelly fish (the reason I wouldn't stick my feet in)
The original plan was to stay at Desemboque and beach it up- but after a few too many awkward stares, and a dead seal on the beach, we decided that maybe a more popular beach would have more appeal than we had originally thought. So after asking around we found a guy who was actually heading to Puerto Penasco who offered to show us the way. Little did we know that highway 37 actually means highway 003, it was a good thing we had a guide.
Driving from Desemboque to Puerto Penasco
We ended up in the Puerto Penasco after dark and started trying to find a place to stay for the night. We stumbled upon The Reef, an open campground area on sandy beach which also has a restaurant and night club. We parked our RV in the line of RVs and called it a night.
Thursday March 13th:
Camping location right on the Beach
Fellow campers on the beach- this line went on for quite a while
Spectacular catch
Another great catch
Mary hustling for the catch
Mary needs some sun
Mike marvelling at the ocean
We woke to fellow American spring breakers volleyballing and ATVing it up. It was strange being in another country and not really having any idea because we were only surrounded by fellow Americans, and dumb ones at that. One incident that really got me going was this group of guys who had been sitting around and drinking beer all morning went down to the ocean. Down there they met up with an injured seagull who had been sitting on the beach all morning waiting for the tide to come in. They figured that this bird should not be sitting in their vacation spot, so they started throwing rocks at it. I, not being too far away, witnessed this event and left Mike in confusion as I stormed down the beach. I had some choice words with them, which ended in them asking if I was an animal lover or something, and they explaining to me how they wished they had there shotgun so they could blow the little birdy up. At least they stopped throwing rocks at it. And eventually the tide did came in, and the bird swam out to sea. Other than this rather unfortunate encounter we did manage to enjoy ourselves. Some swimming and lots of frisbeeing was had.
When we tired of the ocean we figured it was time to head back to the states. We stopped in Sonoyta Mexico on the border and got lots of yummy fruits and lots of fresh tortillas. I was even brave and tried a tamale from a street vendor, luckily with no ill consequences. As we crossed the border we headed into Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where we stopped for sunset and washing of pineapple hands. It was beautiful.

Typical Mexican scenery

Organ Pipe National Monument USA
Mary and her tall friend (Mary looks as short as Emilie)




Desert Creature
Much too soon we had to head back to Phoenix to get Mary on her plane. It was a tough night since the plane didn't leave until 1 am and we had been going to bed around 9. We passed the time by eating endless pancakes at Dennys and starting to dread my to come soon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Phoenix to Nogales March 9th-11th

Sunday March 9th:

-picked Mary up from the airport at 1:30 am, and slept in a bike shop parking lot

-Drove to Tucson, thinking we would go climbing and then get the car fixed on Monday

- Arrived in Tucson, stopped at a stoplight and couldn't get the car into 1st- homeless couple pushed the car and we got it in gear

- Decided to find car shop immediatley

-Only place open on Sunday is a Firestone so drove in 2nd gear 3 miles there

-Firestone tells us it's going to be 5 hours of work to take the clutch apart and they won't be able to get to it until Monday

-we walked over to the mall to use internet to figure out what the heck to do with the car now
-Decide to drive the car to the closest vw place, and get a rental car so we don't sit in a parking lot all night

-Climbed at the Ridgeline on Mount Lemmon, which is absolutely beautiful. We were the only people there, and even though you could see the city waaay below, it felt like you were no where near civilization, a nice feeling.

The new vanagon- it was probably a good thing we got a rental- Mt Lemmon is 26 miles up, I'm not so sure we would have made it

Mary showing off her fancy moves

Me doing the same

The belayers view

Michael concentrating

Getting there

That's pretty high

View from the top

Looking down- thats Michael and Mary way down there

Rappelling down from the top

I think someone enjoyed having a little sister around to pick on

Another rental car shot

View driving down from Mt Lemmon

-After climbing we played some frisbee, and then headed South to Madera Canyon to camp for the night

Mary passed out after too much spring breaking

Tuesday March 11th:

-Did a 6.3 mile hike in Madera Canyon- home to all bird loving folk in Arizona, apparently there are a lot of them because the place was packed. Saw some birds, and tons of lizards. Also ran into a family who had lost there 2 11 year old kids. We had seen them at the bottom of the hike, and the mom thought they had gone up. To make matters worse at the top of the climb theres a memorial to 3 young teenagers who apparently died up there. Needless to say the mom was a wreck. We assured her that we had seen the girls at the bottom and they took off down the hill.

View we woke up to the next morning


- We played some more frisbee
-Got a call from the car shop- the van was fixed, there was just air in the system, from when the shop in albuetc. had fixed it, and it was all ready to go.
-Decided to go back to the original plan and headed toward Mexico
-Slept at a rest area about 50 kms from the border