Friday, January 30, 2015

Fun (and an-almost-recurring nightmare) in the Catalina mountains

Friday, January 30, 4 pm
I just got back from a majorly amazing and sweaty bike ride. Seven miles up, up, up a road with gorgeous scenery in the Catalina mountains just outside of Tucson. I never imagined this area to be so beautiful – dramatic rock formations, oceans of golden grass, Junipers with alligator bark, yucca stalks twice as tall as Steve.
It's seems to be a popular road for type A, male bike riders. They kept passing me on top of high-tech racing bikes, with fancy bike jerseys, heavily muscled calves, and serious demeanor. None of them acknowledged me – this strange middle-aged, high-on-endorphins, sweaty woman, huffing and puffing on her ghetto mountain bike. They must have seen my huge smile, the byproduct of exercise, alone-time and nature, but nobody smiled back. Huh. They must have been too busy being professional bikers. It's serious business, that.
Steve and the kids met me in the RV at a trailhead where the boys will mountain bike down the Bug creek trail back to our campsite. They are not back yet, but I bet they will wear huge smiles and maybe some bloody scrapes. (Last time they went mountain biking, Steve crashed and scraped up his hand, which now looks like something out of a vampire movie).
These are the only pictures I have of my bike ride: on the way down in the RV.

This morning, we saw a tarantula on a hike. Since I was little I've had a recurring nightmare of being locked in a public toilet stall filled with big, black spiders. (I wonder what this dream reveals about my psyche. Dream interpreters, anyone?). When the kids bring home books from the library about wildlife, including gargantuan spiders, I can't even touch the book, knowing a spider lurks in there, even if it's not alive.
So you can imagine how I reacted when we came across this fine specimen. The only reason I even got near it was to take a picture for the blog. If you don't like spiders, please skip this photo. I won't blame you.

The hike led us to an abandoned prison camp, where Americans locked up conscientious objectors to World War II.  They made them build the road that now leads up to Mount Lemmon.
Here are some highlights of the hike, minus the prison camp, because there was not much to see.

This trip will be dubbed “the trip of skirts”, knitting wise. I am knitting my second “Little Flirt Skirt” - a fun, wooly, bouncy skirt. It's perfect for this weather – worn over some black leggings, or just by itself when it's warmer. I finished one with blue alpaca and wool, with yarn from my amazing mother-in-law Donna, who sent me a huge box of yarn for Christmas. The second skirt will be hot pink. I'm indulging my inner Diva.  

We've been hanging out with our friends Brandie and Bradley (they got married at our homestead five months ago).  Good times, good times!
And here are some pictures of leaving Sedona, driving up the Colorado Plateau, and hiking in a secluded canyon somewhere.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Most terrifying moments, and most fun moments...

Most terrifying moment this week:

Hanging on a cliff, panic stricken, not able to move forward or backward. The whole family went on a hike at Loy canyon – a very easy, innocent walk, until we spotted cliff dwellings way up on the mountain. I thought it might be a good idea to check them out, so my family reluctantly followed me. It was already late in the afternoon, the kids were hungry... We scrambled up an enchanting canyon, nothing too hard. The final push up to the ruins was steep and exposed, and very, very dangerous, although Steve claims it was a piece of cake. Either way, a couple of minutes up that exposed spot, I froze and freaked out. I clutched Eva to my chest, held Luke in a vice grip by my side, pinned Kai down on my other side, and proceeded to hyperventilate.
Steve kept his calm, and so did Luke. My ten-year-old son told me to visualize what it would feel like to be back at the RV eating pizza. Is this kid wise, or what?
Steve evacuated us, almost carrying me on his back. No, it wasn't one of my brightest moments.
We found another way up, and it was all worth it. The ruins blew our minds. I can't describe it – just look at the pictures.
And an hour later, we sat in the RV eating pizza.

Looks innocent, right?  Right.
That's Eva playing with Juniper berries.

This is some of the rock we scrambled on.
I'm still smiling there.  Tense, but smiling.
This is really, really high up.
Aren't these ruins awesome?  It's worth almost dieing for.

Most fun moments this week:

Doing three mother-and-daughter only hikes, while the boys were off breaking their necks mountain biking. My girl and I went around Bell Rock one day (Barbie came too), then on a six mile hike the next day (with Eva not only being solar-powered, but also soda-powered --- gotta love sodas for bribes!), then the next day up to Devil's Bridge.
It's really special to have this alone time with Eva. We (or mostly she) talk about fairies a lot.  She is a strong hiker, and mostly a good sport.  On one of these hikes, though, she whined, "Mom, you always say it's gonna be a short hike.  And it's never true!"  Huh.  Never too early to start with trust issues, eh?
I think I'm getting old, though. Exposed places give me heart palpitations and make my palms sweaty. I watched these teenage girls walk across the narrow, very exposed stone bridge, and I had to hold myself back from yelling at them, “Girls! Girls! Come back here!” I never was that chicken before. I used to jump off cliffs in a hang glider – really!

In case it's not clear: There is a heart filled with water in the rock.  You know, like a heart rock.

In case you are wondering, this person is not me.  No, no, no, no.
I will leave you with some of my favorite images from the week.  Hope you are having fun this week!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sedona - and the hardest hike I've ever done. That's saying something.

There is a stunning mountain in the Sonoran Desert at Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona, called Flatiron.  It's a six mile roundtrip to climb up it, with a one-mile stretch where you gain 2,000 feet elevation.  In other words: it's a butt kicker.  You have to use your arms pulling yourself up and down boulders.  It's vertical and scary at times.  My ten and twelve year old sons made me hike it.  Since I still have the worst cold of my life, I was hesitant putting myself through this, but I was feeling better and coughing less, and I craved some mother-and-sons-only time.
It was worth it.  Here we are on top.  There was a guy (no other people were crazy enough to attempt the climb, I think), who asked us if we wanted him to take our picture.  He looked at me and said, "I don't know another mother who would do this alone with her kids."  Well, what can I say?  We thrive on adventure.

Steve and Eva came with us part way up, into the Basin area.  This five-year old girl is a tough cookie.  She wants to keep up with her brothers.  She is a strong hiker with a lot of attitude.  My heart leapt as I watched her hold her brother's hand on the way up.  I listened to him encourage her, and my heart leapt some more.  

See that pyramid-looking shape in the middle of the picture?  This is where we climbed.

Here are some more pictures of this gorgeous area, taken straight from our campsite, and on a different hike.  These are the Superstition Mountains.

The day after the hike, we spend most of the day driving, which was fine with me and my sore body.  I snuggled into the bed with the two big windows, hung out with the kids, knitted and read, while Steve drove.  We found a place to wild camp close to Sedona.  I can't tell you how awesome it was to not be in a RV park.  No hook-ups, no people, no barking dogs, just our little family, the beauty of desert wilderness, and a mind blowing sunset.

I love this red rock country.  It is so different from our rainforest home in Washington.  And the SUN!  The SUN!  We are getting a tan.
We bicycled to some cliff dwellings we visited two years ago, but you need an appointment for a tour, and we didn't this time.  So we took off on our and found a place a ranger had told us about the day before.  We scrambled through a lonely canyon and found amazing petroglyphs.  I wasn't the only one shouting with excitement!

The next day, we hiked up Doe Mountain.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

I feel guilty showing you all this.  I know many of you are at home and only dream about a trip like this.  I feel like a spoiled brat being able to do all this.
Let me just say: We make choices as a family.  We are not loaded with money.  In fact, we live very, very simply - more modestly than many of my blog readers.  We work very, very hard in the spring, summer and fall, so that we can leave in the winter, when grey rain and drizzle descend on our homestead week after week.  I get depressed and sad.  Being able to escape South and soaking up sun and adventure feeds me for months to come, making it possible for my huge energy output and work load.

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