Quest for Saguaro Cactus

As I mentioned in my last post, most of my reason for heading this far south in Arizona was to see the saguaro cactus. Today would be my day to FINALLY see this  beautiful, humongous, monoliths of the desert, and they were every bit as awesome as I had wanted them to be!

We woke up in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and after a leisurely breakfast warming ourselves in the sun– we continued our drive towards the Phoenix area.

Happy playful pups getting energy out before we get back in the car for a long while.

We tetris’d everything back into the truck and made our way back down the dirt road, and on the highway. I got my first glimpse of Saguaro while we drove near Salt River on the North Bush Highway.

Middle Arizona had a lot more hills that I had expect, more mountains. It was a beautiful dry, deserty mountain area. I had more expected dune’s and flat like the Mojave in the parts of southern California I’d driven through, but I was wrong. I love being surprised!

Salt River

We decided to take the dogs on a short hike outside of Phoenix, and we found the Hieroglyphic Trail, a  local trail with cactus, and petroglyphs at the base of the Superstition Mountains.

Despite the large number of people out hiking, it was a beautiful hike, around 3 miles RT and the dogs were just happy to be out of the car. Jessie had overheated, it was around 75, sunny, and with a light breeze. All of this seems strange for December 28, but we had gone down quite a lot in elevation since we left home, luckily we brought water for the dogs.

Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus!

We never got the chance to hike over to the petroglyphs because the trail was very crowded, so we just decided to head back to the car and find ourselves a nice campsite for the evening.

After driving toward an HOV area that we had found online, we located this beautiful campsite at the base of a cliff on a quieter section of road. We let the dogs out of the car and began looking around the campsite.

I had started to collect wood for our evening fire, and noticed that Bowie was chewing on something, I walked over to him to get him to stop, and we ended up having to chase him down a ways before he stopped. What we hadn’t noticed at first was that had been chewing on a plastic grocery bag filled with feces…and had rolled in it. It was ALL OVER HIM.

At first we thought it was animal feces, but we soon realized that was not the case…we tried to rinse it off of him, but it just wasn’t working. We were so entirely totally disgusted, and really had no way of dealing with it in the backcountry.

We threw the dogs back in their kennels, drove out, found a hotel that accepted dogs, bought some baby shampoo, and scrubbed the hell out of the puppy. He was unhappy with us, but we didn’t really have much of a choice. Who takes grocery bags and fills them with human feces, there were 4 -5 other bags around the campsite that I can almost assume were the same.

After washed all of our clothes, the dog’s bedding, the dogs, ourselves– we finally were able to eat dinner at almost 10PM, after cracking a beer or two. It was one literal shitty evening.

The day started out so wonderfully– and ended so annoyingly awful. My shit-faced puppy.

The awesome part of the day. 
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Petrified Forest

I have wanted to see the Saguaro Cactus for quite a few years, and when I discovered that all of Arizona was not cactus, desert, and red rocks– I was rather disappointed. This year we decided to go on a hiking, camping, climbing trips with our two awesome dogs through the southwest.

We left our house at about 7AM, it was 4 degrees and spitting snow, the entire drive down through Colorado Springs, and over the border to New Mexico was freezing.

It ranged between -1 and 9 degrees until we started down the hill into NM. By the time we hit Santa Fe it was about 35 degrees, and we realized that we had forgotten some very important things. Sleeping bags, and a water jug. When desert camping, especially in the cooler season, the sleeping bag is necessary.  We stopped at a Sportsmans Warehouse in Albuquerque, and discovered an amazing 2 person  RV sleeping bag.

At this point it was getting darker, and we decided to pitch camp for the night in the National Forest near Grants, NM. Most of the camp sites were totally trashed, but the further out in the forest you got, the better the sites.

Right after sunset we found a nice, quiet, relatively clean campsite, and started a fire and set up camp. Bowie relaxed with his leash still attached, and loose.

We spent the evening looking at maps,  planning our next day, drinking hot chocolate and making fancy s’mores. The  dogs stuck close enough to camp, but Bowie still doesn’t come when called…. that’s going to take time.

Camp was in a beautiful location, and we slowly packed up and let the dogs run around.

Two years ago Sarah and I were driving across Arizona, and we ran out of time to see the Petrified Forest National Park, a place that I’ve wanted to see since I was 6, when my grandparents brought us back pieces of petrified rock. They explained it like a forest of brightly colored toppled trees, and for a kid with a vivid imagination, that idea ran wild.

As we drove up to the entrance, I was slightly disappointed that there were not toppled petrified trees everywhere, but a colorful, empty, beautiful desert. At least upon entrance.

The Petrified Forest National Park is one of the few where they encourage you to hike off trail if you are comfortable, we sadly didn’t have the time for that, but we got to hike a beautiful loop with the dogs.

The trail was strewn with petrified trees,  slowly eroding from inside the sand. It was really cool!

After our brief but really awesome stop at the park, we wandered down to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and camped on a very quiet back road, where the dogs could run loose.

Wild Coyote beast sneaking up on me, and cooking burritos in foil by the fire!

By far one of my favorite campsites, we had a nice quiet evening, relaxing by the fire, followed by a moonless night filled with stars. Just and awesome full first day.

Christmas at Moffat

Since our Christmas plans had been dashed by a sick puppy, we decided to get in some laps up at Moffat Tunnel Ice.

That was our first sort of mistake, it was warm enough, but it started to snow….sideways….and it was wet icky snow with lots of wind. Not the best of conditions, but the point was to get up there and climb, which we did. 2 laps each.

Snowy Christmas Day on slushy gross snow. 

The ice was slushy and wet, and sprung a few leaks, I’m just glad we didn’t stay up there long. BUT it is always nice to show up for Christmas on ice!

Catching snowflakes on his tongue!

It was a slight bit windy!

I know it wasn’t the intended lovely ice climbing day, but we had a great time- then went home and packed for our impending road trip with the dogs! AND Greg and some other wonderful Samaritans helped to dig someone out of the ditch!

Crater Lakes

Hiking near East Portal is always fun, and I’ve hiked this before. My knee has been getting stronger, and things are getting easier- though it’s still rough sometimes. Today was one of these days, we made it up to the lower lake, and I had to turn around, my knee just was done for the day.  Here are my two photos from that day!

Jewel Lake 2017

It’s always sad when my first time out ice climbing every year isn’t till mid- December, we had a very warm fall. It feels like winter doesn’t want to come just yet.

Waking up early, driving up to the park, and hiking in just as the sun is coming up– one of my winter routines. I love climbing at Jewel Lake, you get in a decent hike then some climbing then hike out.

Morning view up into Glacier Gorge.

And climbing with two of my favorite people, my human and our friend Dan, it’s always eventful.

We each got a few laps in, dusting off our technique, and remembering the moves. It was a great day. I love ice.

Timberline Falls

I have tried no fewer than 4 times to get up to Sky Pond in RMNP, everytime in the winter, which may be the problem. I always get to Timberline Falls and either it’s too icy, the weather turns, or the wind is howling above that point. This was another one of those trips.

Loch Vale

I lead a CMC Trailblazers trip to “sky pond” aka Timberline Falls. We had a blast hiking up, and the weather was really windy but beautiful. We hiked up past Loch Vale, and stopped just below the falls in the sun for a break, then decided to hike back and grab lunch instead. It was more then 40MPH winds up above, and low visability– I guess the snow was blowing really hard, according to a trail runner that also turned around.

Our Group!
One last view from the side of Loch Vale.

One of these days, I’ll get up there, and see this lake!