Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins, Utah: March 29 – April 1, 2018

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Glamour shot for the campground brochure, site 18

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Here is reality.  Asphalt with a dumpster and dump station located outside your front door.  If you go to Snow Canyon try not to get site 18.  On the plus side there was no one camping right next to us.

 

The campsite was a dud but you get over it quickly when you are surrounded by stunning natural beauty.  No wonder this place is often called the mini Zion.  The two parks are only 50 miles apart.  Of course, Snow Canyon is a lot smaller and not nearly the  crowd scene that is Zion.  But if you want to camp here you should make your reservations 6 months in advance.  The campground is small and only has 24 sites suitable for trailers.

We turned the campsite into a humorous situation and said things like, “The dumpster is conveniently located outside the front door.”  Then instead of putting a piece of trash in the trash can under the sink, we would just walk it out to the dumpster and toss it in.

It’s kind of gross, but interesting watching everyone dump their tanks.  Some people get really aggressive with the water hose.  The best/funniest thing was this father and his 6 year old son doing laps on their bikes through the campground.  The boy was a real talkative kid and was having a blast riding his bike.  On one lap, the boy points to the dump station and asks his dad, “Do you want to go smell that?”

The dad replies, “No! Do you?”

The kid spouts, “No way!  There’s probably like a 100 poopers in there!”

Amelia and I were just busting up laughing and repeating ‘poopers’ for the rest of the trip.

Snow Canyon has been a filming location in movies, including three Robert Redford movies: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Electric Horseman, and Jeremiah Johnson.  The pictures we took really do not capture the beauty.

As for the biking in the St. George area, we did three rides, two which we’ve done before, Santa Clara River Reserve and Zen.  The one new ride, Barrel, is next to Zen.  Barrel was my favorite.  In my opinion, the St. George area offers great “backyard” riding but not what I consider a destination.  It’s not Hurricane.

And finally, we took the scenic route from Boulder City to Ivins along the westside of Lake Mead.  The 93 to Lakeshore Rd to Northshore Rd which turns into 167, then to the 169 past Valley of Fire State Park through Moapa Valley to the 15 for only 43 miles to the Littlefield/Beaver Dam Arizona exit.  From there east to the backdoor into Ivins via the 91.  It was a fantastically beautiful stress free drive and only about 30 minutes longer than the mind numbing I-15 from Vegas to St. George.  The only thing you miss is the Virgin River Gorge.

 

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Amelia on petrified sand dunes

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Oops!  This is actually a Silverleaf Sunray.  On the previous post, Bootleg Canyon, I made a mistake and called it a Nakedstem Sunray.  The error has been corrected.

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Ah…a hot cup of Huehuetenango and the morning glow

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Great Basin Rattlesnake.  A couple hiking the bottom of Zen trail almost stepped on this beauty.  When we were riding by they were pretty excited to show us.

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Desert Rock Nettle

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Scrambling in mountain biking gloves and shoes.  The day before we walked up the petrified sand dunes and looked down on a small canyon that really caught our attention.  So the next day we rode our bikes on West Canyon Rd, hid our bikes behind a Utah Juniper, and hiked in.  It was amazing and there was one guy climbing the rock wall with two of his friends watching and three other guys just getting ready to climb.

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Basaltic lava flow

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The canyon

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It’s a completely different kind of person that does rock climbing

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West Canyon Rd

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Desert Indian Paintbrush

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Barrel trail

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People…

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Ready to go home

 

Here are four bonus pictures from a hike we did on the drive from Boulder City to Ivins.  It’s in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a hike from the 33 Hole overlook.

 

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Slots are cool

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Bootleg Canyon, Boulder City, Nevada: March 26-29, 2018

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Bootleg Canyon Welcomes You

 

Our second stop, Bootleg Canyon.  File this under glad we went, but we probably won’t be back.  It’s just not really our type of riding.  Amelia found it to be unforgiving, not flowy, and somewhat intimidating.  It seemed to me like a place where mountain biking trails shouldn’t exist.  It was quite different from any other place we’ve been.  I did get the quote of the trip from a maintenance guy in the RV park.  He was probably my age but looked a lot older, and his riding days were over at least 10 years ago.  When I was inquiring about the trails he said, “There’s no soft rocks up there.”

We spent 3 nights at Canyon Trail RV Park.  We picked it because you can ride from the park to the trails.  It was a really nice RV park, as far as RV parks go.  There was only the occasional waif of cigarette smoke.  And Boulder City is not Vegas, so that’s a plus in its column.

Sorry no pictures of the Hoover dam.  If you haven’t taken the tour of it, you should, it’s quite fascinating.  We did it a couple of decades ago.

 

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Out yonder in those mountains are the trails of Bootleg Canyon

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Amelia monkeying around, I told her remember you’re 50 now, so don’t hurt yourself!

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Mother trail, typical of the lower trails

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Issue on day one.  The short story is Amelia had to walk her bike out a half mile.

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Day two: white caps on Lake Mead, 40 mph gusts

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Brittlebush and a dark blue Lake Mead in the background

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Silverleaf Sunray

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Beavertail cactus flowers

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Sara’s favorite spot  #catdog

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Our neighbor in the RV park.  Customized construction trailer with sweet graphics.  Old man winter on the left mountain.

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Day three, a little elbow room since the neighbors vacated.  The wind finally died and the day was quite enjoyable, too bad the first two days were like being in a wind tunnel.

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The exit from the RV park to head up to the trails.  I love the rubber ducky.

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A view of Mt. Charleston and Sin City from the Caldera trail

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Lake Mead view from Lower Lake View trail

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It’s not all fun and games!

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Awesome manhole cover

Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve: March 24-26, 2018

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Great boondocking spot at Kelso Dunes

 

For a long time now, even before the Airstream, spring break has been about going to the Hurricane/Gooseberry Mesa area for biking.  We were just there in November, so that gave us a good excuse to do something different this spring break.  So our first stop was Kelso Dunes.

When telling friends and family about our plan we were typically left with blank stares when we mentioned Kelso Dunes.  Kelso Dunes is part of the Devil’s Playground within the Mojave National Preserve.  It took us about 5 hours.  Once we got through the unbearable Inland Empire it was an easy drive.  Amelia was driving as we were going up the Cajon Summit and she blurted out, “Whoa did you see that?  Two Bald Eagles just flew by!”

“Are you sure?” I responded.  “I didn’t see anything.”

“Yes, I’m sure, gosh darn it.”  (Only she didn’t say gosh darn it, she cussed.)  “Why do you always doubt me?  Plain as day, two huge raptors with white heads and tails.

A couple of hours later I was driving on the I-40 just past Ludlow, Amelia blurted out, “Oh my God, I just saw a Borrego!”

“A Bighorn sheep?  Come on, are you sure?  I didn’t see anything.”

“Gosh darn it yes!” ( She didn’t really say gosh darn it, she cussed again.)  “Why do you always doubt me?  Plain as day, it was standing a on a hill just off the road.  Horns and all.”

“Riiiight….next thing you are going to tell me is you just saw an orange Orangutan.”

20 plus years and I don’t know who’s the slower learner, probably me because instead of just believing her, I tell her it’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s that I don’t believe anyone.

Once you exit the pavement off of Kelbaker Road to get to the dunes, the first 3 miles were a quasi-paved road, full of pot holes, which wasn’t bad.  Then the next 1.2 miles were terrible washboard.  It sure seemed like we were going slow and being careful, but when we got to our spot the TVs were swinging off the hinges, the faucet handle fell off the kitchen sink, an unknown plastic piece was on the floor, along with some small piles of saw dust.  The Airstream is a lot of things, but it’s not a Sportsmobile.  That kind of explains why we were the only trailer out there.  Mostly it was tents, one pop-up trailer, and a few Class C motorhomes.

 

 

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She didn’t see anything either on the drive.

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The handle to the faucet was on the counter in the corner by the stove!

 

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Sunrise over the Providence Mountains

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Panoramic view of the morning light on the Kelso Dunes

 

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To the right of Amelia on the horizon is the snow capped Mt. Baldy

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Running down sand dunes puts a big smile on Amelia’s face

 

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Eastern view from the top

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About the same pitch as Dave’s Run

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Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard

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It was never warm because of a constant cold wind.  One morning it was 32 degrees!

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Wind ripples

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A dead Dune Primrose, as the plant dries out, the stem branches curl toward the center and produce a characteristic cage shaped skeleton called a Devil’s Lantern.

 

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Evening light on Granite Mountains

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Bladderpod Bush, we saw about 10 of these on the side of the road

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Large Yellow Desert Primrose.  We saw two of these and a few Desert Marigolds.  Other than that there really weren’t any flowers.  I don’t count the Creosote bushes.

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Leaving on the washboard, driving extremely slow, like walking speed.  We didn’t want a repeat of the drive into the dunes.

 

Agua Caliente: March 9-11, 2018

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San Diego County Route S-2 heading east.  The clouds looked ominous but we only had sprinkles.

 

I hesitated to post this blog for the fear of it going viral and having the masses ruin it.  We did the most amazing hike on Saturday.  All the maps don’t name it and only one of our hiking books mentioned it.  When we got home I googled it and a handful of people have posted something about it, so what the hell, why not post it.

It’s called Hornblend Canyon and starts at mile 26.1 on S-2.  There’s a small pull out at the bottom of the hill on the east side.  The canyon entrance is directly across the road on the west side.  Kudos to R for scoping it out.  His last few times out here (this is a guy who has probably spent 150 nights at Agua Caliente) he has been eyeing this wash.  It’s different from most of the hikes we’ve done in Anza Borrego because it begins at 2,300 ft elevation.  It’s at a transitional zone, so you see the typical desert flora at the beginning, but as you gain elevation you get to observe the changes in the plant community.  It’s actually quite fascinating.  We did 6 miles round trip and 1,000 feet elevation gain.  Some scrambling was required.  And look out for the Cat Claw shrub, it’ll reach out and scratch you.  R was a bloody mess by the time we got back to the truck.  If you kept going you’d eventually summit Granite Mountain.

This was our third trip to Agua Caliente with the Airstream.  It’s without a doubt a place to visit mid week.  The campground was packed to the gills over the weekend.  Families with kids running around all over the place.  Camping is a great thing for families to do, especially here since there is zero, zip, nada cell service at Agua Caliente.  It’s like a throw back to another time when kids actually played and did things outside.  It was quite refreshing to see.

 

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G and R at the beginning of the Hornblend Canyon hike.  The next eight pics are from the hike.

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California Juniper berries, of course R had some wisecrack about gin.

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Lichen covered rock was everywhere.

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Two Glorious Beetles foraging on juniper.

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Sugar Bush

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One of the most amazing things we’ve ever seen in Anza Borrego, vertical honeycombs from wild honey bees.  Bees were flying in and out so we were a little scared to get any closer.

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Arizona Dudleya, one section of the hike had dozens and dozens of them in various sizes clinging to the rock walls.

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Looking down on the 10-foot-high dry water fall

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At our turn around point.  Is this whole selfie craze ever going to end?

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As I mentioned, there is no cell service at Agua Caliente.  You have to drive 4 miles west to this spot for reception.  I made the drive on Friday and Saturday.  I just had to know how the San Diego State Aztecs were doing in their conference tournament.  They won it and are on their way to the Big Dance!

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Ocotillo bloom at our campsite

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And then there’s always this guy and lucky us, he was our neighbor.  The lights on his fifth wheel were bright enough to luminate his flag and the entire campground.  I’ll give him this though, he was a flag etiquette guy, once he finally turned off his lights the flag came down.

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Elephant Tree from our short Sunday morning hike up Torote Canyon.  Tortote is Spanish for Elephant Tree.

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A windy Friday night

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No dramatic sunrise or sunsets, but a beautiful view of the early morning light on Sunday.

 

If it’s Presidents’ weekend, this must be Borrego: February 15-18, 2018

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South Fork Palm Wash Slot

 

We had a little AARP get together this Presidents’ weekend.  A few members from the local chapters 92127 and 94552 were present.  Ages: almost 50, 57, 60, 70, 72, and 74.  It was the maiden voyage for the Birch’s as close to new as you can get without being new 2017 Airstream Flying Cloud 25FB Twin.  An Eye Doctor in Orange county bought it seven months ago.  He and his wife never used it.  The furthest they went was a couple of miles from the dealer to a large empty parking lot to practice backing up.  They couldn’t back up, so they drove it back to the dealer, stored it there, and never took it out again.  It had never been slept or pooped in.  The plastic was still on the mattresses and toilet seat.  I never cease to be amazed by people.

We had a nice three night stay at our usual spot off of Rockhouse Trail Rd.  This is probably no surprise to anyone living in SoCal, but the odds of a super bloom this year are less than zero.  The drought is apparently back after a one year hiatus.  We basically saw no blooms.  On Friday, our friend Donna drove out for the day and the group did the South Fork Palm Wash Slot.

 

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Friday morning sunrise

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Glowing like an opal in the dawnlight

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Old Man Birch and Donna entering the slot

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The lighting was magnificent.

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Oops, thankfully a wrong turn.  It might’ve been tough to get everyone up and over.  All of us waited while Donna and Amelia scouted it.

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Amelia, Denise, and Donna

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Exiting the slot, pictured OMB, myself, Donna, and Rob.

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Sara Marie staring at you!

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OMB, Rob, myself, and Amelia relaxing around the campfire.  Georgie and Diego moving fast.

 

On Saturday we decided to see and do something we haven’t done, The Pumpkin Patch, Una Palma, Five Palms, and the 17 Palms Oasis.  After reading up on the Pumpkin Patch we knew it was a 7.5 mile dirt road.  At about 7.2 miles you leave Anza-Borrego State Park and enter Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area.  For some reason I didn’t put one and one together.  Thankfully all the palm stops were in the State Park.

 

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This is what one and one equals.

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The famous Pumpkin Patch

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Una Palma is no más.

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5 Palms: the tall one is the last remaining one of the original five.  5 palms is now 6.

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17 Palm Oasis is now actually something like 26 Palm Oasis.

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Georgie reading the comments in the log.

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Can you spot the Long-nosed Leopard Lizard?

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Our usual spot

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Exhausted from the big Chinese New Year celebration.  Year of the Dog!

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Every year there are more and more metal sculptures.  Now they are also in town.  This one at “The Mall” caught my attention.

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My new bike on Clark Dry Lake.  Yes, neon yellow is back and cooler than ever!

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Saturday night dinner, courtesy of Rob and Denise.

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Rob, Georgie, and crazy eyes

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Saturday evening sunset

 

You can bet we’ll be out here again next Presidents’ weekend, but next time we are thinking about camping in the Split Mountain area.  It’s time to give Rockhouse/Clark Dry Lake a break.

Hot Springs Mountain: January 5, 2018

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Looking down on the old fire lookout tower from the summit.

 

At 6,535 feet Hot Springs Mountain is the highest peak in San Diego County.  Cuyamaca Peak, which most people incorrectly assume is the highest, is actually 23 feet shorter.  Over a decade ago, Amelia, R, and myself were in the area and on a lark thought we would summit the highest peak!  We were so ill-prepared and uninformed that we didn’t even realize it was on an Indian Reservation.  But we pushed forward anyway until we finally got scared of all the signs telling us to get out, so we turned around.  Since then the three of us have been itching to do it.  For a while they were not allowing any access and at one point the tribe leased out 5,000 acres to an off shoot of the infamous Blackwater Security called Eagle Rock Training Center.  The Tribe eventually evicted them.

This time Amelia did all the research, played phone tag with the Ranger that grants access, and eventually connected with him.  The short story is once you enter the Los Coyotes Reservation there is a little ranger station.  You check in there, every person must present their ID, your vehicle must be a 4×4, pay $10 per vehicle, the driver leaves her license in exchange for the key to unlock the gate.  When you come back down, exchange the key for your license.  It all sounded simple enough so we planned a day trip and invited R and our friend Laurie.

We left our house at 7am and arrived at the ranger station around 8:20.  The open sign was hanging and we were all excited, soon we’ll be at the summit of Hot Springs Mountain!  No one was in the ranger station, next door there was a portable bungalow that housed the police station, no one was there.  So we tried the phone number we had, and could hear it ringing in the ranger station.  All we could do was laugh and then begin to feel defeated.  We decided to wait until 9 to see if a ranger would arrive, but I really had to urinate, and wasn’t about to do it on the Rez for fear of being arrested, so we drove down the hill off the Rez to a sunny warm spot so I could take a leak.  Right when I zipped up my pants an Indian dude and a chick pulled up in a truck.  She rolled down the passenger window and he said, “Hey, is everything alright?”

I walked the few feet to his truck, leaned in and surely had the look of amazement in my eyes when I saw how inked up they were and all the awesome piercings she had.

“Actually, we were hoping to drive up to Hot Springs Mountain, but there was no one at the ranger station.”

He laughed, “Just drive up to the community center, we just came from there, there are people there that can help you.”

“How do I get there?”

“You can’t miss it, just drive up the hill, you’ll see tractors on the left and the community center on the right”

“Cool, thanks!”

I went back to our truck.  The three of them had caught most of the conversation.  So back to the Rez!  Once we went past the tractors there was a big sign for the community center.  We drove down a steep little hill and in between the two buildings was a Tribal Police SUV with two cops in it.  We cautiously approached and told our story.  The two rangers/cops couldn’t have been more helpful, friendly, and nice, perhaps the best interaction I’ve ever had with a couple of guys that were armed.  They said to follow them back down to the ranger station.  We paid the $10 cash.  They asked for our licenses.  Ranger Rivers said they take down our names in case we don’t come down off the mountain, he said it’s been know to happen.  They couldn’t find the spare key to the gate, so we got a police escort to the gate.  They unlocked it, let us pass through, and then put the chain back up without locking the lock.  They told us to lock it on our way back.

The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians have the largest Reservation in San Diego County with 25,000 acres.  It’s an incredible piece of land and a beautiful drive to the top.  Two-thirds of the way up we entered a mixed conifer forest with Jeffery Pine, White Fir, and Incense Cedar.  There was one dicey stretch of road, but the Tundra handled it in 4hi.

The summit was amazing.  The views spectacular.  You could see Woodson, Iron, Black Mountain, Cowles, Fortuna, San Miguel, Cuyamca, Middle Peak, North Peak, Toro, San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Santa Rosas, Salton Sea, Santiago, and Baldy.  With the binoculars you could see downtown San Diego skyline, Mount Soledad, and Point Loma. We had the entire mountain to ourselves, not a soul in sight anywhere, then two hours later, as we were all taking in the view to the north one last time, two fighter jets buzzed us, a mere 100 feet way.  It was like they were silently suspended in mid air within our reach.  It was dead silence until they passed and the sound caught up to us.  WOW!

 

 

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The red marker is Hot Springs Mountain

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The sign says open, but it wasn’t.

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Amelia with Ranger Rivers after he unlocked the gate for us.

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Excited!

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The fire lookout tower is not the summit.  It was built in 1942.  It was the third and last tower on Hot Springs Mountain.  R and Amelia in the picture.

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The Tank below the lookout

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The girls relaxing at a vantage point

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Lake Henshaw and way, way in the distance Black Mountain

 

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In the near distance is Palomar.  The far peak is Santiago in Orange County.

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My wife

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The tall lump in the distance is Cuyamaca, Middle Peak, and North Peak.

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A magnificent old growth Eastwood Manzanita. You follow the little orange flags to get to the summit.

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Amelia and Laurie on the summit. There’s a concrete foundation on top which may or may not be part of the original fire outlook in the photo below.

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I found this on peakbagging.com  An early photo, date unknown, of the original lookout built in 1912. Thanks to John Robinson for providing this photo.  You can tell it’s the same boulder the girls are standing on.

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A Reference Mark points to the Benchmark. Usually they are within 50 feet of the Benchmark.

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The Benchmark was placed here in 1939.

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These straps were definitely needed to get up and down the summit.

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Santa Rosa Mountains

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Lichen Fungi

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R on the trail leaving the summit

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Group selfie by R

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The end of the adventure, Amelia locking the gate

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: 12/30/2017-1/2/2018

 

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Yes, that’s an Organ Pipe Cactus next to Amelia.

 

When we left MMRP, we intentionally took the long way to Organ Pipe Cactus through Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation on Indian Route 15.  It was a beautiful sad drive.  We’ve never seen so many roadside shrines (descansos) on one stretch of road.  There were dozens and dozens of descansos set up, many with altars, and at least three makeshift graveyards.  All told, easily over a hundred sites.  They were all colorful and beautifully decorated.  We really wanted to stop and respectfully check some of them out, but there was no shoulder or pull outs big enough for the truck and Airstream.  So we don’t have any photos to share.  It just seemed like way too many deaths to be all car accidents, so we started wondering if it was perhaps migrants that died crossing the border.  I couldn’t find any information on the internet, so I guess it’ll remain a sad mystery.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was established in 1937 by FDR.  It’s 516 square miles.  In 1976, the United Nations recognized it as a Biosphere Reserve and it still is.  In 2017, United States withdrew 17 sites from the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves program, so now we are down to 30 sites.  This is the only place in the United States where you can see large stands of the Organ Pipe Cacti growing naturally.  A pretty cool place worth checking out!

 

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Twin Peaks Campground site 161 in the no generator section.  Five miles from the border.

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New Year’s Eve sunrise, silhouettes of Organ Pipe Cacti, Ocotillo, and Saguaros

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Arch Canyon in the Ajo Mountains

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Bare wooden ribs of a dead Saguaro

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Amelia standing between a couple of mature Chain Fruit Chollas

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Bull Pasture hike

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Bull Pasture, the mountains in the background are in Mexico

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Are they trying to warn or scare you?  I guess it depends on you.

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These water stations are set up by Humane Borders.

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Over 3,000 migrants have died in the Arizona desert since 1999.

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The fence that separates USA and Mexico.  The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument southern boundary is the border.

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Not car problems, Packrat, aka white-throated wood rat problems.  The park recommends leaving your hood open so they don’t nest in your engine compartment.  It was pretty funny walking the campground loop and seeing everyone’s hood open.

 

Forget the ball drop at Times Square, we said goodbye to 2017 with an incredible sunset.  Late afternoon I began predicting to anyone that would listen to me that the sunset was going to be one for the ages.  It was a spectacular hour long show that was better than anything we’ve seen on Netflix all year.

 

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4:42pm…this is when I knew my prediction was going to come true

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5:19pm…progressing nicely

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5:37pm…sunset

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5:48pm

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5:50pm

 

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5:51pm…this is my favorite.  The blue just pops.

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5:53pm

 

The iPhone takes amazing pictures, but it still struggles with moon pictures.  There’s just not enough light.

 

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New Year’s Day 6:08am…Super Moon setting between two Saguaros

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New Year’s Day 5:47pm…Super Moon rising over the Ajo Mountains

 

MMRP: December 25-30, 2017

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Crazy late afternoon sky

 

Have you heard this one?  There are people that are afraid to take the I-8 between Phoenix and San Diego because of the Mexican drug cartel.  The interstate runs too close to the border.  The rumor is the cartel is on the mountaintops and has spotlights sending signals to each other regarding when to move the drugs across the border.   You don’t want to be on the road when it happens because they’ll kill you.  So the safe bet is to always take the I-10.   At least until the wall is built!

We rolled the dice and took the I-8 on Christmas morning.  At one point between Yuma and Dome Valley I thought I saw someone signaling with a mirror towards the border.  It must’ve been my imagination getting the best of me.  In less than seven hours we made it out to McDowell Mountain Regional Park (MMRP).

MMRP is one of the best campgrounds in which we’ve stayed.  It’s a well maintained, beautiful park with wide open vistas of the desert and surrounding mountains.  If you are in the south loop there’s so much space between sites it feels like you are boondocking.  Hell, we’ve been in closer quarters boondocking in Borrego.  It’s $30 a night and all sites come with water and power, no sewer.  The bathrooms and showers are very clean.  The shower is included in the price so no need to hoard quarters.  And I’m talking about hot showers (what’s with this cold shower craze all the health and wellness nuts are swearing by?)  The catch is the campground is always full, so you need to plan in advance.  And they are only open for six months.  It’s just too hot the other six months.

And now for the biking, because why else would we be there for five nights?  There are miles and miles of beautiful singletrack in MMRP and it connects to Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which also has miles and miles of beautiful singletrack.  It is fast, flowy, and fun, not the least bit challenging, but still very enjoyable.  My favorite was the Long Loop at McDowell Competitive Track.  Both areas were really easy to navigate because of the terrific signs at every intersection.

The weather in the greater Phoenix area, aka Valley of the Sun, is very pleasant this time of the year, just like San Diego, but a little drier.  Call me soft if you want, but I think Valley of the Sun is uninhabitable in the summer.  It’s just way too hot and I couldn’t imagine being a prisoner to air conditioning 24/7.

Every morning and evening the campsite was full of birds that we don’t see in San Diego. Coveys of Gambel’s Quail walking through our site.  Gila Woodpeckers and Gilded Flickers perched on Saguaros and Cardinals flying around.  We enjoyed our stay so much we tried to extend it, but all 76 sites were completely booked.  When Amelia turns 70 she’s going to do a 6 month camp host gig out there, she said I can come too if I want.

 

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Merry Christmas from McDowell Mountain Regional Park site #43.

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I never thought I’d be saying this but, kudos to Maricopa County.

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One of the few sustained climbs

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Amelia works in Escondido and my mom used to, so I had to take a picture.

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Sunrise over the mountains.  That’s Four Peaks on the left.

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The Queen of MMRP

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McDowell Competitive Track has three loops: Sport, Techincal, and Long.  We did all three, Long was the favorite and Technical was not technical, but fun.

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This is the entrance to Long Loop.  As the sign states, if you want to doinky doink around go over to MMRP.  This is a one directional, put the hammer down, and go fast trail.

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Jackass Junction: you gotta love the skeleton wearing a Santa hat and flipping the bird.  The couple that doesn’t look like mountain bikers aren’t mountain bikers.  They are E bikers.

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I love this kind of stuff.

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Bike part art

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Bring water, when it’s half way gone turn around…solid advice.

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Amelia already put this on The Instagrams and Facebooks, kind of taking the wind out of my sails.  People on the trail with headphones, ear buds, or speakers are a big pet peeve of ours.

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McDowell Sonora Preserve has the first no E bikes sign I’ve seen.  They allow them at MMRP.

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Typical singletrack

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A fun section on Rock Knob trail

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MMRP is a fantastic campground!

 

 

 

 

 

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada: November 21-22, 2017

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Fire Wave

 

On our way home we had a quick overnight stay at Valley of Fire.  We got there early and were lucky enough to grab a campsite.  There are two campgrounds with a total of 72 sites.  It’s all first-come, first-served.  It’s a shame we only had a few hours instead of a few days.  There are a lot of hikes and amazing things to see in the park.  And Lake Mead is just a few minutes away.  We drove the scenic White Domes Rd and got in one short hike to the Fire Wave.

In the middle of the night the campground was dead quiet.  Amelia, sensing I was also awake, said, “Do you hear that noise?”

“Yes, I’ve been listening to it for a while,” I replied.

“What do you think it is? Could it be a moth?”

“I don’t think so, it sounds like a rat.”

“Well get up and figure it out!”

So I dragged my rear out of bed and of course Sara also got up.  The sound was definitely coming from under the sink, but Sara was banging on the door, so we went outside and both pottied.  The stars were amazing.  We came back in and I opened the cabinet sink, sure enough rodent droppings, but no vermin.  Good, I was thinking let’s go back to sleep.  A few minutes later Amelia says, ” I hear it again.”

So did I, so we all got up this time to have a closer inspection.  Of course, we couldn’t spot it, but we saw what it was chewing on, a small container that holds Sara’s treats.  There were pink plastic shavings and teeth marks on the container.  So we removed all the food items and even Sara’s pill containers.  “Problem solved,” I said.  “Now let’s go back to bed, it’ll be light in 3 hours.”

A few minutes later, Amelia says again, “I hear it again!  I think it’s in the trash can.”

I drop a barrage of F bombs, get up yet again, and pull out the garbage can.  After that it was peace and quiet.  The big question is, did the vermin hitchhike a ride to San Diego?

We had an easy just over six hour ride home.  I was grinning ear to ear at all the suckers going north on the 15 through the dreadful Inland Empire.  The only thing dumber than going north on the 15 on a Friday, is going on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving!

When we pulled up to our house at 2pm it was 100 degrees.  That’s quite a hoax the Chinese are perpetrating on the world.

 

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Campsite #10

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A sure sign the apocalypse is near, those darn Pink Jeep Tours are now at the Valley of Fire.

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This huge One Way street sign couldn’t be more out of place.

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Rideable rock everywhere

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A perspective shot

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We intentionally ventured off course.

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Our first glimpse at the Fire Wave.

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Fire Wave

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We didn’t get The Narrows, but this was quite an unplanned treat.

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So many different colors of rock

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Blur

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Petroglyphs on Atlati Rock.  It’s a shame there are so many stupid people that vandalize.

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This area was named Valley of Fire because of the sunsets!

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I couldn’t resist including this artsy Airstream picture.

Sheep Bridge Road, Virgin, Utah: November 17-21, 2017

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Sunrise on Sheep Bridge Road with the peaks of Zion National Park.

 

Note to self:  Never, never, ever take the 15 North towards Vegas on a holiday Friday, or any Friday for that matter.  And don’t think if you leave at noon it’ll be all right.  A six plus hour drive to Mesquite turned into an eight plus hour drive.  Traffic always sucks, but to be out in the Mohave desert, in the middle of nowhere, in stop and go traffic is stupid.  Waze isn’t going to help you on this drive.

We were hemming and hawing since our last trip about where to go pre-Thanksgiving.  Then the Bennetts contacted us in mid October; their Belgium trip fell through and they wanted to know if we’d like to meet them in the Zion area.  We thought about it for a minute and replied if the weather is cooperating we’ll be there!  Odds are it would be chilly, so we wouldn’t need full hook-ups like we do in warm weather to prevent Sara from baking like a potato in the Airstream while we are out riding.  This could be the perfect opportunity to boondock and finally hike The Narrows in Zion.  Every Spring when we are out there The Narrows are typically closed because the North Fork of the Virgin River is flowing too fast and too high.  So we boned up on boondocking and The Narrows and even researched pet sitters, so we could exceed the 6 hour max alone time for Sara in the Airstream.

Two weeks before departure while riding with my Thursday night group, Cory mentions he’s going to Hurricane with Josh and a couple of other guys.  None of them had ever been so he’d been researching all the rides.  Their dates matched our dates, so I told him to stop his research, that I was the mayor of Hurricane, and I’d love to guide his group around.  We get a real kick out of showing first timers the incredible rock terrain.  It’s like reliving our first visit.

 

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You haven’t lived until you wake up at sunrise in a Walmart parking lot. This one is in Mesquite, Nevada.

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Less than two hours later a prime spot on Sheep Bridge Road with Gooseberry Mesa in the background.  Sheep Bridge Road runs between Utah Highways 9 & 59.

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What the hell!  Get off the table!

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Rest in peace Robin.

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North Rim of Gooseberry Mesa, Amelia close to the edge.

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Cory.

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Cory and a short stocky guy.  I’ve lost an inch and a quarter off of my height.

 

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Amelia on Gooseberry Mesa.

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I’m predicting when I hit 60 in three years, Amelia will be taller than me.

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Beautiful morning light at our campsite.

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She loves her morning sun.

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Post Gooseberry ride get together.

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Mike, Amelia, and Chris on the one and only Little Creek Mesa.

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Amelia with perfect form.

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Josh airborne.

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Who drained the pool?

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Mike’s laughing, bending his knees, doing his best to make me not look like a short stocky guy.

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Amelia riding away on Little Creek Mesa.

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After Little Creek, the guys came back for dinner.

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And a little revelry.  Left to right, Mike, Chris, Cory, Christian, Josh, and Amelia.  A very compatible and super fun group of folks.

 

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What a scenic spot and free!  

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The Queen of Sheep Bridge Road.

 

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If you are blogging about the Hurricane area, you have to include a pic of Molly’s nipple.  That speck is Amelia.

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Buzzkill, but one hell of a sunset.

 

The flat tire was the final nail in the coffin of The Narrows hike.  It just wasn’t meant to be; red flags were popping up everywhere.  First, the road in Springdale, the town right before the entrance to Zion, was all tore up, with only one lane open, and a flagman 24 hours a day, with waits up to 30 minutes each direction.  Second, Zion was a lot more crowded than the park service anticipated.  It got so bad they stopped letting people enter the park.  In hindsight I’m sure they wished the shuttles were operating.  Third, the pet sitter never got back to us.  Finally, while we were driving into Springdale the evening before our big Narrows adventure to rent gear for hiking up the river, we got the flat tire.  At least it didn’t happen while we were towing!  The Narrows will have to wait for another day.