Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Hike to Remember

Last Friday, the 13th, my neighbor Mickey and I hiked up the famous Camelback Mountain in downtown Scottsdale.  We had talked about it for a couple of years and decided it was time.  We took the Cholla Trail which is 1.42 miles with a 1235 foot elevation gain.

The trailhead is located in a residential neighborhood so parking is a challenge.  The spot we found was about a half mile from the beginning of the trail, but we thought that would give us a nice warm-up on paved sidewalks.

Once on the trail, we noticed that almost all the hikers were young adults.  Hum, I wonder why.  We made our way uphill, taking breaks as needed.

About halfway up, the trail flattens out for a short stretch.  There was even a spot that looked like a tiny helipad.  On the local news, we often hear about rescues of hikers on Camelback, so we wondered.

At this point, the trail became less obvious, with some rock climbing involved.  We decided to stash our hiking sticks and hope they would be there when we returned.

We thought we had to be close to the top, but the markers told a different story.
(I didn't realize the GPS coordinates went out to so many decimal places.)

This trail is not for those who are afraid of heights.

Finally we made it to the summit and posed for the 'proof' picture.

Uh-oh, we still have to get back down.

Although the rock scrambling was difficult for me, I felt fine until about halfway back down. By the time we got back to the car, my feet were killing me.  But that was nothing compared to the way the front of my thighs hurt the next day.  Even today, two days later, they still hurt.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014 in Review

As is my custom, I'm going to attempt a review of our travels for the year, supported by the pictures I chose to create my calendar for 2015.  This always results in some huge gaps, but I'm going with it anyway.

When we left Mesa in April, we joined our WIN friends in beautiful Sedona.

Although the WINs had a couple of traveling circuits planned, we had our own itinerary in mind. Once again, those plans included a stop in Denver area to visit Ron's daughters and their families. We headed north through the Four-corners area and stopped at Mesa Verde National Park.

Where we encountered this colorful guy.

Continuing toward Denver, we stopped at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Once in Denver, we embarked on a trip within a trip.  Leaving the RV at the Elks, we flew to Anchorage, Alaska, to begin a cruise/tour.  Highlights included a train ride to Denali in an observation car . . .

And seeing the Alaskan wildlife.
(Although to be candid, the bear and the baby moose were not actually in the wild.)

After a wonderful inland passage cruise south to Vancouver and our flight back to Denver, we enjoyed a couple of weeks visiting Ron's family.  Then we were off again in the RV.  We headed east through Nebraska, stopping at North Platte where we found this pure white peacock.

We continued east through Nebraska, Iowa, and northern Illinois, traveling the back roads, instead of the Interstate.  We attended Ron's high school reunion, where he commented there were a lot of old people.

We bought a state parks pass for Wisconsin and utilized it quite a bit during our three weeks in Wisconsin.  We enjoyed the local flora . . .

And fauna.

We also checked out some light houses.  This one is in Algoma.

And this is one of several we scouted out in Door County.

Returning through Iowa and Nebraska, we stayed close to the northern border of both states.  In Effigy Mounds National Monument, I was mysteriously drawn to this alien growth.

While the RV had some TLC at the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa, we enjoyed this garden in nearby Clear Lake.

Then it was back to Denver for another visit and to welcome Ron's new granddaughter Elsie.  All too soon, we tore ourselves away and traveled south through Colorado enjoying the golden aspen trees.

And we continued south through New Mexico, hitting a couple of little known national recreation sites and ending at pretty Oliver Lee State Park.  Sunset there reminded me of a watercolor painting.

Although this is certainly not all we did during our 2014 travels, it is all the pictures from the calendar, so this concludes my wrap-up.  Who knows where we'll be exploring in 2015.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day Seven

For our final day in Hawaii, we did a paddle/hike to Secret Falls and Fern Grotto.  In exchange for a good deal of cash, they rented us a canoe and a really pathetic map.  Since there was an outside possibility that we would get wet, Diana took all these pictures with her nifty underwater camera.

Here come the intrepid explorers.  Interesting that they give you kayak paddles with the canoe.

After a false start, we managed to find the trail.

The section of the trail along the river was very well defined.

In other places, it was pretty rough.

And there were a few water crossings.  The first one was at least 30 feet across in rushing knee-deep water, but we were too busy staying upright to take pictures.

This is the King's or Queen's Bath - Diana probably knows which one.

After about a mile, we arrived at pretty Secret Falls.  (Shh, it's a secret.)

With all its resident Kauai chickens.

Chickens?  What chickens?

The hard part came when we tried to find the other half of the loop trail back.  We were lucky to come across the trail we had taken out, but not where the loop was supposed to meet it.

Next we canoed to Fern Grotto where we had to get out of (and back into) the canoe as it sat next to a rather high dock.  I'm glad nobody was taking a movie of that!

After a short walk, there was lush Fern Grotto.

Those are Boston Sword Ferns that give the grotto its unusual look.

All that hiking was done in our water shoes.  I had just bought mine at Walmart for the unbelievable clearance price of $3!  I can't imagine why they would be so cheap.  LOL

And I did finally go snorkeling.  We went to Lydgate Park where there is a section of the water blocked off with a rock wall.  (See above)  Just right for me.

Here I am all ready to take the plunge.

Diana was supposed to take a picture of me in the act, but she was distracted by some pigeons and by the time she looked again I was done.  But I  saw little blue fish, big blue fish, and little striped yellow fish.

This concludes our wonderful week on Kauai.  It was all I could have hoped for - a true tropical paradise.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day Six

When Diana first suggested we take a helicopter ride, I said, "No way!"  I just don't trust them.  But after thinking about it, I realized that is really the best way to see all the beauty of Kauai and, after all, you only live once.

We researched all the many companies who offer this service and picked Mauna Loa Helicopters.  When we saw their office, we just hoped they put all their profits into the helicopters.

We chose this company for two reasons - they use small four-seater helicopters, so nobody gets stuck in the center and they give the option to fly with the doors off!

I was quick to say, "Doors off!".  After all if the thing crashes, that flimsy door certainly isn't going to save me.

But when our pilot Guy began explaining how the controls worked, I started to worry that he expected me to fly the thing.

We had chosen our seats ahead of time - me in the front and Diana in the back.  I'm ready to go!

And so is Diana.  The fourth seat was empty.

We took off and passed over Lihue and the bay where our cruise ship docked last year.
Diana's picture

Then we crested the old crater surrounding Lihue . . .
Diana's picture

And flew over the southern part of the island.

Soon we headed up one of the many canyons

To the famous Jurassic Falls, technically Manawaiopuna Falls, featured in the movie Jurassic Park.

I think Guy would have taken us down lower, but there was another helicopter in the way.  That's okay, I liked this unusual view.

I also was fascinated to see how one waterfall flows into the next.  Not something you can see from the ground.

Then we headed up colorful Waimea Canyon. According to Wikipedia, waimea is Hawaiian for red water.  Guy was very informative throughout the trip, but I'm afraid I don't remember much of what he said.  I was too busy gawking.
(Nasty reflections out the front windshield)

We recognized the waterfall we had seen from the viewpoint when we drove up the canyon rim.

Diana even caught part of a rainbow as we passed.
Diana's picture

At the top of the canyon, we hopped over the viewpoint.

And admired the view from the air. (See how much better the pictures are without that nasty window in the way?)
Diana's picture

I guess the Na Pali coast is hazy, even on the clearest days.

Other direction.

Guy took us up another valley . . .

And back out again.

We had a lot of similar pictures.  At one point, Diana took a picture . . .
Diana's picture

As I was taking the same picture.

We had a view of the northern end of the island, before turning inland again.

I had trouble taking vertical pictures without getting the helicopter frame in the shot, but I thought this interesting waterfall was worth posting.

And I don't know if you can tell, but my head is lifted in this picture.  I think I was helping the helicopter to get over that ridge.
Diana's picture

Guy took us into the Mt. Waialeale crater which he said is usually inaccessible due to clouds.  We certainly picked the right day.

We needed even more than Diana's wide-angle lens to capture the whole side of the caldera.
Diana's picture

All too soon, we headed over the eastern side of the island and back to the airport.  That's Sleeping Giant in the distance.   Personally, I don't get it.

And you can see how the Wailua River and falls cut into the farmland.
Diana's picture

We couldn't have been happier with our trip, our pilot Guy, and Mauna Loa Helicopters.  It was truly an experience of a lifetime.