A Green Spring....

Saying this post is late is perhaps an understatement, but as my knee convalescence drags on, I have no excuse to procrastinate further.

In sum, it was a spring of "green", although not so much because of the color.  In Arizona, despite what some people think, we do have lots of green year-round!  Many envision "hot, brown and nothing worth seeing".  But, we who know it better, know much better!  The myriad of colors -- the brilliant blue sky, the evergreens, the exposed earth basically offering you the cliff-notes of local geology. The intoxicating scents -- the mesquite, pine, cypress, their crispness, and my all-time favorite the creosote especially during monsoon season when it plumps up w/moisture.  The life, the history, the good livin',...!   I could go on and on and on about how much I still dig this place!

But, this past winter and spring, my life seemed to revolve around "green" -- my Grandmother who was the last woman on our side of the family to carry the married surname Green and the Verde River (spanish green), the latter which gives life to much of Arizona.   Per my previous post, our grandmother's final days were swift but she was super sharp til the end, and I'd had a few of my final phone chats w/her while I was walking along various spots on the Verde and she at her home in Florida.

I didn't realize the "green" connection at the time nor the awesomeness of how much they both gave so much vibrant life and brought everyone together.  She for the family, and the river for its life-sustaining water.

At the time, I'd merely been trying to find other things to do outdoors which gave me some wind in my face and still-injured-knee more time to heal...and of course to escape the "cold" of the higher elevations near home.

I spent many days paddling (stand-up paddleboard / SUP) along different sections of the river, though mainly in its dammed sections, some of AZ's best lakes.  The lakes are fantastic nuggets of the state and for the most part are quiet and unvisited in the winter/spring especially midweek.  Sheep, bald eagles, coyotes, wild donkeys, cattle and wild horses were regularly within sight, quenching their thirst from the wild and generally inaccessible river's flow.

And of course the bike.  Duh.  Since all my lil' hinge would really allow was some easy spinning, I'd scouted some long empty desert dirt roads where I could camp then just spin to my heart's content.

So remote in fact that sometimes I actually packed a little heat, something I rarely do.  Maybe I'd need it against some hungry mountain lion at dawn, or a bored ol' cattle rustler, or.....just felt like the right thing to do in certain locales.

However, of all those remote excursions, the only time I got a little sketched out, the heat wouldn't have been much use, sadly.  I was on my bike on an old fireroad seeking the old historic Sheeps Bridge.  The day was getting warm already and I was definitely having to pay attention to water supply versus mileage away from homebase (aka the truck).

I crested a hill and lo and behold there's big daddy rattler sprawled out across the road sunnin' himself.  I could relate, after all the sun felt great. But, he was blocking my way and wasn't going to budge.  I waited a few seconds and took the opportunity to snap some pics.  I was still a good 15-20 feet away and didn't feel too threatened.

Until. He. Got. Annoyed.  He rared his head back, giving me the ol' cockeye all while setting his rattler in full-throttle.  Instinct kicked in and I swear I felt sweatglands open in places I didn't know existed...my shins??  Wha??  So, now ol daddy simply refused to let me pass thru his sundeck.  Errr.  Rolled a few small rocks his direction which were not met kindly.  I then got mad.  I FULLY INTENDED TO FIND THAT SHEEP'S BRIDGE SO OL DADDY NEEDS TO CHILL THE EFF OUT AND LET ME PASS.   Eventually, after I told him that I was just a guest, he slithered up the bank and disappeared into the brush; I'm quite sure that when I pedaled past that I was at mock-speed, breath-held, traps fully stressed toward my ears and probably eyes squinted if not fully-closed (the same thing I do unintentionally sometimes on the dirtbike on rocky drops beyond my skill-level...ha!)  Point being, neither that little sidearm nor pepper-spray would've done much good w/ol daddy rattler.
(Oh by the way, he was the 5th snake I'd seen since sunrise.  Ah, another day in the life...)

And some other days and sections of the Verde...


( Fun friend TD & I playing along the northern sections of the Verde. )

( Right up against the river, a cool campsite for sure, assuming no one else is around. This night was totally unplanned. Fortunately my combo of stocked-rations and some leftover lunch was good enough for sunrise brekkie - sardines and strawberries. Yum??  )

 ( One of my now-favorite spots to set up camp now; ok well not now as it's 1 zillion degrees down that low, but come November, I'll be back! )

The Verde,
special chats with my grandmother,
the sun,
brilliant blue skies,
wide open space...
   ...Spring 2014.



Slide Fire

Quick post and a few pics from my tiny lil optic/experience w/the recent devastating Slide Fire up Oak Creek Canyon.  I was on the other side of the globe when it broke out and started getting bombarded by friends' emails asking if my house was ok. (Yes, mi casa is surrounded by far more pavement/urbania that I'd like.....hopefully the market will improve soon so I can get my bootay farther off-grid.)  

Knowing/loving this unique area intimately (see two links below* for some recent pics/adventures)
, knowing some of the local firefighters, remembering the tragedy last year of losing those fallen 19 FFs at the Yarnell fire, and already constantly annoyed by the tourists, their "need" for campfires and cigarettes, it was driving me nuts to hear about it -- the safety of the people working the fire, the air quality for my friends nearby, the wildlife, and of course preserving the gorgeous land itself.  

I finally got back into town late in the afternoon, with sight of the huge plumes of smoke filling the sky visible from miles away.  See this fantastic pic taken by my local insta-bud Drtjump....  Pretty much sums up the grandeur and what it looked like rolling back in town from the south.  Urghhh....

I was happy to be home and to finally sleep in my own bed, but at 0330 woke up feeling like I was going to suffocate because the air quality was so bad. In town, we were getting this weird atmospheric inverse(?) each night/morning which pushed most of the smoke/ash down the canyon to us.  It had somewhat cleared up by midday, but after another night of that, I decided to just pack up the truck/bike/sup and hit the hills for a few days.  Headed up to unaffected perches of the Mogollon Rim to camp, fend off some jetlag and reacquaint myself w/AZ.  

Much respect to those working the fire (the work continues) and to those still trying to find the perpetrator.  

Please don't smoke in AZ. 
Please don't feel the need to have a campfire just bc you're sleeping outside.  Wear a jacket.  
Eat normal food that need not be charred.  
Plan ahead. 
If you must have a fire, do so responsibly.....in a "safe" area, conscious of wind/etc., have a shovel/ax, don't leave it unattended, and don't leave the area until you know (for hours!!) that's it's totally out.  
It's like clearing a weapon -- check it once, twice, friggin 10 times!

Anyway, the fire is contained up to about 90-95% today and the air is clearer earlier in the days now.  

A few pics always trump words....

Base camp elsewhere for a few days....

Once back home, still nursing a tender knee, I thought early the next morn would be the best time to get in a road ride assuming the air quality wouldn't be too bad . . . up the canyon to spin the legs and to see the carnage.  (The road would otherwise be closed for the next month since they're doing construction at the switchbacks/top anyway....meaning less traffic too...an added perk!)

Taken from just north of town looking up the canyon; you can barely see Midgley bridge here.

Below...as I posted on IG:  "Expecting the worse but found some of the best: still lots of green, no traffic, songbirds and ravens flew alongside, two herds of deer, a few skunks, lots of chipmunks, rested firefighters, clean air by 0830, oh and an un-achy knee.  #makinglemonade #slidefire #sliderock #cycling #pleasedontsmokeinaz#pleasewearajacketnotacampfire #ijustwannaride"

(Slide Rock....a little over an later on my way back down the canyon...wind had picked up and much of the smoke had lifted. First time I've EVER not seen hordes of people playing in the water...it was awesome to say the least!)

There was definitely some carnage up there but with all the green foliage in full bloom, it was hard to see.  (But you can scour the internet for pics the crews took of the burns; personally I didn't leave the pavement....still not allowed to anyway as the fire is not 100% contained.) Surely the carnage on the eastside of the ridgeline (west of road) will be more exposed in the winter.

Please burn responsibly.

* Links: 

 - Schillingsworth's tale of our recent traverse of the top of the canyon along the rim which btw during the fire was all totally closed off and perhaps burned (definitely the Woody area); 
 - Half-Dirty Century  - an old post of mine.