Isolation Blues: Into The Great Wide Open Part–1

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

Carolyn had decided to take June off of work from Southwest Airlines on what they call Emergency Time Off, a way to effectively reduce payroll without laying people off. We had planned on going to Carlsbad, CA for a weekend getaway but due to closures in CA, we had to make some adjustments. So, we started looking in earnest at Southern Utah and booking rooms at Hilton properties located in close proximity to Escalante and Bryce. Lucky for us, we found Kanab, UT with employee rates available and booked it immediately and jumped in our car two days later for an impromptu road trip in some of the most beautiful and fascinating land in all of the USA.

First stop, Buckskin Gulch off of Route 89. We drove in to the Wire Pass Trailhead and got underway during the early afternoon hours.

It was hot and dry but little to no people would be found on our out and back trip into the gulch. This was a quick 7 or 8 mile hike into the slot canyon that gave us our first real journey into narrow slots that can be quite dangerous if it rains somewhere. There are those who get permits and hike up to 40+ miles one-way. My first sojourn into these canyons gave me a feeling of claustrophobia since the canyons are narrow and once in the canyon, you really don’t have any way out except coming back from where you started or continuing on in a backpacking journey that requires a permit. It is a different type of beauty and you can become overwhelmed looking straight up to see the sides of the canyons and a narrow slice of sky.

When Wire Pass Trail hits Buckskin Gulch, there are some very well defined petroglyphs plus some recent bozo-brained drawings that some fools have marked on the walls. It is so irritating.

Upon our return out the area on a dirt road, we get back on Route 89 and head to Kanab and check in at the Hampton Inn. The hotel industry has been decimated by the COVID 19 pandemic but the Hampton is still open with about 1/3 of the original workforce. No hot breakfast served but it is clean and quiet. The front desk clerk recommends the Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen, a vegan restaurant, that serves pizza and Zion Brewery draft beer. We go for dinner and are not disappointed. They are short staffed due to trouble finding anyone wanting to come back to work that is currently receiving the CARES unemployment. Tough environment. The outside seating is a plus and our “Angel’s Landing” pie is fabulous. (House made olive tapenade, spinach, artichoke, mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic) Our manager gives us a smoking deal on a growler of Zion Brewing beer, (keep the growler) plus two drafts for $15. What a great taste for some tired hikers. We walk back to our hotel ready to take on another road trip in the morning towards the Escalante area.

I decide to stop into the front desk area to thank the front desk clerk for her excellent recommendation and wait for her to check in the guest in front of her. The masked guest turns and says something to the effect of “imagine seeing you here”. Oh my, it is our own family doctor, Dr. James Schouten from Payson, AZ. Here I am holding a half full growler of beer having a conversation with my personal doctor in Kanab. What a small world it can be. Truly an unforgettable end to a great start of our impromptu journey into the great wide open.


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Isolation Blues: The Trials and Trails Of Social Distancing–Part 6

Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” Hans Christian Andersonfullsizeoutput_9ef

Cooped up and getting hot, Carolyn and I head to the Payson area to start off the month of May. Caitlin and Kevin join us for the weekend and we enjoyed the cooler weather, with a backyard evening fire and a hike near Pine. Day is warm but sunshine and freedom, is a good thing. After our hike we head to the Old County Inn for some beer and food. If you ever get to Pine you have to go to there for excellent pizza and some great staff that work there. A former student of mine is one of the managers so we enjoy catching up and the excellent food.

Our next bigger hike is one we have never done, West Clear Creek Trail #17. Just beautiful. We head down a dirt road to get to the trail head at Bullpen and there are quite a few vehicles parked. We would soon discover that most were there not for a hike but a swim in the creek. The area is lush, green, running water, and for us a whole day of solitude. We got a later start then we planned but encountered nobody on our hike out and about four hikers on our return trip. It was hot but you could cool down in the creek if one wants to since you are going to cross it about four times.

On our way back to our vehicle, we walked directly towards the sun and it was hot. Our total adventure ended up at 9.5 miles hiked and multiple memories on a trail that was less traveled on a Thursday. Tired and thirsty, our next stop was Sedona.

We checked in at the Hilton (furloughed guys still get employee rates) and headed to one of  our new favorite watering holes, the Sedona Beer Company. Good local brews, good food (Grilled chicken sandwich was excellent, and a good vibe with good patio seating. Kicking back enjoying life away from the city, socially distancing on the trails and the brewery. We even made some new friends that enjoyed hiking and traveling and who were doing their own staying at home in their airbnb that they owned. Great day and a great evening.

Headed back to the heat and the valley of the sun as restaurants/bars seemingly are coming to life once the stay at home orders were lifted. I’m still out wearing my mask at Costco and other high trafficked areas. Back to the canals for some hot bike rides that now have hardly anybody on them due to the heat.

Memorial Day weekend rolls around and once again Carolyn and I head back to Payson and once again are joined by Caitlin, Kevin, and “Grandma” Carol. Highlights include a nice secluded trail that leaves the Pine trailhead where there were many campers due to the three day weekend. Carolyn, Caitlin, Kevin, and I took off on the Oak Spring Trail and hiked a total of 7.6 miles with an elevation gain of 1040 feet. We never encountered a single person on the trail and had some great views, solitude, and Mother Nature.

Next stop was to the County Inn for post hike beverages and appetizers. This place was packed and no social distancing in sight. Carolyn and I began to plot out our next adventure coming up which was originally taking us to Carlsbad, CA for some r & r time.

Flexibility is key and coming up next is a big break from our stay at home days. As a reminder one must have sunshine and freedom, and don’t forget that little flower.dw7CAwXDToii9KA7kXuwVg

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Isolation Blues: The Trials and Trails of Social Distancing–Chapter 5

Still furloughed but not locked down, I look for multiple ways to keep active during the crisis. Of course I watch some Netflix but in reality I am keeping busy without TV. My book reading has increased as I continue to read some good ones. Carolyn has now been working from home in our small condo so I attempt to find ways to keep out of sight and out of mind. My bike rides to Costco, Sprouts, Safeway, etc have definitely increased as well as just getting out on the canals.

On the canals, I have been entertained by the young ducks who were recently born and out swimming with their mothers.

As I ride along the canals, I have discovered some interesting places to grab libations. OSHO Brewing (Arcadia) located right on the canal has been the benefactor of multiple stops by me. They are always friendly and welcoming plus good price on beers to go, (meaning enjoy on the canal). Further on in the Old Town Scottsdale area, Blue Clover Distillery has had great prices on to go beers for $2.00 up to 64 oz. Smoking deal and a fun place to stop while riding around. SIP Coffee and Beer in Scottsdale also has been a nice stop on my biking journeys with either Jordyn or Carolyn.

On my trips back to Payson, I have returned to my bygone days of walking/hiking and picking up aluminum cans along the journeys. Headed west out of Payson along Doll Baby Ranch road, I am constantly surprised at the number of items tossed out of vehicles along the road. Now I don’t pick up all trash just the cans as I eventually turn them in for a few dollars as a fun way for me to get some exercise and a small reward for that exercise.

The area down to the ranch is quite scenic and I’m sure those that pass my on the road probably wonder what I’m doing dragging around a bag with cans but I’ve been doing these things since the 1970’s. Carolyn has been a good sport and joined me for several days of long walks in the sunshine (think Vitamin D) picking up cans. One of our finds included a Trump for President pin that Carolyn discovered on the side of the road.

After some of these walks, I have been able to social distance sip some bourbon with my Payson friend Mike and sip some Scotch with my friend and neighbor, Sir Andrew Sarcinella. Always fun to discuss life over some good Scotch or bourbon.

Our daughter Jordyn even suggested a walk picking up cans to relive some of her days picking up cans with Dad. That walk took us along a very popular OHV trail close to the East Verde River and we were shocked at the amount of trash left behind from people who used the road for dumping household garbage. My days walking roads has been quite rewarding and fun as the company has been great and getting outdoors picking up some cans has been a great flashback to bygone days. One can only wish that people would have some common courtesy and common sense that littering our great outdoors is a giant travesty. If every one would do their part the obvious would not have to be stated.

Back to Phoenix I go, looking forward to more adventure in the simple things in life. Low cost and low budget is the way it is when furloughed. Coming up some new hikes and adventures as rules are relaxed

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Isolation Blues: The Trials and Trails of Social Distancing–Chapter 4

This isolation thing is in full swing as we approach the second Thursday in April. Carolyn  has made it through another essential work week and we are looking forward to some new adventures. To get our weekend going, Carolyn borrows Jordyn’s bike and we head off down the canal into Scottsdale and over to Goldwater Brewing Company where we pick up a crowler (canned growler) of their famous Desert Rose a Cactus Kolsch to enjoy later in the week. We cruise around enjoying the ride and stop on our way back down the canal at O.H.S.O. Brewery and Distillery. It is a fun stop along the canal and we order some beer and a turkey burger. They informed us that happy hour prices were in effect and the place seems to be doing quite well and weathering the COVID 19 storm. Our beer of choice is the Popcycle Blonde, a Lemon-Raspberry Golden Lager. rRY+uKspRt6346KP5YU4zgIt is quite refreshing and a perfect warm-weather brew. Just sitting on the canal enjoying life watching people pass on by makes for a great late afternoon adventure. By the time I arrive at the condo, I have logged 26 miles on my New Belgium Fat Tire bicycle. As they say, “Shop Local, Drink Local”! We consider that essential.

Friday is hike a different trail for us. This is Good Friday and I’m hoping to make it a Great Friday. Carolyn and I head north on I-17 and are pleased that there isn’t much traffic. Go figure. Our first stop is along the interstate for a small loop trail hike, Richinbar Mine and Pueblo Trail, located in the Aqua Fria National Monument that promises us some petroglyphs by the canyon. A bit over 2 miles relatively flat but once again completely social distanced since there is only one soul we will see on our hike.

You can walk further to check out more of the mining type ruins in the area but we were content to see a few of the mines and ruins that are right off the eastern most part of the trail. The canyon is very scenic and you can spot the Aqua Fria River. Talk about just a fun time being together being able to relax and take in different scenery along the way. The petroglyphs are not disappointing.

On our way back we encounter one elderly person who has been sighting his rifle. Very friendly and shows a photo plus tells us about another large petroglyph rock that is hard to find and at another exit. We think we will wait until snake season subsides before we go bushwhacking our way through the tall grass. Great start to our day. Our next stop is a very popular area that has many people around due to easy access to the river and with COVID-19 lockdowns in place, more and more people trying to get outdoors.

The Badger Springs Trail follows a spring to the confluence of where it connects to the Aqua Fria River. You can tell that many come here for swimming and recreating. To get extra hike in, we park our car at the very first parking area and then walk about a mile to the actual trailhead. There are some nice petroglyphs at the confluence. The water is running both in the springs and the river. A great day for some small hikes.

Another fun day of exploring things that we haven’t done before. Once again, water in the desert is always a blessing.

Easter Sunday arrives and I get out on my bike and ride with Jordyn and James through Paradise Valley, across Indian Bend, down the Hayden Greenbelt to Tempe Town Lake and by the time I get back home, I have taken my cruiser 41 miles. That is quite the workout on a single speed heavy bike but glad I did it. For Easter Dinner, Carol, my mother-in-law, has roasted a leg of lamb. Great way to finish out the day with a social distanced dinner by myself since Carolyn is at work.

Still managing to occupy my time with various projects and biking around the area. Coming soon are some observations from my journey on some things I have picked up on. Yes, I can say I have yet to watch a single news conference concerning COVID 19. I get all my fun filled facts from Facebook, sarcasm noted and intended. Yup, I think I have heard all. It is my Friday and Sunday was a coming.

For Carolyn and I, we are going to keep on living our lives and if that means wearing a mask, oh well, but we are going to be outdoors absorbing that antioxidant Vitamin D.

Stay safe my friends but for the love of God, get outdoors and don’t be held prisoner to your physical home. You can still social distance when leaving the safety of your home. Next stop, Payson.

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Isolation Blues: The Trials and Trails of Social Distancing Chapter 3

Friday March 13, 2020, I got the news that I was being furloughed (thanks to COVID-19) and I was alarmed since I have always worked with little time away from doing something active. These first few weeks went like a flash and the weather only improved so outdoors activities were becoming a norm for me. I now had my cruiser bike to hit areas around our Phoenix condo and when Carolyn is off work, we hit some local hiking spots.

The day after we were in the Camp Verde, we decided to explore some of the Aqua Fria River areas north of Phoenix. We hiked about 12 miles or so with a couple thousand feet elevation gains. The weather was beautiful, the trails had few hikers (less then 10 we encountered) for a Friday.

We had to cross the river on our journey and it always something special to see running water in the desert. Another area that we had never explored and another trail where social distancing was an easy thing. Once again we pondered, why have we never been here before. Thanks to a Jordyn recommendation we chose something completely different and well worth the 2000 feet elevation gains.

Since we have no breweries to go to we just sat and enjoyed a craft beer upon our finish and later we did grab some fish sandwiches from Ingo’s that were absolutely the best. Mouth watering, curbside pick up. Can’t go wrong with that place.

For Carolyn’s third day away from work, we walked the canal to the Biltmore golf course for exercise and a beer from The Adobe. Sitting under tree with a draft-craft beer. Good way to spend a Saturday. Once we get back we continue to plow our way through Bordertown on Netflix. Aunt Em recommended and we love it.

I’ve learned to relax, well sort of relax, right after washing clothes, cleaning floors, etc. I have taken to riding my bicycle to the grocery stores since I might as well get some exercise. I refuse to watch news, except local news in the mornings and of course I have found myself reading Facebook posts more often, engaging in battles on local news sites with some that I just love to irritate. In other words my time is occupied.

I also got to enjoy another ride down the canal with Jordyn and James. Always fun to get out. On my rides I notice that there are many who appear to have never ridden a bike before, others who are now jogging who have never jogged before. Bicycle sells must have skyrocketed as well as bright shiny running shoes. Most of the canal goers are polite, while some have no idea of courtesy and common sense rules of sharing pathways. I’ve been cranking it up to 30 miles some days. I’m staying occupied. Soon Carolyn will be off again, and we will be hitting the road for some more close by hikes and adventures.

More to follow with some petroglyph hunting coming soon. Some cool stuff that we had never done before. Stay tuned.

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Isolation Blues: The Trials and Trails of Social Distancing–Part Two

Onto another week of being furloughed and figuring out how I am going to spend my time without spending my money. After a disappointing week of weather, picking up littered aluminum cans, shredding documents no longer needed, and social distancing from my spouse, (me in Payson, Carolyn in Phoenix) I return to the Valley of the Sun to hang out with Carolyn on her days off.

Just in time for some binge watching of The Tiger King, and some cool new movies streamed into the living room–Dark Waters, and 1917.

Joe Exotic and company left me feeling quite contaminated and was quite stunned to see that Joe had actually received almost 20% of the vote when running for governor in Oklahoma. I will say we got through it in one day and thankfully I don’t have to revisit such weirdness. The movies were fantastic and we enjoyed both them from the comfort of our living room delivered through Redbox online. It was a good weekend to stay indoors while trying to avoid the news at all costs. The Pandemic COVID-19 was all that seemed to be discussed. After talking to Aunt Emilie, she said she was watching Bordertown on Netflix. We went with her recommendation and it is fascinating. Takes place in Finland on the border with Russia. Good detective show and highly recommend for some entertainment. Very graphic but oh well, that’s life.

It’s the last Sunday in March and Carolyn took off to work, and I took off to explore the canals on my single speed New Belgium cruiser bicycle. I haven’t ridden too much and have never rode this bike as it sat in the garage for almost six years. Long story on how I acquired in but lets just say I had the winning hand. Anyhow I ride from our condo on the Arizona Canal from 16th St to 59th Ave. After Central Ave, nobody is out on this section of the canal as it becomes a bit sketchy with lots of litter and abandoned shopping carts and riding through the underpasses becomes challenging. Once I got past the Metro Center area, then thing change with others out on the canal walking and riding. This ride amounted to 21+ miles and I’m liking it.

I’ve decided to get out and explore various routes off of the Arizona Canal. Carolyn goes to work, I look to avoid work around the house that is. One can only sweep the floors, do the laundry, clean the bathroom, fix the meals, make the bed, etc so many times before boredom sets in. Of course I’m still reading away but I need to be outside, so day two on the canal takes me on a 10 mile roundtrip but day 3 on the canals take me into Old Town Scottsdale and Tempe Town Lake for a 30+ mile trip. I ride by the Arizona Falls on the canal and see some mountain goats at the zoo plus I get a good look at my daughter Caitlin’s office on Tempe Town Lake.

On April Fools’ Day, I head down the canal for another 30 mile trip over to Indian Bend Wash and stop at Pima Road before returning. It really is a beautiful day and I find myself relaxing and just taking my time just enjoying areas that I haven’t been. Many newbies out walking and riding. The Scottsdale Waterfront area of restaurants, condos. offices, etc is quite stunning. The journey is most enjoyable. IMG_3686

On Thursday, Carolyn is off work so we take our time getting around but we decide to head towards Camp Verde for a hike we have never done. The ride is nice as less traffic is on the road and we get to an area that is easily accessible, less traveled, and a nice scenic hike. We see water and only a total of 5 people on our four mile loop trail that gets us 400 foot elevation gains and a smooth trail that is easy on the feet. Relaxing and being with Carolyn alone on the trail is perfect.

To see running water and a spring fed waterfall is quite special to us. In the desert water is extra special and just being in nature during these isolating times brings about a peace and it is so spiritual to be out alone in a spiritual setting. You can still find less traveled (social distancing) trails during these times where more and more people are outdoors. No reason to hang with the crowds.

No breweries today, only a quick trip through the drive through at Starbucks in Camp Verde.

Be Blessed!

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Isolation Blues: The Trials and Trails of Social Distancing–Part One

As I sit in isolation with my dog, I thought why not catch up on some of my own trials and some trails that I have blazed during these quarantined times.

On the first Friday of March COVID-19 was becoming much more then a blip on the radar in the USA with more and more spread and more and more discussion of what would happen. People had started cancelling trips, toilet paper was becoming a commodity of great value, and the run on paper towels, sanitizing items, bleach, and canned foods was in full swing. So Carolyn and I took off to hike up Black Mountain in Carefree.  I’m not certain why we had never hiked this trail but we loved it. It is approximately 2.2 mile roundtrip with close to a 1300 foot elevation gain over the 1+ miles to the summit. Hardly anybody on the trail and it was great as we were rewarded with some great 360 degree views. At the summit is the USMC flag which is kept in great shape. Trail rocky and steep and of course always be on the lookout for snakes since hikers sometimes encounter them on the trail. Much preferred this trail to Piestewa and Camelback due to less people and less steps.  Much more forgiving on back and knees. Afterwards we stopped by one our favorite places, the Cave Creek Beer Company which is part of Indigo Crow. Beer is good and food is good and Happy Hour is awesome.

The following Thursday, March 12, the Coronavirus was now becoming a major issue in the USA as travel was being impacted and events being canceled, yet Carolyn and I decided to hop on Southwest Airlines and head to San Diego in the rain to continue our quest to finish the Five Peak Challenge in Mission Trails Regional Park. Our plane was half full as travel had become impacted with the fear of contacting COVID-19. After landing in San Diego, we jumped on the bus and headed into the city to pick up our rental car to drive to the park. Rain was initially light but became quite heavy. We were able to get to the summit of Cowles Mountain and from there we hiked across to Pyles Peak. We got drenched and socked in by the clouds so there wasn’t any views for us but it was quite the adventure. Drenched, muddy, cold, and tired we still hiked 6.5 miles with total elevation gain of around 1900 feet. We started at the Golfcrest Drive Trailhead. On our way up to Cowles Mountain, we did see a few hikers but not many. From Cowles to Pyles and back, we saw zero hikers. So in some ways it really was fun to be out and on our own.

On the way back to drop off our rental car, we stopped at Costco so Carolyn would have some dry pants to wear. And we actually saw toilet paper. After dropping the car off, we got on the trolley and headed over to the bus depot area, and hopped on the bus to Hotel Del Coronado. Upgraded our room since hardly anybody was there as the hotel was very quiet. Even left extra toilet paper.

We walked on over to the Brigantine Seafood Restaurant for happy hour. Food was amazing and we had some craft beers that we had never tasted.

Friday came along and time to head out after breakfast and few stops at local breweries. During the day, I received a call that I was being furloughed since the number of cancellations at the hotel had become numerous. We also received a call from the St. John family that since the cost of plane tickets had plummeted, they were headed to Arizona to visit. So I wouldn’t working but would have the opportunity to visit with friends we haven’t seen in way too long.

The airport was sort of chaotic as rumors on COVID-19 were flying around and it appeared that many were trying to get home. Our flight was full and we were happy to be on it as they had combined some flights to make ours a full one.

Back to Arizona and beginning my furlough while Carolyn heads off to chaos in the airline industry. Panic is setting in and the first wave of restaurants and bars in the Phoenix closing for only curbside and to go service takes place. No toilet paper, cleaning products, and panic buying in the grocery and meat departments begins in earnest. The St. Johns arrive and we head off Payson where things are still open for business but panic buying has arrived with many empty shelves. The weather is not cooperative so we are stuck indoors for most of their visit. Of all the times for lousy weather, this would be that time. Carolyn arrives on Thursday, beat up from a horrendous week of work at Southwest. To add to it, Carolyn and I are both not at our best physically.

Anyhow we finally get a break in the weather on Saturday and we all head to Pine for a stop at the Randall House. That was disappointing as you could clearly tell they were not happy to have us as guests. From there we went to Tonto Natural Bridge and were able to walk around but the trails down to the creek were closed due to an abundance of rain and trail damage. It was great to see the sun and be outdoors in a beautiful setting. Carolyn heads back to Phoenix for work and the St. Johns head back on Sunday so they catch their plane back to Michigan. It was good to see Rachel, Ryan, their sons and daughter and they all seem to be doing well.

As we head into a new week, I stay in Payson with Roxy, our dog, for a few extra days piddling around the house, getting out picking up aluminum cans along the roadways, and finding time to read. Carolyn is still not feeling well but with no fever continues work. On my trip back to Phoenix, I decide to bring my cruiser down so I can get out and ride the canals and streets of Phoenix as I combat the isolation blues. Stay at home orders are on the horizon. It’s a strange time and I know there are more trials to overcome and more trails to discover. To be continued.

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I Can See Clearly Now

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies
By Johnny Nash
It was a time to revisit our routes from bygone days and back to Payson, AZ we traveled for some hiking adventures and some R & R. After some deliberation, Carolyn and I decided to hike See Canyon Trail #184 located in the Christopher Creek area. Carolyn invited one of her “work-related” daughters, Ms. Carly Brock to tag along. Carly has hiked with us in the past and she was looking to get back in the forest so she drove up and met up at Starbucks. She was probably unaware that we were going to drag her up and down on a seven mile hike with some tiring elevation gains.

The trail head is located two miles down a dirt road and upon arrival there were multiple cars in the area. I’m thinking we just might have company on our hike and was I ever wrong. The trail is not a simple trail as you travel about 3.5 miles up the canyon to Forest Road #300. It is rated as difficult and you climb over 1750 feet. The trail is rocky but in great condition and fairly easy to follow. We took our time and just enjoyed the beautiful weather and the conversation.

On the way up we encountered not a single hiker and on the way down we encountered one hiker on her way up. It should be noted that we encountered her on the way down as she passed us as we were hanging out.

There was some color present in the leaves but not much for this early October hike.

It was not the easiest hike to get back in the forest but Carly was a trooper and didn’t complain much except when I told her that we were done with the elevation gain only to find out we still had more to climb. I felt some remorse but only for a moment and just pushed her along. It was fun. In some ways this trail is has a very anticlimactic finish since you never really get any view points to see for miles. With that being said, it is great hike to get away from people and just to be in the fresh air away from the city and the desert. You also can see where fire has been in the forest with downed trees and burned areas.

After finishing we head back to Payson. Carly is glad she came, tired but it was fun to revisit and discuss all aspects of our lives in fun conversation. She may have been tired but I know she loved every minute of it.

Carly headed back to Phoenix, and Carolyn’s mom, Carol and I head off to El Rancho for some fun and frolic plus a drink and dinner. Carolyn visits her friend Ashley and stops by El Rancho on her way home. We had a fun time visiting with multiple people we haven’t seen in awhile and by the way El Rancho is the only place I know of in Arizona that you can purchase Honey Hips Strong Ale from Latitude 33, a fabulous craft beer.

The following day, Carol, Carolyn, and I head out on a road trip to the Rim area just leisurely viewing multiple areas but we stop back at the See Canyon Trailhead to do the remaining See Spring Trail #185 hike. It is about 2.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of close to 500 feet. Lots of water and shaded and an enjoyable time back in the forest. Once again no hikers on our trail or tail.

If you like to get away from it all and have few folks around and don’t care about summiting some mountain top, See Canyon trails are really good for just clearing your head, and getting in a workout. Great hike to unwind and just be outdoors. Good times were had by all and back to the grind I headed. With the trip to forest I can honestly say, I can see clearly now.

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Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me

I’ve had my share of life’s ups and downs
But fate’s been kind, the downs have been few
I guess you could say that I’ve been lucky
Well, I guess you could say that it’s all because of you

If anyone should ever write my life story
For whatever reason there might be
Oh, you’ll be there between each line of pain and glory
Cause you’re the best thing that ever happened to me
Ah, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me

Oh, there have been times when times were hard
But always somehow I made it, I made it through
Cause for every moment that I’ve spent hurting
There was a moment that I spent, ah, just loving you

Songwriter: James D. Weatherly

Carolyn and I recently celebrated our birthdays on a delayed basis by heading to Truckee, CA for a stay in the Lake Tahoe area. These were special birthdays because I turned that magical, minimum age for being able to receive social security benefits (Of course I’m waiting) and Carolyn hit the double nickels. Carolyn has worked to put this trip together doing something that we had never experienced. So we headed to the mountains on our favorite airline, Southwest, and found a place to stay at our favorite hotel group, Hilton. If you don’t know by now, Carolyn works for Southwest and I work for the Hilton family of hotels.

Our first standby flight to Reno went just fine as we actually found seats together. This is often unusual since we are typically the last on the plane. After arriving in Reno, we grabbed our rental car and lo and behold I discovered a Costco located only a mile from the airport. Yes I just had to go to my favorite store for supplies, you know beer, bourbon, chips, dip–the essentials. After that little delay we headed off to Truckee to check in to the Hampton Inn and begin searching for our first adventure hike of the trip.

We found our way into Donner Memorial State Park. If you don’t know about the Donner group, you should check it out as it is fascinating history. We went into the museum and talked with a park employee, who was very helpful and suggested we drive up the road aways and hike some of the Pacific Crest Trail along Donner Peak and Judah Summit. We didn’t start until 3:00 or so but we did the loop trail and a side hike up to Donner Peak.

It was quite cold and windy but beautiful. Our elevation gain was over 1300 feet and along Judah Summit the wind was howling. We did 6 miles in 2.5 hours only getting off trail a couple times due to snow covered areas. We only encountered two hikers that were returning to trailhead at the start and two more as we returned to the trailhead.


This hike is absolutely gorgeous with great views of Donner Lake and some ski resort close by.

After we finished we headed back to Truckee and their historical downtown for an Alibi Ale Works Taproom. Great downtown area with the use of old buildings and turning them into a variety of restaurant/bar, coffee shops, retail uses.

Second Day, we head off on a road trip around the lake stopping for a hike through Paige Meadows on the Tahoe Rim Trail. We hiked on a beautiful day for about four miles. From there we headed up to Sugar Pine Point State Park which is just beautiful.

Back on the road we looped Lake Tahoe stopping in South Lake Tahoe at South Lake Tahoe Brewery. What a magnificent road trip for the day. After completion we headed back into historic downtown Truckee for a dinner and a beer. Retired early knowing that Carolyn had big plans for Saturday. Mount Rose looms ahead.

After day one, I was pretty beat up with back, hip, foot hurting, but I felt pretty good Saturday morning and we took off for Mount Rose. It is a beautiful morning as we head to Incline Village and on and up to Mount Rose Trailhead. Temperatures are good with the sun shining brightly. We arrive around 9:00 and begin the five mile climb to the top. Mount Rose has an elevation of 10785 feet and for the hike we will be climbing over 2200 feet to the summit. The trail is not too heavily traveled but it is nice to know there are others out on the trail. The first 2.5 miles is fairly mild with the final 2.5 miles adding significant elevation gains. At the beginning of the trail, the views of Lake Tahoe are breathtaking and worth just a short hike but we are not denied as we encounter icy walking conditions from a previous snowfall and muddy conditions from the melting snow.

The last mile is basically a scramble but a trail is prominent and no technical knowledge skills needed.

The wind is blowing and the temps are cold as we reach the top but it worth it. My breathing relaxes and we get to soak in the 360 degree views of the area from Reno to Tahoe.

We head back down and finish before 2 with a total travel time of 4:27. The thrill of finishing a hike like this is worth the toll taken on my body parts. I am beat up and worn out but at the same time I am jacked up on adrenaline highs. 

Carolyn and I head back to Truckee but stop in Incline Village at Alibi Ale Works to toast our accomplishment. Once arriving in Truckee, we figure we should stop at Truckee Brewing Company as well. After showering, we head to Fifty Fifty Brewing Company for a beer and dinner that includes an elk burger. Haven’t had that in awhile and it did not disappoint. 

Sunday morning, we eat breakfast at Marty’s Cafe, and have coffee at a local coffee shop. Truckee has not disappointed and we hate heading back to reality. And just so you know, we never once set foot in any casino. We were all about experiencing the great outdoors. We get on our flight with out any problem, separated but we both end up with window seats and back to Phoenix. 

What a great way to celebrate birthdays and each other. Craft Beer and outdoor adventures, doesn’t get much better then this. These adventures would not be possible without Carolyn. She has inspired me to new heights, adventures, and things that I would never have done without her. Believe it or not, she even enjoys the craft beer breweries as it has become traditional for us to hike and enjoy something new. Carolyn has been my great motivator and she really is the best thing that ever happened to me.

I’ve had my share of life’s ups and downs
But fate’s been kind, the downs have been few
I guess you could say that I’ve been lucky
Well, I guess you could say that it’s all because of you

Oh, you’ll be there between each line of pain and glory (Lots of pain this past week but oh the glory. Thanks Carolyn!)
Cause you’re the best thing that ever happened to me

If you don’t know who Gladys Knight is well you missed some great music. Here she is at 71 knocking it out of the ballpark. 


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I Will Still Rise

‘Cause when, when the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, you’re out of time
But still, I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don’t be surprised, I will still rise

Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson / Ali Payami / Savan Harish Kotecha / Max Martin

It seems like every September, Carolyn has me headed to the Grand Canyon for a march into the depths and then right back out again. This year she has secured rooms at the North Rim and this time we are going Rim to Rim, South to North. The plan is Carolyn and I will drive our one car and leave it at Bright Angel Trailhead and our daughter Jordyn will drive up to the North Rim with our other car and she will be hiking North to South so we will each have a car to get back home.

I’ve known about this hike for awhile so I did some preparation including a 13 mile hike in Sedona and a 10 mile hike in the Payson area but not as much as I have prepared in the past. I’ve been struggling with plantar fasciitis in my left foot and have been doing some self treatments and went in two days before our trip to get the cortisone shot to help alleviate the pain. I’ve bought inserts as well and for the most part I’m just sucking it up and doing it. My podiatrist has suggested that on my trip I should stretch every couple of miles and try to soak my foot in the Colorado River or along the Bright Angel Creek to help with inflammation and pain.

Carolyn and I head to the Canyon after work and some disagreements about when we are starting our trip down the Bright Angel Trail on 9-11 Day. Our disagreements are due to me not quite being packed and ready, thinking that we were headed down at Midnight instead of 10 p.m. My listening skills or should say my lack of comprehension skills tends to get me into trouble but we finally get on the road and have a smooth ride to Flagstaff where we stop at Smashburger for dinner before continuing on to the Canyon. We were quite disappointed in our choice of fast-food but we overcame and arrived at the Park well before our scheduled time so sticking with tradition we stopped at the Yavapai Tavern for some Buffalo Sliders (great) and yes I had to get my traditional Grand Canyon Brewery beer. This time I had the Pilsner and the bartender let me sample the “Hazy Angel” (a play on the Bright Angel) from Lumberyard. That might be my new traditional beer since it does have a Grand Canyon theme.

From the tavern to the Bright Angel Trailhead we go, with our packs, hiking poles, and our headlamps on, we are off and headed into the darkness at 10 pm with 24 miles of trail to travel. It is beautiful as the moon is 96% full and shining brightly. After a mile or so, Carolyn’s headlamp quits so now we have a tougher journey guided by the moon and my headlamp. It is slower going but that’s ok as we stop at all the rest areas for stretching of the calves to help with my foot issues. We encounter one group of four prior to Indian Gardens and another group of four at Indian Gardens both groups headed up to the South Rim. Other then those two brief encounters we are alone with only one headlamp and many mule deer. We take our time and arrive at Phantom Ranch before 4:00 a.m. We have traveled about 10 miles and have descended about 4,500 feet. We take a good long break allowing me to stretch and work the kinks out. (It helps)

Only 14 miles of trail ahead with a climb of 6,000 feet to the North Kaibab Trailhead. On our way to the Cottonwood campgrounds,  we find a spot that is easy to access the creek so I can stick my foot in for 20 minutes or so to help with the inflammation. (It helps) During this seven mile hike to Cottonwood, light has seeped into the Canyon but we are still in the shadows and the views are breathtaking. We have now come across hikers who had camped at Cottonwood and are moving on to the south. We stop at Cottonwood and stretch plus eat all those tasty morsels that Carolyn has packed for us. We have an encounter with a giant black bird who wants to steal our morsels and just hangs out a mere couple of feet from us. Our water is replenished and we are now facing the toughest part of our journey. I am becoming quite weary from the hike and the lack of sleep. Our next scheduled stop is Roaring Springs.

The sun is now in the Canyon and even though the temperature is great the sun beating on me only adds to my weariness. I continue on with Carolyn as my motivator, encourager, and inspiration. I’m discouraged as my aches and pains are wrecking havoc but I still manage one foot at a time. From Roaring Springs, we march on to Supai Tunnel having gained about 1600 feet in those three miles.

Stop, rest, stretch, drink some water, find some shade, yet press on another two miles and another 1400 feet gain. Carolyn is doing her best at keeping me encouraged. I’m beat, I’m literally doubting my ability to climb and climb and climb. To add to the difficulty, we encounter several large groups of tourists on mules. Ugh, they tear up the trail, making for difficult steps and of course you have to get out of their way. Those last two miles were just about the toughest two miles of my life. It takes me over 2.5 hours to finish off those miles. The sun is relentless on our backs as I make my final push to the top. I have Carolyn encouraging me, (I’m thinking why am I doing this) and somehow we rise up and out.

The trailhead is there right in front of us and with great excitement and a final push we arrive some 15 hours after we have started and over 31 hours since we last slept. I am overwhelmed, joyous, elated, proud, excited until I realize we have no way to the Lodge. We are still about two miles out. We discuss our options and decide that we should walk along the road and hitchhike since surely somebody will give us a ride. Multiple cars pass us by as we continue walking. (At least it’s flat) That idea sucked but I suppose I look like some deranged individual all beat down and dirty. After a mile, a worker from the lodge in his work van stops and takes us to the lodge. In case you were wandering, I slapped down a tip for the worker making his stop worthwhile.

We check in and head straight to the bar, grab a couple beers and head out on the lodge patio for a breathtaking view of the canyon. While there, we meet a couple from South Carolina and we proceed to tell with great enthusiasm our canyon stories. By this time, we have a small crowd around us listening and laughing as we are in a state of euphoria brought on by another great accomplish and great craft beers. Fun stuff but being beat up we go to our cabin, shower and crash as we had now been up over 36 hours.

Next thing I am brought out of my sleep by this banging noise on our cabin door and there stands Jordyn. She has arrived and back to sleep we go. I wake up around 4 with a magnificent view of the moon shining through our cabin window. It is spectacular as it sits just above the walls of the canyon to the west.

It becomes breakfast time and after eating, Jordyn has mapped out places for us to drive out on the North Rim with a small hike included. It is beautiful, breathtaking and little crowds as we spend most of the day driving, with walks, and scenery. The drive and walks to Point Imperial and Cape Royale are spectacular. It was a first for me and it left me in awe.

After a fun day, we eat dinner (bison burger for me) and head back to the cabin as Jordyn is getting up and catching a shuttle to the North Kaibab Trailhead to start her rim to rim at 3 a.m. Once again, I catch the moon over in the west and it brings a smile to my face. Nothing quite like a Friday the 13th full moon. Carolyn and I rise up and take a hike out on the rim in the early morning for some spectacular views.

While eating breakfast, Jordyn texts us and lets us know she has finished her North to South trip in less then six hours. All I can say, is wow! That’s crazy fast. After breakfast, we pack up and head on out with a stop in Flagstaff at the Historic Brewing Company and the newest Mother Road tap room. We arrive in Payson for the evening still on an adrenaline high and settle in to watch some Netflix. I suggest “Unbelievable” and wouldn’t you know it, we get caught up in a great series and some six+ hours later we finally crash. Road trips with Carolyn have become a way of life. I’m getting it done so don’t be surprised, I will still rise.

Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt
Oh, oh, oh, oh
You know it, you know it
Still rise
Just fight it, just fight it
Don’t be surprised, I will still rise

Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson / Ali Payami / Savan Harish Kotecha / Max Martin

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