So, one of the best parts about this trip is the people I have met along the way. I met Thereasa and Wade while hiking the Grand Canyon, and ended up sharing a campsite, wine and cards with them down at the bottom of the canyon.
For a little RnR before the big Rainier climb this weekend, I drove a few hours north of Seattle to visit them in their hometown of Bellingham WA. Thereasa didn’t ask me to take any portraits, but a quick glance at her beautiful daughters and the acres of buttercup fields and I couldn’t help myself! In exchange she cut and colored my hair (long overdue after 3 months!) and provided food, lodging, booze, coffee and good company for me and the doggies for a few nights.
We didn’t cover a ton of locations although the possibilities on her property and the surrounding area are virtually limitless. With 3 girls, 2 horses and a goat to photograph, I kept it as simple as possible. When you see how beautiful the girls’ smiles are, you will know how much fun I had photographing them.
Maci and Mia are Thereasa’s daughters, and Savannah is their cousin. I talked Savannah’s mom Tammy into getting in a few of the photographs. Tammy loved these so much she wants me to come back up after my Rainier climb and do a whole family session for them. You know I am excited to have a great excuse to come back up to this beautful part of the country.
All natural light, all 70-200L, canon 5D.
Joshua Tree is definitely beautiful, and if I was still rock climbing like I did back in the day, I can definitely see the draw. The pups, however, were not allowed on any trails, or “100 feet from any campground or paved road”. On leash or off, they were totally restricted here. I heard it was b/c of the Big Horn Sheep and that dogs can tranfer diseases to them, and they are endangered, so ok….but still we didn’t like it! We stayed 2 short nights, where 1 day was spent ‘cleaning house’ and attending a ranger talk. Then the 55mph winds kicked in, and sand was biting into any exposed surface, so I ran for my camper and went to be at 7pm. Party animal, I know!!
I did 1 short hike this morning before leaving, summitting Ryan Mountain. The hike is a 3 mile roundtrip, with a 1000 foot elevation gain in 1.5 miles, so it got the blood pumping.
Just a few photographs from Joshua Tree, and now we are off in search of places where the doggies can roam free. Or at least roam 8 miles on the trail at the end of their 6ft leashes ; p
So, following the decision to head west instead of north, I also decided to follow my new road trip idol William Least Heat Moon (check his book ‘Blue Highways’) and take some backroads down. The route is as follows
AZ 89 south
AZ 71 southwest
AZ 60 southwest
finally to I-10 West, and back to civilization
The problem with using an atlas instead of a topographical map is that you don’t really know what you are getting into on these backroads…. So, I ran into the Prescott National Forest and some pretty serious mountains along the way . No worries I thought, just sit back and enjoy the drive. You are on a road trip after all Alecia. Then I passed Hell Canyon. Alright. Some miles into my mountain adventure, I pulled over onto a little gravel pullout so that some people could pass me. Looking over, I noticed a dirt road leading down into the forest, and thought was a great place it would be to let Daisy and Max run around for a bit, as they had been cooped up for days…. Does anyone see where this is going??
So, not 30 seconds after starting to walk down the dirt road, I hear a snuffle/huffle sort of a noise, sounds like it is coming from the forest. hmmn, must just be Max sniffing around. 30 seconds later, my arm hairs are definitely on the rise, and I’m getting a little spooked as I’m sure someone is watching me. Just as I start to think it might be time to head back up the hill, I hear the noise again. And I’m sure it has come from my right, whereas Max is innocentley exploring the left hand side of the road. As I look up, I notice seveal large black shapes in the forest, not 40 feet away, identities obscured by the trees.
Ok, no problems, he he he. I call Daisy and Max and there must have been a real note of seriousness in my voice, b/c they come right away. I attach their leashes and steadily we make our way up the hill. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to run up the hill, but I heard somewhere that you shouldn’t run from predators, so we did the mall walker pace to the top.
Ahhh, safe and sound once again in the car, other than my heart pounding out of my chest. So, we get back on the road, only to shortly thereafter encounter Skull Valley. Seriously???!!! At this point of course I have come up with all sorts of crazy theories about 1//2 man 1/2 creature were animals (yeah, i really do read too much trashy vampire/werewolf fiction : p ).
Finally I reach Peeples Valley and a local gas station opens up like an oasis in the desert. Except of course the place is spelled wrong, ‘Peeples’ instead of ‘Peoples’, only reinforcing my theory that this place is home to a colony of wereanimals. They are Peeple too! A short way away was a town called Mecca. Seriously.
Well, at the gas station I was told that the local woods contained a large population of Javelinas http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_javelina.shtml and that is likely what I encountered…..Yeah, ok local guy, intent on keeping the secrets of your tribe safe. Javelina, sure thing.
One other important fact…in all my travels, especially through the small towns, I have seen so many for sale signs. But in Peeples Valley, not a one. Interesting….
So, I continued my drive out of the mountains and into the desert, which was no less freaky. I would occasionaly pass blinking neon motel signs, which did nothing but evoke images of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Keep moving, stranger. I got up the guts one time to take a photo in the desert, and immediately got back into my car. Max cried the whole time I was out, I took that as another sign to get my ass back in the car and keep moving. Through all of this, I kept checking for engine trouble lights and my gas gauge, even though I knew perfectly well I had a full tank and that the car was just fine.
Finally we reached I-10 and the relative safety of the interstate truckstop, where we slept for the night. What a day!
We are currently hanging out in our warm and toasty hotel room in Tusayan, AZ. We arrived at the Grand Canyon 7 days ago, and had a great week here : ) The weather was not so nice most of the time (avg low was around 20 degrees on the South Rim, yikes!) and it snowed on us a few times. But, I got a walk in back country permit to hike and camp in the canyon, and the weather was near perfect those 2 days and nights : ) Patience and flexibility definitely paid off!!
This was my first overnight backpacking adventure, I did it solo. Would have loved to take the dogs, but they are not allowed below the rim. They could have handled the trail, but the mules would have been a problem. Besides, I would have had a hard time managing 2 dogs, walking poles, camera and 35lb pack!
So, they stayed at the Grand Canyon Kennel. The price was $20/night per dog plus late fee if picking up after 11am. So, I paid $95 to drop them off at 8:30 Friday morning and pick them up at 2:30pm on Sunday. Although I was thankful for the kennel, I wasn’t thrilled with the service there. When I picked them up, Daisy still had on the sweater I had asked them to only leave on at night when it was cold. As a result, she is quite chaffed. They both needed desperately to go potty and were really thirsty. In addition, they smell a bit like dog pee. At the end of the day, they both seem ok and are just sleeping their way through the day after the kennel. Moral of the story, if you have to use the kennel service there they will do…..but it is not ideal.
~watch the Ravens, they will eat any food left out and can get into a lot of containers
~$18/night for a campsite, $32/night for a hook up spot in trailer village
~$2/8 minutes of shower. you can borrow their towels. facility was clean and water was hot : )
~laundry facility on site, $1.75/wash, $1.00/30 minutes of dryer time
~free wi-fi at a cafeteria near the general store (although I couldn’t get my MAC to work on it, all the PC users seemed content)
~it gets COLD here at night in the late spring. 20 degrees with sleet/snow. pack accordingly
~it gets HOT here in summer. Plan on napping during midday and only hiking in morning or afternoon
~dogs allowed in campground and on rim trail. must be leashed at all times. plenty of room in the woods near the campground to take the pups for a couple of daily walks. Some people didn’t always keep the dogs leashed, keep an eye out depending on doggy behavior.
~backcountry permits can be obtained by applying 4 months in advance. OR, you can get a walk in permit from the backcountry office. You need a flexible schedule and patience for this option, as you may have to wait up to a week to get the permit you are looking for to camp inside the canyon. I had to wait 2 days, but then chose to wait an additional day for ideal weather. Check with backcountry office for permit procedures.
~you can ride the mules down if you like, the park service recommends making a reservation 23 months in advance.
As this was my first overnight backpacking trip, I wasn’t sure what I would need to pack and of course wanted to keep the weight as light as possible. I ended up doing pretty well, here is a list of what I packed
~toiletries; travel size sun screen, lotion, soap, body glide, toothpaste in a ziploc, toothbrush, tech towel (REI)
~handy items; flashlight, headlamp, knife, mace
~camera gear; Canon 5D, 16-35 L lens, 1 battery, (6) 2gb memory cards, cleansing cloths and wipes
~photo id, $20 cash and credit card
~gear; REI light aluminum shock hiking poles, insoles for Vasque hiking shoes, 30 degree Kelty sleeping back, inflatable sleeping pad, inflateable travel pillow, REI womens pack, 2 litre camelback, 1 liter nalgeen bottle
~food; I didn’t bring a stove, so everything was eat as you go. pack of lunchmeat, 2 bagels, 8 ounces hard cheddar cheese, 8 ounce cream cheese, (2) 6 ounce packages beef jerky, 1 cliff shots electrolyte CranRazz drink powder, 2 apples, 1 banana, 4 ounces peanut butter in lightweight tuperware, 1 cliff bar, 1 profood organic meal bar, 1lb mini carrots, 8 ounces hummus, 1/2 package of crackers (in ziploc). 8 ounces of trail mix from trader joes, 8 ounces of almonds. The only things I didn’t eat were 1 package of jerky and 1/2 of the almonds.
~clothing; Patagonia Capileene 3 long underware (super lightweight, warm and pretty expensive), Sherpa zip sweater/jacket, REI short sleeve tee, REI longsleeve shirt with zip halfway down front, Cabella’s river pants for hiking (I got these on sale, don’t love them as they chafe in the hip area) , Gordini fleece technical pants, Marmot wind/rain breaker (which I didn’t need), REI heavy weight socks for sleeping, 3 pairs REI hiking socks (these are between $15-$20/pair, and I happily spent every penny. no blisters). Chaco sandals for chilling out in (I was so happy I brought these, gave my feet a chance to breath!). Fuzzy hat and really warm gloves. I also brought 2 tank tops which I didn’t wear.
~What I didn’t bring but should have~IBUPROFEN!, bandaids or duct tape for blisters (just in case), an additional fleece for haning out at night/early morning. I had on every piece of clothing and was just barely warm enough.
On Sunday I attended the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup, the 51st Annual in Sweetwater Texas. I was actually camping out in the Walmart parking lot in Childress TX (glamorous, I know! We were snowed/sleeted in for the night, and I was pretty glad I had my little propane powered heater that night : p), when my mom called and asked how close I was to Sweetwater. She had heard about the roundup on the news that morning, and it turned out I was only a few hours away….well, it looked like a few hours on the map, but really took about 6….Texas is BIG.
So, we arrived too late on Saturday to see much, but I made friends with a local Jaycee who offered to show me around the next day. I was to meet him at 7am sharp (doesn’t this guy know I’m on vacation!?, he he he). When I arrived the next morning, I couldn’t find Terry but managed to meet up and sweet talk his fellow Rooster (a Jaycee after age 40 is a Rooster) Charlie. I was later informed by several people that it wasn’t too hard to sweet talk Charlie, but that didn’t make me feel any less special ; p
Charlie was a great tour guide; he introduced me to numerous interesting people, took me backstage (where Tommy, the volunteer cook for the event, had set up his Chuckwagon and gave me some delicious samples of his old style food) and provided information about the traditions and reasons for the roundup.
According to Charlie, the roundup was started 51 years ago when local residents began complaining about too many rattlesnakes harming them, their children and their livestock. It was pretty informal at first, and just involved capturing, killing and disposing of whatever rattlesnakes they could find. Over the years it has evolved into the largest rattlesnake roundup in the world, and also the main fundraiser for the Sweetwater Jaycees. Last year they made over $80,ooo which was donated to local schools and charities.
By the time I attended, the round seems to be a well oiled machine. All the workers for the actual roundup are volunteers, and all the money raised it donated to charity. In addition, all parts of the rattlesnakes are used; nothing is going to waste. As I understand it, people acquire permits for snake hunting, and all hunting must be done on privately owned lands (you will get a ticket from the game warden for collecting snakes either without a permit or on public land). The snakes are then brought into the convention area, where they are weighed, measured and sexed. This information has a dual purpose; of course there are prizes for the longest and heaviest snakes caught, but the information also goes to the Texas wildlife department for tracking.
After the statistics are gathered, the snakes are milked for their venom. The venom is used in research and to create antivenom, and a member of the lab that buys the venom is there to oversee the process and assist in the milking process.
After the snakes are milked, they head over to be killed and skinned.
After the beheading and skinning, everything is sold. Meat is $10/lb, skins are $5/foot. Heads and rattles go as well, to be made into different goods and display nick knacks
In addition to removing rattlesnakes and fundraising, the festival is also a source of education about rattlesnake behavior and safety issues. David Sager, Rooster president, gave multiple presentations each day on the safe handling of snakes and typical snake behaviors. He informed the crowd that rattlesnakes are more likely afraid of us than we are of them, and that they will do everything they can to avoid a confrontation with large animals. We learned that snakes shake their rattles as a warning to anyone nearby that a rattler is in the vicinity so you might want to go the other way. They will also coil up and tuck their head in the coil and lay perfectly still, in effect ‘hiding’ with their camouflage until the larger animal leaves the area.
Here are a few more photographs from throughout the day, enjoy~
So, this took about a pound of chicken jerky to pull off, but in the end, some fabulous Christmas humor for you to enjoy ; p Hey, I never said I was above bribery to get the shot! A few weeks ago I was offering cash if the ringbearer would kiss the flower girl : )