Catch Me If You Can! Lets Play – Hike and Seek!

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Hike and Seek!

I am launching a new project called Trail Post. Details can be found here: Trail Post Project

What Is this about? As a part of the project launch, I am instituting a challenge to my friends, family, and local outdoor enthusiasts for a fun outdoor activity to encourage hiking, a little mischief, and prize-winning!

How to play? Your job as hikers will be to come find me. My job will be to provide prizes to the first 20 people who find me using the spot tracker (link provided below).

When, Where, How?! 

  • Date: Sunday, December 11th 2016
  • Time: 7am Start to 3pm Finish.
  • Location: Phoenix (AZ) Area Mountains – SPOT Tracker link

The Mischief! 

As most of you do not know what I look like, I will be wearing all green head to toe. Trust me, you will NOT miss me!

What happens when you find me?

Call me out by name: “GoatManMike” and tell me you are playing “Hike and Seek” that’s it! I will be hiking several places throughout the day, so don’t expect me to stay in one spot. The first person to find me at each location gets a bigger prize (of course), and then each seeker after will get smaller subsequent prizes.

I hope to see you all out there on the trail and I look forward to seeing you participate in the Trail Post Project!

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100 MILES / 5 DAYS: THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL (DAY 5 – 11.26.14)

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Early in the morning of the 5th day, I woke to a sound outside the shelter. I poked my head out of my tent and beamed my headlamp light into the darkness to see the wind blowing snow across the shelter opening. I knew it was coming, I just wasn’t sure how much would accumulate on the trail before I started trekking. I pulled my head back into the tent and receded into the warmth of my bag for a few more hours of sleep before I started my morning ritual of packing up and making breakfast.

Before I knew it I was sipping hot coffee, throwing on my pack, and saying goodbyes to my temporary roommate “Just Jim”. I had a little over 7 miles of the ridge roller coaster left before I would reach “The Priest” shelter and peak.  The path would then take me on my final descent to the Tye River and Highway 56, where I would walk a half mile to the cabin where my family was staying.

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Snow just kept falling

The morning was bitter cold, the kind that bites at any exposed flesh, and when I started walking there was already 3-4 inches of snow on the ground. I had my facemask pulled on tight to combat the swirling, whipping wind. The socks I had would soon be completely soaked from walking through the snow, and I knew that the only thing I could do to keep warm was to keep walking. The Merrell boots I was wearing were not waterproof, and I didn’t want to go back to the trailrunners on a big downhill and risk rolling an ankle again.

I trudged through the snow along the ridge, breaking trail as I went. Although it was cold, it was absolutely beautiful! The snow continued to fall and everywhere I looked, the landscape was covered in a perfect blanket of undisturbed snow. I trekked on stopping only momentarily to pull my hand from the wet gloves, fish out my phone, and shakily snap a few pictures before the screen became too wet to pick up my fingerprint. After a few minutes of standing still the chill began to creep on.   I quickly stuffed the camera away, not knowing if the pictures I was taking were actually decent, and moved on.

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Snow clinging to the sides of trees

I finally reached The Priest and knew the rest of the trip would be a slippery downhill to the highway and eventually the cabin. (I could only speculate why they called it “The Priest”, but if I had to guess it’s because if you were climbing the opposite direction from the Tye River up to the ridge, you would need a Priest when you reached the top! Its a serious ascent!) I pressed on, seeing random rabbit and bird tracks in the snow but no sign of the creatures themselves. I came upon one expansive view on the downclimb. I looked out, attempting to peer out past the foggy morning, but was only slightly able to make out a few lakes in the distance. I had no depth perception at this point but I knew I had only a few miles left.I kept descending and as I dropped elevation the snow turned to freezing rain. The snowline was at about 1500 feet and everything below that was sopping wet. The path weaved in and out of canyons, crossing a few heavy running creeks.

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Spicewood Cabin (stole this pic offline – I had no good ones)

I turned a corner and saw an old farm house with a few sheds and old machinery in the back. I knew I wasn’t far from the road! I traversed the next few switchbacks with childlike excitement! I soon walked out of the trail and onto Crabtree Falls Highway 56, just 0.4 miles from my destination. I was hit by an overwhelming feeling that words can’t describe when I realized how close I was to finishing. I was just moments away from walking 100 miles in 5 days. I remember repeating “a hundred miles in five days” out loud to no one in particular, and every time I said it a wave of inexplicable emotion washed over me. With just this small personal accomplishment, I could only imagine what true through hikers that push 2000+ miles straight must feel when they finally reach the end of their journey. I trekked the last section along the road with ease. I reached the cabin, half expecting to see no one there. I walked to the door and knocked eagerly to see my mom soon appear in the doorway. I was so excited I threw my arms around her and half yelled “A hundred miles in 5 days!” I was drenched through from the snow and cold to the bone, but I couldn’t have been happier. It was nice to hit the mark and surprise myself. My AT trek ended there, but it is far from my last! What a wonderful journey!

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 50s, Low in the lower 30s, Overcast / Snow 6-10 inches at 4000 feet, ice rain below 1,500 feet
  • Water: 1 liters
  • Food: 2 Clif Bars, 1 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Quaker Real Medleys
  • Time: 4 hours day 5
  • Distance: 12 Miles one way from Seely Woodward shelter to Spicewood Cabin

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Anges UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Cocoon Sleeping Bag liner
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Sawyer squeeze water filter

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Smart wool 150 long bottoms
  • Smart wool beanie cap
  • Serius Ski Facemask
  • Patagonia Rain Pants
  • Patagonis Rain Jacket
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Smart wool medium weight sox and liners
  • Giro Mountain Biking Gloves
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100 MILES / 5 DAYS: THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL (DAY 4 – 11.25.14)

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Favorite pic of the day – Neon Moss!

The fourth day I woke surprised to find my legs free of soreness from the big miles the day before (and of course the unforgettable three ankle twists). Despite the huge dinner I ate the night before, my stomach was complaining it wanted food. “Feed me Seymour!” it seemed to shout. I went through my morning ritual; made warm oatmeal, nice strong coffee, and packed up camp. I had 24 miles to tackle from Punchbowl shelter to Seely Woodworth shelter. One downhill to Lynchburg Reservoir, a huge climb to Cow Camp Gap, and a roller coaster on the ridge passing Cold Mountain stood between me and my goal. Under an hour from cracking my eyes open, I was standing on the trail, head lamp strapped on, ready to start another day in the dark.

Looking out in the dark, not much too see but a few lights from houses
Looking out in the dark, not much too see but a few lights from houses

I descended through the dark, down, down, down until I found the wooden suspended bridge that crossed a small section of the Lynchburg Reservoir. Lights from a few houses lakeside beamed through the night. I trekked on, curious if the people knew there were hikers passing through the darkness nearby. That morning was particularly chilly; I had my facemask on fighting the chill back. As I started to ascend the next bit up, the sun rose and with it the wind, which made me question whether I should pull on my mid-layer. Hoping my body would generate enough heat from the climb I pressed on.

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Creek and trail parallel through the old Brown Mountain Creek Community

I walked through a small section of trail that had remnants of Brown Mountain Creek Community, which was a freed slave colony established in the early 1900s. You could still see rock walls meant to hold the creek at bay and chimney stacks where a dwelling once stood. This section was very cool to see, the trail ran parallel with the creek until finally crossing just below Brown Creek Mountain shelter. At the bridge crossing I met a south bound through hiker named Crow, a name he alleged “was given to me by the Mountain because every time I stopped, crows would be in flight overhead”. He was a funny guy and in a hurry to beat the coming snow that night. He talked about hiking through the night to get to the James River Bridge crossing where he would catch a ride into town to hole up until the snow passed. I wished him good luck and after a short break at the shelter, headed up the big grind to Cow Camp Gap

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Twisted trees and vines on the big climb to Cow Camp Gap

I pushed up the long, windy, cold climb. This was one of those sections where you just have to put your head down and get to work. I didn’t miss much, most of the woods through here were twisted, lifeless, and a muddy brown. I finally hit the ridge, drenched in sweat. Without pause I got after the up down section until I finally broke from the woods and into the open fields of Cold Mountain. It was rightfully named! The wind whipped through this open section, but the expansive views were still worth hanging out for a while and snapping some pictures.

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360 View on top of Cold Mountain (click to enlarge)

I pressed on into the roller coaster section where you would go up a 600 ft climb, then right back down 700 feet, up, down, in canyons, out of canyons. At this point I was pretty tired from the miles, and the last few miles became mundane. A mile or so before my destination, I stopped next to a lush green moss area near a creek to refill my water (and my spirits) for the last push to the shelter.

creek where I stopped to filter just before Seely Woodward shelter
creek where I stopped to filter just before Seely Woodward shelter

Soon after filtering, I finally reached the shelter and when I dropped my pack, a lot of the fatigue of the day went with it. After setting up my tent, a south bound through hiker with a huge white beard named “Just Jim” pulled up to the shelter. He was given the trail name “Just Jim” by a friend because he wasn’t a big talker when he first started on the trail, and his name was Jim (not to be too cutesy). People would say “oh that’s Just Jim”, and it stuck. He was doing a YoYo (two through hikes in one year where you hike down the AT then back up) for the Disabled Veterans (if you’re interested in knowing more check out http://hike4veterans.com/). Everyone is out there for their own reasons, and this guy was out there for a good one! We chatted a bit about the coming snow, gear and food selection, and the trail before crashing out. Another awesome day on the trail!

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“Just Jim”
  • Guard rail of the suspension bridge near the Lynchburg Reservoir

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 50s, Low in the lower 30s, Overcast / Sunny
  • Water: 5 liters
  • Food: 2 Nature Valley Peanut butter granola bar, 2 Clif Bars, 1 meal replacement protien bar, 1 bag of beef jerky (3oz), 1 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Quaker Real Medleys, 1 Mountain House Beef Stew meal, pro bag energy gummys, Pizza Pringles, 4 Oreos
  • Time: 11 hours day 4
  • Distance: 24 Miles one way from Punchbowl shelter to Seely Woodward shelter

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Anges UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Cocoon Sleeping Bag liner
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Sawyer squeeze water filter

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Smart wool beanie cap
  • Serius Ski Facemask
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Arc’teryx Mid layer Hoody
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Smart wool medium weight sox and liners
  • Giro Mountain Biking Gloves
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100 Miles / 5 days: The Appalachian Trail (Day 3 – 11.24.14)

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View from the ridge North of the James River (click to enlarge)

The third day was all about making miles and trying to stay dry. I planned on pushing 25 miles from Thunder Hill shelter to Punchbowl Shelter. If I failed to hit my mark I would be out of position to finish on time (another day on the trail would mean a need for food I did not have with me) and if I got wet, my down bag would be useless at night and I would have to bail or improvise. It had rained all through the night, and the subsequent fog hung around like a bad date, so I decided to throw on my rain gear and wear trail runners for at least the morning (trail runners are thin, light weight shoes that wont retain a lot of water if they get wet).

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Passing the James River Face Wilderness trailhead in the dark

I finished my morning ritual of cooking breakfast and packing up camp. I felt like I was getting the process down to a science when I strapped my pack on, ready to let out into the dark. The fog still weighed down so heavily that I could only see about 4-6 feet ahead of me, even with the aid of my headlamp. I trekked through the wet leaves covering the muddy trail downhill towards the James River, which would mark the half way point of my journey, the lowest elevation I would hit on trail, and my next filtering point! Wearing trail runners and trekking downhill through all the wet leaves on off camber rock, it wasn’t long before I had a misstep and twisted my ankle. Sharp pain went searing through my left leg and ankle, and this was only the first of three slips that would happen that day.

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First sighting of the James River

Paranoid about my ankles, I treaded lightly and leaned heavy on my trekking poles, hoping for the best. I was lucky the first time; another misstep could spell disaster. The sun soon rose and the fog lifted, along with my spirits. Twisting trail finally gave way to my first views of the James River a few miles before Matt’s Creek Shelter. I was excited to touch the river and claim half my tremendous goal complete! This time of year, all the leaves have fallen and scattered across the trail, which give you opportunities to see the vast landscapes that surround the trail. However, some of my favorite views were of creek crossing where I got to see the moss, ferns, and low-level plant life thrive! It was such a contrast to the surrounding leafless, almost lifeless, trees.

Foot Bridge spanning the James River
Foot Bridge spanning the James River

I finally reached the footbridge that spanned the river. Upon crossing, I took a quick snack break and the opportunity to remove my shoes and let them dry some from the morning’s wet walk. I was one happy fella at this point, but I knew I still had 11 miles and a big gain to conquer before the day was done. I finished my break, filtered water and got back to the grind. The next grade was one of those 800-1000 feet of gain within a mile that never seemed to end. Half way up, to my surprise, I came across an older couple (in their 70s) that were just “out for a short 6 miler”! This made me laugh a bit. I know some people half their age that wouldn’t want to even think about taking on this section of trail, and here these two were happier than a couple of pigs in a mud pit! I had a quick chat with them and kept on trekking.

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360 View on Bluff Mountain Peak (click to enlarge)

I finally reached the top of the ridge dripping in sweat. By this time the sun came out and it warmed up to the 60s, which seemed like an anomaly. My long sleeves and pants were all rolled back! I pressed on weaving back and forth, up and down, along the ridge until I peeked out on Bluff Mountain. This was the end of my climb and I was happy to find it! The last few miles I drug my tired body across the last miles and into the Punchbowl Shelter where I set up my tent, made a huge meal, and read 2 lines of my book before passing out like a rock. It was one good day.

  • Pushing through the morning fog

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low in the upper 30s, Overercast Morning Sunny/Warm Afternoon
  • Water: 5 liters
  • Food: 2 Nature Valley Dark Chocolate Bars, 2 Nature Valley Cashew Bars, 2 Clif Bars, 1 bag of beef jerky (3oz), 1 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Quaker Real Medleys, 1 Mountain House Chicken A La King meal (my fav), pro bag energy gummys, Sweet Potatoe Fries (Chips)
  • Time: 11 hours day 3
  • Distance: 25 Miles one way from Thunder Hill Shelter to Punchbowl Shelter

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Anges UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Cocoon Sleeping Bag liner
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Sawyer squeeze water filter

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Smart wool 150 long john bottoms
  • Smart wool beanie cap
  • Serius Ski Facemask
  • Patagonia Rain Pants
  • Patagonia Rain Jacket
  • Arc’teryx Mid layer Hoody
  • Soloman Trail Runners
  • Smart wool medium weight liners
  • Giro Mountain Biking Gloves
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100 Miles / 5 days: The Appalachian Trail (Day 2 – 11.23.14)

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Fallen tree over the trail

The second day, I woke and started moving with a purpose: to outrun the rain that was on the way! I had been checking the weather like it was my favorite t.v. show the week leading up to the trip and I knew the second day was going to have thunderstorms in the afternoon lasting through the night. I had 16 miles to cover and the bad weather was supposed to roll in about 2pm. I woke up, made breakfast, packed up my gear and sipped down my last bit of coffee as I let out onto the trail in the dark.

I trekked a few miles by headlamp, downhill to Jennings Springs where I filtered water for the day ahead of me. The morning was chilly and filtering the cold water was a chore in and of itself! Once complete I started the uphill battle towards Thunder Hill about 3000 feet above my current elevation. I had some work to do! The sun slowly rose but never peaked through the overcast morning protecting the cool canyons where the creeks trickled through. On one such creek crossing I stumbled upon Bryant Ridge shelter, this was well built sizeable double decker was meant to house 20 people! I took a quick break here before pushing on through the woods to my next stop.

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Bryant Ridge Shelter

As I trekked upwards towards ridge where I planned to camp a creepy fog rolled in. I knew this was the precursor to the thunderstorms which were marching towards me. The low lying cloud engulfed the twisted woods around me and reminded me of a scene out of sleepy hollow. To add to the fun I walked past a tree that had been freshly stripped of bark from about 9 feet up to the base. There was no mistaking that this was bear sign. Only thing I could do was keep trekking.

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Bring on the Fog!

It started to sprinkle just a mile before my destination, I quickly threw on my rain jacket and pack cover and pushed through the fog. I finally reached the empty shelter and set up camp, filtered more water, and got into my tent ready to read the rest of the rainy afternoon. Just as I went to zip the tent closed a cold wet nose came sniffing my hand! To my relief it was a German shepherd named Chaos (and not a bear). A southbound through hiker and his dog “Chaos and Company” had just arrived to seek haven in the shelter from the rain. They had started hiking in Pennsylvania for a short 4 day trip which turned into a 2 month excursion after they decided just to stay on trail. They were a funny crew: he told me about only treating AT water with bleach, special all natural dog food for Chaos, his homemade couscous StoveTop Ramen meals, and his weakness for coffee (guy had a full bag of sugar and creamer, obviously lot too concerned with weight). It always amazing the people you meet out on the trial! I finished a few pages of my book and passed out to the sound of rain on the shelter roof.

  • Up up we go! Leaving Bryan Ridge Shelter getting ready to climb to Thunder Hill

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 50s, Low in the upper 30s, Overcast Thunderstorms
  • Water: 5 liters
  • Food: 2 Nature Valley Peanut butter granola bar, 2 Clif Bars, 1 meal replacement protien bar, 1 bag of beef jerky (3oz), 1 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Quaker Real Medleys, 1 Mountain House Beef Stroganoff meal, pro bag energy gummys, Doritos, 3 Oreos
  • Time: 8 hours day 2
  • Distance: 16 Miles one way from Cove Mountain Shelter to Thunder Hill Shelter

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Anges UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Cocoon Sleeping Bag liner
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Sawyer squeeze water filter

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Smart wool beanie cap
  • Serius Ski Facemask
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Arc’teryx Mid layer Hoody
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Smart wool medium weight sox and liners
  • Giro Mountain Biking Gloves
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100 Miles / 5 days: The Appalachian Trail (Day 1 – 11.22.14)

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The first day, my sister dropped me at the trail head just off Interstate 81 north of Roanoke, Virginia. It was 19 degrees F and my pack was bulging from 5 days of food, 6 liters of water, inclement weather clothes, and the other basic backpacking essentials: stove, sleeping bag/pad, and a tent. I said my goodbyes, strapped on the beast of a backpack and headed up the trail. After only a few tenths of a mile up a decent grade, under the weight of my pack, I started thinking about why I was even on this trail to begin with.

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I had been planning this Appalachian Trail section hike for some time, it was mainly to test myself and see if I could push a 5-day, unsupported backpacking trek into less than perfect weather and come out on the other side smiling. Completing this trek would tell me if I am capable of going after the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), a 2650 mile trail from Mexico to Canada crossing California, Oregon, and Washington. Let the test begin!

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I pushed through the first small wooded section, passing through a gate that opened into a cow pasture. I look up to see a group of 1 ton beasts standing around, a few milking small calves. I decided it was best to circumvent these guys and made a large sweeping left around the grazing group. Trekking along, I passed through a few private sections of land before getting back into the woods.  Plenty of big gain trail padded with fallen brown leaves. About 2 hours into the trek, I came across a sign that said I had only traveled 3.3 miles.  My heart sunk. At this rate I would be hiking into dark in attempts to cover the 22 miles I had planned on completing that day. I decided to dump about a liter of water (due to how little I was drinking in the cold weather) and pressed on.

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After making some good progress, I came across the first of many 3 sided shelters on the trail. The Appalachian Trail has shelters set up for through hikers with (sometimes) nicely built outhouses just a short walk away. These things were like having a Hilton on the trail! I kept trekking through the woods until I found the first of a few Blue Ridge Parkway crossings, where over the next few miles the trail crisscrossed a scenic road through the mountain. At one of these crossings, where I stopped for a quick break, I met Corinna and Wil. They were from Seattle and were just traveling around, stopping and chatting with/helping through hikers while offering hot tea, food, water…whatever the hikers may need. They were a very cool couple, I chatted with them for a bit about all the places they had traveled and where they planned on going. Regular drifters, living in different areas in different times of the year, they were collecting retirement and enjoying their house on wheels seeing all the country had to offer. Really good people!

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I pressed on knowing the mileage I had to cover wouldn’t just melt away like time, and I still had some work to do before night fall! The trail would duck into wooded areas where you could see nothing of the surrounding area, then randomly open up to see a segment of the surrounding mountains before closing back up and engulfing you in trees and shrub.

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I watched the sunset in the distance as I pressed through the last mile. The colors were incredible! The Blue Ridge sunset had deep blues and purples you don’t get back in Arizona. I really enjoyed seeing the red rolling hills in the distance and all the little house/cabin porch lights pop on as the night fell on the mountains. I reached the Cove Mountain shelter exhausted.  I set up my tent, cooked dinner, and before I knew it, I was sound asleep in my sleeping bag, oblivious to the sounds of the woods around me. With the first day in the bag I slept like a baby, needless to say I was tired!

  • AT starting point in Trouteville on Route 11 just North of Roanoke

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 50s, Low in the upper 10s, Sunny
  • Water: 5 liters
  • Food: 2 Nature Valley Peanut butter granola bar, 2 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Builder bar, 1 bag of beef jerky (3oz), 1 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Quaker Real Medleys, 1 Mountain House Chicken Parmesan meal, pro bag energy gummys, pringles
  • Time: 11 hours day 1
  • Distance: 22 Miles one way from Rout 11 to Cove Mountain Shelter

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Anges UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Cocoon Sleeping Bag liner
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Sawyer squeeze water filter

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Smart wool beanie cap
  • Serius Ski Facemask
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Arc’teryx Mid layer Hoody
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Smart wool medium weight sox and liners
  • Giro Mountain Biking Gloves
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Piestawa Peak (Squaw Peak) – 11.10.14

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20141110_172709Phoenix has some of the best sunrises and sunsets I’ve ever seen! There are long, open landscapes interrupted only by rising mountain ranges, which stand like sentries watching over the desert valleys. Once you ascend one of these mountains, you are presented with a view that words can’t describe and where pictures don’t do justice. Get out there and experience it if you have the chance!

Every once in a while, you have to pull out your stopwatch and see how you measure up to the time-trial hikers (curiosity killed the cat right?!). I haven’t timed myself in quite a while. It’s mainly because I go to the mountains to lose track of time, not to become ruled by it. However, after hearing friends boast about their summit times, curiosity got the better of me. Let’s just say I’m no Usain Bolt, and I’ve come to accept that there is always someone out there faster. I am content with beating my own time, trying to be better than I was the day before. That being said, sometimes it’s nice to know I am not the last guy up the mountain pushing for time.

I pressed hard for the peak. At the summit and on the way down, I was rewarded with the opportunity to see a gorgeous sunset. I find myself struggling to put the camera down when the light is just right. There’s just something to rocks that look blue against the orange, yellow, and reds of a fiery Phoenix sunset. Another awesome hike, I am so glad I have the chance to do this!

  • Phoenix in the distance

 

 

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AZT #22 – Day 2of2 – Saddle Mountain in the Mazatzal Mountains (11.08.14 – 11.09.14)

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I woke in the middle of the night to a noise outside my tent. My tent was sent up at a trailhead flat downhill from the entry road. Out of the corner of my eye I see a bright light approaching my tent and I immediately became very awake and alert. The light came down the hill and hovered right over my tent. I grabbed my Kabar knife and strapped my headlamp on. Taking a deep breath I grabbed the tent zipper and like lighting pulled the zipper open and came out ready to face whoever was on the other side. To my surprise I was faced with a huge big bright moon . . . I felt pretty silly.

The moon just so happened to rise just over the entry road and the noise I head was the wind pushing on the sides of my tent. I went back to sleep and was woken again by the sound of my alarm going off. Today I had to boogy out of the mountains and get back home for a dose of reality that the work week was quickly approaching. I got up, packed up the sleeping gear, and made breakfast. Soon I was putting the last bit of my camp into my backpack and throwing on some sunscreen for the day to come. It was still dark out but it was time to boogy on!

Morning!
Morning!

I headed back to my truck the same way I came in, this trek has so many open mind blowing views! I saw not a soul on the trail until about 6 hours into my trek when came across the trail maintenance crew who I had seen the day before. They were taking the afternoon to do a quick day hike before heading back home. I chatted for a few minutes before tackling the last 6 miles of my journey.

360 at a saddle looking towards Saddle Mountain. Click to enlarge
360 at a saddle looking towards Saddle Mountain. (Click to enlarge)

Lesson learned here: Go prepared! Of course this is common sense, but everyone makes mistakes . . . let just hope the consequences are minor! On this trek I opted to leave my water filter behind and carry all my water for the 2 day journey (8.5 liters of water). I wanted to simulate a similar pack weight for a trip I have been planning for which would require food for 5 days. Long story short, I underestimated my water. I should have carried 10.5 liters and knew it the morning when I woke and broke camp. I was 4.5 miles out when I sucked down the last drop of water from my osprey 3 liter bladder. I was 1 o’clock and the sun was high, and temps were much warmer than the day before.  My dried mouth and cracking lips for the last stretch of this trip was a reminder that its better to overestimate water consumption. I finished out my trek and got back to the truck where I guzzled a half full warm water bottle I had sitting in the cab of my truck. I was so thankful that I got off trail without getting too dehydrated. After chilling for a minute, I turned the key to my truck, headed for the closest gas station to re-supply on water and gator-aid. Another gorgeous trip completed!

  • uphill grind in the morning

Hike information: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=2436

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low in the upper 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 8.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Nature Valley Peanut butter granola bar, 2 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Builder bar, 1 Meal replacement protein bar, 2 Nature Valley Protien bars, 1 bag of beef jerky (3oz), 1 avocado, 1 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Quaker Real Medleys, 1 Mountain House Beef Stew meal
  • Time: 8 hours day 1, 7 hours day 2
  • Distance:16.5 Miles one way

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Anges UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Daimond trekking poles
  • No water filter – I carried all my water in (8.5 liters – I should have brought 10) to train for a hike coming up where I would be carrying a lot of excess weight. Advise: Bring a filter! There are creeks and opportunities to use it.

 

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AZT #22 – Day 1of2 – Saddle Mountain in the Mazatzal Mountains (11.08.14 – 11.09.14)

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The AZT (Arizona Trail – 800 miles) spanning from Mexico to Utah across the great state of Arizona was added to my list of wish hikes as soon as I found out about it. Unfortunately I don’t have the vacation or off time to be able to through hike it straight for 60 days, so instead I have been section hiking it when I can. I had the opportunity to knock out the 22nd section this weekend and I jumped at the chance!

I dumped my truck right off of Bee line highway 87 Saturday morning and set out on the trail. After navigating a wash that goes under the highway I popped out in rolling hills and wide open views. There are a few cattle gates to navigate, just be sure to leave them as you found them, be it opened or closed. The trek starts flat to begin with on a few 4X4 roads, the pushes you into some canyon washes that are hardly ever traveled. A small creek was running through the wash to my surprise. I pushed through the canyon around a few switchers where I was once again greeted with huge wide open views. There are some power lines here, what seems to be the last sign of civilization looking forward, turning back there are a few small farm houses in sight.

Pushing further on, the trail gets back to single track hopping up on creek banks and back into washes until once again your greeted with huge wide open views and a trail that meanders along through it all. I found myself skirting the lower portion of Saddle Mountain when I came across Kim and Norm, 2 hikers from Phoenix who were turned around and looking for Squaw flats. I was happy to have the company and invited them to join me until we passed their junction. We pushed on as a trio talking about experience in the “hiking business” and how long they have both been at it.

Wide open spaces
Wide open spaces – Saddle Mountain – Click to Enlarge

As the trail skirted further we came across Ranger Mark Suban and his trail maintenance crew of about 8 old and young. I had never seen a crew out working before and was delighted to stop for a second and chat with them and thank them for their service to the AZT. Those guys keep the trail going and it’s always on a volunteer basis!

Incredible views!
Incredible views! click to enlarge

Leaving the maintenance crew behind we trekked on until we found the switch back drop off into a patch of pines where the 3 amigos would split ways. We stopped for a quick lunch and chatted about our jobs and hikes we wish we could do. Soon I packed up and pushed the last 4 miles out to Peeley trail head where I would camp for the night. Those 4 miles were definitely not as forgiving as an easy trail skirt around the base of Saddle Mountain! Drop offs, washes, a section I affectionately call the ‘tunnel of love’ with manzanita and holly bushes surrounding a water channel. Big grind elevation gains with astonishing views and quite a bit of bushwhacking and trail finding through tricky washes finally brought me to the intersection of AZT#22 and #23.

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The Peeley trailhead was just a 0.5 mile push ahead. It was only 4pm by the time I reached it and I was ready to just set up camp, make a Beef Stew Mountain house, and kick back for a bit finally cracking a book I purchased a month ago. What a good first day, as temps began to drop I crawled into my tent and read by headlamp for a few hours until I finally crashed. The next day would mean my return journey back to the truck with another section of the AZT in my pocket. (Post Continued on Day 2/2)

  • Tunnel that goes under highway 87 - this is a portion of the AZT!

Hike information: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=2436

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low in the upper 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 8.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Nature Valley Peanut butter granola bar, 2 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Builder bar, 1 Meal replacement protein bar, 2 Nature Valley Protien bars, 1 bag of beef jerky (3oz), 1/2 sandwich ziplock of trail mix, 1 avocado, 1 via Starbucks instant coffee, 1 Quaker Real Medleys, 1 Mountain House Beef Stew meal
  • Time: 8 hours day 1, 7 hours day 2
  • Distance:16.5 Miles one way

GEAR:

  • 58 liter Exos Osprey backpack
  • Big Anges UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • No water filter – I carried all my water in (8.5 liters – I should have brought 10) to train for a hike coming up where I would be carrying a lot of excess weight. Advise: Bring a filter! There are creeks and opportunities to use it.
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Camelback Mountain – Echo Canyon Trail – 11.06.14

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Echo Canyon trail is one of the most frequented hikes here in Phoenix AZ. People are looking for a challenge, and they will find it here coming it at 1300 feet of gain in 1.1 miles! During the  late Fall/Winter/early Spring weekends this mountain looks like a gang of ants at a picnic, people crawling everywhere! Everyone’s  on the mountain for their own reasons, and I have no problem moving over for those trying to enjoy some outdoor goodness!

I started out this hike just trying to go a slow jam, figured I had been getting a good fill of trails during the week and I could take a chill day to peak out. For some reason as soon as I get on an incline I subconsciously switch over to grind mode and get after it, today was no different! I love pushing hard for the summit, then going slow on the downs enjoying the views and saving the knees.

The trail isn’t too hard to follow (well signed as seen in the slider below) and if you go at a popular time of year you can always just follow the other people on the trail. There will be many times you look up and think “oh the top must be right over that hump”, then you finally top that hump only to find another formidable uphill staring you right in the face! If your heart isn’t pounding out of your chest at the end of this uphill then you must be something other than human! Great views all along the way, and I was lucky to arrive early enough in the afternoon where it wasn’t too crowded. Bring some water and your guts; you’ll need it for this city mountain park trek!

Hike Information: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=21

  • Echo Trailhead View
  • Weather: Mid 70s, Sunny
  • Water: 0.5 liters
  • Food: 1 Nature Valley Peanut butter granola bar
  • Time: 1- 1.5 hours round trip (didn’t time it)
  • Distance: 2.3 Miles round trip
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Squaw Peak (Piestewa Peak) – Phoenix Mountain Preserve – Summit Trail 300 – 11.05.14

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Another beautiful day for a good hike up a mountain!! Piestewa Peak is another one of my favorite weekday training hikes in the Phoenix area. I say training, but this peak is nothing to take lightly! It has 1200 feet of gain in 1.2 miles, a grind hikers paradise with 1000 feet of elevation gain per mile stats.

I set out right after work, hit the house, changed, and jetted for the mountain. Temps were in mid to high 70s another perfect day! My usual motivation is to push very hard for the peak and then take it slow on the down, saving the knees and taking in the scenery. The mountains are my way of staying in shape so I love to find a tough peak to bag and really getting after it. Today was no different

Once I peaked out I had a nice chat with a couple who were trail runners just taking in the views for the day. A Chuckwalla (seen in slider below) poked out just below the peak to get some sun and do a few masculine push-ups claiming his territory and showing off for the ladies! After some pictures and a quick breather I headed back down taking plenty of pics and pausing to watch the sun begin to set over the city at the many lookout points along the trail.

this mountain reminds me of Superman’s homeland (Krypton) with the way the rocks protrude from the mountain, very cool geology.  This hike is pretty much a stair-master on the side of a mountain! Get out and check this peak out if you haven’t yet!

  • Trailhead
Summit 360
Summit 360

Click for Enlarge View

Hike info: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=122

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South Mountain – Big Box Loop 11.04.14

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South Mountain is one of those hidden gems that so many people seem to overlook and underrate for one reason or another (those of you who frequent this park know what I am talking about). I have news for you, this 16,000 acre Park is a powerhouse! So many opportunities to rack up huge miles, and really pick up some good gain if you know which trails to go after. Most people think of it as a Mountain bike haven, granted it is, but so much more!

This afternoon I let out from work with a distance training loop in mind to beat down before the sun set on me. I planned on starting on Holbert trail, then tying into National trail for a few miles before bombing down Kiwanis and finishing the loop with Los Lomitas trail and Box Canyon Loop to get back to the truck.

Temps were once again as they have been this week, just like baby bears porridge: just right (low 70s)!! I started out knowing I didn’t have much time to crank out this loop so I was on a mission to get my butt moving. Holbert trail is a great trail for anyone, and deff a recommendation of mine for people just breaking into the hiking scene. The elevation gain doesn’t kill to much and the milage is decent, especially if you take the offshoot to dobbins point for some great views of the city.

At any rate, I kept trekking on and was just totally humbled by the views of the sunset on the trail. I couldn’t put my camera down!! Every time I turned a corner there was another incredible Kodak moment to be captured, I couldn’t help myself but snap a few.

Finally the sun was setting as I descended the last stretch of Kiwanis trail and I was forced to break out the headlamp. I jumped onto Los Lomitas and followed it to Box Canyon Loop (I got off track a few times in the dark). Finally after a small road side trek I found Box Canyon Loop once again and finished out the loop. The following pictures show show some a progression of the trail and the incredible sunset I was honored to witness!

  • First view of holbert from the canyon - White water tank on left

Aerial topo shot of the GPX trail I completed.

7.0 Miles, 2 hours 23 minutes, Temps: 70s, 0.75 liters of water, 1 protien bar, 1 nature valley granola bar

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Cholla Trail – Camelback Mountain 11.03.14

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Hiking is definitely back in full fashion in Phoenix seen my the number of people drawn to the trails like moths to the flame. The temperatures were strangely cool on this afternoons climb (cool for Phoenix haha – low 70s).

Camelback is one of my mid week training hike destinations. You can get some good elevation gain in short miles and its close to the city. Cholla walks a ridge to the peak from the East side of the mountain heading North West towards the peak and is broken up into 2 sections: a lower steady incline that can really get your cardio going, and an upper section which becomes a little more climbey (my fav part).

Cholla is stretched  over 1.3 miles from the road side parking to the peak with about 1300 feet of gain. 1000 feet of elevation gain per mile is my kinda trail!!! Cholla’s big brother (Echo Canyon trail – Other summit trail on Camelback Mountain) boasts the same elevation gain in only 1.1 miles. Both trails are their own animal and are great opportunities to condition the body for big weekend endeavors.

Even though ive been up this trail a many of times I still enjoy finding ways to make it interesting and chatting other trail trekkers. Fun fact: There is an old timer that hikes cholla every afternoon (he rocks a white fisherman’s hat) that has completed over 2100 summits, just insane!!!  No matter the reason, its always a good excuse to go climb a mountain!

This time of year the sun is setting around 5:45pm which makes for some gorgeous golden hour sunsets. Get out, check it out, you wont be disappointed!

Link for trail info: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=28

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South Mountain – Two Ridge Tango 11.02.14

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View of the Northern Ridge of SoMo from the Southern Ridge up on National Trail (click to enlarge)

The Two Ridge Tango – a sweet loop on SoMo (South Mountain) consisting of 14 miles of some official and some not-so-official trails.

Was an awesome day in Phoenix with killer temps and even better views. Just needed to get out and grind down some miles to recenter myself. Nothing like some good quality time on a trail to get your head right!

I was surprised to see the amount of people out, but with such perfect weather (60s and overcast) how could you not take advantage. The hike starts with a grind up Warrior (non-official) trail. [Get to the trailhead by going south on 19th Ave until dead ending into SoMo] The gain is killer quick to start with 900 ft of elevation gain in 0.84 miles. I scared up about 5 coyote’s on the push up the ridge. After seeing these guys I hiked for a while with rocks in my hands like ready catapults just in case, but it was really cool seeing such a wild animal so close.

Hit the ridge and went to work on the loop. I came across 2 small groups of people on Alta trail coming from the neighborhoods in South Phoenix, another couple riding horses (sipping on cervezas), and later a big boy-scout troop putting down a 10 miler up on National trail.

I made sure to touch Maricopa peak (highest point near Alta trail) and Goat Hill (high point just east of where Ranger trail ties into National). Took a few picks, enjoyed the views and kept trekkin.

Finally dropped down Ranger and worked my way across the desert and found an old use trail that went up the Ridge, spoke with a cool family of 4 just hanging out and enjoying the views on the North Ridge of SoMo for a moment before pushing on, finishing my loop and getting back to the truck.

2.5 liters of water, 5 hours 0 mins Time, 1 clif bar, 1 avocado, 1 natur valley peanut butter bar, 1 protien bar, 1 plum

Nothing can be said for just getting out and putting a grind down on some trail and really just putting everything behind you and enjoying being outside!

Below is the aerial topo GPX for the loop

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