Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

We spent the last week wrapping up our visit with Frank & Etta, then soaking up the sun in Joshua Tree National Park.  On Christmas Day, Frank and Etta drove us out to Whitewater Draw to look at the Sandhill Cranes.  It was a perfect opportunity to use my new telephoto lens!

regular lens

telephoto lens!

We had a nice relaxing day, skyping with my family and having a great meal with Frank & Etta and Etta's cousin Marsha.  On Monday, they took us out to their friends' goat farm where we got to snack on the most delicious goat cheese ever and meet all the goats, dogs, and livestock guardians.  If you happen to live in Tucson/Bisbee area, check them out:  

We left Tuesday morning for Joshua Tree where we were lucky enough to have a place to stay right outside the park.  We got to "The Cube" late afternoon with just enough time to cook dinner and unpack before it got really dark.  Wednesday we hit the park, not realizing that we would be fighting the masses from school vacations.  It was crazy!  I lingered in the visitor center just long enough to get my stamp, then we took off to find our climbing destinations.  The first one was *packed* with several ropes set up and big groups all around so we moved on.  We climbed all day (and saw a coyote trot by), getting back to the Cube in time to hike up the hill and catch the sunset over the mountains.

I woke up bright and early the next morning and hiked up the mountain to watch the sun rise over the mountains.  Pretty nice way to start the day.

We traded in our ropes for our crashpad (a.k.a our mattress) and did some bouldering in the park. 

Or I should say, Curtis bouldered.  I took these:

We also drove over to see Skull Rock further into the park.  A little overrated since it only resembled a skull from one very specific angle, but still cool.

Again, we made it back to the Cube in time for an awesome sunset.  Curtis started dinner while I ran around and took some photos. 

We had one more day in the park, which we used to drive around a bit more and see sections we'd never seen.  We hiked into the Lost Horse Mine where Curtis snapped this little guy with the telephoto:

Lost Horse Mine trail

We drove out the southern entrance to the park and made our way to San Diego to see Sean & Danielle (and their kitty Sammy).  They led us on a great hike today up Cowles Mountain and then we went to the Pizza Port and munched on some tasty pizza thanks to a gift certificate from Missy & Tom for Christmas.  

View from Cowles Mountain

Danielle brought us out to Seal Beach where we saw these little guys.  

Now we're hanging out playing Apples to Apples, waiting for the stroke of midnight.  We'll be here for the next few days soaking up the sun and checking out more of the area.  More to come soon!

P.S. Dad made us a beautiful cribbage board for Christmas (I'll take a picture) so now we've been playing Cribbage every night and finally getting the hang of it.  Thankfully Dad sent along 2 sets of rules so we don't have to fight over it :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We're saving on postage this year, but to keep in the tradition of my hand-drawn cards, here's our Christmas ecard!  Merry Christmas to you all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Back in Bisbee

We arrived back in Bisbee last night, grateful for the warm house to sleep in after our few chilly days out exploring southeastern Arizona.  We left last Saturday, headed to Mt. Lemmon for a little rock climbing.  We hiked in through the canyon and tried out some of the easier climbs before committing to the harder ones down below where all the other groups were climbing.  We ended our day after Curtis tried out one of the hard sport climbs but fell above the 3rd bolt.  (Maybe I should draw a little diagram, but you can probably picture what happens when someone heavier falls toward someone much lighter standing on the ground when the two are connected by a rope).  Curtis fell down while I flew up and slammed half my body into his gear belt where we met somewhere in the middle, both dangling from the rope.  At least I didn't drop him.

Mt. Lemmon area

The next morning we drove up to the top of the mountain, past ambitious road bikers, to check out the little ski village on top (it's the southernmost ski mountain in the U.S. I'm told).  People were going crazy for the snow, stopping at every pullover to have snowball fights and sledding with the big pieces of cardboard from their huge tvs.  As we drove up, we saw one truck driving down piled high with snow so when I saw another family at the top shoveling snow into their truck I had to stop and ask what the heck they were doing.  They live in Phoenix and were bringing the truck full of snow to her mother to make snowmen!

We wandered the streets of Tucson, and visited both the west and east sections of Saguaro National Park (west side is much nicer) and drove the loop roads at both.  Saguaro cacti may be my new favorite things.  I probably took way too many photos, but here are a few of them:


We camped out in the national forest in a torrential downpour.  No warm dinner that night, it was PB&J sandwiches for us.  We drove up into the Chiricahuas Monday morning, climbing into higher elevation where that big rainfall down below had piled up some nice fresh snow.  Apparently 5 inches is enough to shut down the roads, so we ended up hiking to the top of the mountain to see the Stand Up Rocks area.  It was still spitting snow and pretty foggy, so we didn't see some of the better known rock formations.  It's hard to find a duck in the snow.  Thanks to the road closure, we were the only people up there enjoying the fresh snow and chilly air.  

We camped out in the snow that night and woke to see this lovely sight out the side window of the truck:

But that's enough snow.  We drove down out of the mountains over to Cochise Stronghold and had a great hike in the warm sun.

Chiricahua's in the distance, driving out of Cochise Stronghold

Curtis got to exercise his off-roading skills on the way through the mountains over to our campsite for the night in the middle of some ranchland.  We fell asleep to the sounds of cows mooing and coyotes calling.

Lights of Tombstone and Sierra Vista (I think) in the distance

Curtis had his sights set on climbing Ewephoria on the Sheepshead rock at Cochise (don't ask me why it's call Sheephead; it doesn't look anything like a sheep). It's the big formation on the right:

So we patiently waited for the sun to rise enough to reach around the corner and warm the climb, then started our hike in, excited for the warm day and the great views we would get from the top. 

Then the clouds moved in. . . 

The group ahead of us bailed after the first pitch.  That should have been a warning flag.  Curtis lead the climb while I huddled in the shade down below, shivering in my puffy coat.  By the time I started climbing, I was half numb and had to huddle in big cracks to get out of the wind.  Meanwhile, I was wondering how I would break the news to Curtis that I would not be climbing the remaining 4 pitches when he called down to say as soon as I got up to him, we would be going back down.  That was all the motivation I needed.  I groveled up to him and we took a few shots before rappelling down to much warmer ground. 

At least our hike out was nice and warm and we had a short drive back to Bisbee where we could warm up.  We're settled in until after Christmas, enjoying the area.  We've been to Tombstone and Sierra Vista and wandered all over Bisbee to see the sights.  I'll get some good shots of the downtown area to share with you all while it's still decorated and festive for Christmas.  That's all for now!

P.S. very sad to report that I finished the latest George R.R. Martin book: A Dance with Dragons.  Now starts the long wait until the next one :(