Archive for May, 2010

Memories of Mexico

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

A guest asked me about the copper canyon this morning, sending me on a long ride down memory lane.

My first trip into the Copper Canyon in Mexico between Chihuahua and Sonora was with Southwest Trekking. We were exploring our guiding possibilities in the region and enjoying it all emensly.

A couple days in to the trip while on a hike I found a very large(150lb.) stone shaped like an egg on its side with the top open, treasure chest style. Being new to guiding and being a stone sculptor at heart I had to have it. I lifted the large stone and hiked down the trail. Near the bottom of the trail, right as it began to level out, I stepped on a stone that rolled under my foot and caused me to fall to the ground. Don’t worry I cradled the stone and protected it with my body. Well ribs soar, ankle twisted and bandaged up I was relegated to being the van driver, and missed out on some beautiful trail rides.

The great thing about being the driver was about to present itself, Around the next corner I found a very well dressed native man needing a ride down the hill to Batopilas, the town in the bottom of the canyon with the same name. I pulled up and told him to hop in. He saw my bandage and asked what happened. I told him the story, and he said oh yeah I too had seen that stone but you would have to be an idiot  to try to carry it down. I raised my hand(idiot) and then asked why he would want it? He said he was a stone  sculptor! I thought for half a second turned over my guide book and there was his photograph, on the back cover chisel in hand. We talked of art and such for the next hour or so. He said he had been sent to Italy by the Catholic church to learn to make violins but he didn’t like the pasta he called it worms, and no beans so he came home. The stone went on to be one of my best sculptures to date. After about a month of talking to the stone I began to carve. I carved a womwn sleeping fetal position in the stone as if returning to the womb for comfort and reguvination. The piece now resides in a garden in Carmel Ca. and I miss it. Next time maybe I’ll tell you about the riding on my next trip.

Randy Young, Southwest Trekking Guide

Heating UP

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

As you may have noticed, summer has crept into the desert. Southwest Trekking is a hearty group though, and we still offer guides through these hot months. There are a few options for us to help keep temperatures reasonable. One option is to go really early in the morning, as it can be as much as 40 degrees cooler in the early hours than in the afternoon.   The mornings provide excellent lighting for photography, and a small chance at spotting wild life still up from their nocturnal adventures.

Another option is to go up. By gaining elevation we can enter different ecosystem which provide much cooler temperatures, terrain, and vegetation. Depending on your location, accessing trails off the Mt. Lemmon Highway can be a very rewarding choice.

Finally, we can avoid the sun altogether and do guided trip at night. Not only is the night time cooler, but it is also when our animals start to come out. So not only do you get the amazing experience of zipping around the desert at night in wonderful temperatures, but you also have the chance of seeing some of our relatively elusive wild life. Don’t worry, Southwest Trekking has all the necessary equipment and lights to keep these trip safe and fun.

Do Something

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I was  speaking with a good friend this morning about another in need, I’ll avoid specifics on the needs, but our conversation was about stagnation, procrastination and a sedentary lifestyle, causing depression, anxiety and such. We agreed that people need  to get outside and do something. So please all who read this get out and do something!  A bike ride, hike or even walk through the neighborhood, anything just get outside, live, experience life, and enjoy it.

Randy Young, Southwest Trekking Guide

My Boot Troubles

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Whenever you read or hear someone talk of the necessary requirements for a safe and comfortable hike in the desert, a good pair of shoes are one of the first things said. ( Also water, sunscreen, and a wide brimmed hat.) If your boots fit incorrectly the rest of it doesn’t matter because you won’t get very far. And if you do get far, getting back can be a nightmare.

Being a hiking guide, shoes are extremely important. Hiking a minimum of 2 to 4 miles every day, on sharp rocks and loose gravel your feet and your shoes take some punishment. The desert heat and dryness also inflicts serious damage to footwear. The heat of the desert is also a factor that needs to be considered when deciding what type of shoes to wear. Do you want an all leather boot that will provide stiffness and durability or a canvas boot that is lightweight and breathable? Another consideration is the type of sole you want. A stiff sole provides durability and support if carrying a heavy load while a softer sole will give you a bit more traction but less durability. The type of ankle support is another factor. Do you want a high boot that offers more support or a low boot that’s lighter and less constricting?

When the Ritz Carlton opened in December 2009 I started fresh with a brand new pair of Keen light day hikers. The soles were literally falling off in one and a half months. I mean no disrespect for Keen, the boots performed the way they were designed. I just wasn’t using them for their designed intention. Light weekend type hiking. Not many miles carrying a pact on a rough surface. So once the Keens wore out I purchased a pair of Merrells. A bit more aggressively designed I thought they may last longer. They did last longer. Three months. Since I was spending about $150 per pair things were getting expensive. For my next purchase I decided to spend a little more money and get a boot that might last a year or so. I settled on a pair of $325 Lowa boots that were designed for long treks with a heavy load. I was very proud of these boots and thought I had made my last boot purchase for sometime. Being a stiff soled, high, all leather boot they needed some breaking in. I wore the boots diligently, hoping they would be the one. But it wasn’t to be. For, you see I experienced the negative side of a factor not previously mentioned when picking a boot. Size and fit. When at the store these boots seemed to be what I was looking for. But when I hit the trail they quickly became a pain. I mean that literally. The stiffness of the soles prevented my foot from bending fully. Now if this was the only problem I could live with it because it would be just a matter of breaking them in. Unfortunately that was not the only problem. The boot was too loose in the heal (only on my right foot). This made my foot move up and down in the heal and created a massive blister on the back of my heal. I went back to the store I purchased them from and told them of my woes. They decided to try to form the boot to my foot using a heating process. Again, in the store it seemed as though they would work after the alteration, but once on the trail they again gave me fits. I decided that comfortable feet out way the lack of durability. I returned to the store with the full intention of purchasing another pair of soft soled, soft sided boots. Well to my surprise the stored gave me store credit for the full boot price and also went out of their way to assure I would get the right boot for the job. After trying on almost every boot in the store in 2 different sizes I think I found the right one. Again I settled on a pair of Lowa’s. This time however I went with a narrower boot with a medium sole density. They seem to fit like a glove. No slipping, no soreness. Only time and miles will be the true test.

(The very good staff at The Summit Hut in Tucson were there with me the hole way and wanted nothing other than for my purchace to be the right one. They were kind, generous and patient. My hat is off to them. Oh yeah that brings me to the hat issue…maybe we’ll save that for another day.)

Rick Gray, Southwest Tekking Ritz Carlton Guide

Elusive Wildlife

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

On the sunrise hike at the JW Marriott Starr Pass I had two guests from Seattle. It was a beautiful morning and equally wonderful hike. As we neared the pavement and end of our hike, One of the guests remarked that she really wanted to see some wildlife, a coyote or something. I simply said they are elusive and usually seen near dawn and dusk. About an hour later I saw them again, they said they had gone for a second hike and still nothing.  Towards the end of my shift I went back out on trail searching for a blog topic and there in the trail, just looking over at me was a happy coyote. I thanked him for the visit and hiked on.

Another yellow flower . . . .

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

In case you’ve missed out on seeing some yellow flowers this spring, there is still another opportunity to see some color. Look to the hills, and the trees should be blooming. I was driving around town today, visiting various resorts, and noticed whole hills were covered in yellow. There is an older post that discusses the Foothill Palo Verde tree if you are looking for more information.

On that note, I’ve also noticed a few Buckhorn Cholla still blooming their orangish to red flowers. It always amazes me that a cactus as nasty as Cholla is edable, and able to produce such a delicate flower.

Of corse the Saguaro’s are almost in full bloom. Their creamy white flowers open at night to bloom for one day. In the following afternoon, the flower will wilt and fall away from the cactus. If the flower was pollinated within its short bloom, then a fruit will start to grow, and ripen, for the next few months. I’m sure there will be another installment of the “Edible Desert” which will discuss the many wonderful things that can be done with Saguaro fruit.

Speaking of fruit, some of you might be noticing some weird pear shaped things growing on our Prickly Pear cactus. These are their fruit just starting grow. If you’re really lucky, you’ll still see a handful of their yellow flowers blooming on the thin section of their paddles. Those fruit will slowly ripen over the next couple months, and as they do they will turn to a deep red color (that’s how you know they are ripe).

Although it’s starting to heat up, mornings and late evenings still provide decent temperatures to get outside. Southwest Trekking offers many options for summer tours, including night rides and hikes. Feel free to contact us if your interested . . . . and did I mention that most of our animals are nocturnal too? Always an adventure.

Lynx Rufus, Bobcat

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

This morning I arrived early at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, so I went out on trail to find ripe hedgehogs. On my way down the trail I was delighted to find a bobcat cruising up the wash. Being a very solitary shy creature it made its way up the wash ahead of me only allowing occasional glimpses before it disappeared, using its camouflage, in plain sight. The bobcat (Lynx rufus)can be identified most readily by its short bob-tail which is 2 to 8 inches long. The tail has black fur on top and is white on the underside. It has a wide flat face with long  fur on the cheek area. It has long legs and big paws. Its color ranges from an orange-ish brown to pale gray with black spots and bars on it legs and chest and less noticeable spots throughout its body. Overall size is  15 to 30 pounds at 2-3 feet long. 
 If you happen upon a Bobcat in the desert grab your chihuahua and enjoy the moment of beauty as it slips from view.

Randy Young, Southwest Trekking Guide

Our Edible Desert, Hedgehog Fruit

Friday, May 21st, 2010

For this installment of our edible desert, we are going to focus on the hedgehog cactus fruit.  Many of you will know the hedgehog cactus and picture a deep red to purple flower that nearly dwarfs the cactus clump beneath. A variety of mamilia that is well known, but have you eaten the fruit? They are just now getting ripe in the Tucson Mountains. Look for a hedgehog with some of the fruits split open from ripeness.  Choose a fruit that has not yet burst on the same clump. Scrape away some of the thorns and slice the fruit open (I like to use a rock for this). Scoop out the seedy pulp and enjoy this rare delicacy.   Remember to only harvest on private land and with permission.

Randy Young, Southwest Trekking Guide

Results of the ride

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Well like I said in my last post I took some Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain staff mountain biking. We went to a place called the 50 year trail. The fifty year trail is a great trail for advanced beginner or intermediate level mountain bikers. It offers flowing single track trail with some challenging rocky sections. The best part of the fifty year trail is a section called the chutes.The chutes is a section of trail the feels like a roller coaster. You zip along the trail, railing up and down and back and forth. This trail isn’t like other trails that are like lines cut in the dirt with nothing to keep you on the trail. This trail is bordered by sloped walls that doesn’t allow for many mishaps. In fact if you ride this section with your pedals in a vertical position you may rub one on the side wall and could easily get bucked off you steed. But like anything that goes down it must come back up (or something like that ;-)) The climb out of the chutes can be quite challenging. It will definitely get you breathing hard.

Another thing I like about the fifty year trail system is that there seems to be an endless network of trails, paths, and cow trails to assure you something new each time it is ridden. In fact I had an interesting experience on this day as well. While trying to negotiate around some rocks on a tight turn I neglected to notice the rather large jumping cholla cactus opposite the nasty rocks. Well I missed the rocks but had the misfortune of slapping my right arm up against the cholla. With only one hand it can be difficult to remove jumping cholla from your other arm. Luckily for me I was with someone who was able to help me remove them from my skin. By the way, jumping cholla hurts more coming out of you skin than it does going into your skin, and believe me it hurts going in too. Well, jumping cholla out of the skin and back on the trail. The ride went much smoother after that. We headed down the trail and back to our vehicles minus a bit of skin.

Rick Gray, lead guide, Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

Arizona’s Diversity

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

I just got back from a trip to Northern Arizona, and with every trip to someplace new I become more and more impressed with the diversity and absolute splendor this state has to offer. 

To be a little more specific on the location, I was in the Sycamore Canyon located between Flagstaff and Williams.  This majestic place is home to some amazing Basalt canyons and immense pine forests.   Getting there is a nice drive that starts in the Sonoran desert, which turns into big open grass plains as you get North of Phoenix.  As you keep heading North, you slowly start to climb up the Mongollon Rim which changes the landscape yet again into a rockier soil and Juniper trees.  Once to the rim, you have entered Ponderosa Pine forests and open grass meadows that are home to Elk.  Quite the opposite site from the hot, dry desert found 4 hours south.

As a reward for the drive, we were greeted with cooler tempuratures and an abundance of shade among the many pine treees.  Again, quite different from the 100 degree tempuratures that we left back in the Desert.  The canyon has many trails you can explore, and if your up to it, many Basalt cliffs to climb.  The worst part of the whole trip was having to get back into the car and driving back into the desert.