Archive for July, 2010

Lemmon Drop

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

I had an epic ride last Sunday. Some friends asked if I wanted to go ride a couple trails up on Mt. Lemmon. I suggested that we should do the entire mountain, not just a few trails…this is when I should have been slapped. Riding all the trails down from the top of the mountain is known as the Lemmon Drop. You see I have been training lately and thought that I needed to challenge myself a bit. The “Drop” starts on top of Mt. Lemmon by the large antennas and at the top of the chair lift. The first trail is Aspen Draw. This is a great trail. It can get a bit tricky though. At the top there are a couple of switch backs that have about a 2 foot drop in the apex of the turn. It also has a couple of “pinch” spots too where one must time your pedal strokes and twist your handlebars just right to make it around some trees.

After Aspen Draw was finished we had a bit of road riding to do. We took the paved highway down to Bear Wallow Road. From there it was a long slog up an old fire road. I must report that for a change I was the first or second guy up the hill instead of the last guy up the hill. Once we reached the top of Mt. Bigelow we went down the Palisades trail. This is were we ran into a little difficulty. I got a flat and the group split up. We actually lost each other for about 30 minutes. It was that kind of thing where both parties are waiting for the other party to show up. Half the group was waiting down the road about a half mile at one trail head and half at the other trail head. It wasn’t til we were approached by a sheriffs vehicle that we realized what had happened. The officer inside told us that the rest of the group was down the road waiting.

Once we regrouped the ride was back on. Well maybe not the riding part. At least not right away anyhow. The next segment of our adventure took us up the Green Mountain Trail. And I do mean up. We hiked maybe about 3/4 of a mile before we could get back on our bikes. Finally on our bikes again we headed down hill. This trail was great. Lots of drops and switch backs, rocks and steps.

The Green Mountain Trail delivered us to what was probably the most difficult portion of our journey, Bug Springs Trail. For about the first mile of Bug Spring you are hiking your bike up what seems to be an almost vertical staircase. By this time it was starting to get hot. Some in my group had already run out of water. I had not run out of water though. In fact I still had 2 full bottles. Which is what I figured I would need for the ride. Now I have a delima. Do I not share my water(which I by the way have carried myself and was obviously prepared) and be sufficiently hydrated or do I share my water and become as dehydrated as they are. I shared. Typically I don’t like to share my water. I packed just enough water for me. To pack more would waist energy and to pack less is dangerous. If you are familiar with the desert, and all of the people I was with were, you should know better.  You should never rely on someone else to be your camel.

Well we all survived. Luckily there was a family from Mexico having a picnic at the end of the trail. They were very generous. They gave us watermelon and sodas. They didn’t have any water but the watermelon was like heaven.

The moral of this story…ALWAYS PACK MORE WATER THAN YOU THINK YOU WILL NEED. Because you never know when your friends will be dorks.

Rick Gray, lead guide Southwest Trekking

Our Edible Desert

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Well the monsoon is upon us, and the heat is on! I regret to admit that I was unable to harvest sufficient Saguaro fruit for a Mead this summer. Prickly pear mead is still on the menu however! The time for that harvest is nearly upon us.  This morning on our complimentary hike we sampled a saguaro fruit that had landed in a cholla, some hackberries and a prickly pear fruit! Ah abundance is great!  I am also planing on cooking the Palo Verde beans I blanched and dried about a month ago. These and many other tasty morsels await soon on our edible desert!

NCIS (Now Comes Important Stars)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I know NCIS usually stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. But this time the above acronym works just fine. This past weekend The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain played host to a photo shoot with CBS’s Watch Magazine. I was asked by the hotel if would want to assist with logistics and site locations. I agreed not really knowing what I would be doing. Basically all I did was seek out a few locations around the hotel grounds that would make for a nice backdrop.

The people who were here for the shoot were all from New York City and most had no idea what to expect upon arriving in the desert. The heat was the first obvious thing that struck them. They arrived @ night so the temperature wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t until the next afternoon while shooting did they get the full grasp of things. Another thing that made a point, literally, was the cactus. It wasn’t long until I needed to whip out my comb to extract cholla segments from more than one person. (Sometimes people need to learn from their own mistakes when they can’t learn from others.)

I showed the group to an abandon house in the canyon (where I found a bird nesting directly on the ground. I’ll save that for another blog.) that was formerly owned by “Cush” Cayton, the rancher who used to own all the land in dove mountain.  I also found them an old jeep road where they were able to shoot. I also showed them a grand stand of Saguaros.

The subject of the photo shoot was none other than NCIS star Michael Weatherly.

Michael Weatherly posing

This photo was taken on my cell phone camera. He was posing in front of an old wrecked car.

Michael weatherly posing in the Saguaro stand

Michael Weatherly cooling off for the camera

All in all it was good fun. I haven’t met too many celebrities in my day and didn’t know what to expect. The crew of this shoot and Michael himself really made me feel as though I was part of the family. Everyone was very nice and down to earth. You just never know who might show up at The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain.

Rick Gray, lead guide Southwest Trekking

On The Road, again (Continued)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Well, it has been a while.  The only thing I can say is wow.  So much has happened.  So much to share.  Where to begin?  I guess start with a few pictures is a good place.

A hanging glacier inside Banff, One of Canada's Natioanl Parks


This was one of several glaciers I saw while going through Banff and Jasper National Parks.  Magic, especially just coming out of the desert of the southwest.  I can not tell you how many cyclists I saw riding/touring through the area.  It blew me away.  And, and those hills, or should I say mountain passes.  I was impressed.  Crazy stuff.   

One very interesting thing I saw was the overpasses that were desinged just for wildlife to be able to pass over the highway without having to dodge cars and trucks.  There were about eight of these in defferent stages of completion.  The one below was being finished.   

  Wildlife Crossing Under Construction   

So, we will skip the next couple of days until I get to Fairbanks.  I decide I will try to get a feel of the city.  I drive around, a lot.  I decide I better start looking for a place to camp.  I don’t want to go to far out of town.  Usually you have to stay ten or more miles out to find a, what I call, a decent place to stay.  But I check out a few ‘parks’.  They turn out to be pretty much municipal parks.  But I come across a park with a sign saying something to the effect of “All Nations POWOW”.  Hmmmmmmm  I was going that way anyway.  Check it out and there must be 500 plus people in and around a very large tent/arena.  I decided to hang out and check it out.  There was lots of dancing, drumming and well, intersting, competitions.  They accepted me as one of there own and I was able to assist several of their ‘elders’ and help with the serving of dinner to them.  There were several spending the night and they invited me to camp with them, so I did.  The good/bad thing was they stayed up until well after one AM, powowing.  The next day I thought I better start looking for a place that has internet to facilitate me doing payroll.  Libraries are usually good places, but the main library of Fairbanks only partly worked for what I needed.  I asked around and found that the Barnes and Noble was my best bet.  I pulled into the parking lots and OMG that is one huge Barnes and Noble.  I am packing stuff together to go inside and a guy gets out of his Jeep next to me and starts walking around the trailer and vehicle.  Weird.  I get out and say hey.  As is turns out he is a retired Alaska State Trooper, but not just a stste trooper but it sounds like a law officer that may have apprehended more murderers than any other officer in the country.  Holy do do.  And, and he has flown in and out of almost every small town/village in all of Alaska.  Double holy do do.  And I was at Barnes and Noble and he is an author and photographer and and has a new book out that we went and bought, he signed and hopefully will come to Tucson for a visit.  Damn super cool, nice guy.  We hung out for more than an hour, me mostly laughing my fool head off.  One funny boy, or should I say, old man as we called each other.  It was grand.   

And then, then.  I was driving around the airport, not just any old airport but the airport in Fairbanks Alaska.  Anyway.  I was planning on going to Bettles and checking out the scene there because they call it the gateway to the artic. and lo and behold there is an actual Bettles Airlines.  Holy do do.  I pull in.  There are several Germans getting ready to get onto a plane.  I sit down and pick up one of there brochures to see what they have to offer.  A guys walks in with flip flops on.  “Is that your rig out there?”  Dam, I thought I had parked where I was not supposed to.  But no he really likes the set up and we go check it out.  As it turns out he is an alpine guide based out of Anchorage and has just returned from taking a client into the Brooks Range.  We talk shop, he is the owner of the business and boy oh boy, yet once again I laugh, we laugh.  He introduces me to his girl friend and we exchange cards and offer to visit each other in the near future.  Super cool dude.  But, I get to talk to the owner of the business and she is able to help with a lot with questions, she has answers.  Yahoooooooo   

But, but the highlight of the day is this:  I am driving around the airport grounds and what do I see in front of me?  Not one, not two but several 208s, Cessna Caravans.  Now you have to get the bigger picture.  There are no fences around this airport, at least not where I am now driving past.  Right in front of me is the plane of my dreams, fantasies.  Holy shit.  OMG, what am I going to do?  I have to get out and see if I can actaully get close to them and check them out.  I walk up to the check in for the flights and ask if I can go out and look at the 208, “sure as long as there is a staff out there” and luckily there was.  But not only a staff but the owner and one of the pilots.  I explain abut this plane being one of my fantasies and we talk shop, smack.  He teases me that it is one of the best planes ever made, the most profitable plane ever made, at least for his business.  They own eight of them.  I get to hang out as they load the underbelly and back end of the aircraft.  I get to hang with the pilot as he does his preflight.  This may not be a big deal to some but it was a fantasy for me.  OMG   

OK, I gott stop.  I have said enough, at least for today   

More to come.  Thanks for reading.   

John Heiman   


Southwest Trekking


Monday, July 12th, 2010

 Is it hot here these days or what?  And to a year round local, it’s also muggy by our standards.  Time to sweat, and sweat, and sweat, then shower and sweat some more.  It makes perfect sense to sweat when it’s 100+ degrees and our humidity is creeping up, so don’t worry, I’m not embarrassed in the slightest.  I bring up sweating because of two reasons:  One, it makes you stink, and if any of you hang around me in the next few months, I apologize in advance.  Two,  it cools you down.  Most mammals sweat, either through skin or paws, and it also cools them down and makes them stink.

Where am I going with this you may ask?  Well, on my morning hike at the JW Marriott I was sweating profusely and enjoying the relatively cooler temperatures (82 F at 6am), guiding a mom and her son in the wonderful sonoran desert.  They were eager to go, and I was already sweating, so we went a little furthur up the trail than we usually go.  When they decided to split off and finish a certain trail, I had to turn around a get back to the resort.  Since we had gone out a little further than usual, I decided I’d just run back to the hotel. . . you know, really get the sweat going.

So off I go, running down the trail, and actually enjoying it when all of a sudden a deer runs RIGHT in front of me.  I mean this guy missed me by a few inches, I was even privileged enough to smell his sweat.  It scared the living daylights out of me for a second, but once the adrenaline calmed down I was able to appreciate his beauty a little more.  The Mule Deer found here are, for the most part, much like white tail deer you find in the east.  However, they do have rather large ears, and are a little smaller than white tale deer.  It was a real treat to be so close to this large mammals as he was gracefully strolling around while eating grasses and leaves.  What boggles my mind about these large animals is that they have to go months without any real source of water.  Although we have entered our Monsoon season, most of the city has yet to feel any rain drops.  And seeing as the last spring rain we had was in early April, these poor creatures have been surviving solely off water found in the vegetation.  Quite an amazing feat seeing as most of our vegetation is extremely drought resistant, and usually doesn’t have any ample amount of moisture in it.

Anyway, that’s what my morning was like – dodging deer.

On The Road Again, (Continued)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010
I need a signI need a sign. 

So, I did something stupid today.  OK, I did something a bit more stupid than usual, so far today.  So, I am in The Yukon Territories, Canada a city called Whitehorse.  Awesome palce.  Pretty much great everything.  I decided I wanted to go  for a bike ride, a mountain bike ride.  I thought being fair to local guide services I went around and checked out what they had to offer.  And of course I wanted to go ‘tommorrow’.  Nothing available, they pointed me to a competitor to purchase a map, which they were out of.  And their competitor was out of also.  Must be a good map.  They sent me to the local bookstore.  $10.95, a bit more than I was hoping  for, for what I thought it was, but that was the price.  So, my feeling on maps is this, they help you get lost.  But remember, I am “The Professional Guide”.  I am prepared, I have a GPS to keep me on track and safe.  I pull out the GPS, turn it on, to facilitae it finding the satalites, pull down the bike, get my stuff together.  Reach down to clip the GPS onto the handlebars and damn, where is the clip?  So, no clip, no big deal, I will just put it into my pocket.  Have you ever lost your car while biking?  It is not usually a good experience.  Off I go down the trail.  The views are great, the trail is awesome.  There are a few signs along the way.  Yeah, OK, I have a map, I have a GPS and I have signs.  How lost can I get.  I ride, and ride and ride.  I come around to a junction that goes four ways.  Hmmmmmmm…..  This maybe a good place to find my way back.  Reach into my pocket to see the genral direction of where the vehcile is.  SHIT  I forgot to have the GPS track my route or even to put a waypoint in to locate the vehcile.  GREAT  Hey, remember, I am “The Professional Guide”.  The map is really no help at all.  The trail signs?  Hmmmmm, the names of the trails on the trails and the names on the map don’t seem to match.  Weird.  I am in the woods, thick woods.

Yeah, great views, but where am I?

 I ride and ride and ride.  I come across a trail that says Heartbreak Trail, access at your own risk.  OK, I can deal with that and besides I have always experienced that any trail that has anything to do with heartbreak has to go up.  And oh yeah, it went up. They should have called it heart attack trail.  I get to the top of the hill.   OK, I see where I think I want to be. I think. But then how do I get there?  I choose.  Well, as you may have experienced, what goes up must go down.  Chest on the saddle down.  I come to a road, but what road?  Yet, a road.  I choose a direction.  I ride.  Come around a turn and what do you think I see.  My vehicle.  How did that happen?  Who cares I am back.  Great, GREAT ride.


I am walking up to the Library to use the internet and there are several ladies talking in the parking lot.  I say good morning and we chat.  It turns out the one is the political advisor to the minister of the province of Yukon.  Kinda like the govenor.  Great conversations.  I am looking for a place to mail the payroll and sit for a bit and people watch.  A lady comes sits down next to me eating a hotdog, that looks pretty damn good.  We talk.  Before you know it her husband walks up.  We talk more.  She is done with her hot dog and says to him, lets go.  He tells her, you go ahead and walk, I am going to sit here and talk to John for a bit more.  It turns out he is a retired bush pilot.  Stories, boy did he have stories.  His wife shows up two hours later and we are still talking.  Stories.  I love stories.

One last thing:  I wanted to pass on Rick from Driggs, ID,  blog.  Check it out.  Rick has a crappy life also.  Life sucks.

More to come.  Back on the raod again.

John Heiman


Southwest Trekking

The Professional Guide Service.

My RCDM experience

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

I had a chance to experience life from the other side this weekend. On July 5th my wife and I celebrated 15 years together. We don’t generally go all out on our anniversary. We will go out somewhere kinda nice for dinner, exchange cards and a gift and that’s all. This year we thought we would do something special. We reserved a room at The Ritz Carlton hotel in dove mountain.

My wife and I had never experienced a stay at a resort hotel. We’ve been to nice places before but never anything like this. I work up here 5 days a week. I see the lengths that the staff here goes to to see to it that guest are left wanting for nothing. Still, seeing it every day, you can’t appreciate it. It’s only when you step around to the other side of the counter that you get to truly feel the hospitality. We weren’t on the VIP list but we sure felt like it.

When we arrived we were greeted by the same guys I see everyday. But even knowing them as I do they made me and my wife feel as though we were royalty. The same guys (and gal) that I joke with and have fun with were calling us Mr. and Mrs. Gray. True professionals, and experts at what they do. Greg greeted us, helped us with our luggage, and escorted us to registration. Our car was whisked away so fast I didn’t get a chance to see who parked it. While waiting at registration my wife sampled some lemonade and Arnold Palmer that is set up in the lobby. I happened to mention to her that I love the Arnold Palmer. Once registered Brandon showed us to our beautiful room overlooking wild burro canyon and the pool. We barely had time to even sit down when room service came to our room with a carafe of fresh Arnold Palmer and lemonade.

The room was wonderful and the service impecible, but I would have to say by far the dinner at Core resturant was the highlight. I’m not a food critic and to be honest the menu was unfamiliar to me. So I won’t even try to remember the names of the dishes but I will do my best to describe them.

The starter I had was a spare rib dish and my wife had a lobster salad, both were beyond good. Then we were brought a thing they called a BLT shooter. It was a small square of tasty thick bacon on a toothpick served with a shot of lettuce water. Then when we finished that came a perfectly grilled scallop the size of which I have never seen. Then came the main coarse. We both ordered the buffalo tenderloin, with unshelled crab legs served on top of bed of delicious smashed red potatoes. As soon as the main coarse plates were cleared we were brought a pre desert. A sweet mix of apples caramelized. At last when we didn’t think we could eat any more, in came dessert. I had a perfect slice of carrot cake. To be honest I don’t even remember what my wife had. By this time I was starting to enter a food coma.  Dinner took 2 hours, but seemed to fly by. By the time we left the restaurant I was so food drunk that the rest of the night was a bit blurry. I’m sure I had a good time though.

Rick Gray, lead guide, Southwest Trekking

On The Road Again, continued

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

So, another day, another several hundered miles.  Along the way came across a road detour, western style:

The cattle drive caused a bit of a back up.


There was a litle girl driving an ATV, dad on a motorcycle, a couple of cowboys on horses, imagine that and a little boy walking, throwing rocks to keep them little doggies a moving.


Then I set up camp for the evening. Mosquitos were really bad that evening

That be Mark Schurke, past and infamous Southwest Trekking guide.

Stopped by to check in with Mark Scurke.  Mark was a past Southwest Trekking guide and four years ago he went onto start his own guide service specializing in dog sledding, as in like dogs pulling a sled in the snow.  So to say the least he is not doing this in southern Arizona.  He and his lovely wife and new son moved to Northern Montana.  He took me out on his favorite ride tha first evening.  I can see why he likes it here.  We discussed how or if we could have Southwest Trekking become Northwest Trekking.  Ideas were shared and will certainly be entertaining the idea further.  The links to his site is :  and his facebook page links is:

John Heiman, owner/president of Southwest Trekking riding in the northwest.

They make trees big in these parts of the woods.

 More to come back, on the road again.

John Heiman

Southwest Trekking


Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Summer time. Generally not my favorite season in Arizona. If your going to do anything out side it must be done when it’s not hot. That means getting up very early (which I do anyways) or stay up late. Nighttime in the desert is wonderful, I’ll give you that. But they can still be hot. Mornings aren’t always hot, but they are early in the day. Bugs are another deterrent to going outside in the summer. Right now we are seeing a lot of seed bugs (also known as true bugs) of which there over 80,000 varieties. True bugs include other  species of bugs, cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, shield bugs, and others. The bugs we are seeing are also related to the infamous kissing bug( also known as a cone nose bug or assassin bug).  The kissing bug that is found in southern Mexico and South America can be carriers of chagas disease. ( ).

My favorite part of summer is the month of July. Not for anything that you may think. I like July for something that happens far away from the desert. It is the Tour de France. The Tour is in my opinion the most important and exciting sporting event of the year. This year should be no exception. Seven time Tour winner Lance Armstrong is sitting pretty to win his 8th Tour. But the youngster Alberto Contidor ( Armstrongs team mate last year ) has won 2 TdF and is looking for his third. It’s not just those two stars to watch out for. There is 188 other riders in the mix that will be fighting for themselves or their team mates. Tune into Versus network starting July third and going on for 21 stages and thousands of miles, to see who comes out on top.

Rick Gray, Lead Guide Southwest Trekking.