Sunday, January 24, 2010

Desert Snow

It's obviously been a long time since I last posted, so a little catch-up is in order. As of July 2009, I have relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada. While I did do some traveling last year, most of it involved several trips back and forth to Texas moving my stuff and visiting family. I did take a couple of short vacation trips, but never got around to posting any of the photos. Since most of the people who read this have already seen them by now, I will just pick things up from here.

One of the reasons I moved to Las Vegas was the close proximity to several great, photogenic hiking places in and around the area. The closest is probably Red Rock Canyon, which is about 25 minutes from my house. It's a great way to get out of the city for an afternoon and do some hiking, or just some scenic driving. Last week, we had a rare stretch of rain in Las Vegas, which made today's and yesterday's outings to Red Rock that much more delightful. Not only was the weather sunny at last, the park was covered up in snow. A nice silver (err... white) lining to the week of gray.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Honanki Ruins

No hiking today. Instead, my friends and I went for a much-welcomed massage early this afternoon, then visited the Honanki Ruins. We arrived at Honanki right before sunset, so we got to see some of the ruins being "highlighted" by the late day sun. It's really amazing how well preserved the ruins are. It must have taken the Sinagua forever to shape all of those little bricks they used to build them!

For more about Honanki, visit the US Forest Service's official information page on the site.

Tomorrow marks the end of my stay in Sedona. We'll be checking out of the hotel in the morning, then visiting the Out of Africa Wildlife Park before heading to Las Vegas later in the afternoon. I'll try to post again tomorrow night if it's not too late, otherwise, look for it sometime Sunday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Deadman's Pass and Boynton Vista

I wrapped up the hiking part of my trip (for real this time) today with Deadman's Pass and Boynton Vista. Deadman's Pass was a new one for me. It's a nice trail going in and even nicer on the way back. Unfortunately, I did it at the wrong time of day. The sun was right in my face, which means none of my photos turned out very well. Next time I'll have to hit this one early in the morning.

Boynton Vista shares the same trailhead as Deadman's Pass, so I decided to go ahead and finish things up with this short climb. For the second time this trip I ran into someone I met on an earlier trail. I can't remember that ever happening before.

After the hike, it was dinner at Javelina Cantina with one of my friends from Las Vegas. The food as always was great! The new "handicap gate" that blocks what used to be a direct, short path right to the restaurant's door is not so great. It's a blatantly obvious attempt to route customers to the nearby shops en route to dinner. Frankly, I'd just as soon not be herded around like cattle when all I want is to enjoy a nice meal. If I want to shop, I'll shop. /end rant

By my count, I've done 11 hikes, touching 17 trails in the past 12 days. My friends and I have a massage scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Something tells me the masseur will have his work cut out for him!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Climbing Cathedral

As expected, I did the Cathedral Rock trail in its entirety for the first time since 2005. This trail is short in length, but grand in both difficulty and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you finally reach the end!

As I was climbing to the top, I took short video clips along the way whenever it was safe to do so. I've compiled them all together, along with a few still shots, into a five-minute video set to Righteous Fire, a guitar instrumental written and performed by my brother-in-law Will Willis. Unfortunately, I'm still having internet woes at my hotel, so I had to upload a much poorer quality copy of the video than I wanted to, which does neither all my hard work nor Will's song justice. I'll post a better version of it next week when I should have better connectivity. In the meantime, enjoy the climb to the top!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Red Rock Crossing II, Schnebly, and the Airport Sunset

No trip to Sedona is complete without a trip to Red Rock Crossing, so even though I had already been once this time, I went again today so I could show it to my friends. I ended up finding a new spot to shoot the reflection that I think I like better than both of the other places I normally use. Despite the higher than usual water level and resulting current, the water was completely still here, and made a really nice reflection. Even the clouds reflected nicely in this one. I also took a few shots from behind the stepping stones to get some rapids in the frame.

After we visited Red Rock Crossing, we proceeded to another "must do" in Sedona--a drive up Schnebly Hill Road. We originally planned to stay for sunset, but it was two votes to one in favor of getting down that narrow, rocky, badly-maintained mountain road before dark. So, we went to the airport mesa to watch the sun set. Afterwards, we finished up the day with a dinner at Judi's, which has maybe the best ribs anywhere.

Tomorrow's plans are up in the air. It's possible Cathedral Rock will again play a prominent role. I'm planning to wrap up the hiking portion of my trip with the difficult but oh so fulfilling climb up this famous Sedona landmark either tomorrow or Thursday. The weather and the "photogenic-ness" of the sky will be the deciding factor.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cowboy Sunset

No hiking today. Instead, I gave my friends a self-made tour down FR152, then we headed out to M Diamond Ranch for a wagon ride and a cowboy dinner. We also got to see a beautiful sunset, and I'm afraid my photo of it didn't come close to doing it justice!

The dinner was huge. There was enough on each plate to feed two cowboys. The meal consisted of a king-size steak cooked to perfection, beans, a baked potato, rolls, corn on the cob, salad, and apple cobbler for dessert. There was a campfire, and a local singer named Alvie Self played the guitar and sang western songs. Here's a bit of the evening on video:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Soldier Pass Trail and Arches

Changing plans is becoming a recurring theme of this trip. With my friends from Las Vegas delayed by car trouble until sometime this afternoon, I took advantage of an extra opportunity for some hiking. I started out the day intending to hike Soldier Pass Trail only to the point of the arches, and returning back after. However, the path up to the arches wasn't nearly as obvious in person as the book made it sound. The book described the trail as a "primitive road" that branched off to the right at the wilderness juncture 1.25 miles into the hike. I did see a wilderness sign and a path with some stones piled in a line in front of it. But it looked a lot more like a "warning, this is not the real path" than a "road", primitive or otherwise. (Note to self: Must get a GPS device, as it would have solved this problem easily). So, I passed by the path to the right, and continued on Soldier Pass. Eventually, I realized I had most certainly passed by the path to the arches. By this point, I was so close to the end of the Soldier Pass trail, that I decided to just go ahead and complete it and forget about trying to get down to the arches. I would check out that side path on the way back, and make note of whether it appeared to lead to the arches for possible future reference.

The Soldier Pass Trail led up to the top of Brins Mesa, and ended at a rather nondescript intersection with the Brins Mesa trail. A little anti-climatic, actually, after the steep, rocky climb to the top! I wandered around on top for a bit (the view is largely obstructed by trees, unfortunately), then headed back down after a brief detour on a well-marked "social trail" that led to a nice view, albeit, one in unfortunate lighting.

When I finally reached the intersection with the wilderness boundary again, the "just can't let it go" in me kicked in, so I started up that little side path to see if it did indeed lead to the arches. It did, and truth be told, seemed easier than what I had just done to the top of Brins Mesa. It wasn't my favorite thing to do on my way back from a long hike uphill, but compared to some of the other things I've climbed in Sedona, this was relatively mild.

Having finally reached my goal, I explored around the arches for a bit, then sat under one for a while, and finally headed back down feeling an enormous sense of accomplishment. While the day certainly is far from over, my feet and knees tell me that there will be a large amount of rest in my immediate future. The sign of a hike well done.

Here are a few more photos from the day.

The arches from a distance

Some cliffs near the arches.

Looking up at a gap inside one of the arches.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My New Toy

I have been trying to get this posted for three days now, but the utterly abysmal internet connection at my hotel has made uploading the accompanying video impossible until now.

After several years of having to manually clean dust from every photo I wanted to use from my trusty Nikon D70, I finally had enough when the shutter release started malfunctioning a few days ago. I went to the local camera store here in Sedona, and after comparing his prices to other "in store" offers, I found him to be very reasonable. So, I bought myself an early Christmas present--a brand new Nikon D90. Aside from having double the megapixels of my D70, it also has a much larger view screen, a cleaning mechanism to (in theory, at least) prevent that pesky dust problem from recurring, and several other nifty features, including a limited ability to create video. Yep, a digital SLR with video! I've never been into shooting video much, but I'm finding that I'm using this feature more than I expected. I think it will especially come in handy for the blog (at least when the internet connection cooperates!). For example, I can now do the occasional "hike with me" segment, like this short clip below. Here you can follow along as I hiked down from a nice lookout on the Chimney Rock trail yesterday. While shooting this segment, I pointed the camera everywhere I looked--at the ground when I was trying to be careful with my footing, and at the view when I stopped to look around. You can even hear my out-of-shape huffing and puffing!

The D90's video capability isn't intended to replace a camcorder, but for short little clips like this one, I think it works fine.

Secret Canyon and FR 152

Wow, today really did not go as planned! The late start was planned. I never meant it to be quite that late, though. My intent was to take some must-needed extra rest this morning, then hike something fairly short like Soldier Pass Arches early this afternoon. A few phone calls, the alarm going off at my house, and various other delays had me heading out for the trail after 2:00pm. With the parking area at Soldier Pass predictably full, I moved on to my next choice--Deadman Pass. Unexpectedly, that parking area was also full! At that point, it was nearly 3:00pm, so remaining daylight was becoming an issue. This ruled out a couple of other hikes on my list that would have required driving all the way down to Oak Creek Village. So, finally, I decided on Secret Canyon, a hike I had started before and never finished. Of course, it was too late to finish it this time as well, since I had no desire to drive out of rocky, badly-maintained FR 152 by myself after dark. So, I decided to just hike the first half hour. By now it was more about getting some exercise than anything else.

This is the second time I've used Secret Canyon as a fall-back hike when my first choices were full. In all honesty, I'm really not a fan of Sedona's canyon hikes in general. For starters, the trees tend to block the view, and while walking in the woods may be relaxing, it's nothing I can't do back home. For another, there are usually bugs. That was the case for this hike as well. However, it did prove to be the restful, mostly-level trek I was looking for yesterday. I was also treated to some nice scenery on FR 152, with the late evening sun lighting up the rocks and the moon making a repeat visit. Given how the day started, I'll take it!

Today may or may not mark the end of my hiking and regular updates to this blog for now. My friends from Las Vegas are joining me later this evening. They are not hikers, so for the most part, we will be doing non-hiking activities together during the day, and likely visiting over a leisurely dinner and/or card game in the evenings. Therefore, I may not have time to update this site daily, and even if I do, may not have many photos to post. I'll mostly be playing it by ear from here on out.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Long Loop and an Old Favorite

Today's hike was a little complicated. I started out on the Chimney Rock Pass Upper Loop, which was a hike I did last year. I decided to add the Thunder Mountain Trail to it since I was going to be hiking part of it anyway in making the loop back to the parking lot. There was a similar loop in the same area involving the Andante trail, so I ended up doing Chimney Rock Upper down to where it intersected with the Thunder Mountain Trail, then hiked Thunder Mountain up to where it ended, and came back on the Andante trail. That eventually led me back to the Chimney Rock/Thunder Mountain intersection, where I hiked the first part of Thunder Mountain back to my car. The timing worked out great! I needed to be back at my hotel room in time for Enterprise to pick me up for my SUV rental for next week. I got back just in time to have lunch. After I had the SUV, I headed down Highway 179 for my favorite sunset viewing area. For the third time this trip, I ran into Alan and Elaine, who share the same first names as my aunt and uncle. I guess photographic minds think alike! Alan gets the credit for suggesting I try this shot of Court House Rock with the moon above it after the sun had set.

I have previously mentioned the book Sedona Hikes by Richard and Sherry Mangum. I consider it an essential tool for hiking in Sedona, and wouldn't think of coming here without it. However, one thing the book misses the mark on in my opinion is setting expectations on the difficulty level of certain hikes. Take, for example, the Thunder Mountain Trail. The authors have it rated as "Easy", and describe it as "mostly level". Therefore, I thought it would make a great addition to what I had intended to be a break from climbing today. The trail might average "level". Maybe if you take all the multiple times it moves up and down crossing this same dry creek bed again and again, and count the ups as plusses and the downs as minuses, you'll end up with a zero overall. But to me, the bulk of the hike resembled a rocky sine wave, and seemed to be level only near the end and near the beginning. I wouldn't say the trail was difficult, just that it was much more of a workout than I was expecting from an "easy, mostly level" trail.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Doe Mountain

I'm keeping it short tonight because I'm tired and not in the mood to fight the on again/off again internet connection. Besides, I already had plenty to say about Doe Mountain, and posted lots of pictures, on my very first travel blog way back in 2003. The one thing I'll add is that some new markers have been installed on top of the mesa to help prevent getting lost. Unfortunately, it's still quite easy to get disoriented up there. Thankfully, there were a lot of people hiking this trail today, so I was able to get back to the descent point by listening to the voices of people coming up and down!

The plan for tomorrow is to hike Chimney Rock upper loop in the morning, and Thunder Mountain Trail too if I have time. I'm also hoping to catch the setting sun lighting up the rocks on 179 tomorrow evening.

Here are a couple of shots from the Doe Mountain trail.

View from the Doe Mountain trail, near the top

View from the top of Doe Mountain

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jordan and Cibola PassTrails

The interNOT connection at my hotel (my name for the so-called "high speed" wireless here!) is really acting up, making uploading images and blogging in general painstakingly slow. Therefore, I am keeping tonight's photo offering brief. Sadly, this will not do justice to the beautiful hike I took today.

I got the idea of combining the Cibola Pass and Jordan trails from Richard and Sherry Mangum's excellent Sedona Hikes book. I originally was planning to do Soldier's Pass Arches first, then do the Cibola/Jordan loop. But Sedona can be unpredictable at times. The Soldier's Pass parking lot was filled with people waiting in line for spots, so rather than waste time there, I decided to head on over to the Jordan trailhead. But first, because you can never have enough pictures of Coffee Pot Rock, I took a shot of it from kind of a funky angle. It looks more like "Bird Beak Rock" here.

Although the book mentions doing Cibola first and returning on the Jordan Trail, I decided to do the loop in reverse, mainly because I wanted to do the entire Jordan Trail all the way to the end, rather than just the part that looped back from Cibola. Turns out the Jordan trailhead is WAY away from the nice little multi-trail parking lot in the area. The Cibola trail is much closer, though still an annoying distance for those of us who liked to get right to the trail after parking. Thankfully, there was also a little parking area near the Jordan trailhead, which I made note of on my way to the main lot. I had to decide whether to put my car at the Jordan trailhead, meaning a lengthy downhill walk down the road after my hike, or put it on the main lot and have a long walk down the road before my hike and a short uphill walk afterwards. While I was debating the issue, I ran into a couple who was looking for the Jordan trailhead to begin with. We ended up pooling our resources and taking the hike together. I gave them a ride to the Jordan trailhead and parked my car there, then they gave me a ride back to my car after. Worked out well for all of us.

The Jordan Trail took us through some nice scenery with some light climbing up and down along the way. The trail ends at a huge sinkhole called Devil's Kitchen near the start of the Soldier's Pass Trail. We took a nice long break at the sinkhole, before heading back to the intersection with the Cibola Pass Trail.

The Cibola Pass Trail seemed like a lot more climbing than the 100 feet of elevation the book claims. Maybe that's why the authors do this trail first, so they're going more downhill on Cibola. The book has Cibola rated as "easy" and Jordan rated as "moderate". I would have rated them the other way around. But again, maybe the order you do them makes all the difference.

After the hike, I headed into downtown in search of the latest edition of Sedona Hikes. The book is in color now, with a photo for each hike. I really like this as it gives you an idea of what to expect. They have a nice picture of Robber's Roost, which has somehow eluded me in the two times I've tried this "easy" hike. It almost makes me want to try it again.

The authors have also added GPS locations for each hike (guess I'll have to buy one of those things now). The number of hikes has been reduced to 130 down from 135 in the edition I had. It's sad that the number of trails in Sedona is declining, no doubt due to all the development in the area! The only complaint I have with the new edition of the book is that it's bigger and heavier than the old one. It won't fit into my backpack as easily, and will add a few ounces to my load.

Tomorrow, I plan to take my new hiking book, and possibly a new camera (another long story) and head out for an old favorite. While I'm making a concerted effort to hike some trails I haven't done before this trip, it just wouldn't be a trip to Sedona for me without a climb up Doe Mountain!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Catching Up

To get caught up, here is my journey so far:

Sunday, 11/2/08:
I awoke on Sunday to a dark, cloudy sky. Normally, I would consider this a big bummer. I prefer bright, sunny days, and have trouble getting going in the mornings when the sky is dark. However, in Sedona, it's actually cause for excitement because usually, the skies are almost boringly clear with no clouds at all! So, my first thought upon looking out the window was finding the quickest way to take advantage of the cloud cover before it dissipated. I decided to make my first hike Sugarloaf Trail, because I was familiar with it, and knew it would give me a nice view of Coffee Pot Rock and other photogenic rock formations in under an hour.

My next stop was Red Rock Crossing, another place to get a nice photo in a hurry. I met up with a professional photographer and his traveling companion there. Turns out, they have the same first names as my aunt and uncle! They were set up at the spot I normally shoot the Cathedral Rock reflection near the park entrance. Later, we all took the short hike for the other view of the reflection.

I had intended to only stay a short time at Red Rock Crossing. Therefore, I hadn't eaten lunch yet. My new friends graciously offered to share theirs. This unfortunately led to a little misadventure involving a bag of chips, a slip on the rock, and an ice-cold bath in the water! I feel bad because not only did this nice man get drenched, he also lost an expensive pair of sunglasses. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

The clouds eventually led to thunder, and finally rain. I think that may be the first time I've seen it rain in Sedona.

Monday, 11/3/08:
My one and only hike on Monday was a doozy. On the advise of my sister, who visited Sedona in October, I tried the Broken Arrow Trail. This is a really nice trail, about 1.5 miles each way, that winds around and eventually leads to a spot called Chicken Point where you can see all the way down to the Village of Oak Creek. You can also take a side trail along the way that leads to Submarine Rock. I ended up doing both.

I got to Chicken Point at kind of a bad time for shooting the view. I'll have to work on those photos a little before I'm ready to post them. For now, here is a nice rock formation that was next to Chicken Point.

This hike is really quite moderate as far as elevation goes--only 200 feet. But somehow, it was tiring just the same. Unlike a lot of hikes in Sedona, you're not climbing up continually on the way in, then climbing down on the way out. Instead, you're going up and down both ways. It makes for a nice workout.

Tuesday, 11/4/08:
I got off to a very late start today. It was after noon before I was finally on the trail. I intended to take it easy today, after yesterday's four-hour Broken Arrow hike. I planned to start with the Lower Chimney Rock Loop, an easy-rated trail with little climbing. Then, I was going to do the Thunder Mountain Trail, another easy one. However, as is often the case when I set foot on a trail in Sedona, the day kind of "grew".

First, I accidentally ended up on the Summit Route Trail when I took a wrong turn at the start of Lower Chimney Rock Loop. After looking it up in the book, I decided I was up for this moderate-rated, 372-foot climb up Little Sugarloaf, since I was already halfway through it before I figured out what I had done. This detour was definitely worth it. Another cloud-covered day enhanced the already spectacular views.

After descending Little Sugarloaf, I resumed course on the Lower Chimney Rock Loop. Turns out, these two trails really go well together. The Loop makes an excellent cool-down after the summit, plus you get a nice view of what you just climbed!

After the Loop, I went back to the hotel for lunch then headed out again for another hike. I've planned to do the Coffee Pot Trail the last few times I've been to Sedona, but somehow, never got around to it. I decided to give it a go today. This trail is one of the many "official unoffical" trails here--meaning it's not an official trail, but enough people have hiked it that there is a clear trail and plenty of markers to guide you. The trail leads around Coffee Pot Rock, and up under the spout. It's listed as an easy-rated trail in my hiking book, but there are a few places that, though not physically difficult, are a bit scary in an "it's a long way down" kind of way.

I finished up the day with another climb up Sugarloaf. This wasn't on the original agenda, but the Coffee Pot Trail shares the same trail head, and the sun was setting, shining a nice light on Coffee Pot Rock. It was well worth it, but I had to hurry to get down before it got too dark to see. Maybe next time I won't forget my flashlight!

Here are some more shots from a very busy day. Coffee Pot Rock is a recurring theme here.

Looking up at Coffee Pot Rock from near the end of the trail.

Coffee Pot Rock with a nice cloud cover overhead.

Sunset as seen from the top of Sugarloaf.


Welcome to the Shutter Journeys. This blog will be a place for me to share thoughts and photos when I travel. At some point, I'll get around to making a nice banner image for the top and adding some bells and whistles, but for now, let's just get right to it.

I am currently on vacation in Sedona, Arizona. This is a place I have visited nearly every year since 2001. There are photos and even an old blog of my previous Sedona trips on my website. I left for this year's trip this past Friday evening. I got on the road several hours later than intended, however readers of my other blog, Pint-Size Gazette, will understand why I was running a little behind!

After a very late arrival in Santa Rosa, I was finally back on my usual schedule and arrived in Sedona before sunset on Saturday. My first stop was a grocery store. I'm determined this time not to undo all the good I do on the hiking trail by gorging myself like a glutton at the many fine restaurants in this town. I'm saving my eating out until next week when my friends from Las Vegas will be joining me here. For now, I'm sticking to home-cooked (okay, microwave-cooked!) meals as often as possible. Other than the king-size bagels the hotel provides for breakfast each morning, so far so good.

Having been here three days already, and just now starting this blog today, I have a little catching up to do. I'll start with one big post covering Sunday through today, and then hopefully will post smaller, daily updates after that.