Mt. Baldy Overnight Hike

Last weekend I hiked up Mt. Baldy with a group of four: my friend, Chris, my brother, Jim, and Jim’s friend, Scott, and his son, Ryan. Mt. Baldy is the second highest mountain in Arizona at an elevation of 11,424. However, the summit is within the boundaries of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and is off limits unless you have permission to access it. We did not have that permission, so we went as high as the trail would allow, where East Baldy Trail #95 connects to West Baldy Trail #94 at about 11,175 feet of elevation.

I drove up with Chris Friday night after work to the Big Lake campground. We arrived about ten o’clock at night and ended up sleeping in the SUV. Next morning, we woke early and met with the rest of our group and headed to the East Baldy Trail 95 trailhead after we left two shuttle vehicles at the West Baldy Trail 94 trailhead. There is a three mile connector trail, #96, between each trailhead that makes the whole loop approximately 17 miles, but we decided on foregoing the connector trail as it is an uneventful walk through the woods.

We started up East Baldy 95 which takes you in and out of a tree line along a pleasant green meadow and gradually inclines into thicker woods and brings you through some very impressive granite rock spires and formations that I was surprised to see in this area of Arizona. The trail winds up through these rock giants and up the mountain until you find yourself on top of a range of these boulders that stretches a good portion of the mountaintop. From up here you get a great view of the surrounding land and Big Lake without the obstruction of any trees in the way.

At this point, approximately four miles in, my brother decided he would turn back due to headaches, shortness of breath, and chest pains as he did not want to get too far in and become an emergency situation. Sad to see him go, but understandable that he should play it safe, we parted ways. Two of our party were already far ahead of us, but it didn’t take Scott and I long to catch up with them.

Once we passed through the stretch of boulders, the path was obstructed with frequent downed logs. We had to climb over and under and around them for most of the remaining trail. We caught up to Chris and Ryan and carried on. Shortly after, we came upon a meadow of tall, green grass on top of the mountain of thick woods and found pieces of a fuselage from an old military plane (Beech AT-11) that crashed there in 1943. Not far after that, we reached trail 94.

The highest point we could go without violating Reservation boundaries was the junction of 94 and 95. If you had permission from the White Mountain Apache Reservation, you could follow signs south that would take you to the true peak. However, we continued onto East Baldy 94. At that point we had hiked approximately six miles and we had plenty of daylight ahead of us. From the boulder area where we parted with Jim to this point, the elevation grade was very low, so we were able to cover more ground quickly. Since it was all downhill from that intersection on (an intense decline on the trail), we kept up with that pace, and probably could have gone faster if it weren’t for the downed trees creating obstacles.

Since we were on a mountainside for most of the descent on 94, there was no where we could have pitched a tent for the night due to lack of flat ground and so many fallen trees. And with plenty of daylight still, we kept going and eventually met with the Little Colorado. This is where the land began to even out and we started looking for a good camp spot. We eventually found one in a nice little clearing that had soft ground and good tree coverage. At that point, we had hiked about 11 miles. We pitched our tents, made dinner, and settled down for the night.

The next morning, we spotted a coyote traipsing across the hillside down the trail from us as we drank coffee and made our breakfast. Ryan and Scott packed up and headed out before me and Chris. We said our goodbyes, finished breakfast, then packed up and headed out about a half hour after them.

The rest of the hike out was relaxing and we enjoyed the scenery as we paralleled the Little Colorado for the last three miles. At the end of the trail we met up with Jim and exchanged accounts of what each of us did after we parted. We then went back to Big Lake, rented a boat, and fished for about four hours.

More accurately, I sat in a boat getting sunburned with a string floating in the water. I caught nothing, maybe a few taunting hits at my lure, Chris had a few bites, and Jim came out victorious with two fish, each about seven inches long. But it was a great way to end a great hike.

 

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Sad Fat Dragon With No Friends Con

Or, Phoenix Comic Con 2017

Or, Sad Fat Asshole with No Friends Who Ruined An Entire Convention Con

Warning: This is just going to be a long rant. Enjoy!

This year’s Phoenix Comic Con kind of sucked a fat one. The first dead giveaway that this con was going to be lackluster was the announcement of their big guest, Dick Van Dyke!

Seriously? Dick Van Dyke?

I mean, sure. Yeah. Mary Poppins was all right. His old TV show where he would fall on the coffee table was amusing. But a guest at comic con? Pass.

Matt Murdock, or whoever plays him, cancelled his appearance. That wasn’t a good sign. At least the Green Ranger was there, guys! Not that pussy, the Red Ranger, but the Green fuckin’ Ranger!

I don’t really care about any of those people anyway. You wait in line for hours just to maybe speak briefly with these pseudo celebrities and get them to pretend they care you’re a fan and scribble on whatever you brought to them for some ridiculous amount of cash, and that’s it. And that’s all these cons are, really. Lines. Waiting In Lines Con. You rush to wait in line to get your pass. Then you rush to wait in line to get inside the convention center. Then you rush to wait in line to see some celebrity/artist/writer. And that’s not even the basic stuff, like waiting in line to use the bathroom, or use the escalator, or grab a bite to eat at the food truck.

We all love it though, we attendees. We wait all year and save up some spending cash to go see our favorite artists/writers/celebrities, and we put up with the crowds and the lines and the security to hang out with our best friends to people-watch and buy some cool shit. That’s why it sucks when a sad, fat asshole ruins it for everybody. Some psychopathic, pathetic piece of shit has to say he’s the Punisher and bring real firearms, knives, and throwing stars to the con claiming he must kill the Green Ranger and bad police officers on day 1 of the con, thus setting in motion a pretty inconvenient and annoying, and almost infuriating weekend. (The details of that last sentence may be skewed, depending on which source I got them from, because they were all different. For example; ABC said he claimed to be Rambo, other sources said Punisher. Some said he brought swords, others knives. Some say he’s 30 years old, others 29. Yay, journalism!)

I guess this little incident with the sad, fat, asshole, psychopath, douchebag happened earlier that afternoon, approximately an hour or so before I got there. I was wearing a backpack and was able to walk right into the convention center. No one stopped me and asked to check my bag. At previous cons, there was always someone checking at the doors. This time, no one. I even walked up to a table where two of the convention security run by Contemporary Services Corporation were standing and asked them for directions where to get my badge. They answered my questions, but did not check my bag. Instead they were busy pointing and amused by all the costumed folk. Good thing that weirdo’s friend notified the police about his intentions and they were able to apprehend him without incident, because CSC would have been like, “Look at that sad, fat, weirdo! His guns look so real!” (You might think I’m being mean, but look at this fucking guy.)

Well, they made up for it the next day. Came back with a vengeance, they did. No props! Period! Convention Director, Matt Solberg, Phoenix PD, and CSC had a knee-jerk reaction of banning all costume props from Comic Con.

All. Costume. Props. From. Comic. Con.

“Hey, adorable 6-year-old Jedi, get that lightsaber out of here!”

“Hey, 40-something grown-ass man dressed as a Stormtrooper, get that blaster out of here!”

“Hey, teenage Anime something, get that… whatever it is… What is that? What are you!”

A bit of an overreaction, really, and the initial result was having to wait up to 3 hours in security lines to get in, and a whole bunch of upset attendees. Probably a whole bunch of people who just went home for the weekend, and probably won’t come back next year. Not to mention, all the vendors in the exhibitor hall who sell all that crap to people had to jump through some extra precautionary measure hoops and probably lost business. One vendor, Ultra Sabers, left the convention. Because, as security knows, any dangerous person’s first weapon of choice is a plastic light saber.

I’ll be curious to see what the final number of attendees were this year compared to previous years. There were definitely far fewer people this time around. Which was kind of nice, really. Gave you some elbow room, compared to previous years where you were packed in like sardines and breathed in the vaporized sweat, body odor, and farts of tens of thousands of nerds. Let that permeate.

At one point, a CSC security guy was circling me and following me as I was minding my own goddamn business. He followed me to the food court area and became very anxious as I set my backpack down on the table and opened it. I just shook my head at him as I produced a carrying case and put a piece of artwork away. I mean, I know my beard may resemble someone from ISIS, but good guys have beards too. Ulysses S. Grant. John Muir. Early Jimmy Page. Gandalf. Zeus.

I am so sick of being profiled because of my sexy ass beard.

It wasn’t as bad as I’m bitching about. I did get to meet author Timothy Zahn again and he signed my new copy of Thrawn. Also spoke with author Kevin J. Anderson after I went to his panel. Very interesting hearing him talk about how he became a writer. Got my Generation X #1 signed by artist Chris Bachalo, which I had to wait in line for a very long time! And more importantly, I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friends and family and seeing all the glory of the nerds.

Despite the weekend setting off on a very awkward note, and there being extremely awkward security measures, attendees took it in stride and made the most of it. Stormtroopers carried baguettes instead of blasters. Westworld cowboys carried bananas instead of six-shooters. Wolverines carried nothing instead of claws. And one very brave man took it upon himself to dress as an extremely drug addicted and stoned towel to put smiles back on the sad faces of all attendees.

Here’s a bunch of pictures of my friend Chris dressed as Towelie from South Park, and some other malarkey from the con.

Sycamore Canyon: Just a Taste

I recently took the time to go up to Sycamore Canyon, which I’ve been wanting to do since I’ve heard great things about it. I was not disappointed, and I didn’t even hike that much of the lush canyon. Due to time constraints, we only hiked approximately 2.5 miles (in and out) to Summers Spring of Parsons Trail, and just getting a glimpse of that little bit has made me want to go back and hike the full length of the 11-something miles.

Just north of Cottonwood and Clarkdale, the trailhead is accessible from Forest Road 131 in the Verde Valley. You will need a vehicle with some ground clearance for this road. All wheel or 4 wheel drive isn’t a must, but helpful.

We caught great weather, and it was nice and green along the creek at the bottom of the canyon. There wasn’t much strenuous climbing over obstacles, or a lot of up and down, but you will have to cross the creek at various points.

It was so much fun, and I can’t wait to go back for the rest.

From Song of the Broad-Axe

What is your money-making now? what can it do now?
What is your respectability now?
What is your theology, tuition, society, traditions, statute-books now?
Where are your jibes of being now?
Where are your cavils about the soul now?

– Walt Whitman

Escudilla Mountain: Arizona’s Hidden Gem

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going on one of the most serene and beautiful hikes here in Arizona. Located in eastern Arizona not far from the small town of Alpine, Escudilla Mountain is the third highest stand-alone peak in the state at 10,912 ft. The trail does not lack in its challenges, but does not have that sharp incline you’d expect from its high elevation.

I call it a hidden gem, but it’s fairly accessible. It just didn’t have that foot traffic and popularity you find at most other trails in AZ. You need to take a forest service road to get to the trailhead and I think that’s a contributing factor as to why I didn’t see a lot of hikers on the trail. Could also be that it’s a long drive from Phoenix. Could also have been that it rained all day the previous Friday, and rained again while we were on the trail that Saturday. But I thought that was perfect. The weather was cool. the overcast blocked the harsh AZ sun from beating down on you. The trail wasn’t hard and dusty. Sure, a little muddy, but nothing too bad. The rain didn’t come down heavy, just that soft, constant drizzle.

The overall hike took my friend and I about four hours from the trail head and back. We could have done it faster, but we took advantage of the photo opportunities the views had to offer. Once the trail takes you up past Profanity Ridge, it opens up to this rolling meadow between two hill peaks and you can really see the landscape for the first time. And of course, it’s even better from the top.

Also, Profanity Ridge is about as much of a challenging incline as you’re going to get. The rest of the trail seemed like a nice, leisurely walk through some open meadows and thickets of Aspen and the bare remnants of trees that looked like dried out matchwood from the Wallow Fire that hit the area back in 2011. We were just walking along, talking and taking pictures, and before we knew it, we were at the top where a fenced off, dilapidated watchtower stood. It was from up there you could really see the extent of the damage the fire did. However, it is still a beautiful area and well worth the drive time and bumpy forest service road.

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Phoenix Comic Con 2016 (Part II)

Despite the seasonably warm weather and bad timing for a convention this size, this con was a lot of fun. I think that had wholly to do with my friends and family who also attended this year. This was the first comic con some of my family members had attended, and I enjoyed spending time with them in the fray. I also spent the weekend with some good friends, two of whom dressed up as a very impressive Walter White from Breaking Bad, and A.W.E.S.O.M. – O from South Park. See Phoenix Comic Con (Part I).

Attending with people in costume creates a very different experience just because of the interaction with other attendees and photo ops. It was a lot more fun than just wandering around. Other than that, the con was nothing but shenanigans.

Enjoy.

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Phoenix Comic Con 2016 (Part I)

The Adventures of A.W.E.S.O.M. – O

At a Con of turmoil and chaos, where cosplayers’ makeup melted off their faces, kids’ obscure anime costumes went by unrecognized, and every other person was dressed as either Harley Quinn or Deadpool, one man dared to change the course of Con history.

He shook his fist at the Sun and defied its heat of 115 degrees. He conquered the tricky steps of the escalators. He successfully faced the hordes of teenage assholes dressed as Deadpool who called him “box man” and gave him awkwardly long hugs. And even though he is not a pleasure model, he attracted all the hot babes. With plenty of bad movie ideas and enough toothpaste to sustain him, he left in his wake all of Comic Con in awe at his, well, awesomeness.

He is AWESOM O!