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Chapter Two - The Last Rifle Hunt
Posted On 04/18/2010 14:33:10

Those years after my first buck at age 11 were a straight turn-around from the years before.  I got excellent grades, played sports, got a job and worked hard.  I dressed conservatively for a kid and didn’t get into trouble.  I kept on the straight and narrow.  Never smoked or did a drug.  Each year I’d go out and hunt deer.  Each year I got a little better at it.

 

I hunted with friends, relatives, and people I didn’t know.  It was always the same.  We’d organize a team and move out into the wilderness.  “You head out along that ridge, and Bill and I will push up this draw”. 

 

Years went by as I listened to these guys whisper their plans to the team and everyone nodded and headed out. Meanwhile, I would get out away from everyone with the sole purpose of finding myself a comfortable spot to pull my hat over my eyes and take a mid-morning nap.  The sound of the wind in the pines and trickle of water through the creek brought me great peace of mind.

 

It was one of those mornings up in the high country around Diamond Lake in Oregon.  We were in the middle of a six year drought and hunting central and eastern Oregon was pretty bleak.  But a bunch of us drew tags for this unit and decided to head up there and take a look.  When we arrived, it was obvious that the entire hunting population of Oregon also drew tags for this unit.  The campgrounds were full of RVs and camp trailers.  Generators hummed and people threw wood on campfires.  Dogs and kids running around everywhere.

 

It would be a miracle if I could even see a deer with all those hunters combing the area. I was putting my life at risk.  A sea of bright orange hats and thirty ‘ought sixes with scopes.  I was olive green with an open sight lever action 30-30.  I needed to really think this one through.

 

On opening morning we were up before daylight.  We had ten people in our party and planned to do an organized hunt through a bunch of logged off units with timber stands in between them.  As usual, I let someone else take the lead.  My strategy was to focus on where everyone else was going to be.  Where they would walk, where they would sit.  With all those hunters, including us, the only possible way to have a chance was to let them do the hard work and make sure I put myself in the best spot and wait.  Safer that way, too.

 

Off we went in a couple pickup trucks.  I could taste the dust of ten other trucks that left before us.  We reached our destination and piled out.  Splitting up, we hiked in the directions whispered to us.  I took survey of the area and drew a mental map of the vast logged off units, timber stands, low areas and high areas.  Calculating the approximate time it would take for each person to get to their areas and the directions they would travel to circle back.  I checked the wind direction, and proceeded to find a strategic place to settle in for the long wait.

 

About three miles in, I was lucky to happen upon a perfectly spaced open area on the outskirts of the units that cut a wide path through the thick timber.  Loggers probably cut this path to get their equipment in there.  It was about thirty feet wide and a mile long.  This was the perfect spot at the edge of the units everyone would be walking through.  Wind direction was toward me.  Any deer in those units would spook and head this way to the thick timber.  So I spent about 30 minutes figuring out where to place myself.  I finally settled on a sunny spot beside an old snag where the brown grass had grown up about three feet.

 

I took my daypack off, jacked a shell into the chamber of my 30-30, sat down in the tall grass with my back against the snag, pulled my cowboy hat over my eyes, and took my morning nap. The warm sun slowly chased the below freezing morning temperature away.

 

I awoke about three hours later to the sound of gunfire in the distance.  That faint “powwww” echoing against the hills.  I focused my eyes on the rocky crag of Mt. Thielsen until my vision was no longer blurry.  The screech of a blue jay nearby cut through the silence as it spooked at my movement.

 

Then another gunshot; this time closer.  Followed by four more in quick succession.  Two from one side of a unit and two from another side.  Then several more from a smaller rifle farther back on the other side.  I checked my mental map and made note of the location of the gunshots.  I re-evaluated my position in my wide spot in the forest and decided I was actually in the best spot.

 

All of a sudden I could hear brush popping and branches cracking as something or someone was moving very fast in my direction from the units.  My adrenal glands kicked in and flooded my body with energy.  The hair on my arms stood straight up.  My muscles tensed as I drilled a hole through the wall of timber and brush with my eyes.  I was in the center of the clearing so the edge was only fifteen feet from me.  Whatever this was, it was coming in fast judging by the sound of breaking branches and brush moving my way.  Mentally, I crossed “hunter” off the list of possible suspects.  It was either a bear, elk, or deer.

 

The mystery was answered in less than a second.  Out of the wall of brush and timber suddenly came a wide eyed, freaked out, muley buck! It was running for its life from the sea of orange hats and thirty ‘ought sixes pushing through the units.  He didn’t see me at first and was about to knock me on my butt!  I lifted my left arm and frantically waived it around.  This surprised him so much he fell down on one front knee as he tried to change direction out of a dead run.  He regained his balance and was somehow able to make a frantic leap to my left.  His momentum carried him to the middle of the cleared out area about ten feet from me.  This whole process took about two seconds.

 

In those two seconds, I had only enough time to raise my 30-30 to my waist and swing it around to my left, following him as he ran.  I squeezed off one shot from the hip.  That Marlin lever action punched back at my side as the heavy explosion of 170 grains of powder sent that 30 caliber bullet flying.

 

Newton’s Law of Motion:  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  The impact from a 30 caliber slug at close range knocked that buck around sideways, ripped through both lungs, out the other side, and buried into a stump about 15 feet out.  The buck was running fast as it was thrown sideways and did a three quarter forward tumble with legs and hooves flying every which way and came to rest in a cloud of dust not ten feet from me.  It died instantly.

 

As I always do, I knelt beside the buck and placed my hand on its front shoulder about where his heart would be.  I thanked him for his bravery and congratulated him on earning three points on his antlers despite the sea of orange hats and thirty ‘ought sixes that invade his home each year.  It was then that I noticed his right eye was clouded over.  It had been blind in one eye.  One of the tines of his right antler was broken off and it had a deformed hind foot.  This poor buck had a tough life.  The drought, the hunters, the predators, and then more hunters.  He might have made it had he not ran straight for a guy in green taking a nap in a clearing.

 

I was the only hunter in the entire campground to succeed that year.  One blind, dilapidated, and deformed deer on opening day.  After a week or so, the hum of generators quieted and people packed up their kids and dogs and headed home. 

 

With all the hunters out there, these creatures didn’t stand a chance.  The purity of hunting was lost.  I had gotten away from what I enjoyed most, which was the challenge of the hunt and closeness of nature.  Heck, with so many hunters, it was getting tougher and tougher to take my naps. 

 

When I returned from that hunting trip, I cleaned my rifle and placed it in the gun case.  I told myself that would be the last time I ever hunted with a gun.

Tags: Rifle Hunt Deer Hunters 30-30


Chapter One - Learning to Hunt
Posted On 03/21/2010 14:43:54

I hated it.  As a young kid following my Dad around in the woods.  I was cold.  I had to be quiet.  We drove forever on old logging roads at the wee hours of the morning.  We never got anything.  I wasn’t even sure deer actually existed.  The experience was almost lost to me as a kid.  Had there been Playstations and such back then, life today would be much different.  It wasn’t until I was age 11 that the value of this lifestyle became evident.

 

My Grandpa Gene showed me the way.  I am 41 years old now, but the memory of 1982 lives in my mind as vivid as the coffee I had this morning.

 

My Grandpa was an inspiration to many, but for me he was a turning point in my life.  I was failing my classes, getting in fights, and generally heading in the wrong direction.  Looking back, I can see that it was another year before I sank deep into the wrong group of kids and took up their endeavors. 

 

At age 11 my Dad took me for a three week hunting trip.  Not just any hunting trip; but to the legendary hunting grounds of my family in Eastern Oregon.  A place called Whitehorse; actually a hunting unit called Whitehorse.  My Grandpa, Great Grandpa, and Great Great Grandpa made many of the roads out there, if you can call them roads, long before there was any such thing as hunting units.  Enough of a jeep trail to get to an aspen patch in the middle of no where.  And when I say no where, I mean don’t go there without a week’s worth of food and water and really good tires, and even then you’re going to have to take a four hour trip to McDermitt for supplies.

 

In all my time between 8 and 11 years old, I had never seen a buck.  Only a few straggling does.  Following my Dad around all those years was frustrating and self-defeating.  I was on the verge of turning away from this life that my family had always lived going back generations.  I was almost lost.  Another year older, and girls would start to look my way, so it became very important that I saw the value of it before it was too late.

 

There were a few things that had to happen.  First, camping had to get more fun.  Second, we had to see some wildlife that inspired me.  Third, someone had to actually succeed in bagging a deer. 

 

So there I was, riding in the back of a fully packed car with my Dad, aunt, and cousin bouncing over a jeep trail to what we affectionately called “the aspen patch”.  Basically, a 30 yard patch of aspens on the side of a knoll in the middle of a vast sagebrush flat.  Twentyfive years later, my grandparents would be memorialized there with two inconspicuous gravestones on the knoll overlooking this lonely little aspen patch. 

 

It was a sixteen hour drive so I was cramped, tired, and barely coherent.  My cousin was asleep, but I was barely awake looking at the sagebrush pass.  Just then, the car jolted to a stop!  My dad and aunt piled out fast!  I rubbed my eyes and saw blurry images of rock and sagebrush.  It seemed like I was still asleep and dreaming when I heard my aunt say, “Should I shoot it?”  My Dad said, “I don’t know, this is the first day and we haven’t even gotten to camp yet.  Shoot if you want.”  The gun went off and deafened me for a moment.  My cousin woke up and asked what was going on.

 

My aunt had propped her gun over the car for a rest, took aim and shot a healthy 3 point buck.  Well, scratch item number three off the list.  Someone actually got one!  My eyes were wide as frying pans and a grin as big as Oregon itself as we pulled into camp with the deer draped over the vehicle.

 

I was about to experience something that I always knew was out there, but never got to see until now.  The aspen patch was interspersed with five camp trailers in a semi-circular around two grand fire pits about thirty yards apart.  Off to the side of the aspen grove was a pile of mule deer horns stretching nine feet tall and five feet wide.  Finally, I was about to see what this whole thing was all about.

 

The five camp trailers belonged to my Grandpa Gene, Aunt June, Aunt Kay, Uncle Lester, and some other guy I’d never met.  Eventually, there would be a couple more arrivals.  We had a tent… a two man job that we pitched back in the aspens away from the trailers.  My Dad and I would call that home for three weeks. 

 

There was much fanfare on our arrival.  We backed the car in and flopped the buck down.  There was already one hanging on the buck pole.  Everyone was excited that we had two hanging on day one of hunting season.  Little did they know, it was about to be a season that none had experienced in a life time.  And lucky me, a confused 11 year old got to live it.

 

My next memory is of riding in my Grandpa’s old International Scout across the sage flats.  I was in the back seat where all kids should be.  My Dad was back there with me and my aunt June was in the passenger seat.  I was daydreaming about spaceships and girls when the rig stopped and my Grandpa, who never spoke unless needed, said, “Arn, get out and let’s take a walk.”  Arn was his way of saying “Aaron”.  Almost like he was mad my parents named me that, and wished my name was some one syllable name like Bob or John.  My aunt and Dad looked at me like, “uh oh, this is big”. 

 

I grabbed my Browning .243 semi-auto from the rack and stepped out nervously.  He walked out toward a rim rock cliff face and looked back and waved for me to catch up.  I was nervous.  I never had much interaction with him before now.  I caught up and walked by his side but slightly back to show respect.  Trying not to trip over the clumps of sage and bitter brush, I got close to the top of the rim rock face and he waved me down with his hand.  “Stay quiet, boy.”  We crept up and looked over the top. 

 

Two monster bucks bedded down were looking back up at us from the bottom of the rim rock cliff about twentyfive yards down.  Both were 3-points with shafts about 1 ½ inches thick at the base of the ear.  I raised my rifle and took aim.  Grandpa gently pushed the barrel down, as if to say “now is not the time”.  We watched them for about five minutes until they finally got up and sauntered off around a bend in the rimrock.

 

I took a risk and blurted out, “Why couldn’t I shoot one?”.  He simply pointed to the mile deep canyon that rested against the base of the rim rock face.  Had we shot one, it would have rolled a mile down in that canyon and been lost.  My first buck sighting coupled with a valuable lesson in hunting.  To this day, I ask myself how he knew those two bucks were laying at that precise spot on that rim rock that spanned many miles.  We didn’t even drive a road to it!  Just traveled across sage brush.  The guy was legendary.

 

Scratch number two off the list.  This wildlife definitely inspired me.

 

I was ready to tell everyone back at camp the exciting hunting day we had.  But, when we got back I did not get the chance.  Aunt Kay had killed a big 3-point up in what we called “The Fingers”, which were a series of five ridges that spanned out in the shape of five fingers.  They afforded much cover in the valleys between and good habitat on either side depending on the weather.  Everyone at camp was busy field dressing it and talking about their day.  Seeing that third buck hanging from the buck pole was very exciting for me.  After years of no success, would I actually have the chance of bagging one of my own?  I was satisfied with seeing just a few people succeed.  But I began thinking, what if I could get one?  What if I could do something most people never do?  How would my Grandpa think of me then?  Would he be proud of me?  Would my Dad be proud of me?  I was the only kid there.  My uncles and aunts never let me forget it.  They looked at me with special discern, as if I was the heir apparent to a thrown that has long been held and will soon be relinquished to the next generation.  This began to be a huge burden for me to bear and we were only a couple days into this trip.

 

The next thing I remember is being lost.  Not good given my state of mind.  I wandered miles into the Oregon badlands not really knowing where I was or where I was going.  My Dad told me to meet him at a certain point a mile away.  I got there and he wasn’t there, so I thought I went to the wrong point and made my way to another point.  Several points later, I was lost.  Nearing dark I figured I would have to spend the night out in the desert.  That was fine, but to be sure I let off a few rounds to let everyone know where I was.

 

I looked around for a place to camp.  At 11 years old, this was pretty traumatic.  I let the tears flow for a while.  Then wiped my face and thought about what I had to do.  Looking for firewood I spooked a sage hen.  The sudden thundering sound of its wings a few feet from me almost made me crap my pants.  I remember falling to my knees, grasping my rifle, trying to settle my thundering heart rate.  Once I was calm enough to walk again without my knees wobbling, I continued looking for fire wood. 

 

Settling down for what I thought was going to be a long night I saw a reflection of light off a windshield about five miles in the distance.  I picked up and started hiking toward it.  Several hours later I arrived at my Uncle Lester’s green ’72 Chevy pickup.  He told me he knew I was out there and was waiting for me at the highest point he could find.  I loved Uncle Lester.  For all his shortcomings, he knew what needed done.  Plus it was really cool that on the way back to camp his wife, Aunt LaVonne, up and shot a sage hen.  She was wheelchair bound so this was really neat to me, having been lost and all.  Back at camp they cooked it up in a crockpot and we shared it for dinner.

 

The best memory of all was when I got mine.

 

I remember going over and over in my head what I would do if I saw a buck.  I was a kid so I was never allowed to go on point of the big drives or sit in the best spots to have the best chance.  I was kept in the back seat of the Scout while the women sat in the front waiting for the men to finish and then drive back to camp.  So I day dreamed about seeing a big monster muley from the back of the Scout.  I went over in my mind what I would do.  I’d pull my rifle from the middle, slide quietly out the back door , drop to a three-point stance, aim and kill a deer.  I day dreamed this for many days.  Meanwhile, the ladies kept on chattering from the front.

 

The day was noticeably colder.  Hovering around 30 degrees, the snow and rain battled each other for dominance in this high desert world.  We were sitting on a high point above the conjunction of two deep draws with the Oregon Canyon off to the far right.  The men were walking up these draws and anything that spooked out would run toward this high point.  It was an all day hunt.  The women chatted in the front, and I kept my eyes peeled on the area that I thought the deer would come up over and across our view. 

 

I thought I was still day dreaming.  It was huge.  Its hair had turned gray from the colder weather.  I could see the towering antlers.  It was at a full run like a horse, not the gradual pounce for a deer.  After days of working it out in my mind it was like I was looking down at another person performing the actions that I told myself I would do.  It was fluid, it was deliberate, it was poetry. 

 

I was on the left side looking out the back window.  My left hand reached up and opened the door, while at the same time my right had pulled my rifle back and up from between the two front seats.  I slid out, took two steps, dropped to a three-point stance, took aim, and released the safety.  The women in the front fretted loudly, “What the hell? What do you see?  Careful boy!  Oh my god!  There it is!  Take your time!  Easy!!”  I ignored all of it.  At that moment, I finally became the hunter.  The gleam was in my eye.  The women waited to see if the boy was going to succeed or would become a disappointment.  The buck was at a full run at about 300 yards and I had a .243 semi auto with open sights.  The same gun my Grandpa hunted with.  There wasn’t a lot of confidence that I would succeed.  But at that moment, I knew I would.  I saw the buck fall before I pulled the trigger.  I could hear my heart beating at a normal pace blocking out the hurried chatter from the front seat.  I remember thinking, do these gals ever just be quiet?  The noise of the wind went silent.  The snow flakes flying sideways in the wind suddenly slowed.  My senses were so acute at that moment that I swear I could have counted the number of snowflakes landing on my cold gun barrel.  I could smell the strong scent of sage as it blew up from the the majestic Oregon Canyon to my right.  It was me and the buck across 300 yards of open country.  It was like that buck was two feet from me.  I mentally calculated the distance, the speed it was running, and the elevation of our rig to the buck.  I adjusted my aim accordingly and put a significant lead on it with about a foot elevation from the kill zone.  One shot rang out across the sage brush and echoed from the rim rocks.  Three seconds later the buck tumbled out of a dead run in a cloud of dust.  I held my sight on it for another few seconds to be sure.  My aunt Kay said, “Wow... he got it.  Good job, boy!”.  But I already knew.

 

Got it I did.  A perfect hit behind the right shoulder into one lung and the bottom of the heart.  A miracle shot at 300 yards at a dead run.  A giant 4-point muley with a 23 inch spread.  I remember backing up to camp (you never back up to camp unless you had a buck in the back of the rig).  The question was asked, “Who got it?”.  My aunt Kay said it was me.  Everyone stood up and began clapping.  The boy just got his first buck.  And it was the second biggest buck in the camp.  The tradition was that whoever kills a buck has to take a straight shot of whiskey from the bottle.  I grabbed the bottle from my Grandpa Gene and gulped down two fiery mouthfuls.  Thus, I entered the long history of our family name.

 

 

 

 

The only one bigger was Grandpa Gene’s. He got it on the last day of the season.  He had scouted it out all year and knew it would be the crown of the year that was to be the last.  There were a total of 14 bucks hanging from that buck pole.  His buck was a trophy 5 by 6.  It was so big its hind end touched the ground when we hung it on the pole.  It made the rest of ours look like youngins. 

 

That was the year I found myself.  That was when I figured out what was important… family.  It took the success of deer hunting to bring me around to the values that were important in life.  It snowed three feet that year and my Dad and I still slept in that little tent while our relatives stayed in trailers.  We had to dig ourselves out of our tent each morning.  But we were fine.  We proved that year that the family tradition would live on. 

 

It’s now up to me to make sure my kids learn the values I hold dear - except maybe the whiskey drinking at age 11.  It won’t be easy.  I have to compete with Playstation, Internet, Satellite TV, careers, and the fact that all the old timers are gone now.  It’s just me, my brother, sister, some cousins and our kids now.  Some of us don’t even live in Oregon anymore.  There are a few other hopeful relatives out there.  Will we all some day meet out there at the aspen patch?  Or is it too late, and those days are gone forever? 

Tags: Whitehorse Hunting Muledeer


My Little Boy Caught a Marlin
Posted On 01/13/2010 04:06:55

It has been told around campfires and over beers for hundreds of years.  The biggest, most exciting, most challenging fish to have on the end of a line is the legendary marlin.  Guides put pictures of them on their sites to attract customers.  Governments list them as endangered which entices even more desire from those that want the ultimate experience of rod and reel.  Sport fishing boats criss-cross the off-shore waters searching for them – investing thousands of dollars in technology to locate the schools of fish that they feed on.  Praying that one of their clients would happen to hook one and sit in the special seat on the bow with the belt around their waist so they don’t get pulled in as they fight the monster.

Those that are lucky enough to experience this once in a lifetime event pay thousands to have it mounted in their family room where they can talk about the day they landed the big one.  They talk of the 45 minute fight.  The rod bent nearly in half.  The excruciating pain in their right forearm.  Be it said, it is a once in a lifetime event for even the best sportsmen.  Some never get the chance.

My little boy did it at age 7. 

It was off the coast of Cancun back in 2005.  We rented a catamaran with another family we never met before.  The boat was driven by a Mexican that was just glad to be working and making a bit of money from American tourists.  A cheap spare rod with a jig was available for the kids to play with as the adults enjoyed the ride to the “secret beach” for a picnic.

Zach was flinging the jig in and out of the water as the sails filled with wind and we moved out over the waters to our destination.  He didn’t really have a grasp of how the reel worked, but eventually figured out how to cast it out and reel it in.  He had a single-minded determination to work that rod and reel while the rest of us played, talked, laughed, and enjoyed the ride.  Keeping him in the corner of my eye, I even considered telling him to put it down lest he accidentally hook someone onboard.

We were half way on our journey, way out from shore with the sails at full mast.  The bow was flying over the waves enticing yells of excitement from the passengers as it felt like we were getting air.  Luckily, the Mexican gentlemen guiding us on our short journey noticed the rod tip dip.

He knew I was his father and he yelled some Spanish at me and nodded to my son.  I thought he had gotten in trouble, but the guy had a huge grin on his face and repeatedly nodded to Zach.  My son had a full proper fisherman’s grasp on the rod, tucked into his bellybutton.  Left hand grasping the base.  Right hand one and a half feet up grasping the rod.  He was leaning back in the classic stance.  The tip doubled over, the reel whining out line like crazy. 

I was on the opposite side of the catamaran and couldn’t get to him.  I knew he was about to be yanked into the ocean like a rag doll.  A mix of pride at seeing my son, barely three and a half feet with a huge fish on and fear of knowing he was about to be yanked from the bow.  Another passenger on the boat also saw what was happening.  He just happened to be a big 250 pound college guy and was right next to him.  I couldn’t get to him in time so we nodded to each other.  He knew this was special so he waited until the last minute to grab the rod from his hand.

Bam! The fight was on!  There was no special seat.  No safety belt.  This was a catamaran for families.  My 250 pound friend dug his heels in, leaned back, and raised that rod high!  Both me and my step-dad yelled direction to him.  “Pump the rod!  Reel it in on the down stroke!  Pull up!  Zach stood there with his eyes as wide as frying pans. 

After 20 minutes, Mr. 250 pounds was done in.  His shirt was drenched with sweat.  Exhausted, he passed it to his buddy who was equal in size.

That lasted about 10 minutes.  The fish made a run and dove under the boat.  The tip of the rod bent down and started to dip into the water beside the bow.  Frantic direction yelled by my step-dad to “get low!”.  “Turn this boat around!”, he said to the Mexican, who immediately responded by firing the outboard and circling it around.  The fish then made a run outward and the big dude stood up and let slack.  More yells to keep it tight! 

Just then it happened…  It was like the world stopped and ran in slow motion.  There was no sound from the engine.  No yelling from the passengers.  Complete silence. 

It broke the surface like a torpedo.

The sun glistened from its colorful body.

Its dorsal fin in full expansion as its body cleared the water.

A full two feet above the surface, it hung in the air… easily four feet long from tip to fin.

It seamed like it was there for minutes, then SPLASH!  Sound returned, screams of excitement, cameras clicking, water everywhere.  I looked at Zach who had excitement in his eyes.

After 20 minutes, the guy with the rod passed it back to the other guy who was now rested.  He fought it for another 15 minutes.  I held Zach back in case something unexpected happened.  It took the two men and the Mexican to haul it up on the boat.  The fish was totally exhausted.  It had been a solid hook that wouldn’t break.  Ordinarily these prizes are caught on professional charters and turned back, but this was an unexpected catch on a boat not equipped to handle such things.  The fish had not survived the longer than normal fight.

When we reached our “secret beach”, we filleted it and grilled it over an open fire.  A fitting end to a battle only dreamt about by many a sportsman.  A picture hangs over our mantel of a huge fish and the three tired anglers that brought it in.  My 7 year old boy and two guys we never knew.  May the memory be told over many campfires and beers.

 

 

 

Tags: Marlin Cancun


The Road to Hana
Posted On 01/10/2010 14:50:26

Everyone kept saying, “You have to drive the road to Hana.  It’s an experience you will never forget.”  Well, they were right about that.  But let’s take a step back and talk about the island of Maui for a moment.  In a nutshell… it’s boring.  At least the part of the island I was on (Kapalua side).  It was windy, the beaches were few and far between, there wasn’t a whole lot to excite the kids, and everything costs an arm and a leg.  And I never found a really good restaurant that made me think how lucky I was to have eaten there.  The luaus were staged and cheesy and required an expensive cab ride to Lanai. 

The one hike close enough to my hotel got me yelled at by a “local” because I accidentally went off path and found myself in tribal burial grounds.  One crazy-eyed dude told me that if I didn’t go back and say sorry to the spirits then I would be plagued by bad luck.  He might have been right, since after I returned home Lehman Brothers failed, the capital markets froze, and real estate tanked.  Sorry everyone for walking through the Hawaiian burial ground.  If it is any consolation, I returned there a year later on business and went back and said sorry.  Afterward, the stock market rallied for a few months.  But I digress.

      Maui is a great place for a romantic getaway if money is not an issue – which, these days it usually is.  Overall, though, I recommend more affordable (and exciting) vacation destinations for the family.

      Out of sheer boredom I decided to do the “road to Hana”.  I reserved a convertible and procured some maps from the concierge to plan my adventure.  I decided $360 was too expensive for a one day car rental and borrowed a friend’s car instead.  It was a beater convertible Seabring, was a girly purple color, and smelled like bubble gum.  But hey, it was free…or so I thought.  

      Early next morning I was on my way.  Teenybopper pop music blaring from the only cd in the car.  But I was in good spirits as I embarked on what was promised to be very memorable.

      It took three long, hot hours just to get to where the road started.  At 1:00 pm I finally made it to what appeared to be the “road to Hana”.  The first sharp corner had me pumping the breaks like crazy as the road disappeared into jungle nothingness.  Evidently, I needed to slow down and make that 60 degree corner.  Luckily I ended up in a wide spot where a couple other tourists had pulled over to sample some food from a makeshift vending booth.  I was hungry, so I acted like I meant to pull in there, parked, and walked up to the booth.  Something told me that maybe the other tourists did the same thing and this was just a really good location for a vending booth. 

I tried to stay in the tourist spirit and stop at each waterfall and each scenic byway.  But I was running out of time.  I was determined to hike through a bamboo forest to a huge waterfall.  I also wanted to take a dip in a big natural pool with a waterfall like what was on all those brochures back at the hotel.  So I made one more stop at a great waterfall to take some pictures and then I planned to book it up the road to the trail head I had picked out.  This last stop turned out to be a good one with lot’s of great waterfalls a short hike away.  The names of which were unpronounceable.  I started calling each waterfall by the only Hawaaian word I knew… Iwannahockalougy. 

Upon returning to my car I was greeted by a sleepy-eyed local who asked me for a few dollars which I gladly gave him.  Then he tried to sell me weed.  I think I might have ran over his right foot as I skidaddled out of there, but not too sure.  Like I said, don’t bring the kids to this place.

A few more corners and one-laned bridges and I came up on three more locals covered from head to toe in mud and eating lunch by their old Toyota pickup.  They had killed a giant monster of a wild pig which was loaded in the back of the truck.  Larger than an average cow, red bristly hair covered in mud, its legs hanging over the side of the truck.  All of a sudden I was not too sure about hiking through the jungle to a waterfall.  There be monsters out there!  That thing could root me so hard I’d fly up into a tree.  Its snout was as big around as my thigh!

Another few corners and I got yelled and cussed at by a young man sitting on the side of the road.  He obviously didn’t like me driving up his road to Hana.  Or he really hates teenybopper music.  Again, glad the kids weren’t with me.

Three hours later, I made it to the fabled and legendary Hana.  It was not really what I expected - just a small sleepy bedroom town.  I pulled over to the shoulder to make sure I took the right route to the trailhead and a police cruiser pulled up behind me with the lights flashing.  A young clean cut Hawaaian officer walked up and asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance.  And of course I frantically searched my friend’s car for a non-existing proof of insurance.  He proceeded to call in on his radio to verify I didn’t steal the car. 

In his local accent he proceeded to tell me the following:

“Bra, you from da mainland, ya?”

“Why yes, officer, I am.  I borrowed this car from a friend to visit your lovely town.”

Ya, well you know I’m supposed to impound your car, if no proof of insurance.  You long way from home, ya?  Here on vacation?”

“No, business… but wanted to take a day off and see the sights.”

“Your friend should take better care to get her safety stickers renewed.  Dey expired, bra.  I give you  ticket for dat, but let you off on the insurance.  Jus drive careful, ya, and probly park this when you get back.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you for your understanding.”

My free car ended up costing me $75.  Darn Hawaiaan burial grounds.  My luck had already changed for the worse.  So I high-tailed it to the trailhead, determined to fulfill my goal of hiking through the bamboo forest and see the big waterfall.

About an hour before dark, I made it to the trailhead.  It had been raining hard for about a week, so all swimming was banned.  I was not going to get to sit in a pool under a waterfall.  So I headed up the trail.  It took about one hour and rained most of the time.  The trail was very muddy and slippery.  Here is where I was glad I made the right decision to wear my Teva sandals with the upper straps.  These are dead give-away that you are a tourist, as locals will only wear flip-flops (commonly called slippas in the local tongue).  However, the locals don’t frequently hike through the mud to waterfalls.  If you go on these hikes, I highly recommend the Tevas or other open-toed hiking shoe.  Keen makes an excellent shoe for this.    Click here to check them out and compare

By the time I got to the bamboo forest it was nearing dusk.  I have to admit that this truly was an experience.  To walk through this forest with the thick bamboo blocking out almost all of the fading light and the wind causing them to knock together making hollow clunking sounds while the rain fell.  Had there been a monster pig in there, I would not have heard it.

 

  

 

There were many great waterfalls and pools.  I affectionately named them all “Iwannahawkalougie Falls”.  But they were almost worth the hell I went through to get to them.

 

 

It was starting to get dark as I reached the waterfall.  I estimated it to be about 10 stories high.  The crashing water was so powerful that the entire area was awash in misty spray.  It was truly awe-inspiring.

 

 

The walk back down to the trail head in the dark was equally exciting, with the thought of giant pigs chasing me down the slippery path.  Somehow I managed not to perform a perfect face plant.

The drive down the road to Hana back to the hotel was very long, dark, and boring.  I had trouble staying awake.  Once back at the hotel around 10 PM I realized I had not eaten anything but a piece of chicken cooked by a sweaty half-naked guy, so I ordered a nice healthy pizza and settled in for the night.

Overall, I would rate the island poorly for a family destination.  A little higher for a romantic getaway.  As for the “road to Hana”?  Not worth it no matter who you’re with if you only have one day.  My recommendation is to take a full two days.  Stay in the only hotel in Hana and enjoy the spa.  Make it a romantic event without the kids.  If you do find yourself on Maui with the whole family, fighting the boredom, I recommend a whale watching cruise instead.  Then focus on some quality beach time with the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: Hana Kapalua Hawaii


Arizona Backroads
Posted On 01/10/2010 13:42:26

This was one of those impromptu “let’s hit the road and explore” kind of trips. We had the weekend to ourselves and the Arizona backroads were calling. We threw the bikes and a cooler in the Titan and headed out. It turned out to be a very memorable weekend adventure.

As with all such trips, fighting your way out of the city takes longer than the actual backroads drive. Especially if you rear end a Lexus on the way out like I did. No damage to the truck, but the Lexus needed some work. I gave the lady my number and we continued out of town.

Once out of Phoenix, the stress started to fade away. The long straight stretch of Hwy 60, otherwise known as Superstition Freeway, in early summer was brutal. We hung a left and headed toward the Superstition Mountains looming in the distance.

The first stop was Saguaro Lake. Looked like a fun place to bring the ski boat, but for this trip there were too many people. We were looking for quiet solace and exploring the back country. We moved on through a wild and wooly town called Tortilla Flat and then on to Canyon Lake about 10 miles farther. Tortilla Flat was an interesting place. It used to be an old stage stop in 1904 and was now a restaurant and saloon. It looked like fun, but we didn’t get a chance to stick around. Canyon Lake was very picturesque, but still too busy for us. Next up was Apache Lake. Now we were getting somewhere. We drove a road that was so winding, narrow, and steep that it had everyone on the edge of their seats.

Apache Lake is really just a very long and deep river set inside a steep canyon. It is runoff from the grand Roosevelt Dam built in 1911. Above the damn is the huge Roosevelt Lake. At one time it was the largest artificial reservoir in the world. Apache Lake below the dam had no boats on it. Very few people were there, and it looked like a great place to fish and a peaceful place to camp. A lot of wildlife in the area.

 

 

 

 

We found a side road that drove up into the badlands and parked the truck. We mountain biked up through a desert wash about 5 miles. Zach’s bike turned out to be too small for the venture. It didn’t have the gears needed to traverse the variable landscape and patches of deep sand. He was obviously ready for a junior mountain bike. We later did a lot of research and found some really good deals. Check them out here and compare.

 

 

 

 

We spooked a herd of javelina. They were everywhere up there. You could even smell them. We saw roadrunners and countless other birds. No snakes, thank goodness.

After several hours and a picnic lunch, we raced each other back down and kept riding past the truck to the lake shore. It was an extremely peaceful place. We marked this spot down as a future camping spot should we ever wander that way again.

We loaded the bikes back in the truck and continued to the dam. An awesome site as it loomed suddenly up from nowhere. One of the most impressive dams we’ve seen. Right behind it is a giant suspension bridge linking the north and south shores for Hwy 188. It was fun to drive across it. We liked it so much we drove back across it and headed south to Windy Hill.

 

 

 

 

We found a rundown dumpy place that had vacancy and rented a cabin. The lake was very popular that time of year with a bass fishing contest and accommodations were hard to come by.

 

 

 

We had a lot of fun at this dumpy place. Sometimes the dumpy places are more fun because you can cut loose a little. As long as no windows get broke, it’s fine. We parked the bikes inside so they wouldn’t be stolen. Played card games and had a pillow fight. The kids were having a blast. The next morning Zach went out and fell in a nasty pond full of duck crap. He earned the name “Duck Crap Zach”. The name didn’t stick quite as well as the crap did. One shower later and we were back on the road.

We headed up to the Salado Indian Cliff Dwellings. Very impressively preserved ancient dwellings in the side of a cliff overlooking the lake. They were inhabited by the Salado Indians in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. These were a very advanced and peaceful people that lived in the cliffs as protection against more violent tribes to the south. Then they mysteriously disappeared with no trace except for their pottery and dwellings. Some say they were finally wiped out by the violent tribes. Others say that drought drove them off into other lands. I told the kids, they heard we were visiting so they all ran and hid behind the cactuses. If you look closely, you can see them peek around to get a look at us. It freaked Zach out, so mission accomplished.

Amazing that 300 years in a place and then you are no more. That is about 12 generations. Longer than the age of the United States of America. Kind of puts our lives in perspective.

 

 

 

 

Onward we went… north along the lake… back over the awesome suspension bridge. The third time not as exciting as the first two. “Duck Crap Zach” didn’t even look up this time. We explored many a little town along the lake. Their sole economy dependent on sport fishing. Plenty of places to buy bait and beer. What more does one need?

We moved north past the lake along Tonto Creek into the Tonto National Forest, which should more adequately be called the Tonto National Desert. Our next stop was a secret swimming hole we heard about. With sketchy directions we made it to the trail head. Parked the truck, and biked 3 miles in. When the trail got to steep and rocky, we ditched the bikes in the bushes and hiked the additional mile into Tonto Creek.

 

 

Let me tell you, this was really cool. In the middle of no where is this healthy river flowing out of the northern reaches of the state down into the desert forming these amazing pools and waterfalls surrounded by granite and sandstone. It felt like we were in one of those old western movies and expected to see an Indian boy fishing or women bathing. Great swimming holes (although you can tell from our sweatshirts that it was too cold to swim) and it looked like if you hiked north, you could sneak up on some good trout holes. We had a lot of fun biking and hiking into this paradise, and getting the chance to linger in a place that brought immediate relaxation and peace of mind.

 

 

 

 

The most amazing thing to us was that this part of our journey was only a short one hour car ride out of Phoenix. We don’t live in Phoenix anymore, but we definitely plan to go back there when we get the chance. We will wait until midsummer so the cold water will be refreshing. We plan to drive the RV and establish a base camp at Jakes Corner RV park. Then head out early in the morning for a day excursion to the swimming holes.

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Into the High Sierras
Posted On 01/01/2010 14:26:06

There are some wild and scenic wilderness areas about a five hour drive from where we live that promised some good fishing.  We had to hike in and stay the night in order to experience it.  We had three days off from work so decided to make a run at it.  We packed the RV with hiking gear and food and took off to the Eastern Sierras.  Our destination was the Golden Trout Wilderness.

We made it to the trailhead just before dark.  The only place to stick a 34 footer was in the equestrian campground.  Everything else was tent camping and we were the only RV there.  Not surprising given the narrow winding road to get there.  After leveling it out, opening up the slide outs, and firing up the generator I could tell we were not welcomed by the other campers who had to cook over a fire and use the smelly outhouses while listening to our generator and muffled laughter as we played card games in the warmth of our living room.  Welcome to base camp.

The next morning we packed the backpacks for the hike in.  We were going to try to make it to the South Fork of the Kern River which was eight miles in.  In hindsight, this was a huge miscalculation on my part.  We were out of shape and this was a difficult hike even for the experienced.  Most people opted for horses or mules and in fact we encountered two such parties during the course of our journey.

But we were in good spirits and excited to explore a new area.  Off we went around noon.  Both kids had full packs.  It was really great to see the family (including our two dogs) working so hard to get out in the wilderness and explore.  Zach, always the “class clown” kept us in good spirits by dressing up as ridiculous as he could as we prepared to embark.

 

 

 

 

 

About a mile in, Kim spotted two mule dear bedded down about 50 feet from the trail.  A doe and a forked horn buck in full velvet.  They were not spooked by us so we got to observe them for about five minutes before moving on.  Very beautiful and noble creatures.  Among other interesting discoveries, we saw a fir tree that had been knocked sideways many years ago and had what looked like twenty little trees growing up from it.  We also found trees that had fallen together in the shape of an A.  The kids said, “A for Adventure!” 

 

 

 

 

     

 

The scenery was outstanding.  Everywhere we looked was nature in its most purest form, thriving in a dormant volcanic region, causing a unique mix of rocks, trees, mountains, ravines, and creeks.

 

 

  

 

Things got a little tough about three miles in.  Heading up the second pass, we had to take many breaks as we sweated beneath our packs.  Zach was more bored than anything and began with the “are we there yet” routine.  When we reached the top of the highest pass we could see the wilderness area unfold below us.  It was very inspiring.

 

  

 

 

 

We headed down into Mulkey Meadow.  We were so excited to actually “get somewhere” that we hardly noticed the extreme drop in elevation on our way down, which the next day we would have to climb back up.

      This meadow contains a strange almost landlocked creek system called Mulkey Creek which has many forks that seem to flow toward each other and simply disappear in the middle of the meadow.  Since we were there in late August we could not find where it continued on to the South Fork Kern River.  I had read earlier that Mulkey does flow toward the Kern and contains a good population of Golden trout, albeit very small ones.  These fish were transferred here by Samuel Mulkey in the 1800’s.

We saw many fish in the stream and Zach had a great time trying to catch them.  But overall, it was kind of a disappointing destination.  Had we another day, we could have continued the additional two miles to the South Fork Kern and probably had a better time fishing.  But we ran out of daylight so struck camp on the outskirts of the meadow.

 

 

 

 

We found out after unpacking that we had forgotten to pack our dehydrated diners.  You know, the beef stew and lasagna that you add hot water to and it magically turns into a tasty dinner for two.  Luckily, Kim had thrown in two packages of Ramen Noodles.  Add some jerky, grapes, and apples and dinner was served.  We used our tiny lightweight cooking burner to cook the Ramen.  Worked like a charm.  I served it in lightweight aluminum backpacking dishes.  The warm fire and clean air was a nice change for us and we thoroughly enjoyed camping in the middle of the wilderness. 

We were all very sore and none of us slept much, but the stars were beautiful.  Even though the temperature dropped to about 40 degrees at night, we were cozy in our Coleman lightweight below zero sleeping bags.  Actually, they were overkill but I highly suggest this bag for anyone heading out in areas like this where weather can change on a dime.  A warm sweater might also be a good idea.  Just ask our dog, Carmel.

 

  

 

 

The next morning, we were out of water.  Zach and I headed a quarter mile across the meadow to the creek.  He tried to catch breakfast while I siphoned water through our purifier to drink on the hike out.  I headed back to camp while Zach continued fishing.

I gave it about 30 minutes and figured it was time to go make sure he wasn’t cougar food.  I got about ten steps out from camp and saw him about half way through the meadow walking back holding a fish and his pole.  He looked lost and was looking all over the place so I waved my arms in the air while observing through the binoculars.  When he saw me, it looked like a million pounds fell from his chest.  Yep, he was lost but now was found.  When he arrived at camp we could tell from the streaks on his face that he had cried a little.  I felt terrible.  Evidently he got caught up in fishing and walked so far down the meadow that he lost track of where he was.  He knew we were on the other side of the meadow, but he was off by about a quarter mile.  And the fish?  He found it dead in the water.  Bummer, skunked at Mulkey Creek.

That morning we spotted a huge coyote hunting for ground squirrels.  It was so big that I mistook it for a grey wolf.  But, after observing it through the binoculars I was able to determine from the large ears and narrow face that it was a coyote.  It had thick grey fur which was different from the light tan of the coyotes back home.  I later read a blog entry from someone that saw a similar coyote about three miles from our location.  They also mistook it for a grey wolf.

We packed camp and started on the way back to the trailhead.  The hike back was extremely strenuous.  The first push up the steep pass was all that I could do.  I knew that if I was at my physical limit, the kids had to be even worse off.  Only about a fourth of the way up, Katlyn started to vomit and show signs of over excursion so I transferred her sleeping bag over to my pack.  I made sure we stopped often and rested. 

 

 

 

 

When we finally crested the top we all were very proud of our feat… and our feet.  Even the dogs were limping on sore pads.  But, with the worst behind us we were ready to finish the journey.

We arrived back at the RV just before dark.  Cold drinks and a warm shower for everyone.   Not.  I messed up and forgot to turn on the water heater before we left.  Cold drinks and cold showers for everyone. 

The drive home took five hours.  The whole trip was fun and good for us, but I have to say we needed about two or three more days to make the most of it. We definitely plan to make another try at the Kern River when we have more time. 

 


The Maiden Voyage
Posted On 12/24/2009 16:50:46

First Voyage

 

Our first voyage in our new RV!  We were all very excited.  I’m sure all you fulltimers remember your maiden voyage.  The uniqueness of it all.  The strange feeling of driving the biggest vehicle on the road.  Trying to keep it between the lines.  Testing out the breaks.  The kids bouncing around when they should have their seatbelts on.  The knowledge that you probably forgot most of the items you would need.

We were embarking on a short 3 hour drive to Big Bear as our first trip.  Not too far away in case something went wrong.  Which, of course, it did.  But we were used to tent camping for many years, so as long as the RV didn’t blow up we would still be better off than before.  We had gotten a good deal on this 34 foot National Dolphin.  It was an ’06 model with only 11,000 miles on it.  Now that we have taken our first trip, I’m positive that someone rolled back the odometer.  Or that must have been one hell of an 11,000 mile journey someone took in it. 

The water  pipes leaked.  Trim and molding fell off regularly.  The AC didn’t work.  The external plumbing connectors all leaked.  About the only thing that worked well was the one thing us “firstimers” fear… the sewage systems.  So that all clears up the mystery of why National went out of business.  Luckily, with a little elbow grease and some visits to Campingworld.com we should have that thing in working order before long.

We were torn between dry camping in the woods or hooking up at an RV park.  I figured an RV park would be more fun for the kids, so we chose Halloways Marina and RV Park.  We got a spot on the lake for $60 a night which we later determined to be a little over-priced.

We pulled in with the firm knowledge we would be laughed at as we tried to hook everything up, being our first time.  I did hear giggles coming from the RV next to us as water sprayed everywhere due to the faulty connectors (probably bad washers).  But, other than that, it was actually pretty easy.

Once hooked up, I came around the back of the RV and hit my head squarely on the rear slide-out causing a knot the size of a ping pong ball on my forehead.  Why is it that things at eye level are the things we can’t see?  I ended up hitting my head on it two more times throughout the course of our trip.  Both my wife and my daughter did the same.  We looked like a family of mutant purple headed goofballs.

While sitting with an ice-cold Corona pressed against my forehead, our neighbors to the right showed up in a class C diesel powered unit.  The RV spots at this park were so close together that you had no choice but introducing yourselves.  Amazingly, they turned out to be a girl I dated back in the 80’s and her family.  It was just one of those one-time group dates where we all went to the movies and said goodbyes afterward – otherwise it could have been kind of awkward. The more important thing was she was friends with people we had known back in those days that we lost touch with.  So it was great to talk with her and her husband.  My son got along great with their young twin boys.  But imagine… out of all the lakes and all the RV parks in Southern California… the people in the next spot ended up being people we know from our home town in Oregon.  Is this how it is in the RV lifestyle?  If so, I kind of like it.

Overall, our first trip was OK despite having to use all of our towels to soak up the leaks from the galley sink, the fridge, and the shower.  I fixed the galley sink which was just a loose drain pipe connection.  But the other two I’m bringing back to the dealer to fix. Aside from that, I could have used the following to make it more comfortable:

·         Ipod connector to the surround sound

·         Cable TV cable

·         Channel locks to tighten the plumbing connectors

·         Dish drainer

·         Dish racks in the cupboards

·         Cooler to keep drinks in outside

·         Red colored flags attached temporarily to the slide-out so I don’t hit my head

·         That fake grass stuff

·         Bike rack

·         Exterior yard lights

·         Sewage hose stand

·         Ropes to tie the kids down while driving (just kidding)

Campingworld.com here I come!

Tags: RV Big Bear


Crown King and the Hike into Hells Hole
Posted On 12/24/2009 16:43:08

Crown King and the Hike into Hells Hole

 

OK, so get this…we were driving on old rutted gravel roads far into the Bradshaw Mountains in the hot Arizona desert looking for this hiking trail that would take us four miles down into Hells Hole to a secret swimming hole called “Big Dipper”.  We passed dilapidated old mining operations along the way.  Hotter than the depths of hell.  We saw the skeleton of a dead cow, the horns long ago taken by other desert travelers.  Too bad… I really want a cow skull with horns.  Miles and miles we drove the old Landcruiser, vibrating over the cat tracks.  Dust everywhere.  Kids looking at us like we’re crazy… probably right. 

  

 

 

 

 

            Then the elevation raised somewhat and pine trees began to appear around the sage brush.  Before long we were in a genuine forest.  Out of nowhere we rounded a corner and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the town of Crown King, Arizona.  Houses, a cafe, a saloon, a general store, and some cabins to rent.  I looked at Kim and said, “what the…?” 

            Who knew that so far out in the middle of absolutely no where was a thriving little town that time forgot.  No paved roads.  No street lights.  No cell phone coverage.  I thought to myself that this was incredible!  I didn’t know such places existed.  Stick this into Google Earth and check it out!  This place has hardly changed since the 1800’s.  It used to be an old gold mining town but now just relies on poor lost souls like us to stumble upon it and have to stay and eat because it’s too far to go back.

 

 

 

            The Landcruiser was running poorly after the journey, so we rented a cabin.  We ate at a restaurant called the “The Mill”.  I guess it used to be the old smelting mill.  They said I needed a reservation.  I said, “Really?!”  Sure enough, the place was packed.  They had a gourmet chef on staff that was said to be a culinary magician.  I gave them my sob story about being stranded and hungry so they gave us a table anyway.  Not the first time I skyped a table with my stranded sob story.

            Sure enough, the food was excellent.  I had the trout… not sure where it came from up there.  Kim had a chicken dish, Katlyn ordered steak, and Zach had the usual… chicken strips and fries.  The atmosphere was excellent, the food was good, and I still couldn’t believe that I was eating at a nice restaurant in the middle of no where.  Hours before, I was preparing myself for ramen noodles and hotdogs roasted over a campfire in the desert.

            If you have a four wheel drive, I highly recommend driving the 60 miles out of civilization and eating at The Mill in Crown King.  If you don’t have a four wheel drive, buy one and go there.  Unforgettable.

            The cabin was descent.  Cozy and the owners were nice.  The only problem was the loud rucous saloon next door.  Country music blaring down the streets.  Not really a problem except I couldn’t sneak down there and partake in the fun.  It reminded me of the old west and how it must have been when the minors and the cattlemen came in for a night of fun after a week of sweaty hard work.

            The next morning, I popped the hood of the Landcruiser and spotted the problem.  The ruts in the road caused the air filter attachment to break.  Some duck tape was enough to fix it temporarily until we got home.  We were off to our original destination… the hike into Hells Hole.  We left Crown King with a tear in our eye.  Well, OK, allergies from the dust… but just the same, that place was awesome. 

            About five miles out of town we located the unmarked trail head.  Making sure we were well hydrated and carrying a lot of water, we dove into the abyss.  A deep canyon struck through the landscape where desert met pine.  We were in for a long hot hike with a swimming hole at the end.  The kids did very well.  There is something very satisfying at watching your 8 year old boy and 14 year old daughter with their hiking gear on and heading out for an adventure.  A family working toward the common goal of the destination is something to give you pause.  I remember my boy saying, “It feels good to get out and go!”  Another tear… or allergies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was extremely steep and required many resting stops on the way down.  Rule of thumb is you multiply your downward resting stops by four and that is how many times you will have to stop on the way up.  It was a good thing we all had good quality hiking shoes.  Desert hikes are best done in a cross trainer hiking shoe.  They are light weight but sturdy.  We all had on Merrell cross trainers which did very well.  In fact, three years and many hikes later, I still wear the same pair.  You don’t find quality like that these days, so it is worth mentioning. You can find excellent prices on them here.    

 

 

            About two hours later we made it to the bottom of Hells Hole.  Temperature was about 40 degrees cooler, so we were about 70 degrees at the bottom.  We had expected a refreshing dip in the secret swimming hole which had drove us on at a fast pace.  But once we got down there, we found it far too cold to brave the water.  Imagine that… in the middle of the desert, in the summer, it is too cold to swim.  The extreme diversity of the environment here is amazing.  To go from 110 to 70 degrees creates a hike that will bring you through many climactic zones and ecosystems.  A great educational hike.  Being later in the summer, the water was a little low.  I recommend heading down there early in the summer so there is plenty of great holes to swim. 

 

 

 

  

 

 

            The hike back out was agonizing.  A good workout.  I do not recommend this hike for anyone not in shape.  Not the best for young kids under age 10.  The trail was well maintained but it was STEEP.  One of the steepest we’ve been on.

 

 

 

 

 

            Overall, a great weekend adventure.  Crown King is worth the visit.  The hike was awe inspiring and rewarding.  It would be good to pack a tent and camp, but be aware of mountain lions and rattle snakes.  Us?  We can’t wait to go back.

Tags: Arizona Back Roads Crown King Hells Hole Hike




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