Blue Springs Little Colorado River Gorge

"That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger." "Pain is just fear leaving the body."

Taking it to the limit one more time.

 Saturday was a very taxing and long day, starting with navigating the maze of Navajo back roads at 5:30 A.M, hiking at 7, getting out of the gorge after dark at 6:45 and back to Tuba City at 7:30 and then on to our hotel at the Cameron Trading Post. Oh yes, Navajo tacos and a bed at the end of the line!
It was a hard day’s night and a good body of work….about 16 miles in total hiking, 3600' of elevation gain and loss, 6 miles on the Horse Route, and 10 miles of  slogging thru mud for 10 miles in the Little Colorado River Gorge to Blue Springs and return.
I live for these types of adventures. They are bountiful in the beautiful state of Arizona.

The Canyoneer amigos
Bill Orman, Dingo, ELG. and Charlie Pongo. 

I was engulfed with pain and fear after exiting the Little Colorado River Gorge and standing on the rim in pitch dark with a small headlamp. It appeared that the three amigos were screwed!

 Our truck was not there! Stolen? Probably not. But where was it?  In the dark we had missed our target. It had to be close!

 Our options:
A. Spend the night utilizing the clothes we had in our packs and emergency blankets. At 5,000’ temperatures would be in the mid 20s .Survival?
B. Head East on a backroad to the main highway -15 miles away. Although totally exhausted, this would be the better option.
C. Find the GD Truck!! Best option!

We chose option C. After locating a backroad and walking about 1/2 mile, the treasure hunt was over. However Bill introduced more fear when he had a little trouble finding his keys in his pack.

The objective of the trip was to get to the incredible Blue Springs. It was a chilly start. The expectations were to travel on dry ground but a storm a couple of weeks ago made the going particularly difficult, having to deal with intermittent deep mud. After Charlie got “stuck” up to his knees and soaked trying to get out he elected to head back. He had brought his own truck and camped at the trailhead the night before in the bitter cold. Charlie is a seasoned Canyon guy. He has worked at Phantom Ranch and hiked with the legendary Harvey Butchart.
The three of us forged on. There were a lot of debris from flash floods  and many critter tracks in the mud. We thought that they were ringtail tracks but a couple of raccoons popped out. I have never seen raccoons in this canyon.
 We all had been to Blue Springs before on the Blue Springs route that involves walking and climbing ledge to ledge with significant exposure. This route was safer but long and slow going. Our turnaround time was noon but at mid day we were close and decided to continue. We arrived at 12:30, had lunch, enjoyed the beauty of the springs and headed back at 1:00.  
After finally reaching the Horse Route, we needed to climb 2 1/2 miles and 1800’. Dingo and Bill  moved well but I was  feeling exhausted and  a bit slower.
The sun set was projected to be at 6:30. It set at 6. Headlamps on! We were close but so far away. 
When we did find the truck, the boys cracked a beer but I was too tired to have one. A first!
The drive out seemed to take forever. When Bill dropped us off at Dingo’s car at the Quality Inn in Tuba City, Dingo made things even more fun by not being able to find his keys. 
I could not take the drama, so I went to use the rest room and when I returned he was in the car, now to Cameron for dinner and bed.
The bed never felt so good but we didn’t go right to sleep, but opted to watch The Outlaw Josie Wales on TV. 
Boys will be boys when they are let out!

It was a fun trip and we nailed it. Thanks to Bill for facilitating.

Men Behaving badly

Dingo and Bill, for bad key management and not having backup.
Bill,  for insisting that sunset was at 6:30? Hey, he lives in Tuba City, he should know.
Dingo and Lobo, for sneaking tequila into the restaurant at the Cameron trading Post.
Bill and Dingo, for laughing at Lobo when he got stuck in the mud.
Lobo, on Friday night in Flagstaff for telling the cute waitress in the Brew Pub that he really liked the colors on her shirt, in the Eddie Haskell manner.


Big City Mountaineers Olympic National Park

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are"

Big City Mountaineers Trip…. Leader/Instructor for a group of under resourced boys from the Washington Boys/Girls Club -July 6-14 2014

I just returned from Oregon/Washington where wildfires are growing at a rapid pace as lightning and human error spark drought-stricken forests.I could see the fires from the plane when returning home and it brought my spirits down after a great trip. 

Pre-trip, I stayed at the unique Kennedy McMenamins School in a Portland neighborhood for a few days. It is a hotel converted from a school that was built in 1915. It is one of the coolest places that I have ever stayed. My room was a former classroom complete with cloak rooms and chalkboards. The school has a soaking pool, several great bars/restaurants, a movie theatre and a BREWERY!  I always wanted to have a brew in the classroom! There is extensive original art work and historical photographs that cover the walls, ceilings, doorways and hallways.

North Fork Skomish Trail

Our group experienced absolutely perfect weather in the temperate rain forest until the last night when we had  an electrical storm that always makes me nervous when I have young kids. 

I have lead 13 trips for Big City and I do believe that my volunteers were the best that I have had.  The kids (12 and 13 year olds)  just crushed 30 miles of backpacking and a steep 2700’ summit climb to First Divide. All went very well. One of the young guys only weighed 60 pounds, but carried a 45 pound pack and never once complained, and had a smile on his face most of the time.

We all saw some wonderful wildlife…..several grouses, a pond with frogs and salamanders AND………a gorgeous black bear that was within six feet, walking along a 
giant fallen Sitka spruce. Mr. Bear just looked at us curiously and then turned around and headed the other direction. 

The trail is under a canopy of large old trees, many 100 years old and 250 feet in height and some 60 inches in circumference. The forest had a “jungle like” feel with plants growing on other plants, mosses ferns and lichens on tree trunks and branches. The western hemlocks were giants!! 

The boys stopped along the way and picked huckleberries and blueberries. For my birthday I was presented with a pan of berries and a snickers bar with lit twigs simulating candles on top and a “Happy Birthday” song at camp. It was one of the most memorable birthdays in my life.

These trips are always very rewarding in terms of seeing the personal growth of the boys. They were great kids and I already miss them.  I LOVE these boys!!
 Their youth director, Tim is one of the finest, most caring people I have ever known.

Saying our goodbyes was emotional and difficult.  These boys have many challenges ahead and I know that they will all play a bad hand well and overcome them.

After cleaning and organizing the gear for the next group, Cory Patrick, Tim and I enjoyed the afternoon at a neighborhood Portland  tavern. It was sooooo much fun, and I already miss those fine people with excellent backcountry and interpersonal skills.  Saying our goodbyes was also difficult. I consider all three of them now good friends.

I am so thankful for the beautiful time that we shared together.
This was going to be my last BCM trip but now I am reconsidering doing just one more year.


As long as there are canyons, man will be drawn to them.  

The Eminence Break Fault splits the rim and allows access to mile 44 of the river in Marble Canyon of the Grand Canyon.  The class 4 route starts after navigating a good stretch of the Navajo back road system. The passage goes through several layers of the canyon...and the views are off the chart.

Kaibab and Coconino Ravine
Supai Ledges (ledges of death)
A connecting traverse
Redwall Fault Ramp and finally 2700 bone jarring feet later...
At the River..Very HOT (not the river-very cold) in June but a beautiful beach, dunes and tamarisk groves that offered limited shade...President Harding Rapids is just up river.

The route is extremely steep and has many areas of instability and loose rock. There is some free climbing required.  The descent was a lot more difficult than the climb out with slightly lighter backpacks and starting at 4 in the morning with headlamps.

Bill Orman, (whom is considered an expert on Marble Canyon), Dingo Dan and I spent three TOUGH days in this harsh, hot and unforgiving majestic area. The comradery kept us upbeat despite the difficulty of this TOUGH route.

After spending 24 days of gastronomic bliss in Europe, and the month prior,  laid up in the hospital followed by home IV and not being in the necessary industrial strength shape to attempt such a challenge, I'll take it!! 

I have extremely sore quads but vivid memories of the time we shared navigating and laboring in and out of this seldom explored beautiful part of the canyon.  


Les amis,

This was the perfect trip. Countless hours were spent researching, organizing, and planning the logistics, transportation and accommodations. Our execution was seamless and our choices of accommodations could not have been better. 

For 24 days the rest of the world disappeared for us. If there are more beautiful regions in the world, we have not seen them. 

We enjoyed several meals that we shall never forget, because they went beyond the gastronomic frontiers of anything we had ever experienced. The people in both countries were absolutely wonderful. 

Here are a few picture samples. I took over a thousand photos. 

"Aren't you (Tahiti Lagoons) one of the seven wonders of the paradise of painters?"

  Henri Matisse

Bonjour mes amis,

We just returned from Tahiti and I have attached some pictures of this splendid part of the world.  Not much English is spoken and it gave Gerry a nice opportunity to brush up on her French before our trip to France and Italy in May.

Everything was quite expensive but worth every franc, we enjoyed every minute, every moment.  The people were incredibly warm and friendly. The landscape and culture were off the charts. The "Mutiny on the Bounty" makes perfect sense to me for men to rebel in order to stay in such an idyllic paradise, with such beautiful women. In 1891, Gauguin the French artist sailed to French Polynesia to escape European civilization and "everything that is artificial and conventional" 

The highlight of our stay was a day trip to the island of Moorea where Gerry snorkeled with the stingrays and sharks.  ELG stayed on the boat and snapped photos and used his smart phone to purchase a life insurance policy for the intrepid Gerry.

This trip was a bit of an impulsive decision to go to a distant tropical location to get out of this brutal Scottsdale winter weather. We encountered very few Americans, mostly French and New Zealand tourists.  Unlike Hawaii, tourism is not large in French Polynesia. We had talked about another trip to Hawaii because it has been a while since we have been there.  We travelled to Hawaii frequently when we lived in Reno and twice since we moved to Phoenix and love those islands. Sadly, Molokai is the only remaining unspoiled Hawaiian Island and my personal favorite. 
French Polynesia seemed to offer more intrigue and adventure and we were not disappointed.

French Polynesia embraces a vast ocean area strewn with faraway outer islands. Locals told us that each island has a mystique of its own. The 118 islands and atolls are scattered over an expanse of water 18 times the size of California, though in dry land terms the territory is only slightly bigger than Rhode Island. 


The Ultimate Adventure

Please see below a great article I recently came across written by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated. He details his experiences when given the opportunity to fly in an F-14 Tomcat.

The article brought back vivid memories of a similar experience I had many years ago with one of my best friends, also a Top Gun pilot that had flown into Fallon Naval Air Station in Northern Nevada. We flew out of Reno. I only needed one airsick bag!
Of all the adventurous activities that I have engaged in over the years, nothing even comes close to that morning in the sky over pyramid lake and the Black Rock Desert.

"Now this message is for America 's most famous athletes:
Someday you may be invited to fly in the back-seat of one of your country's most powerful fighter jets. Many of you already have . John Elway, John Stockton, Tiger Woods to name a few. If you get this opportunity, let me urge you, with the greatest sincerity... Move to Guam . Change your name. Fake your own death! Whatever you do . Do Not Go!!!I know. The U.S. Navy invited me to try it. I was thrilled. I was pumped. I was toast! I should've known when they told me my pilot would be Chip (Biff) King of Fighter Squadron 213 at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach . Whatever you're thinking a Top Gun named Chip (Biff) King looks like, triple it. He's about six-foot, tan, ice-blue eyes, wavy surfer hair, finger-crippling handshake -- the kind of man who wrestles dyspeptic alligators in his leisure time. If you see this man, run the other way. Fast. Biff King was born to fly. His father, Jack King, was for years the voice of NASA missions. ("T-minus 15 seconds and counting ..." Remember?) Chip would charge neighborhood kids a quarter each to hear his dad. Jack would wake up from naps surrounded by nine-year-olds waiting for him to say, "We have a liftoff."Biff was to fly me in an F-14D Tomcat, a ridiculously powerful $60 million weapon with nearly as much thrust as weight, not unlike Colin Montgomerie. I was worried about getting airsick, so the night before the flight I asked Biff if there was something I should eat the next morning. "Bananas," he said."For the potassium?" I asked."No," Biff said, "because they taste about the same coming up as they do going down."The next morning, out on the tarmac, I had on my flight suit with my name sewn over the left breast. (No call sign -- like Crash or Sticky or Leadfoot .. but, still, very cool.) I carried my helmet in the crook of my arm, as Biff had instructed. If ever in my life I had a chance to nail Nicole Kidman, this was it. A fighter pilot named Psycho gave me a safety briefing and then fastened me into my ejection seat, which, when employed, would "egress" me out of the plane at such a velocity that I would be immediately knocked unconscious. Just as I was thinking about aborting the flight, the canopy closed over me, and Biff gave the ground crew a thumbs-up. In minutes we were firing nose up at 600 mph. We leveled out and then canopy-rolled over another F-14. Those 20 minutes were the rush of my life. Unfortunately, the ride lasted 80. It was like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags Over Hell. Only without rails. We did barrel rolls, snap rolls, loops, yanks and banks. We dived, rose and dived again, sometimes with a vertical velocity of 10,000 feet per minute. We chased another F-14, and it chased us. We broke the speed of sound. Sea was sky and sky was sea. Flying at 200 feet we did 90-degree turns at 550 mph, creating a G force of 6.5, which is to say I felt as if 6.5 times my body weight was smashing against me, thereby approximating life as Mrs. Colin Montgomerie.And I egressed the bananas. And I egressed the pizza from the night before. And the lunch before that. I egressed a box of Milk Duds from the sixth grade. I made Linda Blair look polite. Because of the G's, I was egressing stuff that never thought would be egressed. I went through not one airsick bag, but two.Biff said I passed out. Twice. I was coated in sweat. At one point, as we were coming in upside down in a banked curve on a mock bombing target and the G's were flattening me like a tortilla and I was in and out of consciousness, I realized I was the first person in history to throw down. I used to know 'cool'. Cool was Elway throwing a touchdown pass, or Norman making a five-iron bite. But now I really know 'cool'. Cool is guys like Biff, men with cast-iron stomachs and freon nerves. I wouldn't go up there again for Derek Jeter's black book, but I'm glad Biff does every day, and for less a year than a rookie reliever makes in a home stand. A week later, when the spins finally stopped, Biff called. He said he and the fighters had the perfect call sign for me Said he'd send it on a patch for my flight suit.What is it? I asked."Two Bags."