Bear mountain

October 26 – 28, 2012

After leaving the frigid Grand Canyon, we drove straight down to Sedona. Once we descended into Oak Creek Canyon we gained about 40 degrees in air temp. Sedona scenery is spectacular, but the town is a bit busy and full of grouchy retirees. We set up camp in the desert on a forest road south of the Sedona scene. We went back up to town for dinner and had a surprisingly fantastic pizza at “A Pizza Heaven”. After surviving a mild sandstorm at our camp site, Tayler and I looked like extras from Mad Max.

The next day we woke up early to beat the heat and headed to Bear Mountain west of Sedona. The trail was pretty straight up, climbing 2,000  in two and a half miles.

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We were glad that we brought lots of water as it got over 80F before we made it to the top.

Luckily, Tayler brought a little bottle of Gatorade:

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And was nice enough to share:

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We went through two different geologic regions, starting in the dark red rock at the bottom, then about 1,000 feet up the rock switched to yellowish sandstone. I’m not sure what the geology story was.

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Red sandstone

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Yellow sandstone

The view from the ridgeline to the summit was of the sandstone formations around Sedona and the wide open plains to the west.

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View towards Sedona

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Looking west

At Walmart, Tayler found the perfect recovery food, hot dog flavored chips. Don’t worry, no hot dogs were harmed in the manufacture of these chips – they were 100% artificially flavored!

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hot dog chips are cheap in Arizona!

That night we slept at Lake Pleasant which is a misnomer if there ever was one. It turns out that it is the meeting place of all idiots and teenagers with 4x4s within a 100 mile radius. We had the luxury of paying $10 to camp in what amounted to a pullout while people wizzed around us in trucks, presumably completely hammered, until the sun was nearly up again. This is the stuff memories are made of.

After Tayler fulfilled his life long dream of camping at Lake Pleasant Arizona, he figured there wasn’t much else to look forward to seeing in the southwest, so he got on the first flight back to Vermont from Phoenix. He just made out home before the whole country’s air traffic got screwed up by hurricane Sandy.

Later that day we did a much needed load of laundry in Tucson. Then, we visited Jenny’s high school friend Alexis, her husband and three boys that night. We carved pumpkins for Halloween, which was super fun. Jenny and I chose the cat bat, which is pretty scary. Also featured was the guy with scary teeth, the grim reaper and the traditional jack-o-lantern guy.

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We considered dipping into Mexico since we were only a half hour away, but chickened out after hearing stories about what goes on right on the other side of the border. If we had more time I think it would have been fun to have driven deeper into Mexico where things are a little less crazy.

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Dam boys

October 24 – 25, 2012

The next stop on our tour of the southwest was going to be the Grand Canyon. Originally we planned on going to the North Rim, but we found out that it was probably closed so we had to change our plans slightly. On the way to the South Rim we stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam near Page Arizona.

The Glen Canyon Dam is the next dam upstream of the Hoover Dam, with the Grand Canyon in between. The 4th tallest dam in the US is a concrete gravity arch dam like Hoover, but it is considerably thicker. Like Hoover it’s primary purpose is to impound water for release to water owners below with power generation being a bonus.

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The crest of the dam serves as a parking lot for power plant employees – traffic is routed over the steel Navajo Glen Canyon Bridge just downstream of the dam.

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My brother and I went on the tour of the dam which allowed us to get out on the crest and ride the elevator through the dam to the power house. The tour was a little underwhelming and rushed with the tour guide regurgitating facts about the dam without a particular interest in discussing the dam’s more technical details. It was too bad because it turned out that there was an engineer in all four groups of people on the tour, one each from Italy, Germany, Canada and the US. As the enginering representative from the USA I was particularly proud that I looked like I had just stepped out of Phish concert after several days of hiking and being on the road without the benefit of a shower.

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One of the unique aspects of this dam was a large field of grass that sat between the toe of the dam and the power house. We saw a guy 600 something feet down there on a riding mower right when we got there. It turns out that the grass was planted to keep several hundred feet of soil placed from blowing away. The soil was placed to dampen the vibrations of the pipes which lead to the turbines in the power house.

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Obligatory generator picture

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High Voltage

We made it to the Grand Canyon right before sunset. It was cold there, in the low 40s or so. The park had a surprisingly well stocked and inexpensive grocery store with a stellar beer section. We bought ingredients for burritos, and made them on the tailgate. After dark Tayler and I wandered through the woods toward the canyon attempting to use the stars to guide us north. We couldn’t find the big dipper, the little dipper or orion because of the trees. After exhausting our celestial navigation skills we stumbled around until we came across a major road with signs pointing to a paved hiking trail along the rim. A true backcountry experience.

I tried to make some long exposure images at night, but with no tripod or shutter remote and a steady breeze, they didn’t turn out great.

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Turns out it is easier to photograph the Grand Canyon during the day.

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When we woke up we saw our car thermometer had gone down to 26 during the night. After indulging in hot pay showers we chowed on breakfast burritos and decided to head south to warmer weather.