Tuesday, May 27, 2014

4_16-17_2014 Birding in Tucson, AZ

Let's go back in time...back to AZ for some birding.  Dave found this excellent campsite in the Molina Campground part the way up Mt. Lemmon. It was really quiet and bird.
Before I arrived, he rode from bottom to top of Mt. Lemmon. Big Ride. Big Day.
He then went to the airport and picked me up. On the way to the campground, we went through an outdoor museum with tons of cactus. We laughed at this nutty sign...we had no idea it was a premonition of what Dave would do about a week later. :/
Excellent campsite. No one else around anywhere!
A good birding perch for me.
Birding atop Mt. Lemmon. I'd hoped we would see the Olive Warbler but the rascal eluded us...again.
We stopped mid-birding to climb Hitchcock Pinnacle. Fun little climb with a 14 second approach.
Dave on top giving those in the parking lot something to ogle!
Summit shot on top of Hitchcock Pinnacle. So, it looks like we as a couple are starting to look alike! :)
Here I am on top of Hitchcock. Definitely not a place to walk off of.
And now for the birdy part of the presentation!  A beautiful Verdin. These are really difficult to get a photo of.
Dave got several good photos of them!
The Red-Faced Warbler. He is why so many birders go to the top of Mt. Lemmon.
A singing Red-Faced Warbler.
A very funny and confused Hooded Oriole. Each morning he would fly to Dave's SUV and sit on the mirror. There he'd have a very intense conversation with the bird in the reflection.  Cute bird!
California Towhee
The fierce looking Yellow-Eyed Junco
Mr. Red-Faced again. Gorgeous!
A Road Runner...in a tree! Beep! Beep!
Broad-Billed Hummingbird.
Painted Redstart. Another spastic warbler! Hard to photograph as they are always on the move. Plus, their huge range in color makes photographing them extra challenging.
Painted Redstart in his fluttery wing position.
Handsome Ash-Throated Flycatcher
Cute little Bell's Vireo building a nest. We were able to watch the pair bring in spider's web for the construction.
It was a treat to see a Bell's up close, and even neater to see the nest construction.
Hooded Oriole at the campsite. Likely the same rascal who liked Dave's truck

Monday, May 26, 2014

5_26_2014 Bike Ride - Carter Lake, Co

Time on the DaveandCallie blog does not move in a linear fashion.  :)  So, expect more blog entries from the past, but for now, this entry is from today - 5/26/14.

A couple of weeks ago, Dave and I did this ride but didn't take the camera. This time we were camera ready.  We drove to a parking lot near Coot Lake on the north side of Boulder and prepped our bikes. Starting here avoids the madhouse of downtown Boulder which was worse than usual today as it was the Bolder Boulder. That madhouse should be avoided at ALL costs.

From the parking lot, we rode north to Carter Lake.

We stopped midway to grab a photo with Meeker and Long's Peaks in the background. We've had a ton of rain in town and lots of snow in the high country. The mountains show how much snow! Going to be a messy run off year as creeks are already over flowing. Look for lots of mud slide and more damaging flash floods to come. :/

We rode that approximately 25 miles up to Carter Lake. There is a bit of uphill to get to the damn. I'm standing on the damn taking the photo to the left. You can see the valley we rode up to get here.
Looking the other direction in the same spot - you can see why many people come up here. Boating and camping galore.

On the damn, the weather really started building. Looks like we were going to be running from the rain again. Cool clouds though.
We stopped at a little store at the top and had some tea and a snack.
We rode up to Carter Lake on the southern approach. We then headed downhill on the northern approach.  It is steeper and shorter. We'd not ridden it before...that changed soon. :)
We headed down down down to find the road closed. There was a fatality accident or something quite bad that shut the road down. We decided to head west up the 'Bonus Hill' in hopes that when we returned, the road would be open. The "Bonus Hill" climbs 1,400' at the turn off below the north end of Carter Lake.  It does this 1,400' in 4 miles. Some steep section there!

When we came down, the road was still closed, so back up to Carter Lake we went.

It was short but savage! And really fun. We stopped at the marina and got the most nutritious item in the store: a Monster Drink. :/
It was yummy!
Then we headed down from the lake racing the weather. It had been getting a bit nasty for a while. It was unclear if we'd luck out and go the 19 miles (from where this photo was taken) back to the car and stay dry.
The headwinds from the weather were awful (when going west). Mostly we dealt with cross-winds. *shakes fist in air*.   Head winds slay me.

We saw tons of birds, including an adult Bald Eagle about 10' off the road.  Lots of smushed snakes, squirrels and rabbits.  We passed a ton of smelly horse farms (I am puzzled by them).  And finally got back to the car having only been hit by about 6 rain drops each. Not sure how we managed that!  In the end, I rode 60 miles - Dave ended up with about 64 as he circled back to see me several times.  In total, Dave rode 3,600' uphill and I rode 3,200' uphill (with the weather, I turned back before the top of the bonus hill). Not sure the uphill, but it was a good amount. We'll be in good shape for the upcoming Bike Tour of Colorado!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

4_12 to 15_2014 Tuscon Climbing Part II - more photos

I met up with my friend Mike, also known as Mr. X due to his preference for anonymity in the virtual world, in the town of Benson where we loaded up on a few supplies at the market, then headed to the West Stronghold.  We found a nice campsite right near the end of the west road and set up camp.  Nice spot, really nice weather and lots of birds including Owls nearby.  Pretty cool.  It was super dry however, so the plants were obviously having a hard season.

In the morning we headed up a drainage hike to climb “Cragaholics Dream”, a classic 6 pitch old school crack route.  The hike takes a little over an hour and ascends a fair bit up a rough drainage, we didn’t even think someone else would be lined up for the climb, but unfortunately we were wrong… 

As we got closer we could see and hear a few people, then a few more, then a few more.  When we arrived at the base of this somewhat obscure backcountry climb, we discovered a party of 8 (that’s right, 8!) 20-30 somethings wagon-training up the route.  On top of that, they were quite loud and obnoxious and most of them were drinking PBR beer in cans.  Really??  Hike all the way back here to climb a remote crack climb with 8 of your best beer drinking friends???  Nope, this was not what we ordered!  We were pretty darn disappointed, but we wanted no part of such a scene.  What’s with the frikking posse style climbing with the youngsters these days?  Ridiculous in my opinion…

Mike staring in disbelief at the party of 8 PBR swilling youngsters tag-teaming the route.

Anyway, we hiked all the way out back to camp and re grouped.  We decided to head up to a formation called the Tombstone, which has a very cool crack route and a companion arête route.  It was maybe a 45 minute hike to get there, but at least we had it all to ourselves!

Mike led a moderate approach pitch, then I racked up for the Tombstone Crack. 

The crack is steep, a full 160’ long and has several wide sections.  It looked like a challenge for sure.  Although rated 5.10+, it seemed a bit harder as it was quite strenuous and at times the protection was a little twitchy.  I was almost at the top when my arms were pretty smoked and I thought I might peel off, so I took a short rest on the rope, then finished the pitch.

Quite a workout and again, I could tell I was pretty darn tired from all the activity in recent weeks, but it was all good. :)  Mike came up and declared the route a full on workout as well.
Looking east toward the west Stronghold from the top of the Tombstone.

It was super windy on top, so we debated whether going down and leading the arête to the right of the crack as the strong winds would likely make a difficult and technical arête quite a challenge.  Instead, I opted to have Mike lower me down the Stiletto arête and I climbed back up on a top rope.  I was really glad I did it this way since the wind was really whipping and a lead in these conditions would have been a bit much.

After the second route, we hiked back to camp, enjoyed a nice dinner and camp chat, listened to the owls, watched the moon rise and hit the hay.  In the morning we would hike up to Cragaholic’s Dream for a second time, hoping nobody else would be on the route…

Moon rise over the west Stronghold. Squaretop is the large formation on the left margin of the photo.

Our second hike up to Cragaholic’s dream proved fruitful and we had the whole formation to ourselves as we hoped and originally expected.  It was a bit cool at the bottom in the shade which was nice.  
The route is 6 pitches long and requires a full range of crack and face climbing skills with all natural protection.  We decided that I would take the odd pitches so Mike would lead the crux second pitch as I was feeling really tired this day after so many days of activity.  The route went well with no falls or hangs by either of us, but it is a very challenging route for the 5.10b grade (me thinks it’s a wee bit harder
Mike finishing the crux roof on the second pitch.
Here I am coming up the second pitch after the roof.
Here I am leading the 10b third pitch.
Mike leading the short but fun 4th pitch.
Starting out the fifth pitch which is tricky at the bottom. 
Higher on the fifth pitch is straightforward hand to off-width crack climbing. 

The wind had picked up throughout the day and by the time we topped out, it was really whipping!
The high winds made the rappels a bit tedious.Oh, and by the way, we cleaned up two empty PBR cans that we found on the descent and hike out from our youngster buddies from the day before - dorks!

We watched some other climbers across the valley on Dreamscape Buttress and began the rappels. 

We hiked back out to camp, enjoyed a beer and chatted a bit.  It was Sunday afternoon, so Mike had to pack up and head home to Phoenix that evening.  I said goodbye to Mike and enjoyed a quiet evening watching the moon rise over the magical formations of Cochise west…  Tomorrow I would head to Mt. Lemmon.

Squaretop at sunset.  The formation is 700' tall.

After a leisurely morning, I started the drive to Mt. Lemmon.  I picked up a few supplies, loaded up on water and headed up Mt. Lemmon to Molino Basin campground.  This campground is located in a neat drainage at about 4500’ and promised to be warm and likely very birdy. :)  I scoped out a bunch of sites and decided on a nice fairly private site that had a bunch of good trees around and lots of birds!

I set up camp, had a casual dinner and hit the hay early.  I was really tired and needed some recovery before tomorrow’s event; riding up Mt. Lemmon.

In the morning I had a nice breakfast, watched some birds around camp and prepared my bike for the Mt. Lemmon ride.  Mt. Lemmon is a pretty big day ride with a minimum of 50 miles round trip depending on your final summit or near summit destination and between 6000-7000’ of uphill riding.  I was still feeling quite tired this morning, so I knew this would be a hard ride, but I’ve really wanted to ride Lemmon for quite a while and this was the day to do so since Callie was flying in tomorrow for 5 days of birding.  So, I loaded up on water and snacks and took off from the campsite.

First up was ~2000’ of descent to get me to the true base of Mt. Lemmon.  Obviously, this was easy and fast riding.  It was about 8:45am when I turned around at the base and started the long ride up the mountain.  It was already pretty warm, so I knew this would be a sweat-fest. 

I was going to ride to the true summit, but as the accumulated uphill came into the 5k range, I decided to shorten the ride slightly and just ride to the ski town below the summit for some food and drink. :)

With this plan, my highpoint was just over 8200’ before dropping a few hundred to Summerhaven, where the Pizza and Cookie shack awaited my arrival. :)  I was pretty beat when I arrived with 6300’ of uphill under the belt.  I got a slice of pizza, a big pumpkin cookie and several iced teas.  What a great recharge! 

The ride is really fantastic, both up and down and should be on every cyclist’s list of must do rides.  The scenery and change of climate zones is really quite amazing!  I arrived back at camp in the early afternoon and took a sun shower and relaxed.  The birds were quite entertaining and I enjoyed the nice quiet afternoon.  I went to bed early and organized a few things for Callie’s arrival in Tucson the next day. :)