Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Along the road trip there are places that are a “must see”. One of the best parts of traveling, whether it be on the road in your home country or completely on the other side of the world is the fact that you see so many things that aren’t necessarily on the map or qualify as “road trip worthy”.

Route 66 PC- JDStylos
The Grand Canyon is not one of those unexpected sights. We awoke and took our time driving to Arizona towards the Grand Canyon.  Along the way, on another interstate filled with large trucks and cars much faster than ours. Joe quickly pointed out a sign on the right side of the road with an arrow pointing to the “Old Historic Route 66”. We pulled off the next exit and hit the road that so many before us drove.  We later found out that the stretch that we decided to drive just so happens to be the longest intact stretch of the original road.

PC JDStylos
Eventually Route 66 joined back to highway 40 and we drove the rest of the way to the Grand Canyon. I had never been to the canyon, but Joe has. He had warned me of not the immense beauty I was about to see but the immense crowds we were about to encounter. By this time we had been to five national parks but none would compare to the crowds we saw when we drove into the park. Thousands of people. Parking was the most stressful part of the day. We lucked out with a spot near the visitor’s center and fought the crowds to the edge of the canyon. There are some things that you can’t help looking at and saying “WOW” and one of those sights for me was The Grand Canyon. Joe just so happened to get a picture of the look on my face when I looked over the edge for the first time.

PC JDStylos
After taking in the view for a little bit we hurried over to a “Geology Talk” that one of the park rangers was giving. We joined a whole group of eager people to learn a smidge about of what we were actually looking at. Joe and I had talked about how we wished we had a geologist who could tell us some about the rocks we were climbing on and this talk gave us a bit of insight into just that. Though one of the coolest parts of the talk wasn’t the talk itself but as we were all listening a full
grown male Big Horn Sheep ran right through the presentation and hundreds of people.

We camped just outside the park in the national forest and woke up the next morning to a big thunder storm and big fluffy snowflakes starting to cover the ground. We tried to go back to the park to watch the informational video in the visitor’s center only to be disappointed by an “out of service” sign. So we hit the road and drove through a snowy pass before getting to Flagstaff and doing some climbing research in the library.  We packed our stuff up and kept on heading south towards Phoenix. We camped just outside of town and once we woke up in the morning we headed into a town called Tempe to grab a small guidebook then headed to Queens Creek Canyon.

Joe! PC JDStylos
Queens Creek is full of rock called “volcanic tuff”, which we had yet to climb on. We arrived in the afternoon and spent most of the first day just getting our bearings of the area but we did get a chance to climb a little bit. The first climb we did was a bit of a chimney that then climbed left up an arête. Neither of us were a fan of the route, difficult for a 5.7. We moseyed down to arguably the most popular 5.7 and 5.8 routes of the whole area. Joe led them first and quickly came to the conclusion either the rock was graded quite hard or we are just becoming worse climbers. Similar to Joshua Tree the 5.7 was much more like a 5.9. We finished on a “5.8” with a very hard start. Once you pulled yourself up and over the bulge most of your energy was gone but you still had 50ft to go but luckily with only one trickier spot with not much for holds it ended up being probably our favorite of the three routes we did.

PC JDStylos
Queens Creek has free camping at a place called “Oak Flats” that is literally 3 minutes down the canyon. Free with tables and a bathroom it was most definitely one of our favorite camp spots. Plus when we woke up in the morning it was a quick drive to the climbs. We hiked up to the spot we had picked out the day before and started climbing. Unsurprisingly the climbs seemed to be 2 grades harder than the book suggested but we climbed anyways. Joe set up his camera on the tri-pod to get some photos of us climbing which we haven’t been able to get a ton of us since you can’t really do if you’re climbing/belaying. The routes were all fairly difficult and had really hard starts which untimely tired us out much quicker than we were expecting. I finished the day after four climbs on a cool arête and Joe finished on a short, very difficult 5.9. By the time I had finished climbing my fingers were bright red (which we like to call “toasty tips”) and the top layers of my skin weren’t there anymore.

Thanksgiving morning arrived and we said goodbye to Queens Creek and we drove down to Tucson and got our nicest hotel to date. A little more expensive than we have paid in the past but well worth it.
PC JDStylos
Our original plan was to try to find a pizza and enjoy it in the hotel. After looking and looking, everything was closed except for grocery stores. So we ended up getting a frozen lasagna, tikka masala and ice cream for our thanksgiving meal. Wasn’t too bad compared to our single pineapple we had gotten the year before in Nicaragua! After eating, swimming, enjoying a movie on the TV we both fell asleep. I quickly woke up in the middle of the night with my stomach protesting what I assume was the ice cream. Since the only dairy I’ve had in the last month and a half has been cheese. Not a bad place to be for a sick and sleepless night.

PC JDStylos
We got up in the morning and I was feeling a bit better so we enjoyed our free hotel breakfast and decided to go get the oil changed on the car since we’ve hit over 5000 miles. While we were there we decided to get a new tire to replace the one on the back of the car that had finally popped. Killing two birds with one stone and feeling like we spent a lot of money we spent the rest of the day at Saguaro National Park and attempted to get some sunset photos before driving up to Mt. Lemmon where we hoped to get some climbing in.

The road to the camping was twisty, long and seemed to go up forever. Starting the drive at 2000+ feet we finally found a place to camp at over 8,600+feet. It was cold but nice to be somewhere other than the desert. We awoke in the morning with full intentions of going climbing but with an overcast sky and a slight breeze we opted to take full advantage of perfect hiking weather and go hike!

PC JDStylos
It had felt like we hadn’t hiked in forever. We trekked along on the Butterfly Peak Trail and unlike most trails this one quickly went down. For miles we hiked gradually downhill before we got to a fork in the road and we had read in the trail description online that if you take the opposite trail you might be able to find the remnants of an old plane crash. So we went on the trail less traveled and soon arrived to just that. Not much was left of the old F-86 Sabre but the engine and some random metal pieces remained. You can read the story of the wreck  HERE. Most of the hikes we do lead to summits and good views so it was a fun hike to something neither of us had seen before. We ate some lunch and started hiking back up all the gradual hills we had come down. By the time we got back to the car it had been a little over 9 miles but with such gradual grade it was extremely pleasant.

PC JDStylos
We went back to our camp and spent the next day doing something we had yet to do, which was not drive the car. We made a fire and played with the trad gear on some boulders and spent the day vegging next to the heat. We had planned again to go climbing, but with the weather being too cold and us feeling lazy it made for a perfect place to rest.

Throughout the night we listened to the sound of snowflakes hit the metal of the car and awoke in the morning to about 5 inches of fresh snow surrounding the us. We were the first car to leave the camping area (there was only one other). Breaking ground, it took us a couple of attempts to get the car through the dip into our camp sight but eventually after turning around we got out and drove the slippery road back into the desert.

PC JDStylos
Back in Phoenix, it was still just above freezing and we happened to be the only car in town with snow all over it. We made our way to the PIMA Air and Space Museum where we arrived just after opening to get our tickets for the “Boneyard tour   We spent the morning listening to a walking tour of the first hanger. 11:30 rolled around and we all hopped on a bus that took us into the boneyard. The tour showed us over 35 billion dollars’ worth of aircraft being stored, salvaged and torn apart. We arrived back to the museum and spent the rest of our day walking around the other hangers and listening to our third tour of the day. I have been to plenty of air museums coming from a military family but have yet to be at one from opening to closing.

PC JDStylos

That evening we were treated to a steak dinner from my parents even though we are 1,100 miles away. Only our second time eating out on the whole trip and with it being awhile since either of us had a steak we drooled over a warm meal cooked to perfection. Steak, potatoes and dessert filled our bellies and we started to drive towards New Mexico.

Looking at the weather it’s much colder than either of us were hoping. With the high in Southern New Mexico to be 51 degrees for the next few days, makes for cold climbing. Cold fingers on rock just don’t mix. Hopefully this unusual weather will disappear and we will hit the crag sooner rather than later before we start heading east. 

1 comment:

  1. Keep the blogs coming!! Nice to hear that you arent just being climbing rats, but also enjoying other awesome stuff. Im jealous!