Monthly Archives: February 2014

Weekend in Sedona – let the energy flow!

hiking sedonaWe really enjoyed our very short visit in Sedona back in November so decided to catch it again on our way westward last week. We stayed at the Distant Drums RV Resort in Camp Verde and drove up to Oak Creek / Sedona on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday we had a bit of a late start and didn’t get riding until around noon. We opted for the Bell Rock trail system in Oak Creek, which is a combination of green and blue trails. Trailhead’s are small and filled with tourist cars so we ended up parking in the main lot next to Bike & Beans – free and lots of space.

After a fun afternoon of biking in Oak Creek, we headed north into Sedona to grab some groceries and go for dinner at Picazzo’s – an organic restaurant where at least 50% of the menu options were gluten free. It was a wonderful treat for me and the boys were gracious enough to come along!

Sunday we woke up early and headed up to the Bell Rock Parkway trailhead to get a parking spot. We ventured out for a scramble/hike and made it to the top of one of the pinnacles, which was full of some stretching our comfort zone moments (more for me than the boys…).

We spent the afternoon at the Sedona Skateboard Park – it is a fabulous facility – really well made and maintained. Lots of friendly kids of all ages out. Hunter had fun with both his BMX trick bike and his skateboard while Tim and I sat in our lawn chairs and enjoyed the sunny afternoon!

I am so glad that we headed back for the weekend. The scenery is magical, to say the least. Big blue skies in the background of red red rocks as far as you can see. Takes your breath away!

Adventures in Tucson, Arizona

hunter bmx park 3We stayed in Tucson for 10 days and it was full of fun and adventure. Yet another stop where we experienced so much more than what you can find on paper…

The first part of our adventure was choosing to stay at the Voyager RV Park. It is a massive (4000 people) adult only community that is geared towards active retirees. We were wooed by the amazing number of facilities and activities and they swore that Hunter was welcomed. Having stayed with Tim’s parents in Florida at an “RV Park”, we were in for quite the surprise here – everyone was incredibly friendly and very very active, physically and socially. I did water aerobics in the pool in the morning (a good level for my side that is still in rehab), the boys spent some time with the wood carving club, Hunter and I played water volleyball most afternoons and we played tennis in the afternoon or evening each night.

We explored the local National Park – Saguaro National Park and learned a great deal about desert plants and animals.

We stopped on the way back home at Ben’s Bikes, learned about the local trails and got invited to check out the BMX track that night – another first for Hunter and so much fun!

We explored the Pima Air and Space Museum and the boneyard – airplanes as far as the eye can see…

All around – a great stop. Tucson seems like a little big city – lots of amenities but still easy to get around in and a very human feel to everything. It also helps that the weather was fabulous!!! Sunny and warm each day.

Pima Air Museum & boneyard

hunter pima airThe PIMA Air Museum is one of the largest Air & Space Museum’s in the world, and the largest non-government funded aviation museum. There are over 300 airplanes PLUS the entire AMARG boneyard…

We spent the morning walking through the 5 hangars plus taking a trolley tour of the outside display space. It is amazing just how many airplanes they have and how much information they are able to convey. Most of the guides are retired airforce personnel and you get lots of in-person, behind the stories along with the “facts” about each plane!

The AMARG boneyard is on an active airforce base so the tour came with a fair amount of security – lots of showing of passports to prove who you are and then you are loaded onto a big tour bus with no exiting anywhere along the way. It’s hard to convey the size and scope of the boneyard with photos through the bus window… BUT everywhere you look there are rows and rows and rows of airplanes. Some are old and have been put out to pasture, some are half apart being salvaged for parts, some are just not needed right now but might be needed again at some point and some are brand new and just being stored here as there is no space elsewhere.

Saguaro National Park – Tucson, Arizona

tim hunter saguara NP signI’m not a big fan of the desert landscape…it just doesn’t do much for me. Having gone through a ranger naturalist walk at Saguaro National Park, I am now much more appreciative of the subtle complexities of the desert neighbourhood and the different plants and animals that make it home.

hunter & ranger

Saguaro National Park is actually split into 2 parks, with the city of Tucson in between them. They are large tracts of land that protect this landscape from urban sprawl and the devastation that was happening due to ranching and cattle grazing.

The saguaro cactus is the quintessential symbol of the south west and it plays a critical role in the desert eco-system, often housing an handful of other animals in their stalks. A saguaro can get enough water for the year from a single summer rain storm. They have these funky accordion pleats that allow them to swell or expand to hold all of that water and then slowly shrink as they use the water up.

Thanks to the Ranger tour, we learned all about the main types of cactus in the Sonoran Desert – saguaro, fish hook barrel cactus, cholla, ocotillo, and prickly pear as well as the palo verde, creosote bush and mesquite tree. Mother nature is pretty amazing with how these plants have been created or have evolved to adapt to their incredibly harsh/challenging circumstances!

The learning that we did for the Junior Ranger program has come in handy for the rest of our desert stay…

Fantasy Island – Mtn biking in Tucson

lee hunter life is goodTucson has a really active outdoor culture and are building a solid mountain bike reputation. We stopped in at Ben’s Bikes and got some great trail information and recommendations. We only ended up riding one day and chose to do Fantasy Island, which is a very tight network of trails right in town on 3 miles of state land. It has a system of loops so you can ride from 6 miles upwards, which was just right for us on a hot desert day!

The trail flows really well with a number of small ups and downs. The best part is the trail personality, with the many unofficial trail markers along the way – you just never know what you are going to see!

Tuscon Rodeo

calf roping 6Another item off the trip bucket list – seeing the rodeo! The Tucson Rodeo has a great school kids program that we were able to slide into on President’s day. The kids are taught about life behind the scenes at the rodeo, how some of the events work and then they slide in some good social messaging related to the Cowboy Lifestyle (be strong, cowboy up, think for yourself, don’t do drugs etc.).

Hunter has never been to the rodeo so he enjoyed watching the calf roping and team roping. Someday I’m sure we’ll get back to Calgary for the Stampede…

Mexico Whitewater Adventures

flowers 1For many great reasons, we decided to go to the Huasteca region of NE Mexico with Ben Kvanli of the Olympic Outdoor Centre in San Marcos, Texas. It was a bit of a leap in the sense that this was a no frills trip that kicked off with a 15+ hour drive, along with 5 other people, in a passenger van to get there. It turned out to be a fabulous week and we now have 4 new friends – Kelly, Phil, Nejla & Greg!

van loaded with boatsQuick & dirty Beta: We were in the state of San Luis Potosi, the Huasteca Region (mountains & rivers) and paddled on 3 distinct rivers with 3+ conditions- Rio El Salto (travertine slides & drops), Rio Micos (travertine slides & drops), and Rio Tampaon (flat water, standing waves in canyons, flat water). We also toured around and saw the Cascadas de Tamul on the Rio Santa Maria, the Sola de Goldrinas Tamapa and the city of Valles.

huasteca map 2

lee tim hunter water fallWe left Saturday February 1st at 12:45 am. This was intentional as it enables us to pass through Mexican customs at first light (i.e. 7:00 am) and then drive the remaining time in the light on the Mexican highways (where 2 lanes are actually 3 lanes). We stopped in Victoria for lunch at 11:30 and then carried on to Huasteca Secreta on the Salto River – our home for 2 nights.  We stayed in small yurts with outside bathrooms and showers, surrounded by lush vegetation. The hotel is right on the Salto River – an azul blue warm water river – right at the base of a 160 foot waterfall.

We had a fairly slow and lazy first paddle on the lower Saltos by the time we got going on Sunday. It was a run full of slides and drops that worked their way from smaller to larger… warm water and sunshine helped with all of the comfort zone stretching that was going on! The put in is just up the road from the hotel but a bit of a bush wack and steep climb down the rocky slope to get to the river. The slides and drops are all made of travertine, a type of corral, that builds up in the river and also has lots of green, lush growth that makes the slides slippery.

Hunter did a fabulous job of running his first drops and he loved the bump & grind of the slides. He did his first combat roll at the bottom of a 10 foot drop and there were loud cheers by everyone. My big win of the day was going over the 20 ft salsa drop. It had a 5 foot slide and then the drop. The 5 feet went much faster than I was expecting and over I went, screaming I’m sure! Hunter chose not to do this one and he and Tim portaged around part of the drop and then found a place to throw their boats off and jump 10 feet into the water, which was better than the scratchy bushes.

lee salsa drop on saltosTim joined Ben, Phil, Greg & Nejla for an afternoon run on the Upper Saltos and had a good time. It was a bit rushed as it was getting dark but they powered through everything!

tim upper saltos drop 2Phil made some great videos of our runs on the Saltos:

Hunter
http://youtu.be/6nxttFkuJXE

Tim
http://youtu.be/rPIycTjmCO8

Lee
http://youtu.be/ypxtabrU2cY

Monday saw us driving from El Naranjo down to just north of Ciudad Valles and to the camp on the Rio El Micos. We got in around lunch time, got settled in our palappas and then did an easy run down the lower Micos.

The camp was similar in style to what you see on the Ottawa River with a number of cabins spread out across the property, a couple of washroom/shower buildings and then a main eating hut. The rate was very affordable and the staff were wonderful. This is a tourist location for Mexicans that are looking to raft, zipline and play in the waterfalls.

The lower micas run starts just up the road from the camp in the midst of a local farmers market. There are a number of small drops that converge on the river here so it made a good place to play and warm up. The rest of the run was made up of small surf waves and easy slides and drops.

Tuesday was exploring day and we started off with Hunter and Ben doing a short run down the Santa Maria to the top of the Cascadas de Tamul while the rest of us hiked in. It was quite beautiful and very very high!

A few other stops that day were the Sotano de las Golondrinas, a great big sinkhole, a stop in a small village where we bought Diet Coke from the “American Store” and Hunter’s new favourite – Chile Corn (roasted corn on the cob with butter, chile & lime) on a stick and then dinner at Ricardo’s Taqueria in Valles. On our way home Ben bought some fabulous bar stools dirt cheap (I wonder why…) from a truck in the alley!

Wednesday was a long day of shuttling and paddling as we paddled the Tampoan River, which was an hours drive away from camp. Ben’s local rafting friends decided to join us, which made for a very full van and a fun group on the river. The Tampoan is different from the Salto & Micos as it has a bunch of flat water, a long canyon section with boulders and standing waves and then more flat water down to the take out. It was another great day for Hunter’s paddling – he trailed Ben down the “easy” lines (still lots of pushy water and waves) and managed 2 combat rolls in the midst of the hardest section before ending up swimming after he got pushed into a rock. We were both so impressed with his bravery and choosing to roll vs panicking and swimming right off the bat.

Thursday was our last day of paddling and we were headed to the Upper Micos before starting the drive home. Unfortunately I was visited by Montezuma Wednesday night and spent the night and morning expelling all food that I had taken in, so chose to stay in bed vs paddle. The Upper Micos run starts with a long travertine slide and then moves into a series of drops before coming out at the farmers market where the lower Micos puts in. One neat feature is that you can go behind the Upper Micos falls and get a sense of the power of the falls!

tim & hunter upper micosBy travelling to a non-touristy area of Mexico (by American/Canadian standards) we had the added benefit of really getting to experience the local culture. At no point did we feel unsafe but it did really help to go with someone that spoke Spanish and knew this area inside and out.

This region is powered by the Sugar Cane industry and there were fields and trucks coming and going all day long. We cut some sugar cane directly from the field one day and it was neat to see how it is not nearly as sweet as refined sugar.

Hunter also had a great time hanging out with the local puppies…

Slalom practice at Rio Vista Water Park, San Marcos TX

hunter surfing the wave rio vistaThe Rio Vista white water park in San Marcos, Texas was created from an old low head dam. It has 3 sections with wave features and cables to hang gates from. The top wave is the largest and then they decrease in size from there.

After getting back from Mexico we stayed for the weekend and got to run gates with Ben Kvanli of the Olympic Outdoor Centre. It was lots of fun and some fabulous coaching. Like anything, improvement comes from the accumulation of many small things. It was great to have Ben there to provide tips and tricks.

hunter top gate rio vistalee top gate rio vista