Category Archives: Family

Climbing Superstition Mountain (Lyric & Matt visit, part 2)

 Superstition Mountain from lower Siphon Draw Trail 1Superstition Mountain from the Siphon Draw trail – summit is right up the draw – sort of visually behind that Saguaro Cactus.

 Saturday, May 9, 2015 – Lyric & Matt have been with us nearly a week. We have to take them back to the Airport next Monday and they (and we) really liked tenting at Lost Dutchman State Park – we couldn’t get site #8 which we had before, however site #6, next door was almost as good. Lyric and Matt were off exploring early and I wanted to get a good strenuous walk in, but got a much later start. After about half an hour of walking, I decided I would try to summit Superstition Mountain using the Siphon Draw trail which was supposed to be a 6 mile round trip with a 2000′ foot elevation gain over about 1 hiking mile from what is called the “basin”, probably a full mile to mile and a half into the hike.

The Basin of Superstition MountainThe “Basin” on the side of Superstition Mountain – feels steeper than it looks!

I had passed the basin and was probably less than half way to summit when guess who I came upon? Lyric and Matt! They had decided to give it a try and they stated that they were into a slow and steady ascent.  I was tryng to pump in order to get my blood sugar way down – because we had a big Mother’s day celebration dinner planned for the following day so after a short visit I went on.
It was pretty rugged going and it took me probably another hour and a half to two of hard work to make the top, including a couple of false turns causing me to lose the trail and adding a full mile (as I determined later when checking my GPS tracking software) to my hike making it 7 miles instead of the advertised 6 miles round trip. Fortunately the trail was crowded due to it being a weekend and there were lots of folks who had done this before – once I figured out my mistake and got back near the trail I spotted someone and shouted. The informed me that they were indeed on the trail and directed me to a a cross trail just a few yards from my location (but indivisible to me until they directed me!) and I was able to get back to the trail and continue my ascent. The upper half of this trail is in serious need of remarking. So many people have strayed from the trail, that it has created ‘false” trails that lure others away from the actual path.view from topPhoto down from top gives an idea of steepness of ascent.

The last 300 yards to quarter mile of this hike is wicked steep, with lots of spots where finger and toe holds and a clamboring attitude are what get you up.
At the summit, I met a couple of young men who asked me to take their picture with all of Phoenix as a back drop. They then took my picture as well.

Summit 1The Summit shot with the “Flatiron” at the upper left

There was a mile long trail along the rim of the top that went from where I met them to what is known as the “Flatiron” which was clearly visible from our campsite.

 Trail to Flatiron on top 1Trail over to “Flatiron” on top

 I ran into and visited with quite a few people – mostly younger and then started down, having spent about an hour or so up on the top, but not before meeting a young man who told me the legend of Superstition Mountain. It seems that back in the day, the Apache’s used to make 1 or 2 pilgrimages per year to the summit of the Mountain for spiritual purposes. One year, two groups made the ascent together and after they reached the summit, so the story goes,  they got caught in a severe thunder storm, with downpours and frequent, violent lightning. When, after a day or two, none had returned, a search party was dispatched. They found no evidence of either group, however there were two massive groups of Hoodoos that had never been there before. That’s the legend.

Hoodoos above Flatiron both groupsHoodoos that legend states were the remains of two groups of Apaches who climbed the mountain for spiritual reasons.

I got down to the bottom of the “cliffy” part – close to a quarter of mile or so from the top, when hear a yell – “Chard!” – well it was Lyric! She and Matt had kept on coming at a steady pace and were very close to summiting. After a short visit in which I described the remaining ascent and they told me about their climb to this point and people they had met coming down and asked about “an old guy with a Vietnam hat on” and got quite a few positive responses. Later, I felt that I probably should have reascended with them, but at that moment I was unsure if I had enough energy to make it back down myself so we promised to catch up later and they went up while I continued down.

A couple of hours and some seriously sore leg muscles later, I crawled into camp where Linda was glad to see me and hear news of Lyric and Matt. She had done a 2.5 mile hike around the base herself which she seemed to have enjoyed.
About an hour before dark, she decided that she would start up the trail with headlamps and extra water to meet them on their descent. I described the “basin” which was steep smooth rock area, and urged her not to go beyond there and in the same conversation, she made me promise to stay and protect the food she had made from the camp critters and to start a fire once dusk came.

I kept my promise until about an hour after dark, then started packing the food up in the truck, where the critters couldn’t get it, got my hiking boots back on and found my headlamp and was just about to leave camp and head toward the Siphon Draw trail when I heard “Chard!” being called, but from the wrong direction – the actual opposite direction I expected them to be coming from! We came with in about a minute of totally missing each other and them arriving at camp and me traipsing off to try to meet them! Close! We had an excellent taco supper and they told about finding 3 (!) rattlesnakes, right in the area I had trampled all over just an hour or so before them. We could still see a few headlamps shining in the darkness on the mountain side and summit – I don’t think I’d be able to do it in the dark – I had enough trouble in broad daylight!

The Flatiron at Superstition Mountain

The Flatiron at Superstition Mountain

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Filed under Alaska Journal, Family, Hike, Southwest

Lyric and Matt Visit Us in AZ (Part 1)

Lyric (our daughter) and Matt (her boyfriend) flew in to Phoenix to spend a week with us recently and to see some of the sights in Arizona.  We were missing each other terribly, so it was an immense pleasure to drag them from one end of the state to the other. We had an awesome time with them and only wish they could be permanent traveling companions –someday maybe!

Lyric and Matt

Lyric and Matt

Rather than bring the RV down to Phoenix (a long trip through mountains) we staged it near Flagstaff at a National Forest site and drove down to tent camp at Lost Dutchman State Park. (We’ll do a “Part 2” post about camping and hiking at Lost Dutchman). What a great State Park!

Superstition Mountain at Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona

Superstition Mountain at Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona

Located to the east of Phoenix, it is very much in the thick of the Sonoran desert, with it’s “ever-so-different-from the northeast” flora and fauna and Superstition Mountain as a backdrop. They seemed to enjoy that part of the trip as much as the spectacular Grand Canyon vistas. They also enjoyed the warmer temperatures of southern Arizona!

In fact, our travels around the state during their week-long visit was a great lesson in the effects of altitude on temperature. While in Flagstaff the nights began dipping into the low 20s, and the days were considerably colder than in Massachusetts – only reaching highs in the low to mid 50s. We drove through snow showers driving south from Flagstaff. (Ironically, the week they came here was one in which temperatures in Mass. pushed into the mid to high 70’s!). Go figure.

Of course we took a lot of pictures…but rather than try to post all of them (or even the very best of them) here on this blog, we’ll just post a few and put the rest in a Flikr Photostream link at the end of the blog.

Saguaro in Bloom at Lost Dutchman State Park

Saguaro in Bloom at Lost Dutchman State Park

DAY 1: So, anyway, we set up the tents at Lost Dutchman (it hit 90 degrees in the afternoon), then picked the kids up at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and returned to Lost Dutchman to tent camp for the night. That way they wouldn’t have to get off the plane (at 8:30 pm) and spend another several hours traveling. By the time we got to camp, thunderstorms were in the area, so we just turned in early.

DAY 2: The next day we did the 3-hour trip to return to the RV at Pinegrove Campground in Flagstaff and just barely squeezed in a quick visit to Walnut Canyon National Monument in the afternoon. Walnut Canyon features cliff dwellings built into shallow caves lining the canyon walls. Archeologists believe that it was the women who built the homes, blocking in the shallow caves with rough cut sandstone cemented together with clay from local deposits.

Exploring Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings

Exploring Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings

DAY 3: The following morning we relocated 100 miles north to the Ten X campground near the Grand Canyon. We needed fuel but discovered to our dismay that gas prices in Tusayan were $1.00 more than anywhere else along the way. Sigh. Note to self… fuel up BEFORE you get to the “resort area”. We enjoyed our evening around camp, seeing elk walk through the campground and sitting around the campfire. (Matt is an expert fire builder so we had a great campfires every night.)

Lyric and Matt and Elk at Ten X

Lyric and Matt and Elk at Ten X

DAY 4: The next day we put in a full “Grand Canyon” day – putting in over six miles of hiking along the rim trail. We all agreed that was plenty of Canyon… and since we had to return them to Pheonix anyway to catch their flight home, we made a plan to head back south to Phoenix and Lost Dutchman State Park for the duration of the visit. The other motivating factor was the weather. Every night it was getting colder, and the next day’s temperatures were predicting a 22 degree overnight low!

Wings over the Grand Canyon

Wings over the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon and Lyric in Symmetry

Grand Canyon and Lyric in Symmetry

This temperature business made us nervous, to say the least. Our last RV had sustained water damage from burst pipes and we are determined not to let this happen to our new RV. Granted the Nash is four season – but we want to be around to monitor conditions.We could not rationalize leaving the RV alone for 4 days unattended under those conditions. With a bit of internet research we found a boondocking site farther south, in the Verde Valley (about half way between Phoenix and Flagstaff), where the weather conditions were much more favorable.

DAY 5: We pulled the RV to the new site, then loaded our camping gear for tent camping at Lost Dutchman. We would now have two full days to relax and enjoy the Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and hiking the trails at Lost Dutchman.

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park

and here’s the link to a few more of the pictures for the northern AZ part of the trip (really … we showed restraint):
FLIKR PHOTOSTREAM LINK FOR LYRIC and MATT AZ VISIT

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Heading East – Montana & Custer’s Last Stand & Family Stuff

OKAY, OKAY!  We’ve been out of it for awhile – sorry.  Anyway we visited Cousin Brad in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and then headed for Massachusetts and had an attack of laziness which was then over ridden with a million things to do- so the finish of the previous journey on this blog, is well in to the start of the subsequent  expedition which we are currently on.

So here’s what happened … On the way to visit Ric’s cousin Brad in Sioux Falls, South Dakota we came upon signs for the Little Big Horn – who the hell could pass that up?

On site diorama depicting the hill top battle – if I was a better photographer you might think you were there!

One of the ranger’s did a terrific presentation, loaded with unknown (to us!) lore and facts – he really brought the battle to life as we sat in the outside amphitheater and he pointed out where the combatants were, how they were moving, and what their perception of the situation was. If you ever visit here – do not miss that part of the experience – these rangers know their stuff! Did you know that one of the reason’s Custer lost his life was because he split his forces and … well, why should you accept my story when the whole thing can be read right here at the official site:  http://www.nps.gov/libi/historyculture/index.htm

The battlefield site itself has a large monument, under which all of the non-commissioned soldiers are buried in a mass grave. There is also a marker where each dead Soldier or Indian was found when it was all over. The soldiers were initially buried where they were found but were later relocated around and under the monument.

They used white markers for the Cavalry and red markers for the Indians – the handling of the history seems very well done to me – portraying the Indians’ struggle to maintain their way of life, quite fairly as just that – for the most part our ancesters were not honorable in their relations and dealings with Indian peoples.

Soldier casualty markers.

Where Custer died - or at least was found.

On the Monument at the top of the hill there was this plaque.

Indian casualty markers

Equestrians and animal lovers, will gain some peace (?) in knowing that the horses that died in the battle were also memorialized. Their final act in service to their soldiers was to become bulwarks against the withering Indian fire.

War Horse Cemetery Marker

A whole other area - just slightly apart, or rather at the edge of the battle site, is dedicated to an Indian Monument, where each tribe is represented by individual interpretive panels. This incredible iron art work graces the boundary wall of the monument.

I never knew there was a National Cemetery for Veterans at this National Monument – I saw head stones for Veterans from every war.

This sign is at the entrance to the National Cemetery at Little Bighorn

Not mentioned on the above plaque are the many Vietnam Veterans buried here. I did not see any Veterans of Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, or the fight in Afghanistan, but I’m sure it is only a matter of time (if there are not some there already) before  find their way to this hallowed ground.

If you visit, don’t miss the displays inside  – these folks worked hard and have created a lasting testament to what happened on this spot.

A Sioux Warrior - I'm no expert but I'll bet this is more ceremonial, than war clothing

A Seventh Cavalryman - Nothing like our boys look today!

When and if you come to this place, try to find a quiet spot where you can sit and commune with the ghosts of this incredible encounter.  Some will feel horror, some will feel peace, while others will feel a connection with some of the most elemental of human feelings and gain understanding of what it must have been like…

Ric’s cousin Brad Morgan, doesn’t live that far from this place – one can actually see the filming location of “Dances With Wolves” from the edge of his 30 acre domain. We wanted to see Brad as it had been around 60 years (!) and also needed a rest after a long and rare adventure  – Brad and Barbara (who we only got to see for a short while as she had to make a scheduled flight to visit her kids!) offered their home as short time haven. Thanks Cousin Brad, it was great to see and visit with you!!

Finally – on an even more personal note, Ric’s nephew, Michael Parker, up there in Northern Vermont is fighting for his life against cancer. The family would welcome your prayers, energy and healing thoughts.

They are also fund raising to help defray the cost of family travel and loss of work time to provide constant care as Mike goes through Chemo and Radiation for the second time, at the Sloan-Kettering cancer center in New York. He has been fighting off an infection from having the lymph nodes in his neck removed just a few weeks before the holidays in order to be able to qualify for the program. If you have the means and can send even the smallest donation (payable to: “The Parker Hope Foundation”) please send it to:

The Parker Hope Foundation

  c/o Church of the Rock

 PO Box 313

 1091 Fairfax Rd.

St. Albans, VT 05478

Should you have any questions regarding Michael’s progress or the Foundation itself, call 802-524-9644

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Filed under Alaska Journal, Family