Who the Hell is maadjurguer?

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I like to ski, mountain bike, drink beer, cook and listen to any jam band I can get my hands on; all while making a complete ass of myself. Hopefully this catharsis is as interesting to others as it is to me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I think we're in it now!

....or so goes the clarion cry from Jimmy the Split-chimp as he turned the corner on yet another bend in the trail.

3 days in a hole sounded good to me, despite my inner knee raising the alarm; the chimp assured me there would be plenty of bail options should my knee decide to rain on my birthday party week....so I acquiesced, albeit; in a
drunken stupor on my birthday. Our planned route was a west to east, top to bottom traverse of the west fork of Oak Creek Canyon, with the return via the A.B. Young trail and an easy hike through the forest back to the car forming a nice 35 mile or so route. The terms "crux", "dry bags", "mandatory swims" in 40 degree water and "questionable" water source intrigued me...... particularly the dichotomy between "mandatory swim" and "questionable water".

Starting out on Tuesday; I had split drop me off downtown while he bought another dry bag to fit his sleeping bag and I dropped of my check for the CABRA ride at the PnT. The conversation between the folks holding down the bar and the bartender centered squarely on the fire which was burning it's way through the prime recreation terrain of Flagstaff.....images of fire-line maps combined with looks of disgust between half empty glasses of beer were the norm......I had to get out of there fast.

The drive south to the vehicle cache location was a blur of chlorophyll and casual conversation centering around wildflowers.....yet we got to it fast with an expectation of setting up camp only 2 miles in. Within 100 yards of the vehicle....we were snapping shots of 5 foot tall stalks of flowers.

Cognizant of our mere 2 mile objective to camp.....we still stood fast and peered up at the ever towering cliffs......we really had no idea what we were getting into......

As we forced ourselves to move along, the eolian cliffs closed in on us like a sandstorm; forcing us to move in lines dictated solely by nature.

As we turned a bend in the narrows, our first water crossing presented itself.....and it was black, not only with foreboding color....but a lost flip-flop....and a dead squirrel which managed to look like a tiny, yet bloated cow.  We nick-named this the "dead squirrel-cow pool"....a tough introduction to things to come.  We knew the water was cold.....feeling the water confirmed it was even colder......yet Split jumped in and performed a backstroke with pack on.  I instantly recognized the flaw in his technique as he howled with frozen excitement......and then followed with the breast stroke, using my pack with dry bags as flotation to move through the water faster.  However I failed to observe that the nipple to my camelback was now submerged.  While Split's technique was slower......he runs less a risk of going on the giardia weight loss plan here in the coming weeks.......of which I may become the poster child for....raise a glass of pediolyte for homes with more than one toilet.  

Sazi the dog lead the swims at all times....running laps as we strategized the best entry and exit to each pool.....

The following water crossings came in rapid succession......each with little time to do anything afterwords but move to stave off the cold....yet I managed a few shots of Split doing a more sublime crossing......I wish I had audio on this one.....he sounded like a simian thrown into a pond as he crossed the icy water which was above his waist.  Had I not been shivering and laughing hysterically, I could have pressed the shutter down some more on this one.

After just 2 crossings, we contemplated making camp but reasoned that we were already wet and cold; we might as well continue being wet and cold; so we forged on.  In the back of our minds....the thought of waking up in the cool morning and dunking ourselves yet again sat heavy on our minds as well....so the choice to get through most of the anticipated swims until we found a spot in the fading light below some crumbling cliffs lined with ferns was a prudent one.

A new morning presented itself along with the photographic challenges of a dark canyon below with a light and reflective skyline.  We found ourselves moving from dark and whimsical limestone grotto's........8

........to light and flowery meadows......

.....which were followed by more dark and foreboding pools from which we filtered more water.

As we descended deeper, our heads craned higher to seek the tops of spires....

......and were equally drawn down to observe the ledges of ferns and flowers sprouting at chest level from the fractures and seeps within the sandstone.

As two geologically trained individuals; we were transfixed by the beautiful cross bedding observed in the sandstone...

....and moreover impressed by the lush vegetation consuming what once was a sea of sand rivaling the dunes of the Sahara.

With each turn of the creek, a new sight....a new smell...a new experience was found.  In this turn, I was mesmerized by the reflections of ripples from the water below, cast upwards onto the sandstone cliffs....which too, exhibited paleo-ripples from a long time ago......

The precociousness exhibited by the vegetation along the many fractures and seams within the strata provided an endless backdrop for us as we moved from one unique scene......

......to the next scene.

Stopping at a seep within the sandstone, I tried hard to capture some blue dragon flies on the reeds around me.  Failing utterly, I did find they were very attracted to the duct tape I keep wrapped around my ski pole.

Placed there for emergency purposes, this is the first use for that duct tape in 3 years other than another convenient grip for my gloved hands.

More striking exhibits of color and texture erupted before me....in this instance, the flowers of the moment growing from a rent in the rippled surface of a terrain formed in times long past.

Stopping to appreciate and view every beautiful moment became futile; we soon found ourselves moving along with nary a word or glance as if consumed by some sort of technicolor disease.........we were infected.

Yet some sights still managed to call out for documentation.....and a true hanging garden always deserves a spot in prime time.

Much of the rest of the day was spent like this.....moving from light to dark and back to light......dry to wet, wet to dry.  Finishing the canyon, we made the treacherous 1 mile walk south on 89 through Oak Creek to the base of the A.B. Young trail where we rested our bones for a moment and ate dinner creekside before tackling the final bit of the day.....a 2,000ft climb in 2 miles back up to the rim.  No photos were taken however the switchbacks were counted.....33 cries of "Switchback Attack" were heard with each turn in the trail experienced in the fading light of the day......only to be followed by the rise of the nearly full moon.  Insisting on no head-lamps, we caught sight of the glow worm in the manzinita....before finally reaching our bivy spot on a dark and featureless rim.  I wanted to head into the forest as a windbreak, yet Split insisted on camp were we stood.  After 13 hours of scrambling, swimming and hiking; I submitted....and would not be disappointed.

The next morning, I awoke to this at the foot of my sleeping bag.

Looking to the east, I pulled together a pano shot of the growing flame of color erupting on the cliffs below me.

With every second, the sun crept higher transforming the space beyond my bed into.......this........

It's hard to capture in such a limited format as film.....the sound of hummingbirds buzzing my head, the crickets in the oak below me, the smells of the warm moist canyon air combined with the coolness of the pine forest behind me........

As we packed up camp and left by 7, I anticipated the 8 miles back to our vehicle to be boring and uneventful; however the full rains of winter had one last gift for us......lush forests full of fern and olfactory lupine fields.  22 hours of scrambling, swimming and hiking will make sleeping in my bed tonight difficult.  I can still smell the lupines......I want to feel the canyon breeze.


chollaball said...

wow! great pics, great adventure! have you started ass-peeing yet?

Dave W said...

Nice write up. See now you know why I like to sleep near cliffs too. There's always something to look at.

Anonymous said...

@ cholla.....no, I have not....but you can bet I will blog about just how rad ass-peeing can be when it happens. According to the CDC.....I'll know in about a weeks time.

@liteandfast.....agreed, as long as it's not lightening.

daralyn said...

Wow, you guys are rad.

What a beautiful experience you had. Thanks for letting us all tag along vicariously. And I'm not even limping the way you, Split, and Sazi all were afterward!

Anonymous said...

I read a couple of papers suggesting that Giardia is not as pervasive as is often suggested. Though I would not suggest a caviliar attitude about filtering. Great pics, hope you win the water quality roulette.Joel

rockychrysler said...

that is one awesome post. well done all-round!

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