Saturday, February 23, 2013


Warning: I may wax poetic.

October 19, 1985, I summited Four Peaks with my dad.

And every year of my life since then, the mountains have called me.

When we lived in Utah and were driving home from Arizona, I would watch Four Peaks disappear in the distance and feel this sinking feeling that I was actually leaving home instead of heading toward it. After all, the antenna lights on South Mountain have always been a beacon to me that let me know I was home. It's almost like these mountains define me. And they draw me back again and again.

Apparently, not everyone has this feeling. I tried to find someone to hike the Flatiron with me this past week, but nothing ever panned out. Every time I got let down, I lost more hope that anyone shared my love of the mountain. You'd think it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I was sad and couldn't be cheered up, no matter how big the pity party. There was only one fix: elevation. And hey, here is the perfect chance to share what it means to me.

Out of friends to call, but still driven from the inside, I almost went alone. And then I remembered Four Peaks in 1985... a little girl and her dad. I scaled back the plans a little bit for safety reasons, and headed to South Mountain with Paige. Really, who better to share this experience with than my little girl? Maybe she'll grow to love it the way I do.


Some people say that pictures without people are boring. Maybe, but when the beauty of a place strikes my eye, I just want to keep it.

Other people say how ugly they think the landscape around Phoenix is. I'll never understand that.

Before long, a stunning view of the city sprawled out on the horizon. Looking down on Phoenix from there, it seems that all the world is right. Hard to believe there could be crime, hunger, and suffering below.

I think this girl was born to be a hiker. She looks comfortable there.

The shapes here are ever changing, but the mountains stay the same... constant, strong, and forever jutting into the sky.

There's no plant on Earth quite like the cactus. We wondered at the pink spines on many of the little ones.

Then again, the ocotillo has quite a striking appearance. Those two plants make the most fabulous silhouettes at sunset.

I always like to head into the wilderness during the spring when I can enjoy the wildflowers. There were millions of tiny white flowers carpeting the desert floor, sprays of slightly larger yellow flowers mixed in, and even larger yellow flowers sprinkled here and there. Alas, my macro wasn't performing quite like I hoped.

Two miles and a one thousand foot elevation gain set us right on top of one of the peaks in the South Mountain range.

You know, the Compass Room at the top of the Hyatt hotel downtown is expensive, and the views don't even compare. There, you wait an hour for the restaurant to make one complete revolution so you can see all of Phoenix, and buildings are in the way. Here we had it all at once... lunch at the top of the city.

And heavenly solitude.

It was quiet up there. All we could hear was the earth crunching beneath our feet and the occasional hum of a motorcycle. You know why Joseph Smith chose the grove to offer up a pleading to God? There aren't many places closer to heaven than the raw, wild Earth, created at His bidding.

Thinker, dreamer, lover, adventurer. That is how I described myself back in my 20's when I was more intense about everything. It's still me, though. I see a trail, and I want to follow it.

Paige wanted to get a picture of the cholla ("jumping cactus") that she learned about in school. I guess I got more of the ocotillo than anything else.

And then as if by magic, my macro setting started working again. You'd think the spines would convey a sense of danger, but all I saw was creation's magnificence.

I was proud of how well Paige did, and she really seemed to enjoy herself.

She thought these groups of cacti were funny because they looked like a group of little people to her. And you know I couldn't get enough pictures of cacti... cacti-mania!

Even a cactus in the twisted snarls of death seemed worth capturing to me.

When we were almost back to the parking lot, I took a look back at where we had been. There was our summit. Though weary, I felt energized with a divine sense of accomplishment.

On the way out of the park, we stopped to explore this funny place called Scorpion Gulch. I haven't figured out what it is yet.

I couldn't pass up opportunities to photograph Paige finding enjoyment in this element.

We just might be kindred spirits.

Just like me and my dad.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Snow Day!

Living in the Phoenix area, we never have snow weeks or snow months... only SNOW DAYS! Last weekend, a big snowstorm came through northern Arizona, so we decided to take a day trip up to Flagstaff to let the kids play in the snow. It was snowing the entire time we were there, so there was plenty of it!

See what I mean?

Paige and Josie were first up on the sled.

Josie's only putting her arms up in the air because she doesn't know she's about to have a whole bunch of snow plowed into her face.

Are they having fun?

Zoom in... yep!

Brandon was very curious about this weird snow stuff.

He was doing pretty well until he went on the sled with me and got a snow shower. After that, he just whined until Russ took him and Kallie back to the car to warm up. This is him trying to blow the snow off his gloves.

I just have to say that it is hard to climb a hill in several inches of fresh powder, freezing temperatures, snow clothes, and at an altitude you are not used to!

Ready to go!

Apparently, I am not too good at high speed photography. This is all I got.

When they got tired of climbing the hill and being blasted in the face with snow, they sat down to play.

Paige seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

After warming up in the car for a few minutes, Paige and Kallie got out to play some more. I am not sure whether we just don't know the technique or whether the snow was just too soft and fresh, but we could not pack it together to make a snowman.

And our snowballs were pretty wimpy, too.

But that didn't stop us from having fun!

It looks like someone else had more luck. Kallie was pretending to be a snowman, too.

Even Brandon ventured back out into the snow after a while.

But this girl was out there just as long as we would let her be.

Yeah! A picture of me!

After about ten minutes, Brandon stopped liking the snow again and wanted to be held. My camera stopped liking the snow, too.

We knew this wasn't yellow snow because we had just seen it fall from the sky... yummy.

Paige and I both made snow angels.

Then Russ started a snowball fight with Paige.

She fired right back!

As the snow kept piling up, we eventually decided we had better leave before we got stuck. I mean, this was our car at half time!

While Russ was packing up, Paige and I headed back to the sledding hill for one more run. When we got to the bottom, I had to laugh because of all the snow Paige got in her face.

After such a fun run, I begged her to go with me just one more time. She said, "Okay, but this time you ride in the front." Now I know why! Getting all that snow on your face is no fun, and it makes your face go numb! Sorry kids for laughing!

The highway back down to Flagstaff was covered in several inches of snow because no snow plow had come by the whole time we were there, so we were happy to have 4-wheel drive! Interstate 17 was a complete mess, and the drive home was very slow going all the way to Camp Verde. The car in front of us slid out of control across two lanes of traffic before recovering, and I almost had a heart attack (I can't imagine what it was like for them!). Luckily, we had no problems and got home without incident, but it was a crazy drive for sure! I am glad that after our fun day in the snow, we got to go back to our warm home in the Valley of the Sun.