2nd class looks a lot more like a 1st class act to me!

I was honored to help plan and lead a first ever backpacking trip for Nick, age 11, who needed to complete a 5 mile trip to earn his 2nd class rank in BoyScouts.
Nick is from Wiley,Texas and very driven to earn his Eagle Scout rank someday. He has never hiked with a pack before nor cooked a meal in the great outdoors. Though he was able to use a map and compass to gain his bearings! Well done.
This was Nicks first time in Flagstaff. As soon as he arrived, after a long 2 day drive, with his grandfather, the first thing he asked me was; ” Can we go on an adventure now?” I knew right away he was in the right place and that we were going to have a blast!
So we wasted no time and hiked around Sandy’s canyon and down to the popular climbing area called ” The Pit” . He loved all the rocks and wanted to climb them all! We got caught in a rainstorm and the rocks became slippery so we hiked back to the car for a short drive to Lake Mary. We spent the next hour getting extremely muddy and desperately seeking to catch a live crawl daddy . Which in Texas is called a decapod.

The next morning we threw on our backpacks and headed out for the Kachina Trail. I had asked what he and his grandfather,John, had packed before we left just to make sure they were completely prepared. They had everything! What I didn’t consider was to ask how much their packs weighed. Mistake number one.

Nick and John pose in front of the trailhead sign. Looking ready for the easy 5.5 downhill hike I promised them. I wanted to make sure Nick enjoyed himself and would fall in love with hiking like I have. Here comes mistake number two. The 5.5 mile hike is actually 8.1 miles. I did not account for the distance before reaching the trailhead nor the distance from the end of the trail to back to where we had parked our second car !!

Mistake number 3…. there is indeed some steep uphill sections on this trail which I didn’t remember. This is probably due to the fact last time I hiked it I just had a small daypack. Nick asked if we could take a rest break. This is when I discovered this 93 pound kid was carrying about a 25 pound backpack!! When I tried to lift Johns backpack I realized he was probably carrying over 50 pounds!!! Clutch and I tried to lighten their loads by taking water and a few other items out of their packs into ours. Nick immediately said he felt so much better so I felt better. I also gave him one of my trekking poles to help balance with the rocky up and down sections.

Mistake number 4…. I wanted this to be a leisurely hike with as many rest breaks as we wanted. Well, dark clouds rapidly covered the mountain and the rain started. No worries, we had our rain gear ! The worry came when the thunder started and we were totally exposed in a meadow. Our pace had to rapidly pick up to reach a more protected area. At this point I feared Nick would never go hiking again, nor speak to me again.

Nick was such a great sport, even though he was tired he kept going!

Finally out of danger with the storm moving away from us we finally could take a rest.

Nick cooked his first meal outdoors during this rest. Top Ramen noodles! He had just completed all his requirements to make rank of 2nd class! John, Clutch and I cheered and congratulated Nick!!

Nick is definitely a class act!!!

He definitely had a unexpected adventure this day!

And just a side note.. he had one last adventure before heading back home

He was “robbed “while on a train returning from a visit to the Grand Canyon!!

Here’s to Nick and his achievements, adventuresome spirit, card trick skills, and awesome attitude!!!


A Love Affair ❤️

Have you ever experienced that overwhelming feeling where you forget to breathe? The feeling so strong that your eyes well up with tears? The feeling that you never want to end? The feeling that you think you will never have again? There is no doubt this feeling is love.

Yes, I’m being very vulnerable with all you readers today. I’m exposing my true feelings. The kind you hesitate to share because somehow you fear others will just not understand.

But I’m thinking anyone reading this just might know what’s coming next. That you might be able to relate. That you could also say, “Yes, I have felt the same way”.

It all started at 7am on a clear sunny day.

Let me introduce you to my new love.  Kachina Trail.  It’s what every hiker dreams of. The shaded path with sunlight kissing the few lucky exposed strips of meadow grasses that glow in sheer happiness.

The 50 shades of green that lead your eyes up to majestic rolling hills and mountain tops.

The welcoming path into the wide wonders and watchful eyes of the aspen. The trees that share a single root system, deeply connected forever.

The signs of past scars that just reinforce the strength and beauty of the woods, with a peek at the distance as in anticipation of the future yet to be experienced.

The rock formations that proudly display steadfastness and share secrets of hidden caves and crevices that protect fragile flora and fauna. The kindness of assured shade and shelter.

The largest and oldest humbly towering above with untold years of wisdom.  If it would only speak and share with me from its deep well of knowing.  I wish it would let me sit in the comfort of it’s shade forever as it revealed all I desire to know.

It provides clear signs to let me know I’m on the right path. That I’m not lost.

What a perfectly wonderful affair indeed!

I gladly entrust a piece of my heart to the mystery, grandeur, and quiet wisdom.


A Midweek Day’s Adventure

Sometimes you just have to throw off all responsibility and take a day to yourself. Especially when the mini-vacation you’ve planned falls through at the last-minute. But my husband, being the awesome guy that he is, made sure that at least one of those lost days was redeemed by planning a very fun, mid-week adventure for us – away from work, people, and life in general. And it all started by not waking up at our usual 5:45am.

I should back up. It really all started the night before when he disappeared during our ritualistic viewing of America’s Got Talent, then showed back up several minutes later toting two very full bowls of yummy ice cream! Regardless of what anyone else might tell you, there is nothing that says I love you more than a huge bowl of Breyer’s Ice Cream. Not to mention the innate ability of Chocolate Fudge Brownie Blast to melt away whatever stress might still be clinging to the fringes of your mind at day’s end!

KachinaAfter sleeping in, then spending a very relaxing morning doing absolutely nothing, we packed a couple of sandwiches, some snacks, plenty of water, and (as has been our habit lately) headed out to take on yet another mountain hike. Our past couple of hikes have been fairly strenuous, so we decided to look for one with a much lower elevation gain and largely more recreational. We ended up choosing one that we’ve hiked several times before, the very popular and stunningly beautiful Kachina Trail.

It’s easy to see why this trail is so popular. Not only does it wind along the side of Agassiz Mountain, where it frequently opens up to breath-taking views of the landscape below, a large number of Aspen trees also provide a nice cover for much of the path; giving just enough of a reprieve from the summer heat to keep the plant life lush and green in most areas (and the hikers cool too, I might add). That, along with the abundance of ferns throughout, creates a sort of rain forest, jungle atmosphere that’s amazingly surrealistic.

Just the kind of setting where one might expect to see black bear or some other wildlife frolicking about in the cool of the day, enjoying the absence of the weekend wave of humanity. Expect to see, that is. But for all our careful observation, our only reward was one incredibly large and colorful horny toad.

Horny Toad

I should also mention that this is the biggest and most ornate horny toad either of us has ever seen! The picture doesn’t even come close to capturing its size or beauty. This thing was at least 4 inches wide and a total length of about 6 or 7 inches! See the pine cone at its head? It’s a normal size pine cone, but it looks dwarfed by this thing’s size. It was so wide, in fact, that it actually waddled as it took off running away from us, full speed ahead. Moving so fast, it almost looked as if it wasn’t even touching the ground. And check out the little spikes all over the edges of its torso and tail! What’s up with that?? This looks more like a prehistoric creature to me than a horny toad.

horned-toadWhile we’re on the subject, I wonder how we ever came to call these little critters Horny Toads to begin with. I get the horned part, but they’re not toads. At all. They’re actually lizards. See how the horny toad has feet that face backward for climbing? And the toad has feet that face forward for toad2hopping? I actually think horny toads look more like miniature dinosaurs than toads. Maybe even a little like Cera, in The Land Before Time! I know it’s probably not nice to frighten them, but I have to admit it’s really hard not to stop and pick up these little buggers cuz they’re so darn cute and cuddly!! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little on the cuddlyness.

The weather cooperated beautifully for our little excursion. And with the exception of a very small amount of people at the beginning, we were alone on the trail for the entire afternoon. Apparently, there’s a lot to be said for getting out in the middle of the week. After four miles, lunch, and a snack break, we did an about-face and began the second half of our journey; re-tracing our steps. Destination, parking lot.

It’s funny how the return leg of any hike always feels so much shorter to me than the way out. And other than a few horny toad sightings (not including the aforementioned, abnormally large chap), our return leg of the journey was completely uneventful. In what seemed like no time at all we were back at our car, stripping off our gear, and heading down the mountain toward home. Where a much-anticipated, and desperately needed, hot shower awaited us!

To top off our day, we settled in with a yummy take out dinner (yay, no cooking) and a very funny movie. And of course, it wouldn’t be right to forget the absolute best part of the evening… Yep, you guessed it. Two HEAPING bowls of Breyer’s Ice Cream!! Without which, the perfect end to the perfect day could not have been possible!

Happy Trails!
Dee ♥