Stuck: Sonora, Mexico
Oh, what would we do without Wil? Would anything funny ever happen again? On the last morning of a pleasant road trip along the Sea of Cortez coast in Mexico, we chose to drive the sandy beach for several miles to get to the next town. It was one of those happy mornings with the windows down and five vehicles crusing in a line. I was leading the pack, came to this suspect mudhole and decided to get out before trying to drive through it. That's when Wil pulled up with his 37" tall macho man tires and just drove in. The dude got stuck. He got out, we chatted for a sec about what to do, which was one thing only: hook up at least one winch and send off some prayers. He had his wife, Wendy, two kids and a dog inside waiting. He killed me, though, when he said, "Yeah. Wendy's kinda pissed now."
Just a few days before Christmas in 2011 our daughter stayed the night with Grandma so my wife and I went out to a snazzy wine bar. I ordered a merlot, she a water. Then she dropped the news that she was indeed pregnant with number two. The months went by and finally we went in for the ultra-sound, and it was in that room that I discovered just how much I was hoping for a little girl. The nurse teased, "Oh, I can see what you're having! Do you want to know?" My heart pounded and my reaction inside went something like girlgirlgirlgirl. It was strange, I didn't expect it. The nurse pointed and said, "It's a little girl." Chloe was sitting on my lap at the moment. I sighed and she goes, "Aww. I wanted a brother."
A Girl and Her Jeep: Sonoita, Arizona
There's a sense of whimsy in a girl, her dog and her Jeep. I think this is one of the most fun pictures I shot this year, but all I did was tell them to sit on the hood and "do something cute" as I pressed a button on a box called a camera.
And The Award Goes To . . .
My wife, several friends, and I share February for our birthdays. We all went out to a lake nearby, drove around to the backside and took a long Jeep trail to a small quiet beach. We grilled fajitas and toasted the times. My buddy's wife, Amber, brought a big box of killer home made cookies, soft and chewy all the way through, chunks of gooey chocolate. They were divine. But someone else brought Thin Mints, and they're good. For fun I told my brother to hold up the box like it had just won the award for cookie of the year. Amber let us know what she thought by scowling at us. Oops.
Dive Gone Wrong
I took my daughter kayaking at this sweet mountain lake, Blue Ridge Reservoir, in Arizona. It was a warm July weekend with a bit of rain but she and I had a blast. We paddled for an hour or two, then got out of the boat to take a swim. The kid loves swimming. She jumped right in as I got ready, then goes, "GET IN HERE PAPA!" So I ran and took a leaping jump into the lake, and when I came up she was laughing at me. "You lost your sunglasses!" I forgot about the (rather expensive) Oakleys on my head, and now they're gone.
Wild Flower Hunting
In honor of micro-adventures, we took a late Sunday afternoon drive in spring just to get out for awhile. We took an old dirt road into the desert and found fields of wildflowers. Poppies and lupine mostly. My daughter Chloe followed along as I roamed around for a shot of the mountains and flowers, when I turned to see if she was nearby I caught her with this look. She was searching for the right one to pick and put in her hair.
For her fifth birthday, we bought our daughter a rather nice hammock. A handmade cotton hammock. We got it for her, but it's really for us. Right away she wanted to hang it up in the backyard. She fell asleep out there one afternoon in summer, and so I brought her her blanket. Out of kindness. She opened her eyes and said, "I was just trickin' you. I'm not asleep." These are the joys of having a 5-year-old around.
My friend Bobby and I took a weekend offroad trip together and it was perfect. We took our cameras and probably shot a thousand photos between the two of us. We just looked at the map, picked some faint Jeep trails in the desert, stocked up on jerky and Mountain Dew and took off. We grilled steaks on a campfire overlooking a lake. Sometimes I miss little adventures like that one.
Home Is Where Ever . . .
When you take a baby on her first camping trip, it turns out it's not much different than staying home. You do a lot of this, this sitting and holding and staring. It's all good. As you can imagine, the first night in the tent with the baby was a miserable one. What's new, right? But we woke up to songbirds and a glistening sunrise on the river; and then lots of playtime as we hiked along the bank, hung a hammock in the trees, and ate a lot of food. Together.
I laced up my hiking shoes on a chilly morning while camping with a few friends and got amped up for a short but steep day hike. While the guys whipped up a breakfast of bacon and eggs, I brewed the coffee and took a seat. Rarely a day goes by without begining with a hot cup of coffee. It's a slow, soothing way to start a day under the pines in the mountains. I looked down and saw this little scene and told myself this is what I'd come for. Sitting in the cold mounain forest with a few friends, getting ready for a big day.
My 5-year-old daughter discovered the craft of building forts out of furniture and sheets. Not too many days go by that I don't walk into the house and find her hunkered down inside her latest contraption. This time, she shut off the lights and brought in a Dream Lights Pillow Pet to light up the ceiling of her fort with stars. It seemed to me that we ought to keep on encouraging this stuff. Lest we grow into grumpy parents.
Two Things I Miss
I have a growing list of day hikes to check out. It grows because I can't get out for a simple hike as frequently as I used to — and it's kind of a sobering feeling. So I got restless and set aside a Saturday in August to do one particular 7-miler that leads to a spring. All the guidebooks and articles about this hike declare it's a classic. I asked an old friend to join me, but he couldn't spend a full day away from the family and he suggested a different hike closer to home. I waffled for a minute, considered it, then said no. I wanted the hike more than company. This is the blessing of old friends, that those who matter don't mind.
Guilty As Charged
During a weeklong road trip through southern Utah, we camped in the mountains south of the town of Torrey. Then, in the morning, we prepared to head into Capitol Reef National Park for some hiking. My daughter saw me tie a yellow bandana on my head and she goes, "I want one, too." We had this purple one and she was such a sport for about, oh, 800 yards into a two-mile hike. We, like many parents out there, resorted to giving her two Skittles after she'd hike a fair stretch. "Let's get to that tree up at the top of this little hill, then we'll have two candies, okay? I bet you can do it. I bet you can do it better than I can, too. Should we try?" That's the art the necessity of negotiation when hiking with little ones.
Burning the Thighs
Lake Powell is a stunning place, magnificent in size and incomparable in beauty. In a perfect world, I'd be doing Powell on a kayak under my own power for, oh, a week — but that hasn't happened yet. But we did get the opportunity to do the whole house boat thing for several nights, and I wouldn't trade it. A family friend brought his Sea Ray ski boat and gave us a few tugs on the slalom in this glassy cove until the sun went down. Then we got back up in the morning and did it all over again.
Finally Got To See It
The very year my wife got pregnant with our first child, we went on what I hoped to be one of my favorite backpacking trips. I'd planned a sweet adventure to hike to Rainbow Bridge, the world's largest natural bridge: 290 feet high and 234 feet wide. There are no roads to Rainbow Bridge, and to see it you must hike it 13 miles one way or take a boat on Lake Powell. We wanted to hike it. The trailhead is tucked deep in the Navajo Nation and it's a long drive to get there, and the rarely used hiking trail has steep and treacherous descents/climbs, yet passes through some stunning red rock canyons. On this backpacking trip, a cold and wet storm blew in a couple of hours into our trek. I understood that there's a slot section on the trail after our camp, so the only thing we could do was camp the night, wake up to more rain, and hike out. We haven't been back since. But in May, and thanks to a friend with a ski boat, we got to see Rainbow Bridge. We didn't earn it the way I'd have preferred, but still. We got there. And it's incredible.
There Goes $500. Woops.
On our wedding anniversary, we paddled around for a few hours, pulled into a quiet cove and ate a picnic lunch. As we got back into the boats and pushed off I felt the patent sensation of my ring sliding right off my cold, wet finger. Plunk. And it was gone. In a twist of irony, on our wedding anniversary I lost my wedding ring at the bottom of a lake.
Cliché, But True: It Goes By Fast
Continuing our tradition, this is my wife and my new daughter, Shiloh, while we search for a Christmas tree to chop down. We went north into the mountains, drove down a series of old dirt roads, found a clearning and parked. We then got out to find a tree. I just love hiking through the forest, turning around and seeing something like this.
Wine and Song
In Elgin, AZ, Rancho Rossa Vineyards takes a slightly different approach. On the walls they have pictures of Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, and this classic of south-pawed Jimi Hendrix. We tasted the array of wines, and my brother Greg held up his final sip and toasted Jimi.
For New Years weekend, we gathered five families — a whole batch of our friends and their kids — and drove down to Mexico. For over 10 years now I've been going down to a little unknown fishing village on the coast. There are neither stores nor hotels at this place. Until 2 years ago, the only way to get here was by a long, nasty stretch of washboard hell that took a couple hours to knock out. Now the coastal highway cruises right on by the village. Yet the place remains untouched; the beach is the cleanest and emptiest you'll find anywhere, it's quiet here, and it's perfect. The kayaking is decent. Like all other times before, we had the beach to ourselves until one of the local fishermen arrived with a bag in hand. Inside were two fish that'd he'd caught and he just wanted to share them. "Welcome to my home. Here's a gift. We're happy you're here" he assured us. We paid him money anyway. Mexico has its share of crime, no doubt about it. But it also has it's share of hosipitality, beauty and serenity.