Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Trip Through Upper Salome... Hell's Hole

There is a lot of packing going on in my life at the moment. The first overnight canyoneering trip I will have, and the last canyoneering adventure for me in Arizona, is what I now prepare for.

Upper Salome promises to be physically grueling, but visually rewarding, canyoneering adventure through 3 canyons and over 18 miles of tough terrain. Located just outside of Globe in the Tonto National Forest, Salome is known for its stunning pink granite slot canyons. I have been lucky to have good friends who have devoted a good part of their free time over the past few years to perfecting their skills and attaining the equipment necessary for the exciting sport referred to in the US as, "canyoneering." (in Europe they like to refer to it as "canyoning." We can just never agree on things) The upper Salome trip through Park Canyon, Workman's Creek, and eventually Upper Salome is one of the classic Arizona canyoneering trips. It is known for its especially difficult trecks through poison ivy, miles of wet boulder hopping, and freezing cold water. This is the first overnight canyoneering trip I will be venturing on and need to be prepared with all the gear necessary to spend a night in the canyon. The reward for all this work is more than worth it. The coup de grace area on the trip is in Hell's Hole at a place named "The Grotto."

Jeff, Amber, me, Tanja, Deke, and Chris pose in front of "The Grotto"

"The Grotto" was the topic of much conversation in the mid 90's when a full page photograph of the streaked granite walls and the high flowing waterfall were published in the Arizona Highways Magazine. Outdoor explorers went to work trying to define the undisclosed location. Even though its location is now general knowledge, the work required to get there and back paired with the difficult route finding still suspend the canyon in lonliness.

We drove up on a Friday evening and set up camp near the Reynolds Camp Ground beside the Circle Ranch Trailhead, our starting point. Chris set to work on the fire and I put up the tent. In an unfortunate happenstance, Chris pulled his back when trying to retrieve a rock buried in the dirt which he was gathering for the campfire ring. He was in quite a bit of pain. In efforts to promote self medication we enjoyed beers together until everyone else showed up, trying to ignore the incredibly disruptive camp site next to us. For lack of a better term, they were rednecks, and they blasted Toby Keith and other equally annoying country ballad singers until the late night, screaming at the moon every so often, and blinding us with the flood lights they supplied to illuminate their idiocy. We met everyone who was joining us on the trip: Deke; a night vision researcher for the military, Jeff; an owner of an outdoor adventure tour guide company, Tanja; woman in her mid 30's from Czech Republic (?), Amber; a tri-athelete and emergency room doctor, Chris; my ex-neighbor and economist, and me.

Chris waits for the rest at the bottom of our first repel into Park Canyon.

Tanja going down our second repel in Park Canyon: double repel for the easy pull

Lots of tricky down climbs, especially when you're trying to stay out of the cold water

Maneuvering around the pools at the beginning of Upper Salome

Jeff gallivants through the canyon

Another repel in the lower part of Park Canyon, gorgeous little pink granite bowl

The water was an odd cloudy green, turquoise color.

Getting suited up and hydrated, ready to get wet!

Hiking down canyon, mile 10 or so at this point

Getting wet in Salome

Coming down a mildly violent waterfall slide past The Grotto

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Prepare for Departure

It's a Wednesday morning. My guest house door is open inviting in both the warming Arizona sun and the excited calls of desert birds. I am still in bed wearing whatever I had on yesterday, staving off dehydration from the refreshing ether induced fun the night before. Rob and I drank fresh stout and porter while I went over the finer qualities of the history of hip hop- even blessed him with clips from "Style Wars" and the ultimate classic, "Wild Style." He had to head home before I was able to whip out "Beat Street." Taken it back to the old school...cause I'm an old fool who's so cool...

How I will miss this home brewed Espresso Stout when I am gone... nothing like having a brewery in your kitchen. Vienna Lager, Tempe Town Brown, Plaid Skirt Scottish ale, Arizona Steamer, Cotton Ball porter, Bumble Bee Blonde, Amber Cerveza style, Belgium Dark, mmmmm mmm! I have screwed up my beer intake for the rest of my life for NOTHING will taste as good as the stuff created at this little "treehouse."

In exactly two weeks time I will be leaving on a jet plane for Thailand. I have no return date. I am packing my place up with the idea that I may never be back... an exciting endeavor no doubt. But what to do with all this stuff!? Menial things will sold or burned (or shot to bits with a .45) but old art projects, negatives from high school, underwater slides from Catalina, van dyke prints from college... how do I want to preserve my early years for future posterity? I am perfectly prepared for my mind and memory to degrade on a predictable course so I will need to have some objects to jump start memories of my earlier years. Buddhism teaches impermanence and detachment. Perhaps this packing up stage is the initial challenge I must complete before my true journey can begin.

I soak up my time here with family and incredible friends. But before I go to Thailand, I must survive my canyon trip this weekend. Upper Salome. An overnight in the canyon. And I am the lucky one who will be climbing an exposed 45 foot cliff side to set up a belay for the rest. Life is sure an adventure...

It's Wednesday. I leave for Thailand in...two weeks... two weeks...