Pinnacle Peak

1 10 2008

“Did the pilot just say  the temperature is 98?” I ask no one in particular, and the answer from a few natives on the plane was,”oh yeah, that’s nothing.”  What is wrong with these people?  98 degrees at 8 o’clock at night, no big deal?  This last week Corinne & I went to Arizona to visit my sister Elizabeth & her husband Brandon in Phoenix.

The next morning  I wake up at about 5:30 Phoenix time and take myself for a walk toward Starbucks.  As light begins to shed itself over the landscape I notice my sister’s neighborhood is surrounded by mountains; large rust colored mountains.  Being surrounded by mountains out West has a completely different feel from being surrounded by mountains in the southeast.  For example in the mountains here people do not talk as funny as they do back home in the mountains, “how you’ns doin?” was a phrase I did not hear in Arizona.  Additionally the sun can be seen as it’s first light hits over the horizon.  On my way to Starbucks the sunrise provided the most color contrast for the day  with purples, reds & yellows all reflected off long cottony stretched clouds that looked like they were installations in a very large art museum, hovering just below the ceiling.  You know the ones designed to give the patron a feeling of… I wonder what the hell those things are supposed to make me feel anyway.

The point is the sunrise was beautiful, and it became difficult to not stare at it, but alas like some peon from a greek myth, if you stare at the sun too long you might run into a cactus.  Ok so maybe it was not a cactus of the normal variety but it was a prickly plant of some sort protruding directly into my path. And maybe in greek mythology or Aesop’s fables there were no cacti, but my lesson was learned anyway, no more staring at the sun.

We spent Friday checking out the Cave Creek area and went for a little hike before visiting the Mayo Clinic, for a tour, not a “real visit.”  Elizabeth works here.  I have decided if you need to be in a hospital, this is the place to be.  I have not seen a hospital like this before, nice wood floors, open atrium where the patients rooms faced.  My perception could also be a little distorted since this is the first time I have been to a hospital in a long time where me or a loved one was not a patient.

On Saturday, we woke  and headed North to Flagstaff where the weather would not be as hot and we could see some trees.  It took a few hours to get there, but the scenrey on the drive was amazing.  It was really cool to watch the landscape change from Phoenix as we moved further north and reached the higher elevations.  Trees began to appear, the green began to mix with the rust colored mountains, and then taking it over;  forming a landscape, that while much larger than what I am used to it did have a similar paint job.

We arrived in Flagstaff, to much cooler temperatures than when we awoke and had nice casual lunch a couple blocks form Route 66.  After lunch we began our assault on Pinnacle Peak which begins at about 10k feet. I offered to go back to the car when we realized we had forgotten a few things a couple hunred yards after we started our hike.  I thought I was in pretty decent shape.  I have since changed my thinking.  Upon running a few hundred feet my body suddenly gave me the “stop this right now, or their will be consequences” speech.  I listened.

We entered the woods after we crossed a large field and made our way up the trail though a forest of aspen trees.  My mind kept telling me how I could run this trail, but on closer inspection, although the grade was acceptable it was rooty and technical for the majority.  I was happy to be hiking and visiting with my family.  We hiked for a couple of hours and made it to a point that we deemed was a good pinnacle for us.  We shot a few pictures and talked about Sedona and that it would be good to see and a great place for dinner.

Cathedral rock, oak creek,  sedona

Cathedral rock, oak creek, sedona

As we made our way toward Sedona on back roads, the views were spectacular along Oak Creek heading down into Sedona.  The road drops what seems like 2000 feet in a very short distance.  And with each foot of descent the shadows became greater and sun reflected off the top of the canyon walls. There were jagged peaks and rough cut rock like the picture to the left, but also smooth rounded cliffs that look like they were formed with clay and a puddy knife. This is one of the prettiest drives I have been on.  We passed a few campgrounds along the creek and I was beginning to make plans in my head to revisit  this area with climbing, camping & boating gear.

We kept moving forward and it continued to be pretty, but something was telling me Sedona, was not what I was expecting.  I think the first clue might have been the Dairy Queen, but I am not sure.  When we finally arrived in Sedona, I realized to my horror, I am in the Gatlinburg of the desert.  This is what it must feel like after having been a great trip in the Smokies, only to leave the woods and be bombarded by funnel cakes and airbrush t-shirts.  Do not get me wrong, there is a time & place for everything, I was just not expecting this.  On the main strip in town there were lots & lots of large people, fat guys on motorcycles chewing on toothpicks with leather vests.  I did not see a fudge shop or a place to purchase Christmas ornaments, but I have no doubt there were a few shops that could satiate those urges if you had them.  There was even a a touring company with pink jeeps that would take you on “safari.”  A pink jeep in such a truly beauitful landscape is an assault to the senses.   Seriously Sedona is the type of place you go to buy art (I use this term loosely) by Thomas Kincaid, the painter of light. For those of you who do not know Thomas Kincaid  is to art what Esteban, the guy who does the informercial about his guitars is to music.

Luckily I think most everyone knew it would be best if we got as far away as possible from this particular strip and Brandon located a nice restaurant away from the pink jeep tours that had amazing views.  The cliff lines at higher elevations were white that flowed into the red cliffs that surrounds the town.  This is a city worth seeing, but be forewarned, if you wear Nascar paraphenalia you will be embraced as their brethren.  But at least you’ll get a funnel cake and some Christmas Ornaments for your time.


Chattooga via Opossum Creek!

23 08 2008




“Camp Branch flows south and west into Opossum Creek shortly before the latter empties into the lower Chattooga River. Camp Branch begins flowing across a plateau at around 1700′ elevation and maintains a low gradient before dropping 400′ over the last half mile. ”   (they’re not kidding)       


Chattooga is at historically low levels, so I thought it would be a good idea to hike into 5 falls and check out just how it looks under most of that water (no need to read any further, it’s scary).  Rinne and I got up and head North to meet Trevor near Tallulah Falls before we started the hike.  We were given impeccable directions to the trailhead by Ken Strickland, who seems to know North Georgia better that anyone, probably even the creator.  If I collect all the emails I have received from him on places to go in Georgia I will have an in depth guide book that would leave the Sierra Club scratching their heads, curious if even these places exist.  Big thanks to Ken who without this it would have never happened, also the Academy, my 11th grade chemistry teacher, I would also like to thank the large lady at the BP this morning with 17 and a half teeth for inspiring me to brush & floss more… what?

Anyway we found the trail with no effort, and started on our way down.  The trail is very well kept and relatively clear, not at all what I expected.  Trevor and I had attempted this same feat last fall, without the Strickland’s beta, and we were bushwhacking a trail that got us to the river, but with about 20 times more effort and about 4 miles from where we wanted to be.  

When we intersected Opossum creek we came out at a rapid called Qualude, and too a much bigger beach than I’ve ever seen on the Chattooga.  It was pretty impressive. It has been a few years since I have been down here, and I forgot how pretty and remote this area is.  We managed to only see one other group on and 83 degree sunny Saturday in August.  



Now a little perspective…

No Water

Add Water

Water dissolving…and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Carry the water at the bottom of the ocean
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!

We hung out and swam for a couple of hours and then made the march back up the hill and back toward Atlanta.  If anything is to be learned it is do not swim here if you are kayaking, and returning to Atlanta can be a challenge, but I think I will be able to endure…