Tips For a Successful Day-Hike.

During a recent visit to Mesa Verde National Park, I hiked the Spruce Canyon Trail.  It’s a relatively short hike, only 3.0 miles long, starting at about 7000 feet elevation and consisting of a 200 foot decent along a well marked trail into a canyon and then a steep, rugged 200 foot ascent out of the canyon, ending about half a mile from the start point. The trail itself wasn’t particularly remarkable, what was remarkable to me, was that in 2013, a 51 year old man from Texas, hiking the same trail, went missing and has never been found!  The missing hiker’s wife reported that he was an avid hiker but on that hot June day in 2013, he took nothing with him on his hike, no water, no food, no map…only the clothes on his back!

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Looking down into Spruce Canyon at the end of the 3.0 mile hike.

I, like many travelers, enjoy hiking!  It’s a great way to decompress after hours behind the wheel, not to mention, some of the most beautiful places on earth are only accessible by foot.  In the US, most people hike the thousands of trails that State and National Parks have to offer and never encounter a problem.  But, becoming a lost hiker in the US is more common than you might think.  One article I read stated that the US National Park Service conducts about 3,300 search and rescue operations annually.  If you doubt me, do a simple “Google” search of a few key words like, “missing hiker” and see the thousand of articles that appear!  Fortunately, most hikers who go missing are found quickly, but unfortunately some are never found.  Many hikers assume that the State and National Parks are “controlled-environments,” kind of like amusement parks.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Much of the US back-country is extremely rugged and can be unforgiving to even experienced hikers and much more so to the uneducated and unprepared.  Even though all hiking comes with some risk, I don’t recommend that everyone stop hiking.  I simply recommend that hikers, even day-hikers, follow a few simple rules when hiking and take a few essential items with them!

By following a few safety rules and taking a few extra pounds of gear when hiking, you might just prevent disaster during your next outdoor adventure!

Rules for Hikers:

Have a Plan.  Do some research about the area you are planning to enter and the trail you plan to hike!  Know what elevations you will be covering during your hike.  Know what the water situation is in the area you plan to hike!  Know the weather forecast for the area you plan to hike!  All of this information is readily available on the internet and can be easily accessed before you step off on your hike.

Tell Someone Your Plan.  Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back!  It can be a friend, family member or even a Park Ranger, the important thing is you tell someone who will notify authorities should you fail to return as planned!  A quick phone call or text message may be sufficient to inform someone of your hike plan!

Be Fit Enough for Your Plan.  I know it may sound obvious but many hikers get in way over their heads!  Always ask yourself, “am I prepared for this hike?”  If you have not walked more than 2 miles in one outing, maybe you shouldn’t be hiking a 10 miler with extreme elevation changes!

Carry a Day Pack with Essential Items.  Never hike without a small backpack with essential survival items!  Never… Period!  I know, you are driving on a beautiful paved road in a National Park and you see a turnoff for “Easy Meadow Trail.”  You read the information board at the trailhead and it states the trail is 1.5 miles long and relatively flat terrain, you think… “that’s easy, let’s go!”  Wrong answer!  Have that Day-Pack ready in the trunk of your car and always take it with you!

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Items for a pretty good Day-Hike Backpack, might help you if you get lost!

Suggested Items For Day-Hikers,

Water, Take sufficient water for your hike conditions!  You should super-hydrate hours before the start of your hike.  Don’t start your hike thirsty!  Most healthy people can survive about 3 weeks without food, but only about 3 days without water!

Food, Take at least a few energy bars on your hike.  When we are dehydrated and hungry, we tend to make poor decisions!  In a time of crisis, like getting lost on a hike, you want to be in the best mental state possible!

Fire making items.  Take waterproof matches or a good backwoods lighter on your hike.  Practice making a fire before you go hiking!  Your ability to make a fire could be critical to your survival, should you become lost.  It may prevent hypothermia, allow you to boil water making it safe to drink, cook food or even signal for your rescue.

Whistle, Take a whistle on your hike to signal distress in a time of need!  3 long blasts of a whistle is internationally recognized as “help me.”

Protective clothing, Take rain-gear and insulating-gear on your hike.  You want to stay dry and warm for the environment you are in!

Headlamp, Take a good headlamp or flashlight powerful enough to light-up the ground in front of you.

Pocket knife, Take a sharp and sturdy knife.  You don’t need a Rambo knife, unless you think it looks cool and you don’t mind carrying a 3 pound knife!

Sturdy Footwear, Take appropriate footwear for your hike environment.  You don’t need $250 boots for all environments, unless you want them!  When I was in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge Soldiers I met used sandals made from used automobile tires.  The sandals protected the bottoms of their feet from punctures and allowed them to air-dry in the wet, humid jungle conditions.  Remember, you need footwear appropriate for your environment!

Space Blanket, Take a space blanket or other material that will allow you to build a shelter to keep you dry!  One cheap and simple solution is a large piece of plastic drop-cloth, like the kind painters use.

Map and Compass, Take a map of the area you plan to hike and know basic map reading skills like how to orient your map and compass.

First Aide Items, Take the most important life saving items on your hike.  They are probably any medications you require on a daily basis and something to stop bleeding in case of an emergency, like pressure bandages or a tourniquet.

Cell Phone, Take a cell phone and carry emergency phone numbers for the area you are hiking.  Remember, in many places a cell phone will be outside of coverage, so don’t think you can always call 911 in an emergency!

Section of Para-cord, Take about 20 feet of para-cord or twine with you, it will probably be enough to help you fashion a simple shelter with available tree branches and sticks.

Sunscreen, Take a small bottle of sunscreen, sunburn will add to dehydration.

Insect Repellent, Take a good quality insect repellent, high in DEET, buzzing insects can literally drive you crazy.

Vaseline Lotion, Take a small tube of Vaseline, or hand lotion, it will help prevent and treat chapped lips, chapped butts and chapped crotches… trust me!

Babywipes, Babywipes work wonders when need to go number 2 in the wild!

Sunglasses, Sunglasses are an essential piece of hiking gear, you should always protect your peeps.

Small Metal Cup, Take a small metal cup with handle to procure water from a lake, river or stream and to use to boil water, making it safe to drink.  A common household sponge is also handy to have in the event you need to scrounge water off of rocks or shallow puddles.  A ziplock bag will also help you get water from shallow sources!

Hat, Take a good hiking hat with brim to shield your head, neck and face from the sun, keeping you cooler in hot climates.

I know there are countless other items that you can and may choose to take on a day-hike, like a GPS or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).  Those items are great, as long as you can afford them and know how to use them.

The items I listed above are just suggestions and you should always tailor your Day-Hike-Gear to fit your specific needs!

The Key is you take the gear with you on your next hike and realize that it may make the difference between life and death!  Your LIFE or Death!

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The Day-Hike Backpack and Hat… ready for the Colorado Trail!

 

 

 

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

Mesa Verde, Bear Tracks and a Missing Hiker…

In 1976, on an epic “Family Road-Trip,” I visited Mesa Verde National Park with my father, mother and 2 brothers.  I was only 12 years old at the time, but I distinctly remember climbing an old wooden ladder to access some of the cliff dwellings!  The sandstone block and mortar rooms perched precariously on the cliffs, seemed to defy gravity as they almost magically remained in place… the visit really made an impression on me as a young boy!  I have always wanted to go back and “Road-Trip 2014” seemed like the right time to do it!  It’s only a few hours drive from Moab, Utah to Cortez in the southwest corner of Colorado, the closest town to Mesa Verde National Park. The Park sits hundreds of feet above the town on an almost flat mesa or more correctly called a “cuesta,” because of the slight angle of the terrain.  The area was home to what we today call the Pueblo people, between 600 and 1300 AD.  The Park includes over 5000 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings, the largest such dwelling in North America, Cliff Palace, is pictured above and below!  The inhabitants of Mesa Verde didn’t just disappear, they simply moved on…. debate continues as to why.  Was it drought, continued attacks from other groups, or were they seeking a more spiritual location… we don’t know, but experts believe it was probably a combination of all these events.  Even though the original inhabitants are long gone, they left behind incredible evidence as to what daily life was like over 700 years ago for the Pueblo people of Mesa Verde.

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Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde 2014.

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Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde 2014.

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Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde 2014.

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The unique window style of the dwellings at Mesa Verde.

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A “Kiva,” at Mesa Verde. A room with fireplace where families probably lived.

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Spruce Treehouse, Mesa Verde.

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A wooden ladder leading down into a Kiva at Spruce Treehouse, Mesa Verde 2014.

I visited two of the many cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, Cliff Palace and Spruce Treehouse.  After I visited Spruce Treehouse, I noticed a sign for two hiking trails, Spruce Canyon and Petroglyph Point.  I asked the Ranger stationed at the Spruce Treehouse how long the hike would take and she said it usually takes her about 1 hour to cover the 2.5 mile distance of either trail.  I thought, perfect, a one hour hike would do me some good.  I can burn off some calories from the Thai curry I ate last night and I might see some really beautiful scenery in the process!  As I started to step-off from Spruce Treehouse, the Ranger reminded me to sign the trail entry-roster at the beginning of the trail and then notify the Ranger at the Museum that I had returned after I complete the hike.  She said that last year a hiker had gone missing and they still have not found his body.  At first I thought she was just trying to scare me into signing the roster.  I made a note that I would “Google” missing-hiker-Mesa-Verde, when I got back within cell phone coverage.  I took the Spruce Canyon Trail down into a beautiful pine and grass filled canyon.  All the time thinking, how did the hiker last year go missing… where did he miss a turn in the trail… how did he get lost?  As I followed the trail I noticed a fresh set of bear-tracks in the mud on the trail and they were heading in the same direction I was… the tracks lasted for at least a kilometer.  Did the missing hiker meet up with an angry bear?  Or did he fall off the cliff-trail going into, or coming out of the canyon?  I didn’t know and I still wasn’t even sure if the story was true.  After about 50 minuets of hiking I made it back to the Museum and reported to the desk Ranger that I had completed the hike.  He said thanks and I headed to my car.  I sat in the shade of a large pine tree and re-hydrated myself before departing the Park…all the time thinking about the “missing hiker…”

As I got about halfway down from the Mesa, cell phone coverage returned and I pulled-off at a view point to “Google,” missing-hiker-Mesa-Verde… and sure enough, the Ranger was telling the truth!  Last year in May of 2013, a 51 year old man from Texas had gone on a solo hike in Spruce Canyon Trail… just as I had done only a few hours earlier.  The only difference was, I returned and he didn’t.  The Park Service conducted an exhaustive search involving 70+ personnel, dogs and airplanes to no avail… the man still has never been found.  His wife reported that he was not carrying anything with him… no water… nothing.  She also said he was an avid hiker.  What could have possibly happened?  Had he fallen?  Did he miss a bend in the trail and continue down into the canyon and had succumb to the 100+ degree heat?  No one knows… but there are numerous theories!  As I look back on the hike, the only thing I can think is that maybe he tried to go from the Spruce Canyon Trail cross-country to the Petroglyphs Point Trail and was injured in the rough terrain?  To me, the trail was well marked and I couldn’t see how he could have missed a turn had he stayed on Spruce Canyon Trail?  As I pondered the situation longer, I again realize that one should NEVER-EVER hike without a day pack.  I always carry one with what I think are essential items to short term survival.  Even the most experienced hikers can have an accident or make a mistake and find themselves in trouble, even during an easy day hike.  All of this leads me to a point…. In my next post, I will explain what I think are essential day-hike items that everyone should carry!  I hope that maybe by reading my next post, someone will be better prepared in case of an emergency!

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Spruce Canyon, Mesa Verde 2014.

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One of many bear tracks I encountered on a hike in Spruce Canyon, Mesa Verde 2014.

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A coyote passes me about 50 feet away as I came out of Spruce Canyon on a hike, Mesa Verde 2014.

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

Moab, Arches and Canyonlands 2014.

I departed Monument Valley late in the afternoon and headed north-east in the direction of my next destination, Moab, Utah.  At about 7:00 PM I arrived in the quaint little high-desert town of Bluff, Utah.  A town put on the map by a rugged group of Mormon Missionaries in the 1880s.

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Clouds forming, a great little town to spend the nigh, Bluff, Utah.

It was still about 90 miles to Moab, the sun was setting and clouds were forming overhead and so I decided to stay the night in Bluff.  I found a little 1940s Motel, the kind with 7 rooms all lined up next to one another behind the office with a cool neon sign.  I was lucky and got the last room!  I unloaded a few things from my truck and then walked a few blocks to the Cottonwood Steakhouse for dinner.  The place was full of European Tourists heading to Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon in the other direction!  I enjoyed a great steak, got a nice night’s rest and headed north toward Moab the next morning.

At about 10:00 AM I arrived in Moab, got some ice for the cooler, a few items from the grocery store and headed into Arches National Park for the day.

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Delicate Arch, Arches National Park.

Arches National Park is only a few miles north of town and definitely worth a visit if you are in Moab.  The Park was pretty full, lots of visitors with kids enjoying the great outdoors during the last few weeks of Summer Vacation!  I parked in the lot near Delicate Arch and hiked the 2.0 miles uphill to see it.  It’s a popular hike, upon arriving at the Arch, there were at least 75 other visitors already there with cameras flashing!  I waited patiently to try to capture a few picture of the Arch, sans people, which was more difficult than you may think!  I didn’t even try to get a picture alone under the Arch as the line was 20 deep!

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Delicate Arch.

On my way back to the parking lot, I stopped to see some petroglyphs on a rock-face, trying my best to figure out if they were really ancient writings or modern graffiti?  Since there was no spray-paint involved, I’m pretty sure they are at least a few hundred years old!

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Petroglyphs near Delicate Arch.

I then headed to a few more arches and hiked another 4 to 5 miles.  Arches National Park is unique in that it has the largest concentration of natural rock arches in the world, over 2000.  Many collapse every year by the forces of nature, as the wind and water work to slowly form new ones!

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Landscape Arch.

It was getting late in the day so I looked for a spot to camp.  I found an available site along the Colorado River and enjoyed watching all the rafting and kayaking activity pass just feet from my campsite until sunset!

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Camping along the Colorado River, north of Moab.

Up early the next morning, I headed back south through Moab, after about a 90 mile drive, I arrived at the Needles District of the Canyonlands National Park.  I stopped at the visitors center, watched a short movie on the history of the Park,  briefly spoke with a Ranger and then headed to the Colorado River Overlook, a 9 mile 4×4 drive followed by a 1.5 mile hike on foot to see the Colorado River from the cliffs above.

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A little 4×4-ing in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

The drive was exciting for a novice 4×4 driver like myself.  There was no one there to spot me as I tried to negotiate some of the more difficult sections of the trail.  I guess that’s good, it allowed me to see the capabilities of “Bessie” the Tacoma and helped me get over some of my fears of solo 4×4-ing!  The 9 miles took about an hour to drive.  I parked next to a large rock formation and hiked the last 1.5 miles to the Overlook on foot!  The view of the Colorado River was spectacular and well worth the effort!

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A view of the Colorado River from the cliffs above.

I spent about 30 minutes at the Overlook and quickly hiked back to my truck.  The Ranger at the Visitor Center warned me earlier that a storm was approaching and she was correct, thick dark clouds were heading my way!  I needed to cross a few dry riverbeds on my way back to pavement and wanted to exit the sandy trails before the rains.  Thor was once again good to me and I made it to pavement just as the rains hit…

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Made it back to pavement, just as the rains began to fall!

A great day in Canyonlands for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

Monument Valley on “Bessie” the Mule.

Two years ago, when I was traveling with “Bertha” the Bigfoot Camper, I visited Monument Valley for the first time.  I fell in love with the area and visited again a few days ago on “Road-Trip 2014.”  This time the visit was in my Tacoma.  While in Monument Valley I finally decided on an official name for the Tacoma.  As you may know, I like to name my vehicles… The F350 with Bigfoot Camper is “Bertha,” my Honda XR650L is the “Big Ole Mare”… aka the “B.O.M,” but until a few days ago, my Tacoma didn’t really have an official name… as I drove the 17 mile dirt loop that weaves its way through Monument Valley, I remembered all those old Western movies that used “Monument Valley” as a backdrop… it got me thinking of horses and mules… since my Honda is a Horse, I decided the Tacoma should be a Mule.  Mules are strong, have great endurance and can handle rugged terrain… all great characteristics for a 4×4 truck!  For some reason, Bessie sounded like a great name for a mule…. why not?

So it’s official, the Tacoma is now named “Bessie.”

Monument Valley Park covers roughly 91,000 acres stretching between SE Utah and NW Arizona and is administered by the Navajo Nation. The sandstone masterpieces that make Monument Valley one of the most recognized and photographed places on earth were formed over the last 50 million years by the forces of nature.  The wind and rain worked to erode alternate layers of hard and soft sediments to eventually create what we have all seen as backdrops to countless old Western movies!  Monument Valley is just a short drive from the Grand Canyon and is definitely worth a visit!

Below are a few pictures of Bessie and I during our visit to Monument Valley 2014!

Tacoma Monument Side Angle

Bessie in Monument Valley 2014.

Monument Close

The beauty of Monument Valley, 2014.

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I can imagine John Wayne riding a stallion out there somewhere…. Monument Valley 2014.

Monuments and Tree

Vegetation is sparse in Monument Valley.

Tacoma Monument Far

As we get ready to depart Monument Valley, I snap one last picture!

 

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

Hammock Camping in Monsoon Season!

I’ve spent the last 2 weeks in and around Prescott, Arizona.  I can’t stress enough how much I LOVE the city of Prescott and the surrounding area!  I spent a few nights with my good friends, Emilio and Julie, enjoying their incredible hospitality and the rest of the time I spent camping in many of the beautiful forests that literally surround Prescott.  With in a 45 minute drive in any direction, you can be in at least 4 different State or National Forests.  The general landscape is rugged and extremely diverse throughout the region.  As  you climb from about 5000 ft in Prescott to over 7500 feet near the Blue Ridge Reservoir… the red rocks of Sedona and Camp Verde give-way to lush green pine forests!  Close to Prescott you can see so much…there are old mining towns like Jerome, Indian Ruins like Montezuma’s Castle, Green Riverbeds along the Verde River, Old US Military Forts like Camp Verde, Art Communities like Sedona and the list goes on and on….If you don’t know Prescott and the surrounding area, I recommend you visit… you will probably fall in love with the place!

A few days ago, my buddy Emilo and I decided to awaken the “Grizzly Adams” within us and go hammock camping in the Camp Wood area, west of Chino Valley.  We had a great time despite the monsoon rains that lasted from 3 in the afternoon to about 3 the next morning.  In the evening, the rain let-up long enough for us to make a quick dinner before hitting the rack.  All night long, the high-pitched howling of coyotes was only temporarily interrupted by the constant lightening strikes that hit close to our camp.  The numerous burned-out tree trucks nearby were reminders of the destructive force of lightening!  Lucky for us, “Thor” spared us a direct lightening strike and only gave us torrential-rains and high winds!  Thanks Thor… I did see your latest movie!  The occasional raindrop hit my forehead as the hammock gently  swayed in the wind.  As I dozed-off to sleep I though… “man this is awesome, it doesn’t get much better than this.”

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Camp Wood Area, West of Chino Valley.

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The Wild-Flowers have really enjoyed the 2014 monsoon season!

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Hammock camping in Camp Wood with my good friend Emilio.

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My good friend Emilio, enjoying some coffee in between the monsoon rains!

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Hitting the Trails in the Prescott National Forest.

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Hammock Camping in the Prescott National Forest.

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The riverbed trail to the Tonto Natural Bridge.

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The riverbed trail to the Tonto Natural Bridge.

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Tonto Natural Bridge from below. It’s hard to see the scale but the natural bridge is one of the largest in the world!

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Tonto Natural Bridge area.

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Tonto Natural Bridge from above.

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken.

Solar Oven Roasted, Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken (aka, Cornish Hen).

My latest adventure in Solar Cooking took place today in the Prescott National Forest.  It was a beautiful sunny day, high of about 85… perfect weather to try a new dish in the Solar Oven!  I made what I’m calling “Garlic-Sriracha Sauce Mini-Chicken.”  The mini-chicken is more commonly referred to as a cornish hen!  Cornish hen is probably the cutest little edible bird on the planet.  If I wasn’t so hungry, I might not have eaten the handsome-bird!  To be completely honest, I would have preferred to cook a chicken, but since I was cooking for one, I didn’t want to make too much food and worry about leftovers.  I picked-up my little frozen-featherless-dinner guest for only $2.78 at a supermarket in Prescott Valley and placed him in my cooler with ice.  I then headed off to the Prescott National Forest, a 30 minute drive away.  The little guy was frozen solid when I bought him and he probably would have lasted 3 to 4 days in the cooler, but since I cooked him a few hours later, I’m not sure how long he would have lasted.

The ingredients for today’s dish were really quite simple, a small can of Salsa Casera, Sriracha Sauce, a 16 oz Mini-Chicken (aka Cornish Hen), garlic paste and a lime.

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The Garlic-Sriracha Sauce Mini-Chicken ingredients.

I quartered the Mini-Chicken, placed him in the silicon pot, added the salsa, sriracha sauce and garlic.

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The mini-chicken quartered and sauce added, before cooking.

I then set-up the SunFlair Solar Oven and placed the pot on the cooking rack.

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The SunFlair set-up and cooking.

After about 30 minutes the oven reached 220 degrees, I continued to cook the dish for a total of 3 hours.  I cooked a little longer than normal because the bird was still frozen solid when I started.  I squeezed one small lime into the pot after cooking and before eating.  It came out perfect, the meat fell off the bone!  The combination of the spicy sriracha sauce and the lime gave the dish an incredibly delicious flavor!  This is one dish I will definitely make again!  Nobody needs to limit themselves to hot dogs and dehydrated mac and cheese when camping, with a little imagination… tasty, simple meals are certainly an option!

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The Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken ready to be consumed!

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The Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken ready to be consumed!

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The Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken ready to be consumed!

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

“Road-Trip 2014″…. “Restart.”

When I envisioned “Road-Trip 2014” a few months ago, I didn’t plan on spending 6 weeks in San Diego. But I guess if I had to pick a city where to extend my visit, San Diego was certainly a great place to do it!  I was able to visit many friends I haven’t seen in a few years, and of course enjoy the great weather and all the things San Diego has to offer!  Thanks to my buddy Dave and his wonderful hospitality during my visit.  I’m very fortunate to have a friend like Dave, who is more like my third brother than a friend!  Thanks Dave!

Tacoma in front of Mountain

The Tacoma in front of Salvation Mountain in Slab City. Made famous in the movie “Into the Wild.”

 

When I departed San Diego at 8:00 AM, it was 72 degrees and there was a thick marine-layer in the sky extending almost all the way to the mountains east of the city.  As I drove east on highway 8 and climbed to 6100 feet elevation, the marine-layer slowly disappeared and the temperature began to rise.  By the time I had crossed the mountain range of the Cleveland National Forest and descended to the desert floor below, it had reached 104 degrees… boy what a difference a few hours make!  I took highway 111 north, direction Niland, California.  My planned destination, Slab City and Salvation Mountain.  Even after 6 weeks in San Diego, I don’t think I need an extra dose of salvation… but I guess it can’t hurt!  I was keen to visit the area after seeing it in the 2007 movie “Into the Wild.”  In the movie, Chris McCandless spends a few weeks in Slab City… He meets an eclectic group of resident desert-dwellers and the man who built “Salvation Mountain,” Leonard Knight.

I followed the directions I found on the internet, once in Niland, I turned right off of highway 111 onto Main Street, crossed the railroad tracks and followed Main which becomes Beal Road, all the way to Slab City.

Slab City Sign

The First Slab City Sign, looking east.

Salvation Mountain Wide

Salvation Mountain, at Slab City near Niland, California.

A few miles past the Slab City sign, I arrived at “Salvation Mountain.”  I was the only one there for the first hour of my visit as I climbed the colorful mountain.  Salvation Mountain is a religious folk art work made of adobe, straw and thousands of gallons of paint.  Unfortunately I couldn’t meet the creator, Leonard Knight, as he passed away earlier this year.  No one was there to provide information on the Mountain but there is a small kiosk with a brief history of the Mountain on the right side as you enter.  Even though Leonard Knight is no longer here to explain the meaning behind “Salvation Mountain,” I think his central message that “Love is Universal” still emanates from the mountain!  After about an hour of admiring the colorful artwork and trying to decipher the written text, a young gal from North Carolina arrived.  She was on a Summer “Road-Trip” much like mine… traveling in a Subaru with all her camping gear, having clocked over 10,000 miles up to that point.  We shared destination-recommendations and a few funny travel stories.  As she departed, I could tell she was on a kind of “soul-searching journey”… much like the one that brought Chris McCandless to Slab City over 20 years ago.  I believe Chris was looking for something bigger than himself and the standard “American Dream” he was supposed to follow.  The one where a life of 40 + years of 9-5 employment, large debt and conformity is the norm.  I can, to some degree, relate to Chris… in so much as our apparent mutual love of adventure and travel… the excitement that comes from anticipating what’s around the next bend in the road, because as the saying goes… “not all who wander are lost.”

Just to the east of Salvation Mountain, is Slab City…. there is apparently no rhyme or reason to the town’s layout.  It appeared that first come first served was in full-force when choosing a piece of land to park your vehicle or build your dwelling.  It was pretty much just as I had anticipated… an eclectic mix of homes made from just about every building material known to mankind.  Re-use and re-pourpose are in full swing in Slab City.  Advocates of “green building techniques” would be pleased!  People tended to their daily chores much like anyone in any neighborhood across America would, sweeping the walkways, watering plants and walking their dogs!  A few people waved, most didn’t… I’m sure they get tired of the constant parade of lookie-loos like myself!  I tried to respect them by not randomly snapping pictures of their homes!  A few wrong turns down the maze of streets and I miraculously found myself back on the asphalt of Beal Road.  At around noon, the sun was beating-down with full-force, the temperature had risen to 106 degrees…. time to seek cooler temperatures…. time to seek some mountains……

Love is Universal

The central message of “Salvation Mountain”…. Love is Universal.

Repent Trucks

More Folk Art, created by Leonard Knight at Salvation Mountain.

View from atop Salvation Mountain

The View from atop Salvation Mountain.

Slab City Bike and Tacoma

The official Slab City Sign and Community Info Board.

Freedom Bus Slab City

One of the many mobile residences of Slab City, the Freedom Bus.

 

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

Solar Cooking in Suburbia.

Anyone who has followed the blog knows that I love to cook with solar!  You really can cook with solar just about anywhere, all you need of course is the sun!  Many people believe you can only cook with solar in a rural setting?  Today’s post will demonstrate that with only a few square feet of space and the power of the sun, you can easily cook in an urban environment as well!  In fact, in some cases an urban environment actually helps when cooking with solar because you can often place the solar oven next to a wall which helps heat the oven more quickly.  Additionally, in an urban environment, the wind is often less of a factor because the many buildings block breezes which can lower the oven’s temperature. I have even cooked in a parking lot with a solar oven on the roof-rack of my truck.  As long as you get the oven temperature above about 165 degrees fahrenheit, you can cook almost any dish using solar, much like you would in a crockpot, that is to say…. slowly.  Many people new to solar cooking worry too much about exact temperature control when cooking different dishes.  They also worry that the solar oven will not get hot enough.  I suppose if you were trained at “Le Cordon Bleu” cooking school, then your instructor would be absolutely mortified if he learned you cooked your rack of lamb at too low of a temperature.  But for me, slow cooking most dishes is appropriate.

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The SunFlair Solar Oven in an Urban Environment.

Today, in uptown San Diego, I cooked my version of a Brazilian fish stew dish called “moqueca.”  I guess since I’ve been watching the World Cup Soccer Tournament for the last few weeks… it got me thinking about some of the delicious dishes I ate when I lived in Brazil!  Moqueca is basically a white fish stew with shrimp, coconut milk and tomato sauce.

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The main ingredients for Braziilan Moqueca.

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The Moqueca ingredients before going into the Solar Oven.

There are many different moqueca recipes on the internet, so I won’t list all of my ingredients.   The one variation I made was to use crab meat instead of shrimp.  The “Sunflair” solar cooker reached 225 degrees in about 30 minutes in the sun.  I only repositioned the oven once, in order to maximize the sun’s rays and after about 2 hours of cook time… the stew was ready!  Moqueca is typically served over a bed of rice!  Today’s solar-cooked “Moqueca” was absolutely delicious!

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The SunFlair Solar Oven up close.

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The temperature gauge, reached over 225 degrees fahrenheit.

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The final product, Brazilian Moqueca!

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

Farmer’s Markets Are Just Cool!

When I travel, I always like to visit the local markets, bazaars, souks or whatever they call the place where people come together to sell “things.” Fruits, vegetables, textiles, jewelry, pottery and prepared foods are just some of the ‘things’ you will find at a local market!  In many countries, market-day is truly a ‘social’ event!  Visiting with other shoppers and vendors is just as important as buying goods!  We in America are often in a hurry when we shop… we rarely take time to greet other shoppers, much-less have a conversation with a vendor!  I think many people will agree, one place in America where we can experience a more relaxed, slow-paced, fun shopping experience is at local ‘Farmer’s Markets.’  Fortunately, here in San Diego there are a few great Farmer’s Market, or like the one in Hillcrest is called an “Open Air Bazaar.”  Call it what you wish, but a market by any other name is still just as cool.  The Hillcrest ‘Bazaar’ has grown significantly since my last visit 2 years ago.  Today there were at least a thousand shoppers and well over a hundred vendors.  Selling everything from sea-urchins to soap and smoothies to silk-scarves.  The Bazaar is held near the DMV Office in Hillcrest every Sunday from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM… year round!  If you like to people-watch, sample great ethnic food from all over the world and listen to live music, spend a few hours one Sunday at the Hillcrest Open Air Bazaar!

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Fresh Veggies at the Hillcrest Bazaar!

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There are at least 1/2 a dozen flower vendors.

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Fresh Herbs a plenty.

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The Hot Bananas Jazz Group at the Hillcrest Bazaar.

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The Free Trolly stops at the Bazaar.

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Ever tried Sea-Urchins?

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Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs… AKA JOY.

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A Samosa at the Bazaar, very tasty.

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Fresh Garlic to go!

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Food from all corners of the globe!

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The Grill-Man.

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.

Balboa Park… A True San Diego Gem!

Balboa Park is a true San Diego Gem.  A unique “Urban Green Space” like no other, anywhere in the United States.  The Park hosts a world-class Zoo,  dozens of museums like the Natural History, Art, Photographic, Air and Space and Automobile to name a few.  There is  even an IMax Theater, a Science Center, the Old Globe Theater, Restaurants, a green space with miles of walking paths and a dog-park.  Balboa Park should be on every San Diego visitor’s agenda.  You can easily spend a full day at just a few of the many attractions!  If your visit to San Diego if for only a few days, make sure you spend one of those days at Balboa Park.  If a visit to San Diego is not in your future, please enjoy a few photographs I took during a recent morning stroll through the Park!

Botanical Bldg and Pond

The Botanical Building and Reflecting Pond.

El Prado 1

The Prado Walkway.

Organ Pavillion

A wing of the Organ Pavilion.

El Prado Fountain

A fountain behind the Prado Restaurant.

Prado and Pond 1

Reflecting Pond and Walkway.

Fountain Head

A fountain head near the Old Globe.

El Prado Walkway

The Prado Walkway.

Prado Theater

The Prado Theater Facade.

Lilly Pad

Lilly Pad on the Reflecting Pond.

Old Globe Theater

Old Globe Theater.

California Tower

The California Tower and Museum of Man Dome.

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.