The Missus cruising Lake Pleasant
One of the things on our to-do list lately has been to try out some kayaking. It seems that several of the trips we’re looking at in future have the opportunity, and quite frankly, it looks like a good way to get to places less travelled. So when one of the local REI stores scheduled a “Learn to Kayak” class we signed up.
The five hour class was held at Lake Pleasant, a county park northwest of Phoenix. Instructors Dannie and Angie brought both “sit on top” and “touring” kayaks so we had the option of trying both types if we wanted. We spent about an hour on dry land learning the gear and how to set it up properly and then proceeded onto the lake where we had a chance to try out the basic strokes and then “rafted up” in a cove for a little more instruction.
The next four hours we on the water learning and practicing turns, different strokes and techniques, sculling, how to exit the kayak if capsized (demonstrated with the option to try it. I did. Fun!) with time to practice paddling around and getting comfortable on the water. Most of the time we were in fairly well protected coves which both kept us away from the power boat and jet ski enthusiasts and protected us from the wind.
The paddle back to our starting point was actually a pretty good exercise in that the crowds of swimmers, boaters and partiers were in full force, and we paddled into a head wind which made it a bit choppier. We had a final demonstration of a buddy rescue technique since getting into a kayak in the water is easier with help – something like getting into a hammock. We finished up around noon as scheduled. Lots of fun!
Afternoon sun near Black Mountain
We have been wanting to try out a backpacking trip with REI Adventures, and with the Superstition Mountains being local we thought this would be a good opportunity. Since the Phoenix area is already starting to warm up, this was the last scheduled trip till after summer. Being less that two weeks after the Alaska trip, we were prepared for a bit of temperature shock – it turned out to be a record setting week with highs in the 90’s, which is only 120ºF warmer than our coldest outings up north. Fortunately, we had time for a couple of day hikes to get re-acclimated to the desert prior to starting out.
Phoenix from South Mountain
We enjoy our outdoors activities, and one of our major suppliers for gear is Recreation Equipment, Inc. In addition to being a major outdoors sports outlet, REI does travel and arranges local workshops and classes. We saw a four hour Night Photography Hike at South Mountain they were hosting and decided it would be fun to go along.
White Sands National Monument
Last March we went camping at White Sands National Monument for the first time. The weather was fairly mild although a bit brisk in the morning. The winds were impressive. It turns out that 50 mph gusts are not unusual in the windy season. We enjoyed the trip, but since we only stayed the one night we didn’t get to do as much hiking as we would have liked, so we decided to return during the off season. With our schedule it turned out the second half of January was a good time, and watched the weather and the launch schedule for the missile range to plan the date. This last week the weather was perfect for photography – cloudy with rain in the forecast and temperatures unseasonably warm with to lows above freezing, and no closures scheduled. Off we went…
The Missus enjoying a late afternoon walk while west Phoenix gets some rain in the background.
When you live in the southwestern desert you learn to accept that much of the summer is just plain too hot for outdoors activities. That’s not to say one is housebound the entire time, but aside from morning and evening walks hiking is not on the schedule.
In late September the weather starts to change, and we start getting out a little more. The town we live in has opened a new park recently, so we took an hour or so to take some pictures and enjoy the weather.
Havasu Falls the evening we made camp.
Last week we took a five-day outing with Arizona Highways Photography Workshops to Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. The workshop was led by Suzanne Mathia and supported by Tyler, A.J. and Todd from Arizona Outback Adventures. It was a great trip with some excellent hikes, spectacular photographs, and lots of fun!
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… just add water
As barren as the desert frequently appears, there’s quite a bit of life to be found. Water, though scarce, can be found if you know where to look. The White Tanks got their name from the fact that frequent flash floods over time eroded depressions that hold water. It’s not surprising that it became a choice grazing area for a cattle ranch in the early 20th century. During its time as a ranch a windmill powered well was installed that created an oasis. Now part of a county park, the oasis is almost swamp like in the variety of life to be found there.