December 2021

posted in: Arizona, Bikepacking | 7

Road Trip: Arizona Bound

After spending two months in Utah, it felt odd to spend more than an hour or two driving in the van. But, the nature of van life means a life of frequent travel, so on we went. Winter was headed to Utah and we were ready to escape the extreme cold.

Lake Mead, NV

Stop 1

We stopped just long enough for a long hike, to discover the lake had dropped another 32 feet since our last visit, and spend the night.

I think the van needs a bit of a wash
A shiver of lake glows in the night while Grizz poses for the camera

North Tucson, AZ

Stop 2

Another quick over-night stop just north of Tucson. It was quiet and had fantastic views of the mountains in the distance.

Nice views of either Mt. Lemon or Picacho Peak (not 100% sure on this one)

Arizona

Home sweet winter home. It seems we have a home for all seasons these days. Considering we’ve now been at this van life thing for nearly 3 years (some off, but mostly on), we’re starting to get the hang of the areas we love as well as all the destinations we try to avoid. For example: Cities, crowds, tourist traps = AVOID. Small towns, back roads, and unknown destinations = LOVE.

So, ultimately we have our Arizona sweet spot and as luck would have it, it’s close to a plethora of trails (including the Arizona trail), sandy washes, and overgrown dirt tracks. No bells and whistles…just the way we like it!

Here are some photos from our winter 2021 adventures:

The Landscape

Apache Peak
A dark cloud looms over Mt. Wrightson
Pipeline road
One of our favorite wintering spots
The mountains are constantly changing with the light

Flora/Fauna

Cane cholla
Coyote gourd
A hard, sticky ball enclosed in a delicate leaf-like air filled shell
Skin of the deadly coral snake
The most intricately designed grasshopper
A decaying root system
Any guesses as to whom this feather may belong to?
A grasshopper shell with attitude
She’s just resting (that’s what I tell myself)
Two crows on one of my favorite trees

Hiking/Biking Adventures

I’m proud to say that this month, I just enjoyed my time in nature and didn’t take a whole lot of photos while adventuring. Every day we hiked between 3-8 miles and biked 5-10. Sometimes it is nice to set down the camera and just go. I did snap this one of Grizz resting by the bike with Apache Peak in the distance.

Grizz patiently waits for me to get back on my bike and go

Bikepacking Overnighter (Solo)

While I didn’t go crazy with photos on this trip either, I did snap a few to remember my mini solo adventure loop. Initially, I planned to take a portion of the Sky Island Bikepacking Route but ended up making up my own route in order to bike a portion of the Arizona Trail (AZT). Overall, it was rather challenging with over 2000 ft of climbing that first day. It may not seem like much but at some points the track was narrow and quite steep.

Gravel Travel

Setting out along the gravel roads of Las Cienegas NCA.
Mt. Wrightson in the (much farther than it looks) distance.

After about 9 miles of gravel, rocky, and sandy terrain I hit a busy highway. Luckily, going this direction it was only 4 miles along a very narrow shoulder (hence no photos).

Lunch Break

At about mile 17 it was time for lunch. I found a quiet spot off of a forest road, had myself a look-around, and decided this was a nice place in the trees for a bite. Before setting off, I popped a squat behind a tree. After shaking off (I’m not one of those jerks who leaves TP everywhere), I zipped up feeling a solid sense of relief. With a full belly and an empty bladder, I started prepping my bike for take off when I heard a deep sounding, “hhhhmmm-hmmm” which came out like a bit of a clearing of the throat.

Taken aback, I scanned the area once again and hidden among a thicket about 30-40 yards away was a dingy black tarp that I could barely even see. Nice. I basically just took a piss in front of some random (seemingly homeless) guy. Where was the noise before all of this took place! Let’s just say, I spent the rest of my hours paying a LOT more attention to my surroundings. It’s a bit discerning that someone can be hidden in plain sight!

Getting closer and closer to the mountains

After a long uphill climb, I got my first up close look at Mt. Wrightson. It was far more beautiful in person.

Break Time!

AZT Portion

At roughly 23 miles miles in, I hit the AZT and that is when the real climbing began

Before long I found myself on a very rocky double track and heading away from the base of the mountain I just worked all day to get to. Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes!

Deep grooves in the trail makes peddling a bit tricky!
Back down to the valley
My first official AZT marked gate

Not long after passing the gate, I encountered another huge climb. At mile 27.45 I was wiped and decided to camp off of a nearby forest service road with a hidden branch. Apparently, the cows really liked this spot too judging by the remnants left behind. After clearing my spot and de-rocking the place I made some dinner and passed out!

Making Camp

View from the bike/tent
Good morning sunshine!

The next morning I woke around 5:30 am just in time to watch the sun come up. One of the best sunrises all month!

Speaking of sunrises…here are a few noteable ones from our time here this year.

Sunrises and Sunsets

Reflection

2021 has been an incredible year no doubt. We’re continuing to grow and learn from both our environment and each other. At this point, Eric and I both agree…It would be hard to imagine living life any other way. Van life suits us. It is simple, satisfying, and sustainable. If you would have told either of us, let’s say just 5 short years ago, that we’d be exploring the West as happy little hermits, I’m not sure we would’ve believed you. But, You never know where life will take you and here we are!

We hope you’re out there living your best life and making all of your dreams come true. If you’re not, then start! Small changes are the best ways to create big change. Cheers to a healthy and happy 2022 no matter where you are.

Thanks for reading. Until next time friends…

7 Responses

  1. Aunt Louise

    Wonderful read and great to catch up on your life and travels. Curious how Grizz is holding up? I know he had issues for a while. Love that you and Eric found each other and are pursuing your dreams. Love you. Aunt Louise

  2. Barbara McN

    National Geographic would love your photos! Outside magazine would love your travels!

  3. Debbie

    Wow! Just wow! These pictures are incredible! That story about peeing in front of the homeless man was hysterical! That would definitely be my luck too. I agree with your Aunt Louise- I’m so proud of you for making your dreams a reality! Thanks for sharing your travels with us!

    • Jenni

      Thanks Debbie! I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures 🙂 The area is quite beautiful in a rugged kind of way. Yeah, the pee incident was pretty funny…especially after the fact. lol Thanks as always for reading and for your lovely comments! <3

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