Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Last Days in Arizona

My last few days in Arizona were filled with biking. Tuesday I did a big loop up on National and and Mormon.

Wednesday, Stan and I went out to Mesa and rode the Hawes trails. I didn't ride here much when I lived in Arizona, as there weren't many trails out there. Now it has become a pretty awesome place to ride. We rode this trail called Twisted Sister, which twists and turns down a slight hill weaving in and out of staghorn cholla and creosote bushes.

Thursday, I had to get one last ride in even though I was feeling pretty tired. I decided to do a quick run out to the helipad again. Climbing out of one of the washes I managed to get knocked off balance and couldn't get my foot out in time. I fell over on my hip and elbow creating some nice scratches and bruises.

Friday, I packed up my gear and headed to the airport. I had a really easy trip back home and even managed to sleep most of the way.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Papago Park

Catching Up

The last few days have been filled with random things. Sunday I went over to my cousin's for dinner. Monday I went for a ride with Stan around South Mountain. Tuesday I ran a bunch of errands, including getting a quick service for my bicycle. It was beginning to show signs of all the abuse it has been receiving lately. It is running beautifully now.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Skiing with the girls

Well no sooner was I back from being at sea was I dragged up to Ruapehu by the girls to go skiing. It had been snowing all week so the snow conditions were looking good. Unfortunately the forecast for the weekend wasn't. I was hoping that the forecast would be wrong, as it often is, but it wasn't - so Saturday was windy, raining and with very poor visibility. We were briefly tempted to sit in the lodge, but we were here to ski, so off we went. There was only one lift open and only one run possible, so we went round and round. The run seemed vaguely different each time - only because the visibility varied! By about lunchtime, however, the snow was slushy and we were soaking wet and getting cold - so we retreated back to the lodge to have a hot shower and dry out.

Kathryn and Anne Laure

Late Saturday afternoon the clouds lifted and we could finally see the mountain. We had a busy evening in the lodge as Kathryn and I were cooking for 13 people. The lodges are run by different clubs so everyone has to help out with chores. I also spent a bit of time playing with the large box of lego that was at the lodge and helping the 3 children build houses, boats, cars etc.. We also had a couple of games of quick scrabble!

Clouds lifted on Whakapapa resort Saturday evening

Sunday morning the clouds were down at the resort - but they soon lifted to a beautiful sunny day. The rugby world cup game between the All Blacks and France was on - so the ski slopes were pretty empty in the morning. We went in to the cafe to check to score, which was 13-3 at the time, and then we headed up the hill. Unfortunately Anne Laure had a small crash on her first run down and landed awkwardly twisting her knee in the process. She managed to ski down to the bottom and walk to the medical centre - but she was in a lot of pain, so that was the end of her skiing for the day. She was only cheered up when she found out the rugby scores "Oh la la!! C'est incrueable!"

I helped Anne Laure to the cafe and headed back up the slopes to find Kathryn to tell her what had happened. The snow was pretty good - obviously where it had been raining down low it had been snowing a bit up higher, and it had also softened from a few weeks ago as it was much warmer. So there was some great skiing on spring snow. I skiied a couple of the double black diamond runs, which are basically popular off piste runs that are not patrolled or groomed. I also spent a bit of time coaxing Kathryn down some of the harder runs. I'm such a bully!

Probably the last ski trip of the season as the snow was disappearing fast over the weekend.....

South Mountain

Wednesday morning I decided to head up National again, this time from the east side. I rode up to the park again and took Desert Classic in the oppsite direction to the Pima Canyon entrance to South Mountain.

From there it is short ride up the access road and the bottom of Mormon Trail.

Desert Classic

Monday night I moved over to my Aunt and Uncles. The live a couple kilometres from South Mountain and some awesome mountain biking trails.

Tuesday morning I got and headed out on the Desert Classic trail. This trails rolls around the base of South Mountain instead of going up it like National. It is a nice fast rolling track, that can get pretty technical in places.

Climb out of an arroyo (wash)

Drop-in to the same arroyo

I rode out to the Helipad, a nice little climb up a ridge about 10kms from the house. I took a different track down, which had a few large boulders and steep drops to keep me entertained.


This past weekend I went up to Flagstaff for Stan’s Buck’s Night. Flagstaff is about 2.5 hours drive north of Phoenix and over 2000 metres higher. I got a ride up Friday afternoon with Doug, Steve, and Stan. We reached the campsite just before dark and met up with Major Tom.

We spent the evening sitting around and talking. The temperature was steadily dropping and we got cold enough that we decided to turn in for the night. The temperature dropped to around 4 degrees. There were some clouds around which kept it from getting any colder.

When we woke up the next morning Humphreys Peak (3850m, the highest mountain in Arizona) had a light dusting of snow on it. We had planned on going for a ride this morning, but it was cold. We slowly got ourselves going and made some breakfast, followed by more sitting around. It was about 11:00am by the time we headed out on the bicycles.

Humphreys Peak Saturday morning

We camped a little over a kilometre from the Fort Valley Trails trailhead. We rolled down to the trailhead and headed east toward Shultz Creek. The trail rolled along with some small hills and nice twists and turns. We climbed up Schultz Creek Trail for several kilometres before turning right and up a rocky fire trail. This led us up to a meadow. We didn't really know where we were, but we kept going.

From the meadow we followed a trail up to a rocky lookout. We had a nice view over Flagstaff, but still didn't know where we were exactly. A faint trail continued on from the lookout. We decided to keep going thinking it would come out somewhere eventually. After a short while the trail got so bad we ended up carrying our bicycles.

We finally reached the top of a hill and the track dove off the backside with some really nicely cut switchbacks. These took us down to a trail which ended up leading us back to the meadow. Since we were now found we decided to just to head back the way we came. the descent down Shultz Creek was well worth retracing our steps. It was fast and flowing, with a few tricky spots to keep you on your toes. I was following Doug down and was just amazed at how smooth he rode through the corners and rocky bits.

The next day we decided to stick to the Fort Valley trails. Only Stan Doug and I managed to ride, the others were feeling a bit ill or had to leave early.

We cruised up the trails and stumbled onto this track which wound through a boulder field. We climbed up this track which was super technical but really fun. Every couple meters there was a boulder or some other obstacle that had to overcome. It was really fun because you got this great feeling of accomplishment each time you made it through a section.

Once again, when we reached the top of the trail we didn't know where we were (seems to often be the case when riding with Stan). We decided going back the way we came would be just as fun as riding up. It was!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Back on dry land

While Aaron has been biking and visiting family in the US I have been hard at work on the NIWA research vessel, the Tangaroa, for the last month. We were working off the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand mapping and sampling a series of submarine canyon systems that transport sediment from the Southern Alps out to the deep ocean.

It was great to be at sea again and get some more hands on experience, something I don't think I've had enough of in the past. I was sea sick for the first day, but after that I felt fine even when it got pretty rough with over 60 knot gusts and 10 m swells. However, we were really lucky as we only had a couple of storms go through, one at the beginning of the trip and one at the end, the rest of the time we had beautiful calm, sunny days with some great views of the Southern Alps and some spectacular sunsets and sunrises. We also saw lots of wildlife with some pilot whales, dolphins, seals and basking sharks (although I personally didn't see the sharks). There were also lots of birds including albatrosses, mollymawks and other little black and white ones (can't remember the names of).

Mt Cook and the snowy Southern Alps.

Sunset over the Tasman Sea.

Dolphins came up to check out the ship.

Unfortunately I was on the 4am to 12pm shift (not the best time of day for me). My shift mate John Mitchell found me highly entertaining as I was not the most chatty person at 4am - in fact I didn't make much noise until after 8am and several cups of coffee.... Probably worked out best for both of us as we didn't get annoyed with each other as we hardly spoke for half the shift! John was great as he was really patient with me and taught me how to operate and run the multibeam and how to set up and deploy the different types of cores and grabs. We also did 5 days of seismic, so it was good to get some experience of a whole range of techniques.

Me, Annette and Fay dressed in our flotation jackets and hard hats waiting for a core to come up on deck.

When I wasn't working I spent a good deal of time playing scrabble with the girls on deck. I also managed to make it to the gym occasionally and ride a few kms on the exercise bike to keep my fitness up and try and keep the weight off. The chef on the boat was really good so it was hard not to eat too much when he was making some great food. Snacking every two hours to stay awake is also not very good for the waistline. I haven't dared weigh myself since I got back.

Scrabble out on deck enjoying the sunshine and scenery
Well back to reality..... and cooking my own dinners!

Friday, October 5, 2007


It has been a while now since I last updated the blog. After my last ride in Oregon, I boxed up the bike and shipped it to Arizona. On cue the weather in Oregon turned to rain. It started raining on Friday and was still raining on Monday when I left.

I spent some more time with my family on Friday and Saturday. My brothers birthday was the 28th, so they came over on Saturday night for dinner.

Sunday we drove up to Portland. My parents dropped me off at my friend Casey's house. I have known Casey since we were about eight years old. It was great to catch up with him and his family.

Most of Monday was spent getting from Portland to Phoenix. I am currently staying with Steve and Jill as well as their two dogs and five cats. It is heaps of fun, there is always someone wanting attention.

My bicycle arrived yesterday and this morning I took it for a spin around South Mountain Park. I rode from the house up to Telegraph Pass. From there I followed National Trail east to the San Juan parking area. The temperature was well into the 30's and I was struggling. I should have picked an easier trail or left earlier in the morning, because my body was just not coping.

This weekend we are going up to Flagstaff for a Buck's Weekend for Stan. Up there the temperature will drop below 0 at night. From one extreme to the other; Arizona is such a strange place.