Friday, February 5, 2010


I'm in Phoenix for about a month for work, so we've been exploring some of the climbing and hiking in the area.  It's awesome to be able to run up a steep trail or get a few routes in without driving too far.

Day 1
At Pinnacle Peak Park, only the climbers are allowed on the rocks.  Hikers must "stay on the trail...and off the rocks!"  That just feeds the elitist climber's ego, doesn't it?

The view from Pinnacle Peak.

Chester's new digital SLR put to work.

This is what happens at Pinnacle when you climb too long: they lock your truck behind a gate and make you call the police to get out.  Yes, we did that.  I suppose they really mean it when they say the gates are locked at 5:45 pm (not 5:55).  Other than almost getting a ticket for "trespassing after park hours," we got out okay.  The cop was pretty happy to have met fighter pilots, even under the circumstances.

Waiting for the po-po to get us out of the park, I thought I'd snap some shots on a tripod.

Day 2
After our encounter with the law, we left the metro area to climb in the McDowell Mountains.  This 2-pitch line offered tons of exposure...maybe a bit more than Chester wanted on his first day of multi-pitch climbing.

Are we in Yosemite?!  This rock is flawless.

A bit of rain made the 2nd pitch interesting, to say the least.

Day 3--The Superstition Mountains
Finally, some bigger mountains.  Chester and I did an 11-mile hike that took us to a sweet box canyon, swimming holes, and awesome views.

The first few miles of the trail offered views like this.

The last couple miles were up a clear river.  Chester snapped this photo of me improvising after not bringing my tripod along.

No trail here.  For several miles we stayed directly in the riverbed to avoid the gnarly desert nettles.

What's with all these clouds in Arizona?

Entering the box canyon.  Photo by Chester.

This cool little waterfall was surrounded by the 100+ ft canyon walls.

Canyon Lake, the origin of our hike.  Chester snapped this through the window of the car on the way out of the Superstition Mountains.


Our 8-night Hawaiian vacation was amazing.  We spent 3 nights in Oahu and 5 nights in Kauai and we took hundreds of photos.  Here are the highlights.

Our Honolulu hotel room was 2 blocks from the beach and definitely felt like it was in the heart of the city.  The area had lots of traffic, noise, overpriced shops, and tons of people.  Welcome to Honolulu.  

Views from the hotel 

An awesome 10-mile loop drive above the city led us to some sweet lookouts.  The point you can see out past the city is the rim of an old volcano named Diamond Head.  We hiked to the summit of it a couple days later.

Waikiki Beach
One of the most famous beaches in the world.  

Cassy samples a Hawaiian treat: shave ice.  It's basically a really huge snow cone served over ice cream.

This is Waikiki in the low season at the end of the day.  I can't imagine what it must be like on the busy days.

Sunsets on Waikiki bring most people out of their hotels and onto the beach.

Pearl Harbor

The USS Arizona memorial is built over the sunken ship, which lies just inches below the water.  Hundreds of soldiers are entombed in the ship and 30 or so survivors have chosen to have their cremated remains interred with their fellow sailors.  The ship still leaks 1-2 quarts of oil per day, which coats the water under the monument with a rainbow film.

Looking out the top of the USS Arizona Memorial

A monument to those who died on the USS Oklahoma.

Cassy explores the depths of the USS Bowfin submarine.

The USS Missouri, where the Japanese signed the document agreeing to surrender to the U.S.

Diamond Head
We got to the Diamond Head trail at sunrise, only to find an entire tour bus of hikers had already reached the summit.  We passed them as they trekked down the 1-mile trail in knee-high boots with heels, flip flops, and dress shoes.
Honolulu and Waikiki Beach from the summit of Diamond Head

Cassy descends the long staircase that makes up part of the hike.

Hanauma Bay offers some incredible snorkeling for you and hundreds of your closest friends.

Self portrait at the world famous surf spot, Waimea Bay.

We met a shy local at Turtle Beach.

Cassy struts her stuff on the wild north shore.

Waimea Bay

A peaceful sunset on Oahu requires driving to the northernmost point of the island and hiking a couple miles along the coast.  Gorgeous!


Our inter-island flight to Kauai gave us an entirely different perspective of the "Aloha State".  Kauai seemed so chill, so quiet, and just felt more relaxing than the hustle-bustle of Honolulu.  It's hard to explain how amazing this island is.  I hope some of my photos will show the beauty of places in Kauai that can usually be reached with a short hike.

Cassy and I were the youngest guests at this hotel, but we didn't mind a bit.

Sunrises (we were up for them every day) were amazing from the hotel.

Our super sweet PT Cruiser rental car.  Cassy says it's a "car for old people."  It worked fine, except for the time the horn got stuck.  Luc was honking at a driver who threw out a cigarette butt.  That'll teach him to let the litterbugs do their thing.

Our first-ever Luau.

Lydgate Beach Park offers nicely protected snorkeling on the south shore, even when the ocean is raging.

Wailua Falls--East Shore
It took some work getting to the base of the falls, but it was worth every bit.

Cassy uses fixed ropes to approach the waterfall.

We endured light rain during the hike, but went swimming anyway when we saw that we had our own swimming hole at the base of the 170-ft falls.

The Sleeping Giant Hike--East Shore
We got up early for this 2-mile ascent of the Sleeping Giant.  The views were absolutely stunning.

The summit.

A very exposed ridge connecting the summit to the main trail offered hundreds of feet of air on either side.  Cassy was unfazed.

A rain storm moved through, but we were well prepared.  After a 15-minute snack in the rain, the clouds cleared and we got to see more rainbows.

The mouth of this cave opens to a sheer cliff and gorgeous views.

Cliffs can be very hazardous, just like the sign warns.

Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast--Northwest Shore
Wow.  This area of Kauai is fantastic.  A road leads up a ridge above the Waimea Canyon (nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" by Mark Twain), but most areas are only accessed by trail.  The Na Pali Coastline can only be accessed by boat or a 2-day backpacking trip.  We opted for a day hike that  
offered some of the best views we've seen...ever.

Looking down into Waimea Canyon

We did an 11-mile loop hike that started with 3 miles of steep downhill hiking in muddy trenches.

There was also some of this...

...that led to the end of the trail and some magnificent views.

It's hard to show the scale of these cliffs, but they're 3000-4000 ft tall.  Helicopters that flew into the canyon would appear as a dot in these photos.

Cassy confirms that the cliffs are, in fact, very steep.

See me in the bottom left corner?  I did a "bonus hike" down an exposed ridge to an amazing vista point.  The photo below shows a self portrait from that same point.

Na Pali Boat Tour--Northwest Shore
The day after our awesome hike, we went on a catamaran tour that took us snorkeling and sightseeing along the Na Pali Coast.  We got a view from the ocean of the 3000+ ft peaks and ridges we had stood on the day before.

The captain took us through a pod of hundreds of dolphins.  We got to see about 20 whales throughout the day, but none of my photos are worth sharing.  It was a shame the whales wouldn't jump for us when we got close.  The captain said the whales weren't cooperating.  I tipped him anyway.

Freshwater meets saltwater.

This natural blowhole has two that shoots water to an impressive height and another that air is pushed through.  The result is a loud groan every time a wave crashes, shortly followed by a huge geyser of water.

Hawaii is beautiful, isn't it?

North Shore
Ke'e beach was one of our favorites.  It had good snorkeling and nice sand plus an amazing view of sheer mountains rising out of the sea.  This beach also marks the trailhead to the Na Pali Coast.

Cassy loved watching these seals sleep in the sand.  Every once in a while they'd excitedly wiggle around and make noise, rub sand in their eyes, and go back to sleep.  Here are my favorite action shots.

Another hidden beach.  

A vacation wouldn't be complete without climbing.