After leaving Joshua Tree we set off towards Arizona and made it to Tucson. The drive was boring in places, roads being straight and flat for dozens of miles at a time(You do the math.. miles are the new way to go!!). The one thing that really stood out though was the cartoon style cactus. You know the green ones with two arms pointing up? They do really exist! They’re huge and they’re super awesome. Based on the sheer amount we saw, these things are like the trees of the desert, super well adapted to their environment.
Alexi, our pal from Quebec we met in J-tree told us about free climbing & camping on Mount Lemmon(Not Lemon), just outside of Tucson. It did sound like a good idea so we knew we should try to hit it when we drove by as it is literally on the way to El Paso (where Hueco Tanks state park is). We left Joshua Tree without really planning the climbing part so once we arrived in Tucson, we had to get our hands on some internet to figure out the hows and the where. We took one of the first exit for Tucson and we managed to get some free internet from a Super 8 hotel. After deciding that we were best going to a local outdoor shop to get some beta for the climbing, we had to find a place to park for the night. Problem was that we had already driven past a truck stop a while back and we didn’t think there would be another one before long. We looked to see if Walmart stores were Overnight friendly but unfortunately they weren’t. So we decided we could probably just park behind the hotel as if we were guests and hopefully no one would bother us.
Thankfully, we went unnoticed for the night! Just before leaving the parking lot, I noticed a guy cleaning what appeared to be an outdoor pool attached to the hotel. I went closer to see if there wouldn’t be a hot tub by any chance and who knows, the gate might be unlocked.. well guess what? There was a hot tub AND the gate was unlocked. Elaine wasn’t so sure about it but because I hadn’t soaked in any kind of pool of water for over a month, I took the chance and went for it after putting my swim suit on. I turned on the jet, sat back and let it soak for a while.. that was simply awesome! Eventually Elaine came out and dipped in as well. That’s dirt bagging it to the max 🙂
We went to Summit Hut and spoke with Dave who was super helpful. He strongly suggested we go to Cochise Stronghold instead of Mount Lemmon. Day was getting late so Elaine found a super cool hike, ranked #1 around Tucson, called 7 falls(Seven falls Trail). It was a 4.1 miles hike each way with 200m elevation gain. At the end of the hike, you reach a gorgeous waterfall with numerous pools of very cold water. After hiking that far, there was no way I wasn’t going to go in for a dip. I kind of dove in and as Murphy’s law would have it, my glasses came off and ended up at the bottom of the pool. The problem wasn’t that the pool was too deep, the problem was that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go back in that freezing water 🙂 In the end, a lady was able to point them out from the edge of the pool which made the second dip as quick as possible.
The next day we went to Cochise Stronghold and spend a single day sport climbing. We ended up hanging out with some friendly locals which made the day that much more enjoyable. The climbing was slabby at times and I realized that the weeks spent in Joshua tree had actually improved my trust in friction between my shoes and the rock. The climbing is located in a national forest and disperse camping is usually allowed. We were able to spend the night in a little pullout and we had a nice Valentine’s dinner in the nature.
We then pushed through to El Paso. It’s a border town with Mexico which is separated by a river with a wall built next to it to prevent illegal immigration. We asked around and it sounds like going over the border to visit Juarez, El Paso’s counterpart, is everything but a good idea. We are currently staying at what was once called Pete’s, Hueco Tanks Climbing shop, which doubles up as a campground as well. It’s quite basic with a port-a-potty, fast internet most of the time, and some tables and chairs but the cost is pretty slick: $4/person for 3 nights. So we are paying $2.66/day to camp here but the distance to the park is minimal. We will just about recoup the cost of the camping by saving on fuel. We are less than 5 minutes away from the park. Coincidentally, the same people that we hung out with in Bishop are all here so it’s nice to hang out with friends we enjoyed spending time with back then.
The bouldering here is totally awesome. The rock as the name would suggest, is full of Huecos (round pockets/jugs in the rock) and a lot of the climbing is either overhanging or a straight out roof. “Knee bars” and heel hooks will come in handy I’m sure. There’s a bit of a process to enter the park everyday because they only allow 70 people at any time on the North mountain. Reservations are recommended but we didn’t bother. So far we were able to go in without it but it might get tricky during the week ends. I can see us spending most of the time we have left in the USA here as it is truly a unique place. The nights are very cold at the moment.. probably dropping to just above freezing. Days are warm-ish but the wind is notorious at this time of the year which cools them down quite a bit. We heard that it’s so windy at times that the wind will blow your crash pads away. We haven’t experienced that yet but it’s going to happen I’m sure.
Elaine’s fingertips are still very low on skin and she’s being careful with her climbing to not draw blood again. Hopefully with some TLC, she’ll be able to go full tilt sooner than later.
Our budget for this week is now $200.66 CAD for food & fun.
Jan 12 –Feb 18 : Weekly & Totals since we left 34 weeks ago.
Fuel: $175.01 / $4572.61
Food: $57.58/ $2328.34
Fun: $64.77 / $4816.06
Total for the week without fuel: $122.35
Total with fuel: $297.36
Total spent since the beginning: $11717.01
Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $4039.20
E & M