The 24 Hours of Old Pueblo

The storm before the storm.

The storm before the storm.

Friday sunset cocktail party at the Whiskey Tree.

Friday sunset cocktail party at the Whiskey Tree.

Tying a bottle to the Whiskey Tree.

Tying a bottle to the Whiskey Tree.

Got Lobster?

Got Lobster?

Let’s go ride bikes in AZ they said, it’ll be warm and sunny, they said...

Let’s go ride bikes in AZ they said, it’ll be warm and sunny, they said...

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Jason in the stampede at the beginning of the race.

Jason in the stampede at the beginning of the race.

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I love how these guys kept themselves entertained with that "piñata" while waiting for the dad to ride by.

I love how these guys kept themselves entertained with that "piñata" while waiting for the dad to ride by.

Antonio on his first lap.

Antonio on his first lap.

That's the spirit.

That's the spirit.

The water bottles of the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo from the last 13 years.

The water bottles of the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo from the last 13 years.

Lance Armstrong!

Lance Armstrong!

The Saturday night Happy Hour crew at the Whisky Tree.

The Saturday night Happy Hour crew at the Whisky Tree.

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Diedra rocking it.

Diedra rocking it.

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The CycloKeg going down the rock drop!

The CycloKeg going down the rock drop!

Antonio and Jason on their 6th lap!

Antonio and Jason on their 6th lap!

Our friends 4-men single speed team, the Fearless Foursome, finished in 3rd place with 21 laps!!

Our friends 4-men single speed team, the Fearless Foursome, finished in 3rd place with 21 laps!!

This is E.T. It’s his 14th year of doing the 24HOP in solo. He is a fascinating man. He bought that truck brand new in 1973 (he calls it the coyote den). He is a fire fighter and was sent to help during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the big fires of California over Christmas. He’s worked in Tok, Alaska and lives in a remote rural area near the Mexican border. He speaks Portughese and Spanish and asks the most interesting questions.

This is E.T. It’s his 14th year of doing the 24HOP in solo. He is a fascinating man. He bought that truck brand new in 1973 (he calls it the coyote den). He is a fire fighter and was sent to help during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the big fires of California over Christmas. He’s worked in Tok, Alaska and lives in a remote rural area near the Mexican border. He speaks Portughese and Spanish and asks the most interesting questions.

It’s like someone had a deal with the weather gods... The weather was perfect for about 30 hours just for the race, and then it rained again!

It’s like someone had a deal with the weather gods... The weather was perfect for about 30 hours just for the race, and then it rained again!

Rain in the desert is pretty special.

Rain in the desert is pretty special.

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This weekend marked 19 years of enjoying Sonoran Desert singletrack at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. One of the largest 24 Hour events in the world, this race has the reputation of being biking’s Burning man and can be anything to anybody... pro racers, party riders, soloists, corporate riders, single speeders... but it sure feels like there are two different races going on as my friend Antonio likes to say: the Spandex vs the Monkey suits.

Away from everything, this trail is only busy one week out of the year. The cows look at us in confusion as we ride by, the jack rabbits scamper off and they all probably wonder what they did to offend the gods for such mayhem to take over their otherwise quiet home...

There’s a new record for single speed solo male this year with 19 laps!! Imagine that! 19 laps 17 miles lap in 24 hours!!

Founded in 1999, Epic Rides has become world famous for producing events that celebrate the many positive aspects of mountain biking. Events such as the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Whiskey Off-Road, Grand Junction Off-Road and the Tour of the White Mountains are popular with participants because they offer challenging, fun riding and emphasize the joy and camaraderie inherent in the sport. 

Goodbye Tucson!

Oh Snyder Hill! I’m so ready to leave... I’ve been ready to leave for a while now, but great people kept coming and great events kept taking place... and well, we love our friends Antonio and Pascale and their boys who live here... but it’s more than time to get our wheels rolling towards new adventures now. I have itchy feet (I always do...), but I’m more ready than ever to discover new places, ride new trails, photograph new landscapes... and climb OUTSIDE!

As we sat down with a glass of wine one night JF and I, I told him (for the tenth time...) how ready I was to get back on the road. He told me what most of you would tell me, I’m sure : Cat, we’ve only been in the same place for two months! What would you do if we stopped traveling?

You see, that’s the assumption a lot of people have and that’s also why travelers hesitate to publicly say they are going through a tough time... 

I spoke to people that have experienced the same thing I did when we arrived in Costa Rica: boredom, a sense of disconnexion, a lack of purpose... It’s a strange feeling... to which you add the fact that you don’t want to speak about it because well, you’re traveling and most people are envious of the life you have and would trade your boredom for their busyness.

The truth is, boredom is not the opposite of busyness. I can be bored even if I have a line up of contracts. For me, it’s a lack of drive, of spark...
a sense of disconnexion with the people and the world around me. I guess that’s what boredome can feel like to an extraverted person... or maybe it's just me... but the feeling is real.

"I am convinced that boredom is one of the greatest tortures. If I were to imagine Hell, it would be the place where you were continually bored."
– Erich Fromm

 

The 24 hour of Old Pueblo

Borat style!

Kids hiked up on samples of energy bars and hydration drinks, enjoying the free race swag they got "in town".

Tire toss contest!

Lance Armstrong coming down the rock drop on his first lap.

More swag. Pickle juice for muscle cramps. Yes, it's a thing. Not the real stuff, but natural enough, and pretty tasty too.

Jump Pikachu!

Finish or die!

Antonio on the rock drop.

Single-speed rigid bike with a 12 pack of beer. To each their race.

Antonio leaving camp for his second of five 17-mile laps.

The 24 hour town at night.

The town becomes even more alive at night with colorful lights and bonfire everywhere. It was so cool to see the course illuminated by all these headlamps and bike lamps, like a thousand crazy fireflies in the dark night.

For 24 hours per year, a little corner of the desert turns into a small village. Willow Spring Ranch is a remote state trust land that barely sees a soul for the rest of the year, but during the 24 hour of Old Pueblo, one of the biggest 24 hour race in North America (and part of the Epic Rides serie), it is aptly named the 24 hour town and even has its own street signs. The jack rabbits and other critters probably wonder what they did to offend the gods for such mayhem to take over their otherwise quiet home.

There are about 500 riders on the 17-mile course at all times. Teammates have to exchange the baton in the in-and-out tent, register their lap with the officials and the next rider can go. The event gets fully booked a few hours after the registration opens, with riders coming as far as Europe to participate in the event.

The race begins at noon on Saturday with a LeMans-style start (or stampede) in which the racers have to run 1/2 mile to where their bikes are parked (in their bike shoes... ouch!). It makes for a fun spectacular start and it spaces out the the 500 + riders hitting the singletrack course. 

The 24 HOP is the Burning man of bike races and can be anything to anybody... pro racers, party riders, soloists, corporate riders, single speeders... but it sure feels like there are two different races going on: the Spandex vs the Monkey suits.

Our little Tucson routine

Our friends from Wisconsin came for a week during their Holidays! Of course, we went biking together!

Stout's first bike ride!

A very sweet gift from our little Ubach friends!

Mathilde New Year's cupcakes!

Eddy serenading us around the bonfire.

Life at the BLM.

Climbing on Mount Lemmon, Crags Against Humanity Sector.

Aïsha leading her first route.

Tucson is our winter trip half-way point and we tend to stop here longer and slow down. We just love how easy it is to be active here. Once again this year, we took a rock climbing gym membership at Rocks and Ropes (which includes the Bloc too, a bouldering gym), where we go about 3 times a week to climb and shower. We alternate a climbing day with a biking day since there are so many bike trails nearby. It's a pretty good routine. We try to go climb outside at Mount Lemmon on the weekends when possible (it's about an hour drive from the BLM where we camp). What's a BLM you might wonder? It's a public land where we can camp for free. In Tucson, the Snyder Hill BLM is located only 20 minutes from downtown Tucson (unlike most other BLMs in the US that are far from big cities and where the 14 day limit stay in enforced). The Snyder Hill BLM has a bit of a Slab City vibe. There are some semi-permanent residents, some big rigs that stay only a few days and pretty much everything in between. Let's just say it seems to attract what we call in the Yukon, the colorful 5 %...  You can often hear someone playing drum or strumming his guitar in the distance. If you're lucky like us, a circus couple sets up nearby with an aerial silk contraption and you can watch them practice this beautiful skill... Then, there's John, who's been our neighbor for a few weeks that pretend he worked on a set with Al Pacino and went to a party with Johnny Depp... There's Sid with his 16 years old dog who comes by when JF is working on a bike to chat... and chat some more (and his wife that keeps bringing us odd things for the girls). There's the man who sleeps in a tent and leaves every morning with a dress suit for work. And there was the crazy lady on the hill, who spent her days sitting cross-legged on top of Snyder Hill, watching over us and yelling ugly things to passerby's... until she lost it and started knocking on all the rigs' doors asking people to give her her dog back... too many Rainbows will do that to you...

Tucson feels like a second home (or maybe more like a fifth home...) and here are a few of our favorite digs and some practical info if you end up in this neck of the desert...

EAT : The best taco place in town is a little hole in the wall called Pico De Gallo; 3 incredible fish tacos (with homemade corn tortilla) for under $6. Yes, please. Only 8 minute from the rock gym!

Another place that should not be missed is Tucson Tamales (2 locations); 2 Santa Fe tamales (or Chipotle beef, our favorites!) with 2 sides of your choice (don't miss their mexican slaw) for under $8! You can also buy their tamales frozen to warm up at home!

For a unique experience (and a very cheap meal), go to Govinda Natural Food at the local Ashram. All you can eat vegetarian buffet (Tuesday is Indian Night, Wednesday and Thursday are vegan nights) with homemade papadum, delicious salad with sprouts and homecooked food ($11 for adults, $5 for kids (10-12 yo), $4 for 7-9 yo and $3 for 4-6 yo). And you can eat outside in their beautiful enclosed yard.

GROCERY : McGary's Discount Grocery (a few blocks from the Ashram) has awesome deals on expired/dented food items. Think 8 Luna Bars for $1, Kettle Chips bags for $1, Natural Krave Jerky bags for $1, cereal boxes at 3 for $5, Back to Nature nut mixes, cookies, crackers, etc for a fraction of the price, natural lotions and shampoos... even natural dog treats and recycled toilet paper at ridiculous prices. As long as you don't mind the loud Christian music blasting through the store and the near-paranoiac attitude of the store owner about having things stolen and children running down the aisles you'll love this place as much as we do.

Another great way to save money on food in Tucson is through The Club 3000 (Market on the Move). Every week you can get 60 lbs of fruits for $10 on Wednesday from 9 am to 1 pm (sometimes it's every day of the week). The content varies every week (citrus, peppers, tomatoes, squash, eggs, etc.). The best place to be kept informed is their Facebook page.

For a dirt cheap grocery store, we love Food City (a few locations in Tucson). Good ripe fruits for cheap directly from Mexico, dairies and eggs for very cheap, and great homemade nachos, taco shells and tortillas.

For good quality natural food at a decent price, we love Sprouts (a few locations in town). Great coffee and home brand products.

LAUNDRY : For the full hole-in-the-wall laudromat experience, go to Superior Cleaner (10 min from the BLM, just by Food City!). The cheapest in town (bonus soap operas in Spanish blasting on the TVs). They even provide free Wifi. 

If you rather pay more and have a clean brick-wall and lime green wall laudromat with the UofA hipsters, go to Wildcat Laudry

DUMP AND FILL : Free at the Giant gas station on the corner of Valencia and Kolb, but it's pretty far from the BLM. We go to Western Way RV Resort (10 min from BLM) for $10.

RECYCLING : There is a big recycling station at the entrance of John F. Kennedy Park, right behind the Mission Public Library (free wifi) at the corner of Ajo Way and Mission.
 


 

Rock climbing on Mt Lemmon, Tucson, AZ

Heading down to the crag from Windy Point.

These little Arizona boys haven't seen snow many times in their lives. It was a real treat to see their enthousiasm! 

Snow ball fights with the girls!

What an incredible view we had from our climbing spot!

Look at the scales on that rock! So fun to climb!

That view!!!

Antonio, Mara and JF cleaning the route from the top.

I love seeing my girls develop a relationship with these sweet boys!

Mount Lemmon towers over Tucson at an elevation of 9,150 feet. That means that when it rains in town, it snows on top of the mountain. That also means that many Mexicans pack their family in the car, cross the border and drive all the way up to Mount Lemmon to go play in snow. It is quite the sight to see all these cars driving down with snowmen built on their hoods (it seems like that's what you do...). Mount Lemmon is a prized destination for road bikers (think climbing all the way to the top and riding down!) and rock climbers alike (there are over a thousand routes on the mountain!). 

When we arrived at Windy Point (a little over 6,000 feet), the parking lot was packed with people, but Antonio knew of the perfect crag, just inches away from selfie sticks and the rowdy crowd. We spent a memorable afternoon there and left just in time to witness another amazing Tucson sunset on our drive down the mountain.

Another Christmas in Tucson

The boys made tourtières and meat pies for Christmas!

I made blueberry and cherry pies!

The girls offered us a gastronomic 3-course meal for Christmas. We were completely blown away!

Aïsha prepared us a mango-avocado-shrimp tartare that could not have been better at an high end restaurant.

Mara made a Garlic Basil Chicken with Tomato Butter Sauce. It was delicious.

Mathilde made us a Layered Chocolate Cookie Sundae. Yum! I think that a tradition is born!

Mathilde made us a Layered Chocolate Cookie Sundae. Yum! I think that a tradition is born!

And on Christmas day, we went for a geocache hike on Brown Mountain. 

We love spending Christmas with this sweet family year after year!

It's the fourth Christmas that we spend in Tucson and it has become a tradition that we all look forward to. Pascale and Antonio always welcome us with open arms. It is such a treat to see their boys grow every year and to be enjoying the outdoors with them a bit more every year. 

2 solar ovens and a great last weekend in Tucson

The kids made solar oven out of pizza boxes.

Very quickly. the soft tacos turned to taco shells and to tortilla chips! Success!

An old satellite dish and miror pieces for an even more powerful solar oven!

Feel the heat! 

Trying some Yeti bikes at Fantasy Island

Not much shade in the desert. The Westy shade will do!

I couldn'd help but smile everytime I looked at this, especially when climbing hills!

Fun on the slackline at Antonio and Pascale's.

We arrived at Fantasy Island trailhead a little before 8 am on Saturday morning to try some Yeti bikes for free. We rode for about an hour and when we came back to bring the bikes, we found out that another company (Niner) was there for a bike demo too. After riding the Santa Cruz bikes last week and the Yeti bikes this week, I felt that the problem with my lack of control on my bike was not a bike problem, but a rider problem.

As much as I liked these very expensive bike, they didn't make me feel like a more confident rider. I really liked the 27.5 wheels, the carbon frames, high-end double suspension and other components, but it was not that different from my bike. I am still pretty much a beginner rider. I really started mountain biking 3 years ago in Moab and haven't consistently mountain biked since. I have never felt fully in control on my bike, still struggle with sharp turns and fall a little too much... but even if JF kept telling me that my bike was probably too small for me (it's a 2012 XS Giant Trance XW) and that the geometry was probably not made for me, I kept thinking I was the problem (just like we tell people that want a "camera that makes good pictures" that it's not the camera, but the person behind it...).

So here I am, sweaty in my bike gear, standing by the Niner bikes' van with Mathilde. The 3 reps are busy talking with one guy. I look at them and wait. A good 5 minutes. They do not pay any attention to us. I give them the killer stare (the killer stare is a family specialty, my dad is the master; I am only the pupil...). To no avail. JF walks by and I ask him to come stand by us. 30 seconds later, a rep ask him if he wants to try a bike. You could see the steam coming out of my ears (and it was NOT from the heat). You see, as a small woman, I am used to being ignored, to not be seen, but it still triggers me incredibly. I remember having that epiphany, at 10, standing among a bunch of people in an ice cream parlor, holding my 2 dollar bill neatly folded in my hand. Waiting. But the two persons making the cones were never paying attention to me, they kept making eye contact with the other (taller) people around me. I turned around and left and went to get my dad who was waiting for me in the car. As soon as he walked in, we got served. So Saturday morning, I couldn't be that person for my 10 yo girl. Because I am short. And because I am a woman. Good thing I am not a young hot head anymore, because I would have turned around and left... and would never have ridden the bike that changed it all.

You see, Niner, as their name suggests only makes 29 inch wheel bikes. As you might or might not know, 29 inch wheels have been the thing for the last few years (instead of the standard 26 inch wheels) and now, many companies started making 27.5 inches. The thing is, most people told me that 29ers are not for small persons, so they were not on my radar, but Niner only makes a few models of 29 inch bikes. Or as the rep condescendly told me when I brought the bike back: contrary to the other brands, we make the wheels and adapt the frames to our wheels, that's why the XS and S bikes feel so right even with such big wheels.

I could not stop smiling the whole ride! I could ride everything and felt completely in control. I could climb hills like never before and had a BLAST. It was like nothing I had experienced before... And now, I want that bike. No, I *need* that bike to feel safe and in control. Mmmm... Now, I get why they do these demos. When you make something really well, you don't need to spend much in marketing: you just get people to try your product. They'll be convinced. Too bad I can't afford it... 

We are spending our last week in Tucson (after more than 2 months!) with the Liske family. Saturday night, Antonio invited us all at his place for a last dinner. He prepared a feast of delicious homemade tacos that we ate outside. As always, it's bittersweet to leave a place that has been home for a few months and especially people that you love. The good thing is that we will likely be back next year!

Bacon-themed post on the joy of inertia

Hike up Cat Mountain. It felt like we hadn't hiked in ages... With all the biking and rock climbing, we had forgotten how much we liked hiking too! How much more contemplative it is than biking... especially in the desert with all the cacti (no contemplation allowed!).

We went to one of the many tents of the Rock and Gem Show, the biggest in North America. Here Aïsha spent a lot of time touching and admiring her favorite stone, Malachite. We ended up talking for quite a while with the owner of the booth, in French (he was from Congo) and the Malachite came straight from there!

This guy spent a good 10 minutes telling the girls about different fossils (here shark teeth) and showed them a black diamond ring selling for $16,500!

The man was grilling bacon-wrapped chicken... We might buy bacon only once every 2-3 years, but when we do, we eat it in style!

Yes, we are still in Tucson. We renewed our rock gym membership for February. The BLM where we *live* feels like home now. The hippies drumming and fire hoola-hooping in the distance, our closer neighbors made-up orchestra of guitar and violin playing at all time of day and night. Even the dogs know each other now! We've had many communal bonfire nights, lots of great conversations and good laughs.

We know most of the regulars at the gym now. It feels good to be able to work on the same routes over and over, to feel ourselves getting stronger and getting some technique in. We are pretty excited to go spend the weekend at a beautiful rock climbing spot in our tents and Westy (real camping!) to celebrate Jen's 40th birthday. 

I am not in this space that often lately, but you can find me almost daily on Instagram or on Facebook (and no, I don't post the same thing in both places).

On the exchange rate and living frugally on the road

Living frugally also means learning to do your own bike (and bus!) mechanics!

JF was teaching us how to change a flat tire... because it happens a lot in the desert!

At the Discount Grocery, all the Annies's crackers and cookies, as well as the Back to Nature ones were 0.99 cent/box, the Stacey's pita chips bags were 0.59 cents, the kalamata olives (good till 2018!) were $2.39, the Bear Naked Granola were $1.49... Sweet, sweet deal to feed our growing girls healthy and filling food at a decent price!

These bars were all 0.25 cents each! The jerky packs were $1 each, the Justin Almond butter pouches were 0.39 cents and the Tom's of Maine toothpaste was $1.49!

The Canadian dollar is plummeting and the exchange rate is terrible (1.51 as I write)... That means that if my grocery bill is 100$, I actually pay $150... Ouch! We rarely pay for campgrounds (and usually prefer BLM lands), but now, we truly cannot afford them (a $30 night would cost us $45... No way!). 

Our biggest expense has always been our grocery bills. With active growing girls, we needed to find a way to cut down on these bills. We very rarely eat out, but we like good food. Isabelle started researching discount groceries and found some awesome places. Here in Tucson, we have found Market on the Move where you can get 60 lbs of fruits and veggies for $10! It changes every week, but it's all local fresh stuff. This week, we had 60 oranges, 2 grapefruits, 25 tomatillos and 6 poblano peppers in our box. No need to sign up in advance, just show up between 8 am and 1 pm on Wednesday. And the best part: it's a block away from the Rock Gym!

Combine that to a discount grocery where they sell expired dried goods (yes, this is legal and most items are only a few months past the expired date) and you cut your grocery bill in two! The trick is to Google "expired or dented groceries" and the town where you are to find these places. Mexican grocery stores also have great prices (and usually much less additives than American products). I don't need to buy expensive organic canned beans to avoid BHT or other nasties that give me a migraine: most Mexican canned beans are only beans, salt and water. Papayas are super cheap there too, as well as homemade tortillas.

We get a lot of our clothes from thrift stores and even found a store here that will give us some money back for the clothes we bring in (instead of having to wait for them to sell them, which doesn't work when you move every two weeks...) or a credit to use in the store: a great way to turn old clothes into new ones without any money exchange. What they do not take, we bring to a park near the rock gym where there is a lot of homeless people. We have left men tennis shoes, pants, fleece and other useful piece of clothings in the parking lot.

Jen also cut everybody's hair this weekend. She is very good and it is one less expense!
Before going to a museum or restaurant, we look for Groupons, but we mostly focus on free outdoor activities. The Rock Gym turned out to be such a great investment, especially since our water heating system is not working right now and we can all shower for free at the gym. You do the math: $115 for the month for the 5 of us, we are there 3-4 days/week and all shower 2-3 times a week there.

The positive side of the crazy exchange rate is that the gas prices are incredibly low. We usually use the Gas Buddy app to find the cheapest place to fill up, but the best way to save on gas is still to not drive much and stay in one place longer, exactly what we are doing now! And well, driving slow, which is a no brainer when you have two old buses... This way, you also save on speed tickets!

Laundry is about $30/month (so $45 for us right now...), so we go to the cheap (sometimes a little sketchy) laudromats. You know you've hit the jackpot when the change guy is behind a cell-like area and the only (old) TV showcases old murder stories for the mid 90's...

I'd love to hear about how you live frugally. Any tips or ideas are more than welcomed!
 

Saguaro National Park

I didn't take my camera out once this week. That's what happens when we stay in one place for a while: the inspiration goes away. There are just so many ways you can photograph a cactus, a desert sunset around camp... and a rock climbing gym. These are pictures taken by my friend Isabelle when she went to Saguaro National Park with Mathilde and Aïsha this weekend while I worked on my contracts. Meanwhile, Mara and JF went moutain biking and Mara fell into a cactus... Poor Mara! 

We spent a lot of time around the bonfire with old and new friends. We met an awesome young couple traveling in a waste veggie oil (WVO) truck and are pulling a really cool trailer they built and spend some good time chatting with them around camp. 

There was also a Coke and mentos volcano experiment, a massive bus clean-up, lots of laundry and a gorgeous full moon rise.

Tonight is our last dinner with Isabelle and Martin before they head to Texas for a month. We are looking forward to spend more time with them in Utah in the Spring. 

On truth and moving on (and geocaching in Catalina State Park, AZ)

Some days, the world you carefully crafted in your head collides with reality and the truth hits you in the face like a ton of bricks.

It’s usually on those days that you vaccum the USB key, that the dog eats a mouse trap (yes, he did), that you find out your awesome camera lens cannot be fixed for less than 600 US$ (which means almost 1,000 CAN$). Because, really, you wanted more bad news.

On those days when everything feels hard and heavy, you know you should be laughing, but right then, you simply can’t.

And you wonder why you do this to yourself.
Why you remain stuck.
Why you just can’t let go and move on.

My dad likes to say: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Isn’t that true?

And that’s what truth does to you. It guts you and puts you back together. Leaving you a bit shelled shock and sad, but also humbled to have found one more puzzle piece to fit into your own story. 

Starting the year right!

Raphael did his first two boulder problems!!

Little bro was quite happy to rock hop around the boulder

All the kids had a blast and were able to top it out.

I did it too... many times!

The plan was to go set up a few ropes at Hidden Jewel on Mount Lemmon, but after a pretty steep climb and lots and lots of scouting, Antonio deemed the place not safe enough to go with a bunch of kids, so we headed back down and decided to go back to the Hairpin boulders sector where we bouldered last time. It was the perfect place to cool down and enjoy the end of the day.

Bouldering in Tanque Verde, Mount Lemmon, Tucson, AZ

The girls couldn't wait to try their new crashpad!

Jump down, I got you!

Sisters helping sisters!

The girls paid attention to Pascale's every move...

She topped out on the first try!

Inspired, Mara got to work.

It is so fun to climb with experienced climbers. They are just beautiful to watch!

Lunch in our little paradise.

Pascale showing the girls another bouldering problem

This little guy has some great genetic!

I love this sweet family!

When we left our friends' home on Sunday morning, it was just above 0 degrees... We put on longjohns and layers of wool  and headed out to Mount Lemmon. By the time we reached Marble Cake Boulder, we had striped down to our t-shirts! The sun was glorious and the place where we set upvlooked like an oasis in the middle of a canyon.

We are new to bouldering and it is hard work! It is also quite different to not be ropped in and to feel *very* high (even if you're not that high). Most of us chickened out and did not top out any problem, but it is still fun to work on them. It was great to see how determined our kids were to figure them out, how they helped and spotted each other, how they moved the crashpads around depending on where the climber was, as they had seen many times in rock climbing movies... They worked hard!

Hiking (and geocaching) up Brown Mountain, Tucson Mountain Park, AZ

Scrouching to take a picture in the desert can be quite dangerous as I quickly found out... A friend had to remove the many needles poked in my butt (which took our friendship to a whole new level!). But I kept at it, pulling balls of jumping cacti from around my ankles, wincing... The light was so beautiful, it made the whole thing worth it... On the way back, I heard some coyote sing ... And then, there was the full moon...

Hiking to the Romero Pools

I don’t travel because it’s easy, I travel because it’s challenging and humbling. I travel because it allows me to connect more deeply with myself and the world, because it brings me outside of my comfort zone, and everytime it does, I am reminded I am capable of more.

Catalina State Park, Tucson, AZ

On Christmas Eve, we watched the sun rise over Mt Lemmon from our bedroom window, went for a hike among huge saguaro cacti with friends and ate popsicles in the sun. It amazes me how the shifting of our traditions comes as a relief. Like one less thing to carry with us.