25 February 2009

New Blog

I have started a new blog, supplemental to this one, about Arizona Diamondbacks baseball. THIS blog will continue to remain active, and I will continue posting to it regularly. I just figured that if any other baseball junkies read ReperioVulpes and wanted some new material from an old hand, you could venture over to: PlayBallAZ.mlblogs.com Happy Reading!

24 February 2009

Peanuts and Crackerjacks

The smell of hot dogs cooking on their rollers. The pristine green grass, perfectly manicured, sodded, and lovingly graced with chalk lines. The roar of an excited crowd four months removed from the thrill of gameday. The feeling of that ragged and worn-down glove - the one with the laces half coming undone - gripping a brand-new ball. The electric tingle that shakes the stadium as the National Anthem finishes and the umpire announces two words to start the season: "Play ball!" These sensations signal the renaissance of Spring Training baseball in early March, the rebirth of a sport doomed to relinquishing the public attention span for four months to football, basketball, and hockey. A renewal of the American pastime which has announced the arrival of springtime after the white death of winter since 1857, though the game's origins stretch back centuries to the French clerics of 1344. As you may be able to tell, especially if you've been a regular reader of my rantings and ravings since this blog's inception one year and one week ago today, I love baseball. I love watching the progression of the game; how each game always becomes unique despite starting with the same basic rules as a never-changing shell. I love the excitement of scoreboard-watching, even as early as mid-April to get a sense of how the Major Leagues' 30 professional teams are going to do this year. I even love the Fantasy Baseball aspect of the modernity of the sport, even though I've ended up dead last or next-to-last every season I've played! As of tomorrow, the first Spring Training games of the 2009 MLB season begin in Arizona and in Florida, the homes of all 30 teams until late March, when they head to their home stadiums. And until MY team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, heads to the BOB (it will never cease to be the BOB no matter which corporation owns it!) to try to dispel the notion that the only teams in the league worth watching are those on the East Coast. As a brief outlook to the 2009 D-Backs season, consider the following: 1. Pitching: The Diamondbacks still have both Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, along with Doug Davis. This alone makes them one of the better pitching teams in all of baseball. The Webb-Haren one-two punch is reminiscent of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001, when the team won the World Series. Speaking of Johnson, though, he has left and joined another NL West team, the San Francisco Giants, leaving some big shoes to fill for the new fourth man in the rotation, Jon Garland. Back from the minors, again, is Max Scherzer, the kid who garnered 13 strikeouts in his first MLB pitching start - a record, by the way - for #5. If the game were all about pitching, I'd imagine we could win the pennant every year. Unfortunately, it's not. 2. The Infield: The biggest, and saddest change in the infield is the deal that just happened on Friday. The D-Backs traded Orlando Hudson (2B) to the LA Dodgers for their first-round pick (17th overall) and a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. For you non-baseball junkies, that means we could get some really good players, or not. In Hudson's place will be sophomore player Felipe Lopez, supplemented by Augie Ojeda. Granted, Lopez does a lot better on the road than at home, which could be beneficial to the team, which struggled on away games all last year, but on the downside, we just lost a multiple-Gold Glove award-winning second baseman, who was kind of a staple on the team. The rest of the infield is stacked just like last year, Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero as catchers, Stephen Drew at shortstop, Mark Reynolds at third, and back from microfracture knee surgery, Chad Tracy at first base. 3. The Outfield: Well, this is the tricky part. On the one hand, theoretically Eric Byrnes is healthy again and could play his regular left field position, but that would boot out Conor Jackson, who really impressed fans in the last half of 2008 out there. Of course, Jackson could always play his "regular" first base position, but then Tracy is warming the bench. They've got one too many good players for all their positions! Good thing Bob "Mad Scientist" Melvin, the D-Backs manager, is there to make the call. He's probably going to keep switching up the roster every night, giving Tracy 3rd base on Mark Reynolds' nights off, going with Jackson at first those days or letting Tony Clark keep his skills sharp, and swapping out Jackson and Byrnes in left from time-to-time. Frankly, I'd rather see us trade Byrnes altogether for another solid 2B or setup man in the bullpen, but that's pretty unlikely. The outfield is finished off by Young back in center field and Justin Upton back in right, supplemented by Alex Romero just in case something does happen injury-wise. If anyone is interested in getting a group together to go see a few games, maybe split the cost of one of those DBacks 10-pack ticket deals or something, shoot me an email and let me know! PLAY BALL!

23 February 2009

Carville & Matalin: Washington's Best-Loved Couple

As requested by A Fish Out of Water: Early last week (maybe even two weeks ago, I don't remember), Ryan called me with an offer I couldn't refuse: a chance to hear James Carville (CNN news analyst and Uber politico) and his wife Mary Matalin (FOX News analyst and Uber politico) speak at the Biltmore this past Thursday. Of course I said yes. (Thanks for buying the tickets, Ryan!) So I put on my nice new red dress shirt and my nice new red, white, and blue tie to match, and met Ryan at the Biltmore Fashion Park and we drove over to the Biltmore together. What I didn't know, and he didn't tell me, was that the event in question was the annual mega event for the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix. I think that Ryan and I may have actually been the only two non-Jews in the entire 1500-person population that went to the event. Kinda awkward. Anyway, after some introductions by the Foundation's chairman, and a recap of the previous year's events and those in the year-to-come, Carville and Matalin took the stage. Now, mind you, I haven't really listened to either of them intently before considering I usually have ABC15 local news, C-SPAN, or MSNBC on when I want to watch TV news. I'd rather hit up the internet news to pick out just the stories I'm interested in. But they were really funny! Mary Matalin went first, and gave a rundown of how it was sometimes awkward, sometimes frustrating, but always awesome to be married to someone on the polar opposite political spectrum from herself. Except on Israel - that's apparently their one issue point of agreement: a strong and sovereign Israel. Mary also talked about President Obama's cabinet picks and briefly touched on the need for support for the president, even though we may not support the president's policies right now (especially this stimulus plan). James Carville got up next and detailed some more of his thought's on Obama's first 30 days in office, made a few predictions about Israel, like that a peace treaty between Syria and Israel would be signed within 2 years. I don't know about that; I think it's a bit lofty to assume it, but hey, it's James Carville predicting it, so there must be some reasoning behind it. He discussed Bejamin Netanyahu in Israel and his formation of the Israeli government in the near future. Then there was a brief Q&A session of questions submitted by people who had attended a different function a week prior to the Carville/Matalin event, mostly all about Israel and issues of importance to persons of Jewish faith. After the event, Ryan and I snagged some dinner (the event had a nice little dessert plate for guests) and I went home. It was a good time, although, had I known the event was for Jewish Foundation members, I probably would have been expecting all the questions on Israel instead of hoping to hear them talk more about the stimulus and the economy. Sorry I took no pictures. My cell camera was useless in the big event hall, and my digital camera is currently not working.

22 February 2009

A Good Old-Fashioned Post

So, lately, I've been running around doing political things, going to events, and generally being busy. I figured this would be a good time to detail a fun time that DIDN'T involve dressing up in a suit or shaking hands with people I din't particularly like. Quick recap: Monday - stand in line for 6 hours or so to get Obama ticket, Tuesday - mostly nothing, Wednesday - Obama event, Thursday - James Carville and Mary Matalin event in Scottsdale, Friday - substitute teaching. So yeah, busy week. Fortunately, on Saturday, I pretty much just got to kick it old school with some, well, old school friends of the literal sense. I didn't have a car most of the day because my brother, who's not exactly my best buddy or anything, decided not to bring back the car my dad lent him Friday night until about 5pm. He was supposed to have it back by noon so I could get groceries and run errands and then go hang out with MY peeps. Either way, 5:00 comes and I took off for Scott's house, home of the World's Best Host/Hostess. Seriously, Scott and his wife, Abigail, are always more than willing to welcome friends and family into their home to chillax, play video games or board games, or for events (see: football games, Christmas, etc). For this, they deserve major high praise, because I honestly don't know anyone else who hosts people over just for the heck of it. Everyone else I know is all about meeting at someplace outside of the home and spending a bunch of money on dinner, entertainment, drinks, whatever. We ended up playing Apples to Apples, a game which I am apparently FAR to literal at. Seriously, an adjective/adverb like "Adventurous" comes up and it's a choice between "Edmund Hillary" and "Uzbekistan" - I always choose Sir Hillary. I dunno. I did get the card "Mysterious" and someone threw "Women" down to describe it, so of course I had to pick that one.... people know me far too well.... We also played Cranium and Scott and I kicked ass at it. I can spell, he can guess everything I act out (not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination, especially since I am usually cracking up halfway through whatever it is I'm doing), so we make a great team. The best part by far, though, was our friend Angela, who was on a team with her husband Matt, trying to get him to guess "Ed McMahon" by acting like the person without saying names or places. She went into verbal charades mode, first by getting Matt to guess "Eddie" from the hint "I was the actor who played in that one movie about the doctor who can talk to animals." When she got to McMahon, though, she somehow ended up having Matt guess "Eddie McMammoth," "...without the 'TH!'" Maybe you had to be there.... But trust me, it was hilarious! I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. Tonight, I'm headed back over there to play a little Rock Band (I am the kick-ass drummer for the "Three Llamas and an Orange" band), and possibly some Ghost Recon or something. See y'all soon!

18 February 2009

President Obama at Dobson High School

This morning, I attended President Barack Obama's speech at Dobson High School in Mesa, AZ along with roughly 1500 other people. The President used this speech to talk about the housing crisis facing America, specifically focusing on how his new stimulus package, which he signed into law yesterday, will work to promote healthy lending to fix the economy. When I arrived at Dobson, there was a line nearly as long as the one I stood in on Monday outside the school for people who had tickets to the event. I was near the end of the line, as I arrived a bit later than I'd hoped. Protesters from a variety of issue areas lined the sidewalks making it difficult to sort out who had a ticket and who was there to protest. I saw people from "Impeach Obama," "Stop Sheriff Joe Arpaio," anti-abortion activists, pro-religious activists from a variety of religions, and of course, the people with signs talking about lessening federal spending and cutting pork out of stimulus packages like this one. Eventually, the line got shorter and shorter and we left the protesters outside the secure area and had our tickets checked and passed through metal detectors. Secret Service members were everywhere, of course, and members of the Obama advance team, the Democratic Party of Arizona, and volunteers from what I can only assume were the ASU Young Democrats were also all over the place directing people into the building, in orderly lines, and taking signs and things that weren't allowed at the event. Once inside the gymnasium, we filled in the bleachers along the north wall - the only available seating left in the room. At least since Dobson has a pretty darn small gym (compared to my old one at Skyline HS, anyway) even from the very back we were able to see everything quite well. I picked out a few faces from the crowd - Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona; Terry Goddard, Arizona Attorney General; Congressman Raul Grijalva (CD-7); Congressman Harry Mitchell (CD-5); Congressman Ed Pastor (CD-4); Jim Pederson, 2006 challenger for Jon Kyl's Senate Seat; Rich Crandall, Republican legislator for LD19; Steve Irvin, ABC15 News evening anchor; Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation; and Randy Pullen, Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party. After a short wait, the Dobson High School choir sang a few songs for the crowd, and they did the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. About 15 minutes later, with the anticipation among the crowd almost palpable - cell phones and cameras held high above heads in the wait to snap a photo of the President - the person working the loudspeaker announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States." And, of course, the crowd went nuts, clapping and screaming their heads off as President Obama took the platform and called for everyone to sit. The President's speech was essentially what I expected, a run-down of how the housing crisis will be alleviated following four main points: 1. Allowing 4 to 5 million people who are currently "underwater" - owing more on their houses than the value of the property itself - to refinance their loans at lower rates. 2. Increasing the number of incentives to lenders who work with buyers to modify the terms of loans for people in at-risk-of-foreclosure situations. Essentially, this increases regulation over the banking industry to provide more "goodies" to subprime loan lenders who "play nice" with borrowers and renegotiate loan terms. Those lenders participating would be required to reduce loan payments to no more than 31% of a person's income. And, "there is a cost" for this - though President Obama never mentioned how much, instead saying that if we don't pay it now, we'll be paying much more in the future - in his view, now "it is a price well worth paying." 3. $200 billion will go toward ensuring that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be able to continue to "stabilize markets and hold mortgage rates down" while making sure that the process remains open to "transparency and strong oversight so that they do so in responsible ways." 4. Reforming bankruptcy rules to allow judges to order lower payments on people defaulting on loans as long as those people continue to stay in good standing with their banks. 5. In addition to those four, $2 billion will go toward competitive grants for communities who come up with innovative ways to prevent foreclosures. Possibly the best and most honest part of the speech was when President Obama talked about the need for personal responsibility when dealing with fixing the economy. He said, "So solving this crisis will require more than resources – it will require all of us to take responsibility. Government must take responsibility for setting rules of the road that are fair and fairly enforced. Banks and lenders must be held accountable for ending the practices that got us into this crisis in the first place. Individuals must take responsibility for their own actions. And all of us must learn to live within our means again." And he's absolutely right. For as much as I don't like the direction he is taking the government's stake in the economy, government does have the obligation to set rules that are fairly enforced upon all citizens of the United States. Banks need to take responsibility and not provide loans to people who obviously cannot repay them. And individuals need to step up and not sign for loans or buy properties they cannot afford in the first place. I must say that I am impressed with how good a speaker President Obama is. He is articulate, and he absolutely connected with the audience in the room in terms that even the high school students who got tickets could understand. The audience, as a counterpart, received the President well - it was actually a lot more subdued than any Republican event I've been to, which was kind of eerily strange. When the President had finished speaking, he left the podium, shaking hands with those in the front of the room along the cordon as he went. Meanwhile, I stood at my seat in the bleachers. You see, there was only one exit from the room for the listeners, including all the Congressmen and other titled guests, and my seat was pretty much right there. So while everyone left, I got to shake a few hands with people like Rich Crandall, Randy Pullen, and some of the Democratic leaders. Overall, I enjoyed the event. It was fun to be at a presidential speech here in Mesa, even if the key component of the speech was a healthy dose of liberal socialism and big government. I hope I get this type of opportunity again, perhaps next time with a Republican leader instead of a Democratic one so I can really get excited about what he has to say!

17 February 2009

It's Like the Bottom of the Ninth and I'm Never Gonna Win

If you know what song the title line comes from, you'll understand why I chose it for this post in a second. If not, well, listen to the radio more often, would you? Yesterday, I got up at about 5:00am in order to drive to Dobson High School in Mesa to stand in line to get a ticket to see the President Barack Obama speak there on Wednesday (tomorrow). --------------------------------- Interjection for rant on intolerance: Now, I know what you're thinking: why on Earth did a former College Republican, member of Arizona Victory 2006 for the AZGOP, Republican congressional intern, and PR assistant for four 2008 GOP campaigns go stand in a line with a bunch of Democrats to hear a Democratic president speak about his bloated government spending bill at a Mesa high school at 5 in the morning? My answer is threefold: 1. How often do you get the chance to see the President of the United States speak in your hometown (unless you live in the DC area, I suppose)? Democrat, Republican, whatever - I respect the Office of the President and the person who is in that job, even though I may disagree with some or most of his policies. If you're not secure enough in your beliefs to understand that, then I feel sorry for you as a Republican or Democrat or other party member, and I hope you take some time to reflect on what you're insecure about. 2. The President will be discussing the stimulus bill which recently passed Congress and about the housing crisis. Since this bill WILL be signed into law in a matter of hours, isn't it just a little bit important to hear how he plans to implement the policies in the bill? Isn't it important to hear how this bill will impact the next four years, at least, of our government? If for no other reason than it will showcase what flaws there are in the plan and where improvements can and should be made? 3. As a political science major in college, one of the most important things I was taught was to be impartial in analyzing data - legislation, research, etc. How can I be impartial in critiquing the stimulus bill if I don't know how the President plans to use it to stimulate the economy? Now, a lot of people I know have fallen into three categories of criticism for my wanting to go to the speech: people like former or current College Republicans who are "surprised" I'd go to the speech, Republican friends of mine who jokingly (at least I hope so) call me a traitor to my party and my ideology, and Democrats who think it's cool I am open-minded (and who also joke that I'm coming over to the dark side). I don't understand the people in the first group who find it surprising I'd do something like this - I'm interested in politics. Both sides. The world isn't black and white, Dem or GOP, yes or no. To fight something you first have to understand it. I feel sorry for the people who don't even try. End of interjection. ------------------------------------ Anyway, I got up at 5am and drove out to the high school with a big, thick coat (it was cold), a camp chair (4 hours sitting on the ground didn't appeal to me), and a book to read when the sun came up. I was a good quarter mile away from the administration doors, where the tickets were being handed out standing in line with a woman (who'd pretty much rolled out of bed like me and had also brought reading material, a chair, and a blanket), a Hawaiian gentleman with dreadlocks, and a couple of Dobson High students. For the first couple hours until around 7:30am, it was really, really cold, and we all were just there shivering and making small talk. The atmosphere was much like any line I've stood in to get a ticket to a GOP event - most people were talking about anything BUT politics, a few were remarking on why the opposite party was less than their favorite, and everyone was smiling and excited at the prospect of getting in the door. Around 8am, some people from the front of the line came back to tell us that they had taken it upon themselves to ensure order and had given numbers to the first 535 people in line (I remember the number because it's the number of people in the House and Senate combined). They also said that considering there were only 400 tickets available, anyone over #500 should probably just leave because we were wasting our time. In fact, that's probably the reason I got one of those tickets, because so many people in front of me left! There were in actuality about 600 tickets handed out, and I was number 575. They opened the gates and began letting people enter about 9:30am, and the line moved slowly and steadily as 20 people at a time were let through. At this point, we didn't know how many tickets there were, so we were on the bubble waiting to see if we would be able to make it. As time went by, rumors from the front of the line were that there were actually about 600 tickets available to the people in line, and my group began to get excited, because our counts had put us at about #570, just inside the margin. Finally, at about 11:30am, we were at the front of the line and were waiting our turn to enter when they stopped to count exactly how many tickets were left. The guy counting people came out and said "If I point at you, you're going in." I was one of those last few people, had to sign for my ticket, and came out to see a bunch of people still mobbing the security officers there trying to plead their way into a ticket and getting interviewed by the press about how it felt to be turned away. I confess myself a bit worried about making it back to my car without incident, seeing as how obsessive people are about President Obama. There were a couple times there I thought I might get mugged for my ticket. But nothing happened. After that, I went home, called a friend of mine who really wished he could have gotten a ticket, got criticized by every member of the GOP in Arizona it seems, got some support from a fellow Republican NOT in Arizona, and went and played Rock Band with Scott, Travis, Abigail, and Kim until about 9:30pm. I will post how the event went tomorrow with any pictures I am able to take.

11 February 2009

Let's Fix the Economy

The stimulus package is poised to pass, after the Senate and House passed their versions and key lawmakers have said that they've now reconciled the differences between their bills in conference committee. The final bill going to President Obama will be in the range of $796 billion. I understand the need to stimulate the economy, and unlike my hardcore GOP friends believe, I don't think it's all about tax cuts and no spending. Here's how I would spend some taxpayer monies to help reinvigorate the economy: 1. Pay off state budget deficits. I mean, money going back to individual states is what this is all about anyway, so why not specifically use the federal money to wipe out the state deficits and put state budgets back at even or a little ahead? I know that here in Arizona, we have a $1.9 billion deficit (as of 11/13/2008), amounting to .002% of the Obama federal stimulus package. The sum of all state budget deficits as of that same date was $49,232,000,000 - amounting to 6.18% of the Obama package. It makes me wonder where the heck the money is going, if not to states - we could pay off EVERY SINGLE STATE DEFICIT 16 TIMES and still have a few bucks left over with Obama's package! 2. After we've paid off the state budget deficits, the federal government should forgive or make tax deductable all student loan debts for post-graduation students. If you've gotten a degree, are out of school, and are paying student loans, that money should be forgiven so that the workforce can start spending that money on "stuff" to stimlate the economy. I know I'd like to save my money to buy a car instead of paying $180 per month paying off my loans! (In fact, I probably COULD buy a car if I had $180 per month more for that purpose! I promise to buy American....!) Then because people will be buying more goods, there will be a need for more production, and badda-bing, badda-boom, more workers will need to be hired. Job revitalization! Then, start using the rest of our tax money (I'm assuming that we've used up about 1/3 to 1/2 of Obama's package by this time) to pay down the national debt and buy back our debt from overseas in China, India, and elsewhere. We have a $1 trillion debt right now, and paying off debt to the tune of about $400 billion will be really good for America. Hell, pay off the debt by $200 billion and give us back $200 billion in cash stimulus money! At 400,000,000 people in America, that's $500 per person (though it would probably be higher, as not everyone would qualify for it, and my numbers don't take into account children). I could use that to buy a nice American-made TV....! I dunno, maybe I'm crazy and spending $796 billion without really telling taxpayers where it's going (cough... CEO bonuses and private jets... cough) is really the right answer (gotta love government transparency), but I doubt it.

10 February 2009

Missing You.... I Am Missing You

Time for another post that is probably meaningless to everyone but me, but I felt the creative juices start to flow to the writing center of my brain, so here goes. The title of this post says it all: I am missing Flagstaff pretty bad. Everyone up there today got a snow day as the campus shut down for the 13" of snow they got with more expected to fall within the week. Meanwhile, Mesa got a little cold (though I'm currently wearing shorts, so what does that tell you? Either I'm crazy or "cold" is purely relative) and a little wet (.80" of rain). I'd much rather be having snowball fights with the Mountain View RA staff and the Greeks, trekking to the Union for a hot sandwich and soup, and trying mightily not to slip on the ice on my way to visit people in Taylor Hall. Ah, memories. Also, I'm dreading the inevitable warm-up period Phoenix is going to experience in just a few short weeks, as we go from the current highs in the 60's to unbearable Mercury-busting heat waves in the 80's, 90's, 100's and eventually in 5 months, 110's-120's. I'm talking the-seat-belt-will-give-you-third-degree-burns-LITERALLY hot! Bright spot: the beginning of spring training for baseball is in just a couple days. I have a ticket (yes, just a lone ticket) to the DBacks-Cubs game at Hohokam Park right off first base, 5 rows up. That ought to be awesome! The regular season begins with the DBacks-Rockies series on April 6th, and I am going to try to save up a few dollars to go to that game as well, if, of course my dream doesn't happen to become reality where I would be WORKING at Chase Field then!

08 February 2009

The Gilbert Riparian Preserve

Sarah near a GINORMOUS palm tree!
Yesterday, as part of my get-out-more program and geocaching agenda, I decided to visit Gilbert, Arizona and geocache there for the day. After a good mile-long hike around one of the communities there, my sister and I grabbed a quick lunch before getting to the real focal point of the day, the Gilbert Riparian Preserve located at Greenfield and Guadalupe. This nature preserve is a natural wetland area, with lakes, ponds, a bird walk, and plenty of desrt plantlife. They even have an observatory there, which sometime I will have to go back and check out more thoroughly.
It was a nice place to visit for the day, and Sarah and I collected 23 geocaches in our hike, which was somewhere around 4 miles in total. About half of those were in the Preserve itself. Thank goodness it was such nice weather, too, which made all the difference. A few degrees hotter and I think I would have cut the day shorter.

04 February 2009

The Greatest Job in the World

Today, I found the greatest entry-level job in the entire world, and I applied for it. The position is that of "Stats Stringer" for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Essentially, the job is to score the game using baseball scoring software, then validate all the stats after the game against the Official Scorer's scoresheets, and prepare the final box score and game text for the PR staff. I mean, holy cow, if there was ever a job built for me, specifically, this one would be it. I wrote a nice cover letter, send out my resume, and I am REALLY praying that MLB calls me back for an interview, because this would honestly be my dream job for getting started in the working world!

02 February 2009

The Wind Caves

Last week, I decided it was time to try to hike up Pass Mountain in the Usury Park Recreation Area (UPRA) up in northeast Mesa. I planned it for Saturday morning, and asked Scott if he wanted to join. To my enjoyment, and with a minor amount of coaxing, he agreed.
Now, for those of you who know not why this mountain is interesting, let me provide some background. Pass Mountain is the largest mountain in the UPRA and has a great trail complex - something like 15 different trails ranging from less than one mile to Pass Mountain Trail, a 7.2-mile trek around the mountain itself. Nearby, also on the same land, is the Usury Park Shooting Range for gun enthusiasts, a large campground area, and an archery range. The only trail that goes UP Pass Mountain is the "Wind Cave Trail" - so named for it's destination, the Wind Caves, which are Anasazi-like structures carved out of the mountain's sedimentary-rock midsection by the wind. The caves are roughly 2800 feet elevation, and the trailhead is 1.5-miles long originating at about 1200 feet elevation. That's a nice steep climb. If one chooses, there is an additional summit trail from the Wind Caves to the top of the mountain, another 400 feet elevation or so. In addition to all of this, there are two geocaches on the trail - one about halfway up, and the other on the very summit of the mountain.
We began our journey about 9am when I picked Scott up at his place. We went to Bashas to get some lunch supplies - sandwiches, chicken, fruit, that sort of thing - and then to Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and breakfast. We reached the mountain at about 10am, paid our $6 park entrance fee, parked the car, grabbed our backpacks, and got ready to go. I made sure to bring a light jacket just in case it was colder at the top (it wasn't), my GPS, and LOTS of water. Before the hike:
Once we got started, we found out how well we were going to be able to take the climb (not being in much shape to begin with, both of us were forced to take frequent rest/water breaks). The 1.5-mile hike up the mountain ended up taking about 4 hours to get to the Wind Caves, but it was worth it! Scott on a break:Andrew on a break:Finally, though, we reached the caves. The view from the top is spectacular. To the north, Fountain Hills' fountain can be seen every hour on the hour spraying up into the air. That fountain used to be the world's largest, back several years ago. Every St. Patrick's Day, they dye the water jet emerald green. I grew up in Fountain Hills, and that's still one of my favorite memories! I may go back this year for that party! To the west, just below the mountain is a set of smaller mountains, including the one that says "PHOENIX" in white lettering on the side, which used to be a navigation tool for airplanes a long time ago. I'm not sure if it actually was, but that's the legend. To the south, the caves, and to the east, the rest of the mountain. In the picture below, Scott and I stopped here to have lunch in the outcropping on the left. On the right, in the valley below, is the area surrounding Ellsworth Rd. and McKellips Rd. in Mesa.We made it to the caves!: After lunch, at around 1:30pm or so, we decided to try for the geocache on the top of the mountain. This involves going on a rough and rather dangerous "trail" out past the caves. It is marked solely by faded spray-painted arrows on the sides of the boulders up there, and we lost the trail at least twice. Once, I even made the error of thinking we needed to climb straight up the face of a sheer rock wall when in fact, we had just not seen the arrows. But eventually, we did find our prize, about 30 feet off the "trail" and over some rocks. The view from the top was AMAZING. The valley floor stretched out to the west of us (and on a clear day like Saturday, we could see out past downtown Phoenix), and the empty desert of the Goldfield Mountain Range and the Superstition Mountain Range to the east of us. The contrast between the developed west side and the natural east side created quite the juxtaposition! This picture is of me with the geocache, aptly named "King Usury's Treasure":But, hey, all good things must come to an end. The sun was beginning to sink in the sky, and we still had a long way back to the car with our water supplies running a little low. On the way down, I stopped to pick up the second cache on the mountain, which required a bit of technical manuvering on my part over some VERY loose gravel. But hey, I only slipped and cut up my hands and wrists twice! No snakes or scorpions, though, so that was good! The trek down the mountain was about an hour long, as opposed to the four-hour upward hike and the extra hour on the summit trail. By the end, exhaustion had set in, our muscles were achy, and I wanted three things: water, shower, and sleep, in that order. The "after" photo:Overall, it was a fantastic hike. Scott was a great motivator, despite the fact that he nearly fell off the mountain, saved only by my mad shirt-grabbing skillz (yo), and he had to put up with my banter the whole day (ask my parents, they'll tell you THAT ain't easy!). My plan is to do something of this nature every weekend - maybe not a 3-mile hike up a mountain, but something! Next time, y'all should consider coming along if you're in the area!