Best Fishing Items

According to the American Angler, some of the best fishing items available this year include the hoppers used for fly fishing and the latest fly rods released in 2011 or sooner.

These two categories of merchandise along can keep fishing enthusiasts shopping for hours. Then, add trying to find the right tackles to the mix, and it could take an entire day to select the right gear.

Recommended Best Fishing Items

The matter of choosing the right equipment is somewhat subjective and somewhat based on fact. You can create your own experience by mixing and matching what you need to reel in the right catch.

Here are some choices based on category of equipment needed:

Best Fishing ItemsFly rods – The L.L. Bean Water Fly Rod has gained in popularity since 2011. It comes in a few different sizes ranging from 3wt. to 5wt, and it’s also offered in a few different lengths ranging from 6 feet 6 inches to 7 feet 10 inches. It’s ideal for use in small streams and for casting a distance of 40 feet or less.

Hoppers – One of the newest, best-selling grasshopper baits today for fly fishing is the Ed Schroeder’s Parachute Hopper. It offers an interesting combination of striped body and tossil-style head. The hook recommended for this specific hopper is the Tiemco 5212, sizes 8 through 14. The thread normally used for this piece of equipment is the Cream 6/0.

Reels – The Nautilus Envy Spey Reel first introduced in 2011 at the International Fly Tackle Dealer in New Orleans, Louisiana became popular in 2012. It is ideal for use with very thin running lines and two different models were available at this time: Spey 400 to 550 grain heads and Spey 550 to 750 grain heads. They hold 150 yards of backing with maximum line weight and offer a 30-pound backing.

Flies – The number one choice in 2011 was the Albie Popper. The tail is made of tan and white craft fur and the thread used is clear monofilament. The body is created with foam and covered with EZ Body tubing. Users have a choice between small or medium adhesive eyes.

This is only a small sample of items available the past few years. Not all these examples of best fishing items will suit every situation. You might need an entirely different kind of rod or real as described above, for instance.

If you are an avid fishing activist, you need to find out what will work best for you. The American Angler provides all outdoorsy persons with the best information for hobbyists and professionals.

Finding the best Shooting Glasses

Shooting GlassesWhen you want to perfect your ability to hunt, you need to have all the right training and equipment on your side. One of the best things you can do is invest in some training classes at the local gun range. They can teach you some great skills on how to perfect your shooting abilities. The other thing you need to do is take a look at what is hampering your shooting skills. Are you having a hard time seeing when you are out in the field? If so, you need to invest in a quality pair of shooting glasses. Here are some tips to help you find the best shooting glasses:

Prescription option. If you have to wear prescription glasses, you need to get yourself a nice pair of prescription shooting glasses. This will allow you to properly see when you are out shooting. You can find a great pair here,

UV protection. When you are searching for a good pair, always look at the UV rating. You need to make sure you are getting adequate protection from the sun. The harsh rays can cause problems with your ability to see. Over the years you might even struggle to see properly as years of squinting in the sun have hurt your vision. The protection is great for your eyes and the skin around your eyes.

Protection. One of the most important things to look for is a pair of glasses that will give you the right protection. Tree bark, bullet shells, and many other things can easily ricochet and hit you right in the eye. If you do not have glasses that allow you to maintain the right level of protection, you could end up seriously injured.
Frame. Wearing safety glasses for a long time might cause you to have a headache. It is a good idea to plan on trying out a variety of styles so you can find a frame that fits your face well. You do not want the frame to be too heavy as it will cause your ears and nose to ache under the weight.

Lens color. You should plan on buying a few different colors when looking at the right shooting glasses. Bright colors can help you see better as it gets into the evening hours. There are various tints that can help out during the day to give you better visual control. Having several pairs is a great way to protect your eyes and to make sure you are able to maintain your high level of visual control and accuracy.

You can choose from custom made shooting glasses to the standard options in most stores. It is smart to try out both styles so you can find a pair that really fits your face properly and gives you the visual control you need to be an excellent shooter.

3 Essential Camping Accessories

campingIf you consider yourself an outdoors kind of person than there is most likely nothing that you would appreciate more than a simple innovation that makes your outdoor experience even the smallest bit easier. Keeping yourself in touch with a home base, getting around in the dark, and finding a sanitary way of answering nature’s call are three good examples of necessary tasks when camping that are made easy by simple and cheap camping products. For these particular camping quandaries, the best products available would be:

  1. A foldable solar panel
  2. A ten day lantern
  3. A folding stainless steel hand shovel

Safety has to be of the upmost importance when considering what you need to pack along with you. With that in mind you need to make sure that you have a dependable means of communication with home. It is not worth the potential risk of losing that connection on the off chance that you need to reach someone who can give you medical aid. To avoid this it would be very wise to equip yourself with a foldable solar panel. This allows you to keep your phone totally charged and at the ready for any situation that might require you to get in contact with someone who is not on the camping trip with you.

A ten day lantern only makes practical sense. If you are planning on a camping trip then there is no doubt that you have already planned on bringing with you some source of artificial light, a flashlight, or maybe even some other lesser lantern. These options are fine, but should be reconsidered with the idea of a ten day lantern in mind. Sure, you can get by with a flashlight or something similar, but why choose a flashlight that will need battery replacement after the first few days? Having a lantern that lasts ten days allows you to forget about packing more than one set of extra batteries, and makes your night time visibility one less thing to worry about.

Finally, keeping yourself clean while you answer nature’s call should never have to be something that is a gamble. Keeping a foldable stainless steel shovel does three things for you while on a camping trip: 1) it helps your personal business go a little smoother, 2) it cuts down on space being used in your backpack, and 3) it is the lightest of the options and reduces the weight of your backpack. With these three things all playing their part there is little reason not to consider the small expense of one of these incredibly handy shovels for the next time you find yourself out in the wild.

These three products can improve any campers experience and can also allow for some unexpected luxuries along the trek.

I Am A Big Fan Of Road Trips

This is a guest post from Regina Atwood- her twitter feed is @lovepeacecanoe

I am a big fan of road trips. When one of my best girlfriends agreed to my crazy plan of five days of camping, hiking, and driving through AZ. I was downright ecstatic.


Coming fresh off a pharmacy conference in Las Vegas, Amanda flew into Phoenix Airport where I picked her up. We began our road trip by frantically repacking the car and heading to Flagstaff for the night.  We woke up the next morning and headed to the Grand Canyon by way of Cameron, AZ on the Navajo Indian Reservation.

If you have never driven this route to the Grand Canyon or you are deciding which route to take, drive this stretch. It introduces you to a plethora of western scenery. The pinkish blue cliffs in the distance, set behind red rock and soil of the desert make you realize why this land is both destitute and breath taking. Approaching Cameron and beyond, you will see road side stands selling everything from jerky, to jewelry, to Navajo Tacos. I say the only thing worth stopping for is the Taco.

Amanda and I stopped for lunch at a roadside stand gas station-adjacent. I asked the older Navajo woman what consisted of a “Navajo Taco”. The base is a plate size round disc of fried bread, the topping consists of ground beef, pinto beans, lettuce, diced tomatoes and cheese. We sat down and ate this feast on the side of a cold windy road, near the intersection of Rt. 89 and Rt. 64. After finishing off, pretty much the best food ever, we turned on Rt. 64 to finish up the last leg of our drive to the Grand Canyon.

On this stretch you will see more roadside stands and more beautiful scenery. There is a small canyon on a dirt turn off which you will see signs for. Stop and walk around, its a really nice place to stretch your legs.


We approached the GCNP at Desert View, you have to drive about 25 miles to reach Grand Canyon Village from this entrance but again the views are much better then taking Rt. 64 through Williams. Grab a map of the park at any desk/lodge/store in the whole village or the grocery store. The map also gives you a schedule of park activities and a shuttle schedule. TAKE THE SHUTTLE, it’s awesome, runs every 15 min or fewer.

Really the park is a lot of fun. Camping in Mather Campground gives you cheap lodging you bring the tent! After bunking in our Big Agnes Emerald Mountain 3P, we had sunrise coffee at El Tovar Lodge, and moseyed on to the shuttle to hike the South Kaibab Trail. You have to take a shuttle to this trailhead but the 2.7 miles offers a moderate hike and big pay off in terms of scenery. You have a good chance of seeing a line of mules bringing up/down supplies from Phantom Ranch, and friendly fellow hikers who are willing to take your picture at “Ohh Ahh” point.

Let’s skip the rest of this excursion and move on to Sedona, AZ….Oh Sedona, vortexes abound and so do weird people who want to tell you about them.


In any case we two punch drunk 20 something women drove through Flagstaff, veered right and took 89A, the scenic route, through Oak Creek Canyon. Make sure you have good breaks because although beautiful, this road twists and turns through a gorgeous canyon, dumping you out, tossed and awed into downtown touristy Sedona. We camped at Manzanita Campground, also ridiculously cheap. Prior reservations are necessary. The campground sits right beside Oak Creek, nearly every site is water side and very clean.


We had girly-margarita time at Oaxaca Restaurant on Main Street. They have a balcony with a great view, killer margaritas and insanely delicious nachos. The shops in this part of town offer aura readers, all sorts of crystals and some pretty awesome jewelry. You can have a girly shop-gasm for hours and buy absolutely nothing.


We returned to our campsite, started a raging fire and laughed about college, talked about our relationships, families and ate marshmallows and deserts shared with us from our neighboring tent sites.


Although I have spent probably hundreds of nights outside this was Amanda’s first camping trip. So far we had eaten till we popped, slept in freezing temps and almost peed ourselves laughing driving from town to town. But I diverge.


The next day we woke up, made some pretty awesome pancake fruity scramble, and set off to try and find a vortex. After stopping at the The Hike House we decided to hike West Fork Canyon. This hike boasts plenty of stream crossings, beautiful scenery, and ruins of house/barn/ some sort of hotel or something. It’s cool and creepy at the same time. The hike is 6 truly mild miles out and back, we finished around sunset, having decided to go back to Phoenix, and started the drive back to the city.

After spending the evening with my two wild dogs and fiancé, Amanda and I took much-needed showers and ate much-needed hot non-freeze dried food. The next day we set off to Tonto National Monument, a Native American ruin monument with paid guided tours (3$/person reserve in advance) and near total access to archeological sites. These ruins are located near Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, Saguaro Lake, the Snake River, and the Apache Trail, a 25-mile dirt road that will make your car cry.


The ruins at Tonto National Monument are very cool. There are both upper and lower ruins. The lower being a large dwelling you can see from the parking lot. A Park Ranger takes you on a guided tour to the upper dwellings where they stop often and tell you about flora, fauna and history. Much of the hike is sun exposed. My fiancé, Amanda and I had a great time walking among the ruins and taking pictures. My fiancé Brad is over 6’5”, I am 6’1”, we estimate average height of the Native Americans who built this site to be 5’5”…we bonked our heads more then a few times.


Visitors have near total access to the site, where you can still find, over 800 yr old, pottery fragments, cotton string, and roasted corn cobs. Now vultures use the site to roost and safely raise their young, who leave rodent bones everywhere. It’s pretty awesome. If that sort of stuff doesn’t gross you out.  We left the site to head back to Phoenix and decided to take a “short cut”.


You can access Tonto National Monument from multiple directions, you can go through Tonto Basin or you can take the Apache Trail through Apache Junction and cut mileage, but not time, off your trip. I suggest doing both which offer completely different scenery.


The Apache Trail is nearly all dirt, rocky, and not well maintained: You have been warned. You do have a chance to see beautiful water views, tarantulas, and towering saguaro so really it’s worth it. This also offers you access to Apache Lake, and gorgeous, cheap campsites.

When my fiancé and I moved to Phoenix we did this road in our 2005 Scion XA, our “jelly-bean” as we called it. Before we did the road again we had purchased a 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander, a much better car to explore this road on. It took us well over an hour to complete the road and hit Apache Junction. Leave yourself plenty of time, especially if you don’t have experience driving this type of road. We landed in Phoenix and the next day Amanda left to return to our home state of Maryland.


I’m sure you can surmise how our trip went emotionally, you’ve seen the movies, read the books. We weren’t going to go all “Into the Wild” or “On The Road” but we certainly had fun, and were able to shed a bit of the pressures of home for a few days. Arizona can be both lush and desiccated within minutes walking distance; you have to lose yourself for even a few moments to truly appreciate this landscape.


In our few day excursions we were snowed on in Flagstaff, experienced icy cold in the Grand Canyon, had warmer days in Sedona, and got a tan in Tonto National Forest. Two girls conquered a chunk of the Wild West and ate tons of marshmallows doing it.






Cool Camping Accessories

campingAnyone who wants to venture into the great unknown should only do so when they’re properly prepared. In this day and age, we worry about things like phone solar charger and other high tech supplies that would have been unheard of in previous eras. Too many people go into the wilderness without the right supplies or information. They end up lost or worse. You have the option to choose your fate and prepare for the trip you want to have. You don’t necessarily have to pull out all the stops as long as you make sure to pack the essentials. Don’t think that you can get away with packing just enough to last the duration of your day. Pack as much as you can carry. You never know if you will end up lost in the wilderness with no way to return home. Out of all the supplies you can pack, food and water are the ones you need to pack a lot of. Water is more important than anything, especially if you’re heading into an area where the temperatures get high. Dehydration is one of the main causes of people veering off the beaten path never to be seen again.

There comes a time when you need to stop trying to get the best high tech camping accessories and start stripping down your current repertoire to get back to basics. You don’t want to bring everything including the kitchen sink on your camping trip. It would defeat the purpose of going camping in the first place. That doesn’t mean you should avoid packing the stuff that makes you feel the most comfortable though. At some point, you need to consider going out into the wilderness with nothing more than food, clothes on your back, and a tent to sleep in. It’s camping in its purest form. If you have everything you have at home while you’re on a camping trip, you should just stay at home. You should go to a sporting goods store and ask the people who work there about what would work best for your particular trip. You will be surprised at the differing suggestions they will produce for you in the blink of an eye. When you’re buying stuff based on advice experts give you, it’s more likely that you will have the best camping trip possible. It will cost you extra to get the good stuff, but it’s worth it when you consider the benefits you will get from these purchases.

Camping can be fun. It’s good to get away from it all with people with whom you enjoy spending time. You need to do so only when you have all the right supplies to make your trip a success. The two most important things you need to pack are water and food. Disasters can happen when your group runs out of food, but things will get much worse for you if your water supply runs out. Everything else falls into the category of mere conveniences and could easily be left at home.

Personal Grooming and the Great Outdoors

teeth-brushingGetting outdoors, whether for a weekend or a week, is both fun and relaxing. It gives you time to relax, unwind and reflect on your life. With today’s modern conveniences camping is definitely not what it used to be. Now a weekend in the woods is typically spent in an air conditioned RV with the modern luxuries you are accustomed to. However, for those who truly like to get out there and “rough it” for the ultimate camping experience you may have a few concerns about personal grooming. No matter how much you desire to commune with nature, your camping companions do not want to be around someone who smells and looks as though they have lived in the woods for a week. Therefore use these tips to ensure that you are well groomed while spending time in the great outdoors.

If you wish you can by camping kits that come with specially designed items for personal grooming while camping. They are designed to be small, lightweight and easy to carry. Most kits will include small bottles for soap, shampoo, etc., a travel toothbrush, razors and a small case. When in the woods these kits are great for ensuring that you look and smell decent.

It is advised to camp near a fresh source of water. Whether this be a lake, stream or man-made outlet is up to you. This will be the perfect place to “handle your grooming business.” Bathing is obvious, dive in with your supplies and freshen up. It is not advised to brush your teeth in these sources of water, however. Instead, use a bottle of water you have brought with you to rinse your mouth and brush once you have cleaned your teeth.

If you have to shave while camping you need to bring along a small mirror of some sort for men, and women can simply do this while bathing. Be careful to store your razor so that it does not cut you when you reach for it again. Dry skin can easily occur when you are out in nature and when you are shaving it is common to have dry skin after. To prevent this you need to pack the best after shave balm so you do not end up with scratches and dry skin.

There are many grooming products that are specifically designed for those who are interested in spending time in the great outdoors. By using these custom tools you can feel fresh, clean and smell great no matter how long you choose to stay. These camping essentials are also offered at affordable prices to ensure that no matter your budget you will have the grooming necessities needed. These grooming tools for camping can be purchased at most outdoors stores with the other camping equipment.

Improving your Shooting

banner_gander_shooting_academyAll right all you card carrying members of the Nation Rifle Association and also all newcomers to the scene. You’ve got your guns and you learned how to safely handle them both in storage and in practice. Now comes time when you must ask yourself one simple question, “Am I any good with this thing?”

Chances are the answer is no. Sorry boys, you don’t just become an ace shooter by watching the latest Mark Wahlberg film or playing video games. Actual gun targeting skills require a different magic pill to emerge – practice. Yep, and after that, more practice and then even more practice. Then, after that, comes…well, you probably figure that out by now. Let’s just say the pattern repeats.

Really, there isn’t much more of a secret to the process. Oh sure, you’ve got to learn a few basics like how to use the site on your weapon, how to hold it properly to reduce kickback and jarring on your aim, and others. But each of those is merely a rule or collection of words until your body and mind work together to accomplish the fine art of firing precisely.

Whether you enjoy using LWRC Rifles or a simple glock handgun, you’ll find the principle is always true – practice makes perfect. While this phrase is normally reserved for musicians, you have to stop and think – isn’t the human body really just one big complex instrument and the brain is the musician? Without the proper time and effort, your mind will never learn to master the reflexes and timings necessary to be a master marksman.

One of the best moves you can make to become a pro at shooting is to haul yourself down to the local shooting range. Those places are designed with one thing in mind – repeated and refined practice. Taking time in one of their booths in like spending weeks out on your own. You are given a target, protective gear and the ability to continuously shoot while remaining in a nearly unmoved position. This gives you the opportunity to experiment in small changes and alterations to your stance, sights and grip. As time goes by you’ll settle into your natural grove and produce shots like the pros.

An important thing to remember at all times is that learning to shoot isn’t like what happens in movies and television where the hero picks up his weapon for the first time and, almost like magic, knows exactly what to do and mysteriously has the skills to do it. Your weapon is a contained explosion that projects bullets hundreds of feet away and allows them to penetrate hard and soft objects alike. Unless you are superman or something, you’ll be feeling the effects of kickback and exhaustion throughout the course. Be ready for it and be calm about it. As you keep up your efforts, the end result will be a steady aim and an ability to hold your own.

Winter activities in Jackson Hole

jackson holeWelcome to beautiful Wyoming and the fantastic scenery of Jackson Hole. You’ve come for the fun and excitement offered here for all winter time enthusiasts.

Just think of all the fun you’ll have on the thousands of acres of skiable area surrounding the Jackson Hole hotels and resorts. You’ll find nearly 400 acres right next to the town of Jackson and over 4000 acres just 12 miles away at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. That includes a large sway of in bounds and back country area. Plenty of lifts are also there to get you up where you belong – on the slopes!

Fine dining and carousing await any traveler in the town bars and saloons. Prepare yourself for a night of line dancing, drinking, social highlights and more as you wind your way through these numerous, and reputable, locations. You’ll never want for things to do while in town or on the mountainsides. Also, if you are feeling a little lazier than the average skier, than consider taking a break and enjoying a slow morning with a cup of hot cocoa or a comfortable evening sleigh ride snuggled up with a partner. You’ll discover that there is no end to the fun and life-enhancing experiences found in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Then you stop and think: sometimes, despite it being a vacation from life, we’ve brought the children along for the ride. Worst off, you dragged then with you, but forgot to make a few destination stops for them. Have no fear because Jackson Hole is packed with excitement for them too. Consider the following options of things to do with the little bambinos while in the area.

Stop by the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum. It contains plenty of interesting fun for the kids. Until the end of December they feature a river exhibit which is comprised of a large tank filled with the local aquatic life. You’ll even see the rare blue cutthroat trout that is indigenous to the area. During the winter months the museum sports a Snow Patrol exhibit with hands on fun like the drivable snowplow, mock pro-skiing, and a model of ski resorts. There’s even a club house with cooking and other activities on Saturdays.

Like the adults, of course, the children are welcome to join in the skiing and other winter sport fun. With milder slopes available for beginners and more advanced slopes for the experienced downhill runners, the kids can be safely entertained, and get exercise, right nearby. They can ice skate in the local rinks, snowshoe along the winter trails and creeks, go snow tubing, and take a sleigh ride through the elk herds.

Naturally after all that fun, they like yourself will be hankering for some grub. Luckily with the resorts, Jackson Hole hotels, and local diners, your crew will be maintained and more through top notch local cuisine and good old fashioned American grilling (yep, we mean hamburgers ’cause what kid wants a fancy meal?). These family friendly dining locals will make sure you are fed and content every day.

Tips for Improving your Firearms Skills

Shooting firearms isn’t something you should take lightly, whether they’re a small gun like a pistol or an assault weapon like a tactical carbine. The requirements for licensing and safety training are different for each state, but your approach to the situation should remain the safe regardless of what your state wants you to do. You need to go through rigorous safety training and practice until you can determine that you will hit your prospective targets with the utmost certainty. Firearms give you no room for error, so the preparation you put into your time using them will decrease the amount of mistakes you could potentially make. It’s important to remember that you cannot eliminate all mistakes from your repertoire. All you have to do is rely on your training to determine each maneuver you will make with firearms. When something goes wrong, you should not feel guilty as long as you did everything you could to use your weapon in the safest fashion possible. Guns are only a problem when people use them improperly or for malicious purposes. If you fall into neither category, you have nothing to worry about. Improving your firearm skills is a matter of your motivation and the technique you use.

shooting-rangeYour success in using firearms depends on the credentials of the person who is doing the training. It’s ideal to have a more experienced instructor help you throughout the process, but sometimes they’re not as easy to find. You have to take it upon yourself to learn how to shoot your firearm accurately and operate it safely. If you’re interested in taking your gun hunting, you have to practice shooting over and over to make sure you can hit a target when the time comes. A lot of preventable accidents occur during hunting season. Hunters become too overconfident in their shooting abilities and fail to realize the differences between firing a gun on the range and taking down a deer in the middle of the forest. The regulations associated with firearms differ from state-to-state, so you can’t rely on the government to control the situation. Younger children absolutely should not operate a firearm under any circumstances. If it’s necessary for them to shoot a gun, an adult should always be there to ensure they follow safety protocols. Sometimes a child can get too excited and forget what they were taught about gun safety in the process.

Firearm skills should be treated like any other skill type. You have to work hard to perfect them and even when you think they’re as good as they will get, you need to keep practicing to keep them in shape. This is especially true for people who wait too long before they fire a gun again. Your skills can become rusty, so it’s essential that you refresh your memory about current safety regulations and what you need to do to fire your gun accurately. Firearms give you no room for error. Overconfidence shouldn’t come into play with this tenuous situation.

Stuck Between an Elk and a Hard Place

This is guest post by Brad Colburn, you can connect with him on twitter 

If you’d asked me three years ago if I thought I would come face-to-rack with an elk I would have laughed in your face.  At the time, I was living in Baltimore City and teaching in one of the toughest schools.  The prospects of seeing wildlife of any sort – outside of squirrels and rats – was unfathomable.

Well, life sure has a funny way of thrusting you deep into the unknown.  Three years later my fiancé and I are frozen in our tracks.

Why?  We inadvertently stumbled into the path of a herd of Elk.  From one cow’s body language she was none too thrilled…and that wasn’t the first peeved elk we came across that cold October night.

So, how’d we get to that magical moment?

Two days prior, I touched down at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport after a grizzly 5 hour flight from Maryland.  Regina nabbed me at baggage claim and we headed back to the apartment she’d started to settle into already.  Regina accepted a job in management at a top outdoor retailer in Phoenix back in August.  I still had some loose ends to tie up back in Maryland, so she drove cross country to the Valley of the Sun knowing full well that our adventures would begin soon.

The next morning after a bacon-infused breakfast we began to pack for our first adventure; an overnight trio to The Grand Canyon.  I never really had the chance to see The Grand Canyon.  My trips as a child were limited to the Eastern seaboard.  I was used to lush wooded areas and the Appalachian Mountains thirsty for hikers.  This trip to the canyon was going to be something.  I wasn’t expecting it to be overwhelming.

The drive to Grand Canyon National Park is a healthy 5 hours from Paradise Valley, Arizona.  You’ll rarely get bored during this trek.  Arizona is unique in this way.  If you start in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area – like we did – you’ll go through a small stretch of urban areas. The next thing you know, saguaro cacti are whizzing by your car window as the High Desert welcomes you.  For those not in a region where cacti are prominent, they’re like your ordinary tree. Except they hurt…a lot.

On a side note…the arms on a saguaro cactus act as an age verifier like the rings on a tree.  It takes 75 years before a saguaro cactus will grow an arm.

For several hours, those saguaro arms point you in the direction of GCNP.  But before you get there, you will enter scrub brush country.  This is the classic “cowboy” area.  Random cattle rustlings are a very real possibility.  We’ll save that story for the next article.

Once you claw your way through the scrubs, you’ll eventually reach civilization in the form of Flagstaff.  Flagstaff is worthy of a series of journal entries, and time may tell if we get to them.  For our purposes, we visited a small trail shop called Peace Surplus.  Some gear stores are very streamlined.   This place?  The exact opposite…and that’s why I liked it.  No matter how tidy you keep your gear it’s going to get messy and jumbled.  You’ll have to scramble around to find your headlamp for that midnight cat hole run on day three of a long weekend excursion. Going to Peace Surplus is like getting lost in the Narnia of Gear.

Another noteworthy thing about Flagstaff is that it’s the last chance you’ll have to reasonably fuel up before making the last leg of the GCNP journey.  Gas and food prices increase as you approach the Canyon.

After we fed the Scion, we ventured north. Around Flagstaff is where the desert and scrub turns to forest.  At this point in the journey I started feeling more at home.  I was looking out at trees, greenage, and government-controlled forest fires.

As quickly as it appeared, the cleansing fire’s smoke disappeared.  It was almost like a velvety purple curtain had been lifted, because just within the line of sight was our pinnacle; Grand Canyon National Park.

I can’t put into words the buzz in the car as we received our tourists map and instruction from the park rangers at the tollbooth.  We barely heard what they said as we pulled off towards our lodge.  Once we checked in we grabbed a quick lunch and a nap. The elevation change from Phoenix can really effect you.

I barely slept.  I had been dreaming about this moment since I was in grade school learning about this mile deep wonder.  I hurriedly gathered myself for the night and we were out the door.

We arrived at the South Rim just in time to enjoy the last precious moments of sunset. The Canyon resembled a dusky blue and purple ocean with scattered whitecaps kissed by the sun.  Even in the low light, I was awestruck.  Just knowing what was in front of me was enough to take my breath away.

We continued to stroll along the South Rim and came around to the side of the El Tovar Lodge.  As we turned the corner, we saw flashbulbs and hushed excited chattering.  We soon realized what had everyone’s attention.

We were standing five feet away from a behemoth of a bull elk.  He stood about six feet tall at the withers and had a rack about as big across.  We lost count of the points.

For an outdoors adventurer just starting to dig into Arizona, this creature was majestic.  More people with their cameras began to appear and the elk was beginning to show signs of aggression.  We decided to make our exit and continue exploring the south Rim.  We took up a trail that wound around the eastern side of the rim out of the way of man made lights and distractions.  One magical moment switched my mindset over from East coast to Arizona in an instant.

As we continued on the moonlit trail, the wind started to pick up.  We drew our hoods tight and trudged on.  Out of nowhere, we heard someone whisper loud and harsh off to our left.  We looked at each other, and then gazed ten feet over to the canyon ledge.  A gust of wind had swooped through the canyon.  With whatever currents fly through the canyon, the gust of air was pushed upwards and out with such a force that it resembled human speech.

Immediately after that, we heard the bugling of elks.  If you’ve never heard this sound before…well…you need to experience it.  It’s the bluegrass equivalent of animal noises:  the elk’s bugle is high and lonesome.  Once you hear it, you are transported to another world.

At this point I had more adrenaline coursing through my veins than a hiker on his last gas.  We made our way to dinner.  We could barely talk about anything other than the night’s events.

We had no idea that breakfast the next morning would top that by leaps and bounds…