Learning From a Pro: Food Photography & Food Styling Workshop πŸ“Έ

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I was blessed to have such an amazing summer! So many wonderful trips and fantastic experiences 😊. Here we are in November, about a week from Thanksgiving, and I am still playing catchup with my blog!!😳

This food photography workshop, which I attended in early October, Β is just one of those amazing experiences. I first learned of Clare Barboza from a friend in Seattle. Β Leslie, my friend of many years, knew about my passion for baking and had seen many of my photos on Instagram. Probably why she recommended Clare’s workshop to me πŸ€£πŸ˜‚πŸ€£! I’m kidding! Leslie has always been very supportive of my crazy Insta adventures.

When I first began researching this opportunity, Clare was splitting her time between her two studios, one in downtown Seattle and the other in Vermont. She has since chosen to focus her business at the Vermont location, which better supports her family. I instantly fell in love with her photography style and decided, rather quickly, that I wanted to attend her weekend workshop where she would educate us on lighting, composition, and use of props in food styling. I had never been to Vermont, and it would be in the fall when everyone says it is gorgeous, so I signed up!

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Brattelboro is a cute, little town that I really did not explore πŸ˜”Β I did not leave myself enough time to poke around! I flew in late Friday and out early Monday, leaving two full days to absorb as much photography knowledge as possible (and hit a local climbing gym πŸ˜‰, priorities you know).

Clare’s studio is beautiful, bright and full of fantastic props for her photography.

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The left side of the studio is all windows, allowing the natural light to stream in during a large portion of the day.

Clare prefers natural light and the large set of windows allows her to alter the directionality as the day progresses.

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It helps to have a fully functional kitchen when specializing in food photography

Clare’s husband helped her remodel the kitchen area, which is airy and bright. Pretty handy guy to have around!! And, check out the view from the kitchen window.🌳

She wanted to divide this large space, and used these vintage window frames. I loved the look of these, and had to snap a pic.

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The other half of the studio was full of props! I was so jealousπŸ˜‚. I had a ball picking out surfaces of various colors and textures.

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Clare’s husband made these boards, again, a handy dude!

She also had vinyl surfaces of various colors and textures to choose from for backgrounds.

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Her collection of place settings!! Anything you could think of was available to enhance our scenes. Dishes, cups, silverware, bowls ….. I was in heavenπŸ’•

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This is only a portion of the full collection

We would begin each day with a short lecture/discussion about a certain topic. If you have ever attended a photography class, you will have heard of many of these same themes.

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The class getting ready to learn

Clare mixes concepts with actual hands on practice. I loved this! We had many opportunities to hone our skills. We began with a discussion on light and how to redirect it when needed. We also talked about composition, leading lines and depth of field. Many of these are topics covered in any photography class, but Clare gave us tips and ideas specific to food. And, she shared many of her gorgeous pictures and how she set them up.

Throughout the two days, we would be given five assignments. We could take as many pictures as we wanted, but had to choose one or two, from each task, for a critique on the last day. This was harder than it sounded! Sometimes I had many pictures I liked and others I couldn’t find one😲!

Our first assignment was to shoot a drink with backlighting. She provided us with different colored drink mixes, garnishes and sent us to work! At first I was not very comfortable just grabbing her supplies, and I was overwhelmed by so many options to choose from! I took over a hundred pictures and kept only 10! A theme that I would repeat many times over the course of the weekend.

I tried to challenge myself to create two different looks with this assignment.

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This was a backlit, fresh and airy feel

 

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Here I used the same drink but went for a more holiday, evening look.

Our next assignment was to photograph a charcuterie display. Clare set out a huge array of meats, cheeses, crackers and assorted goodies. This is my heaven!πŸ₯–πŸ§€πŸŽ

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She demonstrated her thought process, how she would approach this shoot.

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She told us the mood, or feel she was trying to create

She arranged, and then rearranged the components until she liked the composition.

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She added props to tell the story.

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And took test shots at various angles.

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Now it was our turn, yikes!

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This is just one of my many attempts

 

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I decided to add some height by rolling the salami and placing it upright.

I don’t know if I succeeded in this assignment, but I was full, as we were encouraged to eat the cheeses πŸ˜‹

Lunch was included in the price of the workshop, and I thought it was the charcuterie ingredients, but Clare made us a delicious, and much healthier option. Her soup was wonderful, and really topped me off! She also offered us a tasty dessert, chocolate!🍫

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Our afternoon assignment was pasta! Clare provided us with the makings of an excellent pasta bar: several different shapes of noodles, two different sauces (red, and white), several garnishes, even bread for the pictures.

Our task was to put together an attractive dish and shoot it from above and at a 3/4 angle. Again, I took so many shots, and chose these three for the critique.

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It was so fun to see what the class came up with! We were all very different from one another.

Day 1 had come to a close, and I know I was kinda beat. Being creative on demand is mentally taxing for this science based person 😊. We had also been rather passive all day and I was in desperate need of some physical activity!

I had researched climbing gyms nearby and found one in Hadley Massachusetts, only and hour away😳 Central Rock Climbing Gym was just what I needed that night!

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Unfortunately they did not have auto belays, so I only bouldered. But I did send an inverted V4 😁 Very happy about that!

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I will definitely spend more time here, if I get the chance!

The next day was to be the “tough” day. I didn’t really know what Clare meant by that, but found out fast! She meant that we would be photographing food that is notoriously hard to make pretty.

This second day highlighted the food styling portion of the class. We discussed choosing a mood or vibe, and how to select props that enhance, but not overshadow the food.

And, we went over the dreaded color wheel 😫 I say dreaded because I just struggle with that thing!

Our first assignment was salad photography and I decided to face my color wheel issue head on! That meant trying to figure out the complementary color thing. I have seen many green salads paired with blue backgrounds, and everyone else loves it.

So…

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And I hate it! A number of other students liked this. I did like the choice I made with the linen, as it has the red stripe that I liked with the strawberries, but the rest…. oh well, I will keep working with the wheel.

The last assignment for the workshop, Clare called “the canned soup challenge”. And this was tough! We were to take a can of soup and make it look appealing, somehow. Β If you have not opened a can of soup lately, give it a go, it may shock you how horrible it looks! All the “green” vegetables (like peas and beans) are a mucky shade of brown/green 🀒 One of the students chose a lentil soup and, I am not joking, it looked like dog food!

One advantage here is that I do make a lot of soups and stews and have photographed them for this blog. So I have practiced a bit already. Still, this was a tough one!

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We were allowed to use some fresh garnishes like herbs or sour cream. I tied a bundle of peppers together to add some color too and chose a monochromatic palette in the hopes that the colors would appear more vibrant. At least I liked it more than my salad🀣

The last portion of the class was a group critique of the photos we selected. This is always helpful! It is also tough because it is so subjective, one person will like what another finds distasteful. My goal is to take it all in and improve as best I canπŸ’•

With that, the workshop came to an end! I loved it and would happily join another of Clare’s classes!! I learned so much and had fun. Her teaching style is so approachable, there was nothing you couldn’t ask her😊

I finally had some time to look at that legendary Vermont Fall Foliage that everyone raves about! I went for a quick walk in the town.

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And another shot in downtown

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I met up with two of the ladies from the class for one final dinner together.

 

We drank, we ate and we talked about how ugly canned soup looks!!πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

A big thank you to Clare Barboza for all the great lessons learned! πŸ“ΈπŸ₯—πŸ˜‰

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A to Z Challenge: T is for Travel

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Have you ever taken a Fitcation? Maybe you, or someone you know, has used their vacation time to run a half marathon, a tough mudder or go on a yoga retreat?

We have done a few of these types of trips and I have to say, I really recommend it!

There are all types of fitcations, all over the world and of course at varying costs. In an attempt to be all encompassing, I tried to include a wide variety of options.

First, Health and Fitness travel

They have an enormous variety to offer, of course for a price! I have not tried this resource yet, but I am tempted! They will work with you to tailor your destination and activity for your ideal holiday and fitness goals. This would be my way of going to an exotic local and tying in yoga or a spa holiday!

 

The Best fitness vacations to take in 2018

Of course we are already in April, but this is a great place to get ideas for next year as well.

I have been to a few of these already, and certainly agree with some of their choices!

They highlight Mii Amo Resort in Sedona, Arizona. We stayed there in 2016 and it was one of the reasons we eventually bought our house in Tucson.

Sedona is spectacular!Β  And Mii Amo is a truly unique experience. It is pricy to be sure, but it is all inclusive and worth every penny! Massages, yoga, hiking, golf, mountain biking and delicious, healthy food!

 

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The Edgewater Inn at the Seattle waterfront is fabulous and while they reference the Brunch Run in April, the reality is that there are many 5k, 10k and half marathons in the Seattle area all summer long. There are bike rides and wonderful hiking in the nearby mountain ranges as well. I can promise you that the best time to visit Seattle is the summer, not so much the rest of the year.πŸŒ§β˜”οΈπŸ’¦

 

 

Vancouver in September! The perfect time to go! But the SeaWheeze half marathon fills fast, so if you are interested sign up now! The run through Stanley park is beautiful!

 

Finally, I would like to recommend O.A.R.S. for the more adventurious of you. We have done the white water rafting trip through a portion of the Grand Canyon. We spent the night at Bar 10 Ranch and, the next morning, took a helicopter ride down into Whitmore Wash. We boarded the Dories (wooden boats) and our guides took us through the rapids for the next three days. We camped along the way, and dined on delicious food, all provided by the company!

We actually have two more adventure trips set up for this summer! I am sure there will be plenty of pictures on my blog! 😊

I do hope you will consider a Fitcation at some point in your vacation planning. They are a great alternative to the same old routine and you may just find that your friends and family enjoy having a new shared activity.

Do you have a favorite Fitcation adventure? Please share it with me! I am always looking for new ideasΒ πŸ’‘Β πŸ’•

 

Spelunking in Colossal Cave

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Most of you already know that we are a rock climbing family. We tend to spend a lot of time going up, when we are outside. So, when I told them that I wanted to go under the rocks, I was met with “why?” from the kids and “uh, how deep?” from the hubby.

Our kids would never choose to spend their precious down time exploring caves with mom, when they could be hanging off the side of a mountain instead. And hubby, well he is not super excited about the close quarters that are 80 feet below the surface. To be fair, he is not always happy with how far above the earth we take him either, but he is getting better with the heights!

Colossal Cave is located in Vail, which is about an hour south of our home in Tucson. I was not able to get the kids there, but I did managed to talk my husband into it!

There are three tours to choose from, the regular tour which is an hour, the ladder tour that goes for 1 1/2 hours and the wild cave experience that is 3 1/2 tour. Knowing that I was already pushing the boundaries of my marriage, I stuck to the shorter hike that did not require belly crawling through small openings.

It was a cold day, by Arizona standards, when we decided to visit the park. The site is dedicated to preserving the old mining history of the area. We were greeted by a statue and sluice used for separating the sediment from the desired minerals, mostly crystals at this site.

Additionally there is a map. The regular tour centered around the “sink hole” formation on the left. The more advanced tours head into the middle and right sections of the cave, which is still being developed today.

Although the temperature outside was in the high 50Fs that day, the cave is always around 70F, with fairly high humidity. It was quite comfortable! And there was plenty of room to accommodate the entire group. Perfect conditions for my hubby!

The cave is dark and picture taking was not always easy, but I did mange to get a few shots that show a small fraction of the beauty found here.

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There were plenty of stalactite and stalagmite formations to impress us.

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The guide was great! He was funny and provided a wonderful historical perspective as we moved from one cavern to the next. Along the way we were told about the life of the average cave worker, back in those early days.

One of the corridors contained display cases, which contained clothing and tools utilized by the laborers, hard to believe this was the “state of the art” equipmentΒ back then.

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Do you see the “head lamp” above? This cloth cap was attached to an open flame that was used for light and visibility, Β in the dark cave. Imagine walking around, in pitch black, with a 6 inch open, blue flame emanating from your forehead. That is a cloth hat!! And, all the rope and clothing were cotton, yikes.

 

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There were no power tools, and no explosives were used to excavate the cave. Just hand tools and muscle.

Two of my favorite features are depicted below.

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This column formed when a stalagmite and stalactite fused together.

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This is a picture of “cave ice”. Remember, its 70F or more in the cave all year long. So, this ice is really a unique structure that forms from a particular combination of minerals, which came into contact with slowly dripping water for an extended period of time (like eons). It is white due to the crystal structure and it is slippery, much like the surrounding limestone found in all the rock climbing areas! I know this from trying to climb in the nearbyΒ Cochise Stronghold Area. It is hard to climb a bar of soap🀨!

My hubby was happy that the tour was ending and we went for a short hike, out in the wide open spaces.

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He is definitely happier out here! You can see the stone structure behind him, which is the cave entrance and visitor center.

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So I finally got my cave adventure😊 I will be going back in late April for one of the more extensive tours, and can’t wait to see the other areas of the cave. I will be doing that one solo as hubby has said “NO!” but that’s ok. I totally understand πŸ’•

The Final Family Climb in Tucson

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Our kids have left to return to their lives in Seattle. Dennis and I were surprised at just how much we miss them 😦 Of course, we expected to feel a little sad when they left, but it has hit us harder than we thought it would. Perhaps that is because we know, as parents, that the window to have them available to us is closing. They are strong, independent young adults with dreams and bright futures ahead of them, which is what all parents strive toward for their children. But now, when they are fun and capable we want more time with them, not less!

We all got to have one last climb in Mt. Lemmon. We climbed “feed the sweed” on Barnum Rock. This is an easy three pitch ascent that we all enjoyed!

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We climbed to the top of this guy!

It was a gorgeous day, really perfect for climbing! We drove to this spot in the picture above, crossed the street and started the hike up to the base.

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This is the base looking up to the top

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The view from the base looking over the valley. We started at the 6000 ft. level

Ryan led, of course, and Dennis followed. Alex and I were next.

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With four people and just as many iPhones, we had plenty of photos of everybody.

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Alex is making her way onto the top of the first pitch

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Alex is belaying me as I climb, while Ryan supervises.

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spoiler alert, I made it!

The view from the top of pitches 1 and 2

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Some pictures of us climbing pitch 3

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Ryan at the top!

Eventually, we all made our way up to Ryan. What a view!

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Dennis at the top

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Alex enjoying the view

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Ryan and I packing some gear, getting ready for the decent

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The obligatory summit selfie!

We had such an amazing time. The kids are really patient with us and chose a fun and simple climb. No one fell (I usually fall at least once!) and the rock conditions were perfect.

As I said before, Alex and Ryan are back in Seattle working and getting ready for classes. Dennis and I will be coping by heading to Manzanillo Mexico for a yoga retreat. We leave tomorrow, so don’t feel too sorry for us as we miss the kids!

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Standard Route on Mt. Lemmon

Ryan and I first climbed on Mt. Lemmon near the base, at “the wall of the flying scorpions”. This was a single pitch crag and near 1500ft. elevation. We had fun, even though I did split open a couple fingers in the process.

This time we decided to head up near the 4000ft area to a multi pitch climb named “the standard route“. This climb is located on Chimney rock and is only a 200ft climb, divided into 5 pitches. Perfect for me but pretty lame for Ryan!

It was a gorgeous day when we got to the base of the wall.

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Ryan placed his rope and some gear near the base and we “suited up”.

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There was a party of three ahead of us, so we waiting our turn. I watched the two women ahead of us in the hopes of learning the best way to maneuver the route.

Then Ryan lead up to the first anchor.

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There was a big ledge here to sit and wait for our turn on the second pitch.

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The view just keeps getting better!

This is the start of the second, and my least favorite, pitch. This is the chimney, which is just large enough for your body to squeeze into the gap. You can see the last climber in the group ahead of us as she tries to work her way up the rock face.

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Eventually, Ryan and I got up, through and over this pitch. Below is the top of the chimney and the start of my favorite pitch, number 3.

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We waited here for a bit while the other group made their way up.

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Helmet hair!

 

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Ryan was tired of waiting at this point and was ready to head up.

The view from the top of pitch 3.

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After talking with the group ahead of us, we all decided to combing pitches 4 and 5 and went to the top!

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This rock teetering on the spike, was another 1000ft or so above us. Would love to climb in that area!

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The obligatory Summit Selfie!

 

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We waited for our turn to rappel off the top.

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Ryan goes first and I wait for him to yell clear, then I head down. When we are both on the ground, we pull the rope through the anchor.

But the rope did not cooperate this time. Ryan had to climb back up and retrieve it!

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This happens sometimes! Luckily he knew what to do because that rope is $300.00, Yikes!

After a fun climb there is only one thing left to do!

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Happy Hour at Zona78!

Our next climb will be with the whole family!

The Climbing Adventure Continues on Mount Lemmon

Ryan and I have been climbing in the Southern Arizona area, and have been to the Cochise Stronghold area a couple times. We like that area, but it is a two hour drive from our home in the Catalina foothills and makes for a pretty long day. We decided to head over to Mount Lemmon, in the Coronado National Forest, which is only 40 minutes away.

The day was perfect for climbing with the temperature at 73F and no wind. And, since it was a weekday, we would not have too many other climbers to contend with on the wall.

There are many crags here, mostly single pitch climbing, all well bolted with “lower offs” in place.

We chose the “wall of the flying scorpions” because it had several routes, some low enough for me, and most harder, for Ryan to climb.

This is the view from the parking area and our routes are on the far right rock wall.

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We had a bit of a hike to get through the gully and over to the crag. One thing I have learned about hiking in the desert is that the cactus are not the worst offenders. I used to believe that the cacti, with their sharp spines, were the only foliage to be avoided. But the cactus are not the biggest problem! Β The brush and bushes, none of which are the iconic saguaro variety, are the real danger. Look at the spikes on this bush!

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This, and the many large aloe vera plants with their razor sharp leaves, are the real obstacles along the path.

We made our way to the other side of the valley and found the wall.

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These are the easier routes, so just a warm up for Ryan! I made it up this first, 5.8 just fine.

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But, 1/3 of the way up the second wall (5.9) I had a little problem.

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Turns out this rock was a little sharper than I had hoped. As I pulled up on a finger tip hold, I sliced my index finger. It wasn’t too bad, but the blood made the rest of the route a little slippery and I then took a larger piece of my thumb off.

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That was ok because these were the only two routes I was going to attempt on this wall anyway. So I finished off the climb and we moved down the wall to Ryan’s routes, 5.10b, 5.10b/c and a 5.11-.

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Ryan’s routes were longer and obviously harder. At this point I was just belaying him and taking some shots from the base of the wall. A pretty view!

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The view from the base of the wall, looking back on the road leading up Mount Lemmon

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Ryan’s favorite climbing shirt. Last year’s Christmas gift from his sister.

We were not alone at the crag, a few other duos were there working the wall as well. We caught a glimpse of them as we drove away.

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Zooming in on the wall, you can see one of their back packs (circled) where the belayer is standing and the arrow indicates the climber on his way up.

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This must have been how Ryan and I appeared from the other side of the highway.

There are so many other crags to explore on Mount Lemmon and we will be heading back to check them out!

Ryan and Dee Dee’s Excellent Adventure

You may recall that my husband and I decided to buy a second home in Tucson about six months ago. As soon as we told our kids, our son, Ryan, began planning a climbing trip. He wanted to leave Washington the minute his fall semester ended and stay at the new house, which would serve as his base of operations, through the Christmas holiday.

This plan was not practical for Dennis and Alex (our daughter) as they needed to work and was not poplar with Grandma as Ryan and I would not be around for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner! But, this is our first year with the new house and everyone has been gracious in allowing Ryan and I this great opportunity πŸ™‚

We decided that Ryan and I would be in Tucson until the end of December and then Dennis and Alex will join us so we can all climb for the first week of January. So, Ryan and I had our first foray into Southern Arizona yesterday.

We left the house at 9:30am for the 2 hour drive to the Cochise Stronghold climbing area in the Coronado National Forest. There are over 1000 different routes to choose from. Ryan decided on Euphoria for our first climb. Armed with two guide books and the Mountain project website we began our search for the route.

For any of you that climb or hike, you know that finding the parking area is the first challenge. We turned onto the well marked “primitive road” and began the 10 mile drive toward the general area. Β We were pretty sure we were on the right track when we saw the domes off in the distance.

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About 8 miles into the gravel road we saw this…

 

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How is a school bus making the 16 mile round trip on this road? And where are these kids coming from??

Anyway, we kept going.

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Getting closer!

We had been making good time, up until this point! Somewhere we missed the tiny little sign that indicated the forest road that split off toward the parking area. This cost us an hour as we tried to back track and listen to the disembodied GPS voice telling us to take the private, padlocked road to our destination! Finally, we found it.

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The dome on the far right was where Euphoria lives, and where we needed to hike over toward. This hike would take about an hour, according to the guide books, we managed to get there in 40 minutes.

We now are beginning the climb at almost 1pm! The sun sets at 5:22pm and we were hoping to climb the five pitches (plus the hour hike back) before it was so dark that we needed head lamps, so we had to be efficient!

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Ryan began flaking the rope

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This is the view from the base, lots of trees and rocks!

Ryan lead the first pitch and set the anchor, you might be able to see his yellow jacket at the top of the orange rope.

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I climbed up and Ryan took this shot at the top of pitch one.

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From here it gets colder! The wind picked up big time and we climbed the next four pitches. No pictures there as the focus is now on not dying! Both hands on the rope at all times. As we went higher the cold became a factor as our finger tips and toes were really starting to suffer! Ryan, of course, never fell. I, of course, fell twice!

We finally topped out about three hours after the initial pitch and we were both shivering! Ryan snapped a summit selfie.

I found out later that a “unusual cold front” had moved into the area and would take the temperature into the low 20s. The first frost warning of the season-lucky us!

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It was now pushing 5pm and we had to get back to the car. The hike down was steep and we had all the gear to balance. The sun was going down and we took a few last shots of this beautiful place.

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We did make it back to the car before it was too dark to see without the head lamps. I was rather proud of that!

I am not going to lie, I am bruised and sore today! But we will be back! There are many more routes to explore in this area.