Archive for the Hikes Category

Family Visit from Utah: OdySea Aquarium & Butterfly World Exhibit in Scottsdale, AZ

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, Misc Travel on March 27, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  552,002

Over the weekend, I gained a greater appreciation for two things:  moms and minivans.  When you’re entertaining 3 kids under the age of 6 years old, you start to realize just how much of a challenge it can become to make sure everyone’s fed, happy, and playing fair.  You also look for any way possible to ease the burden of travel logistics.  My brother Payton and his family visited for 4 days from southern Utah, and their 2013 Honda Odyssey EX-L was just the right ride for their family on such a 14-hour round-trip journey to Phoenix.

And we drove that Odyssey to OdySea.  This Scottsdale aquarium opened last July and is home to 500 species of sea life, living in over 2 million gallons of water.  I guess if our desert ever runs out of irrigation water, we can always drain the fish tanks!

Our favorite feature of the aquarium campus, though, was housed next door in a place called “Butterfly World.”  A 3-D movie educated us on the butterfly life cycle, and then we were permitted to enter a greenhouse-like atrium which is home to over 3,000 butterflies of various colors and sizes.

My niece Vivienne was thrilled that two butterflies perched on her colorful clothing.  Her younger brother Rex didn’t have any such luck and was peeved that they weren’t attracted to him.  And the youngest, Locke, must not have received the memo about “don’t step on the butterflies.”  He’s only 1 year old, and his primal instinct is to step on any insect within leg’s reach.  And, he did.  When we left Butterfly World, it was home to 2,999 butterflies instead of 3,000.

On Saturday, we spent our energy on a short hike at Papago Park near the Phoenix-Scottsdale border.  The place was bustling with hundreds of other families taking advantage of the perfect weather, but we made our way to the summit at “Hole in the Rock” and enjoyed the view.  The afternoon was spent at the Clarendon Hotel, a boutique hotel in central Phoenix that has a great pool facility.  We called dibs on a cabana and soaked ourselves in the long hot tub while listening to relaxing music.  My brother had a celebrity encounter too: He recognized Geoff Rowley, famous skateboarder, enjoying the hot tub with us and struck up a conversation.  Geoff was in town for the PHXAM event.

I had to make sure everyone was well-fed, so our dining destinations were carefully selected.  I introduced my brother and his family to Los Dos Molinos on Camelback Road for Mexican food on Friday night, we ordered Spinato’s Pizza on Saturday, and I took them to Zookz for breakfast sandwiches on Sunday morning before the Odyssey started its return trip to Utah.

Thanks to Payton and Kali for bringing the kids down to spend a few days with me!  I’ll be finding miniature toy frogs in the couch cushions and closets for a few months yet.

Here is a 10-minute video introduction to my garage that my brother put together for his YouTube audience.

(Forgive my error on stating the GS 6-speed sedan was offered in 1993-94.  You all know it’s 1994-95!)

And 4 minutes’ worth of random scenes from throughout the weekend on my own channel.

Locke ‘riding’ a little motorcycle

Viv enjoying the backyard swing

Rex standing next to an orange tree in the backyard

Ready for our 3-D movie at Butterfly World

In the courtyard at OdySea just before grabbing lunch

Shark exhibit

Dinner at Los Dos Molinos Uptown

Breakfast at Zookz

Hiking at Papago Park

Locke, Vivienne, and Rex playing in the backyard

Couple other random pics from recent weeks.  My friends Todd and Josh have two Teslas!

My friend Kevin picked me up a “Chiriaco Summit” bumper sticker.  More on that soon!

And my ILX trip to Willcox was featured in Arizona Driver Magazine‘s March-April 2017 issue!

Have a great week!

Group Drive & Hike: Water Wheel Waterfalls in Payson, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, Road Trip on June 19, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend): 543,531


Odometer (ILX):  172,944


Trip Distance:  175 Miles



What if I told you Arizonans there’s a place within an hour of Phoenix where you can slice 20 degrees off the temperature and dip your toes in the refreshing East Verde River?  Maybe it would be best if I kept this place a secret, but since I’m feeling generous I’ll clue you in to this secluded little watering hole.


It’s the season of “beat the heat” so many of the destinations you’re likely to see me hit up this summer will be to higher elevations where I can get a reprieve from the Phoenix oven.  This one in particular has been on my Destination Spreadsheet for some time now.  On Saturday morning, my house in Scottsdale became the meeting point for a variety of cars and people ready for adventure.  Here were our attendees:

  • Tyson, Clayton, and Miles:  2013 Acura ILX
  • Peter and Jack:  2002 BMW 325iT
  • James and Rob:  2016 Chrysler 300
  • Paul:  2013 Acura TL SH-AWD
  • Kyle:  2005 Pontiac GTO
  • Sunny:  2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T
  • Brad and Kenny:  2013 Audi RS5

Brad described it as “quite a menagerie.”  A menagerie is defined as:  A collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition.  Sounds about right when referring to this bunch of cars & gents.  Though, in this case, all were unleashed from captivity allowed to roam freely in the hills of the Tonto National Forest surrounding Payson, Arizona.  The one-way trek to our destination was only about 80 miles but ascended 3,800 feet in elevation.


For the most part it’s a 65-mph split highway but the curves can be fun and they require constant attention.  The ILX with 3 occupants and 100-degree temperatures bogged down on the steeper grades and I found myself downshifting to 5th gear and even 4th occasionally to keep up with the pack.  From Payson, we continued north past a couple of roundabouts and hung a right on Houston Mesa Road.  The road narrowed to two lanes and had some nice curves for the next 8 miles until we arrived at Water Wheel Campground.  Luckily, we found ample parking to stash our 7 vehicles but things were filling up quickly with a lot of Saturday adventure-seekers like ourselves.  Parking was $8 via cash / self-service, with envelopes to be deposited in an opening in a post near the trailhead.


The hike itself does not stick to any specific route but rather follows the East Verde River upstream however a hiker decides to follow it.  We did find a path along the west side of the river that had some welcomed shade from overhead trees – even at 88 degrees I managed to break a pretty aggressive sweat.  The sound of the gushing river next to us helped give a sense of refreshment even without taking a dip.  There came a time when we needed to crawl up and over some large boulders and we paved our own way, or followed people who were ahead of us.


At one point it looked like we needed to cross the river itself so we carefully collected our balance and hopped across.  The rocks were slippery at times.  For the return, I opted to just remove my shoes & socks and put them in my backpack so that I could walk barefoot across the water and not worry about a slip & fall incident.  The water was chilly but it felt great.  We wandered a bit further upstream and saw a series of waterfalls coming down.  Jack whipped out the selfie stick for a group photograph and Kyle got brave enough to jump in the water.


By the time we made it back to our vehicles, we’d only been hiking about an hour and a half round trip.  The overall hike distance is about 2 miles each way, and I think we probably only went about half that.  So there is much more to see and we all want to get back up there, but we were ready for lunch and a few people needed to be back by late afternoon so we headed back to Payson.  For grub, we dined on the patio at Buffalo Bar & Grill.  The wait staff had already lined up several small tables for us in anticipation of our arrival and the service was top-notch.


It was great to break away from the Valley’s heat and get up to the mountains for some clean air and a little time with Mother Nature.  Water Wheel Falls was just what the doctor ordered for a quick day-trip.  Thanks to my friends for joining!  Here’s a short video with some highlights of our excursion.

Pre-departure in Scottsdale


Fuel stop at the Chevron in Fort McDowell:  Tyson, Peter, Jack, James, Rob


Backwards baseball caps for the bros.


Kyle caught this pic of my ILX, Sunny’s Sonata, and Peter’s 3-series in his sideview mirror.


Getting through Payson and to the campground.


Kyle’s mean GTO in the rearview.


Parking at Water Wheel Falls


Paul’s TL was blindingly clean in the Arizona sunlight.


Clayton gave us a wave before we started the hike.


Information at the trailhead.


Coming up on the first of a series of falls.


Here’s where we had to crawl up and over some rocks on the river’s edge.


Sunny preparing to cross the East Verde.


James got a little wet.


Group shot thanks to Jack’s selfie stick.


Solo shot.


Back in Payson with our diverse lineup of vehicles.


Peter’s wagon rolled 205,000 yesterday and still looks great.


Buffalo Burger at Buffalo Bar & Grill.




Sunny and I took the Legend out and ended up next to a nice lady in a Vigor 5-speed!


I spotted a G2 Legend sedan in Beverly Hillbillies (1993 movie) about 10 minutes in!


And a very thoughtful friend brought me back a souvenir from his Hawaii trip.


Get over to TSX Travels!  Josh is about to have some big news SOON.


Dad’s Visit, NSX Configurator Website, & Other Updates

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, Legend, Road Trip, Vigor on March 3, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  542,181


Odometer (ILX):  156,073


My mailbox was overflowing with Acura maintenance coupon postcards yesterday afternoon.  Every time they have some sort of promotion I seem to get multiple notices – but hey, I’m not complaining.  Especially when the main featured car is Ludacris‘ 1993 Legend sedan.


Clever stuff, people!


And I might be taking them up on this $28.95 oil change at Acura of Tempe the next time I get over there.


The one thing that does put the enthusiasts in a tizzy is the fact that the tagline for the promotion is “Keep the Acura you Love Maintained for Life.”  And just exactly how are we supposed to do that when so many critical parts have been discontinued?  Thus, us true ” Legend lifers” are left to dumpster dive and go junkyarding every so often to find the parts we’re looking for.

CHECK OUT THESE NEW PLATES!  This’ll go on my Legend sedan to replace the existing set.  I couldn’t believe the plate combo was available when I went to search for it a couple of months ago.  Don’t mind if I do!


Perfect use for this emoji.


It would be selfish of me to keep all 300 days of Phoenix sunshine per year completely to myself, so once a year my dad & stepmom travel down from Utah to partake.  I was happy to share some rays.  Having lived in Arizona now for 10 years, I definitely have my favorite hot-spots that we try to visit each time I have friends or family in town, but every once in awhile I throw a new destination in the mix to spice things up a bit.



Over the weekend, I introduced them to Sedona on a short overnighter (2.5 hour drive each way in the ILX) to explore the red rocks landscape of that area.  Aside from hiking Devil’s Bridge which I’ve blogged about a few times in the past, we also made a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross – a church built in 1956 directly into a rock formation.


A definite highlight of their visit was our dining experience on Saturday night.  I’d made reservations at Compass Arizona Grill, a revolving restaurant on the 24th floor of the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Phoenix.


My dad’s not big on heights (and for that matter, neither am I) so the ride up to the top in an exterior-facing elevator was just the start of a pretty exciting evening.  The restaurant has fixed exterior windows in a circular form with a floor inside them that spins around, making one complete revolution every hour.  I was slightly concerned about the implications of being prone to motion sickness and having to sit through a dinner while in motion, but it didn’t end up bothering me at all.  Best of all, our 6:30 start time meant we hit the sunset lighting perfectly.



Our high-class ride of choice that evening was my green 1994 Vigor, shined up for the occasion.  We also put a few miles on the ILX (Sedona trip) and the Legend coupe (airport run) over the course of dad & Tanya’s 4-day visit.  Many thanks to them for taking the time to come see me.  I’m extending an open invitation to anyone who reads this – if you’re a fan of road tripping and want to explore the southwest with me and my friends, come on down to visit!

Here are the rest of the photos from the weekend adventures.

Opening night dinner at Oregano’s – our favorite place for a Pizza Cookie.


Meeting up with Chandler and Jack for “Canal Convergence” festival at the Scottsdale Waterfront.


While rummaging through a few old photos, I dug up one taken in 2001 – when I was 20 years old – of me in my Mormon missionary garb standing next to my then-dream car, an Acura Vigor.  I figured it would be fitting to take a picture of that picture, in front of my Vigor!


Putting dad to work on home improvements, including replacement of some trim in the garage.


Quick stop in New River at the abandoned gas station called Jack Ass Acres


Just about to enter Sedona, Arizona on Highway 179 – the Red Rock Scenic Byway


Checked in at the Sky Ranch Lodge in Sedona, near the airport


Doing some shopping in the Uptown district


The only McDonald’s in the world with turquoise arches


Midway through our Devil’s Bridge hike


Tanya and me on the bridge.  Dad was a little nervous for us here.


With Tanya at the chapel


View from inside the chapel


ILX in Sedona


Dinner group at the restaurant


Great way to start a Sunday morning:  Brunch at Cafe ZuZu inside the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale


Tyson, Linh, Tanya, Craig


Airport run in the Legend later in the afternoon


A few other bits of news to share with you:

Just days after I posted my recent “Magic Fives” blog entry highlighting my 155,555 milestone on the ILX, my mom upstaged me.  Her 2010 Volkswagen EOS turned over 55,555 miles at 51 degrees at 55 miles per hour at 8:55 in the morning.  Congrats, and nicely done!


Who has $1/4 million I can borrow?  Now’s your chance to get online and configure your dream 2017 Acura NSX.  Mine would be Nouvelle Blue Pearl and loaded to the max with just about every available accessory.  Orders are now being taken!  I’m told there are over 1 million possible combinations of specific configurations of Acura NSX.  There’s a good chance yours will be one-of-a-kind.


And lastly:  Check out this beautiful Legend coupe on Ebay being sold by a friend of mine!  Just 35,000 miles on a 1993 6-speed.


Have a great rest of the week!

Quick Overnight Drive to Sedona, Arizona: Devil’s Bridge Hike

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, Road Trip on January 24, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend Sedan):  149,926


Trip Distance:  250 Miles


See my friend Ira perched there atop this natural sandstone arch?  I had sweaty palms when taking this picture of him:  Visions of a slab of rock fracturing from the arch and sending him down on a 100-foot drop to the earth below.  Kids, don’t try this at home.


Ira paid me a visit from Portland, Oregon this weekend.  While the PDX area in which he resides offers virtually any sort of outdoor creation within about an hour radius, what he doesn’t have – and what he came to Arizona to see – was some of the natural beauty of the southwest.  We hit the road on Friday afternoon in the ILX and headed out on a 2-hour drive to quaint Sedona, Arizona.  It’s home to about 10,000 residents and nestled in a landscape of vivid red rock formations.  Sedona is popular destination for people who want to “get away from it all” – the whole vibe is one of relaxation, self-discovery, and detachment from the hustle and bustle of daily life.


By the time we checked into the Sky Ranch Lodge on Airport Road (located at a vantage point high above the town), nighttime had fallen.  The keys to suite #280 were “real” keys:  heavy, brass-colored, old-school things.  I can’t remember the last time I stayed at a hotel or lodge that hadn’t gone the route of the credit card-style swiper.  Though the city lights were nice, the real view that we wanted to see would welcome us the following morning.  A light cloud cover kept the sun from highlighting the colors of the surrounding mountain range, but it was still a breathtaking sight to behold.


We picked up a few provisions from the local AM/PM – namely, in my case, 2 donuts and some chocolate milk.  Ira made the better decision by getting a banana and bottled water.  Just a 6 mile drive up Dry Creek Road, we found the turnoff for the hiking trail to Devil’s Bridge.  By now it was only about 8:00 in the morning and we were only the second car in the parking lot.  The first mile or so of the hike was on a rugged road – passable by most trucks, SUVs, and even a Subaru Outback we witnessed with a daring driver at the wheel.


Then, the trail split and headed east toward the hills.  We were in shorts – ill-prepared for the 38-degree start temperature – but quickly forgot about the cold as we got our cardio workout in for the day.  In all, our hike would take us up the equivalent of about 40 flights of stairs.  The sandstone rocks at times were perfectly placed for hiker access.  Along with the higher elevation came more snow and mud – leftovers from last week’s winter storms.



“Where the heck is it?” I caught my breath, and asked Ira as we kept trudging along.  Then I glanced to my left.  We had already arrived.  The ice made for a slippery surface upon which to navigate, so I played it extra cautious while feeling my way out – sometimes crouched down and walking on hands and knees – to the arch itself.  I took note of how quiet the surroundings were when we stood completely still.  Coupled with the fact that no other hikers were in the immediate area, and that we had absolutely zero cell phone signal, it made for a great feeling of peace and quiet.  Soon it was time to make the return trek which went by quickly.

Ira and I enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Creekside Restaurant along Highway 179 on the way out of town.  It was just what the doctor ordered to satisfy those cravings we’d built up from burning a few calories along the trail.  Enjoy the rest of the pictures from our quick overnight trip, and for anyone visiting Arizona who wants a great taste of nature without hiking the entire Grand Canyon, I highly recommend hitting up the Sedona area for a trip to Devil’s Bridge.   Here are the rest of my photos from the trip!

ILX at the trailhead


My “Look ma, no hands!” pose atop Devil’s Bridge


Ira back in Scottsdale, driving the NSX on Portland Street – fitting because he’s from Portland


Congrats also to my friend Mirel who picked up a(nother) Legend LS coupe 6-speed!


And one last little blurb here:  I was on the news on Friday morning with my car!  Tomorrow, there’ll be a car show in the evening called “Future Classics.”  It’s open to any vehicle from 1970 through 2005 model year.  I am entering my 1994 Legend coupe.


A few of us were asked to report to the 3TV Studio on 7th Avenue for a 3-minute intro to the car show on Good Morning Arizona.


Here’s the video.  My (quick!) moment in the spotlight comes around 2 minutes in.  And watch for my wave at the very end!

Coming up this week:  A visit from a special friend, and a trip to the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction, where the first 2017 Acura NSX will be auctioned to a lucky new owner this coming Friday night.  I have my checkbook ready.


Signing out for now!






Grand Canyon 26-Mile Hike: South Rim to North Rim in One Day

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, National Parks, Road Trip on June 2, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  533,657


Odometer (ILX):  127,082


Trip Distance (Car):  476 Miles


Trip Distance (Hike):  26 Miles


Last week, I was reviewing a GMC Canyon.  This week, I’m reviewing another Canyon.  The Grand Canyon.

While most of the canyon’s 5 million visitors per year are content to stand at the edge and admire its grandeur from afar, others are not happy until they get down and dirty while trudging across 20+ miles of it.  My mom is one of those people, and I let her talk me (and a few friends) into joining her for this crazy adventure inside one of the “7 natural wonders of the world” last Friday.  And 4 days later, my legs still scream at me for putting them through it.

I last blogged about the Grand Canyon in April 2014 when my friend Brad and I road-tripped to the Skywalk, a glass platform suspended from the canyon walls at the West Rim on the Hualapai Indian Reservation.  But the 1,900-squre-mile national park is vastly different to look at from any of the many different angles, and there are several different hiking paths that lead down into it for those who dare.

Painfully Awesome

My friend Dave was telling me the other day about a bike ride he’d taken that had been especially difficult.  He called it “painfully awesome.”  That sums up in two words exactly how I’d describe Friday’s 14-hour hike.  It was the most physically challenging thing I have ever done.  Joined by 5 ambitious friends as well as my mom & stepdad, we set our sights on a “rim-to-rim” excursion.  In other words, we would start on the south side of the canyon, hike down into into its depths at the Colorado River, then eventually make our way up the north side.  For many months we prepared ourselves physically and mentally for the task, but the actual experience was exponentially more than I was ready for.


On Thursday afternoon, I picked up Kyle, Bryce, and Justin in the ILX for our departure from the Phoenix area.  It took us about four hours to arrive at the Maswick Lodge along the South Rim.  Highway 64 is a very quiet place at night.  It’s a two-laner that climbs through the pine forests west of Flagstaff with little traffic, and no significant services or amenities aside from an occasional lonely gas station.  By about 10:00 p.m. we met up with my mom, stepdad, and two other friends and settled in for a somewhat sleepless night.

It’s Go Time

In the blink of an eye it was time for a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call.  Right off the bat, anxiety ran high because we were rushed to get to the train station for a 5:00 a.m. shuttle bus.  We had to make last-minute decisions on what to throw into our packs, how much water to take, and what to wear.  (Some of our gear would be staying in my car rather than making the trip across the canyon on our backs.)  The bus took us to the South Kaibab trailhead (elevation 7,260 feet) about 15 minutes away and we hopped out.  The sight of the canyon at daybreak is something unreal.  Temperatures were cool but not uncomfortable.  And then began our short-lived tradition of taking a group “selfie” at one-mile intervals throughout the course of the hike.  I say short-lived, because by about halfway through the day we cared very little about group pics; we were focused instead on sheer survival.



With energy in abundance we made our way down the rocky but well-marked trail toward the base of the canyon.  “We’re going down there?” I thought to myself as I looked in the distance at the vast expanse of rugged terrain.  The trail required a good deal of focus for proper footing, but every once in awhile we had to look up from the ground below and admire the scenery around us.  “OOOH AHH POINT,” one of the first signed viewpoints we came across, was aptly named.  We zig-zagged our way down thousands of feet in elevation.  Right away I discovered an issue with my Camelbak backpack when it started soaking my back and shorts.  Somehow I hadn’t sealed it tightly enough and it was leaking like crazy.  Eventually I dumped the water out of it and resorted to just using 3 refillable bottles.


Besides having plenty of water, we were adequately prepared with other forms of nutrition.  Rustin and Wade had packed what appeared to be an entire deli counter.  Sliced lunch meats, prosciutto cheese, fresh strawberries and other delicacies were offered up when we made our first rest stop.  Thanks to the downhill grade, our pace was quick at a little over 2 miles per hour.  A short tunnel and pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River (which had a milky green look to it at the time) awaited us when we finally got to the bottom of the canyon.


Phantom Pit Stop


By now we were starting to wonder when we’d make it to Phantom Ranch at 2,460 feet.  Notably the most “developed” of any place we’d be seeing throughout the course of the day, the lodge there has been a waypoint for Grand Canyon travelers since it was constructed in 1922.  It was about 7.4 miles into our hike, and as we got closer, I could only think about one thing:  LEMONADE.  Inside the lodge, they sell cups of ice cold lemonade for $3.00 each.  I chugged one so quickly it gave me a headache.  Outside, there was a fresh water spigot for refilling water packs.  The 8 of us sat around a picnic table under a shade tree and laid out some food items to refill our stomachs.  Rustin pulled out a travel size bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing and we all gave him a look of:  “You packed that down here?”


The sound of Bright Angel Creek running nearby was therapeutic in itself.  Todd took the opportunity to soak his legs in the chilly water.  The rest of us just enjoyed the chance to rest at the picnic area.  After so much downhill, for some reason when standing still, my legs felt wobbly.  I knew already that for every one step downhill we’d taken, we’d be taking closer to two uphill.  And that I dreaded.

Ribbon Falls

The trail ran parallel to the river for many more miles.  It was about this time – probably 10:30 or 11 in the morning – when the heat started cranking up.  Even though I’d lathered up in SPF50 and I was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, I could feel the sun cooking the back of my neck.  At times we had to walk single file and at other times we stood two abreast and held conversations.  Several times there were bridge crossings where the trail changed sides in relation to the river.  The steady uphill grade started getting the best of me and I now started drinking more water than ever before.  I could now see why on average 250 people per year are rescued from the canyon.  Dehydration is a very real concern.


My mom had learned of a detour that was an absolute must-see called Ribbon Falls.  I don’t think any of us were too keen on adding distance to our already-long hike, but multiple sources had recommended we make time for it.  So, when we saw a crudely-carved wooden sign pointing us in its direction, we rallied our energy as best we could and headed toward Ribbon to check it out.  We had to cross a stream and hike up some boulders to get there, but in about 20 minutes we came upon the most beautiful oasis I’ve ever seen.  Misty water came down upon us from dozens of feet above where it spilled through an opening in the red sandstone.  Justin quickly scampered up as high as he could go on the waterfall itself, but all I could think about was ripping my shoes and socks off to dip my feet in the water.



I could have sat at Ribbon Falls for the rest of the day, but sadly we knew we had another 12 or 13 (all uphill) miles to hike before dusk.

Cottonwood Campground

Todd had a great idea for a way to beat the heat when we got a couple of miles into our hike again.  We took our shirts off and soaked them in the creek.  The feeling of putting on a soaking wet T-shirt or tank top is unbelievably refreshing when you’re sweaty and gross – especially if there’s a slight wind to exaggerate the temporary chill factor.  There are, occasionally, water spigots available every few miles on the trail from Phantom Ranch to the North Rim.  Hikers have to be careful and plan ahead, though, because it’s possible sometimes for the water to be out of service.  We lucked out and everything was in operation during our hike.


The next stop had probably a dozen or so campsites in it.  We again took refuge in a spot of shade and refueled our bodies with food & drink.  I took the opportunity to dump a grape flavored 5 Hour Energy shot into my water bottle in hopes that the caffeine would give me a kick for the next little while.  My legs, feet, and back were screaming at me.  By now, our tradition of taking a group photo at every mile marker had long been thrown out the window.  Sometimes there was a lot of space between each of us, as each hiker settled into his or her own pace.


The Ascent

It was upon leaving Cottonwood that I really started questioning my ability to go the rest of the way.  I knew from reviewing my mom’s pre-printed trail notes that our location at Cottonwood was still 6.8 miles from the finish line on the North Kaibab Trail.  But it wasn’t that distance that scared me.  It was this:

  • Cottonwood Campground:  4,080 feet
  • North Kaibab Trailhead:  8,241 feet

Okay.  So, I’m no rocket scientist but that’s 4,161 feet.  Vertically.  In other words, after having already hiked about 18 miles, we still had almost 7 to go and we would essentially be climbing 78% of a vertical mile.  Straight up in the air.  My life flashed before my eyes.  Would I send everyone onward without me and potentially stay the night in the canyon?  Was I going to be one of “those people” who had to get helicopter air lifted out of the canyon on the news?  I couldn’t let myself think about failure.  I just had to keep taking it one step at a time.


And that’s where I found myself setting my own pace.  Kyle, Bryce, and Justin had gone on ahead.  I was kind of in the middle of the pack.  I set my iPhone (in airplane mode all day to conserve battery since cell service is non-existent of course) on shuffle and let it play music from inside my pocket.  That helped steer my mind clear from the task at hand.  I passed a couple who was walking the opposite direction. They could tell that I was “spent” physically by the way that I braced myself with a tree while standing to catch my breath.  “There’s a water stop about a mile and a half up, right after a tunnel,” the man told me.  I thanked him.  But I’m pretty sure he lied to me.


That was probably the longest mile and a half of my life.  I kept looking for a tunnel that never came.  Endless log stairs, rocks to climb over, and switchbacks.  I’d round a corner and they just kept coming.  “Really?!” was the thought that kept crossing my mind.  I’d walk for a couple minutes, then have to catch my breath and keep my heart from coming out of my chest.  When I finally saw that tunnel after an eternity of hiking, it almost seemed like a mirage.  I went through, plopped down on a rock, and just sat there without moving a muscle for at least a few minutes.  The sun had started its descent into the horizon already so I knew daylight was on the way out.


The fat chipmunks at that small rest area kept me company (and ate some of the peanuts in my trail mix) for about 15 minutes until my mom and Todd arrived, and then Rustin and Wade were just a few minutes behind them.  We talked for a bit and then decided it was best to press on as daylight would soon be closing out.

Final Stretch

The last 1.7 miles of the hike happened at a snail’s pace.  Every so often I would look behind/below me at the huge canyon and get a little dizzy thinking I had just come up from there.  At one point I got insanely hungry and dug into a Nature’s Valley granola bar.  I didn’t care that it had become nothing more than a packet full of crumbs at that point.  I inhaled it, and I downed two more bottles of water that I’d filled up at the rest stop.  Keep in mind, I hadn’t used the bathroom since Cottonwood.  All that water was flowing right through me as sweat.


I knew I was getting close when I started hearing the sound of automobile traffic overhead.  The trail conditions got notably better, and I passed a man sitting along the side of the trail who was waiting for some family members.  “You’ve only got 100 yards to go,” he told me.  Music to my ears.  I made it.  And it was the biggest rush of relief that I had ever felt.



It’s miraculous that the 8 of us everyday people made it through such a physically taxing event.  We took one last group photo from the bed of Todd’s pickup truck which was parked there at the North Rim.  After showering up, we made it to our 9:00 p.m. dinner reservation at the historic North Rim Lodge.  I glanced around the table and the look of exhaustion was pretty common.  We slept like rocks at our rented log cabin.


On Saturday morning, Justin, Bryce, Kyle, and I got on a 7:00 shuttle van that drove us 4.5 hours back to where my ILX was parked at the South Rim.  Each time we stumbled out of the packed van at a rest area, my legs reminded me that they weren’t happy with what I’d put them through the day prior.  It was great to get back to the car and settle in for the rest of the trip home. Here’s a picture from when we exited the park on Saturday morning.


We dined at a neat little Italian restaurant in historic Williams off Interstate 40 before heading back to the Phoenix area.

Thanks for being a part of this memorable adventure!  The rest of the pictures and a short video follow:

Rest stop near Camp Verde, Arizona on I-17 headed north toward the Grand Canyon


Setting out on our hike


Still wearing a smile, just a few miles into the hike.


One of the group pictures we took for the first 1/2 of the hike


Switchbacks leading down to the floor of the canyon


Another group pic


Rustin and Wade taking a snack break


A few of the scenic views that surrounded us



Wade and Rustin had a lot of energy still at about 6 miles into the hike.


Group shot whilst crossing the bridge


Tunnel crossing – Todd pictured here


View of the bridge


Back on the trail we went


Refreshing lemonade at Phantom Ranch


Speaking of Ranch, here’s the man who packed a bottle of it!


Luckily for us, the pipes were working.


Mama Tia filling up on water before heading out again


Taking a break in the shade along the trail (Bryce, Tia, Kyle)


One of many river crossings


Arrival at Ribbon Falls


Rustin savoring every drop of his Diet Dr. Pepper which he’d lugged into the canyon


On the trail again, just can’t wait to get on the trail again.


A few pictures from the upward climb.  You can see the trail about halfway up the hillside.


And another shot of the trail looking back down.


North Rim Lodge as seen on Saturday morning, the day after our hike


Our shuttle van for the 4.5-hour trip from North Rim to South Rim


Arrival back at the ILX which had been parked at Maswick Lodge


Lunch spot in historic Williams, Arizona


Finally, a shout-out to one of my most loyal readers, Conor, who sent me a Hot Wheels NSX to match the real deal!


Thanks buddy!

Hiking Shaw Butte to Abandoned “Cloud 9” Restaurant in Phoenix

Posted in Hikes, Legend on May 18, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  533,559


Odometer (ILX):  125,623


Remember that classic 1985 movie, Goonies?  It’s one of my all-time faves.  I can’t believe it’s 30 years old.


So, there’s a scene in the movie where some kids go hiking around in an abandoned restaurant in search of buried treasure after finding a map in someone’s attic.  Sounds like my kind of adventure, and that’s why I love the movie.


Oh, and I also loved it because of some sweet off-racing scenes with a Jeep Cherokee 4×4.


I get a kick out of “urban exploration.”  One of my most memorable road trips ever was when I hiked around the ghost town of Modena, Utah.  I’ll never forget the feeling of uneasiness as I climbed rickety wooden staircases and wondered if they’d crumble under my weight.  The thrill of discovery, adventure — and sometimes, of getting caught in a place where you shouldn’t be — is fun for me.


A few friends, family members and I (hi, mom!) are planning a 20+ mile Grand Canyon “rim to rim” hike a week from this Friday.  We’re insane, yes.  But, as part of the training for that, I’ve started seeking out local Phoenix-area hikes a couple of times a week in preparation.  My friends Rustin and Wade told me about a 3-miler with a nice 900-or-so foot elevation gain near 7th Avenue & Peoria in north-central Phoenix.  We met up at the trailhead last Wednesday after work and set out with Wade’s dogs, Abi & Jackson, leading the way.  The path was called Shaw Butte:  Trail #306 in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.


According to the “Health” app on my iPhone, we climbed the equivalent of 68 flights of stairs.  I was panting more than the dogs were by the time we reached the summit.  The hike was just what I needed to get my heart rate up, and the views were awesome.


The icing on the cake, though, was getting to wander around the remains of an old restaurant that’s been gone for over 50 years now.  Cloud 9 opened in the early 1960s as a luxury restaurant for the Phoenix elite.  According to one video account, the facility was small and could only accommodate about 30-40 people.  In all my googling, I wasn’t able to find a picture of the building from when it was open for business.  On November 8, 1964, the building burned down.  There are suspicions that the demise of the building may have been related to gang or mob activity, but nobody really knows for sure.

Even when the restaurant was in operation, the road was too rough to be traversed by passenger cars so people were shuttled to the summit by four-wheel-drive vehicles.  Today, the location is part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve System and it’s not likely it would ever be built up again as a commercial business.

cloud 9 sign

The round-trip hike took us about an hour and a half.  Here we are getting ready at the trailhead.


Wade takes the lead


Now it’s Jackson’s turn.  This is the crumbly road that once led to the restaurant.


Staircase and some old kitchen equipment


This concrete pad is where the tables once would have been.  There were glass windows along the edge.


Abi, Rustin, and Wade as silhouettes on the Cloud 9 patio


It would have been a great view from the restaurant – especially at night.


Taking a break with the pups


Sign along the roadway


Photo op.  Color coordinated – unintentionally (I promise)


Best thing about the Acura ILX?  Huge cupholders that can accommodate gallons of diet soda after a hike.


Now that we’ve worked up an appetite, I’ll do a quick share about a local restaurant that I checked out for the first time over the weekend. This one’s for you, Dave in Seattle!  I know my friend Dave is a BBQ fan so I thought he’d appreciate this.  It’s Honey Bear’s BBQ – family owned and operated since 1986.


I was one of only 5 people in the restaurant at about noon on a Saturday.  Had my share of parking spot choices, and I took an end space as usual.  There wasn’t much traffic on Central Avenue.


Inside view – pretty quiet.


Those are some soft drinks you don’t see very often:  RC Cola, Sunkist, and Hires Root Beer.


“You don’t need no teeth to eat our meat.”  How’s that for a motto?


And here’s that pulled pork sandwich.  Delicious, I’d say.  The only issue was that the meat was so juicy, it soaked through the bun and I ended up having to eat everything with a fork.


And we’re off to cruise down Central on a full belly.


Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Northern Arizona Part 2: Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, Road Trip on February 4, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,455


Odometer (ILX):  112,326



The story of our weekend’s canyon crusade left off when we had finished visiting the Utah/Arizona state line after our hike through Antelope Canyon.  But the fun wasn’t over quite yet.  Turns out, the timing was perfect to make a sunset-time visit to nearby “Horseshoe Bend.”  That name refers to a section of the Colorado River where it makes a 180-degree turn just south of Page, Arizona.  We were not prepared for the grandeur of this site!

Just a 3/4-mile hike from the trailhead, we stood at the edge of a 1,000-foot dropoff that rivals the nearby Grand Canyon.  We had to hike along the rim of the canyon with care, as the sand on the rocks made for a slippery surface.  None of us felt particularly like taking a freefall to the Colorado, though Peter stood on a pretty precarious looking ledge as if he entertained the idea:


Here I dangled my legs out a little.


Sunset lighting and some fresh rainwater puddles in the trailhead parking lot made for the perfect photo-op on our way back to Page.  Can you believe these pics we got of the ILX?!


Our night finished out with an enjoyable Italian meal at Strombolli’s.  Best of all?  We banned all electronic devices.  Here’s how that played out:  At one point, someone realized that all eight of us were iPhone users.  Naturally, we had to stack all the iPhones up in the center of the table for a picture.  This triggered an idea.  “Hey,” I said.  “Let’s challenge ourselves to leave these phones here for the entire meal and not touch them.”  I saw some fear struck into the eyes of a few, but we all agreed.  And what a great hour it was!  Talking — without feeling the need for constant text-messaging and Facebooking.  Just like in the olden days.  Stephen missed out on 24 text notifications but the rest of us only had a few.


iPhone Jenga


We all crashed out after an exhausting day and a dip in the Comfort Inn hot tub.  Sunday morning, I peeked out of our second-story hotel window and saw that the sky was completely clear and there was a thick layer of frost on every vehicle in the parking lot.  Sure enough, my weather app confirmed that was was a mere 30 degrees outside.


We fueled up on hot breakfast in the lobby and headed out on our return to Phoenix by about 9:30 a.m.  In Flagstaff, we had a driver change and Peter took the wheel while I lounged in the back seat.  Peter commented that he felt that the ILX was faster than his Acura TSX which has a similar horsepower rating.  He had a great collection of tunes to entertain us with for the 2-hours remaining in our drive:  hits like Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time,” and Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”  Nice selections, P!

Phoenix was crawling with Super Bowl festivities so my friend Scott and I couldn’t resist the temptation to drive over to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale later that afternoon to see some of the chaos.  Sure enough, road closures, coned-off lanes, parking attendants, and plenty of police presence kept us from getting very close to the venue.  I did still manage to get a picture of the ILX in front of Super XLIX!  It was taken sometime during the second quarter of the game.


Please enjoy the rest of these pictures and a short video from Horseshoe!


A few photographers waiting for perfect sunset lighting


Pretty amazing all around


Silhouettes of our group


Back at the trailhead, some pics of the cars in the puddles


Talking on 8 iPhones at once at dinner


Chilly Sunday morning


Highway 89 southbound with the San Francisco peaks in the distance, approaching Flagstaff


Peter at the wheel of the ILX, and Chris in shotgun


Driving past the Super Bowl while it was going on!


Super Bowl pic with my buddy Scott from Massachusetts (obvious Pats fan)


Hey, did everyone see the side-by-side of the 2013-2015 ILX next to a 2016 model?  Thanks to Acura Connected for the image.  What are your thoughts on the changes?