This is one of the biggest things I missed while living in Ecuador.
Category Archives: Arizona
My twin sister decided to introduce me to Camelback, which is a famous mountain – or hill, depending on the mountains you’ve grown up with wherever you live – in Arizona because it resembles a camel lying down in the desert surroundings. It has also gained a reputation for being a rather difficult hike/trek with many people getting hurt and air-lifted off the mountain. As we drove to the trail, my sister told me a story of how ambulances were taking someone away the very first time she was going to hike it. YiKES!
Camelback is so popular that the parking lot fills up rather quickly, leaving many people to park farther down in the neighborhood streets. When we arrived the parking lot was packed and a line of cars were waiting for people to leave for their chance to get a spot. My sister and I opted for the other parking areas. We started driving and saw groups of people running and walking to the trailhead from the parking area, which also turned out to be filled. We had no choice but to park in the rocky landscape with other cars and make the walk to the trailhead. I jokingly told my sister that this could be our warm-up.
I learned from my sister that the hike can take up to 3-hours, so we took a deep breath and braved the porta-potties before starting the hike. According to my sister, there are two sides to climb to the top of Camelback. One is an easy hike with a flat path that only gets a bit dangerous – picture a high-wire, you walk on the edge of the mountain – before you reach the top. The other, which we took, is steep the entire way up and includes lots of boulder hopping.
After you climb up the stairs, you get a break on a flat path that winds along a fence that keeps you from falling off the edge before getting to the first of two real steep ascents. Both of these climbs have a steel handle-bar to assist you up the rock’s surface. It is amazing to see how people get up these areas of the hike. Some opt for no handle-bar and literally crawl up while others cling to the fence or bar, and others who are descending are walking backwards holding onto the bar. After each ascent, most hikers take a break to catch their breath and watch the other hikers before getting to the boulder areas.
This was probably my favorite part. You could either go up the boulder crevice or climb the surface of the red rocks next to it. The surface was so flat and had this texture that you could literally stand up straight and walk up it. It looked like you were walking side-ways up this rock, it was brilliant. I was so nervous though that for the first bit of it I clung with my face smashed up to the surface because I didn’t want to fall. With the assurance of my twin sister, I finally stood up half-way up and walked up, feeling the burning in my calves the entire way.
We venture onward and saw a helicopter making multiple rounds of the mountain, at points hovering. The pilot used its speaker to call out to hikers to assist them in their rescue attempt. “If you are by the injured hiker, please wave your arms.” All the hikers began pointing in the direction of the hiker that they passed during their descent. My sister and I pointed upward after noticing the people helping. We eventually saw the injured girl being nursed by her hiking partners. It appeared as if it was her ankle, which was no surprise because climbing the boulders – and at times jumping from one to the next – could easily lead to your foot slipping.
My sister told me we were near the top and our speed grew faster during the last portion. Our legs were burning and our breaths were quick, but we reached the apex where a crowd of hikers were resting and eating while enjoying the view. The Christmas tree was still up there along with a few decorated bushes. One group decided to take their Christmas picture for next year. We only had a few minutes of rest before we started our descent. On the way down we saw a girl who had just sprained her ankle a minute prior. She was in tears and being comforted by her friends. We continued on and made sure our feet were firmly planted before pressing on to the next boulder and the next…and the next. It was much faster on the way down and when we reached the wooden stairs, smiles replaced the open mouths that gasped for air the entire way up and down.
Tonight my parents and I walked around the outlets in Anthem. We normally don’t frequent the shopping center but they had something special to offer: the tallest Christmas tree in the nation. I find it odd that a city in Arizona would be able to get the tallest tree, but hey, at least we have the ability to admire and appreciate the tree since we are not stuck in feet of snow or have to bear freezing temperatures and wind chill to enjoy it. Let me tell you, this tree was massive. I was unable to fit the tree in its entirety into any picture (I can’t wait to get my panoramic camera under the tree – yes, I know that I’m getting one, I had to pick it out). It towers over the tops of the shops and can be seen from miles down the highway that the outlets are located beside. Underneath its limbs are giant presents and toys for kids and families to stand in front of for picture-taking opportunities.
It is good to see it in the daylight, not only for the picture-taking, but because you get the chance to see the huge ornaments that decorate the tree. At night when it is lit up, all you can see are the twinkling Christmas lights, which are still a beautiful sight to behold and definitely get you in the holiday spirit.
According to the details:
- The 110-foot tall tree came from Northern California.
- A huge crane was used to hoist the tree into place.
- In total, 120 strings of lights and 3,000 ornaments decorate the massive tree.
This is completely un-related to travel, however I could not resist the urge to spread the good news. My in-depth article that I wrote for News21 on employer sanctions was published in PRiNT and ONLiNE. This is the biggest accomplishment – to date – in my journalism career.
Background: I was chosen as one of 10 fellows for the Carnegie-Knight News21 Initiative, which includes 12 universities across the nation and is headquartered at my Alma Mater: Arizona State University. I was one of two undergrads accepted into the program and was the FiRST to get my story published out of the ASU group. The summer fellowship focuses on innovative story-telling. This year there was much more emphasis on impact and newsworthiness.
The nation’s leading journalism schools come together in this unique program to experiment with new forms of in-depth and investigative reporting.
Students travel the country to report on critical issues facing our changing nation and then find innovative ways to tell those stories.
Each school spent all their time and attention investigating and reporting on a specific subject area they felt they could write about accurately.
In Arizona, our group focused on immigration issues. Being so close to the border we felt this was appropriate.
My project: It dealt with employer sanctions, which are laws that states pass in order to combat the hiring of undocumented immigrants in the workplace.
To narrow the focus and make a better comparison, I looked at two states: Arizona and South Carolina.
Both had incredibly similar employer sanctions laws. However, only one has been able to successfully educate their state businesses, enforce their immigration law, and prosecute or violate those that do not comply. Which state, you may be wondering? I’ll let you find that out for yourself. Here is the introduction to my article, which can be read online at AzCentral:
Today was a successful day. It had to be. Otherwise, I would be, well, to be blatant, I would be screwed. I finished packing! Hooray! During my afternoon devoted to packing, I was reminded of two things.
1. I am definitely not a girly girl. I would gladly sacrifice a pair of shoes to fit my camelback into a suitcase.
2. I fit the stereotype of a typical North American that I think I need to bring all my “things” with me when I travel. However, after a few weeks I’ll realize I had brought too much.
I’ve also come to the realization that I may have had the disadvantage of being born and raised in Arizona, a state that gets less rain in a year than others receive in a day, to paint you somewhat of a portrait of my origins.
This is what I’ll be experiencing in my first week in Quito, Ecuador.
Rain, rain and more rain. I’m shocked I was able to buy an umbrella today at the store. I didn’t think they existed in Arizona. Okay, maybe I’m being overly dramatic but I’m being serious when I say that this is going to be a big change. Talk to any native Arizonan and they will tell you that anything below 70 degrees fahrenheit is absolutely freezing! I’m shuddering right now just seeing these digits. I don’t think I have more than two pairs of long pants and four, thin sweaters. Oh well, it will be an adventure to say the least!
Arizona is unique. Why? Because we receive rain from two places: the California area & the Mexico area. The Grand Canyon state is host to practically every type of topography. We have the desert in the lower region and the pine forests in the northern. Our climate can suit almost any person, whether you like the dry heat, or the moderate, cool temperature in the upper region.
What makes this state even more interesting is that every summer in Arizona we have a monsoon season, which can be described as hurricane and tornado-like winds, down-pouring rain and magnificent lightening shows. This part of the summer also witnesses the mighty force known as the haboob, which can only be seen in Egypt & Iraq. It is a wall of dust that carries itself over cities and neighborhoods, forcing drivers to pull off to the side of the road because they can no longer see in front of them.
During the monsoon season, the clouds build up all day long and sheets of rain let loose in the late afternoon and evenings. Frequently two storms build up from the southern region and the northern region, bursting inside the Valley. At other times, the monsoon combines with the dust storms to create a massive storm of epic proportions. The aftermath of a monsoon reveals knocked down power lines, metal street signs twisted in ways not thought elementally possible and trees bending into the streets after being uprooted. Roads are overwhelmingly flooded, making sidewalks invisible and cars shooting up walls of water. The canals, which are usually empty all year, are finally flowing like a river. Kids are swimming in lakes of water that once were grass areas. Some even bring out kayaks and paddle across the grassy lakes.
No matter the inconveniences that also arise after a monsoon has passed, such as blackouts and humidity, it brings with it excitement and relief for many Arizonans. We get to see the preview of it all day outside our windows as the clouds become larger and the sky grows darker. Cooler air offers a welcome comfort after experiencing scorching days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Monsoons become memorable events because it reminds us that life is still supported in a state that continually faces droughts and gives us something to look forward to in the Spring: blooming cactus blossoms & fields of flowers.
A kid takes a break from riding his bicycle through the grassy lake.
A video of a grassy area transformed into a lake after a heavy monsoon rain.