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Monthly Archives: February 2018


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I wasn’t on any big tree expedition, just scrambling up a nearby canyon to rid myself of that late-November cage-ey-ness. After rimming out, I was happily striding back toward my truck when something caught my eye. Was that two trees or one big one across the draw?


An investigation ensued. Nothing revealed itself immediately. An orange trunk glowed behind nearby foliage. I drew closer, the trunk got bigger, the TREE got bigger. A moment of awe commenced. If measured by wood volume, it is almost surely the biggest ponderosa pine in Arizona. By American Forest points, I’ve measured slightly bigger ones, but seen none greater. We call it El Rey—The King.


I’ve been to the tree 7 times now, climbed it once. Govi led, slinging dead branch staubs for protection. It was a little sappy at the top, and not that great a view. But the rappel back down, with the massive trunk expanding as we dropped, that was very cool. I have a new friend. 117′ tall, 221″ circumference, 20′ average crown, 396 AF points.

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Sea of Cortez header

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The trip started at 35,000 feet, en route to Chile. I knew we were over the Mexican coast well north of the Tropics, but I wasn’t sure where. The land was desert. The coastline was empty, and full of coves, with rugged desert mountains rising straight from the sea.

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Turns out, this was mainland Mexico, just north of San Carlos, a resort town I’d visited a few times with my family when I was a child. Then, we’d made sand castles on the beach. I was too young to go on the great thorny bushwhack to the top of the mountain, darnit. This time, I wanted to plop a boat in the water.

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Lisa and I drove to the last house in the last village. The fellow there said, “Si, no problema.” We parked in his yard and offered some gifts. The water was brilliantly clear, and I was immediately impressed with the size of the swells.

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Our first camp came within a palm-studded canyon. Palm trees and saguaro, it was all very exotic, but familiar too. The mountains looked like the Superstitions, but with palm trees, along the Sea of Cortez.

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We paddled into the wind for three days, returning in one and a half. It was never over 80 degrees and never under 50. There were colorful fish under the water, which was warm enough for comfortable wetsuit swimming. I sense an annual trip developing.

Sea of Cortez sea last