Gear Review: Stonewear Designs, Fall 2013

As a Stonewear Ambassador, I received a whole lot of clothing from their Fall 2013 catalog that I’ve been wearing for the last few months. With my wardrobe being constrained by the camper, the clothing has been in fairly heavy rotation and has gotten a fair amount of testing!

Stonewear Designs makes all of their products in America and really strive to make wearable products for real women. Here’s some of my thoughts:

Favorites:

  • Cross Back Top: This bra fits SO WELL. It’s so comfy and is my go-to bra for everything It offers good front coverage and has an adorable (and comfortable cross back). I’m small busted so it offers plenty of support for any activity I throw at it.
  • Dash Performance Pant: The Dash pants are so cozy. I’m 5’10” and I should have bought the long length but I’m still rocking the regulars anyway because they’re awesome: they fit nicely through the hips and the amount of stretch is just right. I haven’t experienced any gaping at the waist either. The fleecy inside means they’re warm though so I don’t get a chance to wear them too often!
  • Cascade Skirt: Although the skirt is a touch long for my taste (floats right around my knees), I forgive it because it is so soft. Seriously, the jersey material is just like silky butter! The soft waist is really comfortable making this a dream to wear.

Family photo with camper

  • Alpha Hoodie: I reviewed the Alpha over on the Live Stonewear blog this fall. I was wearing the lovely “Blue Shadow” one all the time and was totally pumped to get one in “Berry Milkshake” with “Team Stonewear” on the sleeve. These days I often use one for working out/running and the other for wearing around to compensate for my lack of laundry access. The biggest downside of the Alpha is that it has started show some piling where backpack straps rub (waist strap, sternum strap). It seems to fare well against the prickly sticks of the desert though so it’s one of my favorite layers for hiking. The small fits me just right with plenty of length through the torso.

Beth & Sprocket

  • Sprinter Capri: I actually don’t have too much to say about the Sprinter aside from the fact that once I put them on I hardly know I’m wearing them. The very first hike I wore these on involved plenty of brush and plenty of scrambling around rocks boosting a dog and I was sure that I’d do them in since the material feels pretty light…I didn’t. The thread on the seams is showing a little wear but these have been in heavy rotation over the last six months. As it turns out, I didn’t have a photo of me wearing them but I just so happen to be rocking them now so I took a photo:

Beth on Gila Gravity Canal

  • Nimble Knicker: I’m not totally sold on the look of the Nimble Knicker but they’re sooo comfy that I just don’t care. The fabric is really soft, the waist is perfectly fitted, and they’re just right. It turns out that in the right weather they’re even pretty good for running as I discovered in the sand dunes.
Alpha Hoodie & Nimble Knicker
Alpha Hoodie & Nimble Knicker

So-So:

  • Olympia Tank: I’m just not crazy about the Olympia’s fit on me. I’ve had several friends and family members tell me I’m nuts for not liking it. (Although I’ve gotten some to admit that perhaps it just wasn’t designed for my body type, aka flat chested, skinny, broad shoulders. I know that some of the other Ambassadors love this tank so take my fit advice with a grain of salt. It’s a little large for me through the chest and the neckline sort of emphasizes my wide shoulders. It’s also done some serious fading and a little piling in not that many washes.
  • Helix Jacket: I love the coloring on the Helix: the heathered pattern means that you can’t really tell if it’s dirty or not. (And living with the big black love bug named Sprocket means mine’s usually dirty…) From the front I love how it looks on me. The back has a really cute flare that would emphasize someone’s cute butt. Since I’m lacking in that department, it looks just a little…odd. My only other complaint about the Helix is that the pockets are really shallow: phones like to jump out of them.

Beth in snow

  •  Solace Top: I wasn’t crazy about the ladder back of the tank at first but it’s really grown on me. The Solace is really comfortable and has a really flattering fit: it’s not too fitted but not too loose either. The shelf bra provides me with enough support for running (this probably wouldn’t be the case for many ladies).

Running on Sand

  • Hot Yoga Short: Admittedly, I’ve only worn the Hot Yoga short for yoga … once. They make it into hanging out at camp rotation more often! They moved really well and were super comfortable. My only complaint is how high they sat up on the waist—almost like “mom jeans.”

Didn’t like:

  • Momentum Tank: This tank is just way too short on me. The back twist is cute but I just can’t get into the whole 90’s short tank-top look. Maybe they’ll make a long version!

On The Page: Called Again

Called Again

Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph details Jennifer Pharr Davis’s journey to become the fastest person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Reeling from a breakup, Davis looks to speed hiking to help salve her soul. Immediately, she set her sights on the AT as her goal. A friend convinced her to start with Vermont’s Long Trail where she started her journey. After her Long Trail hike, she started her own hiking company because she was “convinced that the trail was the best and cheapest therapy” possible.

Her first AT speed attempt, aided by her husband Brew, landed her the women’s supported speed record. Several years later, she was back on the trail attempting to set the overall AT record.

In just over 46 days of intense effort on her part with help from Brew and a cast of supportive friends, friends of friends, and more, Davis battles shin splints, weather, exhaustion and more in achieving her goal.

If you enjoyed Wild, read this to get a glimpse of an outdoors woman learning how much she can accomplish. If you hated Wild, you’ll probably like Called Again. As a lover of most thru-hiker accounts, especially ones where an experienced hiker has a unique experience, I devoured this book in the space of a couple of hours.

Gila Gravity Canal

Our new favorite winter camping spot is on the “shores” of the Gila Gravity Canal. The Parker-Gila Project was authorized in 1928 as part of the Boulder Canyon Project Act (later known as Hoover Dam); when initial surveying began in 1934, the Gila River Valley project was separated from the Colorado Indian Reservation project (Parker Dam). Project construction on the Gila Project was approved in 1937 with the potential to develop over 500,000 acres of irrigation. After World War II, the scope of the project was reduced to 40,000 acres in the Yuma Mesa Division and 75,000 acres in the Wellton-Mohawk Division.

GilaProject

Water for the Wellton-Mohawk (orange area below) and the Yuma Mesa (grey) Irrigation and Drainage Districts as well as for the North Gila and Yuma Irrigation Districts comes from the Gila Project.

irrigation_districts

Gila Project

The Gila Project diverts water from the Colorado River at Imperial Dam (the All-American Canal is also diverted from the Colorado there). Imperial Dam was preceded by the Lagunas Diversion Dam built between 1905 and 1909. It is often called the “Swastika Dam” because each masonry pier is topped with a large nine inch swastika recessed into the concrete; the Bureau of Reclaimation even used the swastika on its flag during that period. Although this may seem odd today, the swastika was used throughout the world as a positive symbol of good luck and life.

Originally used to divert water to Yuma, Sommerton, and Winterhaven Laguna Dam is 5 miles downstream of the Imperial Dam. Since diversion now happens at Imperial Dam, Laguna is used to help control the flows out of Imperial Dam.

Laguna Diversion Dam

The diverted water first passes through the Gila Desilting Basin before entering the twenty-one mile long main Gila Gravity Canal. The Canal skirts the Laguna Mountains passing through two tunnels on the northwestern side before wrapping around the southern flanks of the mountains. Tunnels 1 and 2 were completed in 1938: Tunnel 1 is 1,740 feet long and Tunnel 2 is 4,125 feet long. When the Canal reaches the Gila River, it passes below the Gila through the Gila Siphon, completed in 1939. The Fortuna Wash Siphon was completed in 1940.

Gila River Siphon
Gila River Siphon

Downstream of the Gila Siphon, some of the water is channeled into the Wellton-Mohawk Canal while the rest of the water flows to the eastern end of the South Gila Valley where it is lifted 52 feet by the Yuma Mesa Pumping Plant to Canals A & B that direct water around Yuma Mesa. the Wellton-Mohawk Canal water reaches its fields with the help of three pump lifts.

Construction of the main canal was hindered in the mid-1940s by labor shortages. The war effort actually encouraged the government to keep progressing on the Gila Project because irrigation was needed to control dust near the Yuma Army Air Field (now Yuma Marine Corps Air Station). A total of 8,500 acres was rushed into alfalfa production to protect airplane engines. The final phase of construction on the Gila Project distribution system was completed in 1957.

Today, the Gila Project provides irrigation water for 100,000 acres in Yuma County as well as providing domestic water for the City of Yuma. Agriculture in Yuma is a big business with an gross economic return of over $3 billion (more than 1/3 of Arizona’s total agriculture). Thanks to water from the Colorado River, Yuma is even able to call itself winter vegetable capital of the world!

 

Laguna Mountains: Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

Located just north of Yuma, Arizona are the Laguna Mountains. Nestled between the Gila Gravity Canal (more on that coming soon!), the Colorado River, the Yuma Proving Grounds, and US 95 the Lagunas are a roughly circular range of scrubby, barren hills. We’re camped right near “Sugarloaf,” a 668′ chunk of rock presiding over western edge of the Lagunas so yesterday F and I decided to head up and check out the view.

Green Rocks

We approached the mountain via a big wash to the northwest of the peak doing a bit of exploring as we circled around to the southeast to climb the peak. Some sources say to take along a rope if you’re going to the summit but we found it to be a very simple scramble to the top.

F and Sugarloaf

F on Sugarloaf

At the summit, we were treated to big views all around the Yuma area: looking northeast we could see Castle Dome, back to the east were the Muggins Mountains, to the southeast the Gila Mountains and Tinjas Altas, to the southwest Pilot Knob, to the west the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, and to the south the smog of San Luis, Mexico.

Sugarloaf Benchmark Army Corps of Engineers

Plus, we could see where the All-American Canal headed west towards the Imperial Valley, where the Colorado River cut through the Yuma Valley, and all the lush green agricultural fields.

Valley views

View from Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

F on volcanic ridge

Los Algodones, Mexico

Beth & PacificoLos Algodones water tower

Over the last week or so we’ve been hanging out in Los Algodones catching up on dental work and eating delicious tacos. Actually, I’ve been eating a lot tacos while F is stuck with cheese quesadillas due to the aforementioned dental work. Thankfully, his teeth are better and he’s done his best to make up in the taco department.

Quesadillas in Mexico

Algodones is the self proclaimed “Dentistry capital of the world” and is also home to a pharmacy on every block. The streets of town are full of Americans and Canadians getting dental work and stocking up on prescription drugs for cheap.

Mexico, perscription drugs

The streets are colorful and filled with street vendors selling sunglasses, blankets, hats, jewelery, lawn ornaments, and more. All the booths are more or less the same but at least everything is colorful!

Los Algodones

Los Algodones

Colors!

El Paradiso is really popular with those from north of the border. The food looks like it pales in comparison to taco trucks and stands outside the main tourist area but it’s got energy and the $2 Coronas and $5 margaritas were pretty delicious.

Margaritas in Mexico

F in El Paradiso

Beth & Pacifico

In the end, our stay near the border was really great: F got all caught up on dental work, I got a cleaning, we ate tacos, and thoroughly explored Algodones. Of course, all the tacos whetted our whistles for traveling further south but that’s for another time!

Sunday Sermon

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure—self-determined, self-motivated, often risky—forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind—and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”

Mark Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

-Mark Jenkins

Signal Peak

Signal Peak, located just south of Quartzsite, Arizona, is the highest point in Yuma County. I’ve been meaning to climb it since last year when we first visited Quartzsite but finally convinced F and Mike to join me on Wednesday; Mike’s dog Katie and Sprocket joined us as well. Signal Peak (4,877′) stands high over the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (fun fact: the word “Kofa” comes from “King-OF-Arizona” a mine that used to operate south of Signal Peak).

The drive up Kofa Queen Canyon Road is gorgeous. Traveling just north of the Signal Peak massif, it heads up through some very impressive spires and rock formations. The angle of the morning light wasn’t ideal for photography but I did grab some on the way out. Signal Peak is one big chunk of rock!

Signal Peak

After bouncing along Kofa Queen Road for quite awhile, we finally found the trailhead. F and I quickly confirmed that what we were seeing on the ground matched our online beta about the route and away we went. While preparing for the hike, I’d read several trip reports that said route finding was tricky. Using the photos available on the SummitPost.org site, I’d say that it was really quite easy to find your way.

Ten Ewe/Indian Canyon

Just barely on the trail, we spotted these gorgeous Desert Bighorn:

Desert Bighorn, Kofa Wildife Refuge

Part of the way up, Katie started limping a bit so Mike decided that he’d turn around and meet us back at the truck. F, Sprocket, and I continued heading up the mountain. The promised “scrambling” section of the hike barely rated a class 3. It’d been awhile since F had been on a hike like this with Sprocket and I and we all had a blast. I think we were both quite proud of Sprocket: he’s become quite the little mountain goat!

F and Sprocket

Along the way we spotted some more Desert Bighorns. They’re so amazing to watch run along the steep cactus covered hillsides!

Desert Bighorn

Cholla

Eventually, we asended into a bowl between the summit of Signal and Ten Ewe Peak:

Ten Ewe

At the summit, we took some time to relax, eat lunch, and try to name as many of the mountain ranges around us as we could. We’re slowly starting to learn the geography of western Arizona and far-eastern California!

Kofa 2 Benchmark/Signal Peak

View from Signal Peak

Signal Peak view to the southwest

Signal Peak was one of the best hikes I’ve been on in awhile. The drive in is long but breathtaking. The hike itself is challenging but not too horrible (it did not feel like 2,000′ of gain in less than 2 miles). And the view from the top is astounding.

 

On The Page: River Notes

On the plane up to Salt Lake City for the #omnigames I read Wade Davis’ River Notes: A Natural and Human History of the Colorado River. The timing was great: out the window I looked out to an awesome view of the Grand Canyon. As it turns out, we spend quite a bit of time playing in Colorado River basin states plus after reading The Emerald Mile, I realized there was lots to learn about this massive and unique river.

River Notes

Although River Notes had its share of interesting river tidbits, it was shorter and a lot less comprehensive than I’d hoped for. Davis’ intention seemed to be a plea for better river system policy (a worthy goal!) than documenting the natural and human history of the river.

The Mississippi River is known as “Big Muddy” however historically the Colorado moved a huge amount of sediment to the sea: “The average daily sediment load was five hundred thousand tons, enough to fill a hundred freight trains, each with a hundred cars, with each car bearing a load of two hundred thousand pounds.” Before the construction of the dams, “One hundred seventy million cubic cards of sand and silt” were moved down river—more than “three times the amount of dirt excavated to create the Panama Canal.” The Colorado is not the longest North American river nor does it move the most water but in four hundred miles it drops “some 2,500 feet in elevation, a rate of descent twenty-five times that of the Mississippi.”

I’d read a little bit about the formation of the modern Salton Sea in The Emerald Mile but enjoyed reading more about how in 1905 the flooded Colorado defied the man made structures separating it into its natural channel and the California Development Company’s Alamo Canal. For sixteen months the river flowed into the below sea level depression (an ancient path of the river itself).

As mentioned previously, most of River Notes is a plea to save the Colorado River. Davis discusses the appalling water policy surrounding cattle ranching and meat production (“in California, Arizona, and Nevada, roughly 85 percent of the water allotment goes to agriculture, with roughly half the irrigated land devoted to the raising of meat”). He does note a minor success story in the (very) partial restoration of the Colorado River Delta. “What began in the 1970s as a small island of fertility, fed in part by natural springs, runoff, and storm surges from the sea, has grown a hundredfold to become a lush wetland covering more than forty thousand acres. Land that had been sterile for a half century took but eight years to regenerate.”

#OmniGames: Winners

Last Friday, the final #omnigames competition “Charles Dickens” concluded. Happily for all of us waiting anxiously for the final results, they only made us wait until Monday evening.

F had a dental appointment in Algodones on Monday and I wasn’t about to anxiously stare at my computer for hours when I could be eating tacos for dinner so I tagged along. His appointment ran a little long and I started checking my phone obsessively to see the time. Despite trying to convince myself that I would learn the results when I learned them, I was anxious.

And then I got a text message.

It was Justin: we’d been announced as the first winners of the trip to Jordan.

jordan flag

By the time we’d returned from our pastor tacos, they’d announced Caleb, Heather, Patrick, Jon, Seth, and Casey. Within about twenty minutes of coming back, Erika and Andy had rounded out the “Spring 2014” #omniten contingent.

Jordan map

After the awesome time I had in Park City, I’m so curious to see what Columbia cooks up for us in Jordan!

Will we be going to Petra? The Dead Sea? I’m so excited to find out!!!

Petra Treasury

Dead_Sea-18