Mount Union: Yavapai County Highpoint

I wasn’t entirely sure what Sprocket and I were going to get up to on our way back from the Phoenix area while bound for Colorado. I figured I’d take a couple of days to make the drive and that we could adventure somewhere along the way. I’d debated between hiking Black Mesa, the Navajo County highpoint, and adventuring in the Bradshaw Mountains to Mount Union, the Yavapai County Highpoint. I didn’t really make up my mind until I reached the Bumble Bee exit on I-17.

Bradshaw Mountains

I often rave about the wonders of taking the blue highways but I really outdid myself this time. It is only 45 miles on the interstate between Black Canyon City and Camp Verde and I managed to map out a route that more than doubled the mileage and took the original 45 minute drive and turned it into an adventure…

Backroads

Bradshaw towns

Bradshaw Mountains

After climbing up from the Verde Valley, I passed through the small community of Crown King and then started following the Senator Highway north. The dirt road was in pretty good shape and we made good time (for gravel) and only hit snow in a few patches.

Senator Highway

Senator Highway

After so much quiet and lonely driving through the mountains, it was almost anti-climatic to get to the base of the Mt. Union spur road. There are private homes along the road (and the gun fire in the distance was sort of disconcerting) so we hustled our way up to the peak. I lazily didn’t change out of my flip flops so the little stretch of the road that was shaded by the peak itself was sort of interesting. (Oops.)

Mt. Union views

We scrambled up as far up the stairs of the lookout as we could, Sprocket braving the steep narrow extruded aluminum bravely, and looked around. The Bradshaw Mountains are not among Arizona’s most majestic but they really are in the middle of everything; the views were a little obscured by clouds but I got an idea of just how much I could see from that vantage point!

Mount Union

Mount Union

I decided to take FS 261 down to the highway and I was actually kind of surprised by it! I had to pick my line with some care in places to compensate for the stock XJ’s relatively low clearance. I could have made it up the road just fine but it would have been tough in a couple of spots. Although it felt like it had been a really full day already, I decided to push it all the way back to De Beque over a snowy Lizard Head Pass into Ridgway and then north to our own bed after a really busy week of friends and mountain tops!

Mount Union

Opt Out, or At Least #OptOutside

I love Christmas. I love Christmas gifts When I was about eight years old, I’d start making my Christmas list right around Halloween and it included every single one of my family members—not just my parents and my sister but my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and all my cousins. I know I made a wish list for myself but the focus of my holiday excitement was largely on giving gifts to people. My mom, in contrast to me, hates Christmas shopping. She taught me how to make gingerbread houses, the importance of hiding cords to make decorations look polished, and that it’s okay to proudly sing Christmas songs with a less than perfect singing voice. This leads her to procrastinate on her shopping and all of my best efforts to explain that waiting makes it worse have never helped. Perhaps that’s because I think my dad secretly liked going to the mall in the final days before Christmas; he was always adding silly Santa gifts for his siblings to the shopping list and used to take my sister and I out on a shopping trip specifically to pick things out for mom that included lunch.

Will with coat

 

In this way, living in a van was really hard for me. It wasn’t particularly feasible to be in the northwest for Christmas when the southwest was where the warm weather was. I didn’t have a shipping address and bowed out of family gift exchanges. Although I decorated the best I could, it wasn’t the same as having a Christmas tree and baking cookies, and checking all the nice people off my list one by one. I missed putting thought into the perfect gift for people.

But, despite the fact that I really do love Christmas shopping, I don’t shop on Black Friday. When I was growing up, Black Friday was for singing “Bringing in the Boxes” as I trekked back and forth between the house and the garage carrying box after box of Christmas decorations in. (As embarrassing as this sounds, I embraced it and even had a friend join me a year or two in high school and made her sing the song. Maryanne was such a good sport.) I spent most of the day outside with my dad learning “everything I know about exterior illumination.” In the evening, we’d decorate the pieces of our gingerbread houses. Getting up early for Black Friday sales to miss out on that fun? No way. Besides, we usually stayed up until midnight watching It’s A Wonderful Life as a family once we got back from Thanksgiving celebrations.

Honestly, usually, I’m close to done with my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. I like to spread out my spending and take the time to pick out really great things for my family and friends. (Ahem, Lakin family? I’m still waiting for a 4th of July name draw…) Since I’m not part of the Black Friday culture it’s always been easy to look at the stampedes and the rampant commercialism and think, “Really? That’s what our holidays are about?”

This week REI announced that they would be closing their stores on Black Friday. Employees (who are recieving paid vacation) and would-be customers are instead encouraged to spend time with their families and opt out of the buying frenzy hopefully by choosing to #OptOutside.

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This BLEW UP in the outdoor social media world. I couldn’t get on Facebook or Twitter without seeing #OptOutside. I joined the chorus, my plans already included exploring and being outside with Sprocket on Black Friday.*  And yesterday, the announcement came from Outdoor Research that they too would be closing its retail store and distribution centers the day after Thanksgiving piggybacking on REI’s announcement.

This warms my outside loving, anti-consumerism, gift giving heart. Because, let’s be real, most people aren’t hankering for a door buster on a cashmere sweater for Christmas. A generic gift determined by what’s on sale on Black Friday is unlikely to brighten anyone’s holiday. A simpler, less extravagant gift that builds on a hobby, passion, or dream of your loved one is much more likely to tell that person what you’re really say with the gift: “I care about you.”

Training for the New Alpinism

Choosing to shift from a mad buying frenzy on Black Friday to more reasoned, thoughtful gift-giving opens up time for being with your family. Maybe you’d like to spend that time decorating for Christmas like I did when I was growing up (or use it to go get a Christmas tree outside!). Maybe you’ll be like Sprocket and I this year exploring a new place. Maybe you’ll grab your partner or children or a cousin and get outside like my cousin and I did the day after Christmas last year or like Andrew and I did a couple of days later. Creating memories with your family gives you time to get to know them which makes for more satisfying gift giving (and receiving!).

Hiking with Andrew

How are you keeping up the holiday cheer by opting out (or at least controlling!) the amount of commercialism involved?

 

 

*Last year, I ran all over Connecticut and New York being outside before a wedding! Clearly this is normal for me…