Cellphones & Wilderness Travel

More and more people are relying on cellphones and smartphone applications for safety and navigation in wilderness areas. People seem to push themselves beyond their comfort zone using a cellphone and 3G or LTE driven navigation programs like googlemaps. Once applications like this lose connection to the network they are useless.   Additionally, the accuracy and availability of map data for even the more popular trail leave something to be desired. There are some programs for both Android and iPhone that offer both accuracy and offline modes (no cellphone connection required) like OruxMaps for android and Motion X for iPhone. Beyond that, battery life of the phone raises concern. According to Tom’s Guide, the average for smartphones is 8 hours 27 minutes. You can mitigate some of this by carrying a backup battery for your phone and keeping it on airplane mode when it’s not in use; but there is still a risk in relying on something that is that battery intensive.

Tucson and the Catalina Mountains have fairly decent coverage and due to the terrain you can get line of sight to an antenna most anywhere. There are towers located on both Mount Bigelow and Mount Lemmon on Radio Ridge. Additionally, there are some towers located on Swan Road that have decent line of sight into the canyons. However if you are in a dip or around a bend don’t expect anything. Another consideration is distance to the towers. Just because you can see Oro Valley, Tucson or even San Manuel doesn’t mean you will be able to use those towers. In populated areas towers generally use less power to make up their cells and limit the number of users per tower and then the power level of your cellphone may not be able to reach all the way to those towers.

TEN Systems-2     So how do you avoid these aggravations and navigate reliably in the wilderness? Get a map. Get a simple compass. Then practice using them and make sure they are in your bag when you go hiking or mountain biking. I’m not saying don’t use cellphones at all, they’re great tools and very convenient; just don’t go out and do something that you wouldn’t do without a cellphone.

How Cellphones Work

Additional Reading









On the Way; Weekly Photo Challenge

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “On the Way.”

My wife is an amazing photographer and specializes in maternity and birth photography.  When I saw this challenge I thought of the breathtaking, time critical work she does to catch life On the Way.  The moments that she tries to capture help people explain very emotional moments in life and she does it in the most On the  way possible.  Please stop by her site to see more of her dazzling work.



Moving to Denver!

So… we are moving to Denver!


I was accepted to an amazing job up there for three years. I am so looking forward to moving too. I have not lived somewhere where it snows on a regular basis in over 11 years, so the family will need thicker jackets.  I am very excited to get to somewhere that has so many outdoor activities to. Just from some quick browsing there are some high altitude passes that you can drive too, lakes and rivers, and more hiking than we can shake a stick at. Once we get there I’d like to get into mountaineering. My time doing search and rescue has left wanting to learn more, collect all the skills! I want to learn high-altitude and ice/snow skills. So if anyone knows any clubs that will help a complete newbie get started please send me the info.

Tucson Mission Trip


Picture-12Recently we went down south of Tucson to visit a couple of missions.  The first destination was the San Xavier Del Bac Mission on the Tohono O’odham Nation.  It was founded in 1692 by Padre Eusebio Kino.  The current building was finished by 1797 and is the oldest European structure in Arizona.  (http://www.sanxaviermission.org/History.html)  The first thing you notice when you pull up to the massive building is the fact that one of the towers is unfinished.  This is due to the fact that buildings that were ‘under construction’ did not have to pay taxes…  The building is incredibly white and almost too bright to look at in the mid-day sun.  When you step inside you begin to appreciate the blazing white outside and it reflects the heat and keeps the insidePicture-8 is very cool.  Most of the restorations have been completed and what you see on the inside is as original as it’s going to get.  The colors are vibrant and the statues are amazingly detailed.  After walking around inside for a bit we ventured into the museum.  It is currently under construction and some of it has been closed off.  There wasn’t much in the way of exhibits or light for that matter.  Further to the east of the building is the gift shop, it is very clean and very affordable.  On the way out we stopped by one of the stands that had Indian fry bread…oh man that was good, both as a bean version and as a cinnamon honey one.

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Picture-30Next we went a bit further south to Tumacácori National Historical Park in Tubac. This is not a functioning church and is run as a national park. The site is well maintained and the museum is astounding. I wasn’t expecting the quality that we saw way out in the middle of nowhere. There was even a statue of Padre Kino, who also founded this mission in 1691 as the Spanish territories expanded north. There are plenty of exhibits on how the building was made and even an example of an O’odham house that was built in 1997. There was even a sweet couple making fresh tortillas for a small donation to the grounds. This is a great day trip for families but try to hit it up before the cool weather disappears; there is a lot of walking outside to visit these sites.

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Sabino Walk





Ocotillo – Makes a great living fence


Above Sabino Dam



Sabino Dam – According to Sabino Canyon Tours the dam, along with the road, were built during the depression era.




Creosote Bush – Best smelling plant in the desert!



Nipple Cactus, Fishhook Cactus or pincushion,

what ever you call it the little red fruit is delicious.


Cholla Cactus


Rock formations around Tucson come mostly from the late Cretaceous period.

Here is an interesting read about how it was all formed.


The Century Plant – Of all the cactus in the desert this one has cut me up the most,

it is very sturdy and usually just stabs into me as I’m trying to get around in on the trail.




Palo Verde



Baby Saguaro

Catalina State Park Visit

For the last three days the only paved road going up to Mount Lemmon has been so crowded that they have had to shut it down and only let cars go in as cars left.  To avoid all of that mess and still enjoy the cool weather we headed over to Catalina State Park off of SR77.  While we where there we toured the Hohokam Ruins and then hiked up the road to the creek that comes out of Montrose Canyon.






Morning Frost


Up on top of the hill where the ruins were.



Romero Ranch ruins