0.0005%

The world grows a LOT of cotton. 57 billion pounds a year. The best cotton – Pima – is 2% of the total. Organic Pima cotton? Yep, 0.0005%. We’re talking 5 bushels out of every million! And that’s where we play. Most of Fair Indigo’s fabrics are made with Organic Pima cotton.

Why Pima?

Pima is an ELS (extra long staple) cotton. It’s significantly softer, stronger, and longer-lasting than other cottons. It beautifully resists pilling, shrinking, and disintegrating in your laundry. It really really does!

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Which brings us to Peru

Cotton is to Peru as ice is to Antarctica. Cotton fabrics and garments have been found in Incan and even pre-Incan ruins. (OK, we’re not saying your Pima cotton tee will last that long, but…). Today, Peru is widely regarded as the best place on earth to grow cotton. And one of the very few places perfect for growing Pima cotton.

Why organic?

If you love organic food, but hadn’t given much thought to cotton, consider this: cotton occupies only 3% of the world’s farmland, but it consumes a whopping 25% of all pesticides. Setting aside the fact that we probably don’t want pesticides lurking in our clothes, cotton pesticides in particular are even stronger than many food crop pesticides and can cause grave damage to farmland and adjacent eco-systems. Sterilizing soil (which encourages deforestation in search of new farmland), leaching into ground water, rivers, and lakes, and posing danger to farm hands.

So when someone comments on your Fair Indigo tee, you can tell them it’s made with the top 0.0005% cotton in the world!

All of our cotton is grown without the use of pesticides, much like the Incas did. Our farmers use time-honored techniques like crop rotation for soil health (they grow quinoa in the off season), natural irrigation, and “intercropping” (see Fun Fact below).

Fun Fact: Corn is a natural pesticide for organic cotton. Our farmers plant one stalk of corn at the end of each row of cotton – kind of like an end aisle display. The corn attracts precisely the right insects that prevent cotton pests. We are so impressed with the thoughtful planning and hard work that goes into trying to do the right thing!

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Our farmers also use good old fashioned cow manure as fertilizer. Pima cotton requires that they weed and harvest completely by hand because machines partially destroy the extra long fibers.

Hard Work

Growing organic Pima cotton is precarious work. In addition to being a hands-on endeavor, there is a lot of dependence on a very specific weather pattern. A short, wet planting season followed by a sunny warm growing season, but with temperatures never getting too cold or too hot. Peru’s Andean midlands are ideal. Well, they were. In recent years, Peru has swung from extremes of droughts and floods, hot spells and cold snaps. In 2018, our farms experienced a perfect storm of the wrong weather at the wrong time. The harvest was decimated. While we usually have excess cotton to sell on the open market, with last spring’s harvest, we’ll have just enough to squeak by for our 2018 production. Too close for comfort!

Plan B

Javier, our master farmer (and co-owner with his wife Elsa of our Lima workshop), never wants to experience a year like 2018 again. And neither do we. While he can’t control the weather or climate change, Javier can hedge his bets. By buying small plots of land in various locations around the midlands, he’s betting that bad weather is less likely to strike in multiple areas than on our single large farm that served us well until 2018.

So…introducing our latest plot of land. 30 hectares in the Pisco region. In November it was certified by CAAE as organic. The soil had to undergo intensive testing to make sure nothing unnatural was hiding. And we passed with flying colors. The cotton you see below will be used in our Fall/Winter 2018 production – and (knocking on wood) it looks like it will be a banner harvest this time!

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Our brand new organic cotton farm (November, 2018) in the Pisco region of Peru

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Looking great! February, 2019, about a month from harvest

See the entire Fair Indigo all-cotton collection here: https://www.fairindigo.com/fi-collections/all-100-cotton.html

Hang Tags No More

Last fall we made the decision to eliminate all hang tags on our men’s and women’s garments. It was an easy decision to make – reduce paper and plastic waste? Save labor time at our production facility attaching said hang tags? Done and done. In order to communicate some basic information about our company, we redesigned our clothing poly bags (including switching to degradable poly bags!) and wrote about it in the blog This Bag is Fully Degradable. Like a Leaf.HangTag

The only problem with eliminating garment hang tags is that some of our leftover stock from the previous season still had hang tags attached, leading some customers to believe the garment that arrived WITHOUT hang tags was worn or damaged. We can assure you this is not the case! Eliminating hang tags was a conscious decision on our part to be kinder to the environment and we understand sometimes change can cause confusion. But we hope it’s a change everyone can appreciate.

Do you have a burning question you’d like answered? A question about the Fair Indigo company, our processes, or fabrics? We’d love to answer your questions, so feel free to comment below or email us at service@fairindigo.com

Last call for Organic All-Cotton Fleece!

We’ve made the decision to discontinue our Organic All-Cotton Fleece for now – a sad decision indeed. Our fleece is rare – besides being made from super-soft-and-strong organic Pima cotton, it’s made from ONLY super-soft-and-strong organic Pima cotton. Almost all fleece on the market today is made from part or all synthetic fibers. The final product has been beautiful, soft, and warm jackets and dresses. Just read this online review (one of many):

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The decision to discontinue our organic fleece collection has come after a couple of seasons struggling to get the quality exactly right – it has become quite a headache to keep the fabric weight, softness, and amount of stretch just right, resulting in meters of unusable fabric. And that’s not what our company is all about. Along with the physical waste, it’s been using up our time and energy and the time and energy of our production facility in Peru. Time and energy we would rather put into other endeavors.

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So why we’re sad to be saying goodbye to this collection, we’re happy to offer the last items left in stock at a great price. Take an extra 40% off all fleece during our Warehouse Moving Sale while supplies last! Only at www.fairindigo.com – view the collection here: https://www.fairindigo.com/fi-collections/organic-fleece.html

The Year Ahead, a letter from our founder

CHANGE. There may be no more hopeful word in the English language. The last days of the year are often spent reflecting on what change we’d like to create in our own lives.

I want to read more books in 2019. As social media vies for more and more attention, I’m reading fewer books than I did five years ago. I don’t like that. And this year I’m changing it. I’m also continuing a multi-year evolution to buying less stuff. It feels great! Liberating you from clutter, helping your budget, and putting a small dent in humanity’s voracious appetite for depleting natural resources.

BUYING LESS as a resolution may seem like a disconnect coming from someone whose livelihood relies on more people buying more clothes. But that’s not how I think about it.

We start with the premise that (almost) all of the world’s 7 billion people wear clothes. And this has spawned an apparel industry that’s honestly devastating for the earth and many of its people, second only to the oil industry in its negative environmental impact.

The best way to CHANGE this is to embrace an ethos of BUY LESS, BUY BETTER. The antithesis of Fast Fashion. To invest in clothing you’ll want to wear well beyond this season. Clothing made with quality that ensures you can wear it for years to come. We’re so proud that you and we are part of this change.

Here are some more changes coming down the pike in 2019.

NEW FARMS!
After an intensive certification process, our workshop owners in Lima, Peru have started two new organic cotton farms – one in Pisco and one in Chiclayo. Diversifying geographically helps us hedge against bad weather and poor harvests that have increased in frequency recently. The first harvest is in April!

NEW WAREHOUSE!
In mid February, we’ll be able to offer much better service as we move our merchandise out of Amazon fulfillment centers. Here’s a BLOG POST explaining why. You can also scoop up some great savings in our MOVING SALE!

NEW WEBSITE!
Around the same time, we’ll be launching a new streamlined website with easier navigation, checkout, and mobile phone compatibility.

All of the above will help us focus more on our core mission – offering you high quality, organic, and ethically made clothing. Thank you for your support in 2018 and Happy New Year!

Best,

Robert Behnke
Co-founder & President

Ornaments as memories

I have vivid and fond memories of decorating the Christmas tree as a little girl. Ours was never one of those perfectly choreographed trees, with precisely spaced and color-coordinated ornaments perched among garland and ribbon. No, ours was one of those mish-mash trees, decorated with a motley, genre-crossing selection of ornaments. Some were handmade, some delicate, some glamorous, some rustic. Some were beautiful. Some were, frankly, not. But they all had a story, and they all had a place on that tree. I still see them in my head at this time of year. Ornaments as memories.

Fast forward to now. I have my own little family. I’m mom to two kids. We put up a live tree every year. We’re forming our own traditions around that event, as sticky with pine pitch and fraught with clumped ornament hanging by my littles as it is. One of our traditions has become purchasing Pilgrim Imports ornaments from our friends at Fair Indigo.

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Starburst Heart Ornament

By my latest count, we’re up to about 13 of them. We’ve added them gradually; one to two a year. And our selection is gleefully eclectic, running the gamut from the Tree of Life to Santa, Sugar Skull to Rooster, Mermaid to Butterfly, Jiffy the Giraffe to our newest, the Holly Reindeer. All so different, but somehow perfectly in sync as they hang together on the tree, amidst all the other ornamental mish-mash. Thankfully, that tradition continues.

Now, there’s a lot I could say about how great these ornaments are just as ornaments. I could talk about the quality, how detailed they are, how they’re substantial without being bough-breakingly heavy. I could admire how they can move effortlessly from beautiful to whimsical (sometimes in the same ornament). I could note that I’ve not run across a single sharp edge, loose wire, or other lapse in craftsmanship on any of the ones we’ve adopted yet. All that would be 100 percent true.

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The author’s daughter, Maggie, started labeling the ornaments. The boxes they arrive in are perfect for gifting and/or storage.

But that’s not why I felt like writing about them.

This is a letter of gratitude. I wanted to write something as a thank you to Fair Indigo and Pilgrim Imports and every worker behind every ornament that hangs on our tree because, when it’s Christmas in my home, these aren’t just decorations. They are meaningful. They are memories. They are stories. They are on a journey with my family, transforming, with every season and every tree, into heirlooms. I will pass these down to my children for their own trees. And when I can pair those warm-fuzzy feelings with knowledge that each of these is handmade by a man or woman in Thailand who is treated well and compensated fairly for his or her work, that’s all the sales pitch I need.

This post was generously written and shared by a Fair Indigo customer, Caroline Sober-James, from Madison, Wisconsin. See these ornaments here.

Let’s talk earth-friendly dyes

In the world of fabric dyes there are 2 types – natural and synthetic. Natural dyes use items found in nature, such as minerals, roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood to alter the color of fabric and yarns. At first blush, it would seem using natural dyes would be a natural extension of using organic cotton, which we use in the vast majority of our products. So why don’t we use natural dyes in our clothing?

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But as we explored the natural dye option, we learned there are good reasons why they have not been widely adopted, even among brands trying to produce the most earth-friendly clothing they can.

First, natural dyes, on their own, don’t hold their color. As an example, if we used blueberry by-product to achieve a deep purple color, after a couple of washes, the garment’s color would be less deep, less purple. After several washes, it would be purplish-white. Not what most people are looking for.

There is a way around this. For lack of a better term, color ‘adhesives’ could be added during the dying process to help the color stick, even after washing. But these adhesives are extremely caustic and more than negate the benefits of organic cotton.

But there is a “third way.” To achieve colorfastness (the ability to hold color after several washings), while minimizing exposure to harmful chemicals, we use the gold standard for safe dyes – OEKO-TEX Standard 100.

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OEKO-TEX Standard 100 insures that the dyes are free from several substances, whether or not they are regulated by the US government (many are not). These include some of the better-known carcinogens and harmful substances:

  • Azo colourants
  • formaldehyde
  • pentachlorophenol
  • cadmium
  • nickel
  • lead

These chemical safety standards are extremely stringent and our dye maker, a company called DyStar, endures rigorous testing on a constant basis. If you want to geek out on specifics, you can have at it here. DyStar is well-known as a company committed to innovating sustainability in an industry that notoriously doesn’t.

A word to those with sensitivities: eliminating the most harmful chemicals from dyes is a good thing for all of us, there are some people who have severe allergies or sensitivities to various chemicals that may or may not be judged as generally safe or harmful. We can’t promise anyone with these sensitivities will have zero problems with our dyes (every body is unique), but we have heard from several such customers who excitedly told us our fabrics have not triggered these reactions.

 

 

This Bag Is Fully Degradable. Like a Leaf.

Let’s talk about one very unsexy topic of the clothing industry – plastic bags. They are a necessary evil in the world of clothing manufacturing – protecting your garment between our production facility in Peru to your doorstep. We’ve spent years searching for a solution that is a little gentler on the environment, and here it is!

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Our new polybags are made from the same materials as typical ones – Polyethylene (PE). So they have the same benefits – water and moisture resistance, efficient protection of the product, see-through (a MUST for warehousing purposes), strength.

But these polybags contain d2w®, an oxo-biodegradable additive (made from various types of salt) that is added during the production process. While the polybag remains as strong as ever during normal use, it breaks down completely in the natural environment, leaving no plastic remnants behind. Once the additive has done its part to break down the materials, natural bacteria and fungi take over.

The bags are 91% biodegraded within 24 months, similar to a leaf, breaking down into water, CO2, and a small amount of biomass. They can still be REUSED and RECYCLED just like any other polybag, where PE recycling is accepted.

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We also eliminated garment hangtags for this season’s production. Hangtags are helpful in telling the Fair Indigo story, but we felt it was a waste of resources – and frankly, a waste of time, energy, and labor attaching those little hangtags to every garment. So we decided to print the Fair Indigo story directly on the polybag, keeping our packaging and marketing waste to a minimum. Win-win!

The new polybags read as follows:

“After years in the apparel industry, a small group of us started Fair Indigo because we knew there was a better way to do business. To create modern, quality clothes while paying the good people who make them a fair and living wage. Instead of racing to the bottom, we help life people up.

Each garment is meticulously fashioned with great care using premium materials like organic Pima cotton and sustainably herded alpaca. We build garments you’ll want to wear for years, with quality that ensures you can.

Thank you for helping us change the world, one stitch at a time.”

 

REPAIR!

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It’s a helpful little mantra for those trying to use and waste less. It’s time to add a 4th R word – Repair.

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Over the past several decades, fewer and fewer people even attempt to repair slightly damaged clothing. When apparel is so cheap (and cheaply made), sadly, it’s easier to toss it and replace it.

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But recently we’ve noticed more people interested in DIY techniques for extending the life of their clothes. Yay! Everything from mastering the simple task of  sewing on a button to craftier pursuits like repurposing a t-shirt into a market bag.

We’ve collected some of these ideas on our Pinterest board – Waste Not, Want Not.


One of the best resources we’ve found online is Love Your Clothes. It includes helpful suggestions on mending and repairing, along with maximizing the life of your clothing with proper washing, ironing, and stain removal.

You can also check your local area for mending workshops – for clothes and other household items. We have a fantastic one here in Madison, Wisconsin called One-One Thousand.

Don’t nix it, fix it!

With gratitude, Jody. Mom of the Joobles

Jody was the first person to encourage me to start Fair Indigo, which isn’t a surprise to anyone who knew her. She encouraged everyone to go for their dream, however improbable it seemed to most. Other good friends, rightfully, advised caution – a big risk, securing investors, long hours. But Jody – “you have to do this!” Jody believed.

Stacy, our Style Manager was a student of Jody’s at UW-Madison. She remembers her as a favorite teacher who sincerely believed in every student’s ideas and that anything was possible. Her enthusiasm in the classroom – and for teaching in general – was contagious.

Our photography model, Rada, said it well on Jody’s memorial page: “I will always remember you as the warm, happy soul that made everyone feel as the best version of themselves.”

Jody saw the world as if through the eyes of an innocent child – a world full of good people, a million awesome ideas, and color. Jody loved color. Beamed about it. Where others saw a weed, Jody saw “the most incredible leafy green color I’ve ever seen.”

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Beauty on the outside you see. Beauty on the inside you feel. Whether it was Jody’s warmth, her smile, her energy, her happiness, her generosity, her positive attitude – however you want to describe it – it flowed out of Jody and into the people around her. She absolutely had no ability to turn any of that beauty off. Her “on” switch was locked in.

-excerpt from “A letter from Gary,” Jody’s husband, at her memorial service.

 

 

Few things embody Jody’s spirit like her Joobles. Look at their faces and you’ll feel her innocence, her pure joy. And you’ll probably smile, just like you’d do every time you were with her.

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I have to give a shout here to Sergio because the Joobles would not exist without him. Sergio helped us coordinate with our Peruvian suppliers in the early days of Fair Indigo. On a trip Jody and I took in early 2008, our schedule was overbooked with urgent things to get done. He wanted to show us a hand knitting operation. “Maybe next time Sergio, we have too much to get done.” But he persisted, every day. Finally on our last day, we gave in. “OK Sergio, 30 minutes!”

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Sergio with his wife, Rowena in Lima, Peru

Within 5 minutes, I had to pick Jody’s jaw up from the floor. She was 20 steps ahead of us gushing at the talent, hugging the knitters who didn’t speak her language but could feel her love, cooing over the quality of the needlework, the color. “Oh my Gosh Rob, this is incredible!” She was like the proverbial kid in a candy store. I agreed and was equally moved by the couple – Javier and Elsa – who owned the place. They, like Jody, were the kind of people who made you instantly feel like an old family friend. And as I later learned, they were beyond just warm and friendly – they were absolutely saintly. But, at the time, we were not looking for a hand knit supplier. “Jody, come on, we’re going to miss our flight.”

When we got off the plane back in Madison, Jody had sketched her first Jooble. She already had him named – Jiffy the Giraffe – and had picked out yarn colors. She had a vision and knew exactly what she was doing.

The rest of the characters were inspired by Jody’s love of kids and from suggestions by her boys, Avery and Cooper. All of us who worked with her knew the joy her boys brought her. It’s a joy nearly all parents feel, but Jody expressed it in a very special way using her own childlike awe.

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Jody with her then baby, Avery and 17 years later at his graduation with dad and Cooper.

 

Jody fought cancer for nearly two years. Serious illness is so personal and there is no right or wrong way to handle it. To the outside world, Jody’s unstoppable optimism never seemed to diminish. Adjectives here seem inadequate in trying to describe how much we were overcome by her heroic attitude through something so difficult.

Jody the Owl

Her last design she called Blink the Owl. On one of Jody’s last days with us, her son Avery suggested to me, “maybe you could name a Jooble after my mom.” What a perfect idea. Blink became Jody the Owl.

Jody never got to visit the school in Cajamarca, Peru that the Fair Indigo Foundation supports. One of my biggest regrets is that we didn’t make time to visit it on one of her trips. “Next time.” Be careful about using too many next times.

But last week, we did something pretty amazing. Jody’s son Avery accompanied me on a trip to the school, where we distributed Joobles to the nearly fifty students. The kids had picked out their character a couple months ago, our knitters got busy making them, and last week we held what felt like a mini Oscars ceremony (but way less pretentious and way cuter) handing out the Joobles to each child. I read each student’s name, they came running up to the “stage,” and Avery handed out their Jooble – topped off with his signature high five.

It’s a day I’ll never forget, and a day where everyone could feel Jody there with us. Without a doubt, we could feel her there. Thank you Avery! It’s time to plan that trip with your dad and Cooper.

Here are some pictures from the day, and the days leading up to it.

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Avery with Javier & Elsa – owners of the business that produces our Joobles.

 

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Whoops – this one still needs a tail!

 

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Just landed at the tiny, tidy Cajamarca airport. Refreshing temps in the 40’s and 50’s. Avery soon became know as “the tallest man of Cajamarca.”

 

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The beautifully quiet rolling hills around our school in Cajamarca – Peru’s Dairyland.

 

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Let the fun begin! First up – Laura chose Racky the Raccoon.

 

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Alex chose Roar the Lion.

 

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Angie picked Avery’s personal favorite – Jody the Owl.

 

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Lots of missing teeth, but no missing smiles. 😉

 

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The Joobles did have a little competition – Javier handed out his famous lollipops too.

 

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¡Sonreír! (Smile!)

 

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Standing tall.

 

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Some time out for reading.

 

Jody brought joy to the world every day of her too-short time on this earth. Avery extended that joy last week to these kids. With Cajamarca being Peru’s poorest state, for many, this was their first toy. But the joy won’t stop here. It’s so Jody to figure out an ingenious way to spread her smiles to thousands more for many years to come. Well done, my friend. Thank you.

Flop the Frog goes to Arizona

Flop the Frog had quite an adventurous week in Arizona! He road-tripped all over the place to Page, Sedona and Flagstaff.  He hiked, swam and climbed rocks which was perfect since he usually has a hard time sitting still. Take a look at some of his greatest selfies below.

 

Flop’s adventures started with a tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon. He had to go down about four staircases to get into the canyon, but once he did he was amazed with the colors that ranged from bright oranges to blues and purples based on how the light hit the rocks. The guide said in the morning they have to take all of the scorpions and snakes out!

 

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His next adventures involved swimming and kayaking in Lake Powell with Lone Rock in the distance, hanging out and enjoying the scenic views in Page, visiting the Glen Canyon Dam and hiking a little bit to see Horseshoe Bend!  We explained to Flop that it wasn’t an actual horse that made the impression but many years of erosion.
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Within the Coconino National Forest Flop visited a couple different ancient ruins (pueblos) in the Wupatki National Monument. Flop found it hard to believe that these are around 900 years old!

 

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Best of all, Flop got to visit the Grand Canyon, one of the wonders of the world.  The hike on the Bright Angel trail was breathtaking, metaphorically the views were beautiful and physically the 3 mile hike back uphill was exhausting.

 

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After a long day of hiking the Grand Canyon, Flop opted for a Pink Jeep tour in Sedona the next day.  He even got to take the wheel for a couple minutes.

 

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Flop had a great week exploring some new places and learning about nature. Behind him is the tallest point in Arizona, Humphrey’s peak. You can’t see it from here, but there was even some spots of snow at the top!

 

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Follow The Joobles on their Facebook page, Twitter @Jiffythegiraffe and Instagram @thejoobles for more of their adventures and cuteness!