Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Arizona Revisited (Part One) . . .

I’m really not sure how to approach this – for some of you, a handful of pictures and a little narrative will be more than enough.  But there are a few of you who have told me how much you enjoy the sights and sounds, and I don’t want you left hungry for more.  Besides, my mom and dad read this blog and will enjoy the pictures.  So I’m going to give you the kitchen sink over two days – keeping in mind that Blake and I took around 300 pictures and I have already eliminated more than two-thirds of them.  If you get bored, feel free to scroll through them or use that “x” in the upper right corner . . .

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This is the view from my parents’ driveway, taken about 30 minutes after we got off the plane in Tucson.  Yes, the sky in Arizona really is that blue.  The past two years, Dad has picked us up at the airport and taken us straight out for a “warmup hike” (last year, we pulled ourselves up Picacho Peak (partly with cables).  This time, we were headed for Mt. Hopkins (south of Tucson) – until Dad’s bocce team unexpectedly won an extra match in the park tournament.  So we spent Wednesday afternoon in the cheering section.

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After the bocce match (Dad’s team lost in three games), Blake and I drove to Saguaro National Park and did about a 4½ mile loop starting from the Douglas Spring Trailhead – just enough change in elevation to give us a good workout.  And a far cry from what Dad had planned for us – we took the “warmup hike” on Saturday.

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We met this little fellow along the trail – seemed very friendly, and never moved while we took a closer look and shot a few pictures.  The round eyes and lack of “rattles” kept us tenderfeet from getting too alarmed.  Blake loves to take sunset photos – this was the best of the bunch as we neared the end of our loop.

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Thursday was our big NCAA Tournament Day – Mom, Blake and I left for the McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus at 9:00 a.m. and didn’t get home until after 10:00 p.m.  Great seats for four games – we bought the tickets a year ago.  We went back on Saturday for two more games, but I won’t bore you with two sets of pictures.  We got there early enough on Thursday that we got to park right across the street from the arena!

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Didn’t take long to get courtside so Blake could snap a picture of me – that’s the view from our seats at right . . .

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The picture of the three of us was taken by a family vacationing from Toronto.  Their daughter was wearing a Butler t-shirt – she had drawn them in a pool last year and became a fan as they made their Cinderella run to the NCAA finals, and picked them again this year.  I was giving her updates as Butler made last second shots to get through the first two rounds – little did we know that the Bulldogs would go all the way to the finals again!  Of course, no trip to Arizona or California is complete without a trip to In-N-Out – and there was one on the way home from McKale!

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Friday was the first of our “all day” hikes.  We started above 8,000 feet part way up Mount Lemmon (north of Tucson), and the first part of our hike was downhill.  When we arrived at the Butterfly Peak parking area, Dad broke out a new tool for Blake and me to try – hiking poles.  I have seen lots of hikers using them over the past couple of years – and thought they looked silly.  But Blake and I have both had knee problems while hiking (especially when going downhill), so we were willing to give it a shot.  After 40 miles of hiking, I can honestly say that I will never hike long distances without them again – hiking poles are great!

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The terrain was beautiful as we worked out way down the mountain – as we got around to the north side, we got our first glimpse of snow.

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Blake and I took lots of pictures along the trails.  Because of the time difference between Arizona and Ohio, Ryan was usually working while we were hiking.  We often carry on a running text conversation during the day – one thought can last for hours.  So every once in a while, we would catch a cell signal and my phone would vibrate.  And I took a few pictures with my phone camera so I could text them home to both families.

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Layers of clothing came off and went back on, depending on the time of day, the amount of sunshine, and the elevation.

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I really liked this area.  Arizona has been suffering from drought conditions since last year, so running streams were hard to find.  These are three different views of the same scene – my view of Dad behind me, Blake’s view of Dad and me, and Dad’s view from behind me.

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This is the wreckage of an Air Force fighter jet that crashed in the mountains in 1957.  Two jets collided in midair (both pilots parachuted to safety).  One jet crashed close to a highway and was hauled away, but this one was so far in the forest that it was left behind.  What we found had actually washed down the mountain during 50+ years of occasional mountain flooding.

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Unexpected bonus – Dad sent me these pictures last night (April 4).  He went bushwhacking way up the mountain past the pieces we saw and found the rest of the wreckage.

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Finally, we hit the snow – actually, it was mostly ice.  You’ll notice from the middle photo that it’s steep.  Those poles really came in handy, since in most places we had no choice but to try to find a foothold along the edge.

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Dad says rangers, volunteers, and such used to clear off the trails when trees fell.  They also used to try to put fires out, but they realized that fire is nature’s way of maintaining the ecological balance so now they only try to keep fire from inhabited areas.  So we went through several areas that had burned out over the years, and the winds had toppled dead trees. It was a sad sight, but in lots of areas we could see growing saplings that would eventually take their place.

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Now they tell us – I guess we hiked it backwards.  It seems that every year we find a new sign that tells us what we shouldn’t be doing.  I couldn’t help but get a shot of Dad as he tried to take our picture with Blake’s camera.

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The observatory at Mount Bigelow.  From there, we gave the poles a rest for a while and walked down the access road . . .

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. . . but soon Dad had us bushwhacking down the mountain, where he was sure we would connect with a trail that led to Mount Lemmon Highway and a short walk back to the car.  Dad is a master at following his nose, but when we met two hikers along the way, he took a minute to check their topographical map just to be sure.

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From there, we drove to Summerhaven, the small town on top of Mount Lemmon.  It was destroyed by fire several years ago (only two buildings survived), and new houses seem isolated among the burned trees and bare ground.  The remains of one building lost in the fire have been fenced in as a reminder.

That’s enough for one day – besides, it will take forever to load on the server.  Next time (probably won’t happen until the weekend), join us for two hikes from the same parking lot – one to the observatory on top of Mount Hopkins, and the other to the top of Mount Wrightson (the locals call it “Old Baldy” – I am considering referring to it as “My Own Personal Hell”) . . .


  1. Looks like you were 'sitting' a lot - lol! just kidding. I'm sure you deserved every rest stop.

  2. It looks like those hiking poles came in handy. It's good to see your folks so active and enjoying life. Thanks for the tour.

  3. I knew that you looked like your brother from previous trip pictures, but the one of your, your brother and your Mom at the NCAA games...you look A LOT alike! Looks like ya'll had your usual good time. Yahoo for hiking poles!