Sunday, April 10, 2011

Arizona Revisited (Part Two) . . .

Welcome back!  I received a lot of really nice feedback from folks who came along for the ride during the first installment of this year’s Arizona adventures.  Brace yourselves – you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet . . .

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The picture at left doesn’t say a lot, until I mention that I took it from Tucson.  See those two tallest peaks off in the distance to the south?  That’s where we’re headed – Saturday we hiked the one on the right (Mount Hopkins) and Sunday the one on the left (Mount Wrightson – the locals call this one “Old Baldy”).  And they’re about 20 miles from the Mexican border, so a sign like this one (along with an occasional Border Patrol vehicle) are common.

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Remember in the last post that I mentioned the “warmup hike” that was postponed by a bocce tournament?  This was the warmup hike Dad had envisioned – and it was steep!  Blake and I decided that we would have been destroyed by this on the first day.  The parking area where we started was at about 5000 feet – Mount Hopkins is at about 8500 feet . . .

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About the only “warmup” on this hike was the temperature, so we had peeled off the jackets and sweatshirts by the time Dad and Blake took their first sandwich break.

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A nice shot of our sherpa on the way up the mountain.  The other pics are to demonstrate what happens when our sherpa gets us lost on the way up the mountain – we have to pick our way back downhill very carefully until we find the trail again . . .

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Made it!  Interesting that the sign is not quite all the way on top of the mountain.  The telescope is in the big square building.

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Interesting fact about this building – it rotates.  Which of course leads to another warning sign.  Apparently, someone parked a truck too close to the building once – imagine the reaction from the insurance adjustor when he received a claim that a truck had been struck by a building . . .

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Views from the top – those are more observatories below us.  I liked the view of the twisty curvy road leading up the mountain.

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We walked down that road for a while.  One of the switchbacks was so sharp that a mirror is used to see if there is anyone coming the other way (or in my case, to get a shot of Dad and Blake ahead of me).  One look back at the observatory before Dad led us over a guardrail and down a very steep (and tight) trail – Blake and I weren’t convinced at first.

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We were in a hurry going down, since we had to get back to Tucson to take Mom to two more basketball games.  But we did pause at an abandoned mine along the way.  Ever wonder what happens to old mining equipment when a remote mine in the mountains isn’t mined anymore?  Wonder no more . . .

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Next morning, we started from the same parking lot – this time, we’re headed for Mount Wrightson.  That’s it off in the distance.  Looks like nothing but rock from here.  This monument about halfway up is in memory of three Boy Scouts who died there in a snowstorm in 1958.

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Really nice views on the way up.  This trail isn’t as steep as the one to Mount Hopkins, but we’re going higher – almost 9500 feet at Mount Wrightson.

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One last break before the final climb to the peak (above my head).  I found this machete in a log near where we were sitting.  I’m not King Arthur, but it came right out of the log.  I left it behind for the next curious hiker.

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The last part of this climb is almost sheer.  The trail is very narrow and the wind was howling (50-60 mph).  I am afraid of heights, but after hiking the Grand Canyon with no difficulties, I think it was the wind that got to me – I was terrified.  At least twice, I stopped and considered going back.  But we had hiked for nearly five hours to get to this point, so I inched my way along.  Some of my comments to Dad at this point are not printable – one of the nicest was “I want you to tell me that this peak is around the next curve or I’m stopping!”

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Made it (whew)!  There was once a building here for a lookout post.  And that’s Mount Hopkins (where we were the day before) off in the distance.  But I did not read this sign until I looked at Blake’s pictures after we got home . . .

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Two views of our intrepid hikers.  Blake wandered all over the peak – even Dad cautioned him at times not to get so close to the edge (remember, the wind was howling).  Meanwhile, I found a relatively safe spot and didn’t move.  At one point, the wind calmed for a minute and I started feeling better.  But it didn’t last long – just looking at this picture reminds me of my stomach churning . . .

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Heading down, I inched along almost sideways – one eye on the wall to my right, the other on the trail and Dad’s feet in front of me.  When the trail hit a switchback, I very slowly turned to face the other direction – never looking down.  Once the trail widened, I was fine again . . .

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You have to be limber if a fallen tree gets in your way on the trail.


One last look from way back down the trail.  Intimidating, but not as scary from here.  But I doubt I’ll go back . . .

Monday before we left for the airport, I had a request for our final hike.  I wanted to go back to Sabino Canyon.  I have been there several times, and each time had to take off my boots and socks to wade across a creek that covered the road leading to the trails.  But with the drought, I suspected it would look different . . .



And it did!  The pics on the left were taken this year, and the ones on the right last March.  And yes, I did notice that the outfits were almost identical . . .


The water level is way down – I had never seen the creek like this.

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Because we were in Tucson during a very warm spell, this was the first time since our opening hike that we had been at a low enough elevation to see cactus.  We hiked for a couple of miles along the Phone Line Trail above Sabino Canyon.  Sabino Canyon is very popular – there is a paved road through the canyon that bikers, trams, and walkers use.

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Two last views that I found interesting.  The first is from the Sabino Canyon hike.  That fluffy looking stuff in that tree is called mistletoe – and it will eventually spread and kill the tree.  And at the park where my parents live, there is a palm tree in front of each unit.  Tucson had a cold snap this winter (18 degrees for almost a full day) that killed the palm fronds.  And we had seen spots like this where it had been raining debris when the wind blew.  But we experienced it ourselves just before we left for the airport – we watched the debris from Mom & Dad’s palm come raining down.  Noisy stuff, but no damage . . .

Thanks for coming along for the hikes!


  1. Haha, that canyon, paved road..that sounds like MY idea of hiking. Tenderfoot, right? I can't believe the places you go, it's amazing. Thanks for sharing a view I would never see, otherwise.

  2. Thanks for posting the pictures. I always enjoy your travelogues. I think I would take Sabino Canyon. I left my strenuous hike days a long time ago. I

  3. Congrats for making it to the top of Mt. Wrightson, even if the wind was threatening to blow you right off. Are you sure your Dad isn't part Mountain Goat? Amazing hikes.