Three weeks ago today, my brother and I got home from visiting our parents in Arizona. I didn’t get through all of the pictures until yesterday – most of that time has been spent shipping Winter CHA items that have been arriving almost daily. And honestly, it has taken that long to recover from the trip home (but I’m getting ahead of myself). As in past years, I’m going with the “kitchen sink” approach – so there will be A LOT of pictures and narration. So grab a cup of coffee and over two days I’ll take you through six days on the road and 50 miles of mountain hikes. Remember, we didn’t get to do this last year – it was much more important to give Mom time to recover after a winter of chemo.
But first we had to get out of Ohio. I watched the long range forecasts for Tucson, Phoenix and Denver for weeks leading up to the trip – Tucson to see how warm it would be, Denver and Phoenix for flight concerns (instead of flying to Tucson with a connection in Dallas-Fort Worth, we flew to Phoenix with a connection in Denver because for some reason it was $240 cheaper than flying to Tucson). It never occurred to me that getting out of Dayton might be a challenge (we have had an almost snow-free winter) until the Winter Storm Warning showed up on my phone on the last day of the Indianapolis show three days before we left.
The snow started falling about 9:00 on Tuesday evening, and predictions were calling for up to 8”. I was in complete grump mode – I was certain that the weather gods were conspiring to steal at least a day of my vacation. Couldn’t sleep much – kept waking up and checking for updates and such. But at 3:30 a.m. the flight out of Dayton was still on time, so off I went to pick up Blake and head for the airport. Left to right – the view out my sunroom door, underneath a street light on my street, and two shots of my brother’s deck that my sister-in-law posted on her Facebook page later in the day.
Couldn’t resist this – the departure board was full of cancellations. No one was going to Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas (!), Detroit, Minneapolis, New Y0rk, Washington, and I probably missed a few. But that flight at the bottom of the board going to Denver – that was us. Ironically, the cancelled flight to Dallas just above our Denver flight was the flight we would have been on if we had been on our usual route to Tucson. So maybe the weather gods were on our side after all.
Deicing the plane put us about 30 minutes behind, so we had just enough time in Denver to run from one gate to another and hop on the plane to Phoenix. We arrived on time and Dad & Mom were already in the cell phone lot waiting for us.
It just didn’t make sense to drive all the way from Phoenix to Denver without a stop to climb Picacho Peak – it’s right next to I-10 and Dad took us there after we arrived three years ago. It’s a great “warmup hike” – three miles each way, but really steep with cables to help us up some of the slopes.
In the parking lot before we started up Picacho Peak – we decided to get a “before” picture so Mom is studying Blake’s camera to make sure she pushes the right buttons.
Looks like she did just fine . . . hard to believe that that seven hours before this shot was taken, we were sitting in Dayton in the middle of a snowstorm.
No, Mom did not climb the peak with us – she just wandered up the first part of the trail with us and then headed back to the car to read a good book while she waited. She used to do this for Dad all the time, but she told us afterward that her waiting days were probably over.
The passage of time – these pictures were taken near the same spot and I remembered that three years ago the desert flowers were in bloom after a rainy winter. So I found the picture taken three years ago so I could compare (and now, so can you).
So off we went. This is not a rushed hike – lots of places along the way to stop and appreciate the view.
But lots of work, too – and not all of this “climb” is up. But every bit of this is as steep as it looks.
On top, we took a food break (we take lots of those – both Blake and Dad are hypoglycemic and have to eat often) and met a couple of fellow tourists – these were from New Zealand – so we took pictures of each other so everyone could be in the shot.
And somewhere in that little bitty parking lot at the foot of the peak (left center of the picture – look between the two women hiking up the peak and head down) . . . was Mom.
All this sequence shows is my lack of climbing experience (especially downhill) – we climbed this face on the way up (two sets of cables to help) and I scrambled up easily. But going down was another matter – it was really hard to find a good foothold. At least for me – Dad (of course) moved quickly down while I was still on top looking for a place for my first step.
One last view from Picacho Peak – Blake saw this fellow sunning himself and couldn’t resist. But for the lady who e-mailed me before we left and begged for no rattlesnake shots this time – these are our only non-human photos from the trip.
Looking east from the park where Mom and Dad live, you can see two peaks in the distance. That one on the right is called Rincon Peak – and that’s where we headed the next day.
It’s about 90 minutes from Tucson to the trailhead on the back side of the mountain – a lot of it back a dirt road not far from the interstate. 8.1 miles from the parking area to Rincon Peak, then 8.1 miles back.
I am always a sucker for babbling brooks and little waterfalls, so I scrambled down to get a better look.
Then I had to figure out a better way back up to the trail.
This is one thing that Arizona has that will never been seen in Ohio . . . big big rocks.
Some of the greenery along the way. In spots where the trail isn’t obvious, hikers make rock cairns to guide the way – most of them are just two or three stones piled on top of each other, but some are more elaborate.
Lots of little streams along the way are an indication of things to come. That little bit of snow? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet . . .
Soon we were hiking on switchbacks (back and forth up the mountain) in a foot of snow. Not that fluffy powdery stuff – it was about 55 degrees and this was the hard crusty stuff that just cuts into your legs if you’re silly enough to have shorts on. Every step was a search for good footing – usually in vain. Slipped and fell many times. Don’t I look like I’m having fun? Blake must have caught me on one of the few moments when I wasn’t complaining.
It looks much more pleasant three weeks later . . .
Finally – on top of Rincon Peak. Dad says that pile of rocks has taken a long time to build. Generations of hikers have added to it one rock at a time over the years.
Windy up there – that’s Blake’s hat right above my hat in the first pic. I dug in with my hiking poles and waited for him while he retrieved it, then we tried again.
Can’t tell it from this pic, but Blake’s hat blew off again a millisecond after I pushed the shutter.
Headed back down. Not a lot of pics from the way back – we had already seen it and now so have you.
But I liked this shot Blake took of me relaxing on the way down – and I couldn’t resist this shot of Eye-gor, who put his windbreaker on over his backpack!
Those are mountain lion tracks in the snow that I saw on the way down (thankfully, we didn’t meet the owner of those paws (the tracks were huge). And I saw this view of Blake’s hiking socks a lot during the day (his boys gave him the socks on a trip to Yosemite a few years ago).
Believe it or not, after 16+ miles of hiking on Thursday we took the next day off – other than a bocce game with Dad and a trip to get Blake a new pair of sunglasses. Gave both of us a chance to catch up on computer work (even on vacation, there is work to be done). We also ran out to The Gaslight Theater to see if we could get tickets to take Mom to a performance – we have always enjoyed going there. But we didn’t make reservations in advance because we wanted to make sure Mom would feel like going (yeah, right) – and they were sold out for the next three weeks. We got on the waiting list but never got the call. If you’re ever going to Tucson, the Gaslight is one of those places you just have to go if you like the idea of a corny satire of a well-known production.
Three days down, three days to go. Tomorrow, we’ll go on hikes closer to Tucson (the views are still fascinating) – along with a brisk hike with Mom to the dumpster in their park!