Saturday, March 11, 2017

Arizona 2017 . . .

I have been home from my annual Arizona adventure for four days – the little cuts and scrapes on my legs from the trails are starting to heal – and there is SNOW in the forecast early next week.  They just couldn’t get winter out of their system while I was gone.  So it seems like as good a time as any to go through the pics and share the best with you . . .

Just me visiting the parents this time – Blake just couldn’t bear to miss the daily changes in Amelia during his first few weeks of grandparenthood.  And I can’t blame him a bit.

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If there was a theme for this visit, it would likely be “Hiking and Food” – like last year, a food truck came calling the first evening I was there.  This one was Italian – Mom and I got a pizza and some chicken parm.

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Friday, 5:30 a.m. – Mom and Dad didn’t see me take this as they got ready for a morning walk around their complex.  I enjoy being a fly on the wall and watching their daily lives – and participating when I can.

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Found a change in the complex as Dad and I went to play pickleball – someone has constructed a mini-observatory.  Didn’t get to see it in operation while I was there.  The picture at right was important to my family – Dad has finally retired a hat that he wore out over the years.  It was time that he invested in a new one.

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Back to the food theme.  Mom always loved to make chocolate chip cookies for me when I was a kid – when I was an adult – when I came to visit . . . now I send the ingredients out ahead of me and return the favor.

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No trip out west is complete without a stop or two at In-N-Out – this time before our annual evening at the Gaslight Theatre for an evening of slapstick silliness.

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Shot with a cell phone, and I would have paid hundreds of dollars for a shot this good.  I titled it “An Evening at the Theatre with My First Girl” . . .

Saturday morning, it was time to hit the trails for the first time.  I like to experience life as Mom and Dad see it – and the one thing I have not experienced in 20 years of visits to Arizona is hiking by myself.  Dad is not hiking as much anymore – I think after his little mishap at Seven Falls last February, he decided that as he approaches his 81st birthday it might make sense to slow down a bit and cut back on the risks that stumbling on the trail might involve.

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This gave me the opportunity to revisit a hike that we took seven years ago – 20 miles starting at a trailhead in Saguaro National Park and ending at one a few miles north.  So I bid my parents farewell in the darkness about 6:00 in the morning and started off.  I have hiked the first part of the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail many times, but not in the dark – I have heard that my cell phone takes great pictures in low light, and it proved to be true because I could barely see what I was shooting in these two.

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For the first time, the view directly in front of me was not the back of Dad’s legs.  For years, I have enjoyed rock cairns as an art form.  This time, they became a lifeline in areas where the trail was hard to find.  Someone had obviously found a hat along the trail and left it for the owner to find on the way back – a couple of other hikers mentioned it during the day.  But perhaps he was like me and was going one way . . .

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First view of the sun peeking over the mountain.  Early morning shadows are great for the ego of short people . . .

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Found an old fenceline when I strayed a little off the trail – so I backtracked until I found one of those lifeline rock cairns.  Later in the morning, I found one that had fallen over – so I rebuilt it to benefit the next hiker.

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Signs like these are a rare but welcome sight along the way – Cow Head Saddle was just past the halfway point on the day’s hike.  One of the rewards of several hours of hiking is a view like this at lunchtime – that’s Tucson way off in the distance.

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Dad says this is one of the old signs that used to be on the trail – most have been replaced by the metal variety.  The pic at right is the main reason why I wanted to take this hike – I referred to it as the Joe Smallwood Manzanita Bush – Dad stumbled coming off Tanque Verde Peak seven years ago and scraped his leg falling into this bush.  It has grown a lot since then.

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Another reason I wanted to take this hike was to see if the warmer winter at home had spread to Arizona.  Same spot on the trail – seven years apart.

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About 30 minutes after I left Tanque Verde Peak and started heading downhill, I took this picture – the highest point you can see is that peak.

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Another “same spot – seven years apart” pic.  Not nearly as much water in the stream this year.

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This picture is nice and big for a reason.  In nearly 20 years of hiking in Arizona, I had seen exactly three rattlesnakes – until today, when I saw three more.  Two of them were in this picture (look underneath the bush).  The one in the middle of the trail was not a bit happy to see me and was rattling his tail violently.  No, I’m not stupid – I kept my distance and cropped the pic later.

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End of the trail – 19.8 miles and 10:45 from the starting point.  Mom and Dad are in the car obscured by the bush directly in front of me, with two Cokes and a full cup of ice in a cooler waiting for me.

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Sunday was a recovery and work day.  And back to that food theme -- Mom and Dad love my chocolate pie (it is SO incredibly not hard to make), so I made one for them while I was here. Within a minute or two after I finished it, a quarter of it was gone . . .

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A peek at Dad working on some research for me while I was busy answering your e-mails and placing a big order for Spellbinders dies (which I suppose I could have driven the 120 miles to Phoenix and picked up – but I let them ship it instead).

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Monday, I left the Sabino Canyon Visitors Center at 5:45 a.m. to repeat another hike from four years ago.  My intent was to loop around and come back past Seven Falls, where Dad stumbled and cracked his head open last year.  Didn’t quite work out that way . . .

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Not much has changed along the Sabino Canyon Tram Road except for a new sign here and there.  And I am still attracted to the sound of running water . . .

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First view of the sun on the mountains – it is fascinating to watch it creep down into the canyon as time passes.  Yes, the views really are magnificent.

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Just because I thought that lone cactus illuminated by the morning sunlight with the mountain in the background was distinctive (and for those of you who know that I am not an artsy person, this is about as artsy as I get).  First view of the direct sunlight as I went around a corner.

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At the end of the tram road, 3.7 miles from the visitors center, the trail starts climbing into the mountains.

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Here’s something that you rarely see in Arizona – green grass.  That’s the same patch of grass in the other pic – but perspective makes it look much taller.

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I could have listened to this little waterfall and babbling brook for a long time.  I heard it from at least 100 yards away and it just drew me to it – so much so that I missed this sign just before I turned left to walk the last few feet to it.  Found the sign much later in the day – instead of turning right to stay on the East Fork Trail, I turned left to the waterfall and continued on Palisades Trail once I decided to move on.  Whoops . . .

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If you look carefully, you can see a trail that looks a bit like the Mark of Zorro on the right side of the hill (and again on the same hill in the right picture – with another hill in-between).  That is the trail I was supposed to be on – I just knew it – but by this point I had hiked so far, and the views were so spectacular, that I decided to just keep going and find out where I was headed.

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The trail was little used, but well marked.  And I could always look behind me and see where I had been – and the City of Tucson – in the distance.

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Another priceless lunchtime view, with Tucson way off in the distance – and that Mark of Zorro still in view at about 11:00 (at least for me – doesn’t show up well in the pic).

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Found out later that the old telephone line once stretched from Tucson all the way up to the top of Mount Lemmon.

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About four miles from where I missed my turn, I came upon a beautiful ribbon falls going into Pine Canyon.  The trail goes on for nearly four more miles to the Palisades Trailhead, but at this point I decided it was time to retrace my steps back where I came.  The trip downhill was much easier after climbing for 2½ hours to get to this point . . .

Got off the trail after 22.4 miles and more than ten hours, and headed straight to In-N-Out for a Double-Double and a big Coke.

Tuesday was a morning full of pickleball with Dad and his friends (I always start to get the hang of this game just before I leave for home – and a year later I have to figure it out again).  After lunch, it was off to the airport.

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The trip home was uneventful (which is always a good thing).  But I got the added bonus of a new plane from Tucson to DFW, with TVs in the seatbacks and more than 100 movies to choose from – some of which were still in the theaters.  Once I discovered that the trip was just a minute or two longer than Jackie, the choice was easy . . .