Flatiron Failures

First of all, let me be clear about something.  After some disparaging remarks from some “friends” about snowbirds, we have decided that we are NOT snowbirds.  We are SnowAngels.  Sent from the Midwest to the Southwest/Southeast to spend money, boost the economy, and generally spread our cheerful midwestern selves.  So, get over it, ok?

Let’s move on……we’ve spent the most delightful six days at Lost Dutchman State Park, about 25 miles east of Phoenix.   Map here.20150123_131302 This park has it all – big campsites, pristine bathrooms, mountain bike trails, and fabulous hiking.  Not to mention the Superstition Mountains, which glow magnificently over the campground.  Sunsets are golden, sunrises glow with desert colors. 20150123_172444 Not only is it a spectacular natural setting, it is meticulously maintained by the Rangers and Camp Hosts.  Even the gravel roadbeds got a daily raking.20150123_102945We were joined for the weekend by Ilene and Vern Baker, fellow Fireballers from Tucson.  We met two years ago at a T@B/T@DA rally, and have maintained a conversation since then.  This was our first opportunity to camp together, and we made the most of it.  They rolled in long after sunset on Friday and expertly backed their camper into the slot across from ours.  Ten minutes later, we were huddled around our campfire in the chilly wind. (Funny moment?  Ilene is fairly short – we were chatting while she was heading toward the restroom to brush her teeth – Jezzy was licking her toothbrush, while oblivious Ilene chatted on…..)  It was that kind of weekend.  Like comfy best friends.

We spent a good part of Saturday morning comparing campers.  Although the Bakers’ T@DA looks identical to ours on the outside, they are very dissimilar. 20150124_093101 They have a huge dinette, which breaks into a queen bed.  A 3-way (propane) refrigerator.  Their storage setup is completely different than ours.  Since they are primarily weekend campers, they haven’t yet made many of the little modifications that add storage and utility.  It was fun peering into cubbyholes and finding hidden spaces which can be converted into something useful.

The bonus?  It’s Vern’s birthday!   That meant lunch at his favorite Cajun seafood restaurant. Gumbo, etouffee, or Creole, cooked to your heat level preference.  (I chose level 6.  Everyone else had 1 or 2).  Fabulous food, and we took the leftover crawfish etouffee left over to add to breakfast burritos the next morning.  Sounds awful, but I guess you had to be there.  Our two days flew by, but we’ve made plans for a beer/Girl Scout Cookie pairing event at a Tucson taproom.  Sounds like a great idea.

Sunday afternoon was spent creating green chile/pork stew in the Dutch oven for Grand Rapids SnowAngels, Sis and Blaine.  Food, fire, friends…..it’s a wonderful way to spend time.

Inbetween all of this socializing, we hiked the all of the trails in the Park, with the exception of the Flatiron Trail – saving the best for last.  There are lots of birds here – Gambel Quail are everywhere.  The coyotes in this Park seem to be working overtime, we didn’t see any, but some seemed startingly close at night. 20150126_10134220150126_10103220150126_10045820150126_103531Monday is exploration day.  Visited the Apache Junction Tourist Center and Apachetown Center. 20150126_143447 We loved the Elvis Chapel. It had been moved from an old movie set (remember the old Elvis movie Charro?  Neither do I.), reassembled, and painted inside to remember the King.  Available for weddings.  Sadly, there’s not much at Apachetown to hold our interest.  Ditto for Goldfield – a re-enactment of a goldmining town that might be the worst tourist trap ever.  Ugh.20150123_145043Saw this photo in the bar there – couldn’t get a good photo because of the glare.  I liked the hatlike effect of the lamp on W’s head.20150123_145618One last spot we need to explore is Tortilla Flats, which involves a torturous 12 mile drive down the Apache Trail.  It was a pretty hairy drive.  The National Forest campground there has been permanently closed, due to budget cuts. It’s a shame – such a gorgeous spot  near Canyon Lake.  We wander around for a bit, and reward ourselves by saddling up at the bar in Tortilla Flats for a beer.20150126_154344 Getting on the saddle was easy – but I’m so glad there’s no video of me trying to figure out how to gracefully remove my ass from the saddle to leave!

Finally, it’s Tuesday – our last day at Dutchman.  All week long, we had been eyeing our big challenge – the assault on the Flatiron Trail.  We’ve hiked all the other trails over the few days we’ve been here, and are now ready for the big ascent.  The Flatiron, in this photo, is the peak slightly in the background, smack in the center.20150127_175330 I’ve been staring at it all week, in anticipation of standing on the top, looking out over the Valley of the Sun.The problem is that it rained all Monday night, and Tuesday morning as well.  Not only did it delay our start, it also caused interesting complications.  But, we set our on foot from the Fireball, ready for a challenge.

Holy shit!  With the clay and sandstone surface slickened by rain, the hike was much tougher than it would ordinarily (probably) have been.  Hiking reports put the distance at around 6 miles (3 miles upward, then back).  The first two miles are a steady uphill trek, over a rocky, but very walkable trail.  We amble past Siphon Rock.20150127_110746 All was okay, until we hit the Basin, the valley beneath the mountain, where the maintained trail ends, and the wilderness trail begins. Altitude at the Basin is 3100′.20150127_114319All at once, the difficulty factor escalated.  The rain made the sheer, smooth slope out of the Basin impossible to stand up and walk.  It was discouraging.  Water was pouring down the surface.  We stared up at the Flatiron – the last mile of the trail had an altitude gain of nearly 1800′.  We sat, an had a heart to heart discussion about our ability to go the distance.  We would try to scramble up a few feet, only to slide back a foot.  What saved us?  Two hikers coming down, who assured us that it we could get over this tough section, it would get better.  So, we loaded our pockets with Cliffbars, and ditched our backpack with extra water, lunch, and hiking sticks.  Monkey-style, we clambered up the slick surface, heading up the big, steep unknown with a liter of water and high hopes

It was difficult.  Perhaps the most difficult hike we have attempted.  The water-slickened rocks required all our strength to haul ourselves forward.  It was steep!.  Handholds were few, and pitfalls were plenty. 20150127_121258 To complicate matters, trail markers were few and far between, and several years old.  Faded, and hard to spot.  A father/son hiking team came upon us.  We decided to stick together – four sets of eyes being better than two to spot trail markers.  We plodded on for the next hour, but it was very hard going. My shoulders and fingers ached from pulling myself up boulder after boulder.  There came a Moment of Truth – the realization that we were exhausted, the descent would be treacherous, and that the last hour to get up to the Flatiron summit would compromise our safe trip back to camp. 20150127_133051 So, we regretfully (and nearly tearfully) bid our hiking pals goodbye, and turned back.  I’m disappointed beyond reason.

So, what’s the real kick in the ass here?  I’ve been wearing this Garmin Vivofit step tracker.  It’s my motivator to keep moving.  After several hours of pushing and pulling myself over humongous boulders up the Flatiron Trail, I glanced at my bracelet.  Unbelievable!  20150127_133238The long red bar on the top left shows that I haven’t moved significantly in an hour, and the four short red bars to the right of that are additional 15 minute increments with no activity.  I’ve been killing myself, and my Vivofit thinks I’ve been napping!  Have to laugh, but really…………?  Were we moving that slowly?  Plus, after hours of walking, it shows that I’ve only gone 6000 steps.

Hotdogs over the fire tonight.  We’re barely moving.  Hot showers help, and we’re hoping that a good night’s sleep will revive us.  (Realtime Update…..it’s two days later, and we’re still stiff and sore.)

Onward to Catalina State Park, near Tucson.  I’ll have to extract my revenge on the Flatiron another day.


25 thoughts on “Flatiron Failures

  1. Snow angels! I love it and am borrowing it.

    Reading your description of the hike on wet rocks was scary. Glad you are going to wait until conditions improve to re-tackle the Flatiron.

    Keep on having fun! :)


  2. Hey, Judy! So what did you think of the mountain? I so love that place!
    I hiked the Basin last year and was real pissed that I quit too soon. Later was told that I was only a few feet away from my goal.
    One of my blogging friend’s wife volunteers for search and rescue in Mesa….they are constantly working rescues at Flatiron….glad you made the right decision.
    As far as Catalina…you can always hop on you bike and go shopping across the street.


    • Hi Lynne. We wondered about rescue at Flatiron……it’s always a good cue that we’re getting whipped when we start talking about ‘extraction’ possibilities! Glad we didn’t have to test that.

      There’s so much to see/do in Tucson. We hiked to the Romero Pools today. Have you done that? It’s gorgeous. It was a good stretch for some still-weary muscles. Biking here is easy with bike lanes everywhere…….so different than Michigan.

      Where are you these days? Any chance we’ll bump into you?


      • We are now boondocking in Anza Borrego SP, CA. Heading back to Q for the big fiberglass rally next weekend…..then back into AJ and Tonto NP. Don’t think we will be in the Tucson area until we are heading home. Doesn’t look like our paths will cross on this trip.

        Enjoyed your post on Flatiron!


      • Sounds like you’ve got a great winter plan. We. Are looking forward to exploring more of the Tonto NF areas. Looks like many great spots for camping.

        Safe travels.


  3. A highlight of our day to receive another progress report from you two. You feed our imagination of what it will like to escape our 9 to 5 life. Keep up the good work!


    • Hey Dave! Each day, you are one day closer to escaping the 9-5 grind yourself. You could probably find yourself a more reliable guide for the post-work afterlife than John and me, though!

      Hope all is well. Have you escaped all the big East Coast storms?


  4. Oh my goodness! I too believe you made the wise choice by not going further on the Flatiron! But I can just feel your disappointment especially when you checked your Vivofit just knowing that you were going to have stellar numbers. Not fair! Not fair at all!!

    I love your SnowAngel term! And your photos from the porthole windows should be printed and framed (totally appreciated by a fellow T@DA lover!) The scenery out there is simply breath-taking and you are capturing the beauty for us all to enjoy!! Looking forward to your next venture.


  5. So what you didn’t make it to the top of the damn rock! You’re the most adventurous couple I know! And besides you got the best darn photo of the W in that dunce hat……gotta love it! Plus you got to ‘saddle up to a bar’. Keep the adventures coming! Not to mention it’s very tre’s chic these days to pair GS cookies with wine! Sandi

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know I’m all about chic, Sandi! The W and dunce hat was a happy accident. I was just trying to get an angle without glare.

      Hope you aren’t too snowed in to hit the road. When is departure day? Safe travels.


  6. We love the hiking at Lost Dutchman and I wouldn’t even attempt to go as far as you did toward the Flatiron. So kudos for going as far as you did. I’m confused about the torturous drive? Were you still on pavement or did you continue on the gravel road past Tortilla Flat toward Apache Lake? Enjoy your stay at Catalina SP, a park we have yet to stay at because it’s always booked :-(


    • We didn’t leave the pavement on the Apache Trail, but all twisty roads are hell for me. I’m prone to carsickness, although I’m better than I used to be.

      After Dutchman, Catalina looks a bit shabby. Lots of weeds and desolate mesquite trees give it kind of a forlorn feel. We think the nicest sites are the no hookup ones in the A loop. The other weird, unfun thing here is No Campfires! Makes for a very long, dark evening.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s too bad that you never made it to the top of the Flatiron, I’m sure that the views would have been spectacular. However, no view is worth killing yourself for.

    The only people who make “disparaging remarks about snowbirds” are those people stuck in the cold and snow and have no way of escaping it themselves. ;)

    I saw Elvis yesterday, he’s driving a delivery van in Indianapolis these days, or maybe that’s just his cover. :)

    Anyway, loved the photos that you did get, I hope to become a snowbird myself one of these winters.


    • I’ll get my revenge on Flatiron. Convinced of that.

      The disparaging snowbird remarks were actually said jokingly by our Tucson pals. If they ever come to Michigan to escape their scorching summers, they’ll be Desert Rats.

      We seem to just always be missing Elvis. That dude sure gets around.

      Jerry, you would deserve the term Snowbird. Can’t wait for you to get a chance to turn your lens on some of this Southwest beauty. They’ll be happy to have you here!


  8. Wow! What a trek! You made the wise choice. Live to do it another day. The scenery is mind-boggling in its beauty. The scenes out of the window look like professional art works. Love the tourist trap photos. I remember when I would have pestered my parents for all of those enticements when I was a kid. Not so much now, but they are amusing. Does your Vivofit give you feet climbed, calories, etc.? When I see my Garmin speed is slow, heart rate is high, and the calories high, I know that I’ve been climbing. I put it in my pocket when I’m snowshoeing. That’s definitely not as great an effort as biking so far. Have a blast on your next adventure.


    • Alison, we weren’t in any danger, except for that of exhaustion causing us to make some kind of stupid mistake. It was fun to put ourselves to the test, and disappointing to know that we couldn’t pass.

      My Garmin strictly counts steps. When I cycle, I strap it to my shoe bockle, and I get about a mile’s worth of steps for every four of five miles I ride. No extra credit for exertion!

      Getting old is painful. We’ve still got reminders of our exertions today. Ouch.


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