Take a Hike!

If I had a nickel for everytime somebody told me to take a hike, I’d be able to buy myself a fancy coffee drink. But, up here in the heights of Arizona, it’s a welcome idea.

Last week Sunday, when the snow was swirling a few hundred feet above our heads, and John was deep into the NY Times Sunday crossword, cabin fever was getting to my usual sunny disposition (ha!). The weekend had been filled with cold rain – snow in the upper elevations. When it looked like there might be an opening for a few hours, I headed out. John was happy to be left behind, Jezzy not so much.

I decided to hike to Bog Springs, heading to a lower Canyon elevation before beginning a climb. The snow line was about 6000′, and I was in no mood to cross that line! Solo hiking is unusual for me – on a hike of any length, John and I usually go together. At the very least, Jezzy is alongside. But, I planned to go about seven miles, which is a considerable distance for her. She marked her 11th birthday in December, and is not the hiking machine she was in her earlier years. Willing, but not as able. So, I headed off by myself, wearing my hooded rain jacket in case of showers. Smart choice.

The trail began as a horribly rutted jeep road, no really fun to walk on, and unimaginable (to me, anyway) to drive. (that’s not fog, that’s snow ahead).wp-1487877346959.jpg Bouncing around in any kind of vehicle is nothing I would EVER vountarily do. But, then it turned off into a gorgeous foot trail, winding up and down until it finally led to the spring.wp-1487877375419.jpg I was the only one there…so peaceful and beautiful. Yes, I did take a drink. The water was c-c-c-cold!wp-1487877384751.jpg On the way back, I got pelted by a sleety rain for a brief period. Other than that, my hike was about seven miles of pure enjoyment. Loved the colors in this boulder.20170223_121702.jpgAnd, it’s no mystery why this tree is called an Alligator Juniper.wp-1487877400190.jpgEarlier this week, we persuaded friends to join us on a hike to Atascosa Lookout, an old fire lookout station a mile or so from the Border (near Nogales).wp-1487877284155.jpg This is one of my favorite hikes – probably because it was one of the first ones I did on my first trip here about ten years ago, with John, but before we married.wp-1487877270244.jpgwp-1487877257747.jpg This area is part of the Coronado National Forest, the same NF as our current home in Madera Canyon. Ironically, the original lookout, home for a period to writer Edward Albee, burned to the ground in 2011. I feel lucky to have been up there a couple of times when it was still intact – it was a marvelous place with old hand-written logs and artifacts respectfully kept. I had hoped to post a few photos of the intact lookout, but can’t find them. (I’d make a lousy historian).Efforts to rebuilt the cabin have fizzled, and now the area is home to lots of electronic gear, probably belonging to Homeland Security.wp-1487877235345.jpg The lookout area is the perfect spot for lunch, with its 360 degree views.wp-1487877116570.jpg The Border is close, but not marked in any way that we can spot from our perch. Survey markers from the USGS and Forest Service are embedded into the rocky crest.

As we descended toward the spot where the truck was parked,wp-1487877284155.jpg we had to pass through a gate, marking a free-range area. There was a huge bull standing there!wp-1487877099928.jpg Not sure why, but I was the first person through the gate. Thankfully, the bull just gave me kind of a baleful look, and glared at all of us as we passed through. Several more were lounging near the truck. It was unnerving.

We’re trying to jam as much into our last few days here as possible. It’s Saturday as I write this, and we have to vacate Tuesday by noon. It’s been a great month, but we are ready to roll again. Here are a few more fun sights from the area. Love the prickly bear-hug this saguaro cactus is offering. The stone marker is from our neighbor up here in the Canyon, Madera Kubo. The owner of this B & B is the person who built our cabin.

 

RV Life vs Camping Life

We’ve settled into a Green Valley slump. Living the easy life – not moving too much or  too quickly, with a couple of notable exceptions.

As we anticipated, life in the RV park is much different than camping in the wild. Our usual ways just don’t quite fit.20160209_105812-001 Lack of a picnic table inhibits our dining routines, and the campfire prohibition leaves us without a reason to hang around outside once the cold desert air comes in for the night. So, we had mixed feelings about the battle with the RV park over whether we had to move out for five days to accommodate a large caravan of  RVs who wanted to camp all together (we lost). A second battle was waged over refunding us a portion of the fees we paid for a full month of camping (lost that one, too!)

So, away from the hot sunshine and close quarters of a busy RV park in a retirement community, we find ourselves perched in Bog Springs Campground in Madera Canyon, about 10 miles away. Our campsite is about 5100′ in altitude, below the snowline of 6000′.20160212_101910 With the very notable exception of our neighbor with an ancient Winnebago with a generator that sounds like a cement mixer, it’s cool, shady, and peaceful.20160212_095753_120160210_182116 We’re happy that they seem to turn on the generator only when they want to watch tv, and they have limited that to a couple hours each evening. Unfortunately, that coincides with our dinner/campfire time, but it’s still a very good tradeoff for us.

The best part about February so far as been reconnecting with old hiking and cycling friends. Second best part is camping with my sistahs. It’s unbelievably sweet to be able to see them every day for a month. No photos exist of the three of us together, but we might be able to accomplish that before month’s end.

So far, we’ve had just one notable hike – an arduous climb up Picacho Peak. The relatively short distance of the hike (two miles each way), is more than compensated for by the difficulty of the climb.20160210_102627 Thin steel cables were often the only thing between us and the abyss.20160210_111109 One mercifully short section required us to basically haul ourselves up with cables on each side, and a dropoff of about 1500′ below.20160210_111633 20160210_122337Our reward was lunch with a spectacular view at the top.20160210_115824We were accompanied by our old hiking buddies David G and Tony, as well as our new endurance hiking hero Ed. In 2015, Ed hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail from southern California to Canada – the trail recently made famous by the book/movie Wild (if you haven’t read it – do so. Highly entertaining). We were nervous about looking like geezer sissy hikers to him, but I believe the hike was difficult enough for us to uphold our reputation as respectable hikers.

Our axle situation (see last post) is going to be resolved with the purchase of a new axle and two tires. The manufacturer (Alko) of the existing axle has refused to offer any warranty relief for our defective axle (installed in May 2015), despite the repair shop’s intervention on our behalf. We don’t want this safety or maintenance issue hanging over our heads, so we’re going to cough up the $700+ to get the situation fixed before we hit the road again on March 1. It’s all about peace of mind.

So, that’s the early Green Valley report. A slow start, but we’re gearing up to a strong finish to the month.