Moving On

After several years of being in one spot in Green Valley for the month of February, you’d think we would have at least some kind of rhythm for our time there. At the very least, we should have some kind of sense of fleeting time, so that when the last few days roll around, there’s not some insane scrambling to see all the folks we intended to visit, hike all the unhiked trails (I’m talking about YOU, Butterfly Trail…), and cycle to our favorite destinations. Ah, no….apparently we haven’t learned that lesson yet.

The drastic weather change of the last two weeks threw us for a loop.We went from 10 degrees above average, to five days of rain, to two weeks of at least ten degrees below average temps. Plus, just to top everything off, there was a big snowfall the night before our departure from Madera Canyon, so we awoke to this…20180228_0854401701013167.jpg20180228_073805120414573.jpgWhile it was undeniably gorgeous, our immediate concern was getting down the 18-20% grade on our driveway safely. Whew….no problem. I can almost unclench my fists now, three days later.

We appreciated and enjoyed all aspects of our Madera Canyon stay – hiking, cycling, and the chance to do some serious hanging out with family and friends. It’s great to drop in once a year, and pick up where we left off the year before. Green Valley is a great second home for us, and we hope never to lose our enthusiasm for our month-long visit.20180301_165958-1376875323.jpg20180301_1659101142238964.jpgBut, as you know, our passion is camping, and the Campsh@ck calls seductively near the end of the month. Time to roll….

So, here we are at Picacho Peak State Park, about 50 miles north of Tucson. We’ve hiked here several times, but this is our first time in the campground. Although the sites are very large, there is little vegetation, so it feels pretty open.20180228_17064418441007.jpgBut, always looming in the background is Picacho Peak (just above the vent in the camper roof). There’s a challenge issued here, and I am powerless to resist. Although I’ve hiked here three or four times (John several times more), it’s very tough. If you fear sheer dropoffs and steep ascents, this is not the hike for you.

We decided to take a new (for us) trail to the top. The Sunset Trail takes a longer path (than the Hunter Trail) along the backside of the mountain. We cycled to the Trailhead, noting with pleasure that the ride back to camp would be mostly downhill. Thank goodness for that! We were whipped.

After a ridiculously long hike up and down through the desert, (Peak is in the left background)20180301_1128131077881370.jpg20180301_110930447357576.jpg we finally began ascending at a relentless degree up the back side of Picacho. In several places, cables have been drilled into the rock, assisting your climb. There are thin footholds (according to the standards of my size 10 feet, anyway). It’s a matter of trying to prop yourself up with your feet, and haul yourself up with your arms and shoulders. Don’t believe me? Those ‘little’ cactus on the desert floor are probably 25 feet tall. It’s a long drop.20180301_1240441378067337.jpgPerhaps the descent is even worse – John prefers to back down, while I nearly always go forward (it’s the Know Your Enemy theory…).This is much steeper than it looks here.20180301_13583921054951.jpgIn between these cabled spots are some amazing scenic views. You can see John’s white shirt on the far right as he heads down the trail.20180301_1343051549391073.jpg And the lunch spot at the peak is stunning.20180301_130844750705295.jpg20180301_1307041546239957.jpgOddly enough, the hike was yesterday. Today, we are both having trouble putting one foot ahead of the other to walk to the bathroom. Getting old? Nah.

It’s good to be back on the road.

 

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.