I had hoped to end the year with one last big hike. But as I was getting my hiking gear together, I heard moans and groans coming from the bedroom. My husband, Brian, was really sick. I couldn’t leave him alone all day as sick as he was, so instead I stayed home and tended to him. Rather than a triplog from my latest hike, I thought for this entry I would instead take the time to reflect on my past year in hiking:
And what a year it has been. At the beginning of the year, I was still hurting from a fall I took in the Four Peaks that wrenched my knee. After that healed, I climbed Baboquivari, my first mountain requiring climbing gear, in March. I don’t think I have ever been so scared and so elated at the same time. It was my first outdoor climb; I had previously only climbed in the gym. I was really lucky to have such a great group, led by Dave Baker, to encourage me up the mountain. Here’s a great shot Dave got of me on the second climbing pitch. Read my journal from that day here.
The day after my Babo climb, I resumed my section hike on the Arizona Trail to finish out the remaining 200 miles. I hiked from Superior to Pine and cleaned up some areas I had skipped the previous year. My dad came out from Chicago one last time to shuttle me around and provide support for the last leg of my hike.
I did an alternate route on the AZT Passage 37 to get from Grandview Fire Tower to the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon. As a result, I got to spend five days in the Canyon hiking the SK to Grandview on the Tonto Trail, instead of 23 miles through ponderosa pines with no views. It was my first taste of travel outside the corridor trails- I am hooked!
I left the passage near Oracle for last so that friends of mine could hike the final 9 miles with me. The final 9 miles were hiked on Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, May 12. It was a fitting end to my 800-mile hike to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that I have had for 13 years. There was a group of eight hikers, including my non-hiking husband, for the final miles. Champagne and strawberries were enjoyed at the American Flag Trailhead. Almost two years to the day before, I had gone on a hike up the Cody Trail and looked at the big, metal Arizona Trail sign and wondered, “Maybe I could do some of this Arizona Trail- I wonder what the logistics are?” That question led to nine months of planning, and 13 months of hiking, piece by piece, until I accomplished my goal. What a feeling!
Great highs are often accompanied by a lull, which is what I felt like my summer was. I had finished my big goal, and it is way too hot to hike in most areas of Tucson in the summertime. So I spent the summer trying to get a respite from the heat and stay active while avoiding getting hit by monsoon storms. I went on one memorable camping trip to the Pinalenos, to escape the heat and scout the Grand Enchantment Trail in the area. The Grand Enchantment Trail goes 700 miles from Phoenix to Albuquerque, and is my next big trail that I plan on section hiking. You can find more info about the GET at www.simblissity.net. I also stayed active this summer by going on night hikes, which yielded many rattlesnake encounters, but made for some great pictures:
This summer, I started volunteering at the Wildlife Rehab Center, which has been an amazing experience. We mostly have birds of all sizes- from hummingbirds to Harris Hawks. We occasionally get mammals as well; I have seen skunks, squirrels, and even bobcats. What a treat to be able to see these animals and birds up close! Here’s a picture of one of my favorite current residents, a young roadrunner that I have fed since he was hatched. He will eventually become an educational animal, because it wouldn’t do to have him hopping up on people’s shoulders and begging for food in the wild…
The lull of the summer ended with the Arizona Trail Association’s yearly Rendezvous in Mormon Lake at the end of September. I was invited to be the speaker for the first evening, and I really enjoyed being able to share my journey with a room of AZT enthusiasts. I spent a week in the Flagstaff area, and got to hike the Humphreys Summit Trail to the highest point in Arizona at 12,637 ft. I explored the Inner Basin as well.
I also returned to one of my favorite places on the Arizona Trail, multicolored sandstone cliffs north of Marshall Lake. To get to these cliffs, take the Sandy Saddle trail from Canyon View Campground to the Arizona Trail and go south.
After the Rendezvous and hiking in Flagstaff, I hiked down to the Trail Crew Bunkhouse at the Grand Canyon to do a week’s worth of volunteer work with the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association cleaning up the area near the Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch. What a wonderful experience! The group from the GCHBA was a friendly, hardworking bunch, and the 12 of us got along very well for having to all sleep in one house. (I had been worried, because you know what happens on reality TV when you put 12 people in close quarters…) Waking up each morning on the sleeping porch of the bunkhouse with the Canyon all around was exquisite. Then on my hike out I saw the most unbelievable double rainbow over O’Neill Butte.
In October, my brother Shawn came out to visit and my husband and I took him to Las Vegas. While they were gambling, I snuck out to one of my favorite places- the Valley of Fire State Park, about an hour’s drive from the Strip. I spent the day hiking off-trail, exploring the colorful slot canyons and interesting rock formations. The picture on the header of my website is from the Valley of Fire.
In October, I launched this blog, so much of the rest of the year has been documented on this website. December was a quiet month, I rolled my ankle a couple of weeks back and have been taking it easy to let it heal.
I want to end this retrospective by thanking all my readers of this and my Arizona Trail blog. I really enjoy your comments and hope to share many more adventures with you in the upcoming year.