Tag Archives: Hiking

Solitude in Nature

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I’ve written before about hiking in South Mountain Park. It’s been more than a year and a half since I’ve been there, and I miss it very much. Truth be told, I just started taking walks again the beginning of October—it’s just been much too hot around here. Also, between being wary about Covid and needing to help my husband, I just haven’t gotten out much. But I’ve started venturing out a little as of the middle of September.

Moving your body is a good thing at any age; staying active as you get older is especially important. Besides being wonderful exercise for the body and the brain, hiking also has benefits for emotional and mental health. Walking and hiking have a meditative element to them. As you stride, you notice what is around you. You are present in the moment. But you can also let your mind work on your problems—or forget your problems entirely.

Ideally, you should have a companion with you when you hike. But I’ve also hiked by myself. I wouldn’t recommend hiking an unfamiliar trail on your own, but I’ve done exactly that. There is something to be said for being alone in the wilderness.

When I first took up hiking, everything was new to me. I did a little online reading about the trails in the park. I bought some hiking boots and was delighted to find out I was more sure-footed in them than I had been in sneakers. I bought a trekking pole and found it to be very helpful for maintaining balance when forced to make large steps or walking on rocky surfaces (be sure to keep the pole in front of you).

When you’re on your own, you’re forced to be self-sufficient and make your own judgment calls. In most parks, you’re required to stay on the trails. But sometimes you can’t quite tell where the trail is. If the trail gets steep, you may have no clue where to put your feet. Hiking alone tests your mettle.

My very first hike in South Mountain Park, I went by myself. I was having a great time walking at my own pace. I hardly saw another person, and I was all right with that. After half an hour, I reached the top of a hill, and then I couldn’t tell where the trail went from there. So I turned around, feeling maybe it was time to head back. But from the top of the hill, I literally could not figure out how to get down. It looked way steeper going down than it had looked going up, and I could not identify what path I had taken to get where I was.

While I was standing there wondering what to do, an older couple crested the hill from the other direction and began making their way down without any of the hesitancy I was feeling. I watched where they stepped and followed them. They stopped as if they were waiting for me, but I said, “No, go on ahead—I don’t want to slow you down.” I actually caught up to them a while later where the ground was more level.

Maybe a year later I took a trail that was new to me, that a hiking website has designated as “easy” (warning—an “easy” label does not mean that a fairly new hiker will find it easy). It was the most challenging trail I’d ever been on. Lots of up and down, lots of very rocky sections. I approached a section that I knew intersected with a much easier trail that I was familiar with, but the easy trail was a good thirty feet below, and the three possible ways down the ridge were all very steep. I had seen other hikers pass me and drop of out sight, but I had no idea which way they had gone. When I looked down one path, I saw a woman hanging by her hands. I walked away because I didn’t want to make her nervous.

I walked from one path to another, and couldn’t figure out how to traverse them. While I was trying to decide, other hikers came up those paths, but I was too far from them to see how they did it. I considered turning back, but it had taken me one and a half hours to get to where I was; I know the easy path was only half an hour from the trailhead. I had to go forward. After a good twenty minutes of considering my options, I picked the least harrowing path of the three. I sat on the edge, dangled my legs, and carefully skootched myself off, about a six-foot drop. I didn’t kill myself! That was my scariest hiking experience, but it energized me to get past it all by myself.

What am I trying to say? That being by myself in the wilderness helps center me. I’m awed by my surroundings. I’m gratified that I can be resourceful when I have to be. I feel closer to God, closer to the earth, unhurried, undistracted.

Creative Juice #312

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Creative Juice #312

Interesting articles to read this weekend.

Which Way: Hikers on the Trail

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Hikers on the trail
Can you see them?

More Which Way.

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Creative Juice #228

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Creative Juice #228

This is an art-heavy edition.

Back to South Mountain Park

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I’m horribly out of shape. I blame the pandemic. I’m just not one of those people who said, “Gee, since I can’t go to the movies or go out to dinner, I think I’ll concentrate on doing pilates. . .”

It’s been almost a year since I’ve gone hiking. I miss it. I used to go once or twice a month. A few weeks ago I headed over to South Mountain Park and couldn’t find a parking spot. It was a Sunday. Duh.

Last Friday morning the temperature here was 60 degrees–in my opinion, the perfect hiking temperature. I drove out to the Pima Canyon trailhead at South Mountain to hike down the main trail, which is fairly level. I needed an easy hike. I took my camera with me and put on my larger lens, so that I concentrated on a medium distance instead of what’s close by. I’ve taken millions of shots in the park, and I wanted to try to make these a little different.

They all pretty much show how rugged the desert is. See that cyclist near the right edge of the frame below?

I got another shot of him a few minutes later.

Oops. The little circle in the sky below is not a balloon or a UFO. Probably just a speck of dust on my lens.

I walked as far as the intersection with the Beverly Canyon trail, then turned around and headed back to the parking lot. The next shot is toward Tempe, where my home is. It also shows the cloud of particulates effectively sealed in by the surrounding mountains.

I’m not sure what this group of people was up to, but I think maybe they have sketchpads? Or maybe they’re all just checking their phones.

I feel sorry for the people who have left items on the trails, especially for the poor soul who lost his keys.

When I got back to my car, the temperature was 68 degrees. Can’t complain.

Hiking in the Arboretum

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Hiking in the Arboretum

Two Fridays ago my daughter Katie invited me to go hiking with her at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. It had been three months since the last time I’d hiked, so I was interested in an easy trail. In Katie’s memory, the High Trail at the arboretum was fairly level.

But to this old lady, it wasn’t. Not that it’s steep, but there are plenty of rises and dips, lots of rocks and steps. I was glad I’d brought my trekking pole; I couldn’t have made it without it.

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The Arboretum is located on 392 acres adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. Its landscape is desert, plus hardy trees and beautiful flowers. Many of the trees have been transplanted from other locations.

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We were fortunate to be there on a Friday, because we had the place seemingly to ourselves. There were plenty of cars in the ample parking, but the arboretum is large enough that you’re not bumping into the other visitors. On the weekends I believe there are larger crowds.

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Boyce Thompson Arboretum, hiking

My daughter Katie ahead of me on the trail.

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An example of the lush forest.

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Interesting rock formations.

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A fallen tree in the eucalyptus forest. Look at the root structure.

We’ve had an unusually dry summer, even for Arizona. Usually we have monsoons in July, and this little stream would actually have water in it.

 

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All the pictures up to this point were taken by me. Unfortunately, my camera’s battery ran out halfway through our hike. Luckily, Katie took some gorgeous pictures with her phone that she was willing to share. All the rest of the pictures in this post are hers.

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Yours truly.

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Garden path.

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Butterflies!

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Wildflowers.

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Shady path.

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Here you can see the roughness of the trail. Not horrible, but not smooth, either.

 

Creative Juice #147

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Creative Juice #147

Artsy stuff and more:

In the Meme Time: Try

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Try

Hiking in Usery Park

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Hiking in Usery Park

A week and a half ago, my daughter Katie invited me to hiking with her in Usery Mountain Regional Park, part of the Maricopa County Park system. I’d never been there before, but I knew it was a favorite spot of a friend of mine, so I was happy to accept.

I’ve enjoyed my hikes in South Mountain Park, which I think is gorgeous, but Usery Park is much more beautiful, greener.

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As we entered the park, we asked the attendant at the guard house where to find an easy trail for beginners (for me; I’ve only been hiking once since my emergency gall bladder surgery in April, and I wanted level ground). She recommended the Merkle Trail, which circles around a small mountain. We started on that, and immediately came to the Vista Trail, which went up the mountain, followed the ridge, and went down the other side. We decided to try it. The photo above was taken at the top. You can see the Merkle trail on the lower level.

The trail was rough and rocky in spots, but not too steep. There was one short stretch that was strenuous enough to get my heart pounding, but it was doable for an old lady like me. I brought my Sony Cyber-shot instead of my “good” camera, but it did a reasonable job of capturing the beautiful terrain.

Lots of cactus (click on the smaller photos to enlarge):

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And we met a little friend. Katie thinks it’s a chuckwalla. I tried to walk around him and take a better picture, but he took off.

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Here and there were some big outcroppings of rock.

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Painted on the mountains in the distance is an arrow pointing the way to Phoenix. You can see it from the air on the way to Sky Harbor International Airport.

When we came down the mountain, we followed the Merkle Trail back to where we started.

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I can’t wait to go back again.

Creative Juice #140

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Creative Juice #140

Fun and inspiration: