Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hiking Wasson Peak

The last time I wrote about a peak hike, I had to tell of all the struggles we had (mostly my own struggles though!) Today, we conquered a new peak hike, and though it was only 7 miles, I'm very proud of how we did. I'm getting better :)

Today's focus: Wasson Peak in Tucson Mountain Park (West of Tucson). 7 miles long, 1939 feet of elevation gain, the highest peak in Tucson Mt. Park located in mostly Saguaro National Park territory. The above photo is about 1 mile in, facing West.

Went off the trail a bit to find a letterbox & peak at this stone house. Can you spot the Sasquatch?

Mountain lion spotted in Saguaro National Park in the last 60 days…no I am not getting any closer to what could be his house, thank you very much!

Here we are about 2 miles in. The trail is almost all at an uphill incline which means I stop more often to "take pictures" while the way back is a breeze!

Here we have 1.2 miles left. Facing East toward Tucson and the Catalina Mountains.

Facing West toward the unknown by us. ;)

Hiking uphill…cue the switchbacks. We THOUGHT that highest point was Wasson Peak...

Switchbacks are exhausting. Sometimes I just have to stop at every other one to take in the view…and okay, catch my breath. :)

Looking back at the trails we have walked!

Spring has sprung in Tucson! Love seeing these vibrant colors all around the desert :)

Last ridge before the peak… the REAL peak that is :) This was the first good view we had of the North. 

My fearless leader :)

There on the left…that's the real peak! When it looks so close, I get a great adrenaline rush that pushes me to hurry and finish…unfortunately, the "rush" never lasts as long as the remainder of the trail!

Facing South, toward other Tucson Park Mountains

Another picture to the North

And yet again. Picacho Peak is the smaller one on the left.

Yes it was hot today, why do you ask? :) We're experiencing higher than normal February temperatures this year, and it feels wonderful to say that! Maybe not so much this summer though :)

Looking down on "mountains" :)

Facing East-ish. Catalina Mountains to the left, Rincons to the right. Even though they are higher elevation than us, it felt like we were at the highest point on the top of Wasson!

View of South from the peak.

Ok, switchbacks look cool from here :) (see the zigzags up the mountain side? That's what I'm talking about!)

Alone at the top of the mountain, finally! Maybe we should have taken advantage of other people to take our picture…but I discovered I actually have a timer so we just used that :) Facing West

I did it! Facing East :)

Curtis isn't a fan of selfies :)

Hey we're wearing the same shirt! (Hard to believe our first Mexico trip was almost 6 years ago!!)

On the hike down we made an amazing discovery: Ocotillo plants can actually be pretty! (They usually don't have red blossoms at the top and are just ugly spiky sticks. I can appreciate this!)

Ocotillo blossom selfie ;)

Back at the beginning of the trail, grabbing one more letterbox! The hike took a total of 4 hours - which we are very happy with :)

Saguaro National Park: check out those saguaros! So many!!

Took the scenic route home :)

Driving home finally, after some much deserved Culvers. The highest peak in this picture is where we were today!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to Completely Avoid the fact that your team got Crushed in the Super Bowl

Hello February!

Curtis says this is his least favorite month, because it's so cold and we're just ready for warmer weather. (Yes, we feel that way in Arizona too. My sympathy goes out to family and friends in Iowa who just had yet another snowfall and snow day, but once you get used to 110 degrees, you can't ever go back.) My only issue with this month is pronouncing it. I can spell it just fine - Feb-ru-ar-y - but I feel stupid whenever I say it out loud. Last night I heard that there's usually a good snow down here around the end of this month, so I guess we have that to look forward to! :p

Anyway, we started off this month strong by hiking 12 miles over the last weekend! Our first hike was Friday night, just Curtis and I. We did a mile long hike on Finger Rock trail in the Catalina Mountains, which would eventually end up at Mount Kimball, but we really weren't in for a 10 mile round trip hike that evening. Instead, we went as far as the letterbox clues took us, then went back and had celebratory gelato at a delicious gelato shop called Frost. It was delicious, just as Curtis remembered it from his trip overseas.
Looking South from the beginning of the trail. It was cloudy all afternoon, until it finally rained the next morning.

On Saturday, we met up with our letterboxing buddies and drove to the mountains on the East side of Tucson. It was overcast and chilly all day, and though we saw rain showers in the distance, we were never caught in the rain. We began our hiking in Saguaro National Park, nearly 2 miles. We then piled snugly in the Yeti for some more rough gravel road driving adventures! 

If you follow Tanque Verde Road, it will eventually turn into a gravel road and take you on a scenic drive up and through the Rincon Mountains. Curtis believes it was the roughest road he's taken the Yeti on yet. Between the sharp turns, deep ruts, steep uphill climbs, and bikers speeding downhill in the middle of the road, I admit I was a bit scared. Not to mention our friend was pointing out all the different places cars have rolled off the road. But besides a little overheating of the engine, we made it all 12 miles and got all the letterboxes off this path!

Tanque Verde River

Tanque Verde Falls. Our friends informed us that in the summer, this becomes a bit of a hippie/free spirited area…and probably best to avoid. :)

We hiked on 2 different trails off the crazy road - the first to Tanque Verde Falls, and then on the Arizona Trail. Together, it adds up to about one mile hiked. 

To those who are not obsessed with letterboxing, this trip would probably sound ridiculous and pointless. Yes, we took an hour or two out of our Saturday to go risk our lives and the life of our Yeti driving on a sketchy, scary road, to be able to get to 2 random trails that we would walk about a half mile on, to no special destination, all to find a plastic box hidden off the trail. And we call that fun! :)

A cattle guard bridge!

Cattle guard, aka Jess guard. They're all over Arizona, and being a letterboxer, we do have to walk across them sometimes to reach our destination. Some may not even think twice about it, but for me, it's a real struggle.

Warning: take caution walking on these, especially if you have feet smaller than a size 8.

We finished the day with a 2 mile hike on Agua Caliente Trail. It was a quick, enjoyable hike, giving us 3 more letterboxes.

Walking down at the end of the day. The sun finally showing itself behind the clouds. :)

I can now say that I have hiked in all mountain ranges immediately surrounding Tucson! Curtis says there's one more range in the "Tucson Valley" I have yet to explore, but since you can't see them behind the Catalinas, they most certainly do not count!

Finally, on Super Bowl Sunday Curtis and I set out for one more hike. This one ended up being our favorite of the weekend, and possibly one of our favorite letterboxing hikes/set of stamps! Sunday's adventure took us to Pima Canyon Trail. Altogether, the hike was 6 miles long and took us through the canyon, from desert surroundings to a very green, lush area following a stream. The trail had its ups and downs, but was nothing too strenuous or exhausting. The letterbox series we were after was evenly spread out along the trail, giving us breaks at just the right times. It was just everything you could wish for in a hike!

The one and only problem? At the first box, I sat on a prickly pear. For those of you who don't live in AZ and aren't familiar with the term, here is what they look like:

Now you see the big needles sticking out and think it's easy to avoid, but if you look closer you see there are many smaller spikes that will stab you if you aren't careful! After that, I had to endure the entire hike with hundreds of itty bitty thorns stuck on my legs/rear. The trail was just busy enough that trying to remove them would be way too awkward. :p

Us toward the beginning of the hike - yes I am in pain but I will not let it show!

Just over a mile in, and we've reached this green area! It was the perfect temperature for hiking, and just beautiful all around!

Oh sweet grass, how I've missed you. :)

Back closer to the beginning of the trail, kind of like being brought back into the desert. What a lovely hike, and we ended up with 11 more letterboxes!

And that's how our February began. 1 weekend, 12 miles, 18 boxes!

After all of this fun, who could give a thought to the sad results of the football game? :)