When we arrived in Arizona at the end of December, the weather (for Arizona) was cold with freeze warnings. The locals said this was the worst winter they have seen. The weather has been approximately 20 degrees below their normal, and there has been a lot of rain. That is good news for this state because it has been in a drought state for years.
The mountain next to our home (San Tan Mountains) loomed over our home calling us out to explore. Having just had a hip replacement two months prior, I was a little worried about hitting the trails. At my last doctor’s appointment in December before leaving Missouri, I was told I could do anything I wanted as long as it didn’t hurt, and then that statement ended, very emphatically with, “Whatever you do, don’t fall.” On January 5, Dennis and I decided to give it a try. We looked at the map of the trails and selected a rather easy one. It was a three mile distance. I have walked that distance before, but not for a long time since my hip was becoming a major problem. This would be my first walk of any distance since months before surgery.
Walking this trail was not hard as long because it was fairly level, but there were several places of washes where we had to walk down and back up. I didn’t feel steady on my feet yet, so I would hold on to Dennis’ hand to manage these minor ups and downs. As we chatted with some other hikers, it was suggested I purchase hiking stick to help me. I did complete the three mile trek, and was very proud that I could do so shortly after my surgery.
I was not terribly comfortable on the trails, and didn’t feel strong enough, so while Dennis is out hiking hours on end, I hiked 2/3 of a mile down the street to our local community center and worked out in their fitness center. I used the treadmill, some of the machines for strengthening my legs and arms, and ended on the bike, and then took the long walk around the neighborhood to home which added another 1 1/2 miles to the walk.
Finally last week, we decided that I might be strong enough to tackle the mountain. Dennis had been hiking several paths so he had a good idea of what I could handle. We chose a scenic path that went up the back side of the mountain. The total hike was 3.99 miles with an elevation gain of 515 feet. I was proud of myself for be able to manage these trails. Hiking sticks in hand helped on the decline as that seems to be the hardest to get a footing around the loose rocks. The trail we were on is called the Dynamite Trail, and the views were spectacular.
This week I asked Dennis to take me on a trail that would challenge me, but would still be workable. I would love to do the Goldmine Trail, but Dennis said it is too steep. He was concerned I may not be strong enough to handle the inclines and especially the downhill parts at this time. We actually did take part of the Goldmine trail, but then veered off to Dynamite before we hit the big inclines. Our hike was on a steady incline up the mountain. This circle we took from the front side of the mountain was a total of 7.72 miles with an elevation gain of 768 feet. It took us 3 hours and 47 minutes to complete the hike. Granted we stopped a time or two at the benches located (usually at the top of the large incline) and ate our lunch of hard boiled eggs and apple, but we did not take long breaks because we needed to get off the mountain before it got dark and the big critters come out and eat us. Okay, that wasn’t the case. We just wanted to continue our hike to the end. Hydrating is also necessary. Dennis has a camel pack which is a small backpack filled with water and has a hose to suck to get the water. We also attached several bottles of water for me. I plan to purchase a camel pack for myself.
The last half hour was spent with my complaining that I could not see the flag—the first thing in the distance that tells me we are back at the park entrance. I was feeling every muscle in my legs, not hurting but tight. “Where is the flag?” I kept saying, and finally it was in the distance, the size of a postage stamp, but I could tell we were getting there.
It was a longer walk back from the Dynamite trail, but Dennis said it was a more level walk back. Every time, I saw an incline, no matter how low, I groaned as my muscles were groaning! I looked forward to finding a bench although they are spaced quite a distance apart. These benches apparently were donated in the memory of someone who loved the park, and their name with birth and death date were posted. My joke was that the benches scattered throughout the park was located on the spot that person actually died hiking this mountain. I would say if I fall down and die here, be sure to get a bench with my name on it!
The beauty of the desert is different than the beauty of the ocean, or the Rocky Mountains. I have never been in a place on earth that I didn’t think was beautiful in some way. Just like people, everyone looks different, but are all beautiful. Many folks back in Missouri are surprised to see that Phoenix is surrounded by mountains. They are not as high as the Rockies, and they are mostly desert, but oh, how amazing they are. The flowers are just beginning to bloom. When we first arrived, everything seemed to be brown. When the ran came, the mountain woke up. All of a sudden the mountain went from brown to green. It is not green like a Missouri field, nor does it have any trees like the trees in Missouri.
Back to the trail . . . We have only hiked on the trails at the San Tan Regional Park. There are trails on all the other mountains surrounding the Phoenix area, and I am sure sometime we will hike some of them. The San Tan Mountains are at our back door. We have a view on one from our patio. The other night we sat outside with the view of the dark mountain and looked at the stars. Yes, we can see stars from our back yard. There are street lights around our neighborhood, but I noticed they are all dim lights, and they do not block out the view of the stars.
I will miss these mountains when we go back to Missouri. Of course, we are going back when Arizona starts heating up to oven temperatures! We will be back in Missouri where everything will be green and only nearly oven temps! If our house isn’t sold by then, we will have the pool and lake to enjoy.
I feel blessed that for now I have the best of both worlds geographically. Who knew? How did this girl, who struggled so hard just to keep her head above water, be blessed to have two places to live, have a husband who treats her so kindly, and can actually be retired and enjoy life. Life is good! God is good! I am blessed!