Hiking under the Arizona sun
Last week I got to spend some quality vacation time with family and friends under the warm Arizona sun. I’m an ocean-loving girl, so it’s been more than nine years since I’d been to Arizona.
The last time I visited, I was at my all-time heaviest weight of 381 lbs and it was a very different trip. Needless to say, I was more of a passive observer of the Arizona mountains on that trip. I had trouble walking even short distances and couldn’t imagine actually getting out in the wilderness and hiking.
But this year, as a fit and healthy girl, it was important to me to get out in the dessert and experience it up close and personal via my favorite outdoor activity — hiking the mountains. At least that was my plan UNTIL I learned that rattle snakes and tarantulas frequent the trails! Eeek. Literally, my worst nightmare and one of my biggest fears. That said, my desire to hike was greater than my fear of reptiles and creepy crawly things (barely). So, off we went.
We had a host of hiking recommendations in the Superstition Mountain Wilderness — including the Siphon Draw Trail and Flatiron. But, after hearing my 20-something niece and nephew describe the difficulty of these hikes, we decided our inaugural dessert hiking trip would start with something simpler — the three mile round trip Hieroglyphic Trail near Gold Canyon.
So this lucky girl started her Valentine’s Day birthday with a gorgeous sunrise in the mountains, followed by a great starter hike in the Superstition Wilderness.
The Hieroglyphic Trail climbs a gentle slope covered with many cacti then enters the lower end of a boulder-filled canyon, ending at a rocky section with a pool. We learned that the ancient Hohokam Indians inhabited this desert region up to 1,500 years ago. And part of the “coolness” of this hike was seeing evidence of their settlement, including hundreds of petroglyphs etched into the dark, weathered surface of the basalt cliffs above the pool.
This scenic location is high enough for a long-distance panorama southwest over Gold Canyon and the Gila River plain, and also provides close-up views of the jagged upper slopes of the Superstition Mountains to the north, rising over 2,000 feet higher.
It can get very hot under the Arizona sun so we went early in the morning and were done by 9:30 a.m. And the best part — we didn’t see one snake or otherwise crawly creature on the trail! (Thank God.) We did, however, see a heart shaped cacti on Valentine’s day and took that as a sign!
I truly loved the hike and wish I had a longer Arizona visit so I could have done a more challenging trek. The Superstition Mountains are gorgeous. This was certainly a different hike than any I’ve done in Acadia National Park in Maine or on Minnesota’s North Shore.
I can’t stop thinking about all of the times in my life that I missed amazing vistas and the experience of being out in nature because of my weight. All too often I sat on the sidelines of life, or on the rock, as a passive observer instead of an active one. This makes me sad for the Lori that got so far out of the equation of her own life, she missed much of it. But I’m now making up for lost time.
When I got home, I decided to dig up my photos from that Arizona trip in 2008. I actually had a hard time even finding photos of me because when I was that big I didn’t want my photo taken. I found only a few photos of me with my nieces and nephew. In contrast, we took lots of photos on this trip and it was stark to compare the before and after.
Not only do I plan to visit Arizona again, but I will be back to hike Flatiron (rated a difficult hike) with my niece and nephew!
Gratitude for my new active life
Today on #motivationmonday as I write this blog and share my Arizona hiking experience, I am nothing but grateful for my new active life. For the opportunity to push past fear and challenge myself. For all of the beautiful vistas and nature that I now experience as an active participant. And, for the opportunity to share this experience here in the hopes it might inspire others.
I am living proof that it is never too late to change your life and to get in the game or out on the trail.
Here are some of my favorite photos from our Arizona hike.