I Climbed a Damn Mountain Mar14

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I Climbed a Damn Mountain

[This week Chas and I are on a desert vacation through the American Southwest. Our trip started in Tucson (also joined by Stew Over editors Jim and Ed), continued to Scottsdale, and will wrap up in Las Vegas. I’m going to bring you periodic reports from our trip. I should note that Chas arrived late and was not able to accompany us on this first activity]

Last time I visited Tucson we decided to go on a nature walk through the desert. I was forty pounds heavier and in considerably worse shape. A couple hours into our trip, I had to pull up, suck up my pride and tell the rest of the group that I, literally, could not continue. Imagine my apprehension this year when our host suggested we hike to the top of Mount Wrightson. I read the hike details he provided us with nothing short of pure terror.

Here are said terrifying bits:

The summit: 9,456

Distance from bottom to summit: 4,036

Time spent climbing up and down: 7-9 hours

Again, I was not championing this idea, however, I did recognize that I was in different shape the last time I attempted a difficult hike and decided to give it a shot. I’m happy to report that I made it to the summit and accomplishing the feat was quite rewarding.

By no means was the hike easy. The trail presented a steady grade and since I’m not used to living in altitude it was often difficult to catch my breath. The temperature would change approximately 30-40 degrees depending on whether you were in the sun or not and how far up the mountain you were. By the time we made it near the top, we had to hike through a couple of inches of snow, further reinforcing just how high we had climbed.

Obviously this sort of activity is not available in Chicago and its surrounding prairie land. The reward, besides accomplishing the hike, was seeing the beautiful vistas and enjoying being outside. The hiking website I linked to earlier does a far better job describing our hike than I can, “Along the way, you’ll go through scrub oak and ponderosa pine forests, being shaded most of the way until the last half mile. The shade and high altitude make it a great hike even in the summer desert climate.” I was surprised by the amount of green we saw. Typically when you think of the Southwest you imagine the desert and the brown landscape. This hike provided much more than that. The following pictures were all taken by Jim.

The Road Ahead

Our first encounter with snow

Jim and I take a breather and admire the views

The sign at the saddle, the summit before the summit

The final set of switchbacks

On top of the world

To prove we made it, we all signed the book at the top

The hike took a full day, but I felt a great deal of pride when I completed it. The reward of tacos followed by a soak in a hot tub with some beers under a spectacular night sky also made the entire hike worth it even if my muscles are still sore two days later.

I also encourage everyone to use the comments below to send “get well” messages to Ed. Ed finished the hike but endured a baker’s dozen hilarious ankle rolls.

Based on Ed’s overall post-hike malaise and moaning I’m confident this is a correct visual representation of how Ed’s body is feeling right now:

"I am a cellist! Not a hiker. Why are you making me AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

 

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