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  • Writer's pictureRoy Thomas

Arizona Wow!

From a stroll through the Desert Museum to the heart-pounding scramble up Flatiron, Southern Arizona offers some fantastic day hiking.

After receiving our second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine we became eligible to forego quarantine after traveling out of state. Prior to the vaccine, our employer required testing and a quarantine period after off-island travel. This meant that these two teachers were looking at not getting off the island until the arrival of summer break. With the opportunity before us, we quickly used our Alaska Airlines companion fare and booked our flights to Tucson.

We found a delightful Airbnb that offered us back door access to Bear Canyon and after our first night's sleep, we walked out the door and right into the mountains. Hiking the 7 Falls Trail and Blackett's Ridge Trail on day one.

Day one- Sabino Canyon, Seven Falls, and Blackett's Ridge

Either one of these trails is a great day hike, Seven Falls is a leisurely hike and a great introduction to desert hiking. Blacket's Ridge is a steep slog and gets the thighs burning by the time you reach the top. Both trails offer unique views back to the Tuscon area and varied terrain and views.

Day Two- Catalina Canyon Loop and road trip to Phoenix.

We had a road trip day to Pheonix in preparation for a planned hike in the Superstitious mountains, along the way we stopped at Catalina State Park to enjoy the Canyon Loop Trail and at Casa Grande to explore some epic history.

Fire brings death and renewal in the Arizona desert. A saguaro of this size would be around 200 years old.

Casa Grande Ruins

It is tempting to believe that those of us living in the 21st century are the pinnacle of civilization. Visit a place like Casa Grande will give you good cause to reflect on that assertion as you view the architectural and societal achievements of those who dwelled in this land before the arrival of anyone from the West.

The Wave Cave

Our arrival in Phoenix brought us to our first disappointment. We had planned to dash up to the Wave Cave, but upon reaching the trailhead we realized that we had missed an important detail in the AllTrails description. "Trailhead and parking are on Arizona State Trust Land and a permit is required." this permit must be purchased online in advance and printed out, meaning that if you don't arrive at the trailhead with the printed permit in hand you would be considered trespassing. We chalked up the experience as a reminder to do your homework and then headed off to join some extended family members for an enjoyable evening out for dinner.

Borrowed photo from AllTrails. Maybe next year we will get out own photo from the Wave Cave.

Day Three- Flatiron, no ordinary day hike.

Flatiron is a major physical challenge, but the mental challenge may be its biggest obstacle.

2600 feet in elevation gain over 2.5 miles doesn't sound like a great deal but 1600 feet of that is in the last mile. Hiking up a draw over years of boulder falls you will engage every body part and muscles you didn't know you had to make the final mile-long scramble up this extraordinary trail. Download the Alltrails map before you go, follow the dots, and give the trail your full attention. Be sure and look back at the vistas behind you and celebrate your accomplishment at the top.

Siphon Draw is a unique geological feature worthy of its own day hike.

Crystal makes her way over the 12 foot wall that mark the completion of this trail.

Day Four Chiricahua Wow!

Just a couple of hours south of Tuscon you will find another world. Hoodoos and panoramas give you the feeling of being on another planet. The hardest part of this trail is deciding which photos not to take.

After a wonderful day of hiking, we concluded our visit to the Wilcox area with a stop at Coronado Vineyards where we were treated as special guests even after arriving just 40 minutes before closing time.

Day 5- The Museum of the Desert, Laundry, Lunch downtown, and Tumamoc Hill

For most of the day, the camera stayed tucked away as we played tourist, washed some clothes in preparation for travel, and enjoyed a meal sitting outside on the sidewalk in downtown Tuscon. We finished the day off with an evening urban hike up Tumamoc Hill.

If you get to Tuscon don't miss the Museum of the Desert, it is a unique combination of a nature walk and a small zoo. It felt a bit expensive when we booked but we found it to be well worth the price of entry. Book the earliest available time slot not just to avoid the desert heat but as we were walking out the crowds were gathering at the entry.

Tumamoc Hill is a quick steep paved hiking trail that takes you up to delightful views of the city of Tuscon.

We really enjoyed our time in Southern Arizona and we are already planning to go back again. For winter-weary Alaskans, it is a great place for a spring getaway.

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