This past weekend we spent in Tubac, AZ. Tubac is a small tourist town about an hour south of Tucson. We ended up there because one of my yoga students grew up there and has a house there that she rents out. When it is available, she generously offers it to friends. We have been to Tubac before and saw it as an opportunity to get away for the weekend. There is good hiking in the nearby Santa Rita Mountains. Off we went on Friday evening following my True Hot Yoga class. It was about a 3 hr. drive into the middle of nowhere. We settled into a cozy house with all the amenities, tv, dvd, wi-fi, etc. I arose early on Saturday to hike Mount Wrightson. It is the highest peak in the range and has a
4000ft elevation gain from approx. three to over seven thousand feet. I evaluated the trails and chose one that was around 15 miles long. At my pace, that is about 7 hours of hiking. Up at 6am, I was to the trailhead by 7:15am and after loading gear and water and stretching, I was on the trail by 7:40am. This was a training hike so I was carrying about a 70lb. Backpack. I was prepared for sun and heat but instead found the cool shade of pine trees. I love the smell of pine and the softness of pine needles on the trail under my feet. I started out slow. It takes me an hour or so to hit my stride. The views were beautiful as the
elevation increased. Then I missed a sharp switchback and ended up off the main trail. I knew something was wrong when I found myself on a small trail headed down a steep ravine along a creek. I went with it though. It was lush and green and moist. About an hour down this trail I came to a place where the trail crosses the creek and split in two opposing directions. At the trail crossing was a flat moist muddy area filled with beautiful butterflies drinking and resting on rocks. My arrival startled them. I remained still and quiet. They went back to their routine, Drinking and flitting about. There were too many to count. Everything happens for a reason, and I believe that I was on this trail because I was meant to enjoy the beauty of the butterflies. I took some pictures (click to enlarge) and marveled at their beauty for a few minutes before deciding a path to take.
I had a trail map, and was not lost. I was just a little mis- oriented. I chose the steep trail to the right. It was increasingly steep. It led me to Sylvester springs and the affirmation that I was definitely on the wrong trail.
A quick check of the trail map put me almost 2 miles off course. I backtracked (mostly uphill) to the place where I missed the switchback, and returned to the main trail. I decided to skip the extension trail that I was going to take to lengthen the trek, and headed directly to the peak. After a few miles, I arrived at Josephine saddle, it showed it as a mere 2.2 miles to the next saddle and then only .9 miles to the summit. No problem, I thought. I was in my stride now about 3 hours into my hike without any breaks (other than to watch butterflies, adjust gear, and take pictures). As the trail became steeper it began a series of switchbacks. They seemed to go on forever. There were one after another and another. As I was ascending, I passed numerous groups of hikers descending. As I climbed higher I kept thinking that this was the longest 2.2 miles ever…. Finally, I reached the next saddle. The sign said that it was .9 miles to the peak. One of the hikers meandering around the saddle asked if I was going to the peak. “I’ve come this far” I said. “I might as well go the rest of the way.” The trail wandered off to the right, and there were beautiful slopes covered in yellow flowers. The views were breathtaking. The clouds left large shadows on the grounds far below. I was really enjoying the gentle upgrade and flowers when I heard talking, looked up to my right and saw hikers high up on switchbacks. Great… more uphill. It was another set of steep switchbacks. Not only was the uphill steep, but parts of the trail had very tenuous footing. It was a long way down. Definitely not survivable. My shoulders were really starting to feel the weight of the pack that I was carrying at this point. I was about 5 hours into the hike. Finally, a half hour later, I reached the top. The extra effort was well worth it. Amazing views in every direction. There was no one up there. I had the whole place to myself. I removed my backpack, changed my shirt, took pictures, ate a few power bars, and a glyco pack, re-hydrated and rested. I was going to change socks, but my feet felt really great, no blisters or “hot spots”, so I did not want to tempt fate. I rested a half hour, appreciating the energy of this high place, and then began my descent.
I decided to take the most direct trail down. It was 1:30pm and I wanted to be off the trail by 4:30pm. The shortest route was about 6 miles. That is a little less than 3hrs at the pace that I hike. My descent was really quick and unremarkable. I arrived back at the trailhead at 3:40pm. My legs and shoulders were fatigued, but my feet felt great. The hike lasted almost exactly 8 hours. Based on my off trail diversion, I guess it was about a 16 and a half mile trek. This was definitely a challenging hike and a great “tune up” for the Grand Canyon “rim to rim” hike coming up in a few weeks.
My Uncle and Aunt from Tucson joined us Saturday afternoon, and Sunday was spent resting and walking around the galleries in the town. We left late Sunday afternoon, dined in Tucson and arrived back in Scottsdale early evening…. Next weeks tentative hike is Thompson Peak….