A hiker’s journal: July 2012

A rainy evening on the Christiansen Trail.

July 29, Sunday:  A hiking window opens, a break in the withering summer heat of the desert.  It is 88 degrees, sunny and muggy at 10:45 a.m.  That may sound awful if you live in Seattle.  But in Phoenix we call it a respite.  I’m thinking a hike at North Mountain Park is in the offing for this evening, the first “wilderness” hike I’ve done since June 18.  In the meantime, lounging in the house, I have just read an op-ed column by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, “Blissfully Lost In The Woods.”    Kristof and 14-year-old daughter are backpacking a 200-mile segment of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon.  He offers an antidote to “our postindustrial self-absorption.”  Says he,  “Take a hike,” and tosses out a depressing stat:  Back-country campers in our national parks have decreased by almost 30 percent since 1979.  That can’t be good for future preservation of our wilderness areas.   As I wait for the evening’s sojourn, I toy with nature from inside cool walls.  I capture a beautiful Green June Beetle in my specimen jar, the plump one-inch beetle having attached itself somehow to a screen in the living room.  Glossy green and iridescent with golden edges, I can not think of a more handsome insect.  I set it free on the front lawn and soon it is gone. . . . North Mountain Park, inner basin west.  It is 6:40 p.m. and a cool, yes, cool 81 degrees, when Nebra and I hit the trail in a steady monsoon-season rain.  Half-dozen other vehicles are parked at the 7th Ave trailhead.  “Perfect weather, huh?” says a man passing by, going out in a hurry with a backpack.  He’s joking, I’m not.  “Amen,” I say.  “Amen.”  Nebra’s hacked.  Her newly coiffed hair is wet and flat.  She’ll need a lot of product when she gets home.  First time either of us has hiked in this much rain since Bryce Canyon, in Utah, years ago.  I count two other hikers and five bikers before we get back to the car in semi-darkness.  I let out a big hoo-ray.  I’ve at the last minute gotten in a July hike.

Storm clouds rumble above a lonely trail.

July 31, Tuesday:  North Mountain Park, inner basin/east.  I sit by my car in the parking lot waiting for a powerful thunderstorm to declare itself.  At last, the dark and rumbling clouds move east.  It is only then that I hit the trail.  It is 4:45 p.m. as I head out toward the dam, then cut back on the Shaw Butte Trail to the divide.  For the first 30 minutes I see no one.  As I try to shoot a photo of a Say’s Phoebe rustling in a sere bush, I hear the crunch, crunch of a jogger behind me.  I turn to see a man in his 50s, tan and slender and wearing nothing but blue shorts and running shoes.   He halts to ask if I will take a photo of him with his small camera.  I shoot a couple, then he’s off to complete a 5-mile trot around Shaw Butte.  “I don’t run all the way,” he says with a toothy smile.  Although it is partly cloudy with a westerly breeze.  The air varies warm to stinging hot.  Returning on the Christiansen Trail, I’m rewarded with the view of a rainbow, just a small arc of a larger one others at a different locale may be able to see.  High up on North Mountain, a few hikers pound the paved trail to the summit.  Down here, I count a meager number of five others on the trails, the fewest I’ve ever seen on an outing in this park.  Three joggers, a biker and a hiker.   No one but a dedicated masochist would hike out here in the sapping heat of July.  I do about 2 1/2 miles in an hour of leisurely walking.  To my surprise, I completed two hikes, not just one, for the month.

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