A hiker’s diary: December 2012

Last entry first.

December 6, Thursday:  North Mountain Park, inner basin.  Some trails are multi-use, and some are not.  But all trails are multi-thought.  You can think about anything you want in a depth you can rarely find anywhere else, particularly when alone.  I saw 21 people on the trail this afternoon.  One, an Hispanic woman was on a cellphone, speaking Spanish and laughing.  I don’t know what she was thinking of course.  Nor did I know for sure what was on the minds of the five bikers and five joggers. But I doubt anyone was as sad as I.  A friend of mine, Alfred, had died in Kansas, way too young, and the news stunned me.  He had been my best man at a wedding, someone who knew my demons as well as I knew his.  On this smoggy, warm day, I thought about Alfred a lot, and the trail offered me the quiet time to sort out the matter and ponder why we had not spoken in many years.

December 2, Sunday:  Phoenix Mountains Preserve, Nature Trail.  I travel along this short trail trying to find a little solitude in late afternoon under a warm sun.  This trail, also known as #304, is a hub for about every trail that runs through this mountain park in the heart of Phoenix.  It loops up and around a rocky crag, and although it  is only 1 1/2 miles in length and located near one of the busiest hiking spots in the Phoenix area, it can be a quiet place.  Many hikers just walk up to the saddles on the east and west sides of the crag, if that far, take in the nice view, then return to the trailhead parking lot.  It is on the outer loop, to the north, where after passing a clutch of four mountain bikers, I amble into a no man’s zone amid small cactus, saguaro and white outcroppings of quartz. It is not perfectly quiet of course.  A helicopter hovers briefly over nearby Piestewa Peak and a U.S. Airways plane swooshes along on its way to Sky Harbor.  Still, on a day when the Cardinals have lost another football game and the neighborhood home tour has brought hundreds to our street, the Nature Trail is a respite.