What I Did on My Christmas Vacation

Okay, probably one of my nonexistent New Year’s resolutions should be to blog more. And it’s not that I don’t have ideas to blog about—I do. I just keep running out of time to get to them. So here it is Saturday again, and I’m just getting around to posting.

I suppose my running-behind-schedule applies to more than just my blog. For instance, just yesterday I download the pictures of Christmas from my digital camera to my computer. Which reminded me of something we did over Christmas vacation. We went hiking.

In one of my posts last July I mentioned how much I like hiking. So over Christmas break, since Peter had the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, I wanted to do some hiking. There are some great trails in the local regional parks. And this time of year, with all the snowbirds and the bowl game attendees flocking to the Valley of the Sun, the Arizona Republic usually prints a list of things you can do to show visitors the real essence of Arizona. Frankly, I think you need to be here in July and burn your hand on the 200 degree handle of your car door to truly experience the essence of Arizona, but that’s just me.

Heedless of my opinion, the Republic published a list of some easy hikes in the local area. When I’m looking at hikes I have to remember I have little kids with little legs and accommodate accordingly. At South Mountain Park, one of the nation’s largest city park’s, I found one that looked promising and we were off.

Well, not quite. We had to replace little Calvin’s bike because the handlebars kept falling off. Then the kids wanted to see Night at the Museum. (A topic for another time perhaps. I liked it, they loved it, but I think there were a few missed opportunities, especially at the beginning to raise the stakes. Anyhow).

So after all that we get to the trail at about 4:30. It’s freezing, like 42 degrees, and it had been raining on and off all day. I start wondering about the wisdom of this, but I get so few opportunities to hike and the kids are looking forward to it. The weather looked okay so we decided to start off.

We were hiking to Fat Man’s Pass, an easy three mile round trip hike. I was thinking it got dark at 6 . . . 20 minutes a mile . . . we should be back at 5:30, plenty of time before it got dark.

Um, I miscalculated. Well, it didn’t help that I kept stopping to take pictures like this. Or that Calvin had to be carried by moi the last mile. Or that we kept jumping to the side of the trail to avoid being run over by mountain bikers (though to their credit they were all very nice). Or that it’s actually pitch black at 5:30.

Arizonans have a sense of humor in naming things. This is Fat Man’s Pass. See that slit in the middle? That’s what you have to skinny through or hike all the way around. The kids had fun getting through it. I could make it, and did there and back, but I’m claustrophobic and had to practice Lamaze breathing to not freak out at the rock walls pressing in on me, just waiting to crush the life out of me. This was a bit worse than the McDonald’s playland tube.

It had taken us 45 minutes to get here. The sun was behind the mountains and it was getting dark. I knew when we returned the last half mile of the trail hugged the side of the mountain and was rocky, strewn with chunks of granite. The clouds were rolling in. Did I also mention I’m night blind?

So we start double-timing it back. I’m trying to figure how we can cover 1.5 miles in the fifteen minutes of twilight we have left. We can’t.

Poor Calvin is worn out and shivering on Peter’s back. Sissy was trooper though, I was so proud of her. She never complained. We started running. Not easy to do on the rocky trail in the disappearing light. I felt more like a mountain goat hopping from rock to rock, helping Sissy over the tough areas and running full out in the sandy areas. The last mile was in blackness for me. I can’t see anything. Not the rocks, not the trail, not Peter and Calvin up ahead. I can see Sissy’s reflective sneakers and that’s all. She’s in front of me, and I’m stepping where she’s stepping, and praying I don’t break an ankle.

We made it back in twenty-five minutes. Safely. Our car was the only one left at the trailhead. The city lights, now visible, twinkled up at us breaking the sense of isolation that had followed us on the way back.

Too bad I had filled up the camera earlier with pictures so there wasn’t any room to take one of the city lights. We hopped in the car and turned on the heater and headed home, just as the rain started, thankful we hadn’t become a stupid hiker statistic.