Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Hike in Arizona

Today is Christmas Eve and I am in Sierra Vista, Arizona with my parents visiting my Grandpa and Grandma.  And lucky for me, whenever I visit my parents, we always hike.  And they have a flair for picking some really beautiful trails, today's hike being no exception.

We left my Grandparents in town because they had things to do, and we headed for the mountains.  From town, it was only a 15 minute drive to the trailhead at Ramsey Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains.  What a contrast from the cactus and scrub desert of the valley!  The canyon is lush forest with a clear creek running through.  We passed ruins of cabins built at the turn of the century, and an enormous, sprawling tree even more ancient- it had been dated to 1760!
Arizona sycamore from 1760
 Then, leaving the creek, the trail switchbacked up the side of the mountain, and eventually opened up at a viewpoint where we could see the town spreading across the valley below in one direction, and high cliffs rising up in the other. 
What a lunch spot
My parents at the spring

After taking a much needed break for lunch, we convinced Mom to continue on for a bit longer, and good thing we did!  We passed by a spring filled with water striders (how could Arizona be so GREEN?!), and then descended to the stream again, which cascaded over boulders, beneath trees still holding onto the last of their orange and red leaves (how could it still be late fall here?!).

The trail kept climbing up the canyon, and my parents decided to head back.  I continued on up the trail by myself.  I stopping to chat with a couple who were just coming down after doing a loop up to the top of the mountain, and hearing their description of the views, I longed to continue on.  The couple was also carrying a huge bag of trash that they'd picked up on their hike.  Apparently, many people come across the boarder here from Mexico, and leave behind things from their journey as they cross these rugged mountains. 

I continued along up the trail, picking up the pace and getting into the flow of the hike, crisscrossing the stream several times, basking in the warm glow of the sun as it shown down through the golden leaves.  Finally, I turned around too, since I'd told my parents I'd only be half and hour behind them.  But I told myself that some day I'd return to climb up to the top, when I could plan ahead for a longer hike.  The timing worked out almost perfectly,  and I caught up with my folks again at the last half mile of the hike.

I was astonished at the lushness of the forest here in Arizona, and love hiking in mountains with peaks over 8000 feet!  When I hike in the North Georgia mountains, I usually feel content and find the unique beauty of the Appalachinan mountains.  But being out West, these steep and dramatic mountains remind me that there are landscapes out here that can stir my soul even more, and that there are ecosystems full of plants and birds and bugs that are fascinating and unfamiliar.  It makes me long to leave my home and venture out to more unknown mountains. 

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