That Time We Almost Died in the Desert

Okay maybe that’s a little dramatic, but let me back up. 🙂

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Anna and I had planned on going for a hike while we were in Tucson so she reserved a Zipcar for the day on Monday. We got a little Dunkin Donuts breakfast and coffee (god I adore their iced coffee) and we got the car. It was parked in Zipcar parking at the University so it was a two block walk from the hotel.

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We drove to Oro Valley and stopped at Trader Joe’s to grab food for lunch. We planned on doing a hike in Catalina State Park. I did one with my parents last time I was in Arizona. This time we did the Romero Pools Trail. It was classified as “moderate” and sounded like a nice way to spend the day. (I looked up the trail info for more details when I got home and apparently it was 5.6 miles roundtrip to the Pools, over 7 if you do the whole canyon trail. 1000 feet elevation gain.)

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It was a lot hotter out on Monday than the rest of our trip. We packed a ton of water and I had one bottle of Gatorade, too. We were definitely well-hydrated, which was good. (Last trip to Arizona my family hadn’t hiked long because we didn’t pack enough water.) Us girls got a later start in the day than ideal but it worked out alright.

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We set out on the trail through the wash and the easy, wide part where the horses were. We even saw some horses!

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The trail started to go uphill a little. We were blazing a trail in the beginning and as the hike went on, the elevation climbed and the day got hotter we slowed down. There was a part of the trail that had “stairs”, which was nice.

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Then the trail started to turn into a rock “scramble”. It wasn’t rock climbing, but there were many, many parts of the trail where it felt kind of like it!

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Thankfully most of the trail wasn’t on the edge of a cliff, which is a no-go for me. I felt relatively safe for most of it.

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We saw some creatures. Geckos and lots of hummingbirds! Whenever I reached out to use a rock for assistance in the climb I ALWAYS looked first to make sure there weren’t scary or deadly critters waiting to get me. This little guy looked harmless though.

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There is something kind of magical about being in the tan, brown, gray desert and all of a sudden seeing splashes of color. The desert flowers that bloom are particularly colorful and pretty!

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It was a really popular trail. As we were climbing up, most of the people we saw were heading down the trail. Whenever we found shade (which wasn’t very often) we took advantage of it and took a break. We stopped often for water breaks, too.

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I was wearing the sunshirt I bought in Maui and wearing lots of sunscreen! Thankfully neither of us got too burned on the hike and re-applied sunscreen several times.

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We seemed to be near the top of the ridge. We asked a few hikers if we were close to the pools. We got different answers from everyone. Some people said we were almost there and it was worth the hike. Some said we were halfway! Some said it was another 15 minutes…well, we finally arrived at the top and then the trail went downhill.

Then we were at the pools!

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The secluded canyon had a lot of shady areas, which was nice, and there was a cool breeze that felt wonderful! Here is the calorie count for the hike up:

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We set up our picnic lunch in the shade on the rocks and relaxed. Lunch was courtesy of Trader Joe’s: a small loaf of Asiago and black pepper bread, sliced Gouda cheese, sugar snap peas and Rainier cherries. It was the perfect lunch!

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After relaxing, cooling off and eating lunch, we explored the pools a little bit. I really wished I’d brought my swim suit! It looked like a wonderful place to cool off.

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We decided it was time to head back down. It was getting hotter in the day and would soon be the peak. We had enough water to last us the hike down, so that was good. I never felt dehydrated, also good.

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We hiked back up to the top of the ridge. Then started to come down the trail.

Then I stopped.

And took two steps backwards.

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Anna was behind me and said “OH MY GOD IS THAT A SNAKE?!”

Um, yes, yes it is a snake. And it’s a big one.

So I’m gonna just stand back here and let him pass by his merry way and not bother him.

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I let the snake slither across the trail (it was moving VERY slowly) and took a photo of it. Thank goodness for zoom lenses because eff that! I’m not getting close to that thing. But I wasn’t going to make any sudden movements, either. So I just stood there and waited. Once it was in the brush I decided it was okay and I ran (leaped) down the trail past the snake and then coaxed Anna to follow. She freaked out a bit and then followed.

Further down the trail we came across some other hikers who asked if we’d seen a snake. Apparently they’d heard Anna’s screams. 🙂

Here is Anna before the SNAKE INCIDENT:

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Carefree and happy…It was definitely a heart-pounding experience. I don’t know what kind of snake it was. I wasn’t looking too closely. I showed the picture to a friend later who’s local and she thought it was a Diamondback but I’m not sure. I don’t recall if I saw rattler at the end of it. I wasn’t looking too closely.

OKAY. Ready to exhale now.

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The rest of the hike was pretty uneventful. It was kind of harder to go down the mountain, honestly. My knees were doing okay, but I had to take some very long, high steps to climb down. I pulled my thigh muscle a little bit but didn’t hurt it too much, thankfully, and there was no lasting injury. Both of us were experiencing shaky legs as we climbed down.

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There were many spots where it was just safer and easier for me to sit down on my butt on the rock and slide down to get sure footing. I’m surprised at how long it took us and how many calories I burned climbing back down the mountain–nearly the same number as the hike up!

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Finally we were off the mountain and back to the wash, then the parking lot. We high-fived and congratulated each other on NOT dying and then we guzzled some water in the car. On the drive back to the hotel we made a stop at In-n-Out for the most amazing milkshakes ever. It was so tasty and cold after being in the hot hot sun (91 degrees) for four hours. (I’m kicking myself for not getting a burger at In-n-Out).

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After cleaning up after the hike we met a friend of Anna’s from the Peacecorp. He saw some of her Facebook posts and they arranged a meeting. We met them at Thunder Canyon Brewery for happy hour and had honestly the worst food I’ve ever had. It was truly atrocious (and it made me kick myself even harder for not getting In-n-Out!!!). But the company was fantastic and it was fun meeting him and his girlfriend.

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Anna and I flew home to Oregon on Tuesday mid-day, feeling refreshed and happy and sunkissed and both wishing we didn’t have to go back to reality. It was a fantastic trip and I had so much fun. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the desert a little bit!

6 Responses

  1. Ugh, snakes! That one looks like the one we saw in the Grand Canyon – I think it was a bull snake? Gopher snake? I can’t remember.

    Beautiful hike, especially the cacti! I love desert hikes, they feel so exotic to me, but I will never get used to that dry heat.
    Ingunn recently posted..Week Four

    1. I love the dry heat! It’s much more comfortable than humidity. Hiking in 90 degree weather in Oregon? Stifling, dripping sweat and soggy feeling…same temp in the desert is almost comfortable! At least for me. 🙂

      Not sure what kind of snake. A friend thought it was a Diamond Back. I zoomed in on the picture and did see diamond shapes but…not sure!

    1. It was kind of cool to see. And while I don’t necessarily LIKE snakes, I don’t really have a phobia (not like Anna). Now if it was a giant spider, I’d be comatose. LOL

      I actually didn’t get sunburned! I usually burn easily but I didn’t this time!

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