Hiking the Superstition Wilderness

Last time I attempted to hike Superstition I discovered that it makes a huge difference if the hike is going up and up, or more around and up. I was back in AZ and although it was a very short trip, I still had a day that could be spent hiking. I’m in much better shape than I was when I attempted Fremont Saddle via the Peralta Trail. All those mornings back home walking 2.75 miles, not to mention the TWO hills and the gradual incline, have definitely given me more stamina. Yes, I’m well aware that gasping my way up a suburban street is NOT akin to hiking up a mountainside, but it is some exercise. I did some internet surfing and discovered Treasure Loop to Praying Hands. I read the description MUCH more carefully based on my hard-won knowledge. It looked do-able.

Treasure Loop is the big loop – Praying Hands is the skinny line.

We decided to give it a try on Saturday, a day when we had absolutely nothing else planned. We could spend all day hiking if that’s what it took me – zillions of rests. The elevation gain did not look that difficult – only 834 feet compared to 1430 feet. The distance was also much less round-trip: 3 miles compared to 4.7 miles. And we were hiking in February, NOT early September. We checked with my son’s friend and although he made some faces, he thought I was probably able to do it. 🙂

We parked in the P by Maintenance. 🙂

It is only about 40 minutes from Chandler to the trailhead in Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. We got there a little after 11 am. *laughing* I probably should NOT put this here but oh, well, you know that for a supposedly smart woman I can do some pretty dumb things. 🙂 First, we ended up parking in the overflow parking because of a sign in the road talking about the parking being closed. Upon later closer inspection the sign was only intended to convey the information that you could NOT park overnight. But it WAS in the road and there was another car leaving that area coming at us, so we took it to mean the lot was full. 🙂 As it happens, I think that ended up being a good thing for us.

Keep your eye on that middle group of rocks.

We parked in the overflow and then tried to find the trailhead. Go ahead, laugh. I was getting a little worried about us that we could not even find the trailhead for Treasure Loop and what – I wanted to hike up to Praying Hands? 🙂 We wandered around the Cholla day-use area and decided it was NOT what we wanted. We made our way up the not-closed road to the Saguaro day-use area. Again, we saw lots of parked cars but no obvious trail-head. I was beginning to feel cranky. Just as I spied a sign that looked to be a trailhead sign, a gentleman called to us to say the trailhead began behind the restrooms. We went that direction but it was NOT the trailhead for Treasure Loop. Those of you who know me can imagine just how cranky I was at this point. I snarled my way over to where *I* thought the trailhead sign was and YES! I was correct!!! So we started out on Treasure Loop #56. If you click any of my links, or read anything online, you’ll see that all of the guides say start at the Cholla day-use area.

Very close.

I’m going to tell you that my son and I disagree with all of those trail guides. We started from Saguaro and ended at Cholla. Starting at Saguaro means you do the steepest, rockiest part FIRST, when you are still fresh and eager. The mountains are ahead of you, in all their beauty, and you start climbing immediately. The Cholla side of the loop is nearly flat, in comparison. Which makes it boring and a bit ho-hum. There were a handful of other groups of hikers – I’d guess fewer than 15 – both going our way and coming back towards us. All of these hikers were friendly and calling hello and smiling. My recollection of hiking Devil’s Bridge was that although the vast majority of the hikers WERE friendly and warm, there were definitely the groups who belonged walking in the city, where avoiding eye contact and smiles is considered the norm.

To know him is to love him.

For the most part the hike up was easy enough, but hard enough that we did need to pause a few times to catch our breath. We had a good cadence. You reach what seems to be the top of Treasure Loop where there is an aluminum bench. 🙂 We paused there to take some photos. We didn’t realize we were at the top until we met some other folk coming the other way (from Cholla) and they told us that we were. We could still see the Praying Hands a bit away, so we knew there had to be more to the trail. I remembered from when I found this trail originally that it was a loop with a line leading away from it – like a hanging pendant.

Wow Getting smaller.

We kept walking the way we’d been going and did indeed come to a sign pointing to Praying Hands. This path was definitely narrower and we could see it was much steeper than what we’d been doing. All of that fit my recollection of the first description I’d found. I keep talking about my “first” description because we downloaded an app: Route Scout which is an app from Hike Arizona . It wasn’t working for us. *grin* Oh be quiet. We were doing just fine without it.

And now you can barely see the details at all.

We headed up this trail towards Praying Hands. Definitely steeper. Definitely more loose gravel. Only 2 other groups doing this path -a group of 4 young women, and a young couple. We took some photos of the women all on one of the rocks, with the world spread out below them. 🙂 In return they taught me how to use Airdrop on my iPhone so that they could have the photos. 🙂 My son and I ALSO got up on the rocks for them to take pictures of US, but I chickened out and we stood on the CLOSER part of the rock ledge, not on the place where they stood. Honestly it is simply so gorgeous up there. I wish I could post every single photo. I took far fewer photos than I usually do. I wanted to experience the climb while it was happening, and many of the photos would look the same. What IS interesting was how the perspective changes. Rocks that looked so far away as we started got very close and LARGE. Then as we kept hiking up to Praying Hands they got smaller and smaller. We thought we’d come a long way at one point, but when we got up to Praying Hands and looked back at the huge rock at the top of Treasure Loop – wow. That huge rock was not a long trip at all.

See that rock in the foreground? That’s where the young women were standing.

We made it all the way to the top. The 4 young women had gotten there before us and we could see them off to our right, on a rocky ledge along the mountain face. The young couple reached us at the top flat ledge, where there was a pyramid of rocks. We could see Praying Hands across the way. I thought we were done. The young couple hiked down off the ledge and onto a very gravelly, OPEN SIDED path heading towards Praying Hands. Again, those of you who know me will recognize my reaction: heck, if THEY can do it so can I. Sigh. My son looked at me because he could see this next bit of path was not going to be fun. I said yes, we’re going. And we did.

I probably should have cropped this more but I liked the rock and the grass.

Reader, I hated it. 🙂 But we baby-stepped our way along that gravelly, long-way down on the left, irregular path all the way to the base of Praying Hands. We took a photo and pasted it to Facebook so you know that it really happened. 🙂 I also posted that I had no idea how I was going to get back down. Because that last little piece was really scary. Not for that young couple obviously but it was for me. Up is SO MUCH EASIER than down. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life up there, and I’m told calling for helicopter rescue is very expensive and frowned upon, so I knew I’d have to get down that steep loose gravel.

Pyramid of rocks at what I thought was the top.

Of course within my first 5 steps I slid and landed on my tush. My son’s friend asked me later “were you wearing proper hiking boots?” Of course not, don’t be silly. I don’t OWN proper hiking boots – I was wearing my sneakers. Hey – at least I wasn’t wearing sandals. 🙂 One of these days I really will invest in hiking boots and a walking stick. Once I was down there on my butt, and my heart rate returned to normal, I decided that was indeed the best way to continue. That’s what I did for that scary part. I reached a part where I could stand without too much fear, and for that part I proceeded on all 4s – 4s being my hands and feet, not knees. I’m probably mistaken about that being more balanced and secure but it felt better to me to have more contact with the ground and to be closer to the ground. It really is a VERY steep drop from that point. Trust me – I looked.

Praying Hands seen from the pyramid of rocks ledge

We made it back to the flat area with the rock pyramid. There were some steep parts from there back down to Treasure Loop, but they were fine after what had come before. There may have been one other place I trusted to my tush over my feet. We reached Treasure Loop and walked to the Cholla Day Use area. As I said to start, by then that part of the trail felt like walking on level ground. 🙂 All in all we were hiking for 3 hours. It was lovely – not too hot, sunny, not too crowded with other hikers. There was just enough challenge and risk (for me) to make it exciting. It was still early in the day so we decided to head toward Canyon Lake. But that’s a story for another day. 🙂

Escape from February

Happiness at the Hilton Phoenix Chandler – becoming my home away from home

I am a Jersey girl, born and bred. My idea of Paradise is the Jersey shore, more specifically somewhere on LBI (Long Beach Island for those of you who need a translation). But no matter how deep my roots, and they are very very deep, I can no longer endure February in NJ. My memory tells me that once upon a time when I was younger our winters were COLD but sunny. We had snow more often than rain. Now it seems that we are lucky to see the sun once every 2 weeks. The temperature is in the high 30s, low 40s, not cold enough to feel like winter but too cold to be at all enjoyable. Add to that covid and the 2nd year in a row when I can’t throw my blow-out-Superbowl party –> well, I need to run away.

Ahhhhhhhhhh

I planned to head to AZ to spend a week with my son around his birthday. One thing and another and I decided that week was not going to work well. I picked a different week and HE couldn’t make it. 2 days after I cancelled THOSE tickets/plans, we had another disgustingly damp, gray, miserable northeastern weather event. I told my son I didn’t care if he couldn’t take off to join me, I was coming to AZ. I neeeeeeed SUN and HEAT.

Flowers. In February.

I guess a lot of people felt the same. I could not get tickets for the days/flights I wanted. (I learned that the PGA Phoenix Open was happening this weekend.) So I made a shorter itinerary and got the plane & the hotel. I am staying at the Hilton Phoenix Chandler, where the people are absolutely wonderful. It’s becoming my home away from home. 🙂 I flew out on a Thursday afternoon, arriving that night. I took Friday as a vacation day and my son took off Friday afternoon to join me.

I spent the morning reading at the pool, soaking up warmth and light. We headed to Tempe to the promenade along the Rio Salada. I guess they call that area, or part of that area, Tempe Town Lake. We parked by one of the boat launches. When we got out I heard the most interesting bird chirps. Of course the moment I tried to record it he stopped cooperating but I did manage a very short bit. We started strolling along the river. It was heavenly. 🙂 There are plaques set into the concrete wall along the river. Some plaques are pictures, some have inspirational sayings, some have thoughts to ponder. My favorite image is NOT here because apparently a bird did not agree with my opinion and left a physical comment on the plaque. I liked the picture a lot but not enough to clean it off for a photo. 🙂

After walking for a bit we went and got some lunch at the Varsity Tavern. This was NOT where we thought we’d end up. We ate here back in October 2020, during the depths of the pandemic, and we were very very disappointed. Perhaps because we were comparing it to The Corner Room, a Penn State tradition, and a very fond and special memory for us. We were hungry and they could seat us so we gave it another try. I’m very glad we did. Our meals were delicious, and our waitress was great. Without question Varsity Tavern is back on our list of places to dine. 🙂 After that I had a somewhat unusual request: I wanted to go to a book store. When my son first moved out here, and I flew out to help him look for a place to live, we often had to kill time between appointments. One such time was spent in a bookstore, Changing Hands. It was a wonderful wonderful bookstore, with all the side gifts and items you want in a book store, as well as a HUGE inventory of new and used books. We discovered 2 new authors that day. We headed there after lunch and I had the joy of buying books for my son (we read a lot of the same authors).

If you are interested, I bought him Arkady Martine’s “An Empire Called Memory” and “A Peace Called Desolation” and Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. In return he has loaned me 3 very heavy books: Margaret Weiss & Robert Krammes’ The Dragon Corsairs trilogy. The amusing bit about THOSE books is that I have actually read at least the first 2. I’m not a very careful reader most of the time and have a habit of skipping parts that don’t interest me. 🙂 It was YEARS later that I discovered that the pirate ships were in the SKY, not water. Which finally cleared up that whole section where they sailed DOWN to somewhere else and all the action was happening, so I thought, under water. 🙂 Oops. There was no way I wanted to carry that weight on the plane so I have handed them over to the front desk to mail home for me. Yes, I AM a princess, why do you ask? 🙂

Caribbean Dreaming

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
And the sky is gray (and the sky is gray)
I’ve been for a walk (I’ve been for a walk)
On a winter’s day (on a winter’s day)
I’d be safe and warm (I’d be safe and warm)
If I fly away (if I fly away)
Caribbean dreamin’ (Caribbean dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day
apologies to John Phillips/ The Mamas & The Papas

I got home from my morning walk and realized if I did not escape I might just break down and cry until April. I’m not heading to the Caribbean but I AM heading to Tempe, AZ. Yes!!!!

Chez Butterfly

Day 10, Alive. Much to the chagrin of WC and BC, Butterfly is now the FIRST being to which I attend upon arrival in the kitchen. Get out the stool, climb up on the counter, check (1) is there water in the saucer? and (2) is the butterfly in sight? Negative and affirmative. Add water to saucer to see if the butterfly reacts. Yes. Verify that there is fruit available. Yes. Add a little more pomegranate molasses (closest thing I have to nectar.) Next up: Chez Cat responsibilities. 🙂

Maybe I should have gotten him a fresh bouquet of flowers yesterday

Patient Update

If you look carefully, you can see he’s missing more parts. I think from various falls.

To my great surprise the butterfly is still with us. No, I have not named him. Yes, I did indeed go out and buy a bouquet of flowers for his enjoyment. It’s considered “enriching the environment”. It did not occur to me until after I strewed them about that they were going to die because they wouldn’t have water. I’ll either need to accept that fact and do nothing about it, accept it and clean up the dead flowers, or go buy more live flowers for the butterfly. I’ll let you guess which option is the most likely to occur. I’m definitely rethinking my former love of butterflies.

Before I added more water to the saucer. He needs the towels to keep from drowning. I think.

No surprise, WC is still with us as well. We had a day where we were sure that “this was it”. We’ve had many of those days. Yet again WC has rebounded, yowling to be fed if I don’t move quickly enough upon a demure meow. She’s still jumping up on furniture, cruising the downstairs. Checking out the humidifier is of great interest to both WC and BC. WC also likes to let me know when the litter pads need changing. WC likes to keep the staff alert and responsive. She has my husband completely under her paw. I suggested he and I might watch TV together. He looked distinctly uncomfortable and said that there was no room for me on the couch with him and WC, and that besides the couch was messy from her “issues”, and that really I wouldn’t enjoy being next to her. I have been displaced. And you all wonder why I am so cranky so much of the time.

She’s really a hobbit. I think this was her Elevenses

I’m very disappointed in my readership, I must confess. NOT ONE of you posted to let me know how long I might anticipate sharing my kitchen with the butterfly. Do you not realize that I need to climb up on the counter in order to see it? To refresh the water in the saucer? To make sure there is still food rotting in case it deigns to eat? Do you not realize that at this close proximity it is much more like a BUG than a butterfly??? I had to turn to the internet for hope – and you know how dangerous THAT can be. “For example, a swallowtail butterfly generally lives from six to 14 days while a monarch butterfly can live from seven to nine months.” Day 6. (and counting)

There is NOTHING patient about this one. “Stop aiming that ‘thing’ at me!”

Animal Hospital

I have NEVER wanted to be a veterinarian. NEVER. I don’t really have a problem with elderly sick human beings, but sick animals sends my stress-o-meter to outer space (because “sky-high” was insufficiently indicative). And yet, here I am.

see how the left wing is not fully unfurled? he’s on the bromeliad

The butterfly cannot fly. My son and I learned on one of my Arizona excursions, when we went to Butterfly Wonderland, that emerging from a cocoon is a precarious experience for butterflies. Although it’s “natural”, it’s not necessarily without complications and problems. My butterfly appears to have had a bit of an issue with his emergence. And I am pretty sure that he is a “he” given the source material on the internet. 🙂 And my sister (the true source). His left wing is damaged and he cannot fly. I figured this out yesterday because I kept finding him lower and lower within the kitchen, even when I’d moved him back up higher.

the lovely aluminum foil blockade – where is that butterfly????

When he landed in the kitchen sink, my husband wanted to “put him out of his misery”. I’m not sure butterflies have misery or existential despair. I rejected the proposal and told my husband to get the butterfly up onto one of the succulents in the bay window. Note that *I* wasn’t going to touch it. Eeew. It’s still all and all a bug. So the butterfly was deposited on the one non-succulent – a bromeliad that flowered beautifully last year but has done zilch since then. However that bay window overlooks both the sink and the dish drainer and I did NOT want to deal with another incidence of sink butterfly. I got out my aluminum foil and lined the edge of the window, making a barrier/landing zone for when (note: when, not if) the butterfly falls out of a plant again. He appears able to walk, and walk UP things, but the flying is not going to happen. Please – someone – how long do butterflies live??? I’m really NOT loving the aluminum foil. I’m really REALLY not loving the anxiety and stress of trying to find him when he is not visible. I went to take a picture of the lovely aluminum foil arrangement and I CAN’T FIND HIM.

i’m sleeping. i’m very comfortable.

And there is WC. Sigh. WC is old and sick. But NOT miserable enough for us to assist her on her way to her next incarnation. We are miserable enough that I personally am ready to leave her and my husband and see what my next life will be, but BC has nixed that. WC is very arthritic. Deaf. Weak. Wobbly. Starving to death (literally – her thyroid is burning food as fast, if not faster, than she ingests it. Yet she’s also extremely picky about the food as in – “yeah, I ate that flavor 30 minutes ago, what else do you have?” I’m grateful that she is still heading for the litter box, and remembering basic training, but her success rate is diminishing. We blame all the digestive upheavals on her, not BC, but I concede that might be unfair.

what? you DON’T sleep at an angle?

Every few days my husband and I say “I think she’s REALLY failing now.” We exchange sad glances, agree to wait 24 hours, and go on our way. The next day WC not only gets up on the couch, she gets up onto the BACK of the couch. She plays with the red laser dot. She yells at my husband to go sit on the couch and watch tv so she can snuggle up next to him. She is NOT ready to transition. I can’t transition her if she is still going about her daily routines, checking out events (when there is sufficient vibration or visual clue for her to know something is happening). Every day I run an analysis: am I being more cruel or more accepting? When is it abuse as opposed to loving and accepting a family member’s issues?

She might be “just a cat” to some people, but she’s our WC and we love her. That means I have to support her decision to not go gently into the night.

I still have a sweet little kitten face when I want.

Very Unexpected Visitor

Fairly certain this is a Black Swallowtail

Well. This was a surprise. I sat down to eat my lunch when a movement caught my eye. It was a butterfly. A live butterfly. Inside my house. On my grow light. 3 feet away. I did what any right-thinking person would do: called to my husband as I raced for my camera. Because after all, we know, if there isn’t a photo, it never happened.

I’m saying “what do we do with it?” since it’s going down to single digits again tonight. Obviously we can’t put it outside. My husband is saying “the cat will get it”. I’m thinking no way am I letting the cats get it. It didn’t look great – either it was starving or burned itself on the grow light or a cat had already gotten it. It didn’t look very stable once it tried to move. It moved off the grow light at some point and was between the planters. Maybe dragging a wing? a foot? NOT flying.

first round of feeding the butterfly, when I began to worry it was drowning, not drinking

So of course we tried to feed it. 🙂 I feed everyone and everything, even unexpected butterflies. Unfortunately I had no rotting food (that’s what my search turned up for ‘what do butterflies eat?’ but I did have a pear with a little brown spot. We put some sugar water, small pieces of the pear, and ultimately, some pomegranate nectar in a plate. The butterfly was still staggering, now back behind the planter. I pushed the plate near it, locked BC in the basement, and went back to my lunch

I got up to check on it and couldn’t tell if it was drowning in the sugar water or drinking it ecstatically (watch the video – you’ll see what I mean). In case it was drowning, I put a bit of paper towel near it so it could get its footing. I know NOTHING about butterflies other than that they are pretty and I like them. 🙂 It didn’t seem impressed by the paper towel…

having dined, returned to the grow light (see the added nectar in the dish)

After lunch I checked again. The butterfly was out of the dish (so it didn’t drown) and back on the grow light. I grabbed some catnip-flavored greenies, put them down in front of the basement door, and released the kracken! I mean BC. 🙂 Who devoured the greenies. I fed BC some wet cat food while I worked the daily crossword puzzle, then grabbed more greenies and BC. While BC protested vociferously (apparently she does not like being carried about) I took us both upstairs, where I strewed a trail of greenies from the top of the stairs to my office. 🙂 I’m hoping the butterfly decides/is able to fly higher. If so, I can move the plate of nectar out of cat-reach. (Although I’m not really sure where such a place might be.) Because I’m going to be very sad if my husband proves correct in this instance.

yay for the distraction power of greenies!!! and the lure of my desk

Actually – it was my day for visitors. It was raining/snowing this morning so I did not go out for my morning walk. When I pulled up the shade downstairs, I discovered my frequent morning walk companions had NOT been deterred by the weather!

I know they do a lot of damage, but I still feel delight seeing them

Winter Morning Walk

What do you mean you don’t recognize me? It’s me, not Charlie Brown. 🙂 (No scarf)

I’m either admirable or an idiot or an admirable idiot. 🙂 Despite a temperature reading of 16F I decided to do my 2.75 mile walk anyway. I know that I’m not suffering REAL cold – that’s for folks like my friend Honour in Bay of Fundy. Walking really does make me feel better while I’m walking. And I can cling to the notion of being healthy & determined while I sit at my computer staring at things that annoy me. I’ve been walking now since Sept 27 and it does feel ‘off’ if I miss it. I’ve also learned a few things I need to do in preparation.

From back in the fall, before all the leaves shriveled up in self-defense. Isn’t this pretty?

My routine starts in the morning with a cuddle with BC. She’s an excellent alarm clock. Then I weigh myself. Yeah, sometimes that ruins the day right then and there. Then I begin dressing. In layers. Since September the number of layers has grown.

Also not today. But wintery morning skies make nice photos. Thank goodness today was BRIGHT sunshine.

Today involved 5 layers on my torso, 3 on my head, 2 on my legs and 2 on my feet. Toss in some face protection as well and I’m all ready! Legs = my nylon yoga pants plus sweatpants. Feet = pair of knee-hi stockings plus heavy socks. Torso = nylon turtleneck, long-sleeve cotton tee, fleece jacket, hooded sweatshirt, nylon windbreaker (hey – I get COLD). Head = baseball cap, sweatshirt hood, windbreaker hood (and oh my – when I’m walking into the wind coming off the river I NEED all of those). Face is protected with lip moisturizer, a cloth facemask (that was new today trying to protect my cheeks), sunglasses. Oh! and my hands!!! I always wear surgical gloves under my mittens. When the temperature is below 20F, I use my incredibly warm mittens from Norway (which are usually too darn warm). 🙂 It’s very hard to reach my tissues to blow my nose when needed. But hey – I did it. I walked. Keeping to my personal commitment. But oh please – let it be warmer tomorrow!

Didn’t see any friends this morning. This shot was a few weeks ago. I’m on my front steps very near to her.