Around the beginning of the year, it was suggested that
United Friends take another trip. It had been nearly two years since our last
insane adventure (in Las Vegas), so we were long overdue for our next outing.
After tossing around a few ideas, which included doing the B&B thing in Sedona
or Bisbee, we finally settled on doing a three-day, two-night retreat to
Tucson, my old stomping grounds. Naturally, I was elected to be the tour guide
for this trip, since I had lived in Tucson for nine years. As part of the
tour, I recommended that we do some hiking in the
Sabino Canyon area, a
popular recreation area in the Santa Catalinas. That had been one of my
favorite pastimes when I lived in Tucson.
So once we hammered out all of the details, I announced to John one night that
I would be going away during the weekend of March 31 through April 2. That
announcement went over very well with him because he had been aching to
backpack the Ballentine Trail by himself. Now that I was pregnant, we were
unable to do anymore ball-buster trails together, so that left John with a
need to satisfy his craving for a good challenge. Although I was against him
hiking alone, I decided that this was something that he really needed, so I
didn't voice my opinions about it.
A few weeks before the trip, though, John told his parents about his plans to
go hiking while I was away, and his father piped in that he would like to go
with him. Even though John was hell-bent on going alone, he knew that it was
important for his father to have an excuse to escape from work for a weekend,
so he relented. As a result, he changed their plans and selected another hike
in the Eastern Superstitions: a loop trail that would begin and end on the
West Pinto Trail #212 (where John and I had done our
last backpacking trip).
They would be covering over twenty-five miles in three days - that was
something I knew John could handle easily.
Around the same time, Lori announced that she would be unable to go with us on
the U.F. trip. We were all very disappointed that she would not be able to be
there with us, especially since Suzanne was flying in from San Francisco to
join us on the trip. It was then suggested that we have a slumber party the
night before the trip so that Lori would get to spend some time with Suzanne.
Although I was looking forward to having a nice, quiet evening with John
before we departed on our separate vacations, I asked John to spend the night
with his parents so that we could have the slumber party at our house. (That
worked out to his advantage, because he and his father would be leaving very
early the next morning to begin their backpacking trip.) That idea worked best
for all of us, because John was the only spouse who could be kicked out of his
house for the night. It also worked out best for Lori because my house was
closest to her job, and the next morning, since none of us had to work, we
agreed to take Megan to school for her.
So on Thursday night, March 30, John dropped me off at the Arizona Center,
where I kissed him goodbye and wished him a safe and happy journey. Then I
went to meet Lori and Megan, who would accompany me to the airport to pick up
Suzanne at 8:35 p.m. (I would have driven myself, but my car had died during
our adventures in Flagstaff the weekend before - it would be fixed during my
trip to Tucson.) We had dinner first then drove to the airport to meet
Suzanne. Upon our arrival, we found that her flight was scheduled to arrive on
time, however, at 8:35 p.m., when her flight was supposed to land, an
announcement was made that her flight had been put in a holding pattern due to
heavy traffic delays. (I found out on Monday that Southwest Airlines had had a
computer glitch that night, which delayed all of their flights. America West
had had a similar one only a month before.) As a result, we were forced to
wait another half an hour at the airport...with an eight year old. The
once-quiet and tired Megan soon found her second wind and began to bounce off
of the walls with excitement and impatience. You can well imagine our relief
when Suzanne's flight finally arrived!
Shortly after we made it back to my house (and after I gave Suzanne the grand
tour), Marcheta and Debbie arrived. Charlene didn't make it until midnight,
which had us worried for a while. We sat around and talked until about three
in the morning - except for Lori and Megan, who crashed sometime after
midnight (actually, Megan fell asleep long before that, though she fought it
as hard as she could!). I fell asleep almost immediately, because as you all
know, that was WAY past my bedtime! (Remember our rule: "Bedtime at first
star, wake up at first light"...)
Unfortunately, my internal alarm clock went off at 6:00 a.m., which is my
usual waking time. Though I tried to go back to sleep, I could no longer fight
it. So when the alarm rang at 6:30 for Lori to get up, I gave up and started
the morning while the rest of the house slept. It wasn't long, though, before
the others woke up. When Lori left for work - and once Megan was out of bed -
everyone else began to come to life...sort of. For about an hour, we sat in
the living room, dazed like zombies, trying to find the energy to get up and
move around (except for Megan, who had discovered the backyard and the cats by
that time). Eventually, it was hunger that drove them out of their makeshift
beds, so we all got up and...well, we got ready to eat. (The trip hadn't even
started, and already the theme was beginning to emerge.)
After having breakfast at IHOP, Suzanne, Charlene and I went to Target to buy
a few things for the trip, while Marcheta and Debbie took Megan to day school.
While we were at Target, Suzanne discovered something that would make our trip
more interesting: bunny ears! (They were for Easter, which was just around the
corner.) We each purchased a pair for ourselves and two extras for Marcheta
and Debbie, and they would be worn throughout most of the trip.
Once we met up with Marcheta and Debbie around 12:00, the road trip began:
Suzanne and I rode with Charlene in her Honda, and Debbie and Marcheta rode
together in the Isuzu Rodeo. Up to this point, the weather had been very
beautiful all morning. In fact, until Thursday morning, the weatherman had
predicted that we would have a nice, dry weekend, with highs in the 80's.
Then, Thursday morning, the story changed to "forty percent chance of rain on
Friday and Saturday." We all hoped that he was lying - keep in mind that April
Fool's Day was coming up! Well, as it turned out, the joke was on us. About
halfway to Tucson, the skies opened up and dumped rain on us. On top of that,
it was cold and windy. "This doesn't look good," I said to myself. Not only
was I worried about doing our hike in the rain the next day, but I was also
worried about John and Bill getting the van stuck in the mud along FR 287A or
freezing overnight out in the wilderness.
Upon our arrival in Tucson, the girls and I checked into the hotel - the
Embassy Suites on Broadway, where Suzanne had had her wedding reception in
1991. I had reserved a double suite for the five of us through my company's
travel agent so that I could get us the cheaper rate. (Bank employees get a
discount at certain hotels.) The suite had a small kitchenette with a
refrigerator and a microwave oven, however, it didn't have a hot plate, which
meant that we wouldn't be able to do meat fondue. That didn't mean that we
couldn't do other types of fondue, though (i.e. chocolate fondue, with fresh
strawberries and bananas...are you seeing a theme here?) So what did we do? We
got ready to eat!
To get ready to eat, the girls and I went to Target to buy a few supplies that
we would need for the hotel room: a glass bowl to melt the chocolate, a deck
of cards, and various munchies to snack on. Then, we drove to the grocery
store to buy the food that we would need: fresh strawberries, bananas,
chocolate chips, and milk. Once that was said and done, we were ready to eat.
But that was only for dessert; first, we needed some real food. Around 5:30
that evening, we went to see what the hotel was serving for happy hour, only
to discover that they were only serving chips and salsa, pretzels, and
assorted drinks. We didn't stay there very long. After having one drink
apiece, we returned to our room to get ready for dinner.
Dinner that night was at Mimi's Café, because we owed Suzanne a lunch date
there. (Although Suzanne lives in San Francisco, she was inadvertently invited
via e-mail to a U.F. lunch date at Mimi's Café, so we promised her that we
would take her there during our trip.) While we were there, we wore our bunny
ears, much to amusement of the people we encountered at the restaurant -
especially the senior citizens and the waiter. After the delicious meal, we
were too stuffed to eat anything else, including our dessert fondue, so we put
that off until the next night.
Due to the lack of sleep the night before, we all ended up crashing before
midnight that night, as much as we tried to fight it. Too stuffed to do
anything else, we sat around the suite talking up a storm until finally we all
started nodding off. It was a good thing, though, that we called it an early
bed time, because we had big plans for the next day.
And the first thing we did the next morning? We got ready to eat. (Naturally!)
The hotel may have had a lame happy hour, but its breakfast made up for that.
Although the lines were long, we were well fed by the hotel's staff, who
provided us with our choice of French toast, eggs or pancakes with bacon or
sausage and hashbrown potatoes, as well as a breakfast bar with bagels and
cream cheese, oatmeal and cream of wheat, toast, mini muffins, cold cereal,
about six types of fruit juice, coffee, and milk. We completely stuffed
Of course, that was okay, because we were planning to go for our hike that
morning. After breakfast, we returned to our hotel room to get ready for our
hike. Upon returning to the room, we found that we had a message on the phone:
it was from John! He and his father had bailed after only hiking in five miles
on Friday. They had had nothing but problems from the onset of the trip, and
when the weather turned cold on them, they had decided that they would rather
live than freeze to death overnight or get stuck in the mud. So they hiked
back to the van, drove back to Mesa, and spent the night in the Verleys' motor
home, which was parked at the dealership. John spent the rest of the weekend
working on the evaporative cooler on our house. I was really disappointed that
he didn't get to finish his trip, but at the same time, I was glad to hear
that he was out of danger.
We got a late start on our hike that morning. It was already after 10:30 a.m.
when we left the hotel, and we still had to stop to buy sandwiches for the
hike! However, when we arrived at the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, around
11:00 a.m., we found that there was still plenty of parking available, much to
my surprise. Of course, that was probably due to the weather. The skies were
overcast and gray, threatening of rain, and it was cold and windy. At first, I
thought that the girls were going to call off the hike because of the weather,
but it didn't seem to bother them at all! (Suzanne, of course, liked that kind
of weather anyway, which was why she lived in San Francisco! We blamed her for
bringing the weather with her.)
We originally intended to hike the Seven Falls Trail (which is actually the
Bear Canyon Trail, which leads to Seven Falls), but for some reason I got
confused by the directions I had gotten off of the Internet (I blame it on the
hormones). It had also been a long time since I had hiked Sabino Canyon - I
hadn't been there in about seven years. My memory was a little fuzzy, but I
was certain that we had to stick to the paved road to get to Seven Falls! It
really didn't matter, though, because we still had a pleasant hike that day.
Along the way, we saw some amazing things that made the hike worthwhile. The
trees along the trail were home to hundreds of species of birds, including
bright red cardinals, which were the first to catch our attention. One fellow,
who was perched in a mesquite tree, sat still long enough for us to focus our
cameras on him before he hopped to another branch. He just wouldn't sit still
long enough for us to snap a picture of him!
As we continued along the paved road, we eventually came to the creek, which
was flowing rather nicely despite the dry winter we had had. Here, the road
runs parallel to the creek and crosses it several times. At each creek
crossing, there are bridges, which allow the trams to pass through safely.
These bridges, however, have been known to wash away during severe monsoon
storms. Some of them had definite signs of wear and tear from excessive
flooding; there were even points along the road where the pavement had washed
away, leaving only the dirt road.
It was around that point that we saw the first of the mile markers - the
two-mile mark. (We had missed number one entirely!) We used those to take
pictures of each other. At mile marker two, we took a picture of Marcheta and
Debbie; then at number three, Suzanne, Charlene and I posed for a picture.
Finally, at the end of the trail - at mile marker 3.7 - we posed again,
pointing to the "baby", who was the 0.7!
At that point, we discovered that we were on the Sabino Canyon Trail. The
paved portion of the trail ended there. From there, hikers could take either
the East or the West Fork of the Sabino Canyon Trail to continue their
journey. The West Fork of the Sabino Canyon Trail goes all the way to Romero
Pass, where it meets up with the Romero Pass Trail. (Been there, done that!)
By the time we finished the trail, it was lunchtime, so I suggested that we
find someplace to have our picnic before hiking back to the car. We chose a
pretty spot next to the creek, where we sat down atop the large boulders and
enjoyed our sandwiches while we listened to the trickle of a small waterfall
nearby. (We also took lots of pictures, including our famous "kick" picture!)
While we ate, we were suddenly joined by several friendly but hungry ground
squirrels, who began begging for food. They didn't seem to be afraid of us at
all, for they scampered up to us and took bits of bread and cheese right out
of our hands! We were all very amused by them; with a big smile, I said to
them, "Welcome to my world. Now you see why I spend so much time in the
After lunch, we began our hike back to the parking lot. Since most of the hike
was downhill, it only took us an hour to complete our trip. The last
quarter-mile of the trip, though, was completed in record time. Until that
point, the skies, which had started out overcast and cold, had cleared up
enough that we had pleasant weather for most of the day. Then, just a quarter
of a mile from the trailhead, the gloomy gray clouds reappeared, dumping
chilling rain and bits of hail on us. Naturally, by the time we reached the
truck, the rain had stopped, but not before we all got a cold soaking!
Our next stop of the day was to visit Suzanne's mother-in-law, who lived just
minutes from the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Since it was almost Suzanne's
birthday (April 2), she served us cake and ice cream, topped with fresh
strawberries - a refreshing treat after a long hike! We stayed there to chat
with her for a little over an hour. Then, it was time to - you guessed it -
get ready to eat!
Donning our bunny ears, we went to China Thai for dinner that night. It was
amazing how many people were curious to know why we were wearing bunny ears!
Were we in some club? Were we Playboy Bunnies? Was it for Easter? (Marcheta
was waiting for someone to ask if we humped like bunnies - all I would have to
do is point to my belly and say, "I'm living proof!") On top of that, bunny
puns were flying. One of the waiters pointed out that there was a "new bunny"
on the way (referring to me), and I told him, "Yeah, the bunny's in the oven!"
(Boo hiss!) Later, Charlene said that we looked like the "Invasion of the
We returned to our hotel room after dinner and ate chocolate fondue while
Suzanne opened her birthday presents. Then, we all went to the Chicago Bar to
dance it off to the music of Neon Prophet, a local reggae band. (Back in the
days when I lived in Tucson, I used to go see them play every Saturday night.)
We didn't stay for very long, though, because we were all very tired from lack
of sleep and from hiking all day. (The cigarette smoke from the bar was also
getting to us.) So, finally, we retired to our hotel room and spent the night
talking until we all fell asleep.
Since Suzanne had to catch a 1:00 p.m. flight the next day, we all rose early
in the morning and got ready to eat breakfast. Once again donning our bunny
ears, we went to the breakfast bar at the hotel and ate to our heart's
content. Then, around 10:00 we began our journey back to Phoenix, to get
Suzanne to the airport on time. (Of course, we arrived in plenty of time for
Suzanne to catch her flight back to San Francisco, so naturally, her flight
was delayed!) Once we said our good-byes to Suzanne, the rest of us went our
separate ways with big hugs and smiles and hopes that we would get to do
another trip next year.