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Counting more blessings and saying Thank You.

30 Nov

Let’s go hiking for a week in February… My wife, as usual, had a great idea. Normally we would try a couple of day hikes in February, on the weekends, and if the weather was mild.

Blessing #1: We would be hiking in Southern Arizona, I had never been there, and it is quite a bit farther south than Northern Virginia.

Blessing #2: This was our first hiking Trip hosted by REI, so we would be hiking with a group, with trained guides.

Blessing #3: They would help us with transport of our luggage and would provide lodging and food… on the trail or otherwise.

Blessing #4: Another couple, two of our good friends, would also be taking the same hike with us:)

Blessing #5: One of my wife’s cousins lived just north of Phoenix and we could stay overnight with them on two separate nights; first between adventures, and then just before we flew home.

Blessing #6: We were going to be able to get in a couple of days of bonus hiking in Sedona, AZ.  We had driven there once, the landscape is spectacular, and we were looking forward to exploring the region around Sedona for a few days.

Mixed Blessing #1: we had to get up really, really early for our flight to Phoenix. But, we had gotten up early before, and it meant we would have more time to visit the old town in Scottsdale, AZ. We were overnighting there and meeting up with our REI Group the next day.

 

 

Mixed Blessing #2: Though the weather was temperate, we noticed large gobs of people all heading to some type of stadium. We asked a stranger on the street, where’s everyone going? It’s Opening Day of Spring Training for the Cactus League he said. We took a quick walk around Old Town to spot a potential restaurant for dinner, but then we were each bitten, or at least I was bitten, by the spontaneous bug. We saw a man standing along the street trying to sell a pair of “great” tickets to the Opening Day game. “It’s sold out,” he said, he may have mentioned that his wife was ill also.  It may have been a story, but we felt we could afford a pair of tickets and decided to head to the Park to watch a bit of Professional Baseball Spring Training.

Blessing #7: Even though it was not sold out, the crowd was large, for that size stadium, and in a great mood. We sat, down the first base line, a bit into right field. We had a great view.

Blessing #8: Yes they did have hot dogs, no it wasn’t Southwestern food, but it went down easy with a bit of mustard and sauerkraut along with a nice cold bottle of water.

Blessing #9: We saw a couple of home runs, some decent pitching, some decent hitting and fielding, and a few errors of course. It was a hoot.

Blessing #10: We had a yummy Southwestern dinner with our friends. We live in the same area, but we had not seen each other very recently to catch up on the news. It was a great shared evening.

 

Blessing #11: We hit the lottery with our tour guides.  One was rated the #1 or 2 guide in the whole system. The other would have been a #1 guide on any other trip.

Blessing #12: It had rained recently in Southern AZ and the Saguaro Cactus were magnificently tall, plump, and everywhere.

 

Blessing #13: You never know how a week-long hike in higher altitude, in a desert, and during winter will go. Will we be fit enough, we wondered.  How will we shake down with the rest of group. Despite a small miss-adventure crossing the 3rd of 12 streams; we both did great with the hiking as did our friends.  About half of our group stayed back at the 2/3rds point of the hike and then the rest of us, “the rabbits”, I reflected charged off at an enhanced pace to reach the destination waterfall.

 

Blessing #14: The hiking was a bit more challenging, but the view of the waterfall and the catchment pools, and the ducks swimming in the lower pool was magnificent.

Blessing #15: We stayed overnight in a downtown Tucson Hotel. We had a superb southwestern dinner, slept well, geared up, and had breakfast in an old western bar. We then headed out for another great day of hiking, then lunch and visited a great park filled with southwestern Flora Fauna.

 

Blessing #16: We learned a lot about Saguaro and other Cacti during the trip, we saw animals, scat, climbed mountain ridges, and saw spectacular views across wide vistas.

 

Blessing #17: We had another restful night. Then an early morning departure, a tour of a large, now defunct pit mine, a talk with a local Native American Guide, a nice long hike, and then lunch in the park at picnic tables.

  

Mixed Blessing #3: A highlight was our visit to the border fence between Arizona and Mexico. We were surprised to learn that the high fence disappears after going east for a mile or so.  The conditions are arid and dry, not forgiving. Twice during the next day and a half I spotted black painted jugs. These are usually filled with water for the hundreds of people who  attempt to cross this desert border each year.

 

Blessing # 18 and 19: We drove up a high ridge to take in an amazing view of setting sun looking across multiple mountain ridges and ranges. Then we ate a scrumptious picnic supper outside. A special opportunity was an open discussion with a Border Patrol Agent who answered our questions and discussed the challenges, for Border Patrol Agents, to both help people survive who crossed the border to escape bad conditions and sometime threats to their lives, while at the same time trying to discover, and thwart, bad actors who tried to smuggle drugs and even children to become slaves or worse across the border.  I had the pleasure of riding down the high ridge with him back to our lodging for the night. It was a blessing to talk with him and to learn more about the nuances of protecting our border that are experienced by individual agents.

 

Blessing #20: After one more great hike, and a picnic in the rough, we head back to Phoenix. We rented a car, fought through an hour of congested traffic, and then arrived at my cousin-in-law’s home. We had not met her husband. He was a gem. Even better, he was a rock hound, and around his home he had grapefruit and other citrus trees and…

Interim count: Needless to say we got to 20 Blessings and 3 Mixed Blessings and we had not even started our excursion to Sedona yet. We highly recommend a week of walking in the Winter and we are very thankful for our health and opportunities to walk, hike and explore.  We hope everyone has a great Holiday Season and that you take a few moments to count your blessings.

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Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian at Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com

He served as a global board member and director, regions and chapters for the Association of Personal Historians Bruce is a founding member of the Life Story Professionals of Greater Washington Area

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Counting blessings and saying Thank you.

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Cactus League – then Cactus Hiking

5 Mar

   

We were just looking for a place to eat… we kept seeing all these people with “Giants” and “SF” hats?

We flew into Phoenix, took a taxi to overnight in Scottsdale, AZ, stowed our luggage for our 4 PM check-into our hotel, and then got directions to Historic Scottsdale, “it’s just half a mile by foot.” We listened intently, received a map with some marked in suggestions of possible places to eat lunch and dinner, and then we were on our way to starting our Arizona hiking adventure.

We would meet up with friends for dinner, so we needed to do some scouting of interesting places to eat. Scottsdale is known for its historic, western feel,  and its old town. On our way to historic Scottsdale, we noticed a baseball stadium. There were police, traffic control, and significant streams of people laser-focused on going/getting to the stadium, this at noon on a sunny Friday afternoon.

Then we started to notice that everyone was wearing Giants and SF hats and jerseys.  They seemed to be in a festive happy mood. So we asked a couple. “It’s the first game of Spring Training, (professional baseball), it’s the San Francisco Giants versus the Milwaukee Brewers (two teams in the Spring Training Cactus league).”

We walked a bit further and saw lots and lots of more fans streaming towards the stadium.  We asked another couple, what time is the game? “1 PM they shared, each with a huge grin.” So, this planted the seed; should we check out Spring Training? When else will we ever get the chance to see a Spring Training game?  We like baseball, but we are not likely to schedule a vacation around attending Spring Training, but why not take advantage of this opportunity. “And we can get a hot dog… for lunch and watch the game…”

Next, a man on the street had two good tickets he was offering to sell, “My wife could not go, it’s sold out, these are good seats.” He explained that the Giants always do Spring Training in Scottsdale, so they are the local (favorite) team. Others later shared, that they buy season tickets for the local minor league team, mostly so they can get tickets to watch the Giants during Spring Training. We thought about it, and we bought two tickets for the game.

We completed about a mile survey of Historic Scottsdale, took photos of the historic artifacts, of the gardens and sculptures, and of a few restaurants and their menus.  It looked like a nice place to explore.  We picked out two or three good options for dinner with our friends and then joined the throngs headed to the stadium.

Inside we got our hot dogs, mine was a tasty bratwurst with mustard and sauerkraut, and a bottle of water. We found our seats, lower level, just a bit past first base on the right field side.  There were perhaps 30 Giants fans to each Brewers fan and there was a buzz in the air… Spring Training… first game.

“Our” Giants took an  early 3-0 lead, the Brewers closed it up, so by the 7th inning it was 5-3 with “Our” Giants still in the lead. We had seen two home runs, some decent baseball, some good, and some bad pitching, fun, but we were ready to go check into our rooms.

We had a nice Mexican dinner with our friends in Old Town.

We got a good night sleep a healthy breakfast, and then met up with our REI Hiking group and two guides.

We packed up our hiking gear and suitcases and headed south towards Tucson and our first of four days of hiking in Southern Arizona.

We arrived at the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, checked our gear, filled up our water bottles, and saw a mountain lion head with pelt attached. “Yes there are mountain lions and bobcats in this hills, shared a docent.” Good to know I thought.

We had already seen many miles of Saguaro Cactus, hills, mountains, desert on our drive down. This should be interesting we thought. We would ride a tram 2 miles to the trail head then start our hike up to Seven Falls. We passed endless hills of Saguaro and other Cacti. In less than 24 hours we had visited a western old town, attended the opening day of Spring Training, eaten a great Mexican meal, packed up and prepared to hike up our first desert Canyon. What a great first day:)

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Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian, a  former Board Member of the Association of Personal Associations and Director for Regions and Chapters.  He is a member of the Life Story Professionals of the Greater Washington, DC Area and an avid hiker and photographer. Summersbw@gmail.com 

 

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