Everyone needs at least one friend who says, “Yes”, to their crazy ideas. Maybe, we all take turns being “that” friend. We either come up with the adventure or are willing to go along on it. I thrive on adventure and will do almost anything under the guise of “training” for the next big one! (Thru-hike that is!) I had two friends, both wanting to do Window Rock Trail, but couldn’t do it together, so I went with them both, on back to back days…. great training! I was excited. We were going to Window Rock in the Catalina’s near Tucson. On Saturday, we left out of Ventana Trailhead and on Sunday, we left on Esperero Trailhead in Sabino Canyon.
I met Brenda on Saturday at the trailhead parking lot at 6 a.m. I had my sticks, camel, and snacks.
I was ready to go on round trip trail past Maiden Pools up to 7468’ elevation from the parking lot at 2950’. So, just shy of 5000 foot elevation gain and descent for the 17-mile hike. Off we went…. On one of my favorite trails. The canyon thins after you pass the pools and has beautiful canopies of oak trees that line the winding creek bed. There are Indian grinding stones carved into several of the large boulders that hug the trail close to the creek. The first peek of Window Rock from the trail is slightly daunting as it looks very far away and much higher on the mountain ridge. The desire to get to it wills us up the trail.The climb really starts once you leave the canyon. Up and around the rocky hillside winding its way up switch backs to the ridge.
The first ridge is a false summit. The actual destination is still some ways farther. On the west side of the ridge you can see as far as Pinnacle Peak towards Phoenix and the Biosphere near Oracle. Looking east, the sprawl of Tucson abounds with Kit Peak visible as well a peek into Mexico. AWE! Once you reach the vista the views are framed by the weather-worn huge rock. The views are worth the trek. There is the perfect place for a snack and rest before heading back down the same trail. We ended up back in the parking lot by 4 p.m.
I headed home for a light dinner, cuzzi time and early to bed. I was meeting Gina and her 12-year old son, in Sabino Canyon at 7 a.m., to head up the main tram road to get on Esperero Trail. I woke at 5:30 a.m. with enough time for a cup of tea and a bowl of oatmeal. I had prepared my camel and snacks the night before. I also packed 2 additional bottles of water for the hike. My level of excitement was high when we met in the parking lot.
I had never done the entire Esperero Trail and it had been years since I had last been on it. Our goal Window Rock to and from the Sabino Canyon entrance. The Esperero trail started with wide canyons traversing back and forth. After a considerable number of switchbacks, we made it up to the first vista. There were magnificent views, but we kept on into a grassy valley that led us into a wooded area. The trail became more interesting after that as there were huge pine trees, oaks and giant junipers. The trail meandered along a creek bed with huge boulders. The creek was wide with several areas of falls, had there been water. Past the last large fall area, there was a large campfire ring and a campsite, and the trail looked less traveled. It grew much thinner and overgrown as we continued up the mountain side. The trail often looked no better than a game trail which sent us off the wrong direction at times. My feelings and excitement about the trail was changing as we continued. I was beginning to have doubts about returning on the same trail.
We passed over several false rocky summits and had to scramble to continue in some places. The trail was a challenge. Finally, we made it to top ridge that we had to stay on for a distance to get to the window. At one point, the brush surrounded us and was taller than me. We heard branches breaking a head of us. We called out for a human response and heard only more branches break. Whatever animal was near-it was BIG! We stopped in our tracks and started to make lots of loud noises. We stopped. We listened. We didn’t hear it again, so we pressed on. My admiration for Gina’s son grew as we continued. He had perseverance. He was fearless and didn’t complain once. When we reached the window, we were all a bit weary.
We ate our second snack and soaked in the views. Our feet rested as we sat in silence. We then started to take photos and got a case of the giggles. We were tired. We had already covered 13 miles. If we took the same trail back it would have been 26 miles total. Or we could opt for the Ventana trail at a mere 9-mile exit. We voted for Ventana and knew we had to beat the dark to the parking lot. We started down with a good pace, but we were all three tired. When Gina got phone service she called her husband to ask him to retrieve us from the trailhead at Ventana and transport us to our waiting trucks in Sabino Canyons parking lot.
Timing was perfect. We made it off the trail into the parking lot right at dusk. It was 6:30 p.m. And as we walked onto the black top Gina’s husband pulled up, ready to take us to Sabino. Wow! We made it. A long day hike – all 21 miles of it! That was a GREAT training weekend for our upcoming thru-hike. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Weekend adventures with friends are the Best! Do you have “that” friend who says ‘yes’ to your ideas? I’m so glad my friends are “that” for me!
PS. Next 21 mile day hike is Romero Pools in Catalina State Park to Sabino Canyon via Hutches Pools. That is Gina’s idea and I said “Yes”. Wanna come?