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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Escudilla Trail

.Tuesday morning was eerily quiet. The dogs didn’t wake me up at 4:30am to go outside, I didn’t wake up to pee before daylight, no birds sang and no chipmunks chattered high in the trees. It was 6:30am before I awoke, with the dogs still sleeping heavily next to me. They were clearly tired from the hiking.

I was now getting tired of the woods, too. Tired of the dirt around me—clothes here don’t stay clean for long and I’m running out of fresh clothes—and the dogs, especially Sara, are taking on the odor of sewage. Sara’s fur is matted and clumps of mud have dried in her fur. The tent is full of sticks, mud, dirt and fur and will need a thorough cleaning when I get back home. And I also worry about the kittens and Kevin, hoping all is OK.

Sitting in my van and listening to NPR (more disaster areas declared in the Midwest and another "spuer surge" of oil prices are still expected) I wasgetting restless. Steve didn't want to leave for the hike until 9:30am, but by 8:30am I was ready to leave ahead of everyone to explore the trails around Escudilla peak.

My book "50 Hikes in Arizona" byMartin Tessmer (2004) did not have the correct forest road listed in the direction. The book said "Turn off FR56 near milemarker 420." The correct FR is 8052, with directional signs to Hurvey Lake and Terry Flats. I took the risk and found the trailhead, and only beat Brenda and Gordon by 15 minutes. In another 15minutesSusan and Pete, and then Steve arrived. Only Paul looks to have gotten lost and never showed up.

This was a lovely but rough hike for me. It started in an aspen grove as the rocky trail meandered upward, then through a meadow where some burned aspen were. Then we crossed a second meadow and the connector trail to the Government Trail, a faint trail through the meadow. When we saw the look-out tower we were all relieved.

The steep grade and elevation got to me and I had to take many short breaks, which allowed me to surge ahead until the next huffinpuff. At 10,000' there was snow still in small mounds under the canopy ofdense pines, which the dogs enjoyed for their snow cones and roughing around in.

Pete had a very hard time but he did make it in the end, allowing me to get everyone to pose for a group picture. This was the dog's highest peak so far and they didn't look too exhausted.

"We aer under a red flag warning!" told us the young ranger in the tower,who was busy entertaining a group of scouts. We walked up the steps but just below the platform felt blown away by the 35mph cold winds a. My hair was a mess and that's how it looked in the group photo.

I could seeBig Lake, Mount Baldy but other peaks were still foreign to me. Gordon, the one true native-born Arizonan, recognized many others.

Steve, Susan and Pete went back down while Brenda, Gordon and I continued on,looking for the peak. The actual peak is still five miles away.

"We'll have tocome back and do this whole trail!" said Gordon.
"But we need to start early, around 8am."

We all made it back to the cars at 3pm. Much to my displeasure I realized I had lost my coolmax Tucson Marathon 2004 cap. We stayed arounda few minutes, I talked to the threesome that was parked next tome, a family from Tucson who come to the Whites every June for three weeks and rent a cabin. The man was also a native Arizonan.

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