We’ve moved places further south now to a new house in Green Valley (about 40km south of Tucson). Now we’re at the foot of Madera Canyon, which is a mountain state park, housing some of the tallest mountains in Arizona. The new house is pretty awesome; I have my own room (a study with a blow up mattress), the internet works in more than one room, and we aren’t in a rough neighbourhood – the only problem is that Green Valley is also full of seniors (not to be confused with señior which this close to the Mexican border would have meant it is full of just men) so we get run off the road on occasion – but it’s not their fault.
The Madera Canyon is a mountain range with a steep road that leads up to a parking lot and trailheads. Our first day here we rode up to the lot, and I was shocked at how different this place is than Tucson – snow was all the way to the base of the mountains, and because of the direction of the winds in the area, air is lifted and cooled which makes it a bit cool around here. The ride up the road was a bit surprising and icy, but if you watch out for the ice and the turkeys you’re good though.
Yesterday I took the day off the bike, and had the great idea to hike up the mountain in the backyard – Mount Wrightson which is the 8th most prominent peak in Arizona (prominence is the vertical distance between a peak and the lowest contour line surrounding that peak). I thought it would be just a walk in the park for a few with some nice scenery and maybe a bit of snow. I was wrong for sure.
|Wrightson Peak is just taunting me from the back window|
On my way up the trail I saw some cool wildlife, like a coatimundi, and some really cool birds. Then there was the startling wildlife. The first time that I almost fell off the trail I became a victim of the leaping lizards! As I was minding my own business on the skinny little trail leading along the side of the mountain, I must have startled about 25 Yarrow Spiny Lizards.
|Coatimundi was too quick for me to get a picture of, but here's one from the internet|
|Chillin like a lizard..|
The most controversial of the things I saw had me pretty scared. When I saw the coatimundi, I knew it was just a small black animal that's completely harmless. It is unsettling knowing that something is in the bush watching me when I had been hiking and was a 2 hour hike out to help, but at least it was a small cute animal. As I went up the mountain further, the only sign of people were the tracks in the snow, or the towns way below. The trail got skinner and skinnier, and I passed through more patches of snow and barren land, so when I saw a large light brown thing move into some bushes right beside the trail I stopped dead in my tracks.
|I was warned...|
I stared at the bushes, and contemplated how to kill a cougar with nothing but a knife. Luckily this video came to mind quickly, and I remembered how to kick a cougar's butt:
I watched the bush carefully and convinced myself that I hadn't seen anything, luckily a cougar DID NOT jump on me. After the cougar scare, there were some seriously steep trails, and I realized that I was racing daylight. Snow got to be deeper than my knees, and Ice was coming off the rocks - but I was so close, I couldn't stop.
|Can you even see the trail?|
|That snow was actually over my knee|
|I'm not too good at taking a picture of myself, but you can see the other small mountain tops|
in the background
|Looking down on the other mountains|
After a couple of warnings from the last 2 people on the mountain, I had to book it down, it gets cold and dark quickly in the desert, and in the mountains. I decided that running was at least a calculated risk, whereas who knows what would happen once it's dark up in the snow on an exposed mountain (I had already passed a few memorials on the way up).
|This is what the trail near the bottom looked like without snow.|