Arno at the peak of Camelback Mountain

Friday afternoon, Arno flew to Phoenix to visit me. He had been in Maryland for work, and the return flight required a plane change in Phoenix. He extended his layover by two days, and spent the weekend. {…he’s the Internet guy I mentioned last month. Just roll with it, ok.}

Class ended early Friday, and after we wrapped up tasks and had our instructor powwow and settled business for the weekend, I went back to the hotel, eager with anticipation to see my man. I arrived shortly before he did, and in no time we wound down from our day and went out to do a little exploring.

Our students (who are all local) had suggested a dinner with a view at Rustler’s Rooste, near South Mountain. We found the place, and I was delighted to find that it not only had a view but a carefully cultivated character. Entering the place was like entering a mine shaft, past walls of rock and beneath heavy timbers seeming to hold up an equally massive roof. We walked on worn wood and sawdust up a ramp, till we got inside the huge place and found waiters and waitresses in cowboy boots and hats. Arno and I stuffed ourselves on appetizers, and barely had room for the steak when it came. We drank beer from mason jars and listened to live country music.

Steepest part of the Camelback trail. It's easier to gather the height and distance if you can spot the woman at the bottom.

Terry (co-instructor) had said that on South Mountain there is a place to park and watch the sunset. Students concurred. So after dinner, bellies bursting, we drove the short distance into Phoenix’s South Mountain Park and Preserve. It is a lovely winding drive through a piece of desert that is convincingly removed from the city. We followed the road to the top, and found a small parking area and people all around. Evening light was fading, so we parked and followed the others, who sat on benches and rocks, and in a covered stone gazebo, and spilled over the sides of the mountain peak. The atmosphere was magical. It truly gave me a new reason to love humanity. Quiet voices murmured and laughed, children ran in circles, lovers stood with arms around each other. As it grew darker, the people grew quieter, and yes, everyone was there to watch the sun go down. Arno and I found a rock to sit on, overlooking the lights of Phoenix and the setting sun in the distance. We breathed the warm air, listened to the quiet laughter, watched the children. And then, the sun grew huge, and glowed in molten fire, and flattened behind a strip of cloud, then fell behind the mountains in the West.

View of Phoenix from the trail on the way up.

We got up early Saturday morning and left for Camelback Mountain, the peak I can view from my hotel room. We had hoped to get an early start, but had lounged a bit too long. There were no available parking spaces, but we eventually found a place to park in a nearby neighborhood, and made the walk with many other would be hikers to the trailhead. I hadn’t realized what I was getting into. Camelback trail is a serious climb! 1200 feet in 1.3 miles. What the trail lacks in distance, it makes up for in steep uphill stretches. At one point we could scramble up sheer rock face: straight up! There was a steel railing placed to assist, and I admit I used it. Arno, of course, trusted his feet and went directly up the slick rock.

Roadrunner on the trail

Up, up, up. We began at 7:30 am, but the heat of the day was full on us by the difficult stretches at around 9 am. I brought my Red Sox cap, but the rest of me got plenty of sun and a little burn by the time we hit the peak. There were spectacular views of Phoenix. I tried to pick out where my hotel might be. We took a few photos, enjoyed sharing the summit with the others who had made it up, then made our way back down and got to the car while it was still morning. We were passed by multiple people who had decided to RUN the trail. I wonder how many broken ankles happen in this park?

Others enjoy the summit, catching our breath, preparing for the steep trek down

We made our way next to Scottsdale. Apparently, when you are in Phoenix, the places to go have fun are not in Phoenix. “Go to Scottsdale,” they tell me. “Go to Tempe.” So off we went. It was a blazing hot afternoon and nearly as empty in Scottsdale as it is in Phoenix, but this time, I’m pretty sure it was strictly due to the heat. Unlike downtown Phoenix, we found many little shops, and actually browsed them (more to cool off than to shop). I did find some gifts to bring back home. We found a place that makes homemade sodas and ordered root beer and orange floats and carried them to a park with a man-made creek and shade. I splashed in the creek and we sat in the shade and talked till our floats were gone. Back at the hotel, we deposited all our stuff, then walked across the street to Fez for dinner. I admit I am growing weary of restaurant food! Doesn’t it get tedious? Oh, for my very own kitchen again.

We made plans for Sunday on the trails in Sedona.

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