Under the Tucson Sun

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Sunshine is wasted on me.

This photo is proof of that because A) who puts dead trees in the foreground of a nice wilderness shot and B) Immediately after taking this photo, I started to feel a little panicked just as I got a text from my mother-in-law and so I took the opportunity to alert her to our location in Madera Canyon so that if anything happened, rescuers would know where to look for us. Or our bodies.

I worry about that kind of thing because the truth is, nature kinda freaks me out. I’ve read plenty of awful stories about Mother Nature and what a bitch she can be. People decide to take advantage of a sunny day and skip off to some spot only to have a bear eat them, a freak flash flood sweep them away or they get hopelessly lost and die, giving up just mere feet away from a hidden, busy roadway and help.

If I had written “Wild,” I would have discovered myself in the Mall of the Americas — not the Pacific Crest Trail.

So when we decided to hit a pretty popular hiking area in the Coronado National Forest, I thought we were safe. Until we lost the trail high up in the hills. My husband went ahead to scout for markers, while the rest of us took in the view. My phone pinged, alerting me to a text.

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“I am pretty sure this goes around in a loop back to the trailhead,” my husband said as he emerged from the crinkly, dry brush. “We should just keep going.”

“Pretty sure?” I asked. “No way, I say we go back the way we came, just to be safe. It’s getting really hot.”

It didn’t matter that it was late November. The sun was beating down on our sunscreened shoulders. I’d been avoiding drinking water because I didn’t want to squat and pee in the desert or worse, use a national park toilet.

An older man and his wife and their two hair extensions on leashes came loping down the trail from behind my husband. They tipped their sun hats as they passed.

My husband made another bid to keep going, using those folks as proof that the trail must circle around and that it can’t be that bad if those little dogs were walking it. I just turned and started heading back the way we came. I won.

As we picked our way back down the trail, amid minor whining from the kids (OK, and me) — the online write-up we found about the trail promised it was fine, easy, for beginners but we heartily disagreed and cursed the writer and global warming — I realized that things didn’t look all that familiar.

Oh crap.

“This doesn’t look right. Are you sure this is the way we came?” I asked, feeling the panic well up again.

“Yeah,” my husband said, and started pointing out landmarks we’d already recently encountered.

I did not recognize anything. But, honestly, I have a similar problem in the car when I’m driving somewhere unfamiliar. I’ll use GPS and find my way there, get cocky and figure I know my way back, and then promptly get lost.

So while people from other states and even other countries flock to the beautiful Arizona desert, I don’t really get out that much and enjoy it. I might — might — hit a paved, easy-to-follow and heavily trafficked area at some point in the one and only week we have the most perfect 70-ish weather before it’s surface-of-the-sun hot for months. Most of the time, though, I prefer to stay inside, with my Sudafed, and enjoy the constantly chugging a/c and the secure knowledge that I have an indoor toilet — and I knew exactly where to find it.

 

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