Having never been to Arizona before, I decided to rent a car and explore a little. I picked up the car around 7:30 and by 8AM I was at Echo Canyon Park, waiting for a parking space to open up. I was last in line, but that was good as someone pulled out of a spot behind me and I was able to turn around and get it.
The morning was gorgeous – the skies were blue and the temperature relatively cool. The sun was throwing morning shadows over Camelback mountain. I began the 1 1/8 mile trek up to the peak. The web stated this hike was strenuous, and I don’t think it was an exaggeration. Because I didn’t sleep well and my stomach was a bit off, I was huffing and puffing a great deal for quite a bit of the hike. The last half of the trail seemed to consist of scrambling upward over fields of rocks. I took it slowly, stopping to take pictures or just enjoy the view. I let lots of people pass me, and many of them were huffing and puffing just like me. I was concerned about time as I had to get back to the hotel to shower and check out, but I kept pushing and finally reached the top at about 9:45. The top was busy will all sorts of people. The view was quite impressive—I could see the sprawl of Phoenix and more.
I put my camera away so I could concentrate on my descent. I knew I had to be back to the car by about 11. I did run into one very nice fellow – I think he called himself “Ron, the Water Man”. He apparently climbs this mountain every other day and he carries water and cups to share. I helped lighten his load because by this point, I had consumed all that I had carried. It turns out he has family from Elkridge, Maryland. He complained to me that his family thinks he is too old to be climbing this mountain. I told him that he has years and years to go and that I hope to only be climbing bigger mountains more frequently as I get older. (I hope to have more time as I get older to do that).
I did make it back to my car by 11 and I felt tired. I stopped and got a slurpee, more water, and snacks. I showered, and checked out of the hotel. I felt good enough after resting a bit that I decided to go to the Desert Botanical Garden for a about an hour and a half.
This park required admission, but it really was worth it. The plants (mostly cacti) were beautiful. But even more exciting was their Monarch Butterfly exhibit. Instead of getting something to eat at the café, I spent a bit of time photographing these lovely butterflies. They were wonderful to watch and as far as butterflies go, they are fairly lazy and sit still for reasonable amounts of time.
I hope to return to Phoenix with my family sometime. It really is quite different from the east coast and I think they would enjoy seeing it.