Mt. Wrightson

13 May

Eric, a friend from NC, came out to visit recently and he had told me he would enjoy a camping trip while in Tucson. Knowing that Jen and I train in a very different manner than most I had asked many times about his comfort, speed, and distance preferences. Since he had previously been in the military and is about 6’4” he was relatively comfortable “walking all day”. We spoke about gear and he assured me that he would show up with a small pack, a sleeping bag (ours are way too short!), and a water bladder. We could provide for him a tent and a sleeping pad.
After talking about it and Jen looking into some options we decided to summit Mt. Wrightson, a “must do” hike near Tucson. Mt Wrightson has an elevation of 9453 feet, and a campsite about 1000 feet down from the summit. With a campsite so close to the trail we were able to dry camp* after our first day of hiking, summit in the morning without our packs, and then hike down.
The hike up followed a much used nicely maintained trail. We turned off this trail to hike around and up the south side of the mountain. This trail opened up into one of the most beautiful views we have had in Tucson. The sun was setting in the west and our view into Mexico was stunning.

After this viewpoint the trail was much less traveled and super rocky. Chille struggled with the terrain and the bushes we had to whack through were of course thorny. I hate bushwhacking (this may have come up before) and even Chille did not want to press forward due to the rocks and the thorns. While it felt like 10 miles it was really just about a half of one before the trail once again opened up and the promise of our campsite was only a mile away.
As we continued to climb it became obvious that we needed to stop for a short break. Jen and I are relatively careless and slightly stupid about our nutrition so we forget that other people need to eat at regular intervals. So around 1800 and after only a couple of donuts and some beef jerky Eric started feeling his lack of food. We sat on downed tree for a bit and refueled with some fig newton’s, dried fruit, and a few pistachios. After everyone was feeling a bit rested and with elevated blood sugars we were able to power through the last mile or so to get to our campsite.
Our campsite was perfect. At an elevation of about 8500 feet the view was incredible and we had arrived just before the sun set behind the mountains. We pitched our tents* in the floor of the small saddle and built a fire in the pit at the site**. After we watered and fed the dogs we started boiling our water for dinner. The menu this evening consisted of mac&cheese (wally world style) with protein powder. Dessert…peanut butter m&m’s. This was actually quite filling. We had yet to use the unflavored protein powder in anything other than some bars and some soup, so it was nice to know that it can be added to the mac&cheese without issue. We ate by the fire and warmed our feet prior to hitting the hay for the night. (this being completely necessary due to the fact that a clear night in AZ at 8500 ft proves to be quite chilly)
We put Eric up in our “2 person” Big Agnes tent, while Jen and I stayed at what will now be referred to as “The Taj”. Short for the Taj Mahal of course. After sleeping so close to each other for the last few outings a standard 2 person tent proved to be quite the luxury. We could sit up in the tent, get dressed in private, and actually move in our sleep without rolling over the other person. There was so much space that even Chille, being the great outdoors dog that he is, crawled in to sleep in between us for the night. For me it did not matter because I love sleeping with the dog and I was super excited to try out my new GoLite quilt.
Sleep however was not good. This was not due to the dog or to my awesome new quilt; it was due to the howling winds that blew through the saddle all night long. These were strong winds. They tested the sturdiness of both the tents and the campers. Every time we all thought there had been enough of a lull that you allowed yourself to drift back to sleep…surprise, more gusts would blow through whistling and howling. They were literally taunting us with the notion of sleep.
Upon waking we all wandered about making sure we collected any gear or trash that was swept up with the wind. After recognizing that the dog bowls had been blown to OZ, the water was once again boiled for the cream of wheat. Please know that neither Jen nor I are breakfast people. We have been forcing breakfast on our trips in anticipation of caloric needs. However, choking down cream of wheat with protein and brown sugar on a limited water supply is not a challenge for the weak. Jen and I made sure Eric had enough food, but in all honesty could barely finish our own small servings. With very full bellies we broke down camp and the 5 of us set off for the summit.
It was a gorgeous morning and a beautiful climb. Even Chille did well getting up the rocky trail. The trail up was very well maintained and the switchbacks were graded at a manageable incline. Once on top we sat and chatted with some fellow easterners, took some pictures, and enjoyed the view. After the summit the trip was pretty much over. We hiked back to the site to pick up our packs, and then down the mountain we went. We stopped at a stream along the way to fill up our empty bladders and then took a nice lazy downhill stroll back to the cars. The only problem we had was Chille hurting his paw, but that is the story for another post. Suffice it to say that it slowed us down a bit, but he is once again happy and frolicking at the dog park.
It was a good trip. We were all quite tired once back to the apartment and I know that Jen and I both napped for a few hours. I felt that we were able to show Eric a nice time, and it was nice to hike and camp above 6000 feet. I do feel that it may be safe to say that Jen and I once again feel quite comfortable in the wild and are plenty happy spending the rest of our days before our journey in a real bed.

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