What better way to celebrate Independence Day weekend than by exploring nature with friends? And exploring the idea of friendship in a blog post? If you’re just reading to find out about the hike and look at some pictures, then skip on down to the bottom. ‘Cuz this shit is about to get sentimental.
Our friends allow us to piece together who we are. We absorb, or adopt if you prefer, our favorite pieces of them and as a result, they build us into ourselves, but partly, also, into themselves. Whether friends for a week, a decade, or a lifetime, we carry these pieces of each other for the rest of our lives. Mannerisms. Habits. Beliefs. Ideas. No one departs a friendship untouched.
Last year, I met up with my best friend from high school who I hadn’t seen or even texted in nearly 10 years. In high school, we knew everything about each other. But over time, we grew independent of each other. Moved to different states. Made new friends. Drifted.
When we met up again last year, though, we talked almost as if we had never stopped. While we both agreed that high school seems like a whole different lifetime ago, and while we are wholly different people from the young people we used to be, we are somehow just as similar to each other now as we were then. But even if we hadn’t grown in the same direction, and even when I consider old friends who are not that similar to me anymore, I still don’t believe that takes away from the connection we will always have. They have pieces of us, and we will always carry pieces of them, as well. We know such intimate details of each other’s lives. We have supported each other, we have pushed each other, we have grown alongside each other, we have touched each other more deeply and more intimately than a passing lover ever could. And none of that will ever go away.
I say all this with the knowledge that I am once again moving on in my life; and in doing so, I am leaving behind the friends that I have made in Tucson over the past 8 years.
Yesterday, I went for a hike with the very first friend I made here. We actually met through a defunct Facebook hiking group at a time when I just knew I wanted to be a person who hikes, but at that time, I really wasn’t that person yet. Amanda is definitely that person, though. And lucky enough for me, we became friends, and I became more of the person I wanted to be. On top of that, she married an amazing person which morphed her/them into our first Tucson “couple” friends.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll leave Tucson. But I will still be a hiker, or at least an explorer, even as a New Yorker. That’s what friends do for us – they help us become the people we want to be.
We hiked the Marshall Gulch trail to the Wilderness of Rocks trail, and I highly recommend you take a friend on this hike soon. It’s at the top of Mount Lemmon which gives a heavenly reprieve from the scorching desert in the summer. Make a day of it. Bring a book and a snack or even lunch. There are small pools of water you could even wade in or jump in! Marshall Gulch is a steady, but gradual climb upwards through the forest and along a stream. Incredibly idyllic, especially once you get past the campers who wandered their way in.
As you get further in, the trail becomes rockier and the incline gets a little bit steeper. Even after my strenuous yoga class the previous day, though, my legs didn’t complain a bit until our hike back out.
Once you get to the top, you have a couple different trail options. Look for the sign for Wilderness of Rocks. The trail descends and gets more and more beautiful with huge granite boulders and hoodoos as you go. Just remember you’ll have to hike back up! This trail is definitely rocky, so wear your hiking boots. Overall, though, the trail is easy to follow and a perfect, moderate hike. Just look for the cairns when the trail traverses the granite rocks.
We hiked down about an hour, including a stop for lunch at a rocky lookout where we crawled through a hole between the rocks. Amanda and Steve proceeded to climb to the highest lookout points, while I was perfectly satisfied with having just scrambled up the base rock and through the hole. Friends can’t change you THAT much!
After lunch, we continued our descent, and stopped at 2 small ponds where we cooled off by dipping our toes in the water. The water was still freezing – even in July – and we could only keep our feet in for a few minutes at a time. It was certainly refreshing, though!
Even in the cooler climate of the mountain, we still sweated our asses off during this hike. Always, always, always bring plenty of water (electrolyte tabs are a good idea, too) and sunscreen.
As we hiked out, the rain clouds moved in. Unfortunately, they didn’t dump on us, but the cloud cover was nice…. and made all the colors of the mountain foliage more vibrant.
Hope everyone gets out there to enjoy the outdoors on this wonderful, long weekend. Happy Fourth of July!