After our quick San Diego trip, we returned to the desert for more hikes. The weekend before Thanksgiving, Carolyn and I went and hiked the Pass Mountain Loop Trail located in the Usery Mountain Regional Park. We hiked about 7.6 miles with total elevation gains of over 1000 ft and since it was a Friday, we encountered just a handful of hikers during our 3.5 hour journey. I did encounter a tarantula which I thought unusual.
Once again socially distanced in the desert yet close to 2 million people. We took the loop clockwise and about half way in, it does get rocky and on the way down the stepping down does take a toll on my joints but it was well worth the hike.
We started our day with some Hava Java coffee and ended with a stop at Barrio Brewing located at Gateway Airport. Both are excellent places and the brewery is located next to the runway where one can watch planes come and go. It was a great day from beginning to end.
Still on furlough with no end in site and not working Thanksgiving for the first time in seven years, I decided, with the help of Carolyn, to do thinks different this year. The Phoenix area weather was sunny so we decided on a Thanksgiving picnic at Cave Creek Regional Park with some turkey cranberry sandwiches from Sprouts with a growler from Huss Brewing.
We picked up Carolyn’s mother Carol and arrived in the early afternoon with no fanfare and few people in sight. Our picnic was not glamorous but it was a nice time outdoors together enjoying and thankful for the times together. I’ve never been a big fan of holidays so this was perfect for me. Sitting in the warm glow of the sunshine eating our simple meal and reflecting on the year and thankful for our health and being able to enjoy mother nature was perfect.
Once our meal and growler was completed, we took a nice short hike of close to two miles on the Overton Clay Mine Trail Loop. We have now been on every trail in the Cave Creek Park so our mission was accomplished.
For some time now, Carolyn and I have wanted to go to the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park located near Yarnell and to hike the trail to the memorial site. There are only 12 parking spaces so we arrive at sunrise to make sure we can park and it is cold with a strong wind blowing. Our trek takes us a bit over 6.5 miles and a total elevation gain of 1800 feet. It is a combination of two trails, the Hotshots Trail and the Journey Trail that goes to the Fatality Site. The state has built an excellent memorial park with 19 memorial granite plaques that share a photo and some detail of each of the fallen hotshots. It is a very strenuous and not an easy hike. The state built the trail since the only other access to the Fatality Site would be through private property. As we hiked we stopped and read each plaque. It is the most significant hike I’ve ever done.
The emotions one feels knowing the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots tragedy is at times overwhelming for me. I cannot describe the feelings knowing that these young men died after being overrun by the Yarnell Hill Fire is chilling. After reaching the overlook you will see a Tribute Wall that has many items placed on it from other first responders all across the nation and other countries. It is something to behold.
Carolyn and I pass only two people on our way to the fatality site. We spend a large amount of time paying our respects. It is moving to see the crosses with their names at the location of where they made their final stand.
As we hike out, Carolyn and I reflect on lives cut short by a senseless tragedy. We pass more hikers that are coming in as we are returning.
I struggle writing about it knowing the details of the story. When the tragedy happened on Sunday June 30, 2013, Carolyn, Jordyn, and I were listening to the news in Flagstaff as we were returning from our rim to rim hike at the Grand Canyon. I’ll never forget it when a breaking story came on the radio about a hotshot team missing and getting the update around 7:00 pm that they had perished. I was angry, confused, stunned, and emotional, thinking “Why?”. Having had the opportunity to fight wildfires during the summers of my years at NAU, it just hit me hard.
Six and half years later I pay my respects and this hike to the fatality site will always be something I will never forget. When we finished our hike, we met one of the young State Park Rangers and listed with him for awhile. What a wonderful representative for the state. He was filled with knowledge and quite passionate about his position and the park.
Carolyn and drive through Yarnell to Prescott reflecting on the hike. We finish our day by stopping at the Prescott Brewing Company for some Christmas Ale, Thumb Butte Distillery for a tasting of their spirits, and to Lonesome Valley Brewing for dinner.
Our final hike of the weekend was a sobering event for us and truly left an impact on our lives. Our Thanksgiving trip has been a significant trip reflecting on all that we have to be thankful for.