This blog is a tad different for me once the on again, off again, and back on again high school basketball season got underway in Arizona on January 19th. My hiking adventures have taken a backseat since the Arizona Interscholastic Association voted to allow the season to start and continue as long as masks were worn appropriately by all participants and limiting the number of fans. I was a tad bit skeptical about refereeing with a mask but it has worked out just fine. Having officiated for 30+ years, I put the uniform back on (tighter) and headed out the door and on the road again.
The season does cut into my outdoor adventures with Carolyn but I really wanted to get to work. The season started for me in an ominous way as my traveling partners are out for the season, one with Covid 19 complications and the other with various ailments. For me life on the road is many trips on lonesome highways by myself, late at night traveling anywhere from 180 to 300 mile round trip during various weather conditions. All for the joy of being part of a game that I have loved. The journeys have taken me to small towns throughout Eastern and Central Arizona. They include Eager, St. Johns, Show Low, Snowflake, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, and once in a great while I find myself refereeing in Payson.
After my first road trip to Winslow I battled foggy conditions with a dusting of snow on a lonely Highway 87 passing all of five cars, two snowplows, and three elk from Winslow to Payson, I was fairly beat down. Racing up and down a court at my age, sure beats up the body.
It is always interesting to run into the people I have known over the 30 years of officiating and this Covid season has been interesting. The responses to Covid vary in each and every place I have officiated. In Winslow, fans are very limited as in hardly a soul there to places where the crowds now approach 40% capacity. Some school districts have hardly missed a day of in person school while others have just returned to having students in the classroom from a total online experience.
In Round Valley I have talked with those who have had horrible Covid experiences even though they were by all appearances very healthy individuals. The in person learning continued with nary a complaint. In Snowflake, they have continued in person classes and St. Johns has only had one week that they stayed away from classroom learning.
Camp Verde saw a spike in their local Covid cases after their annual October festival but in school learning continued. Every place I go, has an interesting story. In the White Mountains, as officials, we are quite strict on players keeping masks covering the nose and mouth. In other areas, not so much. I have learned that you can run and adjust to physical exertion with a mask in place on your face.
Since there are no games on Sundays, Carolyn and I managed to get some hikes in that were close by our house in Payson and in and around the Phoenix area. On Sunday, February 7th Carolyn and I hiked along the Peach Orchard Loop with an add on hike along a ridge line. We ended up with close to six miles and decent elevation gains.
The following weekend, we met Jordyn and James at the Lost Dutchman State Park for a cookout on a very windy day and since it was later in the evening, we did a three mile loop hike that was nice and included 600+ feet of elevation gains. An added bonus was talking with the Sheriff’s Department and the number of rescues they had performed that day in the Flat Iron area. I believe he told us they had at least five trips and one we got to watch. It is amazing to know that they just these expensive helicopter rescues with no charge to the rescued.
On Valentine’s Day, Carolyn and I hike in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve as the weather is better with much less wind. It was a very nice desert hike close to our condo and not many hikers in the area we were. We ended up hiking close to seven miles with 800 total feet of elevation gain so it was a worthy Valentine Day trek. It was a great way to spend the day with my Valentine. Yes, we did also enjoy a Valentine Day Dinner at Picazzo’s in the Paradise Valley area. Our server was fantastic, the food mostly organic and great, as were the adult beverages. Don’t want anybody to think I’m a cheap Valentine.
These small adventures sure help keep me going as I soon returned to Payson for more basketball on the road. If I can stay healthy, the adventure will continue so stay tuned as we enter the final stages of the basketball season and I can get outdoors a bit more and yes back on the brewery tour. Next planned big stop, Tucson in mid-March.