Catastropic idea? Pawsitively not.

Ever since we adopted our (first ever) kitty, Simone, my SAT (self-appointed trainer) has been talking about getting a “friend” for Simone. I was much more hesitant about that idea because I wanted Simone to adjust more to our house and to us….and although I loved having Simone, the thought of another kitty seemed a bit daunting to me. What if the two don’t get along? Would we have to give up the second cat? What if the two take FOREVER to become, if not friends, tolerant of each other?

As a compromise, 2 weekends ago, we decided to check out a local pet rescue to learn about volunteer opportunities. Lost Our Home is a “no-kill” shelter that was founded in 2008 as a response to the recession at the time. A local mortgage banker noticed a lot of abandoned homes and animals; often times, the animals did not have access to any food or water. We were impressed upon hearing the story and wanted to give back to the community in a small way. (Plus, hanging out with cute animals is fun!)

When we visited Lost Our Home, we checked out the “cattery” (i.e. the area in which the cats were housed) and saw a number of very social and charming felines, all available for adoption. One in particular caught my SAT’s eye: a striking boy named Jack. According to Lost Our Home, most white cats with blue eyes are deaf. Jack is a white cat with blue eyes who is not deaf….therefore, he is a “purrfect” specimen. He’s about 1.5 years old and is almost twice as big as Simone, weighing in at 14 pounds (she’s almost 3 years old and about 8.5 pounds).

Introducing Jack!

Well, we adopted Jack and started the same process with him as we did with Simone to begin acclimating him to our house (i.e. keep him in one room). However, it was more important to keep him in his own room this time because of Simone, who was showing territorial behavior. The first 3 days were a little rough: we kept Jack in one room the first night, then listened to him meow and meow. We would go and hang out with Jack that first night, where he would exhibit some signs of anxiety (pacing, frenetic head-butting, lots of vocalization). The second day and night was more of the same with the addition of cracking Jack’s door open so Simone could smell him (and sort of see him) better. That resulted in Simone hissing at Jack, her hackles rising, and her tail becoming really bushy, all classic signs of aggression. Jack just made some pitiful meows and stayed in his room. I actually spent the night in Jack’s room to try and comfort him.

Who or what is THAT?

Day three: my SAT worked from home that day and was rather distracted by Jack’s constant meowing. During my commute home that night, my SAT called me and reported that the two cats were in the same room AND NOT KILLING EACH OTHER. Day 3 ended with both kitties on our bed. What??? Of course, there were a few not-so-nice interactions, mainly instigated by Simone, but ever since that night, the two have been existing in relative harmony. We’ve noticed their relationship developing really nicely and observed some key indicators that point to a good friendship: 1) they’ve chosen to use the same litter box, 2) they eat their food beside each other, 3) they sleep near each other on our bed during the day when we’re not home, 4) they sleep on our bed with us, and 5) they hang out on their “catio” together (a “catio” is an enclosed outdoor space for kitties).

Breaking bread together.
Making music together.
Hanging out on their catio together.
Napping together (with the occasional conversation).

Jack is a friendly guy who LOVES to know what you’re doing at all times. If you’re in the bathroom, he will follow you. If you’re working at home, he will lounge by you. He’s always up for some petting and he always greets you when you come home. He’s also a little impulsive, sticking his nose into whatever he can get it into. I think he’s a good foil to Simone, who’s more reserved and cautious.

Hygiene is very important to Jack.
Yoga cat.

It’s been really fun to see the two of them playing together and chasing each other around the house. They are both very lovable and we love them a lot! Now, maybe I won’t feel too guilty when I go on my next day hike or bike ride because the kitties have each other for company!

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Pawsitively purrfect.

New adventure! We got a kitty! Her name is Simone and, as the blog post title indicates, she’s perfect. 🙂 My SAT (self-appointed trainer) and I both like animals and have been talking about adopting a cat for a while now. I learned about Simone at work: my coworker and her sister rescued a little kitty in their neighborhood and fostered her for the past month or so. (They think she was abandoned.) They initially thought the kitty was a boy, so they named him “Simon.” When they took Simon to the vet, they learned that he is a she and rename her “Simone.” The vet also told them that Simone is about 2 years old and is a blue point Siamese. My SAT and I met Simone almost 2 weeks ago and picked her up this past Sunday. We’re head over heels for her. 

Simone is a pretty kitty, if I do say so myself, and has been revealing an inquisitive, affectionate nature. She’s shy and skittish now, but I hope that over time, she’ll get used to loud, unexpected sounds, like the doorbell or the garage door opening and closing. I love it when she head-butts me, demanding attention, and when she purrs because that is one of the best sounds ever. 

Side benefit of having a kitty? We’re cleaning our floors more! (Note to self: get lint rollers.) Drawback of having a kitty? How am I supposed to leave her all day to do all-day hikes and bikes??


1st Annual PHX Invitational Summit Crawl*

Long post ahead! For the short version, here’s the summary: “No pain, no (elevation) gain.” 🙂

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Way back in September, I mentioned that I was starting to organize my DIY version of the Phoenix 7 Summit Challenge. I’m so very happy to report that my hardy band of hikers successfully completed the challenge this weekend. Who knew I had so many friends who like to spend their free time hurting themselves?

For those unfamiliar with the summit challenge, the purpose is to hike 7 different summits in Phoenix in one day. The day is like a pub crawl, except instead of driving to different pubs to drink different drinks over the course of a night, hikers drive to different trailheads to hike numerous trails over the course of an entire day. Which sounds more fun to you, my dear readers? 😉

The hikes range in length from 2.8 miles to 5 miles and elevation gain per hike varies from 340 feet to 1000 feet. At first glance, the idea of doing the complete summit challenge seems doable…until you get to hike #6 and your brain is thinking more of the food you want/need instead of moving your feet step by painful step. But, I digress. Total cumulative distance for all 7 hikes is 25 miles and total elevation gain is 5000 feet (1524 metres, for my Canadian friends).

Now that the details are out of the way, I’ll get into a play-by-play of the day (yes, rhyming is intentional):

  • Alarm goes off at 4:30am. Groan, shut off alarm, stumble out of bed. Be thankful I packed up everything the night before. Too bad my SAT (aka, “Self-appointed trainer”/husband) didn’t. Watch my SAT scramble to get his stuff together, as usual. Get annoyed.
  • Leave home at 5:07am for the first trailhead/meeting place: Apache Wash, way north in Cave Creek. Arrive there at 5:45am.
  • After making sure everyone is present, headlamps are working, and trail located, my valiant group of 9 hikers starts our day-long adventure shortly after 6am.

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Sunrise during our first hike.

  • The Apache Wash trailhead is where our first 2 hikes occur (Apache Vista and Ridgeback Overlook). Both of these hikes are pretty gentle and are a good way to warmup. (It is possible that the “friendliness” of these first 2 hikes is a little misleading….but I’ll get to that later.) One of my personal highlights of the day was seeing all the colorful hot-air balloons:

  • Drive to the 3rd trailhead, Deem Hills. Stuff face with food during drive. Arrive at the trailhead, use the restrooms, get the backpacks organized, and start hike #3. Observations: Deem Hills has a great dog park! Also, because we were now hiking in full daylight, we could see a TON of caterpillars on the trail. Not sure if there were that many caterpillars on the previous 2 trails, since we didn’t have as much light, but wow, we sure saw a lot of those critters.

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The wonders of nature.

  • Hike #4 is Lookout Mountain and it is aptly named. The summit gave us fantastic views of the city (i.e. “lookout”). I liked the tiny little scramble to the top–thank you, palo verde tree for providing a strong foothold! This hike started off nice and flat….then it became vertical. At this point, I remember thinking how long ago the Apache Wash hikes were (and how gentle and lovely and easy they were…). I believe we finished hike #4 just after 12 noon.

  • OK. So, hike #5, Shaw Butte, felt really hard to me. Maybe it’s because I already hiked 4 hikes by this point? Or, maybe the driving around gives me enough time to stiffen up (getting old isn’t fun!!)? Whatever the case may be, my legs weren’t happy with most of the Shaw Butte hike, mainly because the trail consisted of a(n) (annoying) gravel road that was fairly steep. I think this hike was when most of us started talking about what we wanted to eat when we finished the day (burgers and fries was the #1 answer, with the #2 answer being “food”).

  • I think hike #6, Dreamy Draw, is the prettiest one. We were a tad confused about which trail to take (wasn’t super clear on our trail map), but our “walking GPS,” i.e. Skyler (he made gpx files for his GPS), led us to our goal. I’d like to come back and explore a bit more because what I saw was really nice.

  • FINALLY. Hike #7, Holbert trail in South Mountain. Honestly, I think we were deep in the “grin and bear it” stage. We were in the home stretch. It was about 4:30pm when we started our last hike and we were tired and sore and questioning (again) our decision to do this challenge. But, we soldiered on. The Holbert trail is essentially a long staircase; the trail is rocky and features SO MANY BIG STEPS. Not gonna lie, I was getting mad at the trail for having so many big steps. Yes, I realize the previous sentence makes no sense….I mean, why should I get angry at an inanimate trail? (Answer: because I could and because I was tired of feeling tired.) However, since this challenge was my idea, I needed to pretend to be positive. (I think that worked.) Sooner than I thought, we reached the summit of our last hike and were rewarded by some great views.

The hike back down to the trailhead was slow and painful, mainly because it was getting dark and because of those DUMB BIG STEPS. I started singing that classic motivational song “99 Bottles of Beer,” but that didn’t have the intended motivational effect I hoped (sorry Jodey and John! I tried!).

Just before 7pm, the group stumbled back to the cars, grateful to be alive…er, very happy to be done. We mustered up the energy to take one last group selfie and to decide upon a place to get food:

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WE ARE DONE.

The best part of a long day playing outside is the food you get to inhale afterwards. In our case, we drove straight to a nearby Five Guys for burgers, fries (!!!), and milkshakes. Heaven.

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The best fries I’ve had in my life. I may not be exaggerating.

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Would I do anything differently?

*Before I answer the above question, I want to say that most of the group WANTS TO DO THIS AGAIN. I think I have an annual event on my hands!

Did I learn anything for next time? Yes. In no particular order:

  1. I can eat really fast.–I wolfed down food during the drives in between the hikes. I surprised myself.
  2. Bring blister tape, or bandaids.–I got a blister, nothing major, but a little uncomfortable.
  3. Make transition times shorter.–By “transition times,” I mean the time in between the hikes. Maximize the drive: eat your food (see point #1), hydrate, get whatever you may want/need packed in your backpack. When you arrive at the next trailhead, go to the restroom as soon as you get there, not after everyone else has. Basically, think ahead about what you need to do and do it quickly. I’m not sure how much time was lost due to transitioning from hike to car to next hike, but I’m pretty certain transition time can be cut down, which would make the whole day shorter (and food acquisition earlier).
  4. I think I’d rather do my DIY version of the summit challenge!–I’d rather drive around and hike with fewer people on the road/trails.
  5. If possible, schedule next year’s summit crawl during a long weekend.–It’s so nice to have an extra day to recover and relax!
  6. Prepare my own GPS maps.–I was lucky this year because Skyler did all that. But, what if there’s no Skyler next year? I can’t assume that someone else will do that. Note to self: PREP MY OWN GPS MAPS.
  7. Bake more pumpkin bread.–I made some pumpkin bread for the group. They liked it. 🙂

Who’s in next year?

I swear I’m not a Slytherin*

I didn’t do a big hike last weekend due to the torrential rain (really! Phoenix does get rain and we’ve had a lot of rain this October, so much so that this month has been the 3rd wettest month in state history). However, yesterday was a great day, so I chose to do a solo hike up Mount Ord near Payson. Longtime blog readers (all 5 of you?) may recall that my SAT (self-appointed trainer) and I hiked Mount Ord earlier this year, enjoying a good climb, better views, and junk food at the summit. I really enjoyed the hike and thought it would be a good training hike for my DIY summit challenge.

I had a great hike. The temperature was around 19-20 C/high 60s F, which felt amazing, and there was green everywhere due to the recent rains. The scenery was lovely, even though there were no purple bushes like last time. My legs felt strong due to the hiking training I’ve been doing and I believe I kept a pace of at least 2.5 mph according to my GPS. My GPS also said that my total mileage was 15 miles and almost 4000 feet of elevation gain, which was a little off of the statistics the last time I hiked Mount Ord. As a treat, I brought some pizza and a Coke for my summit snack, like last time.

What I saw yesterday that I did not see last time were 2 snakes and 1 tarantula. I almost stepped on the first snake, because I thought it was just a piece of wood….then I noticed some spots and a forked tongue….!

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The second snake scared me a bit because I did NOT notice it until I heard its rattling. I was listening to a podcast and was pretty focused on it when I noticed a weird rattling noise. My internal monologue kind of went like this: “What’s that weird sound? It’s not in the trees…..or on my right…or AAACK!!” The rattlesnake was maybe 3 feet to my left and it was upright and looking kind of territorial. I backed away slowly, then took a quick video of it (because if something isn’t captured on social media, it never happened). (I only took a video of the 2nd snake, i.e. no photos.)

My third encounter with a creepy crawly thing was with the tarantula. It was scrambling across the road minding its own business. I’m not a fan of spiders, but got over my initial “ick” factor to document it with my phone.

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All in all, I got some great training in, my legs feel totally normal today, I got to see some wildlife up close and personal, and got to eat junk food. It’s a win!

*”Slytherin,” of course, refers to one of the 4 school dormitory houses in the Harry Potter universe (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin). The Slytherin house mascot is a snake and typical characteristics of Slytherin students include cunning, resourcefulness, and ambition. The main villain of the Harry Potter universe is Lord Voldemort, who is a Slytherin and could talk to snakes. For the record, all online “sorting” tests I have taken indicate I am a Gryffindor (courage, chivalry, determination, and just plain cool). I believe my snake encounters yesterday prove my courage and my photos/videos prove my determination to capture the best and most interesting content for my readers. I cannot communicate withs snakes, although I DID verbally express my gratitude to the 2nd snake for letting me know it was there, i.e. rattling! 

Training has begun

Remember when I said in my last post that I was planning a DIY hiking event? Well, it’s (still) on and I did a training hike yesterday which felt really good and I’m still feeling kind of proud of myself for doing it.

This weekend is a long weekend for me, as Monday is Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day (choose your preferred name), so my first thoughts were “when should I hike?” and “what should I hike?” I was suffering from indecision until late Friday night, when I decided to do a solo hike of a loop trail in South Mountain: the Pyramid–National trail–Bursera (PNB) loop. Total distance is about 11 miles/18 km and total elevation gain is almost 2500 feet/762 m.

My thought was that if I finished that hike and could walk somewhat normally the next day, I would probably be able to finish my DIY hiking event. Well, I did finish my hike yesterday and I can actually walk normally today, so I’m cautiously confident that I will be able to finish the 7 hikes in my DIY event in one day. (I’ll continue training over the next month, though….I don’t want to assume anything!)

(FYI, the statistics for the PNB loop hike are just under half of what I would complete if I successfully climb all 7 summits in my DIY challenge. I suppose one could consider my PNB loop hike a test of my current fitness. I would say that I passed.)

I really enjoyed my PNB loop hike and REALLY REALLY enjoyed the cooler temperatures! The high temperature yesterday was only 28C / 82F….I started hiking at 7:45am because I didn’t have to start my hike at some awful early hour to avoid the heat….there was a nice breeze….the ocotillos were so green because of the recent rains we’ve received….it was just a nice morning. I even brought a baby Coke with me as a “halfway point” reward. As usual, it tasted AMAZING. It’s the little things in life!

It’s still too hot!

Happy September, my dear readers! I hope your September is cooler than mine; although the calendar indicates that it is now autumn, here in Phoenix, the average high temperature is still hovering around 105F (40C), which sadly is lower than last month.

GO.AWAY.SUMMER.

Despite the summer-in-fall temperatures, I’m managing to look ahead to winter-in-Phoenix, i.e. November, and all of the lovely opportunities to play outside ANY TIME OF THE DAY. It will be SO NICE not to wake up at some unearthly hour just to breathe fresh air and not get baked/fried by the sun.

(Can you tell I am tired of the heat?)

One opportunity to play outside is Phoenix’s annual “7 summit challenge,” which occurs in mid-November. This event challenges hikers to hike 7 different summits in the Phoenix metropolitan area in one day. If successful, hikers will have hiked about 25 miles (40 km) over the day, achieving about 5000 ft (1525 m) of elevation gain. My SAT (self-appointed trainer) and I were on holiday in Canada when registration opened up, so we missed our chance….or did we? I really wanted to do this event and thought that I may as well organize my own DIY 7 summit challenge. (Why pay good money to hurt yourself when you can do it for free?) I’m currently in the initial stages of finding other willing “hiker-victims” and mapping out logistics.

Of course, in addition to planning my actual DIY summit challenge, I have to train for it. A friend suggested hiking Camelback mountain yesterday, a very popular local hike. Hikers can use 1 of 2 trails to the top, both of which are short (each trail is about 1.25 miles long) and steep (~1700 ft gain for each trail). However, instead of hiking up one side, she said we should do Camelback “over and back,” i.e. hike up one side and down to the bottom of the other side, then back up and over to where we started. “That sounds good!” I said.

The reality:

  • Start hiking at 5:50am, i.e. before sunrise. Temperature was in the low 70s/25C, so was bearable. Not having the sun beat down on you was also nice.
  • Watch sunrise! This was pretty and (almost) made the ridiculously early start (almost) worth it.

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  • Become hot, sticky, and sweaty. Remain hot, sticky, and sweaty for the rest of the hike.
  • Worry about the possibility of falling and not being able to get back up due to leg cramps, fatigue, and general crankiness.
  • Cry with joy (internally) when we reached the car.

As a post-hike treat, I packed some baby Cokes into a little cooler bag. THAT WAS AMAZING. Do not underestimate the power of sugary carbonated liquid….magical.

I’m happy to report that my legs are still in working order and I’m looking forward to getting myself into better hiking shape so I can conquer the 7 summits….stay tuned. 🙂

Exercising to exorcise (memories)?

On Saturday, my hiking trio (my SAT–self-appointed trainer–Ian, and myself) drove up to Payson to hike the Barnhardt trail. My longtime blog followers may recognize that name; it was only in January when we summitted Mazatzal Peak. Part of that hike included the Barnhardt trail, but unfortunately, we only got to experience the trail at the end of our hike, which meant a lot of what we saw looked like this:

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My memories of Mazatzal Peak are not warm and fuzzy. They are cold, painful, and bring tears to my eyes. In an attempt to exorcise those unpleasant memories and to create new, positive ones of the Barnhardt trail, I suggested we hike the Barnhardt trail in daylight.

We started on the trail around 7:45am and the temperature was in the mid 70sF. It was still fairly humid, though, so I wasn’t feeling as cool as I would have liked. The trail is very pretty and we saw lush green vegetation all around us, due to the recent rains. We even saw some gorgeous butterflies enjoying the breeze. For the record, we did NOT see any gorgeous butterflies the last time we hiked this trail.

 

I’m not sure how far we went, as there is no summit point for the Barnhardt trail (this trail connects up with numerous other trails but does not lead up to Mazatzal Peak or any other peak), but according to Ian’s phone GPS, when we were almost at 6000 ft, the humidity was gone, leaving nothing but fantastic temperatures with a lovely breeze. Don’t forget the pretty views! I think we probably hiked about 4 to 4.5 miles when we decided to stop for a quick snack break before heading back down to the car.

 

 

Did this hike erase my previous memories of the Barnhardt trail? No, not really. While hiking, I couldn’t help compare my previous and current experiences:

  • darkness vs light;
  • cold vs warm(er);
  • painful vs pleasant;
  • lost vs not lost;
  • no Coke vs Coke;
  • no one read the hike description vs I read the hike description; and
  • angry/in despair/scared vs happy knowing that our lives were not in danger (that is not a joke).*

In any case, I enjoyed THIS hike on the Barnhardt trail and am looking forward to Phoenix’s winter and all the great hiking that awaits us!

*I suppose I still harbour some bitterness.