Sunday, January 10, 2010

Arizona Hiking Perspectives

There's two main schools of thought on hiking in Arizona: On Trail, and Off Trail.

On Trail is traditional, follow the rules, don't stray from the path. It's legal and accepted. People must yield to horses. Bicycles are supposed to yield to both people and horses, but rarely do. Horses yield to no one, and empty their descending colon frequently where people are supposed to walk, usually on the crests of steep slops leading into and out of a dry wash.

Off Trail is forging off on your own, blazing a trail, but in most Arizona park areas it is explicitly illegal, enforced and punishable by various city, county, state, or Federal regulations. Below are my thoughts about the two, after hiking from 8:15am to 520pm yesterday, January 9th, at a spectacular mountain park near my home. I saw not a single soul the entire day, and had an extraordinary experience - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually-communing-with-nature-and-my-own-mortality.

On Trail
no uncertainty, lots of following imposed constraints, no real decision making
there's a map, for comfort, and direction
lots of horse poop
lots of cigarette butts, food & beverage trash, discarded by lazy assholes
lots of noisy, boisterous, loud humans
have to stand aside as bicyclists and horses as they pass you
very low chance of injury, rock slides, getting lost
no where to empty one's bladder legally, unless you're not a homosapien (eg: equine or canine)
the precious cryptobiotic soils will not be disturbed, so the delicate Sonoran symbiotic balance of life can be maintained

Off Trail
very zen to be away from all humans, and commune directly with nature
lots of javelina, bobcat, jack rabbit, coyote, and small rodent tracks & droppings
sightings of whip tail and spiny lizards, jack rabbit (surprised), coyote (distant), hawk, sparrow & wren
many bird calls & coyote howls heard
higher chance of rock slides, resulting in injury or death
no horse poop to step in or smell
no dog poop to step in, or curse
no trash to be seen
no bicycles to avoid
no certainty about precisely where to go (as there is no trail)
many demons of uncertainty & some of self doubt to wrestle when climbing
no safety net
it's illegal, in Arizona parks (city, county, state, and national)
higher level of risk of being perused or caught by law enforcement, and fined or prosecuted
the entire desert is an arid place, that welcomes mammals occasionally emptying their bladders to help nourish moisture starved plants
stepping on rocks, to maintain the delicate cryptobiotic balance is not always so easy, but foot prints are far less destructive than the park ranger's ATV tracks.
doing your best to avoid the jumping cholla mine fields, is not easy
you get to see sites, rock formations, vistas, that most other people never do
the risk of encountering a rabid wild animal is far higher
a far richer experience than rotely following a pre-planned, extremely boring trail

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