Wow. Where to begin…
Following a brutal day including the Wingate test, a one and a half mile run, and a 10 mile bike ride, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves the next morning. It can’t get harder than that, right? We even got to sleep in before our 10:00 departure for the mountains. Sounds like the making of a good day right? That’s what we thought too, so we hit the trail with heads held high, excited about the views this hike could bring us.
The first few miles of the Ventana Canyon Hiking Trail were awesome. We were introduced to carins (pictured below), the ascending rock placements that point you in the direction the trail continues (turns out they aren’t just something people make to put on Instagram).
We passed some of the pools and covered our first stream crossings of the trip. As we kept climbing, the view overlooking Tucson kept getting better. Each time we stopped it was even more incredible then the last time.
We stopped for lunch, which is possibly our favorite time of the day, again still feeling pretty good. I mean, after all, the trail marking listed the distance as only 9.5 miles out and back. Nothing we couldn’t handle right?
After lunch, we really started to climb. It hurt, no doubt about that, but we knew it would be worth it. Then…it kept going. The switchbacks piled up like the steps on our Fitbits, and the burn was real.
Half of the group ran out of water on the way up (lesson learned), and they pushed through it. We looked for any excuse to call our stopping points the top, but the mountain would not quit. Higher and higher we went, more and more we felt the effects of the previous day’s work. It was surreal, to say the least, but for whatever reason (possibly insanity), we kept going.
Finally, we made it to the top…or so we thought. While a majority of us were ready to call it done, Dr. Sweeney was so kind to point out we still had about 50 feet left to ascend. So, while some of us posed for pictures, he and Dave continued and reached the top. If not for their convincing texts, we would have missed out on a 360 degree view we would never forget.
The pictures don’t do it justice, but we were stoked. Only one problem…it was 3:30 PM when we reached the top. For those of you at home doing the math, we hit the trail at 11:00 AM and took 30 minutes for lunch. That means 4 hours and 30 minutes up. Sunset was coming at 5:33 PM…notice the problem? Hiking in the dark became inevitable but the van wasn’t coming to pick us up at the top anytime soon. So down we went, and possibly for the first time ever, Dr. Sweeney and Professor Fay were happy to see students with their phones out to use the flashlights. It was a little scary but we made it to the van without a problem and I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a group. Turns out that “9.5 mile” hike was actually about 13 miles and we (somehow) crushed every mile.
In desperate need of food, we headed toward Rosa’s Mexican Food near the University of Arizona campus. As if the day wasn’t crazy enough, Dr. Sweeney punished us even more with a weird mixture of smooth jazz music and Demi Lovato. The night got even weirder there when the owner of the restaurant told me that the tacos I wanted to order “aren’t good today.” I held my ground in a dead panic, and the tacos turned out to be great. The guys are never going to let me live that moment down though. In one last strange turn of events, we piled back in the van to finally return to the house, and the last song that played was “Trap Star” by Young Jeezy, courtesy of Dr. Sweeney’s bizarre music library.
Words could never fully explain what a wild ride that day was, but the important thing is that we made it!
More to come, and we hope everyone back home is doing well!