Last Sunday I took Bernie and Chris to meet my friend who has a home in Yarnell, Arizona. Yarnell is about seventy miles from our home in Surprise. We arrived a few minutes before seven, while it was a comfortable, cool eighty degrees.
Robi has four dogs, and we were all going to hike up the mountain. May 6, 2018, blessed us with a hazy morning. At 6,000 feet the temperature would be in the 90’s before noon.
As we started off, I immediately realized I was not prepared. I wobbled over small rocks, almost losing my balance. I couldn’t go further without support sticks.
Five years ago, a massive firestorm destroyed all the trees on the mountain. The disaster also took the lives of nineteen experienced firefighters.
Stepping off the trail, I grabbed at branches of the nearest fire-blackened tree. I broke off two branches. They became my balance supports for the hike.
Later that day when I got home, I went online. After reading several reviews, I ordered two High Trek Trekking Poles. Finally, I am prepared for next Sunday when we hike the same area.
Monday afternoon, the trek poles arrived.
Reading the instructions how to adjust their length, I discovered my charred support sticks were never the correct length. Last Sunday, I wasn’t concerned about the correct length. Where the branch snapped was the length I had. Both sticks broke at about the same length.
The charred sticks were too short, so my upper body bent forward at least a foot… like when you bend over a drinking fountain. However, because I was struggling up the mountain, my body was already leaning forward.
Unlike the charred sticks, the trek poles are adjustable. Once adjusted, I discovered a two-foot difference between the charred sticks and the trek poles. The proper method to determine the correct length of the hiking pole is to extend your arm ninety degrees from your body. The distance from your hand to the ground is the correct height of the hiking pole.
My initial enthusiasm waned when I started walking with the trek poles. Unlike the movies, where people glide forward in synced rhythm, swinging a pole ahead of the opposite foot; I shuffled forward, both poles spastically slashing out. Before stumbling ten feet, I knew I needed to learn how to walk with trek poles.
Walking on a sidewalk, or even in the street wasn’t the place to learn how to walk with support poles. I had to be in the real environment. I turned into the vacant field. Although level, the ground was uneven. The sand, small stones, and dying scrub brush were ideal obstacles. At first, the poles got tangled in the brush. My confidence grew as I no longer worried about my balance.
As I trudged through the vacant lot for 15 minutes, I calculated a route to end up at the car. Once there, I checked my step count. After 15 minutes and slow gait with trek poles, I only managed 118 steps. When I leisurely stride on a smooth, level surface, my count measures 2000 steps for fifteen minutes.
Both dogs chased a rabbit this morning.
We had finished our exercise, and I drove home. I parked the car in the carport and opened the rear door. Both dogs jumped out and were on the way to the porch.
A rabbit was across the street under a cactus plant. Chris spotted it and shot after it. The rabbit zipped between two houses. Chris was about twenty feet behind. I blew the dog whistle, but Chris was already out of sight. I wasn’t worried. The winter visitors have left, and empty houses remained. It reminded me of an empty golf course with no one around; a lot of landscape without people.
Suddenly, the rabbit reappeared. It zipped out from another house and quickly advanced directly toward our house. The rabbit didn’t see Bernie, but Bernie spotted the rabbit.
Bernie gathered himself and started to make his move. The rabbit coiled himself and sprang off in the new direction between two houses. The rabbit was gone behind the house before Bernie was halfway up the narrow space between both houses. I blew the dog whistle. Bernie stopped and started back to me.
As Bernie slowly returns to me, Chris pops out from the same area the rabbit appeared. Chris continues searching for the long-gone rabbit. I blow the dog whistle. Chris stops, looks for me and, when he spots me, he starts running to me. Both dogs reach me at the same time.
I open the door, knowing they are very ready to lap up water and collapse on the cool tile.