Hiking Tucson: Mt. Rincon

Where: Mt. Rincon, Rincon Mountains
When: Spring
Distance: 16.2mi round trip

K: So did you take time off from working out this week in order to rest up for this hike?
Me: Uh no.  Did you?
K: No.

I have a view of Mt. Rincon from Kat’s house.  It’s pretty stunning at any time of day and I’ve been itching to scale it all semester.  K and I decided it would be a good way to spend my last day in town and also that 16.2 mi with 4,232 ft of elevation change would be no big deal because “we do CrossFit.”

K picked me up around 6am and then we drove another hour to the Miller Creek trailhead, where we began our hike.  As promised, the first part of the trail was a little confusing and we got lost several times.  This part of the trail is also fairly exposed and pretty steep.  Then the trail levels out, but remains sunny and hot until you start nearing Happy Valley Campground, where you suddenly find yourself in a forest that may as well be in Muir Woods, CA (both of us were very pleased to find something that looked like home in the middle of the desert).  The temperature cools off significantly here as you begin to make your way up Heartbreak Ridge Trail (aptly named, believe me) and then to the summit.  The last few hundred feet were excruciating – we couldn’t walk more than 100 paces at a time without stopping to rest, and at some point it became a mental game because our bodies were done several hundred feet ago.  Just as I was starting to wonder if maybe we should throw in the towel, we saw the peak, which gave us that little extra bit of energy to continue.  We were absolutely gleeful to reach the summit, despite the cold and wind.  We found a cozy spot in the rocks, sprawled out and ate some lunch while admiring the view of Tucson.

No hike through nature is complete without commemorating it with some kind of stunt, so we opted for a two-high over Tucson:

The way down was pretty straightforward.  We had hoped to get back by a certain time, but at that point I’d used up all my mental energy for making it to the top and didn’t have any left to push myself on the way down, so we took it slow, which gave us some time to savor our experience.  We kept taking wrong turns on the trail until we learned to look for the trail-markers (stacks of two or three rocks showing the way).  We made it back to the car just as the sun was setting and then K dropped me off at my sister’s so I could finish packing for my return to Connecticut.

Notes:  We ran into two other people on this hike – a ranger at the beginning of the trail, who seemed skeptical about our ability to make it to the top, and a ranger toward the summit, who shared the first ranger’s skepticism.  Also, K packed 4L of water and I packed 3L for this trip.  I’d highly recommend 4L, with some sort of electrolyte replenisher.  I’d also highly discourage doing CrossFit three days in a row prior to this hike.  Especially when one of those days involves thrusters.

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