Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer's Here

Summertime -- and the living is easy.

Unless you're from Chicago, you've never before experienced real Sonoran heat and you're crazy enough to follow a desert rat like me up Camelback.

Our friend and co-worker Greg exclaimed, "This is harder than I thought it was going to be!" about halfway up. (I mean the Echo Canyon side, of course. All hikes to the summit referenced in this blog will be from Echo unless noted.)

Funny, because he's half my age and in better shape, overall. During one of our many, mandatory stops for rest and water on the way up, I told him I still had no doubt he could kick my ass at one-on-one b-ball.

I had found the going remarkably easy and, much to his chagrin, couldn't help continuously commenting how cool it felt.

We'd started at 2 p.m. on June 4. The temp about 105. But this was a classic dry-heat day. My guess is 2-3 percent humidity. Best of all, it was breezy. With wind chill, I was feeling like it was about 80-85. Gorgeous. And I've been hiking a lot lately, so the whole way up I felt like a coiled spring. Normally, on a beautiful day like that, I wouldn't have stopped once. That day I probably would have topped out in just over a half-hour. Still not prime form, but a good summit time for me. Instead, we pushed it near the 70-minute mark. And poor, Greg -- he just flopped to the rocks when we arrived on top.

He did well for his first time, actually. He's leaving for Minnesota in another week.

I'll be here, though -- my home for the past 34 years. The Stern family crossed the border from New Mexico, on our way out from Queens, on July 4, 1977. Nearly two weeks passed as my parents searched the Valley for a decent apartment and a possible home site, and in the interim my sister and I experienced Phoenix heat like I've never experienced it before. We lived in our family's tent-trailer in the Pony Acres Trailer Park near Apache and McClintock, (which, by God, is still there -- though catering to a slightly less middle-class clientele now), without the slightest trace of air-conditioning at night. Back then, the heat-island effect wasn't as pronounced and the nights were slightly cooler. But only slightly. We spent our days sitting in the trailer park's not-quite-cool pool and felt truly comfortable only when going inside the park's clubhouse or in stores or the model homes my parents kept touring.

That was my first summer.

And here it is now, my 34th.

The mercury is expected to rise to 113 later this week, NPR told us this morning at about 8:30 a.m., when it was 92 degrees out. No more cool hikes up Camelback until September.

That's just fine with me.

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