Monday, July 4, 2011

An Early Start, and More Dogs

Starting the trail at 6 a.m. felt like cheating.

The temperature was supposed to be 117 on Saturday, though I don't think it ever made it quite that high. For some reason, the lows hadn't caught up to the extreme heat the Phoenix area suffered last week. The days had all been in the 111-114 range, but the mornings were still nice. It was probably about 85 when I began. Beautiful. But not the intense challenge from the week before.

Still, it was probably going up a degree or two every few minutes. I'd parked at my usual spot, 44th and Camelback, and biked in. Gotten up at 5:05. Not typical for me. After the slow-moving death march from last week, though, I needed a break from the ultra-heat.

Funny, but my theory about getting passed during the particularly hellish days still holds up. Last week, when I started at 11 a.m. and the parking lot was less than one-third full, I got passed by three guys and a gal. There were very few people on the trail and I passed maybe five. On Saturday, just before 6, the lot was overflowing and the trail thrumming. I passed 30 or 40 people who'd started at roughly the same time before first saddle, plus quite a few more on the way up. All told, I was passed by only three dudes. My theory, of course, is that the extreme heat brings out a much great proportion of the hard-men and women who are stronger climbers than I am.

Since I wrote that last story on dogs I was more attuned to canines on this hike. There were four dogs being treated to the early-morning hike, which honestly was nothing like "cool" but was refreshingly nice by comparison. The first one was a Yorkshire Terrier. It's owner, a Hispanic girl about 18 or so, was encouraging it to climb the steepest portion, the first handrail section.

"Is he going to make it?" I asked with obvious skepticism. The dog was already panting heavily.

"We're gonna try!" the girl replied.

Near the top was a thirty or forty-something, in-shape woman with what looked like a small Collie mix. I passed them, but they were making good time.

"How's he doing?" I asked the woman.

"He's fine. He's a professional," she said. And it looked like she was right.

Another small, well-muscled mutt and his owner passed me going down. Near the top, there was a big, mostly black, overweight dog -- looked like a Rottie -- panting heavily and on its way down. A couple with the dog looked concerned for its health, but it had made it pretty far and there was no turning back. I was a little worried about that one.

Then, about halfway down, I ran into the woman with the Yorkshire Terrier again. This time, the poor thing looked like it was about to have a stroke. A middle-aged guy, who was possibly with them, told the dog's owner, "He's done." The girl seemed to understand and I assume she turned around at that point.

Top picture: Late sunrise with haze/brown cloud from summit. Above: Looking the other way at downtown Phoenix. Below: Took this one about a week ago. I love this angle of the mountain, looking south near Tatum and Lincoln.

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