Die Another Day


Definitely not for the amateur. This hike, although short in distance, will carry you up 2000 feet in no time. I strongly recommend very sturdy hiking boots, you’re venturing into serious ankle breaking territory. – LocalHikes.com

Or you can do it with the wrong shoes if you want, whatever, no judgement.

Arizona’s desert is exotic to me, accustomed as I am to the temperate coast of Washington. It’s an alluring land, but it sure says “no” a lot. I have been spoiled by the Northwest’s moist, friendly forests. The trees at home are venerable, kindly; “tickle my lichens,” they seem to say, “stroke my moss.”  They remind me of great grandparents: ancient and wrinkled with secrets but bemused by me, and not opposed to a hug.

View of the haystacks on Pusch Ridge
View of the haystacks on Pusch Ridge

The desert is forbidding, all prickles and quills of varied length and tenacity.  It’s a landscape with serious intimacy issues.  Last week, on our visit to my husband’s family, I hiked solo (don’t do this) to the top of Pusch Ridge. I wore shorts, (don’t) sneakers, (never again) and forgot tweezers (no, no, never).  I hadn’t ever brought tweezers hiking, (though natural light can’t be beat for plucking stray brows) and a pair would have come in serious handy.

But it’s so pretty…
I lost the trail, THRICE.  The same two men (thank you Richard and Richard Junior) saved me each time. You would think that the third time I stumbled out from under a prickly pear like a cartoon cowboy with a pincushioned rump of cactus spines, they would have at least rolled their eyes. If they did, they were discreet.

Delicate desert bloom
They offered me water, (okay, that I brought) chatted about the merits of hiking poles, and complimented my speedy ascent of the trail. That swift climb came after they motioned me out of the brush and back to the trail the first time. I then cheerily went up ahead of them, and ended up on the other side of the ridge. I spied them up on the proper top, when I was starting down. They motioned me back up for lunch and instead of cautioning me to never leave my house alone again, they complimented my sprightliness! The land may not care if you become vulture food and the relentless sun bleaches your skeletal remains, but hikers, now they can be generous.


I always have mixed feeling about Arizona. Everyone appears to be blithely slurping up the last trickles of water and gasoline in the Southwest. The state motto seems to be, “Why should I Care?” But I met with kindness on that trail. I said thank you out loud every time I saw a rock cairn. “I was here, now you are here, and pretty soon, someone else will be here,” they seemed to say. Alternately, they intoned, “This is a good place to pee.” As Richard Senior offered me a cheese stick and ants on a log, I was reminded that I wouldn’t be left out there to die, forced to lick real ants off real logs. I thought, there is good here in this desiccated, painfully beautiful place.


I stumbled home covered in angry scratches.  My husband gaped. “You should see the other cougar,” I said.

Oh! Food! I almost forgot. Since ants on a log requires no recipe, and prickly pear lemonade is dangerous to make and not very good, I will just leave you with a shot of the lunch I took up the ridge (leftovers plus poached eggs).







One thought on “Die Another Day

  1. Never again will we tell you about a hike and let you go by yourself!!! There have been oh so many articles in the newspaper this past week about people being rescued from Catalina State Park and other “strolls” through our environs. But I’m glad you met kind folks and had a great lunch.

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