Tag Archives: hiking

Hike in the Desert

Talk about fifty shades of gray. For much of the year, the entirety of the Sonoran Desert is more or less some variant on gray or brown. In spring, however, the desert landscape bursts into color with the awakening of the flowers.

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Brittlebush
My parents and I decided to take advantage of the spring weather and hike one of Phoenix’s big mountains. Phoenix is unique in many ways, but one of the things I love most about this city is the mountain ranges that rise from the center of the metropolis. In fact, Phoenix has the best urban hiking in the entire United States.

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We decided to hike Piestewa Peak, the second tallest mountain in the Phoenix Mountain Range. Piestewa used to be called Squaw Peak, but many people felt that this name was not respectful. It was renamed to honor a Native woman who died in combat in Iraq.

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Piestewa Peak stands at 2,612 feet in elevation. Its prominence is 1,175 feet. We made it up in 36 minutes. At the top we enjoyed the sweeping views of the Phoenix area. No ocean anywhere… just miles and miles of dust and hills. What a difference from the view from Pic Paradis back home! I do have to say that I love both the watery disk of Caribbean mountain top views and the endless layers of mountains in the Southwest.

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We could even see Arizona Christian University (my alma mater), Ben’s and my first apartment, and the Cardinals stadium from the peak.

We met a small, furry resident at the top of the mountain. I don’t see many squirrels in the Valley of the Sun! He’s so cute.

 

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Later, at the bottom, we saw the squirrel’s smaller cousin: a chipmunk.IMG_0305

The top of the mountains are a butterfly’s paradise. Each spring, they flit and flutter at the peaks, away from the oppression of dust and pollution.

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Black Swallowtail
At this time of year, the cactus begin to bloom. My mom says that cactus blossoms are God’s grace on an ugly plant.

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Engelmann Hedgehog
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Ocotillo
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Cholla
They certainly do add beauty to something you’d rather not hug. Still, cactus are interesting and have their own kind of charm, whether they’re blooming or not.

Desert wildflowers are gorgeous. Some years, they barely show up. Others, they carpet the hillsides in vibrant pinks and yellows. They are at the mercy of the droughts.

The quiet stillness of the hills are a refreshing break from the hurry and busyness of city life. I think that’s how we all keep our sanity. A hike to the top of the mountain puts everything in perspective.

 

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Exploring the Rainforest

Technically, it’s not a rainforest. Technically, it is considered highlands. This is what I remember from my natural geography class in college. Whatever the botanists call it, it still looks and feels a lot like a rainforest! There are even rumors of monkeys high in hills. We didn’t see any on our hike, but we did see a lot of butterflies and many points of interest! Come join us on our hike to Pic Paradise at Loterie Farm on the isle of Saint-Martin.

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You can see three countries from here: Netherlands (Sint Maarten) on the left, France (Saint-Martin) in the middle, and England (Anguilla), the long island on the right.

Loterie Farm is east of Marigot on the French side of Saint Marten. It is definitely a place you should go when visiting the island. It has a pool, a crazy zipline, dining, and (of course) hiking trails. The cost of hiking is five dollars or five euros. The money is more than worth it, I promise.

The entrance to Loterie Farm
The entrance to Loterie Farm
harnasses for ziplineing loterie farm saint martin
Harnesses for the zip-lines

I and my friends decided to take the long hike with the scenic view at the top. It took a couple hours to complete, but we were glad we did it! This hike is now on my list of favorite hikes, up there with the glacial lake in Red River Valley, Badlands, and Kenya’s Great African Rift.

We grabbed hiking sticks, consulted our map, and hit the trail.

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The first thing that we noticed were the obstacle courses and zip-lines in the trees above us. I felt like I was walking in Tarzan’s tree house!

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There are several points of interest on the map. The first one we came to was the natural spring.

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Once we arrived at the spring, the trail began to climb steeply uphill. It was a little slippery on the mossy rocks, but the climb was worth it once we made it to Chewbacca View Point.

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We could see for miles from the viewpoint! Of course, most of that was just ocean water. The view gave us perspective to see how small Saint Martin really is. But what a beautiful watery wilderness the Caribbean Sea is! We could see three different territories from our lookout point. We could also see the ruins of an old fort.

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The next stop on our trek was the old well.

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By this time, we were all getting a little nervous about the ant armies that covered the trails. Stacey kept us safe by spraying our shoes with OFF.

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Fortunately, the bugs are our biggest problem. There are no snakes on Saint Martin. European colonists imported mongooses to catch and kill the snake population.

Now we just have a mongoose problem.

Beyond the well are ruins of the old sucrerie. Ruins are my favorite hiking gems, so I was pretty thrilled to see them.

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We pressed on as the trail continued uphill. We discovered such things as curious creepy crawlies,

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What Aquila called the Sexy Tree (I guess it is just that gorgeous),

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Interesting plants,

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And this odd statue of a double-jointed man in distress. Naturally, Kayla decided to empathize with him. Social workers are very good at that.

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We finally reached the lookout point at the top of the mountain!

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You can even see some ghostly islands in the distance. I believe they belong to Saint Bart’s. I expected to see a pirate ship sail out of the mist at any second, but all we saw was a cheerful little sailboat.

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To get to the lookout, we had to walk down a narrow path through tall grass. It made some of us itchy, but it was nice to have a break from the tree cover and feel the ocean breeze. It was also a great place for taking photos.

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Kalie was kind enough to pose for me.

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The trail seemed to go out into the middle of nowhere, so we eventually turned around and headed back to the mapped trail.

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On our way back, we found something attention-grabbing that was not on the map–graves! Or at least gravestones. Some of them were broken, so we weren’t sure if they were even in the right place. They were about 150 years old.

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The entire hike, we were surrounded by clouds of butterflies. They’re hard to catch on camera, but I did my best! There were hundreds of white butterflies and the occasional yellow one or orange monarch.

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We arrived back at the base camp tired, sweaty, and dirty, but happy and refreshed! What a wonderful way to spend a sunny morning in the Caribbean. We will be back.

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Photo credit: Breana Johnson, Stacey C, and Kalie L