Adam and Susan have been visiting Tucson in their Airstream for the past week. They are becoming, with our constant encouragement, full-timers in spirit. They arrived here without a rigid schedule and have been just taking every day as it comes. That’s the right frame of mind — just “be” in the moment and don’t worry about tomorrow.
Since I was between issues of the magazine without a lot else going on, I took a few days to go hiking with them. I’m trying to retain some of the lessons I learned while full-timing, and one of them is to take the vacation opportunities whenever you can. We hiked the Sabino Canyon Trail up to Hutch’s Pond (8 miles roundtrip), a little of the Mt Lemmon Trail at the height of the Santa Catalina Mountains (about two miles), and a little of the Romero Canyon Trail from Catalina State Park (about three miles).
Our choice of trails wasn’t random; I’ve been scouting various route ends in the Santa Catalina mountains so that we can put together a long day hike from the peak of Mt Lemmon at 8600 feet to Tucson’s base elevation of about 2400 feet. The total hike will be about 14.5 miles, all downhill.
There’s a hidden goal in this hike. We are planning a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike with Adam and Susan next fall. Starting from the north rim, we’ll hike from about 8200 feet elevation to the canyon floor, and then back up the south rim. It just happens that hiking down from Mt Lemmon to Tucson almost exactly duplicates the weather conditions, distance, and geography of a hike down from the Grand Canyon’s north rim. Then we’ll hike up another trail (on another day) to simulate the steep hike back up the south rim. This will help us test our gear, stamina, and mental gumption before we get to the real thing.
We’re also thinking about other roadtrips. We are definitely going out to California after Christmas, and the only question is how long we’ll be out. Eleanor is already talking about “a month or so.” She wants to visit Death Valley, and I’ve already scheduled four stops in southern California. I can also see stops in Las Vegas and Quartzsite. We clearly aren’t ready to just “settle down” and stay home.
I don’t know why, exactly. Life at home has been very pleasant. The “fall” weather in Tucson is amazingly nice. The house is comfortable, and Tucson has provided us with all the diversions you can expect from a mid-sized city. We’ve met people. Halloween was a great success (30-odd kids at the door, good trick-or-treating for Emma in her wizard costume). But undeniably we still like life with a regular mix of new scenery.
Adam and Susan have left for California and won’t be back for a few weeks. In the meantime, I may haul the Airstream off to the Los Angeles area to have an axle issue dealt with. It’s a good excuse to check out a few spots in California that I’ve been meaning to visit. And being recent “homebodies,” any excuse to travel is a good one.
Planning trips is part of the same pathology. I hate not having a trip in mind, even if it is only a rough plan. So without even meaning to, I’ve sketched out the next year of travel, much like I have sketched out the next year of Airstream Life magazine. Most of it is entirely speculative, but it’s fun to consider nonetheless.
The Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike is logistically challenging. Our hike will be about 24 miles, but the drive from one rim to the other is about 250 miles. That means we need overnight lodging at both ends of the hike, as well as tenting in the middle while we are in the canyon. The temperatures will range from near-freezing at the north rim when we start hiking, to mid-90s at the bottom of the canyon in the afternoon. Reservations are needed far in advance for lodges, campground, the hiker shuttle from one rim to the other, a backcountry camping permit, meals at Phantom Ranch, and “duffle service” (mules can be hired to haul your pack up the south rim).
We’re also working on getting our gear in order, like new hiking boots for everyone. They’ve got to be well broken-in before we hike 24 miles, so there’s another reason to find some local hikes. It all works, and it makes the little things we do to fill the time into really meaningful things. I like the complexity of the rim-to-rim plan because it keeps me occupied when we are not traveling. Everything we do now helps get us closer to the big event. So it turns out that the secret to successfully staying home may be in the planning and preparation we do in anticipation of the next time we go away.