Flashlight Walk

Full moon was a few nights ago, so the moon comes up, orange as a copper penny, around 7:4 p.m. Spring is here, complete with nature flying her freak flag–with the ripe bitter oranges that look full and juicy but are filled with mouth-puckering, sour juice and pulp. Or with trees that have sprouted out both above and below the graft, two different kinds of the same tree blooming on one stem.

On Spring days there are endless activities to try in Phoenix. Like the frantic activity in Fall on the East Coast, before winter slush and depression set in, our Spring is packed with the activities that in July and August, we will not pursue. It will be too hot to cross a parking lot, much less hike, walk through gardens, or climb the local mountains.

So when I read about the flashlight walk through the San Tan Mountains south of Queen Creek, I had to try it. I thought I might be the only person to show up. After all, hiking in the dark, with a flashlight if the moon isn’t bright enough, didn’t seem like it would have a lot of appeal to TV nation. I was wrong. About 50 people showed up, some with lights clipped to the visors of their caps.

graft treeThe sun set, leaving a nice turquoise light in the West and a spreading indigo sky in the East. The group struck out, a bit vigorously for my abilities.  We were a mixed group, families, a few dogs, and couples. Many people had walking sicks or trekking poles. The first half mile we hiked in granite ground down to a sand-like consistency. It was like walking on the beach. Then the trail headed up, directly up into the stars. The mountains were silhouetted around us, and one by one the constellations appearing in the sky. Orion, the two dippers, the seven sisters. No Milky Way, though. Phoenix has too much light pollution.

I began to drop back, not being able to keep up the pace. My flashlight came out, because the trail turned into sheets of stone, and it was hard to find footing. You don’t want to stumble off the trail into a cholla cactus. It will break off a piece and go with you, carried along in your jeans or skin on 3-inch spikes.

As people passed me, the trail ahead was dotted with moving lights as people used them to check out the terrain, then turned them off to have the moon light the way. Halfway through, we stopped to let people who were tired or didn’t want to take the steeper part of the trail turn back. I decided to stay, but next time, I’m taking a stick.

The 3-plus mile walk was worthwhile and interesting. I worried too much about my footing on the top half of the walk to call it fun, but it is an experience I’ve never had before, and one worth doing before it gets too hot.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and a beginning hiker. Tomorrow she goes shopping for some decent hiking boots, sneakers aren’t sturdy enough for hiking up mountains. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.