Simply.Just.Walking

peace is every step

Category: Hiking (page 1 of 9)

The Blue Elephant

It is Martin Luther King’s day. Annabella and Benjamin do not have school. They stayed overnight in our house and are now ready for an adventure – hiking the Hieroglyphic Trail. It is a 3-mile path through the Sonoran desert to the Petroglyphs done by the Hohokam tribe, Native Americans who lived in the Phoenix area between 500-1450 AD.

Benjamin is well equipped – he wears real hiking shoes, hiking shorts and a cotton shirt. Four-year-old Annabella is not used to hiking yet and does not have an appropriate outfit. With her tight light blue leggings and her long sleeved shirt she looks more like going to a playground. But this is what we have. I take my pack bag with two water bottles and their favorite food for a picnic – organic crackers, cream cheese, bananas, blueberries and raspberries, nuts, carrots, cheese sticks and two little whole wheat desserts.

After a one-hour drive on the freeway and a country road, we arrive at the parking place. It is totally full. Three sheriffs watch the entrance.

“Where should I park?”

“There is no parking available, Mamm! We are here to tow wrongly parked cars. Do not park beside the road. You either can wait in line for people to leave or drive to Peraltra Trail nearby. “

I decide to wait, as I am the fourth car in line and the kids are well behaved. It does not take long to get a parking place. Everybody is excited. Benjamin finds my hiking stick and wants to take it with him. “You have to always walk with it!” I tell him. “I will not carry it”. It is too much responsibility for him and he leaves it in the car. But Annabella wants to take her blue elephant. Even when I tell her that she cannot loose it and I would not go back and search for it, she wants her Cutie to come with her.

We start to walk. Annabella’s little legs constantly wiggle over the many uneven rocks and her face soon becomes red and hot. “When are we there? I am tired!” I hold her hand and ensure her that it is not too far. The first Palo Verde Tree spreads a little shade and we sit down and rest. Other people pass by, many with little kids. They seem to be more used to hiking than Annabella. The path up to the canyon becomes a path of endurance. Benjamin breaks off a needle from a Prickly bear Cactus and Annabella finds a rock she wants to take with her. At least they can focus on something else than the desert heat! However, the rock is too heavy. We negotiate that she can leave the rock at the side of the trail and take it when we come back. Benjamin puts a black dot on the stone with a marker he secretly took with him. “People will believe that a bird pooped on it”, he says with a smile. Little Cutie is all the time with us, dangling from Annabella’s left hand.

After a nearly two-hour hike we arrive at the site. It is a paradise for children and full of people. We look for a shady spot opposite the petro glyphic rocks and eat our picnic lunch. Several little ponds with dark, green water are located on the bottom of the canyon. A Frisbee lands in the murky water and cannot be found. The rescuer gets all the attention of the crowd.

Soon Annabella and Benjamin slide down the slippery rocks, hide in caves, climb the boulders and copy on a piece of paper the drawings of the Hohokams. They have forgotten the heat, the tiredness and the “strenuous” path.

But we have to go back.

The January afternoon heat burns down on the dried out vegetation with even the Saguaro Cactus suffering from not getting enough water. We urgently would need water, but only have a little bit left in the small water bottle. Annabella emptied in an unwatched moment the other one on the rocky floor.

For encouragement, I let the kids run a bit forward to hide beside the path underneath a rock or desert bush. They love to shock me with a “booo”. Soon, the desert has nowhere to hide anymore and I start to carry Annabella on my back. The backpack is now in front of me with the blue elephant still tangling in front of my face. Annabella’s face is so hot that I gave her my hat and she accepted it. But she wants to walk again.

We ration the water and everybody only gets one sip. I decided not to drink anything. Annabella says that next time, she wants to stay at home when I am hiking. She now says she hates hiking. There is water in the car, she says, and she will drink everything alone. It does not faze her that it was she who emptied the bottle. Also something hurts in her left shoe. I look and see a little blister. Poor Annabella! But I have to tell her a lie. “I do not see anything!” Soon she forgets the blister and walks more. Finally, we are at the parking place. When we step into the car, she suddenly remembers her blue elephant. “Where is Cutie?” I have no idea. Maybe I packed it in my pack bag? But he is not there. She starts to cry. “I want to go back and look for Cutie” she says, “I want to have Cutie!” It is impossible to go back, it is far too hot and we are all exhausted.

“Omi told you that you have to take care of Cutie”, Benjamin reminds Annabella. With his six years, he is sometimes surprisingly responsible. After seeing how sad Annabella is, he continues ,“ I will buy you something else with all my love!”

There is no way I can rewalk the trail and look for it. We drive back to Phoenix. Annabella has tons of stuffed animals hanging like little bats from her bunk bed. They are all over the house. She will forget it soon. We stop for ice cream on the way home. Half way through the yellow face with blue chewing gum eyes, chin and fingers covered with melting ice, she suddenly says out of the blue “Omi, I love hiking!” Are we soon going again?”

In the evening I tell Susanne the story of the blue elephant and she is sadder than Annabella. It was Annabella’s favorite animal! She inherited it from Benjamin, it was his first stuffed animal. By knowing this, I decide to go back.

It is still early morning when I arrive at the parking lot. Only two cars are there. When I start to walk, my steps are much faster now. I love the cool air in my face. In the dawn, the Jumping Cholla Cacti look like lanterns with the new growth shining against the desert ground. Birds hop by and an owl hoots in the distance. Not far away from the parking lot, at our last rest stop, I see something blue between two rocks. It is the blue elephant lying on its side, the face directed toward the east.

After watching it for a while, thinking how much love Annabella has put into this stuffed animal, the first sunrays hit the tiny, scabby blue body and seem to awaken it. I am so happy that I found it.

Between the dry rocks

A blue elephant is waiting

To be rescued

What is a blue elephant for me? Where is my longing and love in life? For a short time, I am thinking of going back to Phoenix but dismiss the thought pretty quickly. I continue the hike. Soon, I am up at the petroglyph site and continue the hike through the dry creek above. The sun does not reach the canyon yet and the rocks are still cool when I pull myself up the boulders. Every step has to be done with attentiveness. The first sunrays hit the Ridge of Flatiron Mountain and travel down the valley. I hardly can stop walking.

Everything is alive and I am part of it. Maybe, the blue elephant does not have a material appearance and is pure life, love and connectedness what is with the whole body and mind.

 

 

 

Siphon Draw Trail: gorgeous and challenging

On my first day in Arizona this year, I met Sonal for the first time on the top of Squaw Peak (new name is Piestewa Peak) early in the morning. It was still dark. We connected immediately and decided to hike together on the weekend. She suggested to climb up to the top of Flatiron mountain, part of the Superstition Mountain Range near Phoenix.

We started at 6 am. In the pitch dark night, the moon was just a curved silver line. Under the starry sky, only a dim silhouette of the jagged mountain range was visible, An owl hooted in the distance. However, soon the form of the mountain became visible.

 

 

 

 

Soon the path was leading into a solid rock basin with a little pond in the shady corner. From there, no path was visible anymore. It was a climb over boulders and rocks, through crevices and tunnels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, I could pull myself up by the trunk of a Palo Verde tree and had to be careful not to touch the branches- they have sharp needles. Somewhere, I touched a Pricklybear cactus with my pants- ouch! Little needles were sticking into my right leg.

After several hours hike, we approached the top.

 

 

 

 

Jeff and Lisa, native Americans from the Navajo tribe, were leading us through a wild terrain of boulders and rocks to the highest point of the mountain (5040 feet).

 

 

 

 

 

From there, we had a view to Apache Lake and Canyon Lake, into the Superstition Wilderness and to the big Valley of the Sun, Phoenix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three mile climb down was more difficult than the climb up. There were a lot of young people coming up the trail now, some of them came with their dogs.  Sometimes, the dog was not brave enough to climb up the nearly vertical slope. One dog wore shoes.

 

 

 

Overall, we hiked 6 miles and came back happy and tired in early afternoon.

 

View back to the Superstition Mountains with the Flatiron Mountain top.

Winter Days in Tyrol

Deep  winter surrounds Innsbruck this year in December. The Nordkette is blanketed by steep  snow fields with nearly vertical rocks  reaching up to the sky. Sometimes you can hear explosions caused by artificial detonations for avalanche control. We choose mountains a bit farther away from Innsbruck for our winter activities. On the first day, we climb up with our snow shoes to the Mutterealm.

Icy wind blows in our faces. We are glad to find a protected place for  hot Punsch and cookies.

Anna-Sophie and Robert

We love the chilly harshness of the mountain. However, it gets dark soon and we take the last gondola down to the valley.

The next day we go skiing on the Axamer Lizum. Heavy mist makes everything disappear into a white field of unexpected surprises. It is a challenge for me to trust my skiing abilities, as I did not go skiing for years. I survive without injury. We finish our day with Jägertee in the Almhütte.

The weather is gorgeous when we go sledging on a 6km long slope down the Serlas Mountain in Mieders. Curves, bumps, and icy parts make it even more fun to slide down the mountain with incredible speed.

Wadi Rum and the Camel Adventure



img_2071Wadi Rum is located at the southern part of Jordan near the Red Sea.  It is famous for its magnificent desert landscape with red rock formations and narrow canyons called Siqs. Over 30 000 petroglyphs decorate the red sandstone cliffs, a place inhabited by humans since prehistoric times. About 5000 Bedouins live now in this area, sharing their traditional life with the tourists visiting their camps.

 

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Instead of hiking, we used a 4WD Toyota Pick up Truck to discover the area. A 25 year old Bedouin was driving it.  It was an adventure by itself, as he was driving through the deep, red sand with an incredible speed.

 

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Wadi Rum is blessed with many wells and water holes in the rocks, which makes life in the extreme summer heat  possible.

 

img_9447Entrance of a narrow Siq in Wadi Rum

Walking through deep sand is like walking through deep snow – slow and exhausting.  It was great to have tea every so often  in the Bedouine tents.

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This photo is of Mohammed Mutlak Camp, where we stayed overnight. Despite sitting with the Bedouines beside the fire pit and smoking Shisha, we ate the traditional Bedouine barbecue called zerb. It is food cooked in an oven buried in sand.

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Zarb, the traditional Bedouine food.

The next morning, I decided to ride on a camel back to the village. It was supposed to be a 2 hour ride. One of the camels just recently won  the race of all the camels in Wadi Rum.

 

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The race camel was supposed to stay in the camp, but the group of camels did not want to be separated. Two strong men where holding the camel back when the little boy (maybe  10 years old) and I were riding out of the camp. Only after several meters, my camel made a wild jump and threw me out of the saddle.  I was falling into the soft sand,  just an inch away from a large rock. I was increadible thankful for that soft landing.

Wadi Attun; the Hot Spring Trail

In the middle of the desert, in a relatively unknown wadi near the Dead Sea, a small creek made the canyon into a little paradise.

The wadi is surrounded by steep, red cliffs and winds up to higher grounds. It was not always easy to find the way over the high boulders and through the dense vegetation of desert grass and high reeds.

Often, the fast flowing water was cascading down into small basins, which would usually be perfect to cool down.


However, the water was too warm to be refreshing, as hot springs were feeding the creek.



Hot water rushing down a waterfall.


The sharp edges of  palm tree leaves were scratching our arms and legs.


A group of teenagers led by two coaches were climbing up the waterfall with a rope. Lorenz looked for another path, but the terrain was too steep, so we had to turn back.

The way down the wadi was as beautiful as the way up.


Some of the water of the creek was reaching the Dead Sea, quite a rarity.

Wadi Zarqa Maeen Trail

The trek in Wadi Zarqa was planned by the Tropical Desert Company and led by three experienced climbers. Wadi Zarqa is located near the Dead Sea and only known by insiders. Overall, we were a group of 13 people walking the canyon trail.

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It was a 15 minutes hike through the dry, rocky desert down to the upper canyon. Blooming oleander shrubs were growing beside the little stream, a pure paradise in the barren landscape surrounding us.

 

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The little creek contained an abundance of wild life – like frogs, fish and crabs.

 

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Besides the different sounds of moving water, the song of birds filled the air.  Sometimes, we had to swim through the water basins made by the waterfalls.  The water was warm and refreshing.

 

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We had to repel down two waterfalls, one of them 45 meters high.  It always took a long time for the whole group to get to the next level.

 

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Ale waiting for her turn to repel.

 

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It was my first time repelling.  I was against the rock for the first 10 meters and afterwards I was hanging freely in the air .  Water was crashing down my body and I was part of this falling, of this letting go.  I loved every minute of it.

 

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Our three leaders did an excellent job of caring for our safety.

 

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Moss in the desert is a real miracle.

 

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Some waterfalls we could pass on the side.

Our trek ended near a hot spring with incredible hot water.  It smelled like rotten eggs, a typical sulfur smell.  Farther down the Wadi the hot springs are used by a resort hotel.  Jordan has lots of hot springs,  a great thing in the cold winter time.

 

The beauty of Roman cities: Madaba and Gerasa (Jerash)

It was the devastating earthquake in 747 AD that helped preserve many sites of the Roman Cities in the Levantine area.


In Madaba, the 19th century Greek Orthodox church of St. George houses a map from 560AD. The map depicted once all the major biblical sites of the Middle East. Most of the mosaic is lost.


Map of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea with the Jordan river in the upper left hand side.

The mosaic of an early 6th century Byzantine villa shows Aphrodite and Adonis. She slaps Eros with her sandal. The 3 Graces (joy, beauty and charm) float around them.


8th-century mosaic of the Church of St. Mary built over a former  Roman temple. All lines of the multi-colored and intricate mosaic are connected  with each other forming patterns with no beginnings or ends. It was fascinating!


Floor mosaic depicting a Roman house beside a fruit tree with a Greek inscription above.

The Roman city of Gerasa (Jerash) was so well built that despite the earthquake the structures  of many public buildings still remain.


In honor of emperor Hadrian, who visited Gerasa and stayed there for one year, the Triumphal Arch was built. Originally, it was twice as high!


The center of the city is the forum, encircling an enormous space. Everything is original. The pomp and the luxury of the Roman way of life became very real by walking through the city.


The south theater seated 3000 spectators. The stage (photo) is still used for performances.



Colonnaded street leading to the North Gate and further on to the city of Pella.

A small relief on the wall of the northern theater.


Columns of the Artemis temple. The temple is the biggest and most important temple of the city. Up to the Ottoman period, the city was  surrounded by healthy forest with lots of wildlife hence the strong veneration of Artemis, the goddess of hunting.

At the end of our day, we bought figs from one of the many fruit stands beside the highway.

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