March 22nd, 2017 ~ Day 362
Arriving at the Desert Vista Trailhead at sunrise, I caught sight of the beautiful colors of the sunrise coming over the mountain. They only became more vibrant as I climbed up the Hawks Nest Trail.
My plan today, was to do a loop heading up the Hawks Nest Trail to Dixie Mountain Loop, then down the Valle Vista Trail, and finally head back on the Desert Tortoise Trail. Giving me approximately a three mile hike.
As I hiked up the Hawks Nest Trail, I realized my body was sore. The Hawks Nest Trail is a tough little climb with about a 350 foot elevation gain in less than a half mile. My whole reason for coming here today was to see the momma owl and her owlets in the huge saguaro cactus that sits just off the trail. Every year, around this time, a momma owl comes to have her babies. I was blessed only to see the momma, but no owlets in sight.
The flowers were in bloom as I made my way to the top of the trail. The smell of the flowers permeated the air, a fresh fragrant smell in the desert. I continued on to the saddle, where I would make a right turn on the Dixie Mountain Loop Trail.
With the sun continuing to rise, it cast shadows on the cholla cacti, giving the white needles a soft fuzzy look. But don’t let the look fool you, these cholla are what we call, jumping cholla. If you brush up against one, the spines easily attach to your clothing, your skin or your shoes. Since the plant is covered with spines, they are difficult to remove. I see them all the time on the trail and if you get too close, they’re like a magnet. They roll their way to you and cling to your body.
The early morning sun shining on the mountain always makes the desert come alive with it’s rich colors. I came to the Valle Verde Trail turn off and decided, I wasn’t going to do the loop I had planned. Instead I stayed on the Dixie Mountain Loop until my tracker read one mile before turning around to head back the way I had come. I decided I wanted to see if the owlets were awake on my way back down the trail. The baby owls are what I really wanted to see on this hike today and my whole reason for coming to this trail.
As I headed back to the trailhead on the Dixie Mountain Loop, I was surprised to see the hot air balloons. The balloons were heading towards me and I had hoped they would come close enough I could capture a great picture.
As the balloons continued to get closer, I was heading in the direction away from them. However, I did realize the balloons were directly over the trail I had initially intended to hike. Darn my luck!
The balloons are really one of my favorite things to see on the trails. Especially on these trails. The Desert Vista Trailhead is far north of the city and the balloons fly overhead all the time. They were close enough today, that I could actually heard the roar from the heat that keeps the balloon in the air.
Heading back down the Hawks Nest Trail, only momma was was visible in the nest. I was sadly disappointed, but at least I tried and I still had a beautiful hike. Also, I did get to see an owl, so who am I to complain about that?
As I made my way downhill to the trailhead, hearing the roar of the fire, I turned around and to my surprise, I saw a hot air balloon just behind me. A little bonus to the end of my hike. What a beautiful day for an early morning hike! The balloons, an owl and the sunrise, I couldn’t ask for a more amazing day in this life and on this journey!!!
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