It’s been exceptionally rainy these past few weeks here in Tucson. We can appreciate the cooler, great-for-hiking temperatures that come with that, but it’s hard to get out and enjoy it when it rains every couple days! However, with the rain also comes epic looking clouds and a few rainbow sightings, so I’m not complaining. Last weekend, we finally had a hiking group all ready to go, and what do you know – rain and thunderstorms were predicted every day from Thursday to Sunday. But since Saturday is the only available day for most of our group, and Curtis and I only have so many Saturdays left here, we decided we were going hiking no matter what.
The only detail that was still “up in the air” was where we were going to go hiking. I looked up mountain ranges all around us within 2 hours, and the forecast always looked the same: 60% chance of rain or higher. Our original plan was to go to the Huachucas and hike Carr and Miller peaks again, but the rain seemed to be coming up from that area (the Southeast corner of AZ). We thought of several more options, but waited until Saturday morning at 6 to make our final call.
The final decision for our hike of the day: Atascosa Lookout, in the Coronado National Forest West of Nogales! Curtis and I were the only ones who had done it before (last Valentine’s day) and we both had really enjoyed it. Nogales wasn’t supposed to get any rain until noon, and with the hike being only 5 miles round trip we thought it would be our safest bet. We drove South on I-19 and exited at Ruby Road, then continued on the windy gravel road until we reached the Atascosa Trailhead. So far, so good – we had blue skies all around and perfect hiking temps.
There were 8 of us together on this hike, plus 2 dogs. For being the “first official hike of the season,” we made pretty good time getting to the top. While the trail gradually ascends the entire time, it’s a rather forgiving hike for anyone out of shape and provides plenty of good views at which to take quick breaks.
I would definitely say that I really idealized this hike in my head because I enjoyed it so much last time. I only say that because I didn’t remember how much elevation it gained throughout the 2.5 miles to the top. It was also much more overgrown than I remember (which probably has to do with it being right after an especially wet monsoon season) and parts of the trail were quite muddy, which is also because of the rain. It’s obvious that this trail is not used much. But let me tell you, it’s definitely a hidden gem of Southern Arizona, and a must do for all Arizonan hikers!
I was very thankful that the only wildlife spotted was a small snake, and that it wasn’t me that spotted it. Last time that Curtis and I hiked this, we were alone and it was one of the quietest and most peaceful hikes we had done, yet I was convinced that this meant we were going to run into some ferocious wildlife. That was the least of my worries today!
I was also much more winded than I remember being last time we hiked this. That’s no surprise though, because last time happened to be the week after we hiked 21 miles through the Catalina Mountains in one day. We’ve got some more work to do if we plan on doing that again. 😉
We reached the peak in a little under 2 hours. When we got there, half of us (the girls) sat down, caught our breath, ate some snacks, and enjoyed the views; the other half (the guys) busied themselves with checking out the equipment for the lookout and playing around the base of the house that used to be up there.
The view to the South (looking into Mexico!)
The dogs – BFF’s Charlotte and Max!
After a while, we realized that the big, fluffy clouds that were approaching were actually storm clouds. It was strange when I finally realized it, because from a long ways off they looked non-threatening. But it became obvious that the rain was headed our way, and it was coming up fast. The question was then “What do we do?” Were we supposed to stay here, where we were comfortable at the moment (besides a strong wind) or should we head back, knowing we’d be caught in the rain either way? Some were ambivalent, while others (myself included) weren’t too keen on the idea of being at the highest point around during a thunderstorm. I wouldn’t say we were scared, we just have a healthy respect for lightning and what it can do.
In the end, it still wasn’t exactly clear on what would be the most responsible thing to do, so we decided to head back. Obviously, the most responsible option is to not go hiking if you know there’s a chance of a thunderstorm, but we were past that point now. Part of the reason we decided to head back was because we knew that we had to drive 10 miles back to I-19 on the dirt road, and we wanted to do that before it had any chance of being washed out.
I snapped one last picture on my camera before safely stowing it in my backpack and putting my rain poncho over it. (I had completely forgotten that I had left the poncho in my backpack since our hike in the Grand Canyon last April. Thanks, past Jess!) Thankfully, it was all downhill from here so we were able to move pretty fast, but to say that some of us were a little scared is a gross understatement. We were TERRIFIED. Curtis’ piece of advice was “if you feel your hair stand on end, hit the ground!” From then on, we would be running our hands through our hair every 3 seconds, our minds making us think our hair was standing up.
Taken with Curtis’ phone…watching the storm approach.
I prayed the entire way back to the car. I know that God shows His character through His creation, and so I prayed that He would show us His mercy through this circumstance. We made a pretty foolish decision, planning to hike through this storm, and God could have shown us His justice by giving us what we deserved, but instead He showed us how He is merciful and slow to anger. We survived, we were never caught in a heavy downpour, we weren’t cold and miserable on the hike back. That was way better than what we deserved. And now, the responsible thing is to learn from this circumstance and make better decisions in the future.
All of this can apply to my day-to-day life as well. I love how hiking can open up your eyes to new experiences and life lessons like that. Just like we made that dumb decision to hike through a thunderstorm, I also make bad decisions in my life. I mess up, and sin against God. And even though I don’t deserve it, He extends His loving-kindness, mercy, and being slow to anger toward me. But just because He is merciful and slow to anger doesn’t mean that I should continue messing up. I need to remember how good He has been to me, remember what I’ve learned, and not continue to make the same mistakes. Praise God, for He does not give us what we deserve!