First Rodeo and One Incredible Hike

It has been an awesome week of adventures!  After rambling down the Apache Trail last week, we’ve been to an all-Indian rodeo, I started my ladies’ Bible study at the church, we went to an art walk downtown that included belly dancing, and we’ve hiked to the peak of the tallest mountain in our area.  Then, tomorrow we’re heading to a pistol shooting contest in Tombstone and on Sunday we’ll be cheering on the contestants in the world championship Hoop Dance competition in Phoenix.

We headed south to the Tohono O’odham reservation for the all-Indian rodeo on Saturday.  The reservation is huge and begins just outside of our town, but the rodeo site was about 70 miles away.  We started driving just as the sun was coming up and enjoyed the most beautiful sunrise over the breathtaking mountains.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any pictures since this isn’t allowed on reservation land (as we found out when we a sheriff pulled up behind us while taking pictures of the mountains on the Gila River reservation a few weeks ago!)

We made it to the rodeo parade around 9:00 a.m. and were literally the only white people in town.  Everyone was really nice, but we couldn’t help feeling like we stuck out a little!  We realized that the “all-Indian” part of the rodeo description meant that members from several Indian nations across the state were participating.  The parade included the “royalty” of Apache, Navajo, Gila River, Tohono O’odham, and Pima nations.  These are high school-aged girls who have been voted as royalty to represent their tribe for a year (a lot like homecoming queen).  They walked past us in their traditional dresses, and I was so thankful that they let us take pictures!

We also saw the rodeo queen on her horse, as well as several of the rodeo participants.  There was a float or horse for just about every organization I think you could imagine, making for a long parade, but we were happy to see so many interesting dresses and rituals.  After the last of the children went by, we headed back out of town to the rodeo and fair site.

Needless to say, an Indian rodeo and fair equals delicious food.  We had a little while before the actual rodeo started, so we made the food stall rounds and finally settled on an Indian fry bread (kind of like funnel cake) with honey and powdered sugar, and Charlie got a chili burro while I had two delicious carne asada tacos.  Full and happy, we made our way to the bleachers and waited for the action to begin.  For the next two and a half hours, we watched men wrangle and ride wild horses, get kicked in the stomachs or heads for their efforts, and get bucked to the ground by huge bulls.

We also saw all of the above-mentioned rodeo queens barrel race, catch and tie calfs, etc.  I was especially impressed by these girls and how well they commanded their horses and just the general “skills” they had!  It wasn’t hard to imagine their ancestors riding across the desert as we watched their gorgeous long hair stream out behind them.

Oh, and some other white people did show up around the start of the rodeo.

A group of ladies sat in front of us and I couldn’t help but smile.  It was like they opened up a Coldwater Creek catalog hoping for the answer to “What do I wear to a rodeo??”  They all had on cowboy hats and were dripping in turquoise and silver jewelry.  I completely realize that we are snowbirds as well, but we did have to laugh a little!

After the rodeo, we headed back home just in time to see the sun set over the beautiful terrain we had enjoyed that morning.  Even if we could have taken pictures, they never would have been able to replicate the beauty we watched unfold.  We saw every shade of pink, purple, blue, red and orange move over the mountains in ever changing paint strokes.  Everything they say about the light in the southwest is true!  See more pictures here

Continuing our adventures, we hiked to the top of Picacho Peak yesterday.  Picacho is about 25 minutes south of us and the peak is at an elevation of 3,000 feet (the climb takes you 1,500 feet over the course of two miles).  We love to hike, and we’ve done some great trails in the past, but this was by far the greatest hike we’ve done to date.  When the park ranger recommended we buy gloves to protect our hands on the steel cables we’d be using to pull ourselves up 85 degree angles, we knew we were in for something awesome!

The trail starts out steep and only levels off at a few welcomed points.  Once we made it to the saddle, we crossed over on to the other side of the mountain from the picture above and that’s where things got serious.  For most of the next mile we were literally walking on the rocky edge of the mountain.  If there hadn’t been cables present, I would not have known where the trail continued because there seems to be no logical way to move forward (or upward rather!)

It was certainly one of the most physically demanding and equally rewarding things we’ve ever done, and I’m so proud that we made it to the top together.  Picacho is the highest peak in our area, and we felt like we could see the entire state of Arizona from the top.  We drive past these mountains all the time, but to see how they rise up suddenly from the flat desert floor and to look out on the pattern they make from above was a sight we’ll remember for a long time.

There are still several hikes we want to do, including the south Kaibab trail of the Grand Canyon, but I think Picacho is going to be hard to beat!  See more pictures here

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