Forced to “Turn Trail” in Sabino Canyon Recreation Center

“Excuse me, how do we get to the 7 Falls Trail?”

“You can’t,” the park employee informed us. Brian and I glanced at each other in dismay. “But I can show you another beautiful trail.” 

She led us to a large map of Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.  A strip of duct tape covered a short diagonal section of the map, the part we’d intended to hike. 

“There is construction happening on the roadways on the way to 7 Falls.  It will be finished April 18th.  But Phoneline Trail is also a great hike, with a view of the canyon.   It’s 9 miles round trip.  You can also take this shorter loop …” My mind was already spinning, and I needed some time to regroup.

I thanked the lady and pulled Brian off to the side to consider options.  He was pissed.  I was pissed. We’d strategically woken at 5:30am this morning with the specific plan of getting to the Seven Falls trail by 7, hiking up 2-2.5 hours and swimming in the Falls by 9:30 (before the heat of the day), and then merrily soaked and cooled as we made our way back down in the 94-degree Tucson sun.

Brian was wearing his bright blue and flowery swim trunks. I had my own matching suit on beneath, and I’d unfortunately forgotten one of my water bottles at home.  We were not prepared for an 8-mile, shadeless, 7-Falls-less hike, and it was too late now to consider a different hiking spot. 

Thankfully, we’d already been to the Falls a month before with my dad when he’d visited.  Not so great was that we hadn’t taken much footage at that time, planning to come back and film the route for our YouTube channel another time (including shots in our new swimsuits!) I suddenly realized I’d wasted time taking so much footage of the Visitor Center.

Wasn’t there another way?  They were only working on the road that meandered through the area, not the actual trail.  But both our park employee and the many construction horses with warning signs plastered on them had confirmed otherwise. Not wanting to drive the hour back for nothing, but still not feeling clear enough to make a decision, Brian and I slowly headed to the left, onto the paved road of the Phoneline Trail.  

I eyed the AllTrails app, staring at the options and hoping for some answers, the same AllTrails app that also would have told us that 7 Falls was closed, if we’d thought to check it this morning.  There was a symbol for water at the fork in the paths up ahead, so we could just keep walking until then.  I made some weak attempts to look at the bright side, but Brian’s body language was still screaming “Pissed,” so I moved to the opposite side of the road and gave him plenty of space.  

What can I do with this? I kept asking myself.  Where’s the silver lining in this one?  We found a trail entrance to the side of the paved road, and we decided to take it.  It wasn’t quite the fork, but it looked like it would still lead us up to that point.  We forded a small creek (hopping from stone to stone) and then entered into a fascinating fusion of forest and desert.  Luscious green trees were interspersed with cacti, majestic rock faces as their backdrop.  I slowed down and took the opportunity to get some great shots of the yellow blooms below and the trees leaning over the path. A young couple in sporty hiking gear passed us, their young daughter garbed in a unicorn hoodie riding piggyback on her mama’s shoulders.  Maybe this was what I’d been meant to experience?

A little lost in the scene, I completely neglected to notice that we’d taken the wrong path and were NOT actually headed toward the canyon. We were in fact circling back toward the Visitor Center.  Glumly we decided the decision was now made, and we’d finish the short loop and wrap up our hike.  

We reached another small creek to ford. As we moved a little further down the path to find the best place to cross, I turned to Brian.  Maybe we could still do something with these swimsuits!

“Hey! Let’s take a picture in our swimsuits.  Right here!  We’ll stand in the creek or sit on the rock, whatever!  Let’s still get our shot in!”

Brian was game, so he peeled off his shirt and hat, as I shimmied out of my clothes.  Of course, Murphy’s Law, we had some hikers pass us at that point — and I was suddenly a little self-conscious — but Brian explained we’d hoped to make this a 7 Falls shot!

So we got our photos in, and we wrapped up our hike. “Let’s make lemons out of lemonade,” said, as we neared the parking lot.  I mean LEMONADE out of lemons. We’re never in this part of Tucson together.  Let’s go to Bookmans!” 

“Oh no!” he moaned, as I can have a tendency toward book-hoarding.  But I’ve gotten better, really! 

“And what do YOU want to do?”  I asked him.

I want BREAKFAST,” he decided emphatically.  

“Great! Then, drop me off at Bookmans.  I’ll grab 1-2 books, and you can grab breakfast.” (I’d already consumed a meal bar, in preparation for the super long hike we’d never actually accomplished.)  

“That’s kinda what I was thinking,” he said. “Let’s have a great rest of our day!” I crowed. And so that’s what we did, just like that. . .

Brian enjoyed his quick, hearty breakfast, and I got my “1-2 books” (actually 9!)

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