Sunday, July 09, 2017

Apache Leap and a New Gadget

Apache Leap as seen from Apache Leap.

As you approach Superior, Arizona, from the west on US 60, you will see some cliffs towering above the east side of the town.
That's Apache Leap. I've hiked out to Apache Leap a few times (from the other direction). It's about 2 miles round-trip and about 500 feet (about 150 meters) in elevation change. It isn't a difficult hike if you stay on the trail. If you lose the trail you will be worn out quickly. The manzanita is thick in places and difficult to push through. The open ground is covered in calf-high grass so you can't see what you are stepping on. Since your feet will usually come down on the sides of round rocks you will be struggling to maintain balance, which is tiring. So stay on the trail if you go.

The trail is marked with cairns but sometimes they are difficult to find. This, of course, is an easy one.

Which kind of brings me to the new gadget. I've always thought that using electronics to keep track of your workouts was silly. Listen to your body. You don't need all that distracting crap. Then we were offered a deal on Fitbits through work. I thought it might be nifty to see what my heart rate does during a hike so I got one.

There was a short blurb about fitness trackers in a recent issue of Scientific American. A doctor wanted to know how accurate they were as heart rate monitors and so he compared their results to medical-grade heart monitors and concluded that they are acceptable. The article didn't get into any details about the conditions under which he tested them, though. My experience is that they can be way off if you are doing something besides sitting in a chair.

Apache Leap is 500 feet above the unofficial trailhead. Five hundred feet of elevation gain in a mile is not real steep. Normally I could walk up something like that at a slow but steady pace. I was struggling on this hike though, and was wondering what was wrong with me until I remembered that I started out about 3000 feet higher than I'm used to hiking. Anyway, I checked what the Fitbit thought my pulse was on a stretch where I was gasping for air. It said 86. No way. I felt my pulse. I didn't have a watch to count my pulse, but it felt like it was well over 120. Fitbit still insisted it was a rock-solid 86.

I have seen it make errors in the other direction, too. It has recorded that my pulse was over 140 when I was on an easy downhill section of trail. If my pulse was really as wacky as my Fitbit says, I don't think I would feel as good as I do while I'm hiking. Also, I wore a medical grade monitor for a couple of weeks not too long ago and it didn't show anything wacky, so I am confident that how I feel is a better indication of what my heart rate is than the Fitbit.

This stock tank is just before you get to the cliff of Apache Leap.

Apache Leap hasn't changed since the last time I was there. It may change soon, though. A land swap has been pushed through congress that puts the Oak Flat area in the hands of a mining company. I think it would be kind of hypocritical of me to say that's a bad thing while I surround myself with high-tech gadgets made possible in part by the copper that comes out of mines. Instead, I go hiking in that area whenever I can and take photos of whatever I come across.

Picketpost Mountain as seen from Apache Leap.

A tarantula hawk visited as I sat on a rock resting. This wasp is about 2 inches long. I hear they have a paralyzingly painful sting. I'm not going to try it myself, though.

The trail goes up the middle of this canyon. This is facing back down the canyon (Apache Leap behind me). I tried hiking up to Apache Leap on one of the ridges between canyons once. The terrain varied from difficult to impossible.

Just before I retired a lot of people asked me what I planned to do in retirement. One thing I said was that I was going to work on taking better pictures. I am working on that, but don't expect to suddenly see NG-quality photos on my blog, OK?