Knocking RA Out Flat (Iron)

As a Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferer, I must take advantage of the good times....the times when pain and swelling have subsided.  They come about, whether by sheer luck, Humira injection, or some combination thereof, from time to time.  Recently, I hiked the Siphon Draw Trail at Flat Iron in the Superstition Wilderness near Phoenix, Arizona.
I was there for a work-related trip, and as a team builder, we woke early one morning to take on the challenge of Flat Iron.    The trail starts in the Lost Dutchman State Park in Fort Apache.   The hike takes about 4-5 hours, depending on your speed and experience.  it covers about 6.5 miles and has an elevation gain of 2,781 feet.  Not many of those feet come easy. 

An optical illusion greets you.  You start across a well-worn trail on what appears to be a fairly level open space.   We started off at 5:45 a.m., with the sun just breaking and at about 75 degrees.  Luckily, the Siphon Draw Trail is in the shade during the early part of the day.    As you rush across the open space, you recognize that suddenly you find yourself breathing hard and breaking a sweat.    You hear the bottoms of your shoes working harder to grab the ground beneath you.  Looking ahead, you see the mountain rise up from the ground, and frankly, it looks as though it goes straight up on all side...as though you will just cross a field and run headlong into a stone wall.     Suddenly, you see an opening break into the mountains, and before you know it, the real work begins.   
Peering up, you see the namesake image of an upside-down iron far ahead and with a ton of work to be done to get there.  Hard work, interesting rock formations, and beauty greet you around every tight corner. The trip gets steadily more difficult as you move.  
Being from Central Virginia, I am used to driving across mountains that are tree topped and full of lush vegetation, usually with springs and running water dotting the landscape.  In Arizona, I found myself in awe of huge rock formations, green Cacti, and reds and browns in the earth.   It felt as though I was on a different planet, with the hard, sharp-edged mountains jutting up from the flat ground all around.
We took our time since no one in our group was an avid hiker.  Our keys to success were lots of water, hats, sunscreen, comfortable shoes and patience. A slick rock basin provided the most challenging portion of the trail with hands and feet required at times in order to keep moving forward.  Oddly, the trip down was just as difficult, partly because you were able to see where you were headed, and how poorly things might go if you make a wrong move.  
If you find yourself in the Arizona desert and wish to have some stunning views, I encourage you to look up Flat Iron and give it a go.   I felt very encouraged that nearing 50, fighting R.A., and being new to the scene, I made a round trip that made for some beautiful scenery.    It felt good to put my R.A. in its place and take on a challenge that even years ago I may have been reluctant to try.  In fact, it was the challenge of doing this, in spite of R.A., that I made the decision to give this a go.   I couldn't be more pleased as it was a day and adventure that I will remember for years to come.  If you have hiked Flat Iron, please take a moment to leave tips or inspiration for others who may be considering it  If you are an R.A. Warrior, and have hiking inspiration, please feel free to share it here to encourage others to live out their dreams and tackle their fears.  

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