Hiking Club Diary

Boot Prints—Frank Earnest

Frank Earnest at Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon, on a 2016 Rim-to-Rim Hike (photo by Mike Ransom)

Diana Smith

Born in Rochester, Minn., to a family of doctors, Frank Earnest knows something about taking the scenic route to come full circle. In his life, much like in his hiking, Frank started down his chosen path, embracing experiences along the way, before returning to the place he started.

Frank first began hiking in college after an invitation to climb Mount Whitney in California from his biochemistry professor and several graduate students. For the trip, he recalls wearing Levi jeans and Red Wing boots while carrying a borrowed wood frame backpack. After that first experience, he upgraded his equipment and made several more backpacking trips in the Sierras with his brother and friends.

Then busy with medical school, work, and family, Frank seldom hiked but returned to it in retirement with the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club (SBHC) in Fall 2013. He found it to be the perfect pastime to energize his body, mind, and spirit. Frank describes joining SBHC as a “great adventure,” introducing him to many interesting people who shared his love of the outdoors.

Because he enjoyed the club so much, Frank wanted to give back and became a guide in 2015. He was a member of the SBHC Board of Directors from 2018 to 2020, serving as Associate Chief Guide and Chief Guide, and has worked tirelessly to enlist new guides. Recruited by Walt Shields, Frank is actively involved in first aid training for SBHC guides and is a member of the Wilderness Medical Society.

Frank served as a guide for many club trips, including to Page and Flagstaff; Big Bend National Park; Las Vegas; Death Valley; Saint George, Utah; and his personal favorite hike to Ice Lake Basin near Silverton while on a trip to Durango, Colo. Favorite local hikes include the Sabino Canyon/Bear Canyon Loop, Mount Wrightson, and the Butterfly Trail. Some of Frank’s most memorable hiking trips include backpacking in Grand Gulch; Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, describing the Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Glaciares National Park as “otherworldly;” hiking Tour de Mont Blanc with his wife Sarah; and trekking in the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevadas, in spite of having to hike out from Charlotte Lake early due to a resupply snafu.

Frank also enjoys photography, a hobby borne out of hiking, focusing on landscapes, portraits, and street scenes of local people. He has also become a bit of a birder and wildflower enthusiast, interests picked up from several expert fellow hikers. Frank has become a regular golfer since retiring, playing about three times a week with friends. The Earnests, who enjoy traveling, have planned a cruise from Barcelona to Lisbon in the fall and a trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands in 2024.

Frank’s energy and enthusiasm are infectious. Whatever he decides to do, he does it to the fullest. And even if he goes off the trail now and again, you just never doubt that he’ll be back to finish the hike.

MOVE Across 2 Ranges Hiking Challenge

Ruth Caldwell and Margaret Valair

Francois Brault

Ruth Caldwell and Margaret Valair, SaddleBrooke Hiking Club members, participated in the MOVE Across 2 Ranges hiking challenge on Feb. 25. The event was put on as a partnership between Marana and Oro Valley Parks and Recreation. It is an awesome way to discover nature, get active, and experience the challenge and beauty of Southern Arizona’s Tortolita and Catalina Mountains in one day. Hikers explore the Tortolitas from the Wild Burro Trailhead, then drive over to Catalina State Park and hike again. There are four hike combinations offered: the Mighty Hike of 6.7 miles, the Major Hike of 9.5 miles, the Mega Hike of 16.2 miles, and the Massive Hike of 24.2 miles. Opportunities for all levels of nature and fitness enthusiasts!

Margaret hiked the Massive Hike, starting at 6:30 a.m. in the Tortolitas, for 15.7 miles, then drove over to Catalina State Park for another 8.5-mile hike, including Romero Pools. Ruth hiked the Major Hike, starting at 7:30 a.m. in the Tortolitas, for 6 miles, then drove over to Catalina State Park for another 3.5-mile hike. All hikes were clearly signposted and supported mostly by volunteers providing enthusiasm, trail snacks, and water. The event culminated in an after-party at the group picnic area in Catalina State Park with a meal and refreshments. There was also music and raffle prizes provided by Summit Hut.

Join Ruth and Margaret in 2024 for this wonderful event!