Monday, November 21, 2011
It was a beautiful perfect weather day...70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and a light breeze. I had been at the Clinic so I drove to Lost Dog Wash Trail Head at 124th Street. I decided to see how far I could go on the Sunrise Trail rated difficult knowing I wouldn't be able to complete the entire route because of the elevation gain over a short distance.
In the beginning it was a rocky go with a moderate incline. I kept repeating over and over, "This is not a race, go slow, go slow." I felt the joy and exhilaration of being connected to the land in this remote place with nothing but cactus, rock, mountains and silence. As the incline steepened I slowed my pace even more and kept reminding myself it was okay to go slow. I didn't stop because after the first 2 miles the trail leveled out some and of course, I always want to see what's around the next corner. And then I was too close to Sunrise Peak to stop.
The last quarter mile really wasn't a trail at all; just boulders and rocks that I had to use hands and arms to pull myself up. At times I wondered if I was even going the right way, but I could see people on the top, so I knew they must have climbed up the same way I was going. It was the hardest hiking I have done, but after 40 minutes just to negotiate that last quarter mile, I was on the top of Sunrise Peak! I DID IT!! I was rewarded with a fabulous view and an unexpected compliment that really made me feel good.
A young woman who had passed me on the trail asked if it was my first time to the Peak. When I told her "yes" she congratulated me and said, "I barely made it my first time and I was really exhausted. You look great!" This woman was probably 40 years younger and at least 75 pounds lighter, so the compliment was a real reward for me.
The trip down was uneventful other than the fact that my toenails were screaming and I felt like both femoral heads were jamming into my pelvis. "Epsom Salts bath, where are you?"
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Two days ago I did something incredibly stupid and dangerous. Iíve decided to blog about it so I will remember to NEVER let my pursuit of a goal put me in a dangerous situation again. Even though I am now retired, a major portion of my work life was spent in Chicago where I worked in a very busy Emergency Department. Yes, Iím well aware of what your head and face will look like when you hit the pavement while riding a motorcycle without a helmet or what happens when your car (the irresistible force) hits another car, a wall, a tree, whatever (the immoveable object) and you donít wear your seat belt. People do crazy and stupid things all the time that will kill or maim them, but I wasnít one of them until...
I started a hike at 3:30 in the afternoon and planned to be back at the trailhead by 5:30 in plenty of time before the last glow of the sunset. I left a message for my husband regarding my trail plans and what time I expected to be home. I started on the Gateway Loop Trail with a difficulty rating of moderate. Iíve hiked this trail in the past so I decided I would hook up with the 3.1 mile Windgate Pass Trail rated difficult with an elevation gain of about 1000 ft. I wanted to at least get to Inspiration Look-Out even if I didnít get to the highest point on the trail. I was well prepared with snacks, cell phone, extra clothing in case of rain or cold, my hat, the right footwear, sunglasses, sunscreen, and 4 liters of water in my camelback.
At the very start of the hike, my body was not co-operating. Even gentle slopes were difficult and I was walking slowly to keep my heart rate in a comfortable range. After the first 1.5 miles I took a break and ate a protein/carb bar which tasted like sawdust. My mouth was parched from breathing with my mouth open, and no amount of water seemed to help. I rested for 10 minutes and then made a very bad decision.
It was another .70 miles to connect with the Windgate Pass Trail and another .60 miles to Inspiration Point. I told myself I could do this even though I knew the trail would get steeper, but I had an hour left and I reasoned it would take a lot less time to get down. After all, I had already spent hard effort in getting up the 1.5 miles and I didnít want to turn around without getting to my destination.
When I started out again the bar seem to revive me and I was walking a little faster and making good progress. When I reached the junction of Windgate Pass and Desert Park Trail all my safe, cautious sense left me and all I was thinking ďitís not that far, itís not that far, and Iím not giving up when Iím so close.Ē Time left at this point was about 30 minutes to get back to the car, which even if I hadnít been tired, would have been a stretch. I completely ignored the little warning bell that was ringing, ďturn around NOWĒ
The last .6 miles was very steep and I was barely putting one foot in front of the other to keep going. I reached Inspiration Look-Out at 6:00 PM, the sun was setting and it was a magnificent view with lights coming on in the valley 3000 feet below. A quarter moon was starting to rise and the air was cool. For a moment I was exhilarated with my accomplishment and the view. Then reality set in and I became very aware of the decreasing light and how far I had to go to get back to my car.
The trail I was on is in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve which is acres and acres of pristine, mountainous desert filled with animal predators, rattlesnakes, cacti with painful thorns and gorgeous views. The trails are rocky with boulders and sharp rocks partially buried and protruding up, narrow in places, un-level, and no one in their right mind would be on a trail after dark.
Within 15 minutes of starting back down I was alone and in total darkness. Initially, I wasnít afraid of animal predators, but I was concerned about stepping on an unseen rattlesnake who are nocturnal hunters. As the trail was often in shadow there was no way I could avoid stepping on a snake if it happened to be on the path.
I was also worried about falling and injuring myself where I might need rescue if I couldnít walk. The protruding rocks and boulders are easily seen in daylight so your foot strike can be adjusted to the edge or flatness of the rock. But in darkness I was stumbling, tripping and nearly falling on more than several occasions.
Animal attacks by Sonoran desert animals are extremely rare, but do happen. I did think that if I was injured I might be more likely to become someoneís supper. I was caught between wanting to go as fast as I could to get out of a perceived dangerous situation and needing to go slowly checking how I was placing my feet on rocks and watching where I stepped.
Even in the daytime, the desert can all look the same and in the darkness I was completely disoriented and always sure, the trailhead and my car was just around the next corner. I was really disheartened when I came to the junction of the Gateway Loop trail. I thought I had passed it at least 40 minutes ago, but here it was and I still had another 1.5 miles to go to be safe. FINALLY, I saw the moon reflecting off the iron bridge and knew I was finally safe at the trailhead. Lesson learned.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
On Tuesday August 16th we were driving north on Interstate 5 with a clear blue sky making it perfect weather. The car CD was playing Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Chorus was coming to the last Glory, Glory Hallelujah when I looked up and there was the mountain dominating the landscape. It took my breath away as I looked at the beauty and magnificence of this mountain. The snow was so white against the blue sky and it couldn't have been a better first view of the mountain I plan to summit in August 2012.
Saturday, June 04, 2011
All I planned to do today was walk around the neighborhood on paved streets, but when I came to Snowflake Trailhead I decided to check it out. I took the Sawmill route as it looked less steep than the alternate Reservoir trail. I was wearing my hiking shoes which was a good thing as the trail, made up of soft pine needles, was damp with a rivulet of snow water running down the center. The trail followed the Blue River and I saw several beaver dams, but no beavers made an appearance. It wasn't long before my gentle incline led me deep into a pine forest out of sight of houses, people or human voices.
All was well until snow began to cover the trail in patches, and I was soon faced with the trail ending in a snow drift. This is June after all, the temperature was 71 degrees and surely these drifts couldn't be that deep. With my first step into a drift I sunk down to my knees. After extricating myself, I was able to get to a narrow ridge about six to eight inches wide of hard packed, slippery snow and I slowly continued up the now snow buried trail. I frequently slipped off the ridge of snow at times sinking to my crotch. At one point I crawled across a drift on hands and knees to prevent sinking so far down in a drift. This was an excellent work-out for balance and core, but all this sinking into drifts was getting my shoes, socks and butt wet.
After a little over a mile of an upward climb, I reluctantly turned around to make my way back down. Poles and crampons would have been a big help as the ridge was even more slippery descending. However, grabbing tree branches when available saved me on occasion from falling off my narrow ridge.
This was an exhilarating hike and for this desert dweller, the challenge of hiking in snow was thrilling. Mt. Rainier, here I come!
Zone 1 Pulse rate 109 to 120 = 20 minutes
Zone 2 Pulse rate 121 to 131 = 19 minutes
Zone 3 Pulse rate 132 to 145 = 39 minutes
Zone 4 Pulse rate 146 to 155 = 05 minutes
Zone 5 Pulse rate above 156 = 01 minute
Friday, April 08, 2011
I showed up and I did it. It was 75 degrees at 1:30 PM and there was a breeze, but it didn't take long before I was too hot with the breeze being intermittent. When I got to the cut-off for the Old Jeep Trail I went for it although the inclines/declines were much steeper than Lost Dog. I need more water with me and heavier socks. My feet are taking a beating even in my hiking shoes.
Old Jeep Trail seems very remote with a fabulous view south after a long climb up. I feel so grateful to have access to these trails and well maintained trail heads. On the way home I stopped at Gateway and was amazed at the trails in the preserve that are even closer to home than Lost Dog Wash. Tom's Thumb and Thompson Peak are rated very difficult; maybe I can do them by the end of this year.
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