Before leaving Utah I completed one more quick hike to Calf Creek Falls. It was a crowded but beautiful 6 miles round trip to see this:
I did the hike rather fast, mostly because my enjoyment of nature is directly correlated to the amount of people present…and the crowd on this hike was less than ideal. As it turns out, there are many places I may never even visit due to their popularity. That said, I was headed to the very uncrowded Superstition Mountains of Arizona.
I drove south on a very hot day in my non air conditioned car, eager to escape overpopulated trails and to get a little lost in solitude and beauty. The first trail I meant to venture out on was going o be about 7 miles round trip…but somehow I ended up on a completely different trail once again. The trailhead was dubious at best, and turned out to be one that wasn’t even in my guidebook. It was about 3 miles round trip to a cool cave with an intense climb and pretty decent views. The whole area was populated with beautiful Saguaro cacti, many in bloom. The most dictionary definition cactus there is…and particularly beautiful. I fell for their towering heights, bent arms and white flowers immediately. Yup, smitten with a cactus.
For the next day I was headed to Pinon Peak so ventured out towards the trailhead to find camp. I ended up taking the “Apache Trail,” a highway with 25 MPH speeds and surpentine curves that wound so deeply I hardly knew which direction I was going. It was a stunning drive if not a little white knuckle inducing.
It took longer than planned to get to my destination, but I arrived just after sunset. There was a camp along the dirt road to the trail so I settled in there to make dinner. Now as nature dictates, the urge to go answer her call can be unexpected at times and not ideal in a dark, foreign landscape…especially in the Arizona desert. The ground being super dense to the point where I couldn’t even get a tent stake in, digging a hole was out of the question. I began collecting rocks and in the process was stabbed in the finger by a cholla cactus. This one I am not so smitten with as it immediately took hold of my skin with its barbed spine. In my haste I broke the barb off in my skin and was left with a painful reminder of it still in my pinky, though that was not the issue that had a growing urgency.
I found a nearby sage bush by which to deal with business and squatted down next to it. Just as my trousers reached my knees there came a loud and insistent rattle and hiss from the nearby bush. Hair now standing on end over my entire body, I leapt up and hobbled away as fast as possible…yup, pants still down.
You know that expression about having the s*it scared out of you? I had the opposite problem.
So, I scrapped the mission and went to bed, wary of my new and incredibly harsh surroundings.
By morning I was eager to get some hiking in and got to the trailhead early. My hike was about 15 miles and I wanted enough time to complete it without having to push during the heat of the desert in midday. It was a lot of climbing, but I was feeling the need to gain elevation and work out the kinks of the previous day and night. If you didn’t know, climbing mountains is some of the beat therapy there is. A therapy I am an avid fan of and was in dire need of. The Arizona deserts harsh welcome had me feeling trepidations about being there alone, yet hungry for the thrill of overcoming the challenge.
The hike was hot, steep and just what the doctor ordered. A storm nearing from the distance lit enough fire under me to execute the climb fast. The descent was too steep to do hastily, so I painstakingly took the short and slow steps down the slopes to where the book says, “now just walk cross country back to your car.”
Easier said than done! I had a good compass reading, but it required commando crawling under a barbed wire fence and walking over countless arroyos in fields of cholla cactus. The cholla is also known as, “jumping cactus,” as it breaks off in pieces to travel about the landscape and dig in to new territory…including unlucky hikers trying to find their car. I scoffed at the guidebooks as I yanked cholla barbs out of my legs and ankles. Frustration arose in me as rain set in…vut there was such a peace and calm to the fresh rain in the desert. It smelled like a new day and after my successful summit, I wasn’t feeling too defeated. In fact, I began to feel pretty stellar when I finally spotted my car, even as the many punctures in my skin reminded me of the barbs I had only recently yanked out.
I then drove to nearby Roosevelt lake and ate lunch at the covered picnic tables while a desert thunderstorm crashed all around me. It was awesome.
I camped on BLM land at a spot called, “Oak Hollow,” that is considered sacred to the local natives. They welcome people to come, but are concerned about local mining interests taking over the site (which includes native burial grounds). You could really feel the protective energy of the place, yet the mines looming nearby do not bode well for the land. It is an everyday struggle for those who are fighting to protect it and I hope they succeed. It made me sad that Native people are still defending their land against capitalistic interests.
The day having been a reality check, I then reevaluated my plans for the coming days. I still planned some hikes, but tried to choose ones that I knew I could tackle solo, saving the more difficult ones that attracted me more for a future visit with a companion or 2.