Met up with mt98dew in the dark parking lot of a semi-abandoned old K-Mart at 32nd & Shea at 0530, flashing lights like an old episode of Barreta (minus Huggy Bear). We decided to take my car, rather than convoy. Trailhead is right across 87 from 188. On the southeast corner of 87 and 188 is a latrine building. Started hiking about 0705.
A half mile into the hike, I realized had left my lovingly hand-photoshopped topo, complete with mileage tick marks, on the center console of my car. Great. We both had GPS’s, and mt98dew had a Beartooth-like map, so onward. The first two miles were a gradual climb across a grass plateau. Only flowers in evidence were the usual few millimeters-sized purple and red ground-huggers. As the canyon began narrowing, the trail started alternately edging the north hillside and crossing the creak, which varied from intermittent to a very steady flow, with some pools deep enough for wading. Clear and definitely drinkable. Very rocky, unsteady, footing but no wet crossings. Where the trail edges the hillside, there about a half dozen trees you need to duck under. Also, the trail is narrow and the footing slippery.
I noticed that the mapping on my GPS seemed to be off. Perhaps because even though it was sunny out, the canyon was still in heavy shade, restricting access to all but five satellites. The routing was fine, but the directional arrow was off by quite a bit.
Two and a half hours, and 3.6 miles in, between the creek that splits north and the one that splits south, the canyon gets much narrower and debris strewn. We had been planning doing the full loop in about six hours, but given we would not make it to Camp Grasshopper until at least four hours, and truncating the loop looked like while it might save distance, it would take extra effort and not save time, so we decided to turn around. Might have been safer to keep going.
I’m a trail watcher. I keep my eyes down. Partly to avoid crawlies, but also to avoid a misstep that might damage my already bad knees. (Or roll an ankle.) Yet even off trail, I have always had a bad habit of bashing my head into things. First time was when I was five years old: Sliding down a slide, on the cool-kids edge (not in the middle), I fell off. It was such fun, I decided to do it again, but fell off on purpose … whereupon the slide tipped over and bashed my head a couple stitches worth. Anyway, on the way up, I had already clocked myself a few times, but on the way down did myself proud. Bammo! I let out a stream of Teutonic consciousness, fell to my knees, slapped a hand to my hat — and could already feel the blood soaking through. You okay? Yeah, I can deal. Can you get a picture?
A little bit further down the trail — not sure if it was before or after we met williamnwendi on their way up — I had another, much scarier incident. Like I said, I am pretty careful with my footing, always testing before I put weight on a rock. I must have missed something, because when I stepped on the edge of a rock, it fulcrumed, flipping over, snapping my lower left leg against another rock. Not sure how it did not break, but I was in a weird position where I was having hard time lifting it. Thankfully mt98dew was there!
After that incident mt98dew asked me if I had ever had any near death experiences. (The answer is yes, parachuting, and time really does slow down.)
On the trip back across the grassy area, I noticed that several flowers had bloomed the last several hours due to the more direct sunlight.
We got back to the trailhead about 1130. I took off my cap and looked in the mirror. It was a good one. I got a cleansing pad out of my pack and started scrubbing. My head started bleeding again, more drooling than anything serious, so I applied pressure with the Disney bandanna I found on Walkin’ Jim last Spring. Mickey looked like Scarface. First aid complete, we saddled up and moseyed on back to Fountain Hills. Guesstimated distance as I forgot to turn off my GPS until I was a few miles back down 87. The ride west on Shea was rush-hour heavy all the way from 87 back to the semi-abandoned K-Mart. Odd, as previous Sunday returns from the Maza-whatevers were much lighter.
Distance: 7.20 mi.
AEG: 1,400 ft.
Time: 4h 00m