I am sitting here writing this after having re-assessed the price paid for seeing the red rocks hidden up in the hills to the west of me. I’m out here in nothing but swimming trunks, soaking in a bit of winter desert sun. There is blood pictured in this post, just to warn you.
On the way back from my previous days hike, at the end of the road, I encountered a pair of gentlemen, one an old-timer from the area. We chatted for a bit and then I asked him what else I might hike to from where I was parked down the road. “Oh, you need to hike up the canyon, turn left and climb the hill”. Then you look for the third rock on the left and climb until dawn, at least for all I know that is what he said – my memory is like a sieve. I remember we talked about where the trail head was on the road – there is a little branch road just up the road from me, marked with a ‘do not drive on’ sign. He said the trail head is right there. We talked a bit more. “Too many people up here now”, he complained. There were perhaps five vehicles that had come there this Saturday – I could see we were kindred nomad spirits. I thanked the pair for the tips, and planned my next day’s hike while I was walking the road back to my RV.
For the second day, I was up again at 6:30. But since I was sleeping well, going out like a light at 10 pm, this really was plenty of sleep. I got up, and watched the sun rise out my window, drinking my coffee and eating my cereal. So much better than reading the news first thing in the morning.
I studied the googles satellite map I had saved – internet is non-existent here, and text messaging just barely works. Really, perfect to get me off the grid, but not so far I was unable to summon help in an emergency. I thought I saw the canyon the old fellow had talked about, in the wash up ahead that would have been really challenging for my RV to climb out of. Preparing a lunch, I set off – I figured if I could find the trail, I’d figure the rest out as I went.
I get to the wash and cast about for a trail, nothing. Walk past it a good ways, looking for a trail. Finally I spot the faintest of trails, heading out. Up it I go. It peters out pretty quick. I consult my googles map, and my tracker – doesn’t look quite right.
There is a little ridge up ahead, with a new trail. I can climb that and see if the other side to the south is where I need to go rather than to my north where I thought the canyon was. I climb up, and see a little canyon ahead. It that where I need to go? It’s not big, but looks more like a canyon compared to the north that just looks like a big cliff face you pass by going into the back valley. South then. It is an easy hike to the canyon edge, I decide to go up to the left, as you usually can’t pass through the canyon. I see a bowl ahead, but the canyon seems to end there. There is water down there, so down I go. It’s tricky getting down there. Where is the water? Must be up ahead of this dense scrub. No going through it down low. I already know to the left is impossible from coming down that way. Up the right side I go. Nope, brush that way too. Climb back down, turn around and head downstream ten meters.
There is my pool! Cripey, if I’d just turned around and looked down there in the first place I’d have saved myself ten minutes of scraping my way through scrub. It’s a pretty spot, but I realize I have gone the wrong way. Should have gone north.
I look up here and see a way to climb up and out. I figure I’ll go up and over to the big wash valley, get a nice view along the way. How hard could that be?
I find another one of those picture windows and shoot another shot. This one is sitting with a nice overhang, you could shelter here from storms in any direction other than wind from the south. There is evidence animals have done that here. I climb around, and continue up. The rock changes into the white granite that sheds little rocks that pebble the ground. I’ve grown to hate them, easy to miss against their mother rock, when you are counting on a firm footing for your next step. Uphill is always easier than downhill on such loose gravels, I figure no problem, I’m going one way only this time. But I still monitor that it’s not too bad, I know well I may have to backtrack.
I reach the ridge top and look around me. Not a bad view, hey, I see some red rocks over there, wonder if it’s one of the rock formations the old man was talking about?
I also see a trail, way, way down, and over another ridge a bit below me. With a big drop in between I’ll have to climb again. Sigh. What concerns me way more is that I’m surrounded by this light fine gravel sitting on top of the light granite. How the hell am I going to get over there? I take a swig of water, leave my stuff behind and hike up the ridge a little ways, hoping it will reveal a better path.
I see nothing but fine light gravel, other than a wedge of larger rocks I might be able to scree scramble down. Consider that as a last resort perhaps. I climb back down to my pack and survey around me, looking for some solid rock I can just scramble down. Nothing appears to exist. I think the last resort is going to be the way to go.
I climb back up, then start down the scree. There is a plan B, it’s called “by the seat of my pants”. If the rock all starts moving, you sit on it and follow it down like going down a slide. You may ruin your pants doing this, but it serves the purpose of getting you down, fast! Trump would approve.
Down I go, sticking with ‘plan A’ for the time being, slow and steady, use my handy dandy walking stick I found to prod down, use my foot to build a little foot rest first before stepping down. I go down. Slowly. I reach the first shrubs. This is looking doable. I relax a bit and continue down, gaining speed as the footing becomes better.
To my right I see this band of bright red rocks more clearly now – really impressive colors! I reach the bottom and wander up the gully the rest of the way to inspect them.
I’m still not sure, but this might be the rocks the old man was talking about, I may have just gotten to them by an alternate route. Very pretty spot though. I snap a few more pics and turn to contemplate getting down. Now I have a water course to follow, assuming it doesn’t go over a sheer drop, it’s easier to follow.
I head down. The first part is easy, just follow the water. There are actual bits of water pooled here and there, and some nice shade from the sun. I hit a pretty good drop. I veer off to the right, seeing a ledge that drops down. One tricky bit, narrow with an overhang I need to pass, then easy after that. I grab a little rock bit hanging off, it breaks right off. OK, this is very loose rock in this overhang. Grab a much bigger rock and quickly pass the narrow bit.
Not quick enough. The bigger rock comes off as I let go and I dislodge a rock that hits me on the head. I’m glad I have my hat on! I scurry past the rest of the overhang, not trusting any of it now, and stop for a status check. Everything still seems like it was before. The hit seems no worse than bumping one’s head on a sharp corner – hurts a bit, but things seem OK. I think, without the hat that would have been at least a minor concussion. Hell, it might *be* a minor concussion, what do I know? But there is nothing to do but move on, I feel normal, and my head stops hurting after a few minutes.
Down we go, following the gully. All of a sudden, the gully turns hard left from the direction I want to go. Pause for a moment, consider turning right and going over the ridge. Discard that idea, continue following the gully, it may veer right again and I can easily climb back up if not. I come to a pretty major drop. Climb a little to the left to see if this goes where I want.
Well, fuck me, I’m looking right back at the bowl I climbed up from, I’m only a few hundred feet over, and a few hundred feet up from it! So, it’s back up, and up to the ridge now! That is a long climb, good thing I still have lots of energy left today. Up I go. It’s easier walking at least. It occurs to me that backtracking all of this would be pretty challenging; I’m really hoping to find an alternate way down to avoid going up and over the treacherous white granite again. You have to think like this constantly when trekking cross country. A loop like I just did can end in a cliff you didn’t expect, then you are walking the whole thing in reverse! You never stop thinking – do something stupid out here, take one too many risks, and it can kill you, full stop.
But the day is young, I still have lots of water, and a lunch ahead I’m not hungry for yet. I climb up, staying left where I can be in the shade climbing, a trick I learned from seeing how the trails are laid out at White Tank Mountain Park. I get to the top, and look around.
Well fuck me, again! I’m looking down at the trail for the Horse Tanks, there is the big pool, and over there the road!
I see and hear people starting up the trail, this time a thousand feet over and below me. The see me, and yell “Hello up There!” I yell back, “Hello down there!” Really, they don’t need to yell, I can pick up most of their conversation from where I am at – sound carries far in the desert. I turn and contemplate where to go next. It’s Hobson’s choice now – follow the ridge line back north, it should eventually give me a route down to the wash.
At least it’s easy walking once I’m off the little knoll I was looking down on the Horse Tanks, plod along, fairly confident there will be a way down somewhere along here. I see lizards occasionally. Since the walking is easier here, I take out my SLR and stalk a few them. Fast little buggers, I never get a single shot of them, even though I spot three of ’em. I go down into a bit of a gully, follow that down a bit, and over the ridge again, but before I can start up that again, I see a trail! Now this makes sense, the wash to the north I’m heading to is the original one I was deciding on at the beginning of this story, this is the trail the old guy was telling me about that takes me to the red rocks I was looking at!
The trail is faint, and I find my self off it above or below it, but I always find it again going down. I’m no Strider, but I can follow some pretty faint trails. The trail takes me down off the ridge, and down a little gully, back into the north wash. I find a shady spot and sit down for lunch.
It’s a lovely spot, but nothing special. I wanted shade and a rock that could work as a seat, having found that – the view was what it was. I could see downstream that the rest of the hike was going to be straightforward. I’d be back in plenty of time to take a stab at fixing my mirror, which was one of my previous payments to the spirit of Kofa. An easy hike down, and I was back at my rig.
There was no blood, you say? I thought so too, until I took my hat off.
WTF, I think to myself – touching where I got hit by the rock, it’s all sticky with blood, and I feel a little gash there. Oh yeah, it was a good thing I was wearing my hat, saved me from a much more serious gash! I get the antiseptic ointment I saved from my previous payment to Kofa, dab off the blood and apply to wound. Considering I have been writing all this since then, I think I’m OK as far as concussion goes but you be the judge on if my ramblings have become insane or not.
To be safe I will relax and just do just a little walk near the rig later today. Sometimes concussions start showing effects later on. I have a beer, enjoying the sun and cool breeze on me. Going to leave here tomorrow, I think Kofa has taken enough of a toll on me. Must go and look at that mirror though, do that next!