Okay... it's a bit less than 10 hours into my hiking day... I'm sitting here on this rock. Sitting is a good thing. I'm tired and a bit foot sore, and reflecting on just exactly what brought me to be on this particular rock. It is not where I'm supposed to be.
The first half of the planned day went of without a hitch... I explored and documented Beeman Canyon. It was a very nice drainage... with a really great giant rock section (the Jumble). It was a demanding bit of hiking although my GPS did not think so; it kept logging me out on breaks, thinking that I'd stopped, when in fact I was just going too slow for it to believe I could really be doing any work. Just the opposite; that was the hard work area... slow and go bouldering. It turned out to be a much more spiritual experience than I'd planned, but that is not really a bad thing (... all that blood sacrifice!) I hit the peak feeling pretty good... and then decided to change the planned day. I was supposed to drop off the south side of the peak, traverse the ridge and drop down to cut Lost Trail... following that back home. But, once on top I did not feel like finding a downclimb throught the cliffs, nor did I relish the thought of making my way across the snow covered ridge, much less down the hill over untried ground... it just sounded nicer to hit the trails and make my way home the longer way. So, off I went.
Now, the one negative aspect of the trail: it heads off in the opposite direction of home... adding 3-6 miles over all to the total. It also dropped down 1600' on the wrong side of the mountain... which all had to be regained, plus more, to loop back over to the homeward side. These thoughts weighed heavy on me as I headed off... and I think they influenced my pattern of not so good decisions from that point onward for the day.
As I made my way down to Dry Canyon, then hiking up the trail towards Ortega Peak, I kept gazing to the ridge line above me on my right, and noticed what appeared to be a lower cut to the ridge... and it occurred to me that if that cut were as easy to climb as it appears, and crossed the ridge about the right distance north of Ortega Peak, then it could save me 3-4 miles of hiking, and possibly cut off 300-500 feet of climbing... both very appealing. So, off and up I went. It was a fun climb, mostly up a bedrock cut. What I failed to notice, was that the cut curved and angled away from Ortega... slanting back to the north. Now, I did have a GPS unit that with one glance I could have seen the error of my way... but, no... I hiked up and up... and, low and behold, crested the ridge to find myself back up where I had been two hours earlier... that place where I decided I did not want to do the cliff, ridge, snow thing. And now, this late in the day, it was no longer even an option. I needed to get off the mountain before it got dark... so, once again I was trailing down to Dry Canyon!
And to this rock... 17 miles into my hiking day... maybe a bit over an hour and a half left before sunset... I'm guessing 4 miles of off trail wash will carry me out of the mountains... and unfortunately, all the wrong direction... with, I'm guessing six miles back to the mouth of Beeman Canyon, looping around the foothills. Now, if it were just those ten miles, not all that bad, but the kicker for this day: I did not drive to the trailhead; I hiked that 5.5 miles from my house! So... am I looking at those 4 miles down canyon, six miles around, then 5.5 miles home on already beat up feet?
I did get lucky. It was 4 miles down... and I was able to slice the homeward section down to 5 miles.. but, the traverse was only two miles around!
13 hours... 23 minutes... home at 8:30pm
I be tired...