I led this hike for some Forest Service people who had never been in that area before. I've hiked with two of them several times (on designated trails) and knew them to be strong hikers. The third guy was a last minute addition. I described what this hike would entail beforehand so there would be no ugly surprises. Well...
Everyone was psyched for the trip and we left the trailhead by 8am. The first 4 miles down the Dutchman Trail was filled with lightness and happy chatter. As we speed marched through Boulder Basin, we almost trampled a Sonoran Whipsnake who was on the edge of the trail with a lizard in its mouth (sideways). This kind of activity seemed unusual, since it was barely 60 degrees and the sun was just beginning to peek out from the cloud cover. I stared at the spectacle for a full minute before I even thought to reach for my camera. By then it had grown tired of us gawking at it and disappeared into the brush. Where is Angela when you need her? I could probably use a refresher course in 'tibber mode'. I think I only took 6 photos all day.
I took everyone out the long way, since they had never seen Little Boulder Canyon. Once we turned off the trail and began the rock hop, the friendly banter abruptly ceased and hints of grumbling were coming from the rear. I hoped that I was just imagining that because if they thought this was unpleasant, there was a big surprise in store for them ahead.
When we got to the area where you start climbing up, I mentioned again that there was no real trail and the two common routes on either side were very difficult to follow going up, but much easier to see coming back down. I pointed to the spot on top that we were aiming for and proceeded ahead seeking the path of least resistance.
Having done some serious off-trail hiking with me before, Dean was initially enthusiastic about the challenge. We spread out as scouts looking for the best route for the two behind us to follow. As the climb got steeper, the footing got looser and the brush got thicker, the mutterings of discontent were impossible to ignore. Hoping to avoid a strike, I decided I'd better play my Ace, so I brought out the cookies. But, I knew this was only a temporary distraction and we still had a long way to go.
Back on the move, Dean took the lead. Maybe he thought there was a trail here somewhere and I was failing them. Or, maybe he just wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. The other two followed him, leaving me at the rear. Abandoning our present route, he took off in a different direction with the others behind. I chose to continue in the same direction. After 5 minutes or so, I thought I should stop and get a fix on their location. That was about the time they noticed I was not behind them and I could hear them asking each other, "Where's Kat?" and "We lost Kat." I could see them turning around to look for me below. I watched this for a few moments just to build suspense (an admittedly evil gesture intended as payback for having so little faith in me). Then I called out and much to their surprise, I was far above them. Vindicated, I waited for them to catch up before continuing on.
But, it wasn't long before the grievance committee resumed with a vengeance. We were 3/4 of the way up and there was talk of stopping now for lunch and then going back down. Sensing a mutiny, I implored them to continue. "It may not look like it, but we are almost there... really! The hardest part of the climb is behind you. You can't quit now." I was looking into 3 faces that seemed quite anxious to 'unfriend' me. From their nervous backward glances, I could tell they had serious concerns about getting back down. I told them, "Getting down isn't nearly as hard as going up. There's a pretty good route to my left that's easy to follow and it won't take half as long. You can see it pretty well all the way down - you just can't see it to go up. We're almost to the top now." They seemed to visibly relax (a little) and I took that as my cue to press on, although, I'm sure they hadn't ruled out the possibility that they were being led to their doom by the poster child for criminal insanity.
Without further drama, we made it to the top, where they all marveled at the view, forgetting the cost. Still no one seemed very interested in doing much exploring on top. I was the only one to venture out to the spines while they stayed at the crest and had lunch.
As luck would have it, I wasn't lying about the trip down and we made it easily in good time. With nothing but clear sailing ahead, good spirits returned and after an informal vote, it was decided that my life should be spared this one time.
The only other person we saw all day was less than a quarter mile from the trailhead on our way back... a 300+ lb man walking a 3 lb dog who stopped us to ask what has now moved up to the top of my list of "Just When You Think You've Heard Everything". As he gestured toward the entire wilderness that he had just barely stepped into, he asked, "Is there anything out there, or is it just more of the same?" Fortunately, I was momentarily speechless. Knowing my limitations and realizing that no good could possibly come from any response on my part, I immediately vacated the scene - leaving Georgy to field this one in her usual diplomatic fashion. I have no idea what she said to him because I was already too far away by the time she composed herself well enough to reply.