Wanted to get in one good last hike before my ten day road trip to the NW visiting cousins, continuing up with following from last summer's route of the Ice Age Floods (incredible what happened to cause the landscape in part of western Montana, northern Idaho, Washington, Oregon all the way to the coast), visiting cousins, touring the west coast from Astoria to Bandon and then over inland via scenic highways to Portland. Oh, and did I mention we'll be visiting cousins.... mostly second cousins.
Anyway, I won't get to hike hike for at least two weeks unless getting in and out of the car a zillion times counts . I wanted to hike on Saturday but you know, it just looked too cold and the weather still seemed tenuous so I opted to go on Sunday after I had breakfast at Village Inn. Don't know that I've hiked much after having a nice breakfast out. Well the breakfast thing was a story in itself but I don't want to digress more than I already have.
I started hiking around 8:30AM from the 104th St TH. Before approaching the Levee Trail there was actually a good puddle of water; not something I'm used to seeing out here. The Levee Trail
is starting to be encroached upon by creosote bushes and they are pretty happy about that with all this rain. I decided not to crossover to the Gateway Trail until the Paradise crossover just to miss some of the people traffic.
Slightly before the old trail that crosses over to Gateway my HAZtraks had some kind of blip and told me I had gone another 1/2 mi after barely going a couple 10ths mi and that now I was at 5.83 miles "zoom zoom". Serious, she said "zoom zoom". WHAT? So I pulled the HAZtraks out, saved the track and started over. Well of course that would confuse me the rest of the day as now I had to use my head to get the real mileage.
Soon I arrived at the turn off to Bell Pass Trail
thinking it was only 1.5 mi but alas it is 2. Oh well. I looked at my watch and figured I should make it in an hour at 10:15 but I'd give myself an extra 15 minutes just in case I wasn't feeling it. I kind of like this part of the trail and it was such a nice day even as my temporary filtered light disappeared into the big blue sky after the clash of the clouds scene I witnessed earlier
As I got about 1/2 mile from starting the climb I decided I was struggling. Funny thing, I hiked the trail in my head and had no problem; sheesh! Well I kept going remembering I had no problem when I hiked this with Kelly on our way to do McDowell/Drinkwater Peaks. But today, it was an effort. So I pulled over in the shade and got my poles out. Thank goodness I decided to hike with my regular pack rather than what I call my city pack.
So up I started still struggling. Reminded me of my time going up Bear Mountain last Nov though not quite as bad. I was determined to get up to the Pass
because I didn't want to have a failure lingering in my head while on my road trip. So one foot in front of the other with a moment or two to check out the scenery. I kept thinking of all the other hikers I know that would already be at the Pass with the pace they can do.
I wasn't sure if I could get 'er done and sure didn't know if I would continue to Windgate or just go back but shockingly, at 10:20, I was there. I actually don't think this trail is that hard as it has some nice level areas but I just wasn't feeling it. So I had my banana, gathered my wits and headed east down the trail. It was a glorious morning really.
I saw a big lizard move across the trail in front of me. That was a big lizard so I softened my step hoping to see what it was. I was delighted to see an eastern collared lizard. I always get a little jealous when so many people get to see the critters and I don't. I showed the lizard to some other hikers coming but they didn't seem as impressed as me; oh well. A little further down I saw some blooming prickly pear, saguaros and palo verdes; all of it helped to pick up my spirits and Tibber was back
. I made good time over to the Windgate intersection admiring the scenery along the way.
I drank some gatorade and now tackled Windgate Trail
. I knew I was back to normal so it wasn't a problem at all and the elevation gain is so gradual. Soon I was at the saddle eating my snack and drinking a little more gatorade. I did a FB check in with a cell phone photo of the mountain that turned out not good even with editing. One of these times I'll figure that out
. The gnats were wanting to play so it was time to get moving west down the pass. I still had my trekking poles so I could get up some speed when I wanted. I was taking the time to check out the geology and the flora. I looked over to my right and there was a pretty good sized saguaro with blooms and as I was taking a picture of it, I suddenly noticed Tom's Thumb sticking out above it. Don't know that I've noticed Tom's Thumb from there before.
Once at the Gateway Loop
intersection I put away the poles (they really help you maintain good speed on the rockier downhill), put away my hat and brot out the Chrome Dome. Body shade is just so much nicer than shade for my head. One fellow asked me "if it was raining at the Pass" and I said "no, but I was prepared just in case
" . There is this one area I pass not too far from here that I always remember my heat exhaustion debacle that I had. I learned a lot from that but it is still a bad hiking memory.
I thot about going back via Gateway Saddle but I wanted to finish this route the exact same way I did in Oct 2011 to erase the bad karma I had that day. Today on the other hand, after my initial Bell Pass struggle, I was rolling. I figured johnlp and trekkin gecko were probably done with their hike. The trail from the VC junction to Levee Trail Junction with 104th St
was longer than I thought. I wanted to be done by 1:30 and would have been except for that extra 10 minutes I struggled on Bell Pass.
So now I can go NW with a good hike under my belt. Here are 3 movies I did. I was by myself so there is a lot of narration.