Five of us, Paul, Lauren, Nancy, hike leader Phil and me, shove off at 7:45am for a 16 mile loop hike through the Superstition Wilderness, beginning at the First Water trail head. This hike was atypical of what I usually do, hike to a prominent destination check it out (Window. Finger Rock, some arch, some mountain, etc...) and return. Instead this was described as the Marsh Valley loop and while we passed several prominent features, we did not actually visit any, just a hike among features. Today's forecast high was 90 with light winds. For a guy just arrived from the usual inactive Ohio winter, today was going to hurt at some point.
We got on to Second Water trail, hiked through Garden Valley and began the descent toward Boulder Canyon where the awesome Battleship Mountain can be seen although the mountain behind it makes the definition of the "ship" difficult to see. Note the trail, very rocky with loose gravel so one should keep their head down but not only for the purpose of secure footing but the rattlers are out now, having emerged from their dens a couple of weeks ago.
We hung a right at the creek bed of Boulder Canyon and began making numerous crossings from one bank to the other while heading upstream. The roar of an aircraft approached and a vintage WWII plane flew over head. I watched helplessly, unable to get my camera out in time but quickly, another appeared, then another, a total of five. Very cool scene.
Eventually we reached a sign indicating we had reached the Cavalry trail and headed out of the creek bed, above on the left with the back end of Battleship upper right, to go up and over a saddle prior to.....
....dropping into this creek with many Cottonwoods and other plants thriving. Paul, Lauren and I had gotten out front a couple of times and after regrouping....
...Lauren put the hammer down. I don't know how she does on inclines, probably very well but on this flatish terrain, a few times I had to jog to keep up. The pace had to be over 4mph which for walking, is fast. I had my head down to watch the trail, heard a noise, looked up and thwack, a branch came back and caught me in the face with entry into my left eye. My own fault for following too closely. The eye began watering profusely and I found the sun's glare aggravated the condition so I walked with a hand over the eye. Kind of awkward.
Lauren and Paul stopped to regroup but I had to keep going, wishing I had a pair of sunglasses. I was in a part of the Superstitions with which I was unfamiliar and not wanting to get lost, paused to check my map a few times. Always reassuring to reach signed trail junctions to indicate I was on track. Note Weaver's Needle in the background.
I was startled to come on a horse and sitting beside it was an authentic cowboy, retired. Nice guy and I had a good chat with him. Lives in northern Idaho but drives to AZ to ride each year. He was enjoying the shade and smoking a cigar.
After awhile, the constant eye watering had the desired effect of cleansing my eye so I could at least walk without covering the eye. I passed below Ayor's Arch, a place I visited a couple of times in December. Great destination if you can find it. I keep walking, the only sound being the noise of the wind and my feet plodding when suddenly....
...I hear the very distinctive buzz of a rattlesnake rattle. My right foot, paused short of completing it's step and I pulled it back even with my left foot. Instinctively you want to run or jump away but first you must locate the snake. The sound, constant, seemed as if it was coming from all around but finally, I saw it trail edge, about 5 feet ahead to my right. It seemed agitated and kept rattling even as it slowly retreated into brush and rocks. I think it was a Western Diamondback and probably my 11th encounter with a rattler. I seem to have an undesirable knack for finding them.
From that point forward, I scanned the trail carefully to avoid a closer encounter, eventually reaching the parking lot with 16 miles, about 1900' of elevation gain and in 6:15 or right at 2:00pm. My feet, hurt a bunch. Well, back to cycling having ridden Wed and Thursday, the Friday hike and now a Saturday group ride coming. The local cycling community was rocked Thursday when a group of 10 cyclists, stopped at a light in a bike lane, two blocks from my place, had a truck, driven by a guy who was drunk and texting, run into them. Two dead, including a guy who had led many local rides. The driver did not flee the scene and has been charged with multiple counts. So sad.