After several solo hikes on maintained trails, it was time to do a group hike with a portion of it off trail so I joined the X=treme club, made up of a bunch of very fit, fun loving people, some of them showing up for Sunday's hike (from left Tobin, the real deal hiker and climber, Susana, Steven our leader, Robert, who bailed early, Wendi, Brian, Tess and Jo). Actually, as I looked around the group I got the same feeling that I have when rolling out with the Thursday New Albany A group ride, the hammer is about to drop and I am the nail.
Today's destination, the "Knob" which you can probably figure out what that would be from looking at the image. Only about 3 miles away, which is not far except when there are millions and millions of plants between us and the Knob, the sole purpose of which is to deny us access to that feature. Departing via the Pima Canyon trailhead, we quickly covered 1.8 miles on a good trail before reaching a turn that had a subtle arrow made of stones, that pointed off trail.....
.....up a ravine and so we began a trek through cat-claw, saguaro, prickly pear, hedgehog, jumping cholla, staghorn cholla, barrel cactus, etc... each of which shoot barbed projectiles deep into the unfortunate who stray too closely to them. Would you care to
guess who strayed, fell or skidded into them more than anyone? Yes, the pilgrim from Ohio, me
I'm not overstating the difficulty of the hike. It wasn't the steepness or the distance, that I can handle. It was the vegetation that seemed to have gotten the message, "Kill the Buckeye". This plant in particular was evilly placed and placed thickly. Called "Shin Dagger" by the locals, they grow everywhere and on top of each other and those points yield to nothing that is not sheathed in cement, steel or titanium, none of which enveloped my legs.. Good heavens, what I wouldn't do for a thicket of blackberry bushes to wade through as an alternative.
As we hiked along the east side of the ravine, we spotted a family of 12-15 javelinas on the opposite side, both they and us headed for the same saddle. Somewhere in there they disappeared and we reached the saddle, then headed up another side
ravine where some of us paused to climb this rock and pose. Yep, the views were, as always, fantastic.
Eventually, we reached another saddle, just below the knob and paused to eat. Here, our leader Steven, converses with Jo with a nice background.
Most of the group then climbed the Knob but I had to beg out, needing instead to borrow a pair of tweezers, retreat behind a boulder, drop my hiking pants and remove dozens of imbedded spines. The ones from the cactus, while set deep into the skin, were easy albeit painful, to remove. It was the dozens of very thin ones that provided the challenge as they were hard to see while being easy to feel. Here, most of the group reached the top of the Knob, via a challenging chimney climb. I was bummed that I could not join them. Maybe you can see them at the top?
The way down to the Finger Route trail, two canyons from where we stood, had not previously been scouted by our leader. We could see where we wanted to go but discerning the route was difficult as we sought to avoid getting cliffed out with no advance possible. We traversed a steep slope while I thought often how Mark Clingan, my Ohio off-trail hiking buddy, would have loved this experience. The terrain was very tough and at some point my feet slid out from under me and predictably, my back fell into a patch of shin daggers and spine injecting plants. The good news is I guess your rear end doesn't have the nerve endings that the rest of your body has, otherwise I would have screamed like a 5 year-old child. I also benefited from a very kind fellow hiker, Wendi, who immediately ordered me to stop while she patiently picked out the largest of the daggers.
The way down to the base of the canyon was challenging, a very steep drop scrambling over boulders, slick rock, just wild stuff really. We took turns breaking the trail and at one point, Tess walked into and then emerged from a thicket of cat-claw, legs covered with rivulets of blood. The rest of us sought a workaround. We finally reached the bottom and looked upward at a notch in a ridge over which we still had to climb, before dropping into another canyon where we would hike out via the Finger Rock trail. OR, we could just hike down the canyon in which we stood, reach a gated community and hike to the parking lot. While the down
canyon route was off trail and undoubtedly tough, I had had enough of the shin daggers and friends and so joined Brian, Wendi and Jo for the scrambling route to....
....the red brick road that eventually led us to our cars. A friendly wager had been made at the parting of the group in the canyon and I was thrilled we won. I immediately drove to a market and bought a pair of tweezers, spending most of Sunday night's NFL game picking stuff out of my skin. Now, I'm watching Monday Night football and still digging out plant stingers. I need better clothing I guess or a better understanding of which plants shoot projectiles and should be avoided. Geesh, only 6 miles, 2600' of climbing but almost 8 hours of hiking.