I arrive a bit before 6:30am at Sabino Canyon and already the parking lot is about half full this Sunday morning. Sunny and a high of 82 forecast for today although the current temperature of 54 had me with arm warmers, t-shirt and long pants because portions of the trail were bound to have leg cutters.
The pink highlighted peak on the right is Cathedral Rock, the 4th highest in the mountain range and a way cool place with the "inner sanctum", scrambling with exposure, rope climb and awesome views. It's about 9 miles to the peak with the last 1 mile an off trail bush whack. Oh, also gaining close to 6000' of elevation. To make it to there and back in the allotted daylight, I have to hike at a good pace with few breaks.
After a half mile walk along the tram road, I enter Esperero trail on the left and soon rise above the valley. I have a waist pack and a book bag I found works great as a water carrier. I should be good with 4 liters of fluid.
Oh boy, I enter Cardiac Gap, an aptly named steep climb of around 2 miles.
Reaching the saddle, now 2 hours into the hike, I can see into the inner canyon through which water is flowing. Eventually the trail will enter and cross the creek several times.
Looking up, I am closing on Cathedral Rock but first have to hike counterclockwise through the grass land known as Geronimo Meadows. I expected the monsoon and recent rains to have worked their magic on the plants and geesh....
....was I correct. What I thought odd though was not only was the grass tall and laying over the trail but grass was growing out of the middle of the trail. It was then I realized that the days of summer 100 degree temps had probably limited traffic and few had passed this way since April/May. I kept losing the trail and began to pull grass in places so on my way back I would not have too much trouble staying on the route.
After awhile, both hands were bleeding a little from breaking bush branches and pulling grass from the trail.
The trail dropped into the aforementioned canyon and I began crossing the stream several times but again, if the trail would make a sharp turn to the right or left, I would lose it, walking into the brush which was not much different from the trail. My progress was really slow as I had to repeatedly stop and look, ok, where do I go now? Aggravating.
At Bridal Veil Falls at about mile 6, the trail entered this thick growth of bushes and no visible trail. From previous experience, I knew the most over grown section of the trail was in front of me, a mile+ section along the base of Cathedral Rock, along with the off trail final push to the peak. You guessed it, with several shouts of four letter words (in the wilderness, no one can hear you scream) I turned around. No way would I make it up and back before dark.
Eventually, I found my way back out of the canyon and entered....
....Geronimo Meadows headed toward the distant ridge where I would descend....
Cardiac Gap and back to the parking lot with 12 miles and 3000' of climbing. Oh well, still a good hike.