I've always said I am a warm weather, active guy and to that I should add, a mountain guy too. I love the mountains. I stare at them whenever they are in sight. A day out here never goes by where I don't say at least once, "Wow, look at that." and usually, what causes that reaction has something to do with the mountains. So, I was giddy when Tuesday arrived and I was set to hike not only to the Cleaver (shown above through the saguaros) but also Bighorn Mt. Neither of the two have I previously summited and it would require mostly an off trail bush whack to reach.
After 1.5 miles of trail hiking on Pima Canyon trail, today's hiking buddy, Amy, paused to place a pair of shin guards over her shins in anticipation of encountering various thorny plants including the dreaded "shin daggers" of which there would be thousands ahead of us. Amy is a heck of a hiking partner because she can more then keep up and she packs. With her, suddenly no destination is off limits.
While I waited for her wardrobe change, I stood on a boulder and wondered what animal deposited this. I see animal scat all the time so no big deal. This pair of shoes, "Trek" brand have been good and I'll acquire another pair when they wear out, which likely coincides with the end of this hike. Originally, two others were going to join us on this hike but they opted out the night before, concerned about the rocks being wet from an overnight rain/snow event.
After slogging steeply up a gorge, working around and through thick brush, we reached a saddle to the right of the Cleaver. The views were awesome. It took us two hours to reach this point which was only a little over 2 miles from the parking lot.
Then we climbed the above. The Cleaver is a narrow wedge of rock but other than the opening 30', not difficultm just friggin steep.
At the top, we could see our next destination, Bighorn Mountain. Unfortunately the way forward was blocked by a several hundred foot drop so we would have to retrace our route to the base of the Cleaver prior to proceeding on our journey.
We found and signed the summit register. Probably this peak receives fewer than a visit a month.
Not being able to see the expression on my face, it could best be described as a cross between dread and anticipation for what was coming.
We reached the bottom of the Cleaver and hiked to the west of the obstruction before going to the right and reaching another saddle, before heading up.
Amazing how quickly the Cleaver stopped being a prominent feature to....
...practically insignificant on the landscape. Hard to believe we stood on the top of that about an hour ago.
The top of Bighorn was very rocky. We could not find a summit register here although some where under the smaller rocks I have read one is located. We snacked, drank and decided not to attempt to reach Table Mountain, at least an hour away. Instead, we looked at the terrain below us and decided to hike to a ravine and follow it to another prior to reaching the Pima Canyon trail.
While I am a tiny bit stronger on the climbs, Amy is a goat on the descents and I struggled to keep up. I have learned that if she says a section is "probably doable" I have learned to interpret that as "suicidal". On the slick rock above, having no viable safe option, I simply sat on my butt and shoved off, hoping I could slide down and not break an ankle on the impact below. Made it. The route continued to be a series of obstacles that we either shoved through, sought a way around or plunged down a slide. I began to doubt we would make it out prior to dark and suddenly.....
....we stumbled onto the trail. I kid you not, I was so overcome with relief I knelt and kissed the trail. We had about an hour to cover the 1.5 remaining miles so made is safely to our cars. 8.5 miles and 8.5 hours to cover the distance with around 4500" of climbing. Awesome and am glad I can cross those peaks off the bucket list. This is one of those hikes I am glad I completed but not sure I would do it again. It took a long time to pull all the spines out of my legs and arms. Well, this brings me to a close of another very fun time in Arizona. Looking forward to participating and reporting on a series of rides/hikes in Ohio but in the back of my mind, the clock is ticking towards the return to AZ, late February, 2016.