We meet at 9100' on top of Mount Lemmon. I had a lot of trepidation about this hike because on the day I returned from Moab, I finally got Covid. My symptoms were very mild and disappeared after a couple of days yet I was plagued by muscle fatigue (yes, that is a symptom) that really limited my outdoor activity. Now 12 days after testing positive and being largely inactive, I'm leading a group of 12 around on a 9 mile hike with significant elevation gain.
What a beautiful opening scene as we descend from the peak.
The trail is very rocky as we descend a ridge that also has....
....nice views to the northwest. Many of the standing trees are casualties of the Aspen Fire, not yet fallen.
Hiking buddy Karen K is following me and notes I lack my usual spring in my step. Great, that's what I needed to hear, the unvarnished truth, lol. Couldn't argue with her as my descending muscles were already feeling it. So, the descent of almost 5 miles continues when suddenly.....
....I hear the buzz of a rattlesnake just as I am walking by this critter. Black rattlesnakes are known to be fairly docile as rattlesnakes go and I was glad it chose not to bite. I used my hiking pole to lift it from this spot and slide it off trail so we could pass. Black rattlesnakes are found at higher elevations and I think this my 4-5th time I've encountered one.
We got onto the Mount Lemmon Trail as the descent continued with marvelous views into the Wilderness of Rocks.
Oh, wow. There's the east facing side of Table Mountain, center in the above image. I've got a hike scheduled for that in November. We took a snack break where we left Mount Lemmon trail and picked up the Wilderness of Rocks trail.
The trail went through numerous patches of slick rock where route finding could be a challenge. I thought it a good idea to hang back and make sure three of our members who had fallen back, would navigate the challenge, It was dumb of me not to alert everyone of my intent so at some point, they stopped to regroup for us and had to wait a long time. Upon reaching them, I urged them to keep going.
The trail crossed a creek a few times and finally leveled for a short while as we....
....passed through this benign scene of ponderosa pines. Then we reached a left turning Mount Lemmon Lookout trail. The next 2+ miles would be all uphill as we returned to our cars.
I was in agony and had to stop many times to rest. WTF was I thinking, hanging with my commitment to lead this hike. Three years ago I ascended this section in 46 minutes, today, 1:30!!!!! 2+ miles having an average grade of 16%. I stumbled into the parking area like a zombie, could barely communicate and drove home.