Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cave Creek / Skunk Tank Loop

It started off badly. In defiance of the meteorologists the sun and clouds never collaborated to make "partly sunny" accurate. The dull gray sky remained throughout the day putting a damper on spirits and a curse on photos.

As we drove to the trail head Julie read a news magazine article about the decline associated with aging. I kept waiting for the positives like "older people enjoy life more than forty-somethings" but the article ended without a sunny paragraph after heaping gloom on our future.

At the trail head I studied the map and committed it to my failing memory. There were only six segments that totaled 9.2 miles. Last weekend we had done a seven miles trail in less than three hours with ample time for a leisurely break and several photos. We had late afternoon plans and we didn't think starting at 11:30 would be a problem. However, I was curious about the scale and accuracy of the map. One section of three-tenths mile was almost twice the length of another section annotated as four-tenths. Neither section was in an area with switchbacks to explain the discrepancy.

We set out to stretch our legs, enjoy enjoy whatever we might encounter and to find a crested suguaro that stood somewhere along the trail.

Crested Suguaro. (Larger version)

Things continued to go badly. Julie developed a pain in one knee. We pushed on until we came to a second stream crossing where we decided to eat and turn back. I assumed we were about half way around the loop but we hadn't found a second trail. Something wasn't right. We had come more than four miles and the intersecting trail, according to the trail head map, was at 3.7 miles.

After eating I left Julie, crossed the stream and began exploring around a bend in he canyon. There it was! I went back for Julie to show her the crested suguaro before turning back.

23 Arms and a Few Nubbins. (Larger version)

At that moment, it didn't seem to be going badly. We had eaten and rested and the canyon seemed more beautiful ahead. Standing in front of the suguaro we decided to continue the loop. In retrospect that was a mistake like throwing good money after bad.

We found the intersecting trail. A sign indicated the distance back to the trail head was 5.5 miles and not the 3.7 we had expected. But, if the entire length was 9.2 miles then we had only 3.7 miles to go. We started the thousand feet climb out of the canyon with optimism.

Skeletons. (Larger version)

OK, you probably see where this is leading. Much later we arrived at a sign that indicated the trail head was three-quarters mile away. I know that wasn't correct. I had marked it on our GPS. Standing by the sign the GPS told us it was .89 miles straight line!

I don't know how many hundreds of miles I've hiked but I've learned to allow two miles per hour for hiking. That seems to allow ample time for beaks, taking photos, investigating discoveries and exploring side canyons. Our anticipated nine mile stroll which we estimated at five hours maximum took six hours and forty-five minutes.

I'll remember this day and this hike with fondness and I'd do it again, preferrably on a sunny day. I guess I'd better do it soon. If the magazine article was correct I may not have much time left.

Hmmpf! I know better than to believe what I read.

Headless. (Larger version)


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Well, those were some might fine cacti.

2/26/2008 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Linda Navroth said...

It's only fun to get lost when you're young--and yet we still boldy go where no old fart has gone before! Beautiful catus, by the way...

2/26/2008 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...


2/26/2008 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

Hmmm. No positives on growing older. As are they, so were you. As you are, so will they be - if they are truly fortunate.

2/26/2008 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Kim said...

Our family always calls these "detours"!

I love these photos of the cacti- they're awesome!

2/26/2008 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Malcolm said...

I enjoyed every moment of your trek but, think I'll stick to the vicarious mode of travel.

Love the cacti pictures.

3/13/2008 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger MojoMan said...

Jeez, with bad maps like that an inexperienced, waterless hiker in summertime could get into trouble. Those skeletons could look pretty ominous to someone lost and thirsty. Your photos remind me of Saguaro National Park.

3/15/2008 02:55:00 PM  

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