Pleasurable, torturous…toh-may-toh, toh-mah-toh…
Brian Beffort, the author of the hiking guide-book I use, Afoot and Afield: Las Vegas and Southern Nevada: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide, described the Trail Canyon hike as follows: “Trail Canyon is a pleasurable hike onto the slopes below Mummy Mountain…”
Brian is a big fat liar. Period. Full stop.
I should have taken the time to read other (non-liars’) reviews, who described this hike as “very strenuous“.
That description would be a little closer to the mark.
On Friday we set out for a hike. It was hot out, so we ventured back to Mount Charleston for the higher elevations and cooler temps.
I should probably add here that I had eaten breakfast (a bowl of cereal) at around 9:00 am that day, and had nothing else to eat prior to leaving for the hike (around noon). This will factor into the story shortly.
I should probably also mention that our Camelbaks are at home in Toronto, as we had taken them with us during the road trip last August, for use hiking in Denver. And now they sit in my basement in Toronto, gathering dust, as we totally spaced on packing them for the flight back here two weeks ago.
So it’s basically been a grab-a-bottle-of-water-and-head-out-to-the-mountain situation for this trip. Which worked out okay for Mary Jane Falls and La Madre Springs, both shorter hikes. Not so much for Trail Canyon.
Did I mention that we hadn’t packed any snacks either? We always pack high-energy snacks for a hike. Why we didn’t take snacks this time is a mystery.
But honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
Mr. Enthusiasm is the designated pack mule, carrying all assorted accoutrements, like sunscreen, bear spray, food, etc. So, even if we had packed food, it wouldn’t have helped me one bit, as he was a good half mile behind me during the climb.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Between Brian’s description (pleasurable) and the visual map of the trail, I lulled myself into a false sense of, “I got this”, despite the trail length (5.5 miles) and estimated completion time (3-5 hours).
It never crossed my mind that a single water bottle, no food, no trekking poles, and trail runners (instead of hiking boots) might present a problem.
This trail is a grind from the get-go. A gravel-covered, steep old jeep road takes you the first half mile or so northwest up the left edge of the canyon. Eventually the road ends and a clearly marked (but just as steep) trail begins.
The “strenuous” grade doesn’t let up until you get much closer to the top of the canyon, when a few switchbacks mercifully make their appearance.
By the time I made it there, unfortunately, I was completely spent.
Looking behind me and down, I saw no trace of Mr. Enthusiasm. I was up there alone, heart racing, and increasingly light-headed.
So I decided to slow down a bit.
There was nowhere to sit, so I leaned against a tree and took a few slow, deep breaths. Then I closed my eyes, just for a moment.
When I opened them it was as if someone had applied a filter to the world around me. Everything was sepia-toned.
This seemed very cool for about a nano-second, but then I snapped back to reality, realizing I shouldn’t be seeing the universe in this monochromatic colour scheme. My mind raced as I wondered if was having a mini stroke.
it was clear I was about to pass out, so I allowed my body to slide down the length of the tree until my butt touched the ground. I lowered my head between my knees and focused on breathing slowly and deeply.
Not a soul nearby.
Not a sound.
Where were all the creatures that allegedly live up there? Why weren’t birds making bird sounds overhead?
The whole scene suddenly became very creepy. And that didn’t help my still racing heart.
I took a few small swigs of water, a couple more deep breaths, and eventually stood up and continued on the trail, finally arriving at the end of Trail Canyon (which happens to be a fork in the road):
I had told Mr. Enthusiasm that Cave Spring was to be the final destination, so I was confident he would find me if I ended up in trouble.
That next 1/2 mile was the same slog as the previous 2, but the payoff may have been worth it if I had the energy to actually explore the caves. They did look very cool, and I thought I had taken pictures of them, though clearly I was hallucinating due to lack of oxygen and food, as there are no such pictures on my phone.
Mr. Enthusiasm made it to the fork just as I arrived back from Cave Spring. I announced that I was STARVING!!! and that we needed to hustle back down so I could get some food.
He told me he had overheard other hikers saying that a hundred yards or so to the northeast was an overlook with amazing vistas and we should check it out. My grumbling stomach protested, but we ventured over.
I’m so glad we did.
More eye candy:
It’s funny how taking in these sweeping views made me forget that I was tired, hungry and light-headed. I was suddenly filled with energy and fearlessness, venturing onto a rocky overhang with sheer drops of 10,000′.
My heart filled with joy and love and peace — and that feeling I describe often as a connectedness to the universe. I love, love, love this feeling.
I would do this hike again in a heart beat. But next time I’ll pack smart and pace myself better.
Life doesn’t always have to be a race to the top. I plan to dig in and explore why I approach these hikes with such unbridled ferocity, even to the point of stupidity, as I did on this hike. Watch for more blogging on this topic.