trail canyon: mt. charleston

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).

Photo credit: Afoot and Afield: Las Vegas and Southern Nevada: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide

Photo credit: Afoot and Afield: Las Vegas and Southern Nevada: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide

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):

trail marker

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.

And OMG…

panoramic view of Mummy Mountain, the canyon and the ridge

panoramic view of Mummy Mountain, the canyon and the ridge

I’m so glad we did.

More eye candy:

photo 2photo 3photo 4

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.

photo 10

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.

Get moving!

xoxo nancy

23 thoughts on “trail canyon: mt. charleston

  1. good grief!!

    I am glad you are ok…that could have gone really wrong!

    It looks awesome but it would have been much better if you didn’t nearly pass out!

    also…bear spray!?!
    Is this like fly spray only supersized?

    • well, yes…but… don’t be stupid. In my case — fully stupid. No food since 9am (hiking from 1pm to 3:30 pm…) and not enough water. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
      And then on top of that, I had to be the fastest one up. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

      Next post I think I’ll explore the whole ego/competitive angle. Something I definitely need to work on.

      xoxo Love you my Russian Princess.

    • I’m just wrapping up a post for tomorrow where I explore the role my ego took in that hike, and how I can hopefully be more mindful of that in the future.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, hiking teaches me so much about myself, about life. I’m so glad I’ve found this amazing outlet. Even on stupid days like last Friday. 🙂

  2. Love, love ,love the photo of you!
    It sounds as if you tend to jump into your commitments full bore- so the ‘ego/competitive angle’ isn’t such a surprise ( from my point of view) 🙂
    Your posts are always a positive and enlightening experience – keep it up!

  3. Thanks for the unwavering support lovely Miss Joan — it means the world to me! And, yeah, while the ego/competitive thing isn’t a surprise, it’s definitely something I need to work on. I think it’s depriving me of a lot of great experiences. I’m a work in progress. Onward and upward! 🙂
    xoxo nancy

  4. Very glad to hear you did this with only a light head. That is some hike to undertake with the supplies you had. That view would be worth the pain, the hunger, and the dizziness, though.

  5. Pingback: hiking: exercise, experience…or both? | my year of sweat!

  6. That sounded a bit scary but also awesome! I love how you explore yourself so much through these hikes and I look forward to what you find as you dig more into your hiking “ferocity”. Did you ever read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed? I bet you would love it

    • You needn’t wait any longer, Kerry. 🙂 I just posted a follow up this morning. It was amazing how quickly things fell together for me once I revisited some advice from a hiking guru of mine. Have a read and let me know what you think!

      And re: Wild — haven’t read it yet, but definitely on my reading list. I think I’m purposely staying away from that one for now because I am worried I’ll feel the need to go do it (or at least parts of it). The John Muir Trail is def on the bucket list too.

  7. Pingback: I can | my year of sweat!

    • The view did make me forget about the hunger and dehydration, Baz. 🙂

      The hat is awesome! I left it in Toronto as I didn’t want it to get crushed in my suitcase flying out to Vegas yesterday. Next time I should have more space in my luggage and can avoid the possible crush. Need it here more than I need it in Toronto! 🙂

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