Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dutchman's Trail, first attempt

It shouldn't have been a "first attempt", but that's the way it worked out. I was on a heavily traveled (i.e. smooth) trail with lots of food and water and daylight. But things happen.

I had been thinking about hiking on some trails accessed from the Peralta trailhead all week. I got out my map of the Superstition Wilderness on Friday evening and planned my route. I wanted to get pictures of Miner's Needle (strangely, there are very few pictures of that area on Google Earth), so I was going to go in that direction first. I was a little concerned that the parking lot might be full at this time of year, so I had a backup plan to get pictures of the mushroom rock.

On Saturday morning, the paper had an article about the Peralta trail. I figured the parking lot and the overflow parking lot would be full for sure because of that. I decided to check it out, anyway, but was pretty sure I would be going to the mushroom rock. I was surprised to see that the dirt road had had water sprayed on it (to keep dust down) as I left the pavement of Peralta road. Wow, were they expecting a lot of traffic today?

Well, it turned out that there were lots of spaces available in the parking lot. I took my time going up the hill at the beginning of the trail. I might be hiking 8.5 miles, so I didn't want to get worn out at the beginning.

A parking lot with empty spaces.

The first sight of Miner's Needle, near the beginning of the trail.

It was a gorgeous day; clear sky and temperatures in the mid 60's. Yes, I had sun screen on. I was a little concerned about the fragrance attracting bees. Sure enough, as soon as I got out of the truck, a bee tried to fly up my sleeve. That was the only one that took any interest in me, though.

Miner's Needle is on the left.

The beginning of the trail overlooks what I would call a valley, but maps call the northeast end Miner's Canyon and the southwest end Barks Canyon. I took several panoramas of it and the mountains around it. I uploaded them full-size, so you can zoom way in. I took over 200 pictures and uploaded most of them to the web album. I tried to get saguaros in them so they wouldn't be a bunch of pictures of the same mountains over and over again, but that might be what they look like, anyway. It was the middle of the day, too, so I don't like the looks of most of them. I had to plan to be there in the middle of the day, or I would probably have been hiking in the dark for several hours.

I saw about 10 other people on the trail. A couple that looked older than me saw me taking pictures of Mexican Gold Poppies and told me there were thick fields of them further up the trail. I decided to make seeing them my goal. My left ankle has been acting up lately and if it started to hurt much, I was going to turn back. It was feeling good at the time, though.

A picture of a saguaro with a mountain in the background.

Let's see, I need to back up a little bit. At work on Friday, I was walking down the hall and noticed that a spot on my lower calf was a little tender. That seemed odd because I hadn't done anything that could have injured it. So I'm walking along this trail, and that spot on my calf is still very slightly tender but easy to ignore. Then I took a step, just like the hundreds of previous steps I had taken on this hike, but this time it felt like a knife had been jabbed into my calf. It wasn't a cramp. It hurt when I tried to use the muscle. It hurt when I tried to stretch the muscle. It felt fine when I did nothing, which was nice, but you can't do nothing when you're on foot in the middle of the desert. I sat and rested for a few minutes. It felt no better. I walked very slowly, hoping it would ease up. It didn't. I was forced to take very small steps. I felt like I was crawling. I had no choice but to turn back.

Before I turned back, I took several pictures of 3 Mexican Gold Poppies. Most of the poppies have been tattered by the wind or are missing a petal or are stunted or have some sort of defect. Not these 3 (two pictured here). These are the megababe supermodels of Mexican Gold Poppies.

I didn't make as many stops for pictures on the way back, so that made up for moving slower. I thought I was only going about 1 mph, but my GPS track indicates that I was still moving at almost 2 mph. Every step hurt, though. I don't know if it's from me walking funny or if it was going to do it anyway, but my left ankle started getting achy, too. By 2 this morning it hurt so bad I couldn't tell if my calf still hurt. I'm going to have to figure out what's causing that and fix it. I was limping on both legs by the time I got back to the trailhead, which looks really pathetic (the limping, not the trailhead). I tried to walk normally but very slowly and tried to make it look like I wanted to walk slowly. That was difficult because I don't like walking slowly and tiny steps just don't look natural.

A hawk posed for pictures.

Blue Lupine.

Having to turn back was very frustrating. It was such a beautiful day, though, I couldn't be in a bad mood. Click below to see all of the pictures.


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