Sunday, November 24, 2013

While I can

My left ankle has been bothering me for the past few years. In the big scheme of things, it's a very minor issue. It currently limits my hikes to about 5 or 6 miles. It doesn't bother me much while I'm hiking, but the next day it may be very difficult to walk. Lately it has gotten me to thinking about some hikes I've been on in the past 10 years that I should not do now. Then I got to thinking about hikes I could do now that I may not be able to do in a few short years. I'd better do them now.

Going up to that peak is one of those "some day" hikes.

A couple of weeks ago, I had hiked off-trail near Fish Creek Hill. I turned back when the sun started getting low, but continuing to the top of a hill where I turned back was something I wanted to do "some day". I decided I had better do it while I could. It's a 1.3 mile hike to the start of the climb, then a climb of about 350 feet in 0.3 mile. That's not much of a climb, and the hike before it doesn't have a whole lot of ups and downs. Various things have kept me from hiking lately, though, so I'm not in top shape.

Based on what I had seen the last time I was out there, I was sure that the view from the top would be worth the climb.

It seemed like I had been hiking for a long time by the time I got to the start of the climb. I knew I was going to be very tired by the time I got to the top. I had to go, though. I allowed myself to believe that the false summit I saw from the base was my actual destination. The climb is only moderately steep.

This gives you an idea how steep the climb was. Unfortunately, saguaros are rare in this area so I don't know if I had my camera level for any of the pictures.

I wonder if it's possible to get on those mountains back there.

I decided that if my legs were too wobbly on the way down, there were plenty of agave and sotol flower stalks around to use as walking sticks. I was determined to make it to the top. When I finally reached the top and saw the view, I felt that it was well worth the effort. There are some beautiful sights as you drive along Apache Trail, but very few people get to see what I was looking at.

My first view from the summit. That's Tortilla Creek on the left.

After the clouds rearranged themselves.

Canyon Lake is 5.7 miles away. Stewart Mountain, on the right, is 13.5 miles away.

The ridge in the foreground is the top of the hill I'm on. I didn't walk along there. Maybe I should. Soon.

Getting back down was easier than I thought it would be, and the walk back to the truck wasn't so bad, either. I sat down a couple of times to get grass seeds out of my shoes and didn't want to get back up, though. I could still walk the next day, too.

I drove almost a mile along FR 213 to get to the start of the hike. The first quarter mile of that drive is *extremely* rough. There are parts where you feel like the truck is going up at a 60 degree angle, though I'm sure it can't really be that bad. You have to creep along at about half a mile an hour and choose your path very carefully. The road is narrow but much smoother and less steep the rest of the way. Well, it used to be. I was just about to my parking spot for this hike when I encountered some hikers walking back to the parking lot at Apache Trail. They warned me that the road gets pretty gnarly up ahead. It must have gotten washed out by some storms during the past year. Remember the MCSO helicopter that buzzed me several times the last time I was out here? Well, now I'm wondering if maybe somebody had rolled their vehicle further out that road. Click below for all of the pictures.


Saturday, November 09, 2013

Off FR 213

I've been taking some sunset pictures lately. I usually set the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture when I do that. The trouble with doing that is that I sometimes forget to take the camera out of manual mode before the next time I use it. Also, I don't usually look at my pictures as I'm taking them, so it can be a long time before I notice that something is wrong. I was halfway through this hike before I noticed that most of the pictures were over-exposed.

I was driving along Apache Trail trying to decide where I should hike when I saw a hill that looked like it was in a good place to explore. I wasn't even sure I would be able to get close to it, but it turns out I could drive to where there were no canyons between me and the hill. I parked along FR213, which is a very rough road that is only one vehicle wide for most of its length. FR213 goes into the Superstition Wilderness. The wilderness boundary is on both sides of the road. You can't have roads in wilderness areas, so a narrow sliver is carved out of the wilderness for the road. There's a "road" going west where I parked, but it is within the wilderness so it would be bad news to be caught driving on it.

This looks like a road, but don't drive on it.

I followed the road to its end and kept going. It was shortly beyond the end of the road that I had an encounter with a prickly pear. Of all the cacti I've bumped into over the years, I like prickly pear the least. Fortunately, I haven't had too much trouble removing its glochids so far. I didn't get any glochids this time; just one spine. I got a little too close as I walked by a prickly pear with very long spines and a spine got the side of my shoe. It hurt, but I took a couple of careful steps and decided I could keep going. The next step hurt a lot. The spine was still in my foot. I wanted to sit on a rock to get it out but there wasn't one within hobbling distance. I sat on bare dirt instead, which is not a good idea in the desert. I got the spine out without any trouble, stood up and carefully brushed off my pants, then removed the cactus spines I got in my hands from brushing off my pants. That's why it isn't a good idea to sit on the ground in the desert.

A serious impediment to walking.

There were no difficult obstacles on the way to the hill. Once I got there, I felt like I should keep climbing to the south. It was getting late, though. I'll have to go back another day to do that.

I made a panorama on Photosynth that can be zoomed quite a way. After I uploaded pictures, Google stitched some of my pictures together to make a panorama, too. The Google version wasn't made from the full size pictures (because I didn't upload full size pictures), though, so you can't zoom in as much.

Photosynth panorama

The Google panorama. I didn't think I had uploaded enough pictures to create a panorama. It's pretty cool that Google has software to figure this out automatically.

An MCSO helicopter buzzed me a couple of times out there and there was an MCSO search and rescue SUV parked at the turn-off for FR213. Somebody must have gotten in trouble out at the end of FR213. Either that or MCSO was having a search and rescue drill. Seems like they would get plenty of practice doing rescues all year round, though. With over 5 million people in the Phoenix area, somebody's brain malfunctions just about every day and they drive off a cliff or harass a rattlesnake or climb a mountain with one can of pop to drink.

MCSO helicopter. I don't think they saw me on this pass.

I didn't get any good pictures of what I went out there to see. I didn't get a very good view of it, anyway. I'll have to go back, earlier in the day. Click below for all of the pictures.