Friday, April 04, 2014

A hike down memory lane

The road to the Massacre Grounds trailhead was closed several years ago. It had become a popular spot for yahoos with 4WD vehicles to go after a rain to spin their tires and fling mud around. The area consumed by the mud pit was steadily growing, so the forest service closed the road and built substantial barriers to stop those yahoos that know better than the forest service. The closure seems to have been effective in stopping the yahoos but the destroyed areas are a long way from recovered. The Massacre Grounds trail used to be one of my favorites but I hadn't been on it since the closure. I felt that by the time I hiked to the trailhead, I would be too worn out to do much more hiking.

The Massacre Grounds trail ends on top of that cliff. The view is great from up there.

I had found a very nice trail from the Jacob's Crosscut trailhead to the old Massacre Grounds trailhead a few months ago. I decided to hike that trail yesterday and then see how much further I could go. It was a beautiful and cool (upper 60's to lower 70's) day with a nice breeze. I had a long hike ahead of me so I started early. Consequently the pictures just show what's there and aren't very pretty.

The trail to the old Massacre Grounds trailhead is well-marked and heavily traveled.

There are lots of flowers along the way right now. Notice how some of these have bloomed and withered, some are in full bloom, and some have yet to bloom.

There were some spring flowers along the way. This part of the desert looks like it hasn't gotten a lot of rain over the winter so most of the flowers are on cacti. I was looking at the flowers on a hedgehog cactus when I had an idea. You know how there is software that combines exposure bracketed photos to create HDRI photos and there is software to combine photos taken with the focal point shifted slightly in each photo to create a photo with much greater depth of field? I was looking at the hedgehog cactus and noticed that while it may have had 20 flowers, only 4 or 5 of them were in bloom at any one time. This is also true of saguaro flowers and barrel cactus flowers and probably some other cacti. So I figured there needed to be some software that would combine multiple images of a cactus taken over several days or weeks so it looks like all the flowers are in bloom at once. Hey, I never said it was a good idea.

Four Peaks was more clearly visible than it has been for weeks.

As I hiked along the Massacre Grounds trail, I saw many sights that I hadn't seen for years and that brought back fond memories.

Lindsey and I went partway up there to get pictures of a sunset once.

Lindsey also had to check out this cave. She was disappointed at how shallow it was.

The place I stood to take this picture is as far as I went the first time I hiked on the Massacre Grounds trail because Sweetums was waiting patiently for me in the truck at the trailhead and I didn't like her being there alone. This is also as far as I could get Lauren and Lindsey to go on the trail with me.

This is taken on the really steep part of the trail and Steve did not like that part. He didn't complain, though. Just kept truckin'.

The entire trail is marked with frequent cairns now. Also, many horses seem to travel on it now, many more than did before the road was closed. The trail used to be faint in places and I used to almost always take a wrong turn on a faint side trail on the return hike and have to backtrack. You would have to try very hard to take a wrong turn now, though.

Speaking of horses, I was thinking about how trails used exclusively by horses are so narrow but people trails are always wide even though people (generally speaking) are much smaller than horses. I was thinking about this when I was stepping over some large loose rocks and having trouble keeping my balance. I was thinking that it would be much easier to keep my balance in such situations if I had a couple more legs. Then the realization hit me; that's why horse trails are so narrow. As they plod along with tourists on their backs, they always have at least 3 feet on the ground. Humans, on the other hand, are on 1 foot most of the time, and so they stagger all over the place. I know I do. Now that is a good idea. I'm glad I finally figured that out. Well, I also thought of another possible explanation but it can't be proven one way or the other so we won't get into that. OK, since you ask, it has to do with humans thinking of themselves as the current masters of the universe and horses being mere beasts of burden.

Where was I? Oh, the Massacre Grounds trail. I made it all the way to the cliffs at the end. Kyle is the only person that has hiked all the way out there with me. He gave the the usual single finger salute when I tried to take his picture there. Such a sweet kid. I knew I could get to the end this day. I knew I could make it back, too. I mean, wouldn't it be kind of stupid to go all the way out there if I didn't think I could make it back? Yes, I know, people do that stuff all the time. I try really hard not to, though.

The view from the end is the same beautiful view that it has always been, but it means so much more now. I sat there for 10 or 15 minutes finding many of the places I've explored over the past few years. From many of those places, I've been able to see the cliffs at the end of this trail. Now I was on top of those cliffs looking back at all those other places. I've thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the journeys.

I used to look at that road and wonder where it went. I've been on it several times now.

Over there is an unofficial route to Garden Valley and Hackberry Spring.

I've been on that sloped peak and many of the smaller peaks and rocks and have wandered in that area quite a bit.

The rare and beautiful Desert Mariposa. Does its rarity make it seem more beautiful?

It took me 2 hours to get to the end of the trail. I had tried to walk slow to conserve energy and to be gentle on my ankle. I might have to go slow on the way back so when I saw that I only had 2 hours until sunset, I started back. The hike was about 5.3 miles long with 1310 feet of elevation change. That's much longer and more climbing that some hikes I've been on recently that completely wore me out. I wasn't stumbling from fatigue when I got back to the truck and my ankle was only a little sore the next day. Hallelujah. Click below for all of the pictures.


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