Saturday, May 11, 2013

Me and the Creosote

If all of your friends are busy with their lives not climbing mountains... should you still go? At first, I thought no - in the event of an ankle sprain it would be too embarrassing to call for a helicopter and too harrowing to drag myself down the trail face in the dirt and over the rocks and cacti. But then! Then I remembered I have a dog! So this morning at a cool and early hour we set off for the Anthem trailhead to climb Black Mountain.
I am new to dog ownership, and to heading off into the wilderness without another human. I admit I had thoughts of "will this dog eat my face if I fall and die?" which is an unnecessary question. What I should have been asking is: "Am I strong enough to stay upright when I'm mid-step over some sharp rocks and Shyla darts full-muscle after a lizard?" The answer to that one is, "Yes." Though I must have muttered, "Damn dog" about 4,000 times up and back. She would often stop right in the center of the narrow trail. Perhaps she smelled a mountain lion. I have no way of knowing, since she can't talk. So generally I'd just shove her hind quarters and hope to not get attacked.

This trail is fairly easy until you make the ridge climbing to the top, and there is plenty of time to stop and smell the creosote, which I did.

It wasn't only MY friends who couldn't climb Black Mountain today, it was most of the city. The only humans I encountered were:

Nice Old Man Wearing White Dress Gloves - he set me straight early on when I stood wondering where the trail picked up after the pavement ended. He also told me he climbs halfway up every single day. And that I would have to do a lot of rock scrambling but when it got the hardest I should look up and I'd see the flag at the peak, almost there!

Shirtless Jogger Guy - he passed me a mile into the hike and went a ways further, then turned around and ran back down. The guy has GOT to have some killer ankles.

Stoic Woman With White Hat, Dog, and Incredible Tan - she arrived at the peak about ten minutes after I did, nodded toward me, and then disappeared down the South side (where there is no trail). I hoped I wasn't the last person ever to see her alive. I wasn't. She reappeared later, still unfriendly, when I was about three-fourths of the way down.

Nicer Woman With Lab/Chow Mix - as I completed the descent, she was beginning her hike and we stopped to talk about our dogs for a minute. So I guess the point is taken that I am not the only woman to go hiking alone with my dog.

My hiking book labels this hike "Difficult." Well, I wouldn't say it was easy, but it wasn't crazy difficult. The trail is easy to follow and climbs pretty gently. It was fun to hike along the ridge leading to the peak for the last twenty to thirty minutes. I sat at one point to give Shyla some water and snapped this photo of the sun coming right over the peak. It's kind of a novel photo, but it will serve to remind me how I couldn't look up at my goal very often during the ascent because it was just too dang bright.
From this point it was less than fifteen minutes to the top. When we got there, I was beaming! Seriously, I was smiling and had tears in my eyes! Not even sure why - maybe there's some euphoria that comes with reaching a peak and that's why people do it. I'm in. And I can attest that during my time up there, I had no thoughts of my usual worries and concerns. I just took in the view.
We all know how windy it gets in our desert. Look at that poor flag - I oughtta have a Boy Scout I know replace it. Behind the flagpole is the view to the southwest including a chunk of Anthem.
Looking North including the Strip and downtown Vegas. It says S x J on the rock. Maybe they meant S + J but that is clearly a multiplication sign.
Toward Frenchman's (Sunrise) Mountain. I would like to climb that one in the Fall.
My hiking book said this peak offered views "deep into Arizona." Well, there you go!
I tried not to disturb this mark as that can result in imprisonment.
My sweet hiker-dog and me. I was ultra-happy. Shyla's look is less decipherable.
I signed in to the nifty notebook at the peak. Kinda scrawled my name since I was still a little shaky from exertion. As I look at this, I see that Butchi Bruch was the last to summit on Friday. And my photo cuts off his note, but he cited this as his 11th time climbing Black Mountain. Butchi, branch out!

And here is the view of the way down. For some seasoned hikers, the descent takes far less time than the ascent. For ME, it took the same amount of time. I am, let's say, "delicate" when it comes to downhill. I got off-trail once but figured it out pretty quickly when the ridge became too far to my left and the steepness was scaring the willies outta me. All was right in the world when Stoic Woman With White Hat, Dog, and Incredible Tan reappeared (not dead) and we reached fairly level ground. Shyla mastered switchbacks, which perplexed her on the way up, only yanked my shoulder out of joint four or five times to chase lizards, and if there were any mountain lions, I never had any knowledge of them.

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