October 16th, 3016 ~ Day 204
Almost dark when arriving at the trailhead this morning. I snapped a picture of the McDowell Mountain Range. It’s amazing to me that I am so close today. This is the range I get to see every morning I take a picture of the sunrise over the mountains to the east. I haven’t made it to this part of the McDowell’s on this journey yet, so I’m happy to be here.
It’s funny to me, the McDowell Mountain Preserve opens at 6:02 a.m. Not before, not after, just 6:02. So our meeting time is at 6:15. I’ve never seen that before.
Today’s group is with a bunch of friends who enjoy hiking. Sabrina is the one who put this together and she is just amazing! Great personality and always looking out for the people in the group. Love her! I love that she keeps the group together while hiking too. Always waiting at a crossroads for those who don’t hike as fast. Everyone has their own pace and it’s great that we can still hike at a faster pace, but still be together as one, a group.
Starting out at the Gateway trailhead we began on the Gateway Loop Trail. I believe this is the trail we stayed on for 2.6 miles before heading to the trail that leads us to Tom’s Thumb. I don’t even know the name of that trail. The best part about being in a group like this is that I don’t have to pay attention to where in going, I just follow the leader.
I have been on the Gateway Loop before, so most of my surroundings were familiar as the hike began. Once we took the turnoff for Tom’s Thumb, I was in unfamiliar territory. The plants were abundant and beautiful! The colors of the rocks were amazing too. Everything was so new to me. Every time I see something for the first time, it’s special to me. It’s strange how I can remember a specific rock or cactus when I come back to a trail. I always remember something.
I knew this was going to be another tough climb. We were hiking around 5.6 miles with about 2500 feet of elevation gain up to Tom’s Thumb. This is what we call the long way, because on the other side of this mountain, you can get there in about 2.5 miles. I have done that hike, but I haven’t done this one.
The trail stayed in the shade most of the way going up. A few bits of sun peaking out every once in a while. The climb continued on and it only became more grueling the higher we were. The rocky terrain didn’t help my feet. I still felt good and I was truly amazed by the beauty surrounding me.
This is why I love hiking so much! You only get to see these amazing places by walking to them. The pictures never do justice, for to see the beauty is one thing, but to hear the sounds of nature, to smell flower and plants in the air, to feel the gentle breeze on your face. You can never experience those senses in a picture.
Walking through the cacti, I was mesmerized! It was a sea of cacti through our trail. Something so beautiful I have never seen. I love our Arizona deserts. You never know what you’re going to find when you’re out exploring.
We made it to the Thumb! This was definitely the long way! These girls are training for the Phoenix Seven Summits and this was a great training hike. I was tired from the climb uphill. At the top the sun was shining brightly. There was very little shade, so I just took my break in the sun. We sat there staring across the horizon at the beautiful mountains that stood even further to the east. The Four Peaks, one of which I will be climbing next weekend.
Placing out thumbs on Tom’s Thumb, we posed for a picture before we headed down the mountain. A great group of women. It was a difficult hike up and I was looking forward to the easy hike downhill. How was I to know how wrong I would be?
The hike down was much more difficult that I imagined it would be. Steep terrain and so many rocks!!! My hiking poles in the car, would have come in handy for this one. I should remember to grab them when doing any type of steep climbing. The rocky terrain made it hard to keep traction on the trail. I had to step cautiously with every step so as to not trip and go tumbling down. Even though I slid a few times.
The sun was directly on us as we were going down. The temperature was somewhere in the 90’s, which doesn’t seem so bad, but it was heating up out there. By the time we made it to mile eight, I was running low on water. I only had about a half liter left with at least two and a half miles to go. I had already drank 3.5 liters of water. So I rationed what I had left until I made it back to the trailhead. I was well hydrated, but I hate that feeling of not having enough. You never know what could happen.
During the last mile my stomach began to cramp. I’ve never had this feeling before. My only guess it was either from the almonds or the powerade I drank. An uncomfortable feeling when I was already tired and hot.
Finishing this hike was a great relief. I can now say I’ve done it and I don’t have to do it again, but knowing me, I’ll be back. Next time I’ll be more prepared and maybe wait till the cooler months.