Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dale, Oprah, and Me or...

Does that tree look familiar?

WHN and I joined an organized hike through of Dale's Trail in Red Rock Canyon. We actually had the choice of 2 hikes. The first, depicted a nice beginning hike alongside an idyllic creek to an abandoned homestead, while the latter, Dale's Trail, described a challenge through an overgrown cacti strewn path with deer ticks and an unused trail. WHN's ego made the decision, so we do not meander up along a babbling brook. Our hike leader hauls ass through this supposed trail (ironically, it is maintained by the NV Optimists), and at least I get to enjoy seeing signs of fatigue on WHNs exhaustive looking face while hearing his labored breathing. The area is not desert monochrome; green plants dot the red ground and multi-colored rocks like plum and yellow are sprinkled throughout. I wouldn't recommend charging through it like we did-- especially with the condition of the path.
Pulled this little silver dollar sized jerk out of my leg-- and the site is still itching me mad!

For the first time I wish that I had hiking poles as we also traverse some steep hills with loose rocks. The trail does not loop, so we plan to hike to the end and turn around. I quickly realize that despite our speed, we would be coming down a super steep slippery path in the dark.

A couple of weeks ago, Oprah had on the author of The Gift of Fear. One of his main premises is that humans are the only animals that talk themselves out of danger. All other animals when they sense a perilous situation peace out of it. I see the steep and long hill, and I refuse to go up it. Despite WHNs best efforts to dissuade my fear, I could not see myself coming down that steep slick long path in the dark. I told the others that I would be quite happy staying behind. WHN's cajoling does not work. The others are fine with leaving me on the trail to meet up with on their return.
Thank you Oprah.

Alone for the first time in my short hiking career, I am content and thrilled with the surroundings having a Snow White or Cinderella moment greeting animals. I confess, until this moment, I hiked just for the challenge. I enjoyed the scenery more as yeah ok whatever tree blah blah, but this area is truly striking. I take pictures of so many things that later I would look back and wonder what was going on in my head. Between the Oprah's fear gift moment and this, I am having a fairly momentous hike- but the excitement hasn’t even started.
Skull Rock, Dale's Trail, Red Rock Cyn NV

Rocks and plants look like candy here!

About 20 minutes go by and I hear WHN shouting. He had stayed with the group until he saw the end of the trail and decided to turn around meet up with me so that I wouldn't be quaking with fear alone in the desert. I will admit that I have a certain amount of satisfaction watching him slip and slide down the hill. He almost fell on his ass, but I guess I couldn’t have too perfect of a hike.

Where did the trail go?

We continue back towards the trailhead, but unfortunately, the hike in was so fast over rough terrain, we spent the hiking in focused on the ground. Dale really didn't spend much time marking his trail, and it is very difficult to tell if we were on a canyon trail or not. We could see the parking lot off in the distance- maybe a mile-- it's hard to tell. But we have a general direction to aim for, until the canyon lights went out. Instead of a gradual dimming, it appeared that a switched was flicked from day to night.

We have one headlamp between us. WHN wants it because assumes the lead--Something about being in the Irish equivalent to the Boy Scouts or some such. Fine. Knock yourself out. Thanks to car headlights, to the left I could make out the Red Rock Loop (a 13 mile road that circles through the inside of the canyon) and in front of us I see Charleston Road (the main drag that cuts through the canyon) We struggle staying on a path-- one moment we think we are on a path yet 2 steps later, surrounded by cacti, we are trying to figure out if we should have gone down into a wash or up over a ridge. WHN keeps a few steps ahead of me because with a head lamp can keep a faster pace while I fumble in darkness. He offers to hold my hand, but I envision instead of tripping through the darkness as I attempt to keep up, being dragged, so I decide to stick with Helen Kellering it. I periodically look in the direction I think we came from to see lights of the other group. No such luck. Does that mean that we are THAT FAR OFF that we cannot see the lights? I did, however, keep seeing the Big Dipper mocking me. Stupid nature. Even though it is dark and in the middle of a desert canyon, off a path, surprisingly to me, I don't feel scared. I'm alert, but not nervous. Maybe because the biggest animal I could think of that calls this area home is the burro. Who knows, fearless or not, I was getting over my original thrill being one with the desert.

Maybe another 20 minutes into the dark hike of finding and leaving various trails, I talk WHN into walking up to the Loop about 50 yards away even if it means scrambling in the dark (it didn't- we walk straight up the grade.)

A couple of pre-hike mistakes include me leaving my cellphone containing hike leader's phone number in it in favor of Emily's phone. What can I say, I didn't have any pockets. At least I had my headlamp (always on me because of Thursday bar knitting) which is more than WHN or later I found out, my hike leader had! Bar Knitting: 1 - Non knitters: 0.

We hike up to the road and it feels WONDERFUL being on the smooth black top, Civilization 1- Nature 0. Unfortunately, we make a right instead of a left on the road. I have a feeling we should be going the other way, but we decide to stay in the current direction until we could confirm it with a mile marker. Our theory is if we parked at mile 10.something, and we end up on Charleston, we only have to back track 2 miles on that wonderful black top road. Before we could get to a mile a marker, a truck pulls up and asks if we are OK. Evidently, the rest of our group, chickened out of returning on the path because of cacti and darkness. They were pulled out of the canyon by this truck. Experienced hikers: 0 - Oprah Watching Me: 1.

Unfortunately for us the Red Rock Loop is a one-way loop and we are going against traffic, so we couldn't get a ride and had to keep going up for another 3/4 mile uphill, but at least on a paved road. We get within site of the parking lot and could actually hear people. Another truck barrels up to us, driven by one of our hiking group people. Panicked, she asks ARE YOU OK?? I'm so glad I found you guys. blah blah blah. A minute earlier they just reported us lost to the ranger. She ushers us in to the truck and reverses to the parking lot, any potential search party is called off.

They are happy to see us, yet I sense a disappointment that we are nonplussed. I don’t think they wanted something bad to happen to us, but we could have appreciated the magnitude of the situation by appearing sufficiently panicked. But I guess we never felt lost per se, just off track. How desolate could we feel not only seeing the 2 roads, but the light of the Luxor too?

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Blogger Javajem said...

Holy wow! What an adventure! I can't believe you guys! hehe

I'm glad you made it out alive!

10:18 AM  
Blogger Fuji Mama said...

Ha ha ha, now you have arrived! Looks like a beautiful spot though!

5:09 PM  

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