Backstory: The hubby and I are in Palm Springs on honeymoon and there are hiking trails all around the house we rented and I went on my first-ever hike on Monday and even though my legs hated me for it, I had a blast.
By Wednesday (yesterday), I had forgotten the pain and remembered only the scenic vistas and my trusty guidebook said that the best views were from Murray Hill. It also said that the trail was labeled "strenuous" and that it would take five hours.
Whatevs. I was ready. I had my little bag with the guidebook, water, and some rolls (not tasty, but lightweight and full of carbs).
I started out early in the cool morning and enjoyed the view of the badass house from Diamonds are Forever as I approached the trail head.
Midway up the first slight climb, my legs started complaining that 48hrs was not enough time to recoup from the previous hike. I figured at some point there would be one of those "second wind" things I've heard about, so I pressed on anyway.
Before long, I was at the top of the first trail with a nice view of the Palm Canyon washout below:
I checked the map in my handy guidebook. The signposts indicating the trails that intersected here didn't match the map. I took a guess and ended up going back down the hill on the other side. After a quarter mile or so, I realized that it would continue going down. Wrong trail. I backtracked back up (legs screaming at me) until I reached the fork again and took the other option. This one led me across the desert and into a valley. The city was separated from me by a good-sized peak now and everything looked pretty barren.
My calves and thighs informed me that I had been trekking for a couple of weeks, but my watch said it had only been an hour. That's when I saw this:
That first bit looks flat because I had the camera pointed up at around a 45 degree angle. It's high and steep and my legs tried to revolt by turning to jelly and refusing to go on. I checked my map and convinced myself that not only would I have made it to the top of Murray Hill, but there would be picnic tables up there and I could sit and have my bread and take a break. Up I went.
Once at the top (and I type that like there wasn't a battle between my legs and the rest of my body at every step), the view was fantastic. I did take note of the fact that I would have to go back down into the valley and then back up over the ridge to get back home, but still... then I realized the complete lack of picnic tables up here. WTF?
Another hiker, obviously much more experienced than I, made it up a few minutes later and I asked her if this were Murray Hill. She said, "no, but I thought it was my first time up, too." I asked where it was and she pointed down the trail that snaked along the top of the ridge off into the distance. I looked puzzled, then she moved my gaze to the left until it rested on the highest peak in sight, a big brown nipple on the horizon. THAT was it. Way The Fuck Over There.
I seriously considered turning around, but I knew that the difficulty in getting this far would mean that if I didn't do this now, I wouldn't go back and do it again later. The hiker assured me that the trail between here and the peak wasn't very steep. She set out and I sat down to have some of the rolls I brought.
BLECCH. They were hard and fairly stale. I couldn't even choke one down until I poured some of my water on it. I managed to eat one like that, then hit the trail. It's true that most of the trail wasn't bad at this point, but what the hiker left out is how FAR it went before even getting within good sight of the Hill.
By the time it came into good view, I had an inkling of just how far I'd come. That city down at the bottom isn't Palm Springs, it's Cathedral City. Holy crap.
Also, as pretty as that picture might be, the scale and depth is completely lost. The Hill looks like a small mound in the picture, but it's still pretty far away and it's pretty fucking big. I can just barely make out one of the picnic tables on top, which is the only thing that I'm going to focus on from this point forward, because focusing on that ridiculously-steep climb to get to it is just not motivational in any way. I keep telling myself that even if I turn back now, I will STILL have a hella long trek in front of me, but will do it without the satisfaction of achieving my goal first. Fuck that. Keep moving.
With the peak still a long ways off, I spot this cool little cactus. It made a good effort to keep me from spotting the steep trail ahead, but ultimately failed to do so. The hiker I had talked to before is on that trail now, a tiny little dot that I can barely see. All sense of distance is distorted without objects to get scale and the sight of her tiny, tiny form brought the reality check that the 'mound' in front of me was going to kick my ass.
OK, the view from the top IS awesome after all. The edge of the range (where the brown part becomes the green part) is still around 800ft higher than the city. So I've got to make it down to that level, traverse all the way to the edge of where I can see, follow the edge waaaaaaaaaay over to the left of the picture (where the darker brown juts out into the city), then climb down another 800 vertical feet to get home.
Let's talk about vertical feet, shall we? The elevation change from the base of the Hill to the peak where I'm standing now is 1900 ft. The trail, however, goes back down into valleys several times before coming back up. Add those climbs into it and you get another 600 ft or so added to it. That's 2500 ft of climbing. Want to put that in perspective? TWO HUNDRED FIFTY flights of stairs. Plus about 7 miles of horizontal distance. All on sandy, rocky terrain. Jeezus, it's no wonder my legs hurt. I talk to the hiker again and she said that while backtracking the way I came up is more scenic, going down the front side is shorter, but boring. Boring is fine by me, I'm all about shorter - especially since I have just 1.5 bottles of water left and it's getting hot. I set off down the front side of the peak into unspeakably steep switchbacks and tricky footing. After descending a bit, I looked back at where I'd been.
The peak seemed even further away and higher than I thought it would. I can't even believe I was up there or that I got there on foot. For my second-ever hike, I probably overdid it. Scratch "probably."
Still a good view from here, and the sight of wide, flat trails was welcome, indeed. I headed down the hill and got about a mile down before the trail took a sharp turn to the east and continued on for as far as I could see. East, by the way, is exactly the opposite direction from west, which is where I needed to go. I looked back up the mile of trail I just came down and my legs went into full-on mutiny. Revolt. Absolute refusal to go another step. It was only the reminder that there was a hot tub at our rent house that coaxed them into continuing on. The backtracking was brutal, especially when the correct trail had not one, but TWO more ridges to crest. Fuck. After what seemed like an eternity of climbing and half-convincing myself I'd made another wrong turn, I saw two piles of rocks I'd seen on my previous hike. Not only did I know where I was, but I knew exactly how to get back home without any more wrong turns. Those little rock piles were beautiful.
Down the zig-zags of Araby trail, you get a pretty good view of Bob Hope's house.
From there, you get less and less desert vistas and more city stuff. Honestly, after nearly six hours in the desert wilderness, even the rooftops of a trailer park were a welcome sight.
So: was it fun? Parts of it were, sure. Parts of it were just pure determination and refusal to wuss out. Parts of it were awful. Mostly the last parts. Still, I'm glad I did it... but I don't have a burning desire to do it again.