Waking up the second day, I had no idea what time it was and it took me a bit to get going-pack up all the extraneous crap I brought that I didn't need and load it into the car and try to get it somehow organized. After spending lots of time the previous day just driving around and getting my bearings, I had a good idea of where I wanted to head today-starting with the Airport Loop. I headed off to start my day-it was the easiest hike.
I started up the hill and then started on the loop. Overall it was a nice walk, not too steep and great views. However, no matter how nice a walk is, it still takes energy and if you haven't eaten, weeeeell, at a certain point your body starts screaming for some source of energy. Funny how it affects your head too, and weeeell...becoming a bit lightheaded near a steep ledge is not my idea of a good time, so I headed back to the car pronto!! I drove back to the CoffeePot restaurant, which I forgot to mention is named after one of the landmarks-a big rock that looks like a coffeepot! This morning, unfortunately, there was a wait.
This actually gave me a chance to check out the hosts-two guys-one with a belly to rival Santa's and the other thin-but both with the same crinkly blue eyes and smile. They spoke with a level of comfort and humor that only comes from family, tilting their heads towards each other and laughing softly. Brothers. It was amazing because if they had had the same frame, they could have passed for twins! What characters!
After refueling, I headed out again- to Boynton Canyon. It took a while to find it because you have to drive up this road, then down this other road and turn on this road and I don't have the best sense of directions and while I didn't get lost, I did get sidetracked...I stopped to take pictures and just soak it all in. Did I mention how freakin' beautiful it is out there??? Oh yeah!!
Finally, off to Boynton Canyon and trying to find the trail. This is where asking what the hell came in handy. I followed the signs for the trail but at a certain point, they just pointed me back from the direction I had just come!!
HUH?? What? I just came from there! Why are you sending me back?? I spotted a couple walking-I stopped and asked about what gives with the signs and which way am I supposed to go?? They explained, somewhat amused, that the sign pointing to where I came from are for the people heading back to the cars. OOOH!! So, on I walked. Into the canyon.
This led up for a bit and then down into tree covered paths and rocks-over dry creek beds and sandy patches. At a certain point, it was amazing-I was practically surrounded by red rocks. Looking up at the canyon wall was practically mesmerizing. It made me a bit dizzy looking up at it. What an experience.
Eventually, the path became sandy and flat and I noticed the sun was starting to slide behind the nearby hills. I still wanted to go to Cathedral Rock and if the sun was going to set soon, I'd better be getting my butt over there!! Heading back to the car, I was grateful for the signs pointing me back in the right direction.
I drove to the trailhead for Cathedral Rock-my last hike of the day. The guidebook I'd bought said that the trail was strenuous but not very long, 1.5miles round trip. 1.5 miles? Piece of cake!!! I figured I could do it in time. Off I went. And up and up, stairs of rock stealing my breath. Little did I know this was just the beginning.
Eventually, I got to the steep part of the climb-clambering up smooth rock and more steps and up and up and stopping for breath. I'd get up one little hill and stop, heart beating, breath missing. I was close and thinking of turning back when I saw a mom and her teenage son heading back down. She spurred me on, saying it was so worth it. Ok...here I go.
Up the next little ledge. And the next. Stopping each time to recuperate. More people spurred me on, telling me I was almost there. OK!! I kept following the cairns of the trail, heading further up until, finally, I passed the final ledge and headed to the summit for a spectacular view over the canyons, at Cathedral Rock. And the sun was setting. It was time to head back.
I knew that heading back down would be easier than going up, but I hadn't counted on racing the fading light. I slid down on my butt, hopped, raced down, trying to make sure I kept on the trail, hoping that I could see the cairns in the fading light. They were the same color as the trail and in the fading light, a few times, they disappeared. My heart raced, but for a different reason now-I was hoping not to get stuck out there in the dark. There was a guy ahead of me, and I tried to keep him in sight. He must have been having the same thoughts as I did because he certainly wasn't pausing or taking his time. He might have done the hike before because he went off trail, but I didn't trust myself to attempt that. Finally, the trail flattened out a bit, a sign we were close to the parking lot. The sound of people laughing and chattering also comforted me. If I did get lost this close, I could always yell knowing somebody would hear me.
Getting back to the car in twilight, relief flooded every last cell of my body!! I had done it!!
Into the car and off, back to Cali....