Monday, November 26, 2012

Scorched Earth: Cave Creek to Seven Springs

Scorched earth... That's what the desert can feel like sometimes. I've been in Phoenix since June and my body still hates the heat. When the relentless sun beats down on me and the sweat pours from my brow in buckets, I long for the shade of some pine trees. All I get instead is a sharp headache and a bout of nausea. So, I was a little worried about my upcoming backpacking trip in the Sonoran Desert. This would be my first outing with the Arizona Backpacking Club, and my first all-desert hike. Luckily my personal nurse and wonderful girlfriend Sarah came with me. It's a comforting feeling having a genuine life saver on hand, just in case I pass out from heat exhaustion.

Giant Saguaro
Sarah standing next to a gnarly Giant Saguaro.

The first day of the hike was all in open desert. The shade was virtually non-existent as we hiked along dry creek beds and across broad mesas. Despite the heat I mostly felt pretty good. Except for a couple short but steep climbs, the trail was mostly flat. But it was so damn hot! I was soaked in sweat in an hour. One particularly brutal climb I felt my stomach rumbling and a twinge of pain in the back of my head. "Here we go again" I thought. I just put my head down and kept moving. Luckily it only lasted about 15 minutes before I felt good again. The mountains were gorgeous, but I didn't take as many pictures as I normally would. I kept feeling like I was holding the group up when I stopped. It's the one thing I hate about hiking in groups. 

Shade? I think not.

  Even though the trail was relatively flat, the hiking wasn't always easy. I swear every desert plant has thorns, barbs, spikes, or some other cruel implement intent on causing bodily harm if you get too close. The trail wasn't well maintained, and mesquite and prickly pear cactus were always scratching at my arms and poking at my clothes. My Therma-Rest Z Lite strapped to the top of my pack was constantly getting snagged too... I don't think I'll bring it on a desert hike again.

Cactus land.

But the going was relatively smooth. We saw some Hohokam petroglyphs that were over 700 years old. It looked to me like they were depicting hunting scenes, but it was hard to tell. I would have liked to spend more time studying them. I took tons of photos, but unfortunately none came out that great. 

Petroglyph
Petroglyph

Our camp at Cave Creek was nothing like the desert we hiked through. It's crazy how much the environment  in the desert can change around the waterways. Instead of Saguaros and sagebrush we were camped under sycamores and cottonwoods. I used my Solo Stove for the first time, and while it performed really well boiling water, I still haven't formed an overall opinion about it, so I think I'll use it a few more times before I write a review.


Cave Creek Camp
Cave Creek Camp

The hike out on Sunday followed Cave Creek to the trail head at Seven Springs. It was nice because there was a lot of shade, and the trail was soft dirt instead of hard-pan desert and rock. Overall it was an enjoyable yet uneventful hike. The only wildlife I saw was a crayfish that darted from underneath a rock as I bent down to filter water. Other than that I saw nothing. Not a single bird or even a lizard, which I normally see everywhere hiking in the desert. But it was still an awesome time. Just being out there was enough

A streak of fall color in the desert
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