Details from Day 6 hike, as promised…
Along with biking and catarafting, hiking is one of the activities we hope to enjoy more of now that we have the time. While at the Fountain of Youth Resort, we were told that the 4.3 mile Canyon Ladder Trail was a must-do in the area and that was just the tip we were looking for.
On hike day, since our destination was about 40 miles away, we set the alarm (I know, right!) to get an early enough start to make sure we would make it back out of the canyon before dark. Most of the trip was on the highway but we didn’t know how long it would take once we turned onto Painted Canyon Road, which would take us in to the trail head.
It didn’t take too long to see that the road is appropriately named. The surrounding canyon walls and amazing blue sky were wonderful…the washboard dirt road, not so much.
Almost 30 teeth-jarring minutes in, we arrived at the trail head parking lot and set out in no particular hurry. We were well-prepared with plenty of water, cheese, protein bars, sardines, apples and a fully-charged cell phone battery. Since we currently have only one backpack, Jim did the honors. I took one for the team and generously offered to carry the camera (aka cell phone).
The trail is a loop and is said to be fairly easy to follow…just keep bearing to the left and follow the arrows, they said. With confidence, we headed up the path with several others. People of all ages and dogs of all sizes were coming down the wash toward us…just finishing up their hike. This was going to be a “piece of pie”, as Jim would say.
The canyon walls were impressive — so many varying rock colors and unusual geological layering. We were enjoying our surroundings when at some point we realized there didn’t seem to be anyone else going our way; everyone was coming toward us. Maybe we had left them all in the dust? Just when we were really starting to question whether or not we were still going the right direction, we saw the ladders…to the left. Now that’s a good sign?! Two ladders. Not difficult. Just a little loose sand to contend with at the top of each one.
Now we were on the second level of the wash. The path was softer and sandy; the canyon walls continued to call to me for photographing. (The sun was bright behind the walls, so the pictures up the canyon weren’t as good as I had hoped and certainly do not do it justice.) The path was a fairly gradual but steady climb. Still no one going in our direction. When we stopped to have a snack, we asked some folks coming down the wash if we were on the right path. They told us we were doing the loop backwards and, therefore, the more difficult way (up grade in the deep sand). Apparently, we had missed a sign post AND a fairly large arrow rock formation on the ground pointing to the left somewhere *before* said ladders…but not to worry, we should just follow all the “arrows” backwards and we would be fine.
So after a short snack break, it was onward and upward. We passed several arrow formations along the way, each pointing back down the path we had just traversed. So far, so good. But at some point I noticed a slight twinge of pain in my right knee. Now this was something I was not used to! Just a fluke, right? Nope. And not too much later, Jim admitted he had some spots that were protesting a bit as well. Maybe a four-mile hike for the first one out of the chute was a little ambitious? What…we aren’t 18 anymore??!!
One thing we *are* is determined and finally we saw the arrow that would lead most hikers down into the wash but was our sign to climb up to the ridge. The reward for our hard-spent efforts did not disappoint…the view from the top was incredible!
I slowed my pace substantially to try to avoid doing any serious damage to my knee AND all the other muscles that by this time were rebelling. The ridge seemed to go on forever but, eventually, we came to a juncture where the way we should go was less than obvious. There was more than one path leading in the general direction we knew we needed to be heading to return to our truck. Unfortunately — probably because we were going the opposite direction — there were no arrows to follow backwards from this point. Which way should we go from here??
While we were stopped to get our bearings, we each made our contribution to one of several rock “pyramids” on the ridge.
As we were contemplating our next move, a small group of hikers appeared over a rise and onto the ridge. They confirmed that they had just made the climb from the canyon floor. So with no other more reliable intel, we decided that was the way we would go.
The trail down into the slot canyon was a bit sketchy…steep, somewhat narrow and very rocky. Surely, this wasn’t the *main* path? At least we knew it would take us to the canyon floor so we continued on…climbing over boulders, sliding down rocky slopes and maneuvering down two more ladders…still smiling.
Eventually, we emerged out of the slot canyon and were back in the wash. Directly underfoot was the large arrow that we had missed on the way up. We knew that not too far around the bend this path would take us back to where we had begun the adventure.
Phewww! We did it! And with plenty of daylight to spare. It took us three hours to do the technically “moderate” hike. The next morning we were *moderately* surprised that we could get out of bed without assistance.
We are determined not to wait *too* long before our next hike. Any suggestions?