Today is the day. We have been hiking, running, doing martial arts, and speed walking for 6 months in preparation. The day is finally here.
The trail down the canyon that my husband chose for our trek is the Hermit Rest Trail. My husband told me that the trail was rated a “5 out of 10” in difficulty (that doesn’t sound too intimidating, right?). The guide that I read said “very strenuous” as a rating. That did NOT sound good to me.
The Hermit Rest Trail is 6,600 feet above sea level. The first two miles down the trail were really easy with a clear path and easy descent. I actually thought to myself: “You know, this is EASY. What on earth was I so scared about? Silly Shan!” If you ever happen to have one of these moments – STOP! Take it back! You are asking for trouble. I did….
Our family were carrying packs of various weight. Our son was carrying approx. 22lbs., I was carrying appox. 34lbs., and my husband was carrying approx. 47lbs. The weight wasn’t a big deal at the beginning of the trail, however it made it more difficult as we descended into the abyss of the canyon.
We filled up our water containers at mile 2 at the Santa Maria Spring. This is a lovely hut that is covered in vines just off the trail. Below the trail is a several hundred foot drop. Not a good place to misplace your feet. After refilling our water and having a light lunch, we started back on the trail. That is when things started to get scary.
The trail started to offer areas where there was no trail. Gaps in the trail made you step over gingerly (or you would plummet to your early grave several stories below). There were also several rock slides. Most were easy to move across. One of them my son fell on (talk about Mom having a heart attack!). One particularly nasty slide was so bad that my husband had us take off our packs and made us crawl over the boulders to safety. Then, my husband brought each of our packs over one by one. THAT was really scary. I think my husband earned a few new gray hairs with that rock slide. You could just see that he was worried for his family in his eyes. Poor guy.
We got to the end of the Hermit Rest Trail right at dusk. We still had over 2 miles to get to camp and darkness was fast approaching. We put on our headlamps and continued on the trail to camp. Along the way, we met up with an older couple in their late 50’s. They said that they were meeting their children at the same camp we were going to. Please let their family know that they would be coming, if not slowly.
Those last 2 miles to camp were extremely rough for me. Not only was I terrified of not making it to camp, I was scared that one false move by one of us would lead to us falling down a cliff. All through those 2 miles, I kept praying that God would guide our footsteps to safety. I can honestly say that I was scared out of my mind.
About 3/4 of a mile from camp, my husband stopped on the trail and shined his light down for us to look at something “interesting”. It was a baby Diamond Back rattlesnake ON THE TRAIL. The cute ‘lil fella was looking for a warm trail to rest on. We scooted around him. We didn’t feel like snuggling just then.
We finally made it to Monument Creek camp around 7:30pm. We were exhausted. I was elated that we made it without falling. We had walked about 10 miles and descended close to 4,000 ft. (about 3/4 mile down from where we started).
The creek had a spring so we filtered more water and had a gourmet hiking meal of Hawaiian BBQ chicken for dinner. It wasn’t fancy, but it hit the spot. We all took a “wet wipe” bath and collapsed in our 3-man tent. That night, our son flipped and flopped like nobody’s business. Good luck to his future wife. Poor girl won’t ever get any sleep with him flipping around like he does.
The older couple finally showed up around 10:30pm. Everyone was thrilled to see that they arrived safely.
We survived the first day with some bruises, blisters, and sore muscles. As I laid in our tent, I wondered why I hadn’t asked a doctor for anti-anxiety meds. I sure could have used them.