So yes, I was brave, but maybe not wise. It has been a long hike and I was extremely tired. The hillside is gorgeous and is scattered with huge rocks like a giant’s popcorn fallen on the ground and forgotten. Tree stomps and strewn around everywhere. I could search here for hours, but I need to find the blaze. I quickly work my way back down the hill to the creek and scan in the distance
for the blaze. Through the canyon I spy what I perceive as the rock formation that I saw from Google. The picture is shown. Since I drank my last drop of water during my impromptu dinner of food bars (lite and easy to carry), I need to fill my bottles from the mountain stream. There is a bit of settlement in the water, but dirt never killed any one. Since I have viewed the blaze, I debate about trudging through the shallow 6 ft wide river over to the lone pine on the other side of the bank, but I analyze the needle bed of the tree and I decide against until I search the blaze, because walking 4 hours in wet hiking boots would be a death march. So off I go to observe the objective of the mission. The river is fenced off for no reason that seems apparent. I am drawn to cross the road, when I get there, the hill is steep and I would be on the wrong bank of the river to search the blaze. I make my way back and start toward the blaze. The path is well worn and is easy to follow. I expect fellow trove seekers have been here before me. As a I crest the next mound, I see a coyote in path. I proceed cautiously because wild animals are not to be trifled with and it is on the other side of the fence. Besides, I only have a metal stick and mini shovel to defend myself with. I turn to head back home, but I debate if I should just wait the coyote out. I turn around and the coyote is gone, so I restart my trek back to the blaze. As I hike along the chain link fence, I notice that there are gaps between soil and the metal barrier. That means that the coyote can come and go as he pleases. After seeing 2 coyotes in one day, I resolve that discretion is the better part of valor and decide to abandon my search for the day. I would not likely survive against a hungry coyote. So, it’s 4:00 and I have a 3 hour journey ahead me to make it before nightfall and a potential fine or even a light snack for a bear (Not likely, I make too much noise and would more likely scare anything away). It will be a long walk and I already feel a blister on my left heal. There are a few stops I want to check on the way, so I jog when the path is level or declined to allow extra time. I backtrack my exact steps and approach the boulders that look like a gate to the park.
They look so much like flames, that I take the time to search around them after looking quickly down. I find nothing, but at least I searched somewhere. As I am mustering as much energy as possible, I try to keep my pass by matching my footsteps from my trip inward. From looking down, I see fresh tennis shoe tracks in the dust that were not there when I came out. “Liars”, the couple I passed had ventured further than the San Antonio Springs. They were searchers too! Well, that’s OK, I didn’t tell them why I was there either.
I hastened my pace when I could, but it was becoming exceedingly difficult. I debated about lightening my load in the backpack, but that would violate, the rules of hiking; not to mention half of the scout oath that I pledged when I was a youth. I will just have to bare it and do my best. There are several fallen trees and potential blazes scattered around that I just can’t do without searching even in my fatigued state.
The one shown here just sent my adrenalin through the roof. A burnt out stump large enough for the chest. Pinch me to make sure that I am not dreaming. The sun is low in the sky and behind the mountains that the road is on. The shade it is casting on the other side of the valley is slowing climbing to the crest. I figure I have about an hour left of day light, my cell phone is losing it’s power (my only source of time), and I am worn out with at least an hour of climb left. I spy the massive fallen tree which has taken out it’s neighbors. This is too much to just leave behind, so I actually turn around and plunge into the woods, not knowing, if I will have the energy to pull myself back to the road. Upon find nothing, I heave myself to the path. I am spent, the road is rising and it take all my efforts just to keep my legs churning. I cry out, “Come on you can make it”.
Just then, I hear foot steps behind me. I glance back and see 2 other hikers. I am shocked and embarrassed. Where in the world did they come from, they had to have heard me, I’m the only other thing out here for miles. I dare an extended look back as they double my pass. They are two bikini clad college aged women. Now I am really dismayed so asked if they had been at the San Antonio Springs. They told me that there was another spring half the distance away. Still baffled by the fact that I’m wearing 3 layers and a jacket, and they are in a string bikini, may I am delusional from the altitude or from drinking the spring water, but I’m not doing anything strange like throwing my jacket off and diving into the river, (well, I am randomly darting into the woods and jumping back on the trail), so I decide to keep the pace. It actually, gives me something to think about other then my collapsing on the rocks. Besides, the view has improved over the dusty pebbles and the deciduous trees. The told me that we have about 45 minutes left of trudging in the woods. My pace has quicken a bit, but I am losing ground fast. As I round the corner, I see the valley in the distance and our quest is coming to a close. The time seems to drag on and on, but we are making progress. Eventually, they crest a hill and I lose site of the bikini backpackers. Why only one of them was carry a satchel, I still don’t know, maybe the other one carried it in. After loosing sight of the hiking companions, I wonder if they were real or imaginary again. I had lost my reading glasses when I removed my long sleeve shirt on the out and as I passed the boulder, I see them undisturbed lying in the dust. I guess it’s not a dream and I see highway 4 down in the valley. A very welcomed sight. It looks like I will actually make it; back my night fall and not mauled by any local wildlife. When I arrive at my SUV, I grab an apple and slam a water. Yes, the bikini girls were there, I wasn’t crazy yet.
Well, back to the hotel and a long night of Poker. When I am back in the ranged of the cell tower, I have 4 messages from Ali that increase in fanic concern for my wellbeing. I assure her that I am fine. Physically, yes, mentally, well I have my doubts. I will not set my alarm in the morning, but my adventure, is not over until I step on the plane. No Gold today.