Today I did the Wind Cave Trail which is a short 1.6 mile hike (3.2 miles round trip) but with it comes an 800 foot climb.
I had planned to start at the Pass Mountain trail head and then make my way over to the Wind Cave Trail but since I was driving past it, I just stopped and saved myself a mile. The official trail head starts within Usery Mountain Regional Park but within a hundred feet you exit the park and enter Tonto National Forest. It being a weekday, I was surprised by the number of parked vehicles and I ended up parking at one of the overflow lots.
The trail starts out easy enough but as you progress it gets steeper and steeper. At about 1/3 the way up I ran across a man with a young disabled woman. She was holding on to him real tight but she was doing a good job. I never passed them again so I know she didn't make it all the way up but it was pretty damned impressive that she got as far as she did. For what it's worth, I'm guessing she had Joubert syndrome which only adds to my respect.
The final section of the ascent was a bit scary. I equate it to what pilots say about flying being 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror. Others may do it with no problem but for my gimpy little legs it was one hell of a challenge, Well, let me clarify that a bit… Going up was the the easy part. I can climb almost anything but coming down was quite scary and dangerous. I'm glad I brought both hiking poles with me.
On the way down I met two sets of unprepared people. One older couple told me they were lost and after talking briefly to them they were indeed way lost. I offered them a topo map and they politely declined. I'm glad they were on the wrong trail because the right one was 7.5 miles longer and much less used and they didn't have anywhere near enough water.
The other two I met up with was an elderly man with a young man who just struck me as interesting for reasons I don't really know. They didn't make it all the way to the top because they didn't have any water at all and they were pretty thirsty. Other than that, I think he (the young one) would have made an excellent hiking partner. He was very polite and seemed really incredibly happy. It was almost "spiritual" and I feel incredibly weird for even noticing it.
All told, it took me about 3 hours to complete but I still wanted more so I also walked the Merkle Trail, which is a 1 mile loop that is said to be wheelchair accessible. Since I've mentioned the trail to a couple of my wheelchair using friends, I thought I would check it out to see how it really is. I'm glad I did because the difference between going clockwise or counter-clockwise is quite dramatic.
Now the bad part. All of my photos came out looking like crap so I'm not even going to bother uploading them.