Today I did the Pass Mountain Trail, which makes it my second time this week and third since February. The first two times I did it, long after leaving the saddle, I would look back and notice a small cave entrance but I couldn't see any trail that led to it. I checked Google and found no mention of it on any site. If it was something truly spectacular, there would be mention of it somewhere. Finally, I got around to checking Google maps and showed a thin trail and it does indeed lead to the cave entrance. So, today I decided to go check it out.
Several miles into my hike I met up with two men I would later come to know as Roger and Bob. Actually, I didn't meet up with them, they met up with me. On the trail, I rarely pass people, they usually pass me. On flatland I tend to walk fast but on everything else I drop down to a speed that I have actually determined to be around 65% of everyone else. Roger remembered seeing me on a previous hike so he stopped to say hello. Both were very friendly people and they had an instant positive impact on my day.
Have you ever met an absolute stranger and in about 30 seconds know that the person is probably one hell of a good person to know. Sort of like the characters typically played by actor Sam Elliott. Calm and cool and a have a little to say about a lot of things. Or, if Cathy is reading, Jerry (Sandy's husband) from ShangiLa Resort. Jerry is very smooth and just comes off as one cool dude. That's how Roger stuck me, and when you're out in the desert all day you have time to contemplate things like this.
About an hour later I finally made it to the saddle and immediately started looking for the trail leading to the cave. I'll have to say that unless you're looking for it, or unless you're brooding or bored to death and just happen to be staring at the ground, you wont find it as it is very narrow and starts a few feet past a very well trampled down area.
About 3/4 the way down this tiny trail to the cave I met up once again with Roger and Bob. They too had noticed the cave on previous hikes and decided to check it out. We talked for several minutes and just as I was about to head over to to the cave Roger asks "Do you mind if we stay here and watch you to make sure you make it okay?"
This is where the duality of this post comes in. Hiking and disability issues. I wanted to write about this after my first Pass Mountain hike but I didn't have the words for it at the time. Many people with disabilities get offended when others notice and make reference to their given disabilities. I used to do this too. Okay, I still do this but only when a person makes the assumption that my walking funny also affects my intelligence. My mind has earned me a lot of money so I protect its reputation.
These days I'm very open about my specific disability related issues and I don't stare in stunned silence when others take notice of it. In this specific instance, Roger did not question my ability to complete my task, since just by virtue of where we both were standing at the moment made it quite clear that I was capable of doing it, but he did have concerns because the area near the cave was a little more treacherous. I can relate to this because I too have came across and assisted people who really had no business being out in the desert on a hot day.
They inquired about my disability (Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita) which before asking they had assumed I was a polio survivor. It's a pretty common mistake and from knowing a few polio survivors I can see why. I explained how it specifically affects me and what I do to compensate for what otherwise would be limitations. We talked about other trails we've done around the country. Even though I prefer to hike alone most times, it was refreshing to have a conversation with someone who is interested in and capable of doing the same things.
That all being said, I have to say thank you to Roger, Bob and the many people who congratulated me when I made it to the top the first time. Even though I would still be out there doing my own thing without it, it's nice to see that people recognize when someone else is doing something that is a challenge, even when it would be far easier to sit on their ass, collect government money and watch TV all day.
Back to the beginning of this... Roger's question led to more conversation where I assured him that I am quite aware of abilities and I will under no circumstance attempt to begin anything without having a workable exit strategy. I joked that they don't need to wait but if I need help I will scream on my way over the side of the cliff. Finally, I just happily invited them both come with with me, which later led to some really great conversation and a bit more insight about the local trail systems and what to expect.
When we arrived at the entrance, I discovered that the cave was perhaps 12 to 15 feet deep at most and about 20 feet high. A good place for rain as long as there is no lightening. With some effort I could have made it up safely alone, but Roger scrambled up first and then gave me a hand up. Bob stayed below and took some photos with my camera. When I tapped the cave floor with my pole there was a hollow sound so there may be sealed cavernous pockets below. When I got back out, I noticed that just outside the entrance and at the very top there was a jagged circular hole that did not lead into the main cave so I am assuming that there are many cavernous pockets that only blasting would reveal. Fortunately, I don't carry explosives.
We then made our way back down the trail and talked about other hikes we've done. Roger said he had seen a Gila Monster on the Vista Trail last week and that actually gives me some hope I may see one some day too. When I went to the Venomous Reptile discussion at REI the other week I pretty much had all my hopes of ever seeing one completely dashed. He had seen another large spiny lizard but could not recall the name of it.
Back at the saddle, they continued down the main trail and I sat down to eat my granola bars, jerky and special blend of electrolyte drink.
Nothing eventful to report other than after carefully looking both behind and ahead of me on the trail, as I was standing there going pee, a lady and her dog crested the hill not more than 20 feet away. It was very amusing, if not embarrassing, for both of us.
And randomly, during the whole hike, I had "The Bob Song" running through my head. There is more to it but my favorite part of it is...
I'd rather make love than war,
And I'd rather have millions than to ever be poor,
But I'd rather be happy than to have anymore,
Guess I'm... a little tangled in the vine.