November brings cooler weather and the Holidays. Before I head home for a Covid Thanksgiving, I wanted to get in some more long distance hiking, and decide to head back to the Superstition Mountains and circle the Finger of God. My online research tells me that one can loop around Weaver’s Needle to complete a nine mile hike through Lost Dutchman.
7 a.m. finds me at the trailhead, a familiar sight for me as I’ve hiked the first couple miles of this trail a couple of times before. Feeling good as I summit the mountain and see Weaver’s Needle before me, or as prospector’s of old call it, The Finger of God. It’s an omnious sight to behold in the desert.
My first descent takes me into an otherworldly landscape marred by the fires that ravaged this area last year. Charred cacti haunt me as I go along. A sense of dread washes over me, yet I just shake it off and continue onward, deeper into the desert I go, like Job in the Old Testament. Unbeknownst to me, I was also being tested.
The Finger of God starts to fade from view, and although the sun was shining brightly I felt as though darkness was settling in.
A boat in rough seas watching the light from the lighthouse fading into black. I was all alone, having lost my beacon to show me the way home. True, I had the trail, but the signage out here was severely lacking. All I can do at this point is carry forward.
I see a couple of people occasionally, some camped off the trail a few yards, others hiking in the opposite direction as myself. I need to be less stubborn and more social, but lifelong habits are hard to break. I’ve just lost my GPS signal so I can only rely on my research that this trail will eventually circle back to where I started.
I’m about seven miles in, and for this being a nine mile loop, I certainly do not feel anywhere close to my starting point. I feel lost.
The trail come to a dry river bed, full of stones smoothed over by the roaring flash floods brought on by monsoon storms. I can not see where the trail continues, and so I start up the river bed. It is at this point that I am marking a lone mountain peak which I believe to be my starting point. I check my water levels, check my heart beat and calm my nerves through slow and methodical breathing techniques.
I’m so lost.
I just climb through the desert, my arms become bloody from being scratched by cholla and teddy bear cactus. Eyes dart furtively about, looking not so much for snakes, but for larger predators such as mountain lion or bear. I can’t help but think that my final resting place may just become Lost Dutchman. I know that I wouldn’t be the first person to perish out here.
Mountain after mountain I climb, yet that sole peak I am focusing on seems to get no closer. The sun is starting to fade from view, dropping the temperature rapidly.
I’ve no other option at this point, and so I pray. Pray for a quick death, pray to not suffer, lastly I pray for a miracle.
Then I step onto a trail. I’ve no idea if it is the trail I need to get me back, but at least the trail has to go somewhere…..
Ten hours into this hike, and water is just about gone. The setting sun is bathing the valley below is a special evening glow. My legs are cramping and my feet are screaming in pain, yet I barely feel the discomfort. The joy that I can live to see another day has washed away all the pain.
My nine mile hike turned into a eighteen mile, fourteen hour journey, yet for all of my worry and despair, I came out of it relatively unscathed.