About a week and a half ago I pulled up the weather app on my phone. Forecast high was 83°F, it was a Sunday, and I had no prior commitments so I decided to go for a hike. I mean, why not? It was far too beautiful a day to waste inside staring at netflix. So I dug out my old hiking boots and gallon thermos, stopped at the quickie mart for a couple bottles of neon yellow “sports drink” and a bag of trail mix, and hit the road.
I’ve been wanting to check out the Douglas Spring Trail for several years now – ever since some friends took me out to the trailhead several summers ago in hopes of taking some good monsoon lightning photos. I decided that this was as fine a time as any. Clearly, I hadn’t actually planned this little trip out in any way. The general idea was to head out on the trail and check out Bridal Wreath Falls and then maybe head on out to the Douglas Spring Campground to see what was there before heading back.
When I got to the trailhead parking lot, there was a park ranger just kind of hanging out and greeting people. She was really nice and gave me some info about the parks before asking where I planned to go. I told her, confirmed that it was about 3 miles to the falls and 6 to the campground (yes, one way). She then proceeded to show me on the map where to expect some particularly tough climbs on the trail. I’ll be honest, I kind of took that warning with a grain of salt. I figured I’d gotten myself into decent enough shape over the last several months that I should be able to handle it. (What I failed to take into account is that the last time I went for a real hike was probably in 1998.) I thanked her, posted some “I’m out hiking, send help if you haven’t heard from me by a certain time” tweets, grabbed my backpack, popped in my earbuds, and hit the trail.
It really is a beautiful trail. And catching up on Welcome to Night Vale while hiking through the desert alone just felt kind of… right. And then I got to the first of the climb sections that the ranger had told me about. At first I thought to myself, “What’s the big deal? I’ve got this!” And then the trail got steeper. And steeper. And steeper. I honestly don’t know how long this incline lasted, but it felt like forever. Here’s a shot back over Tucson that I took while pausing to catch my breath at one point.
Eventually the trail leveled off for a while, which was a welcome relief. I checked my progress on the phone’s GPS only to find that I was barely a third of the way to the falls. I almost considered heading back at that point because I was feeling pretty wiped out, but decided I wasn’t going to give up. So I kept plugging away. It was along here that I was passed by a few runners. I knew trail running was a thing but yeah… no. Not for me. At least, not yet. And then I got to the second big climb that the ranger had mentioned. I don’t know if it’s just because I was so tired, but this stretch felt even longer and tougher than the first big climb. Hence, no more photos for a while. Eventually, I got to the fork that leads off to the falls.
While I had no illusions about the falls gushing at this time of year, the ranger did say that the pool should at least be there. So I went along the last bit of trail listening for any sounds of water and thinking maybe I just wasn’t close enough yet. Well, about that…
I’m pretty sure dead center of the rock overhang (above photo) is where the water would be gushing over. At least, that’s where the tiniest trickle of water – maybe a drop every second and a half or so – was falling to the rocks below. Only the fact that those rocks were shaded is the reason they were still wet. The boulder under the tree at the left side of the photo is where I sat to rest, rehydrate, and have a bit of a snack.
Once I was feeling rested enough, I dumped the sand out of my shoes and headed back to the fork in the trail. I realized at that point that I definitely only had about three miles left in me. That meant I could either go back to the trailhead, or go to the campground. Since I didn’t have adequate supplies to actually camp out there, I decided to head for home. Those two big climbs were still fairly challenging to descend, but not nearly as taxing as they were going up. I found myself much better able to look at and appreciate my surroundings. I even had the energy to stop in Stinky Ravine (my name for it) to take another photo on the way back.
Ultimately, I learned two things on this little adventure. First, I over-plan for food and hydration needs. I didn’t even come close to finishing anything that I brought with me, and I drank quite a bit of water on the trail! That’s okay, though. I’d much rather carry around too much water and food than find myself stranded out there with not enough of either. Second, I need new hiking boots if I want to continue with these little weekend adventures (which I do). Very much a lot. I think I bought the ones I currently have over 10 years ago. While they never really saw any hiking action, they did get a number of years of nearly daily wear. And they just killed my feet when used for their actual purpose!