I’ve climbed it so many times. Always early, before it gets hot. And always with other people – friends or Ron or my kids. But always someone.
So this hike was different. It was just me and my backpack. And I was looking forward to a date with the Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain, a trail I’ve taken countless times. I knew it. So going alone would be no. big. deal.
And, while it wasn’t a big deal, at all. It was a very different version of the hike I’m used to.
For starters, I went off trail, like, five times. It was easy to. I had plugged headphones in, and because of that, I couldn’t hear the other hikers nearby – or feet crunching. And as you ascend, you’re looking down, finding things to grab, adjusting your footing…that kind of thing.
So, once I’d reach a spot to look up, I’d look around and realize I had detoured. Woops.
Normally, the trail is pretty busy, one of its drawbacks I suppose. But I realized later, fully embracing the gene I’m missing that allows me to sniff out directions, that busy trails keep me on trails better.
Because, there are people to follow. Not today.
It was the quietest I’d seen that trail in the two decades I’ve lived here. It’s not like I go every day, but I go in different seasons, and this place was as ghost-town as it could be. Unless, it was like snowing or something nutty.
I’m guessing it’s because it was in the afternoon. Usually people get there early. But, it’s November, so a 1:30 start time wasn’t crazy. There were actually a few points where I couldn’t hear a thing but the breeze blowing past me.
And that’s uncommon up there. Even though the trail is rated difficult, kids climb it. And some people who probably shouldn’t, in flip flops and jeans. I never understand the jeans.
But I did appreciate the solitude. Especially there. Because it is so rare. And I never wandered so far that I was scared. Just frustrated, once, with my gift of finding the totally wrong way.
That afternoon start time offered another gift – a new kind of lighting I’d never experienced there. The skinny side of the trail was in complete shade, allowing me to take in parts of the rock above the trail that I normally don’t see (because of a blazing sun).
And hiking with sunglasses up opened the view up a bit, too. Although I’m not crazy about the monstrosity of a home that’s going in right near the trailhead (come on, who approved that?), but I don’t hate them for wanting that view.
It’s just, it kind of starts the whole thing off with a sour taste, with hammers pounding and saws buzzing. Lame.
It’s why that quiet at the top was so magical.