Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lost Mines Trail

It must be said that I found the final mile of the Window Trail grueling. The climb from the campsites to the lodge is all uphill with switchbacks that in a previous life wouldn't have fazed me but in this one did. I was so beat as we neared the lodge that I opted to walk the long way around the parking lot to avoid picking up my feet to step over the curbs in the middle.

So it was fortunate that the guide books warn you not to let the initial grade of Lost Mines Trail intimidate you.

The grade at the beginning is indeed steep, but being forewarned, we kept going, and the trail began to level out. I say "level out" but of course this was a mountain trail, so it rather kept climbing up, but gently and in a way that my huffing and puffing subsided.

Actually, huffing and puffing is fine. I was a runner long enough to know that you huff and puff and your heart pounds and everything will work out fine. It was the rock stairs that got me. They got me returning from the Window, and they got me here, too, putting an increasing distance between me and my intrepid companions.

Trudy and Ben periodically had to wait for me to catch up. Ben was particularly good at this, constantly looking back and waiting for his dear old dad for whom each stair step was a weight lifting exercise and whose feet seemed to weigh a ton. But wait they did, and I managed eventually to lengthen my stride (when the trail permitted it) and hike my fanny pack higher onto my fanny, giving my glutes a break.

But I suppose it was the self-guided tour booklet that saved me in the end. At the trail head, for a dollar you can take a pamphlet that has photos and descriptions of 24 marked items of interest along the trail. There were Alligator Junipers and Mexican Drooping Junipers and One-Seed Junipers. There were Pinyon Pines and Texas Madrones. There were Sotol and Ocotillo and Nolina. There were stone CCC culverts. And there was the igneous mass of Casa Grande across the canyon. At each of these spots, Trudy opened the booklet and read the narrative. And as she read, I got to stand still and sometimes even sit!

Given my experience the day before, my spirits might have broken on the way to the peak. But as it happened, there were these 24 chances for recovery, soothed by the narrations of the fair and industrious Trudy and the patience of Ben whose dad ran marathons not so long ago but was having trouble here.

And so, we had lunch on the pink rock at the summit in the shade of a Pinyon Pine, looking down into Juniper Canyon on the one hand and Pine Canyon on the other. And everything worked out fine.

Big Bend National Park

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