October 4, 2012

Wilson Mtn Panorama

Nice views, to be sure—but the behind-the-scenes on this one is worth sharing. This was a training/test day for an upcoming Canyon hike with my brother. Problems began with water: I was using a borrowed water bottle, and badly misjudged how much water it held, so I wasn't carrying nearly enough. It was in the 90's at the trailhead, so I ran out of water pretty quickly. But I figured I'd be okay, and that running a little dry would be good training.

Atop Wilson Mountain, there had been a burn probably a year or two ago. The fire cleared out all the native vegetation, and a ridiculously nasty thorn bush grew back in its place. Those thorns tore my legs to shreds. I was out of water, and I was thirsty, but I really wanted to see the view from both the south and the north overlooks. The trail to the north view, however, just kept going and going. I knew I ought to turn around, but sometimes I get really stubborn, and I was damned if I was going to miss the view for thorns and thirst, so I kept going.

Eventually, I made it to the viewpoint—it was nice. As I turned around, I realized I was really starting to feel dehydrated. And by now, it was a long, long way down—maybe seven miles and 2500 vertical feet to the car, give or take. Soon after I started back to the south side of the mountain, a bee stung me. Finally returning to the south overlook and starting down the mountain, I was now fully dehydrated and worried. I was just crazy for water, and I could feel my muscles starting to tighten up and cramp all over, especially my hands, back, and neck.

I knew if my legs started to go I was hosed. For some reason, the prickly pear cactus alongside the trail were all bearing fruit, perfectly ripe. I knew the fruit were covered in tiny cactus needles, but I couldn't bear the thirst, so I stopped and picked one and tried to peel it. Instantly, my fingers were covered with tiny needles. I pulled out as many needles as I could and kept trying to peel the fruit, getting stuck by more and more needles.

I ate the fruit—it was good, filled with juice. About a mouthful. But my hands were a mess of cactus needles, most of them too small to pull out. I grabbed a rock with a sharp edge and tried to scrape the needles off. I kept going. After about five minutes, I ate another fruit, getting even more needles in my hands. I kept going. The cramping in my neck was really starting to get bad. I figured if my legs didn't go, I was within about an hour of water‐there was a store five minutes from the trailhead.

I just kept talking to my legs, telling them how much time we had to go to get to water, telling them not to cramp. My hands were twisted cactus needle pincushions. When I made it to the car I could barely work my car keys, but I made it to the store, no doubt spooked the heck out of the poor clerk with my thrashed appearance, and began a long, slow, painful rehydration. Great F%^&ing training hike!


Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow

One thought on “Wilson Mtn Panorama

  1. Hehe… I feel your pain. I had a similar adventure on my first Iron Mountain bid. Sans prickly pear. Yet ended with a 30 minute cool-down and re-hydration in the East Fork.

    Certainly, glad your okay though.

    P.S. It’ll be good training for Williamson

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