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Encounters with a rattlesnake and falling on a cactus

March 29, 2011   The Hamilton Outing Club went to Arizona for the second week of spring break this year and had quite an adventure in the desert.

The second week of break, I went on an outing club trip through the Superstition Wilderness in Arizona. Jeannie Folan ’12, Pat Dunn ’12, Adam Fix ’13 and I spent five days backpacking through the desert on this wonderful adventure. 

Here’s a summary of the trip, beginning after our first night near the trail head. 

Day 1: Packed everything up that we would need for the next few days and hit the trail. After weeks of build up for this trip, it was kind of hard to believe that we were actually there, going on this trip, but there we were, walking along next to some cacti. So a ways into the day, Pat remember that he left his keys in the car. This was rather important because we were walking to his car, which we had left at a different trailhead, so we could do a point-to-point trip. So we waited for a bit while Pat ran back to get his keys. And then we were off! Again! So we walked for a ways. Basically until we were tired of walking through thorny bushes. Our legs were so scratched up, it was unbelievable. Found a place to camp with water near by and settled down for the night. 

Day 2: Our map and compass skills were put to the test. As were our feet. We spent day following a river-bed to our next camp site. The rocky terrain and more thorny bushes made it slow going but we found a place to camp with a water source after a long day of hiking. Blisters began to form, so we wrapped our feet in duct tape when necessary. 

Day 3: We continued along a trail to our next campsite. Before we had gotten very far, while walking up a hill, I fell on a cactus. Jeannie was kind enough to tweeze the prickles out of my newly formed cactus beard and pull two cacti out of my leg, while Pat kindly took a cactus section out of my foot. But then the cactus pricked his fingers, and it took Jeannie a few good tugs to pull out the cactus from his fingers. And of course, we forgot to take pictures. But we did take pictures of our unbelievably gorgeous lunch spot. And the rattlesnake that we saw. It was not a happy camper. We came upon it on the trail, and immediately backed off when it gave us a very clear warning with a shake of its rear end. We took a few steps back and waited for the snake to move off the trail. Eventually, the snake lowered itself from its threatening pose, and made its way off the trail. It was huge! I’ve never seen a snake so big in the wild. 

Day 4: We hiked a short ways to our next campsite and then went for a day hike in the afternoon. Out blisters were slowly turning to calluses. As Jeannie said, quite accurately, “It’s like my feet forgot that they go hiking sometimes.” It was a relaxing day. 

Day 5: It’s the last day and our packs seem to be light as air, as we only have a few packets of oatmeal and hot chocolate left over. We packed up camp, filled up on water, and made our way to the trailhead where Pat’s car awaited us. After not seeing a single person other then our group members for the past four days, it was kind of surprising to see so many people on the trail. But then we realized we were heading out on a trail that was popular with day hikers, and it was a Saturday with gorgeous weather. We made it to the car, went and picked up the other car (which involved jump starting it) and headed to the hotel to take showers. It was one of those times where we couldn’t tell if we were tan or just covered in dirt. And then we went out for Mexican food and it was absolutely delicious. 

All in all, it was a fantastic HOC trip. Now we are back on the Hill for the final push to the end of the year. Which means that it's going to be super busy and lots of work. On the bright side though, the lakes may be thawing, so canoeing practice can hopefully start soon!