We decided, on the spur of the moment, to go on a hike after work. We arrived at the Gomez Peak parking lot around 5:20pm and immediately set off up the hill. We paused not at all to look at a trail map or to confirm if the gate would stay open late enough. And we had the dog team.
We have hiked around the Little Walnut/Gomez area a lot – most of our early photos before we started building took place in the parts of the Gila forest that we accessed on these trails. But we had never taken on the peak before because its designated parking lot tends to be crowded. Since it was both Friday and soggy (we had had a huge rain earlier in the day), it seemed like we might luck out and get the trail to ourselves.
There was one car in the lot so we kept the dogs on leashes for the first half. A thunderstorm was rolling in so we were trekking along at a pretty fast clip. Trooper was doing his best to be a dead-weight.
About a quarter of the way into the trail, the trail split into three different directions (this is what we thought at the time). One of them was heading straight up and the other two meandered up and down. Since we were heading for the peak, we figured we should take the straight-up path, even though it kind of looked more like a rubble-strewn wash.
It was CRAZY STEEP. Sydney even had a hard time plowing ahead. After some very intense vertical ascents, we found ourselves on a more gentle slope. Even though the peak had looked so close from the parking lot, we didn’t seem any nearer to it after 40 minutes on the trail.
After following the [gradually less steep] trail for awhile, we came across a sign indicating the direction to the peak. As the thunder was now pretty intense and foreboding of something wet to come, I started jogging. Sydney stayed with me and Trooper did his best to keep Brian from even walking properly. Brian eventually shouted at me that Trooper was not allowing him to pass (the trail was now very narrow on a steep hillside; don’t look down!). My response –
“LEAVE HIM BEHIND! WE’LL FIND HIM ON THE WAY DOWN.”
I had to shout because we were separated by a great distance at this point and I was a whole switchback above him. We abandoned Trooper to his relentless sniffings. !!!!
I made it to the top with Sydney, touched base and started moving as quickly as possible back down. Sydney – nearly panicked at this point from the thunder – was much relieved we were now headed in the direction of the car. I passed Brian, who was aghast that I was going down already, but my concern lay in retrieving Trooper before sunset. His black coat makes him become one with the darkness.
I came across Trooper about 5 minutes later. He was JOGGING toward me. I guess he realized he had been abandoned and then started to put some effort into finding the pack. His body language exhibited all dog signs of relief. That’ll teach him.
We continued down at a very fast pace, only slowing to navigate rocky slopes and narrow spaces. We got to the parking lot about 15-20 minutes ahead of Brian because he had lingered at the top to take photos.
What an exciting adventure! When we later consulted a map, we discovered that our very steep ‘trail’ was indeed a wash. Next time, we’ll stick to the established path. It took us a little under two hours – the real trails will probably take longer but be a lot easier to climb. The dogs slept very well that night.