Sunday: the day best for saguaros and summits.
I hiked the majority of Finger Rock trailhead to Mt. Kimball this morning, in preparation for when I try to summit Finger Rock (and get to the finger rock) in a few weeks. It was just about the best weather I could have hoped for hiking, and it was absolutely the reset button I needed to hit before teaching next week.
For hikers: there is a bit of debate and confusion on Finger Rock. Specifically, some people don’t know how long it is, what the elevation gain is, etc. (One site I looked at suggested that the elevation gain was somewhere in between 3,000-6,000 feet). The primary reason for this confusion is twofold: there are two different starting points, and people tend to end in two different places.
I began from Richard McKee Finger Rock Trailhead, which is on the south side of the Catalina Mountains. There are two main places to end: at Mt. Kimball, or approximately 4-5 miles past that, underneath the finger rock. I ended just shy of Mt. Kimball. To get to Mt. Kimball from my starting point, you will hike a out-and-back trail that is just under 9 miles and about 3,000 feet of elevation gain. With my stopping (a lot) for photos and a 20-minute trail mix snack break, it took me about 2.5 hours to almost reach Mt. Kimball.
Thanks to winter rains, there was quite a full stream running through the first few miles, before we reached what I would consider the “real” trailhead. Finger Rock changes so drastically depending on the weather; if it’s rained recently, be sure to wear good hiking boots so you’re not slipping on the rocks as you cross the stream.
It was stunning. We started early enough to feel the desert wake up with us, and the stream was not entirely unexpected, but so cute and fun to hike around for us desert people.
Finger Rock is basically straight up and straight down. For inexperienced hikers, it may feel really challenging, but luckily, it’s beautiful all the way through, so any part of the hike is worth checking out.
There really is no way better, for me, to begin a week than by hiking. I feel so much more mentally prepared to start teaching again tomorrow. One of my favorite John Muir quotes is “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” That is exactly how I feel after Finger Rock.