The first mistake I made for the day was wearing a low-cut yoga shirt.
But we will get back to that later.
It was an ordinary day. The sun was shining. The temperature was in the mid 70s.
It was the perfect day for a new adventure. I was in Tucson on business with some
colleagues of mine, and we had the day off. With nothing planned I headed to the
internet to see what was available. Lo and behold, there were some small mountains
just to the west of the city. If I had known what was to become of the day, I wouldn't
have insulted the mountain by thinking it was "small." I am pretty sure that it heard
me, and wanted its revenge.
Now, I've climbed a "hill" before. And I hated it. I kept looking back realizing that there really wasn't a way for me to
turn around and get back down once I got to the top. Thankfully, that time, there was an easier way down. So I am
not really sure why I thought this would be a good idea. But my friends and I started up the mountain in a quest to
find the geocache at the top.
If you don't know what a geocache is, I will explain. There are people all around the world that have stashed hidden
containers and logged their location using hand held GPSs. Then people like me, convince other people to join then
in outings to find these hidden "treasures." There is really nothing in the containers except a log book to put your
name and sometimes trinkets for trade. But this is really an "all about the journey" game. On this particular occasion,
there was a cache on top of the mountain and we were going to find it.
The internet listed the terrain difficulty somewhere in the medium range. I expected a good hike involving nothing
more challenging than some huffing and puffing. We parked at the bottom and looked up at our destination. We
didn't really know where to start, so we just did. Here is my second mistake. A little more research would have been
At first we started along a worn-in trail. But it seemed like it was only going around the mountain. So Chris thought
it would be good to start up from where we were. It wasn't really anything at first. Just picking through the desert
landscape up the side of a "hill." Until our first encounter with Satan's Petunia! A devious little cactus, which I found
out later is nick-named the "junping cactus," will now forever be known as Satan's Petunia by our group. It actually
looks a little inviting at first glance. It has a quality about it that makes one think it is fuzzy and cute. Only about
knee high and no wider than you. But don't let this little guy fool you. About 10 minutes into our 3 hour jaunt we
have our first victim.
Chris, who wanted to take "the short-cut," looks down and sees a piece of the Petunia,
stuck in his arm. And I mean STUCK! These things have invisible barbs and once they
go in, they stay there! He starts trying to pull it out to no avail. As he pulls on the barbs
sticking out of one side you can see that spines in his arm are going nowhere. And it
looks painful. We all start trying to figure out a way to remove this thing, but we have
nothing that will help. Here lies the next mistake. We really thought this was going to
be an easy little hike. Most of us were just wearing jeans and running shoes. Chris was
wearing boots. We didn't know what we were getting into and now, here we stood with
nothing but what we were wearing and a guy with a cactus stuck in his arm.
As I search for some rocks we might be able to use as tweezers, John goes to find some sticks.
He bends down, brushes a Petunia and, BAM, now he is stuck too! This is when we realize
that the cactus is actually made up of a series of little cactus balls the size of your fist that,
for some reason, fall off at anything stronger than a breeze.
So now we have one guy with it stuck in his arm and another guy with it stuck in his leg. We have to figure
something out. I work on the arm. Using some rocks to pull out each individual spine, it takes about 20 minutes
to get it off. And from what I could tell by the look on his face, it isn't pleasant. From behind me, I can hear John
grunting and using expletives as he tries to get his out. Then John turns to me and Toni and says, "I'm going to
have to get these jeans off to finish this job." So the two of us girls head over the crest and wait. The burst of a
yell that we hear confirms my suspicion. These things hurt.
The smartest decision that was made all day was by Toni. She looks around, states that we are all crazy and that
she doesn't want to be mauled by a cactus, and turns around. But the rest of us are all determined to get the cache
now. So we press on. Yet another mistake.
So now it was my turn. We picked our way up the mountain. There was a lot of gravel and fallen rocks. There were
cacti everywhere. And most of the time it was hands-and-knees boulder hopping. And that's when it happens. I reach
down to place a hand, and one of my fingers gets stung by a Petunia. My first reaction is to jerk my hand back. And in
one smooth motion, the spine dislodges from my finger and the ball of death gets hurled right at my chest! There it
is. My first mistake to come back and haunt me. I look down and see this spiny ball stuck right in the middle of my
The guys had heard me yelp and all turn to see if I am ok. I stay hunched over, with my back towards them, already
utterly embarrassed and say, "guys, this isn't going to be good." Quickly followed by, "No Pictures!" I don't know if I
should laugh or if I should cry, so I do a little of both. The guys don't know what to do because they can't tell if I am
laughing or crying. Eventually I realize it doesn't hurt so I just keep laughing, but I know that the worst is yet to
come. We sit there for a little while, pondering how we are going to get this out.
It couldn't have been stuck in a worse location. Finally, Shawn suggests using two rocks to squish the cactus and pull
it out in one fell swoop. I can still hear the ripping of my skin as all the little spines were torn from my chest. It hurt
but I still had to laugh. For the rest of the hike I am feeling around for mini-spines that are still stuck and I pull them
out one by one.
And finally we made it. The way down was not nearly as eventful as we could see from the top there was definitely an
easy way. When I get to a mirror I can see a few hundred red freckles and a few bruises that it left.
So if you are looking for a moral to this story; don't disrespect the "hill," it knows how to fight back. -----------
Satan's Petunia -Deirdre M. Gurry