True story. I hate the fact I have to state that out of concern I post too much that is not true but rest assured, this is all true. I arrived at 5:30am for a group ride on Monday but observing who else had arrived (old and slow) I started the car's engine and thought, "Gee, I don't want to spend a day in the air conditioned condo so what to do, what to do..." Well, I was 4 hours from Flagstaff and the high point in the state of AZ, Humphrey's Peak, a must do hike. Arriving back home, I packed all I needed, told my groggy wife I was going out for a hike (all true of course) and drove. Arriving in Flagstaff, I maneuvered through a very busy town, picked up the 180 north toward Grand Canyon and after 6 miles, hung a right towards the Snow Bowl and bang, there I was. Above is a mountain but not the mountain. Looking in the other direction is.....
...Humphrey's Peak. I look at that and think, that has to be more than 5 miles from here but head across a meadow, past a ski lift and soon.....
...plunge into a thick growth of Aspen and pin. The white trunked Aspen are beautiful but soon fall away and are replaced solely by pine, which eventually become shorter, then scarcer and finally....
....I reach the 12,000' foot sign and emerge at a saddle with some signs and a great view of the ski runs below.
There are 2 or 3 false summits which is good to know prior to starting a hike because nothing bums me out on a hike then reaching what I think is a summit only to find, no, there is another, only higher. I started the hike kind of late, around noon but with the elevation change, it was 85ish at the bottom and becoming cooler as I climbed, windier too.
I read that a couple of weeks ago the upper reaches of the trail were snow covered but the snow had now receded to the north facing slopes. Don't know why but there were several crows on the snow pack looking for something. I walked out about halfway across the snow but the thought of the headline, "Ohio Dope Killed During Avalanche" deterred me from going too far. I kept climbing but also noticed I was panting rather heavily, which is not all that odd on a steep climb but....
.....I reached the summit and was breathing hard and I thought, "Is this the big one?" and looked around to see if there was an appropriate spot for a helicopter to land to carry me out. I so much looked forward to sitting at the top and enjoying the views but when I arrived. a swarm of gnats descended on me.
The swarm was unmoved by my swipes at then and looking down, there were dozens coating my arms and legs. Yuck. I did not bother to sign the register at the top, instead headed back down. Within 40 yards, the gnats were gone. Why at the peak only they are pervasive I do not know. As I walked down, I continued to notice I was short of breath and concerned about my well being when suddenly it dawned on me, "Ya big dope, it's the elevation and lack of oxygen that is doing this to you." He, he, he. Why I had not thought of this previously I don't know but at almost 13,000', it isn't the same as walking around my yard in Granville, OH.
The views, in all directions....it evokes the thought in me, it's so good to be alive and life will suck when I can't do this anymore. I think that is a long time yet to come but nonetheless makes me appreciate what I can still do. 2:23 to the top probably is not a great time from the parking lot but my hiking legs are not too fit right now but will be in the fall. The north rim of the Grand Canyon can be seen, Vermillion Cliffs, lots of features.
Heading back down, I reach a boulder field with a fine view of Locket Meadow. It looks like an island surrounded by water but nope, just grass around a grove of trees. I continue down but frustrated that the knarley trail is making the going very slow, slower than my ascent time.
At last I reach the meadow and upon reaching the parking lot, jump in the car and drive south, arriving by 10:00pm. A long day for sure.