Friday, November 30, 2012
This was going to be a big hike for me and I thought I had done my homework. I located the trail head before leaving our condo in Sedona, called the ranger station to check conditions on the mountain, and checked the weather. Mt. Humphreys is the highest point in Arizona at 13,637 feet and is located close to Flagstaff, AZ. A hike of 4.8 miles one way will get you to the top. I didn't have any plans to try and summit as I was not acclimated to the elevation. The trail head is located at 9400 feet and for a lowlander like me who usually hikes at 1500 to 3000 feet, I knew I would be lucky to make it to the tree line at 11,000 feet.
So DH and I drove for an hour to the trail head which is actually well marked and is at the north end of the Snow Bowl Arizona (a winter ski area) parking lot. DH does not hike but he willingly and sometimes patiently waits until I return.
We did our routine photos at the trail head sign and then I was off excited and a little nervous about the challenges of the trail.
The trail starts off as a little wider than a single track dirt road that passes through a meadow with some great views of the mountain. Humphreys is part of the San Francisco Peaks and in this picture is the mountain to the left.
The trail climbs at a fairly easy incline, but at a quarter of mile when the trail enters the forest, I was already breathing harder than normal. Determined to see what this trail was all about, I told myself I could do this. I started using a method of pressurized breathing that high altitude climbers use...purse your lips and suck in and with lips still pursed, blow out with force. I've never tried this before, but I think it helped.
Leaving the meadow behind and entering the forest I saw the Kachina Wilderness sign and made note of all the natural hiking sticks that had been left behind. I thought about taking one, but since I don't usually hike with poles, I thought it would be more of a nuisance than a benefit.
It wasn't long after I was in the forest that ice started to appear on the trail. Now when I talked to someone named Linda at the Peaks Ranger Station to inquire about conditions on the mountain, I was told there really wasn't any snow although there might be a few icy patches at higher elevations. So, I was at about 9700 feet which I didn't consider high considering the top was 13,000 ft plus, but here was ice on the trail. And I wouldn't have called it a patch as it seemed the entire trail was covered in ice with water flowing over the top of the ice. Fortunately, there was no snow, so it wasn't too difficult to walk along side the trail and continue on up. The x's in the photo mark the trail.
The trail is getting steep now and my watch tells me the elevation is now 9880 ft. I haven't even gone one half mile yet and I've covered about 500 feet in elevation gain. I'm beginning to rethink reaching the tree line and then the trail changes again!
There's now about 3-6 inches of snow on either side of the trail as well as on top of the trail and I can still hear water trickling below. Hmmm, no snow and only patchy ice at higher elevations. I have my sturdy hiking boots on, I'm dressed for the weather (about 41 degrees,) but I have no poles and more importantly, I have no crampons.
A reasonable person probably would have turned around. But I was really bummed, actually mad and if my cell phone had reception, I would have called Linda at the Ranger Station and asked her the last time she hiked the trail. I hadn't even gone a mile and whether I made it to 11000 feet or not, I certainly wanted to see more of this trail before I quit.
So I pawed around in the snow and found myself a walking stick, all the time thinking about the ones that were readily available at the start of the trail. The stick helped with balance, but now it was even slower going.
Just short of a mile I met a couple coming down the trail without sticks, without hiking boots and without water. Before we actually met, the woman fell twice. We talked for a few minutes and they assured me of the difficulty in going down. I suggested a hiking stick might help and we then went on our way.
The lady fell again (she was okay) and the sound of her scream distracted me enough that I fell face down with my chest hitting a log in the snow. For a mili second I couldn't breath and my next thought was cardiac tamponade. This is pressure on the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the heart muscle (myocardium) and the outer covering sac of the heart (pericardium). It keeps the heart muscle from functioning normally and death is usually imminent. A cause can be a direct blow to the chest such as a steering wheel in a AA or a large woman falling directly onto a log.
Ah, but I digress, I obviously didn't die, didn't even hurt myself and decided I needed to get up out of the snow. Before I got up, I took a picture. I'm smiling because I'm not hurt and I can go a little more.
I trudged on and when I reached 10,332 feet, I stopped knowing it was going to take some time to get down. I took a picture of my stopping place in hopes of maybe finding it again the next time I'm on the trail. And I WILL climb this mountain, not today, not tomorrow, but when I have my crampons with me and my hiking poles.
I found another stick to go with the one I had and started down the trail. OH MY! OH MY! To make a long story short, I fell three times and the last time I sprained my big toe. Not sure how that happened when my boots are fairly stiff. Later I also noted I had a gouged out hole in my elbow but a little bacitracin and that's fine. I slipped at least a dozen times but didn't fall. At one point I threw my sticks down the slope and slid down on my butt.
I went a little over a mile with a 932 foot elevation gain in 55 minutes and about 70 minutes coming back down. I'm not sorry I went, but I was disappointed I didn't get any farther up the trail. Next time!
Friday, November 23, 2012
The holiday was particularly special this year because my Mom and StepDad are here. In September God spared his life in a near death event and now that he is making excellent progress in his recovery we are grateful and thankful for God's mercies.
And of course my handsome and charming grandson, the actor, made his way from Hollywood to be with us in the desert. Here he is with his grandfather, my dh.
And his great grandmother, my Mom.
Dear daughter, the fabulous cook was at her best again for this holiday. Here she is with her nephew and her favorite actor.
We had an addition to the table this year; an artist friend of dear daughter who added not only delicious homemade rolls to the feast, but also her sparkling wit. She's hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim in one day, so you know we had a lot to talk about.
A lovely and eclectic table was set with a fabulous flower arrangement.
There was turkey, stuffing, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh cranberry relish, green bean casserole, a new recipe with yams, garlic, and cheese, a wilted spinach and mushroom salad with a spicy orange dressing and lots of really fine wine.
Here dd brings the salad to the table while friend and grandson give a toast.
Then of course we have to talk about dessert. Oh my, a luscious pumpkin pie with real whip cream and a chocolate pumpkin torte.
I ate most of my calories for the day in this meal (1200) but my breakfast was an orange and my lunch was fresh spinach with very light dressing. I additionally burned 1001 calories yesterday on a hike and another 300 this morning on a fast uphill walk and a slow downhill jog. So I'm really full, but I'm so thankful and grateful for so many blessings this Thanksgiving.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Friends and family ask me all the time about why I hike, climb, and push myself when my joints are aching, my toenails are screaming and I feel like I can't take another step. Well, T.S. Eliot couldn't have said it any better. I love this quote and I feel the truth of this deeply.
Monday, September 10, 2012
When I was in college I read Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey. This book helped solidify my feelings about wilderness and the overwhelming beauty and silence of wild places. The book also reveals the character of a man who challenges the exploitation of nature. At one time he was a Park Ranger in Arches National Park in southern Utah spending days wandering in the solitude. Abbey lived in Moab, Utah and I’ve always wanted to spend time in Moab because he wrote so eloquently about the land.
In early July as were preparing our itinerary for a summer driving vacation, I routed us through Moab, and we spent a wonderful two nights and two days in the land Edward Abbey loved so much. Gorgeous red, orange, purple, and sand colored rocks, in amazing jumbles and angles as though a crane had placed them in their precarious positions, but of course it was the hand of God that created all this majestic landscape.
I chose Dead Horse Point State Park to hike because of its more remote location and unusual name. Although no one could factually confirm what happened, before the turn of the 19th century, mustang herds ran wild on the mesas near Dead Horse Point. The unique promontory provided a natural corral into which the horses were driven by cowboys. The only escape was through a narrow, 30-yard neck of land controlled by fencing. Mustangs were then roped and broken, with the better ones being kept for personal use or sold to eastern markets. Unwanted culls of "broomtails" were left behind to find their way off the Point. According to one legend, a band of broomtails was left corralled on the Point. The gate was supposedly left open so the horses could return to the open range. However when the horses were found dead the gate was still locked. The horses died of thirst within sight of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below.
The trail had amazing views with the Colorado River snaking its way along the bottom of deep, deep canyons.
The trail had minimal elevation gain and certainly was not wilderness and was not far from the sound of cars on a nearby road. In some places the trail was hard to see and in other places it was paved and more like being in a park. I don’t know if this area ever burned, but I only saw dead trees.
The tall stack of rocks to the right in this picture is called a cairn and is used to mark the trail. In the second picture the cairn was a tiny stack of rocks for which I was very glad. It would have been easy to lose the trail in this location.
Sticks laid out in a row make good trail markers too. In many places the trail looked like this…just flat rock that went on and on without any footprints.
Not well visualized in this picture, it looked like the perfect burial place for a body and so is named by me, Coffin Rock. In fact, doesn’t that look like a skull just to the left of the tree at the bottom of the picture? One could wander in this land and contemplate the rock formations for hours on end.
“Please don’t jump!” Fortunately, I did not encounter any rattlesnakes, but I did see another reptile who looked like he was ready to take the plunge.
And speaking of taking a plunge, there were areas where the drop off was thousands of feet. I’m a little acrophobic so I don’t venture too close to edges, but my brother would have been teetering on the edge to see what he could see even though the boulders were clearly in place to keep people away from the edge.
About an hour into my hike my solitude was disturbed by a strange looking helicopter flying low and making continuous passes over a certain area. Although I couldn’t explain the big white nose, I though perhaps a hiker had fallen or become stranded. I was even more convinced of this when I saw the yellow “crime scene” tape blocking my path.
It wasn’t long before official looking people with radios and earphones approached and asked me to move back to a particular area. It was then I learned Johnny Depp was on location filming scenes for ‘The Lone Ranger’ due on the big screen summer 2013. The yellow tape was to keep people out of the area because of the helicopter. Apparently, in the past there was a helicopter crash while filming a movie which killed people on the ground. However, I did get some shots with a long lens. The first picture is no big deal, but when you realize he was up hundreds of feet from the ground on an open platform and then when you see the following pictures and see it was thousands of feet into the canyon…well THAT gives me a real sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The photo with the two x's is the location of the platform.
So after a short detour, I was back on the trail again returning to the park visitor’s center to meet my husband. As we sat talking about the hike, multiple SUV’s pulled into the parking lot and this dirty looking guy dressed in rough clothes wearing a headband with a feather gets out. He walked over to the food stand and when I realize it’s Johnny, I did get a few pictures which are not great, but I was trying to not be too obvious. Johnny is standing behind the film crew guy in the white shirt.
Our stay in Moab was wonderful, I enjoyed hiking in the land of Edward Abby with a surprise experience on the trail. Good-bye beautiful land of mesas, canyons and incredible rock formations.
Get An Email Alert Each Time ANDYLIN90 Posts