Traveling down the San Francisco Peaks
We got an early start and after the big Birthday BBQ I attended the day, evening, and night before, I was a little dragging. I wasn’t really sure where I was being taken, but didn’t bother to ask many questions. Sometimes being surprised is good.
Our small team dropped the van off at the bottom of the mountain. Our first of two hikes would be going downhill, sounded pretty good to me. We took our other ride to the end of the road at the top of the tallest mountain in Arizona, the San Francisco Peaks, and then Jeremy and I hit the shady mountain trail.
We moved through the high elevation forest with long strides. Smiling people and their dogs gave way to longer and longer stretches of forest between seeing any hikers. After seeing my friend Rose and her mom, we left the day trippers behind and headed deeper into the heart of the mountain.
Thunder crashed into the peaks as we put some miles behind us. We took our first real break about 2.5 miles in and realized that we still had a lot of hiking to do. Jeremy had been told the hike was only 2.5 miles, but I’d seen a sign that had said five, so we figured we were halfway there, which felt good because we had a double hiking header planned for that day, for we wanted to scout out Red Mountain too.
The skies grow darker, but then began to oscillate between brilliant light passing into obscuring shadows. We pressed on mentioning once or twice the hikers who had just been struck by lightning on a neighboring peak.
A light rain began to fall as we took in the changing scenery. Aspen trees gave way to meadows which afforded us magnificent views of the mountains surrounding us and sometimes fell away so we could see dozens of miles to the west and south. At other times the forest swallowed us and be would pass under the limbs of giant pine trees some of them over five feet in diameter.
We pressed on. Gone were any signs of other hikers. We were too far in for most to want to follow and the brooding weather might have sent a few packing. The fine mist cooled us and brought shade, but also let us know we could be racing the storm. It was at our backs, so if we could keep ahead of it on foot, we would be good.
We passed through fern forests, which looked like great places for raptors to wait in silence for us. I’m talking about the Jurassic kind. Gone were the rays of light as dark clouds claimed the skies. The trail became thinner, just a mud slicked groove between the overflowing lime green fauna. We pressed on as the rain grew sharper.
Despite our attempt to out hike the burst, I looked down and read my tech. “So um, I guess the whole thought of it being a 5 mile hike is off since he have hiked more than 5 miles already.”
We conclude that perhaps it’s just five and some change and keep going. After we walk 6 miles, I start to wonder.
Jeremy calls the base crew. We hear Melissa report, “I hiked in and the sign said 6.8 from down here.”
We march on and see one hiker that’s concerned about the weather. I tell her, “You are heading straight into the storm.”
She goes on anyway.
We pass 6.8 as the rain becomes furious, but then I spot the vehicles waiting below. We dash in out of the rain and that 20% of my breakfast burrito I saved tastes so damn good.
Back with two vehicles, we park one, pile in the van. We still have another place to explore.
To be continued…