I woke up at 5:30 and was on the road at 6. There was still two more hours and 5,000 more feet of elevation needed to reach the trail head in the Apache National Forest in eastern Arizona. By the way, this is an absolute gorgeous drive through canyons and forests that rivals any scenic drive I've ever seen. I made it to the trail head at 8. After a quick pitstop and supply check, I was ready to go. The guidebook said the weather can change quickly in this area at any time of year, so I made sure to be prepared. In addition to two liters of water, I packed a longsleeve shirt, windbreaker, poncho, first-aid kit, compass, map, pocket knife, lighter, insect repellent, and a cellphone with no coverage. It turned out the only item I really needed was the insect repellent. 100% Deet. Living in Phoenix, it is easy to forget the agony of misquitos who live in the mountain areas and prey on unprotected hikers.
After 3 hours of steady hiking, and seeing only one other group of hikers, I made it to the top. This was a more or less pleasant hike with no real steep thigh-crushing climbs. The ascent was so long and gradual, it was a surprise to be at the top without having to cough up a lung. The summit is offically on an Indian reservation, and is considered sacred. There are warnings in the guidebooks and at the trail head that say large fines can be levied for trespassing. Being the stupid, arrogant, white man that I am, I ignorantly kept looking for a sign to tell me that I was entering a forbidden area. Seeing no sign, I just kept going. I saw a small peak ahead, and thinking maybe the real Mount Baldy was beyond this hill and my line of vision, I hiked to the top. At the top I saw a small post with a feather tied to it. A definite sign of sacred ground. Seeing that there was no where else to go but down, and realizing I was at risk of angering the gods, or more importantly, the Apache Reservation Police, I quickly scurried back down off the summit. But first, I took a couple of quick pictures, one of which was a good photo of the wood post and feather.
Almost immediately after coming off the summit, clouds formed, thunder roared, and it started to rain. Since I really didn't want a wet and soggy trip back down, I looked up at the sky and yelled, "OK, so that's how it's going to be huh?!" "Fine, you win!!" I pulled out my digital camera and erased the picture of the Indian relic.
The rain stopped, and this stupid white man was spared. This time.