Dallas - Phoenix
My hiking partner and I left Dallas on Friday and arrived in Phoenix late that night. We spent the night there in Phoenix and headed for Flagstaff early Saturday morning. Our original plan was to hike Humphreys Peak Saturday when we arrived, but figured we'd be better off spending the night and getting up early Sunday instead. I think that was a better move since we're flatlanders. Give us some time adapt.
Sunset Crater Volcano
Saturday afternoon we cruised over to the Sunset Crater National Monument. Very cool, but I wish we could have hiked up the crater. Not allowed. We were able to see the inner basin side of Snowbowl from the highway. Very pretty. This got me excited for the hike up in the morning.
We also stopped at the Wupatki Pueblo dwelling.
We decided to do dinner @ Outback Steakhouse. I had a 2 year old gift card that I had gotten on my birthday that I used towards the cost of my filet and top shelf margarita. Not bad. We stayed @ the Ramada West in Flagstaff. They overbooked the hotel and had to upgrade us to the suite. It was more like a good sized 2 bedroom apartment. It was ok. And the price was right ($120)
After checking in, we drove up to the trailhead of Humphreys, just so we'd know where to go in the morning.
We got back after dark, and hit the hay early.
The parking lot was empty when we set off down the trail. The first 1/2 mile or so is in the open meadow. About 1 mile in, there is a hiking register. We stopped and logged our info. We were the first hikers of the day. We read some of the previous day's entries and moved on.
Trail finding was very obvious (until we got near the ridge) Lots of switchbacks, rocks, & roots.
We saw a few deer along the way.
Just after the Alpine Tundra sign (somewhere around 11,400 feet elevation) we missed a switchback. It took us about a half mile out of the way. (We learned later that weren't the only ones) We got back on track and continued up. It also started to get windy at this point.
On the Ridge
We finally got to the ridge after about 4.3 miles.
The winds had picked up substantially. I have read several trip reports and they all stated that it was a windy summit, but this was even windier than I had planned on. The closer we got to the summit, the windier.
We got to within 200 feet of the summit and we had to stop to hunker down. At this point, it crossed my mind that we might have to turn back. My climbing partner's bum knee was feeling the pain of being thrashed around by the wicked wind. After some internal debating, I made my mind up that I would "crawl" to this summit if I had to. We lightened our load by leaving our trekking poles under some big rocks. My partner also shed her camelbak hydration pack. In retrospect, I should have done the same. The pack only added bulk for the wind to catch, and toss me about. After securing our gear, we scrambled the final 200 feet and took cover in the summit shelter (rocks).
On the Summit
The wind wasn't nearly as bad on the summit. It was just the 2 of us on top of Arizona. We signed the log and rummaged through the ammo box (the lid is broken).
I would've liked to have spent more time up there, but I was concerned about the wind getting worse for our trip down. I think this may have been the shortest summit visit ever. Five minutes later, we were on our way down. We actually "crab walked" down that 200 foot stretch, back to where we cached our gear. I'm not sure why the wind was so bad in this particular area. It wasn't a saddle. I posted some video on YouTube. Just a short clip to show how bad the wind was.
We moved quickly to get off the ridge. On the way down, we passed several groups and we warned them about the wind.
Later, back near the trail head, we spoke to one gentleman that said he does this route twice a week, without fail. He said he has only seen wind this bad one other time. He also thought that the winds were in excess off 60 mph. Ok... so it wasn't just me being a sissy. :) It really was windy.
Green in the Gills
As usual, I was feeling a little ill on the way down. Besides the splitting headache, I felt just a bit nauseated. I almost always feel altitude affects. So I kept pushing my partner to keep the pace up. Her knee was killing her. Poor thing. The hike down was a long slow one. I had planned on being finished by 2pm and we hit the parking lot at 1:30. I texted our ride to let them know we were finished, and as soon as I hit "send", they were pulling up. Great timing. I was still feeling sick, even when we got back down into Flagstaff. It didn't go away until we hit 4000 feet elevation on the road back to Phoenix. I suppose it could have been worse. (like Mauna Kea - talk about SICK)
All in all, this was a beautiful hike! I absolutely LOVE the Arizona landscape. I'm still hoping to retire there one day. This was State Highpoint #15 for me.