Judy’s Big Hike

Mt. Wrightson has loomed large on my list of  “Want to Hike” spots ever since it appeared on my radar in 2007, the first year I came to Arizona when John and I were dating.  At nearly 9500 feet, the prospect was daunting for a flatlander like me, but that was tempered by the fact that it’s a hike, not a ‘climb’, in the truest sense of the word.  But, it’s fairly steep, with over 4500′ of elevation change in the five-mile uphill section, over a trail that is uneven and rocky in many spots.  Still…..sitting on our patio watching the sunset every evening, I would think about making the trek.20140206_070438(Mt. Wrightson is the peak to the right of the palm tree – the highest peak in the area)

So, when friends Tony and David G. mentioned that they were planning an assault on Mt. Wrightson, I cautiously asked if I could join their hiking party.  These two are fast and fearless hikers.  Four of David G’s New York cycling friends were flying in for a week of hiking/biking, and I was intimidated to think of not being able to hold my own in such a group.  But, I figured that it was now or never.  Certainly, I’m not getting any younger, and I’ve got pretty good hiking legs right now.  OK, let’s do it!  Naturally, these guys never do anything the easy way.  Instead of a 10 mile hike, up and down, Tony found a new route – adding about 3.5 additional miles to the descent.  Yikes!  Now we’re talking about a hike, which kept me awake with worry for a few nights.

We met early (at Starbucks, naturally) on the morning of the hike.  The plan was to drop the Firetruck at the end of the Trail in Florida (Flo-REE-da) Canyon, and get into a second vehicle to head up to the Trailhead in Madera Canyon.  We loaded our packs, and left a cooler of beer in the back of the truck, in anticipation of needing a cold one at the completion of the hike.  (GREAT planning!)

By 9am, we hit the trail, practically running.  These folks are all really quick.  In an hour, we arrived at Josephine Saddle (elevation 7080′), 2.5 miles up the Old Baldy Trail.  I’m practically seeing stars, and wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.  A quick rest of about five minutes, and we push on to Baldy Saddle (elevation 8070′).  The wind is howling – probably blowing a steady 25-30mph.  Thank goodness, we’re not always being buffeted around, but it was very unpleasant to round a corner and catch the full blast.20150221_113531 Those of us wearing hats without straps had to put them on backwards to keep them from flying off.

I dropped back a bit on the last leg to the summit.  I was huffing and puffing – trying not to seriously embarrass myself.  But, all of the sudden – there’s no more Trail!  The end! 20150221_12004520150221_12155520150221_115742 Yippee – I did my (internal) Happy Dance.  Lunch – photos – gulp down as much water as I could manage, and fnd a spot to hunker down out of the wind.wpid-wp-1424724312050.jpegThanks, David G. and Tony!David G., me, Tony

Foolishly, I think that the hard part is over, although I know that we’ve got about eight miles to go.  Downhill – should be easy, right?

OK, from here on – the photos are misty.  Perhaps it was the new application of sunscreen which I applied at the top.  Did I touch the lens with greasy fingers?  Or, perhaps my entire brain was moving into soft focus.  Anyway, the photos suck, but it’s all I’ve got!

Once we get back to Baldy Saddle, we’re off on new territory, heading across the Crest Trail for a couple of miles.20150221_12554020150221_124427Traversing a generally downward path along a ridge, we plodded through a vast area which had been burned out by a fire several years ago.  The huge blackened skeletons of enormous Ponderosa Pines loom overhead.20150221_124807This is a difficult section to walk – the Trail is canted sideways, putting stress on knees that are already tired from the climb upward.  This is a very lightly used trail, and trees have fallen over it – forcing us to scramble over, under (the worst), or around.  But, it was beautiful, in an eerie, forlorn way.20150221_141834Jim found a tree branch that he was attached to, and I volunteered to strap it to my backpack and carry it down to the Firetruck for him.  I had the only pack with external straps and ties, so I made the offer.  Seemed reasonable at the time.20150221_133508On and on we stepped.  Keep moving, one foot in front of the other….we had a few map consultations.20150221_133728Brief stops were more frequent – perhaps under the guise of taking a photo.  I sure didn’t want to complain.20150221_133342Finally, we reach Florida Saddle (elevation 7800′).  I’m thinking that we’re almost home.  Wrong-o!  The last miles along the Florida Canyon Trail were the worst – especially the last three or four.  The Trail was strewn with rocks, making footfalls on tired knees and feet more painful than anyone wanted to admit.  Jim’s knee was bothering him, and he tried to alleviate the pain by side-stepping down the steepest parts.  Felt bad for him, but there really isn’t anything to do except suck it up and keep moving.  Conversation fell to a minimum.  Was everyone else counting steps, or was it just me?  I kept peering ahead, hoping to catch a glimpse of the red Silverado, with its cache of cold beer and welcoming place to sit.

Finally!  It’s nearly 5:30, and we finally reach the truck.  Yay!!  I truly was worried that we were going to finish in the darkness, the thought of which terrified me.  We pile in (David G opts to ride in the back with the gear, instead of squeezing into the back seat with three others).  A quick trip to the upper trailhead to pick up the other vehicle, and we’re done.

Would I do it again!  Oh yeah.  I held up better than I had hoped for.  Two days post-hike, and I still have ten toenails.  No stiffness or soreness.  Here’s what my Garmin Vivofit recorded for the day (includes the hike + whatever other movement I had before/after).wpid-screenshot_2015-02-23-14-26-01.pngHere’s Tony’s route profile from his Garmin GPS.  Mt Wrightson-Crest Trail-Florida Canyon profile 2

Happy Hiker, after a long day on the Trail.

 

26 thoughts on “Judy’s Big Hike

  1. “. . . but there really isn’t anything to do but to suck it up and keep on moving.” Good words to live by, really! Goof for you, Judy, for testing them out on a mountain like that. . . I was exhausted just by the read-through. Exilierating, though!

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    • Goof for you kinds of sums up my life. I like it!

      Within reason, I do like a physical challenge. We try to do as much as we can, while we are still able. Someday that will end, and I’d like to have as few regrets as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ok, glad you can see “goof” working. But I was ,astonished when I saw that typo in the nice published comment. (And thank you for being a good sport about it; I know “goof” is not the one to sum up your life!)

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    • I was worried about not being able to hold my own. Didn’t want to be the one to cry uncle, and have to turn back. It was a huge relief to find that I could keep up (although I have to admit that it was touch and go at the onset). It was a great day on the trail in many ways for me.

      Thanks for checking in, Camille.

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  2. Those Vivofit stats certainly make up for that hike you had to give up on a few weeks ago! What an accomplishment!!! On my good days it would take three days to accumulate 34,000 steps!! Are you resting for a few days now?

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    • Not resting intentionally. Had 13,000+ steps Sunday, but only about 10,000 yesterday. You would laugh if you knew how many times a day I checked my progress!

      The abandoned hike still nags at me. While not anywhere near as long, it was much more difficult. Maybe next year…….

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  3. I knew it. You ARE Wonder Woman!

    Congratulations! I would be proud of you for attempting it, but I’m thrilled you attempted AND finished it!

    Bet that was the best tasting beer ever — regardless of brand. :)

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  4. 34,000 steps is probably more than I’ve done in a year on paved flatland. That is just awesome. You are amazing. So enjoying hiking vicariously through you. Love all the pictures. Congrats on a great achievement.

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    • I was thinking about Jolene’s hiking trip. Made me feel like a complainer!

      Got a photo of your rock at the top of Elephant Head. It’s fading a bit. Someone needs to go up there with a new rock in your honor (but it’s probably not going to be me!)

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