The angry hiker

Have you ever finished a hike and said, ” This is the worst hike I’ve ever been on and I will never ever do it again.”

No? Yes? Well, I have never said those words.. until yesterday.

I’m actually angry about it. Like, really upset and frustrated.

Even if a hike is challenging I always feel like I’ve at least accomplished something. But not yesterday.

Even if a hike is slightly boring I always say , well at least I can check that one off my map. But not yesterday.

Even if I can barely move and every muscle aches I always feel proud I pushed myself to finish a hike. But not yesterday.

What in the world happened yesterday?

This rant is an attempt to figure out the answer to this question as I process through this hike with all you readers.

It might have something to do with the fact that I thought I had already completed this trail. I agreed to do it again because it is the premier hike to do in Flagstaff during the Fall. People from all over the country come to view the glorious array of color on display in Locket Meadow.

Seriously , look at a few of the photos I took yesterday .

The last picture looks like God is shining His spotlight on His marvelous handiwork.

How could it be possible that I would feel anything but awe?

Let me clarify; I was definitely in awe as I was walking through a thick carpet of golden leaves surrounded by such a vast variety of green and golden hues nearly blinding me with their radiance.

When people ask me my favorite color, I will now respond with a single word: October.

I digress, back to my anger.

The drive to get to this amazing Meadow involves a very long, curvy narrow road with blind corners and drop offs that would cause anyone a bit of anxiousness if forced to teeter on the edge to let another vehicle pass. Imagine what a drive like this would do to a already anxious driver with a fear of heights and a feeling of certain impending death ? If Visions of driving ( flying) over the edge happen at each and every curve in the road you can almost visualize my churning stomach, sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, and the flashes of my life playing over and over in my head.

Hmmm, the drive didn’t make me feel angry. Scared, yes. Angry, no.

Okay let’s cross that off the possible causes of my anger.

Next.

Back to the carpeted trail with its gentle but steady incline . My mind tried to take in all the beauty so I could later attempt to paint my interpretation on canvas when I returned home.

Way too soon the gentle carpet gave way to a dusty gravely road. Having done this before I was aware of the reward awaiting me at the top of this climb.

Look!

A large open Meadow with picturesque city wells and nestled around beautiful mountains.

Ahh, I’m at the beautiful Inner Basin.

Oh wait… the Inner Basin trail

doesn’t end here . I’ve always ended here. At this perfect place for a brief rest and snack before returning back down from hence I came.

No problem. I will really ,officially able to check the inner basin trail off my map when I complete the rest of this relatively short ( 4.3miles one way ) hike.

Okay.

I’m not angry. It’s no big deal.Right?

Well… the trail continued just a bit before it rudely and abruptly took me out of this scenic serene Meadow onto an old Jeep road. Now, I don’t own a Jeep, but I’ve imagined how fun it would be. But this horrendous road could not possibly bring any joy. It basically feels like a boulder field that wants to do nothing but break your ankle. It goes in a very steep straight line….. it never ever ends! Nothing but rocks and dirt can be seen for 6,000 miles. Okay, maybe it’s only 2 miles.. but I’m telling you it’s endless. Yes, perhaps this is where my emotion starts changing into unhappiness . But I just keep telling myself this HAS to eventually end. Please. Please let this end. I’m staring at me feet willing them to continue and not get twisted or sprained or broken. Every time I break my eyes away from my feet I wobble and my eyes are only greeted by this endless road stretching above me into a bleakness of lost eternity. So I faithfully stare at my feet and will them to continue.

A slight glance up I see a sign ahead. My unhappiness and hopelessness begins to break.. Glory be.. the end is in sight. Literally.

But I was wrong .

The sign was merely directing me off the endless road into a forested part of the trail.

I believe the anger might have gotten real about here.” Are you kidding me???!!! It’s not over??!!! What? What??!”

Fine.

At least I’m off that relentless endless torturous horrendous grunt road.

I like the forest. I do not like this trail in this forest. No end in sight. Once again. I climb and climb, lungs burning, ability to breathe lessening, desire to continue fading. There is NO way I’m turning around now. I am going to win. I am going to make it to the end. Wherever the end might be. If there is an end. Please let this end. This is never going to end, is it?

I am forced to stop to take a sip of water. Apparently I’m unable to walk and sip on water , I don’t have enough air in my lungs for both. I hate stopping. It just makes starting again harder.

What is that sound?

I think it’s me.

I’m pretty sure I’m growling. Or groaning . Whatever it is, it’s not pretty. I hope I’m not attracting wild animals.

I’m officially angry. I’m tired, I’m struggling, I’m going to keep pushing. What am I angry about? That I feel out of shape? That I don’t know when this trail is going to end? Am I angry at myself? The trail? My stupid goal of doing every hike on the map? Why does my goal now seem ridiculous? Did my map lie to me? Is this hike really 20 miles? Is this even worth it? Why in the world am I doing this?

Oh.

There is an intersection ahead. A trail sign. What terrible news does it have for me?

Wait.

It says ” Weatherford Trail”. I have now completed the Inner Basin Trail.

Relief, yes. Happiness? No.

Just another muttering under my breath as I throw my backpack down at the base of the sign.

” I am Never, ever going do this hike again. Ever”

I sit for a minute, maybe two. I can’t stand it. I have to get out of here and back down this trail. Maybe it will seem shorter going back. It was literally uphill the whole way. So all downhill from here. Yay. Get me out of here .

Hmmm. I’m at almost 11,000 feet elevation at this intersection. I’ve been on higher hikes before. But perhaps not at such a steep incline in so few miles. That is unless the map lied to me.

Downhill I go. There are places that require attention due to the steepness. I want to finish this hike back down, but not by tumbling down. Though a tempting thought to have it over with quickly.

I come to the old Jeep road . Well, I can breathe easier. But the footwork is still aggravating . Oh, this is as endless as it was going up it. On and on and on. Maybe I’m angry I’m not in a Jeep bouncing over these rocks. I now know it will end at some point. But seriously….. how can this road not be 100 miles long?

Finally back into the meadow. I feel a slight grin forming, I can see the painted desert in the distance. I can see the leaves sparkling, dancing in the sunlight. I see the aspens and pine trees creating a sight I can barely comprehend.

I’m back on softer footing, I’m led into a majestic path through a explosion of color.

Is there a life lesson here? Do I so quickly forget all the beauty when difficulties arise? Do I get angry when the beautiful things are momentarily out of sight? Do I not want to accept the bad with the good? Can I possibly appreciate the good or even recognize it if I have not be exposed to the bad. Do I get angry because things sometimes feel hard? Because things don’t go the way I think they should?

Things to ponder.

But I swear, I’m never ever going to do that hike again.. at least not the hard part,

No. Never again.

Maybe I haven’t really let the life lesson sink in yet.

But don’t be a angry hiker.

Advertisements

I. Need. Shade.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a Grade A Wimp when it comes to heat. And by heat, I mean anything above 80 degrees. Actually, I’m being quite generous, because I really prefer mid-70’s. Now, I know what you’re thinking… I’m going to be in a lot of trouble on the Colorado Trail if I don’t start training in warmer temps. Well, consider this hike my first.

Kendrick Peak Trailhead
Kendrick Peak, Flagstaff AZ / Round Trip: 9.2 mi / Elevation Gain: 2,718 ft

Not that it’s my first time on the trail. It’s my third, to be exact. But it is my first during a state-wide heatwave. A true heatwave. Not just my personal version of a heatwave. I’m talking record-breaking temps. So, what do we decide to do with our day? Hike Kendrick Peak. Late morning of all things; 10am, 89 degrees and rising. What were we thinking??

Before you start hating this trail as much as I did at that moment, I should tell you that Kendrick Peak actually rocks. It’s one of the highest of a dozen or so mountains within the San Francisco Volcanic Field in Northern Arizona. That not only makes for a challenging hike, but the views at this elevation are spectacular (one of which is Mt Humphreys, the featured image for this post and the highest point in Arizona) and that makes it an even cooler (figuratively speaking) place to hike!

Interesting fact: Kendrick Peak is technically not a mountain at all. It’s what is called a lava dome. It was formed approximately 2.7 to 1.4 million years ago (depending on your source) as a result of a series of volcanic eruptions in the region; as are all of the mountains within the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

Kendrick Peak HikeThe trail starts out in the Ponderosa Pines, but it quickly climbs out of the trees and begins a series of switchbacks across the face of the mountain. Due to significant fire damage, as well as the steep grade of the switchbacks, there is very little in the way of overhead vegetation. In fact, except for a spattering of shade under trees here and there (patches too small to provide relief while moving, but perfect for a brief pause to cool down as needed), the first 4 miles of the trek is almost entirely exposed to the sun. To be fair, this is only an issue in the summer. And during heatwaves. The lack of shade is actually a godsend during the majority of the year, and makes the trail passable even during the winter months. Kendrick Peak HikeBut as we learned earlier, I am a heat wimp, so all I can think about is how hot I am right now, and not how truly great this trail is during the rest of the year. As I feel my strength ebb and flow with the patches of shade, I begin to understand how a person could literally fall off the side of a mountain as the heat inside and outside their body rises. Though I’ve not yet reached the point of fearing spontaneous combustion, or toppling over the edge, I do feel slightly light-headed and my pit stops in the intermittent shade are becoming increasingly more frequent. As I begrudgingly place one foot in front of the other, refusing to concede defeat, I quickly realize that I’m not the only one struggling, as I begin passing others huddled in the tiny spaces under the occasional tree.

Kendrick Peak Hike
San Francisco Peaks (Humphreys, Agassiz, Fremont, Aubineau, Rees, and Doyle)

Just as I feel my strength begin to wane, I round the final switchback and find my oasis… the half-mile home stretch to the Forest Service Tower at the summit. The forested and shaded home stretch!

Such a welcome sight! A stark contrast to the past 4 miles of trail.

[Side note: The below cabin is actually the original lookout cabin built in 1911 that was used for many years before the current tower was built. This cabin is still in good condition and can actually be used in case of inclement weather, or maybe even to spend a night in emergency situations. Inside you’ll find a bed, a table, and a journal to leave your thoughts for fellow hikers; all courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.]

Kendrick Peak Hike 5Kendrick Peak HikeKendrick Peak Hike Kendrick Peak Hike Kendrick Peak HikeKendrick Peak Hike

Kendrick Peak Hike
My first glimpse of impending conquest!

This segment of the trail is my favorite. And not just for the obvious reasons, though relief from the sun and heat is reason enough, but because it’s so incredibly beautiful and varied. It’s almost as if I’ve secretly and suddenly been transported to another trail on another mountain; full of birds and other critters, and an abundance of vegetation and trees. Just being here has revived my strength and lightened my spirit.

After visiting the tower, reuniting with my hubby (who I sent on ahead of me in a fit of heat-induced frustration), a light lunch, and a brief rest, we headed back down the trail. Together.

Kendrick Peak Hike
U.S. Forest Service Lookout Tower

There are varying reports as to the round trip length of this trail, however, we’ve used a GPS tracker during our climb on two separate occasions, and both times we’ve registered 9.2 miles round trip.

This trail is rated as challenging: due to significant elevation gain, lack of any water source, and the effects of fire damage.

Remember, Arizona is HOT. Even Flagstaff at times. So bring plenty of food and water, wear a hat, and start earlier or later in the day to avoid the full strength of the sun. And whatever else you do, avoid hiking this trail during a heatwave.

Happy Trails!
Dee 

Click below for:
usgs map, location & access, Elevation, and gps information

 

“Oh Hi… Mr Freakishly Large Black Bear!”

 

We need to get the heck out of here!

So, what should one say when confronted by a 600 lb black bear? I can’t say for sure, but “Oh, hi” doesn’t really seem to fit the bill. At least not for most people. But then, I’m not like most people… I’m a Bear Whisperer!

Do I have your attention? Great!

Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop, Flagstaff AZ

First Lesson Learned… Sometimes finding the trailhead can be harder than the actual hike. 

Before taking on this hike I read an article about the Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop trail which, in its directions on how to get there, listed a forest road that apparently does not exist. After a futile search and a bit more investigation,  we finally learned that the correct road is Forest Road 151, off highway 180. Which I am listing here so you don’t have to suffer needlessly, as we did, in trying to locate this awesome trail.

img_3429

This loop can be hiked in either direction, and we ( Kscrazy1 and Clutch) chose to start at Bear Jaw Trail and come down the Abineau side. It’s a 6.8 mile loop, with an elevation gain of 1800 ft. A word of warning, about halfway up Bear Jaw the trail gets fairly steep and is a bit of a grunt to climb, but the reward of being led to groves of tall Aspen trees quickly makes the sweat well worth it. It also provides the perfect place to rest, drink some water, and sit in awe of your surroundings.

img_3502img_3460

Second Lesson Learned… “DO NOT FEED THE BEARS”

When we reached the top of Bear Jaw trail (which ends on the rather wide and flat Waterline Road) Clutch and I were hungry and decided to sit by a rock in the shade just a few feet from the trailhead to have our lunch. As I ate my sandwich I began throwing large chunks of my bread roll into the woods behind me. I didn’t feel like eating all that bread, so why not leave a treat for a hungry critter? il_570xN.362581243_51kj(Did I just break a cardinal rule?) Eventually I turned my head to see where my bread was landing, and instead of finding bread I found a very large bear standing no more than 20 feet away, watching me intently. Our eyes met and I gave him a bit of a calm, “Oh, hi”. This calmness in me was rather odd, considering I’m the type of girl to scream bloody murder when a moth flies into my car. I reached for my camera just as Clutch turned his head to see what “hiker” I was so sweetly greeting. When to his surprise the “hiker” turned out to be a huge bear, he immediately stood up and said “We need to get the heck out of here!”. Apparently Clutch was more in his right mind than I was. As we both stood, the huge Cinnamon colored bear turned and bolted down the trail we had just climbed up (pictured on left). The thunderous sound this (obviously 600+ lb) bear made as he high-tailed it away from us was akin to a bulldozer knocking over trees!

Third Lesson Learned… NEVER, NEVER, NEVER RUN FROM A BEAR!

I started walking down the road, as directed by Clutch, while he went back to get our gear we left in the shade. I turned around just in time to see a SECOND, even LARGER, bear charging toward Clutch. He started running toward me, yelling as he turned his head to look at the bear gaining on him. At this moment, I calmly said, “Stop running”. Now, you are probably thinking I suddenly remembered what I had Yup-Don-t-Poke-The-Bear-You-Cant-Run-From-It-Play-Dead-Chuck-Norris-Would-Just-Bitch-Slap-That-450x420read in some survival book, as to what one should do when confronted by a bear; i.e. ‘don’t run or you will be chased’, etc. And you might assume I had Clutch’s best interest at heart. But you would be wrong on both accounts. Honestly, I just didn’t want him bringing the charging bear in my direction! So far, I would say that my reaction in this crisis has been far from stellar. Thankfully, the second bear made a sudden, sharp detour off Clutch’s trail and barreled down the same path as the other bear.

As the dust settled, Clutch and I looked at each other without a word. Then we slowly retrieved our gear and continued down the path toward the Abineau trailhead at Waterline Road. My first words since the ” stop running” comment were, “I can’t believe you didn’t let me get a picture of that bear!” (The picture above is the closest I could find to what we encountered.)  Clutch looked at me incredulously and said, “I saved your life, you’re welcome”.

Oh, and for the record, the stories you hear about idiots approaching bears to get a good picture? When their dead bodies are found holding their cameras with the last picture recorded being a close up of a bear, everyone assumes the idiot approached the bear; now I am living proof that sometimes a bear approaches you. So no more judging!

The steep climb down Abineau trail greeted us with lovely views and snow covered trails. We noted an abundance of fallen trees across the trail and wondered if, perhaps they were the victim of spring winds causing micro-bursts to whip across the mountain side again and again. As we climbed over and around trees we talked of nothing else but the bears. We laughed at my abnormally calm greeting to the bear. I am here to say I did not feel threatened at all. IF I had been alone, I’m pretty sure I would have tried to get a selfie hugging that bear. Whether that reaction was shock, stupidity, or it just so happens I have no fear of bears, it is still a little baffling. But after analyzing the encounter for a few days I have come to this conclusion:

I am a Bear Whisperer.

CLICK BELOW FOR:
USGS MAP, LOCATION & ACCESS, ELEVATION, AND GPS INFORMATION