The reason for camping at the lovely Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, AZ described in my previous post was the climb. As part of our mission to summit the high points of as many states as we are physically able, we journeyed to this beautiful state to climb Humphrey’s Peak, the highest point in Arizona.
Humphrey’s is the 12th highest state high point by elevation at 12,633 feet above sea level. With a round trip hiking distance of 9 miles, hikers gain, then subsequently lose 3,200 feet in elevation over the nine miles. Ranked Class 1—Strenuous, it was a formidable challenge.
It is actually the highest peak of several points that form the rim of a giant extinct volcano, known as the San Francisco Peaks. To the Navajo, it is the Holy Mountain of the West that legend held was made of sand and abalone. We had our work cut out for us!
Humphrey’s Peak is accessed from the Arizona Snow Bowl Ski area just north of Flagstaff. We started our hike at 10:18 am and it is a struggle! Ryan leaves us in the dust and heads on up ahead. As we climb, we encounter a father with three teen aged boys that seems to be having the same difficulties we are, it appears he is hiking with three mountain goats. Guess it’s a grown-up thing.
As we finally near the summit, the clouds begin to roll in and the skies darken. We encounter the father of three resting on a rock as the boys leave him to ascend further. We notice a lightning strike over to the northwest. That is enough for our resting companion. He heads down, calling it a day. We know, as we can see Ryan’s blond head, that we are now a short distance from the top. We increase our pace and push to make it. We do so quickly, take a few quick photos, then start running down to beat the storm.
The trip down is much easier than the reverse. Thankfully, the storm blows over for now. We are moving quickly now, but without looking too carefully, I misstep and sprain my ankle. It is 3:10. We have been hiking for nearly five hours at this point and the positive thinker in me is convinced we are just around the corner from the trailhead and our welcome vehicle. Alas, it is another hour before we finish, at 4:18, so we must have been at least a mile from the end. As I am limping off the trail, the rains begin. What a day!
Back at the campground, the cement fire pit is perfect to set my ankle on as I ice it to reduce the swelling. And the ledge is terrific for holding up that cold beverage. Life is good!
Read more about Arizona campgrounds and things to do in Arizona.