A Hike up Humphrey’s Peak

By Josh O.

In the summer when I was 15 years old, my dad coaxed me to hike up Humphrey’s Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona (it’s 12,633 feet).

I was never the type to enjoy hiking, but I wanted to give that trail a try. Since we live two hours away from Flagstaff, we drove up the night before and camped in the Snow Bowl parking lot. We woke up early in the morning and watched the full moon set over the valley below. I had just gotten glasses earlier that month, so it was the first time in my life I could fully appreciate such a view. The air was crisp–but not quite chilly–and smelled like pine.

We got our backpacks out of the car and started up the trail. I had already been to this part of the trail when I was a kid, but with my glasses it was like a whole new experience; when crossing the meadow I could make out the details of the valley below, mountains in the distance and the trees surrounding us. Then we got out of the meadow and into the forest, and I could see individual pine needles, all the different plants covering the ground, and even deer watching us from up on the hill.

We spent hours going up the trail, enjoying the sights and sounds. The trail itself wasn’t too bad; not too steep but you have to watch your step with all the rocks and roots on it. Sadly we weren’t making very good time, as by the afternoon we were only about half way up the trail. We took a break where an ancient rockslide had occurred, so there are just thousands of boulders down the side of the mountain, making a clearing of trees.

This was the first time since the parking lot that we got to see the horizon, and we were actually a lot higher up. We also got a good view of the puffy clouds that had been building all day. We decided it was too late in the day to make it to the summit; even though it was only around 1 PM, at the speed we were going, by the time we got up to the top and back down to the car it would already be long after dark. We were getting tired anyway.

Going downhill would be a lot faster than the hike up Humphrey’s Peak, though where we were it would still be a few hours before we got back to the car. As we were going down, the clouds continued building until it was overcast. Eventually we started to hear thunder, which isn’t a nice thing to hear when you’re on the side of a mountain; this motivated us to quicken our pace. Over the next hour the thunder drew closer and closer, and then it started raining.

The bright green landscape quickly turned gloomy and wet; thankfully it was August so the rain was not cold. This was all a bonus for me, because I love the rain, although hearing the thunder turn into close-by lightning made me pretty uncomfortable. When were about an hour or so away from the car, the sky opened up and it really started pouring–but we came prepared! We grabbed some ponchos out of our packs and went on our way.

As we got further down the mountain, there were little streams of water going near and across the trail, turning it into mud entirely in some places. Being from the desert, we weren’t used to walking in mud and we slipped at least a few times. After listening to lightning claps while slipping through the mud and pouring rain for an hour, we made it back to the car.

Even though it wasn’t a successful summit hike up Humphrey’s Peak, I enjoyed it. I’ve liked hiking ever since.

Josh is a homeschooled teen who was born and raised in Arizona.

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