We didn’t think it would really take more than ten hours. The hike was only supposed to be 11.5 miles and we three men are physically fit and active. Two (Bill and Steve, not I) are successful multi-marathoners. Our packs weigh less than ten pounds each, carrying primarily water and food. We wanted to believe we would be off the trail in under ten hours.
Start time: 06:03 a.m.
Finish time: 17:20 p.m.
Elapsed time: almost 11.5 hours
Distance hiked: 12.5 miles
This was a grueling hike for us, more so than most of our hikes. Bill organizes hikes for a group of us throughout the winter. Mostly the hikes are minor elevation change and up to five or six miles. He can easily get a group of eight hikers interested in these scenic and not-too-challenging Saturday morning hikes. Not so easy to find victims for a planned 11+ mile hike with some elevation change.
We left Towerpoint Resort in Mesa AZ at 05:30 a.m. and arrived at our trailhead just off McKellips east of Mesa thirty minutes later. Diana rode with us to take the car back until later when she and Debbie would drop it off for us at our final destination, Carney Trailhead.
Six o’clock a.m., still 0’dark-thirty, and we headed up the trail away from Diana and the car. We start ascending almost immediately, watching our footsteps in the eery led lighting from Bill’s small but bright headlight. Within twenty or thirty minutes we have enough light from the sky to see the trail without lights and foot placement gets a little easier with each minute.The trail gets steeper and we can soon look down on the small development and the state land which surround our starting point. And we begin to see ahead of us this cool-looking large stone bowl, Siphon Draw. We head up through and over it, thinking this is big work and maybe it’s easier after this. We’re rewarded soon by reaching Flat Iron Mountain and watching the sunrise from over our heads and shining toward Mesa and Phoenix to our west. A bunch of high school (or are they really old enough to be university?) kids come hopping up to the lookout on Flat Iron Mtn and we ask them to snap our picture with this great background. We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves and our ability — we climbed up the difficult section of Siphon Draw without pulling any muscles or falling on our butts — Hear us roar! Eastward we go again through sections up and down but nothing very drastic for awhile. We have a snack stop, a lunch stop, another snack stop and things are still going well. Then we encounter a family of six — the parents with their 14 yo son, 12 yo daughters, and a five or six yo son. All are carrying packs except the most junior, and the dad’s pack was 69 pounds when they started two days ago. All our potential complaints about the hike difficulty paled when we considered our 8 or 10 pound packs against this guy’s 60+ pound pack and holding a five yo’s hand through all the sections and hand-over-hand pieces we’ve done. We’re buoyed by the wonderful vistas and gorgeous terrain. Every direction we look (except uphill) is just beautiful. There’s a wide variety of cacti and different sorts of rock all around us. We walked around some very deep canyons, wondering were they passable descents if we needed an early exit. The rock formations were striking too — it was hard to imagine how these rocks eroded to their present standing, how long it took, what it looked like before the erosion bared these formations. We could have dallied much longer just staring at the scenery. But we didn’t know how long we would need to finish the hike and didn’t want to be caught on the trail after sunset. Second half and despite feeling lighter compared to the dad, the hike is starting to wear on us. Our knees and feet are beginning to feel the joy of many miles on hard surfaces. We worked our way from 1,500 feet elevation to 5,000 feet without too much difficulty but now it’s hard downhill pieces followed by another course of uphill then more hard downhill steps. Our bodies kept feeling heavier as we took a big step down onto one foot, and another one. A big hike. A day full of nature’s finest air and sights and sounds. Lots of altitude above the greater Phoenix area, so we could look out in all directions and see cool views. Great tough exercise. We won’t look for quite this kind of hike for awhile yet. And we were right on one account — we were faster (barely) than one mile per hour.
[NOTE: all pictures taken and provided graciously by Bill Echert — Thanks Bill!]