"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Monday, October 5, 2015

Failure at Flagstaff

Flagstaff, AZ
Black Bart RV Park


On our way to visit friends and family in the Prescott/Phoenix areas, we spent a few days in Flagstaff.  We had wanted to boondock just north of the city so we could visit the Sunset Crater Volcano and hike Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona.  The internet reception in the areas we wanted to stay was non-existent, so we moved down into Flagstaff at Black Bart's RV Park.

That is Mt. Humphrey, part of the San Francisco peaks, with the snow on top.
 

We always come upon some really amazing rigs. This one was a bit older 5th wheel being pulled by a really decked out truck.  They do some really amazing boondocking.  You can see the blue barrel behind the cab.  It is to carry extra fresh water.  They also had barrels for grey and black waste.  No toys were left behind.  They had bikes on the front, fishing boat up top and Harley in the back!
 
And on to the hike!  I've always wanted to hike the highest peak in each state, so I really wanted to conquer this one, but it got the last laugh.

 

This trail leads to the highest point in Arizona and runs approximately 5 to 5.5 miles in length one way.  You pass through alpine forests,  huge rock slides and avalanche tracks along the mountain's slopes. Hart Prairie stretches out at the base of the incline and the Grand Canyon is visible on the horizon. (although we did not see it, more on why later!)

Humphreys Trail is steep and long and extremely rocky. You have to be careful above the treeline as it can snow during any month of the year and in summer monsoon storms can bring lightning. We were lucky to catch the Aspen in full color.

It starts off harmless enough across a pretty meadow. You can see the peak in the back. (above)



Looking down the sloping meadow is a huge grove of Aspen.

 

Once we got into the trees, we found a lot of blow down and had to crawl over and under some of them.
 
 

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This was the nicest part of the trail.  It definitely is a very steep trail and as you got above the Aspen, the trail got rockier and rockier with very few smooth parts.  Good sturdy hiking boots with ankle support are very important to wear.
 
That is the trail.  These rocks were about the size of your foot.  Difficult to walk on the un-even surface.

One of the lava rock avalanches.

Looking down toward the valley floor.

Steve taking a rest.

Here comes the snow. This was about 8000ft.  I was surprised how many people were on the trail.  It really slowed us down to have to move to the side and let people pass going both up and some down.  We took more breaks as the straps on my camelback were starting to dig into my neck and giving me a headache. There weren't many views to see through the trees and the trail was getting more difficult.  We had to watch our time to make sure we would have enough time to get back down before it got dark
One of the few spectacular views.

We had passed a few people that had developed altitude sickness too.  Some had to turn around and head back down, some were throwing up on the trail and some were laying down along the trail trying to sleep off some of their illness.  I felt so bad for them.
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Well somewhere around 3pm we reached our turn around point.  We were surprised that we were not making as good of time as usual.  By this point my pack was causing a lot of stress on my neck and my head was pounding.  Then I felt the first wave of nausea.  It finally occurred to me that it was my turn for altitude sickness.  Back in California I'm used to hiking between 6000 and 9000 ft in elevation, but this caught me off guard.  It was worse when I stopped, so we tried to keep our pace on the way down.  I LOVE hiking.  But not today.  It was just miserable and I could not wait to get down.  We had about 3 hours to go.
 
 
The last view we had before turning around just before the saddle around 12K elevation. I'll fast forward.  I don't think we ever made such great time getting off a mountain.  Unfortunately, that made the altitude sickness worse.  I barely made it to the truck and was sick a few times before we drove the rest of the way down the windy road and back to camp. Took me a couple of days to feel better.  So, how did I like Humphreys Peak?  Hated it!  Would I try a repeat?  NO WAY!

Back to Black Bart's RV Park.  This was a medium sized private park.  Not our preference, but it worked.  $36, 10% off with Good Sam discount, full hook-ups.  Sites need a lot of work.  Concrete was badly cracked and broken.  The laundry was nice and they had a fantastic steak house.  Great internet and cell with some short easy hikes behind the park. 

 Never did make it to Sunset Crater.

26 comments:

  1. Not being hikers we drove up pikes peak at 14,000+. We didn't get sick but it was definitely hard to breathe and we didn't stay very long. Do sorry you got so sick. We stay at Black Barts for an overnight cause it's easy off and on but it's not the nicest park.

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    1. I've had a couple bouts of dizziness in the Rockies and one other time I got a little overconfident in the Tetons, but NEVER so sick as I was that time. We'd stay at Black Barts again too. With all the people we hear about that go there for the summer, I wonder where all those fantastic parks are? I didn't see any.

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  2. That sounds horrible! We have never gotten sick but then again I don't think we have gone that high yet.

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    1. I barely made it down. It WAS horrible! My neck, head hurt so bad with each step. I'm sure that there are those that just loved that trail. Not me! Awful trail. Even if I wasn't sick and had no problem, it just was not an enjoyable trail. Never really had altitude sickness, it was not fun!

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  3. We eyed Humphrey's when we were in Flag late in Oct, but weren't up to a monster hike during our stay. I've heard even people who regularly hike at high altitudes can still get altitude sickness out of the blue. Even though you didn't make it to the top you got some terrific photos!

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    1. Thanks! I'd like to avoid this while were hiking in Colorado this summer.

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  4. Altitude sickness is nothing to take lightly. Good for you recognizing the symptoms and getting down. You do have to be mindful of your starting altitude. Your body will acclimate to that altitude. Many will get sick at 7000 if they are staying at sea level. Good on you for trying. What does not kill you makes you stronger. (and smarter)
    Shawn
    ktmissouri.blogspot.com

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    1. Don't know if I feel stronger ;-), but I'm still here! Funny it took me a while to know that I was getting altitude sickness. Not fun! Looking forward to some great hiking in the Superstitions later this month and next!

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  5. Being sick like that sounds horrible, Deb. That is a LOT of altitude change. This definitely caught our attention, as we are novices when it comes to those altitudes.

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    1. It was awful. Something I don't want to repeat.

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  6. Sounds like quite the hike! Sorry you got sick, though...how awful!

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    1. Nice hike, but looks like I won't make the highest peak in AZ. Not for a long time anyways!

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  7. Sorry you got sick! I'm guessing Steve didn't have any problems? I know people that have had altitude sickness and it sounds like sea sickness, once you get it you don't ever want to get it again! I was at 13,000' in La Paz, Bolivia and had bad headaches and difficulty breathing, but that was all I had. I was there for a week and I started acclimating, but the headache was always there, except when I drank Mate de coca (tea from coca leaves).

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    1. Surprisingly, Steve was fine. No problem breathing, it was the headache and nausea that got to me. Where were you hiking in Bolivia? Machu Picchu is still on my bucket list though.

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    1. I try! Get your but going and come visit us in Colorado for some hiking!

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  9. Congratulations on just attempting to summit this peak:) That's more than most people would do. So sorry to read about your altitude sickness. Thank goodness you were able to come back down. Short days makes a hike like this very challenging because you don't have time to rest long enough as you climb. I had read about the importance of drinking and eating as you hike at higher elevations. We munched on almonds the whole climb up Wheeler Peak in Great Basin NP. It really helped. Of course, we couldn't finish hike to the peak because of the ice on the final leg and we didn't have any poles. But we did get to 12,000 ft. We had less than 400 ft to go!

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    1. Thanks, this makes 2 times I was not able to finish a hike. It really bothers me. I do my best to drink, but if it's an intense hike, I struggle to eat. Makes me nauseous. I will try some gels next time.

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  10. I REALLY wanted to do that hike too, but I was afraid the altitude would be an issue. I don't do too well over 9000 ft, especially with that kind of gain. Reading this makes me feel like I made the right decision.
    PS. Have you ever hiked Picacho Peak? We have done it 5 times. Its one of my all time favorites- its between Phoenix and Tucson. If you get a chance, check it out...

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    1. It wasn't a really pretty hike, too many people and very large rocks on the trail almost the entire time making it hard on the feet, even with good boots. I have friends in AZ, so yes, have heard of it. Haven't done it though. Maybe while we're in Apache Junction this March I'll check it out! Thanks!

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  11. I am glad to see your post, had not seen one in awhile. We are in the Apache Junction area if you get down this way Judy and I would like to meet y'all. Sorry you didn't get to the crater, maybe next time.

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    1. Hi Jim and Judy, I'm still very behind on my posts, but trying to catch up. We'll be in Apache Junction the month of March, drop us a line! sd.mack@mindspring.com

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  12. The aspens were beautiful, but even before the altitude got you those big rocks looked crazy! I'm no good over 6000 ft, even just walking flat :-( You sure gave it a helluva try though, sorry you got so sick.

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    1. It had some great views, but not enough to make me do it again any time soon!

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  13. Next time you should consult one of your medically established sons. We'll have to get some altitude sickness pills for ya and then you and I can make it all the way to the top! :)

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    1. Who is this? ;-) Come visit us in Apache Junction in March if you can and we'll do some hiking!

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