"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

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Amazing Flat Iron Hike!

Apache Junction, AZ
Lost Dutchman State Park

The Superstition Mountains
Flat Iron Peak in the distance (the middle peak with the white stripe through the middle)

I heard about hiking Flat Iron Peak from other bloggers and more recently, from Curt of Camp Lowry.  Check out his blog to read about his hike up Flat Iron: Camp Lowry.

Here is a description of the hike from the internet:
The Siphon Draw trail to the Flatiron in the Superstition Mountains is a challenging hike for even the most avid hiker. If you like gentle switchbacks, this trail is not for you. There are no switchbacks on this trail; it goes straight up! You gain just under 3,000 feet of elevation, most of which is in the last 1 mile of the trail.  A bit of trail finding skill is required or you will get into some nasty scree and precipitous rock faces. Be careful not to go up something you can't get down from. Just before topping out is a ten foot section nearly vertical. (This is where I ran in to trouble, more on this later)

Distance (round trip): 5.85 miles
Elevation Gain: 2900 ft.

Since we have been at much lower elevations circumventing the US shores, I did some shorter hikes to bump up my hiking elevation.  I really felt it at first and wasn't too sure I'd have enough time to acclimate.  But I decided to go for it and do my best.  At least I heard I wouldn't have to worry about rattlesnakes on Flat Iron as it would be too cold for them up there.  I saw two on the lower trails so far.

Can you see her all coiled up in the center of the grass?

Well click on this and you can hear her.  How do I know it's a her?

Because HE slithered across the trail in front of me and they mated. 

This was by far the most difficult and challenging hike I've done.  Since I was by myself, I had to be my own cheer squad as well as be careful that I didn't do more than I was capable of or comfortable with.

Straight up the mountain on Siphon Draw trail. (trail to the top!)
So I got up early and was on the trail so I would have less time in the hot sun.  I started up Siphon Draw Trailhead.  Here I go!
Passed a Horny Toad on the way.
Enjoying the cactus on the flat, very short part of the trail.

Looks like a tall rabbit holding something.   Love the blooming trees.


Looking back as I head up the "easy" part.  Those little white things are the trailers.

It's already getting warm and I'm looking forward to catching up to the shadows.

It's hard to show how this trail gets steeper.  This is the lower, easier part.

Yep, that's where I'm headed!
This is Flat Iron at the top.  Amazing to think that I could be standing at the top of this!

The trail has been easy to follow so far.  Soon, it will pretty much disappear and you have to be careful to follow the few trail markers, smooth spots along the rocks, worn branches, etc.  There were a few spots where I wasn't sure which way to go.  Luckily there aren't many choices and I didn't have to backtrack much.

You really need a good pair of boots to climb over all the rocks and boulders.

Up, up and up!

Beautiful flowers and views that many never see.  I feel privileged.

I do a lot of hiking on my own and I don't mind it.  It's a great time of reflection for me.  Very soul cleansing.  So much satisfaction to make it to the top and back down.  If you're not a hiker, it's hard to explain I guess.  No I don't worry about being attacked by people.  You're more likely to get attacked in a grocery store parking lot.  If I was to worry it would be  about wild animals, but I am aware of my surroundings and take precautions.  I don't put myself in dangerous situations.  I'm in pretty good shape, I know my limits and I am prepared.  Steve knows where I'm going and when I should be back.  I know that I can expect to pass a handful of people on this trail, so I won't be alone all the time.  Hikers tend to look out for each other.

It's really getting steep now and being in the wash, there isn't much shade anymore.  I'm coming up to the giant bowl, or Bowling Alley as it's known.  The size of it is amazing.  When there have been recent rains, you can imagine where all the water goes.  There is a waterfall in this area during rains.  I have not seen anyone until this part of the trail.

Can you see the two guys in the center of the bowl?  How about that gorgeous view of Flat Iron above it?  Crazy to think I will be up there!

And now it's my turn.  It's beautiful, pink rock.  Very smooth and not as easy to hike up as it looks.  I remember what our friend, Curt, said as we hiked in New Mexico, "Trust the boots!".  I chatted with a couple of other guys taking a break here by a small pond of water.  One has done this hike a few times and tells me I still have 2 or 3 hours to the top.  My heart is pounding and I need to take more breaks now to catch my breath.
I made it to the top of the bowl. Look at that view looking back down.  I'm feeling pretty good but I have a long way to go.  The views are breathtaking all around me. 
As I climb higher, the trail now disappears and you have to look carefully for the markers.

This is an easy one.  Some are almost impossible to see or find.

It's really hard to convey how steep it is now or the size of the rocks we have to climb or crawl over.
This guys is already on his way down.

Yes, this is part of the trail.

On my many breaks, I enjoy listening to the birds singing and chirping.  I'm surprised how many there are up here.  I hear the sounds of rock popping and sliding down the steep mountainside.  I wonder if it's someone who's lost their footing and falling?  Then across from me I see a Big Horn Sheep.  Just bouncing up and over all these boulders that I'm climbing over huffing and puffing. 
He's hard to see, but he's in the middle.

 Enlarge the video below of the Big Horn Sheep as much as you can.  You'll see him moving in the center of the screen.  Pay close attention to the first few seconds and you'll hear the rocks breaking away and falling over the edge. Incredible sound!

Really?  I have to climb up this?  Much of the "trail" now consists of rock climbing.  You search for places to grab, hang on and find footings.  This is the kind of stuff I see in movies, but normally would not consider doing.  You don't have to worry about cliffs, but falling down these faces wouldn't be pleasant either.  Sometimes you have to wedge yourself in between rocks and wiggle and push your way up.  I'll tell ya, my arms were getting a work out!  Some people wore gloves.  I didn't think I'd need them, but by time I got to the top I wish I had as my hands were scraped and raw.  Most of the time the way up is simply by process of elimination as there really isn't any other way up!

More boulders to scramble over.

Look how close I am!  My legs are shaky and I'm pretty tired.  I've gone up a few walls that tested my limits of what I'm comfortable with.  Always keeping in mind, and not looking forward to it, that I also had to come back DOWN.

This is the last picture before I "hit the wall".

Then it happened.  I was at the bottom of the last wall.  I can't believe I'm almost there!  Twenty more feet! I looked and looked and could not figure how I'd get up.  A guy that I'd been hiking with off/on at the end popped over the top to tell me to climb to the right, it was easier.  Then he was gone. The wall had large crevices cut in it. I tried twice to climb and shimmy up.  I couldn't find anywhere to get a hand or foothold so I climbed back down and tried the other side.  Nope.  After trying 2 more times, it seemed I needed longer arms and legs.  I was so tired, my hands were swollen and ached and my leg muscles were burning.  I plopped on the ground, rested a bit and ate some lunch.  I tried once more before deciding that it just wasn't going to happen.  Wasn't my day.  I needed a boost or a rope.  I was so bummed and tried not to cry.  I'm about 10 frickin feet from the top of the most strenuous hike with the most amazing view, and I just can't do it.  Once I got over my disappointment I decided to head back down.  My legs were so like spaghetti and going down was hard.  My knees wanted to give out.  Some areas were so steep and scary that butt scooting was the safest way down.

 Two gals were coming down behind me.  A mother and daughter.  Mom's first time but daughter, Jamey, has climbed Flat Iron a few times. We chatted a bit and they invited me to join them on the way down.  I was happy to have the company and we could help each other down.

You see different things going the opposite direction.

Well this was the first time I couldn't finish a hike.  First time I could not say "Veni, vidi, vici"  (I came, I saw, I conquered) - Sad Face - 

I'm still proud of what I was able to do, by myself, but I will come back next year and give it another go!! 



  1. Looks like my kind of hike, we shall have to check it out when we come that way sometime.

    1. It's really awesome! I vow to make it next year!!

  2. So close! Well, it gives you a challange for next year, Debbie!

    1. Yes, I will try it again. I really need to "vici" !!

  3. We have the hardest time keeping up to date with your blog, for some reason it does not update properly on my sidebar!

    That hike looks a little much for me, I don't think I would have made it. Very cool scenery and sightings however; the toad, the snakes and the bighorns, very cool!

    Have fun in California!

    1. I'll bet it has something to do with me being very behind on my blog posting. Plus, I kind of went out of sequence with the photo challenge. I have 2 more to get out to be up to date. When I publish the date, I try to use the date I was there, not the date I actually publish.

  4. Next time!!
    My nemesis at one point was Castle Crags trail. The first year I went less than half way. I had Jessica in tow and she was only 3 at the time, so I considered it a good hike. Second trip and I made it farther but not quite to the top. Finally conquered it on my third attempt!
    You'll be better prepared and ready on your next go round :-)

  5. I can feel your frustration at getting so close even a month after the hike! Of course I would have been waiting for you at the top of the easy part :-) Great photos, I especially like the big bowl. No doubt you'll conquer the beast next time.
    Like Jim and Barb said, your blog posts don't show as current. Instead they "enter" the blog roll by the date you show at the top. So this one shows a new title, but it is on the list as 4 weeks ago. I scroll through the list every few days to see if you've updated, but it never shows at the top of the list.

    1. Jodee, if you read my answer to Jim/Barb, maybe that's what is goofing them up a bit. I'm behind on the blog still and I might have gotten out of sequence.

  6. Great job with the hike. Most would have never even tried. You might consider getting a SPOT device if you are by yourself a lot. I have one for my solo adventures and it gives both my wife and I piece of mind.

    1. I will look into the SPOT device. A tracking type thing I'm guessing.

  7. Wow, Debbie! This was an amazing hike! We had read about it when we were in the area and wanted to at least get to the Bowling Alley to see it. Our hiking friends got to that and decided their knees didn't need to go any further. They are the only people we know who hike the type things we do. But I still wanted to give it a try. The 90 degree temps we had while we were there pretty much killed that though. Our visit to athe area wasn't great. One day we may return but not soon, and we'll have to give the Flat Iron a go. Congratulations on a awesome hike. But I can feel you pain on not making it the last little bit. It lingers til you can try again. Next time make sure you have a hiking friend:) We got within 500 ft of the Wheeler Peak in Great Basin but couldn't go further because of ice and we didn't have poles. We made it 12,700' but could get to 13,270' on the top. We will return!!!

    You are amazing to head out alone! I am not that brave at all.

    1. Don't know how I missed this. Well 12.7 sounds pretty amazing to me! but, yes, I know what you mean ;-)

  8. I just noticed the comment on the SPOT button. We, also, have a SPOT button. We tend to hike alone in remote places and it is a great device. We got ours at REI. Check it out!

    1. Yes, it is frustrating, but, I'll be back. Ya never know what mother nature dolls out. Ice, bummer. You sure made it far though! I have looked in to the SPOT and I'm considering it.

  9. I think I saw the same snake at Lost Dutchman State Park in February. Check out the 5th photo on the www.puppypaths.blogspot.com post "Superstition Mountains'. We also have a lot of similar flower photos. I really enjoy your blog.

    1. I found your post. Strange to see one out in Feb? What kind of camera(s) do you use?


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