Friday, May 18, 2007

High-altitude Adventures

It's been a whirlwind of craziness the last couple of weeks with work, play, traveling and a not so brief stint getting intensely ill. However, I'm on the mend and I've got a photo essay for you!

You were hoping to get lucky this Friday night, but I bet you didn't dream of getting this lucky.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Sarah and I met in Flag for a mini-weekend getaway. After a night of rabble rousing and dancing (more swaying pensively) to Lucinda Williams at the Orpheum, we stayed in the Presidential Suite at the historic Monte Vista hotel. The Monte Vista is a great historic hotel now run by hipsters. It's awesome, they have club and a bar and all the rooms are decorated real crazy-like. The Presidential Suite is red, royal chinese red with bright gold trim and dragons on the walls. Pretty cool, right?

After all the drinking and running around town, I thought I'd start the day off with a fine plate of eggs. EGGS! If you know me, you know that I DO NOT EAT EGGS. EVER. For some reason, I was feeling adventurous. It was probably Sarah, she does that to people. You know, makes them feel adventurous. This is a good thing. Except in the case of my insane breakfast choice. After the reckless breakfast, we were feeling brave and so embarked on an ambitious hike up Humphreys Peak.

humphrey view 1

At 12,637 feet, it's the tallest peak in Arizona and the last mile of the trail to the top traverses the only region of tundra in the state. That fact alone may have clued me into the fact that this mountain is not to be taken lightly. While the trail was very short, only 4.5 miles up, it was one of the most difficult hikes I've ever experienced. And, I'm sad to say, we didn't make it to the top.

humphrey trail

The trail started off nicely enough at the Snowbowl, walking though a beautiful open meadow full of grasses and plants and sweeping views. As we started into the forest, the wind was picking up and the trees were creaking something crazy. It was one of the strangest sounds I've ever heard.

humphrey view

The forest up there is comprised mostly of Ponderosa Pines and, my favorite trees ever, Aspens. The Aspens, swaying the breeze sounded like people moaning or like cats crying. It was crazy loud and a little creepy. On our hike down, we saw this Aspen, which had fallen to the wind just recently. It smelled like heaven.

broken aspen

So, being tough mountain chicks, Sarah and I fought against the altitude, the snowy and icy trails, the chilly temperature and the scary forest noises as we made our way up the incline.

humphrey trail 2

I had no idea the altitude would slow us down so much. The trail begins somewhere around 9,600 feet which didn't seem like such a substantial differential from 2,500 where I had come from the day before. It was slow going though and as soon as we hit the tree line, the wind smacked us in the face and tossed our dreams of summitting the great peak. We felt a little bit better when we met a couple of mountaineering experts outfitted in full alpine regalia with hoods, crampons and goggles who also had to turn around because of the insane wind speed.

snow bowl

Making our way to that beautiful open meadow was such a relief. After we returned from our jaunt into the clouds, we hopped in the Subi and headed down to Sedona. I'm going to save that story for the next post as this one has turned out to be the longest ever! I will, however, leave you with a preview of the photos to come.


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