#1 Humphreys Peak (12,633 ft.) Coconino County high point

Grit: : firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. 

This ended up being one of the toughest hikes I have been on in quite a while.  The combination of the altitude (12,633 ft.), the mileage 4.7 miles each way (the longest 4.7 miles EVER), the elevation gains (3,333 ft. each way) creates a uniquely tough hike!  ADD mother nature, wind speeds clocking in at a strong 50-60 mph at the peak, with gusts upwards of 70 mph, and you have a recipe for how my day went!

We started the 3 hours drive from Tempe at around 7 am and made it to the parking lot just after 10 am.  It started out nicely enough in a green pasture at about 9300 ft.  It was a beautiful 75 degrees out and was supposed to get into the 80s.  I had a String Cheese Incident song stuck on replay in my head and I was loving life!

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Pretty soon we hit the trees and started huffing up the switchbacks, which weren’t even steep..(yet).  However, I was already out of breath being at 9300 ft. and not being acclimated.

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The sun was shining through the pine trees, illuminating the lush green grass, it was a very pretty hike and we were making good time!  We had passed about four other hikers by this point.  We started making some serious elevation gains, and we were seriously straining for breath, and then we came upon some interesting rock slides, possibly from an old avalanche.

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By the time we had reached the saddle, the wind started hitting HARD!  We ran into a couple people that turned around at the saddle complaining of the cold harsh winds.  The three of us were dressed in tee shirts and shorts, with no warm clothing, one of us had only a wife beater on, so onward we pressed!

And we discovered it was now about 60 degrees max, with 30mph winds!  WOO!  Here is a picture of me posing with some snow in the distance, and a picture of what had to be an avalanche.

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But the weather would only get worse.  At the saddle we had spoken to two people who had summited earlier, and were on the way back down.  They warned us that the wind was at least twice as strong on the top, and they had to crawl on hands and knees to get to the peak.  They let us know it was very dangerous and wished us luck.  We started getting a little nervous.  But onward we push!

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At this point, the trail got ‘real’.  It was no longer 30 mph winds, but 40-50, and the temperature had dropped to 45-50 degrees.  There was absolutely no tree cover as we had passed the treeline.  The only thing we could do was hike as fast as we could to the summit (which was not very fast).  The altitude had started to set in, we were around 12,000 ft by now.  We each had our turns of dizzy spells, and were out of breath just walking 30 ft.  The wind was not helping.  We had passed 9 people, all 9 had said they turned around before the summit (but had made it far) because the weather was just too dangerous.  NOT HELPING!  Here are a couple pictures of where the trail got ‘real’.

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But the views were too amazing, and we were too close to listen to any of those Naysayers.  That day.. We had grit.  At the 2nd false summit, the wind stopped gusting and started fiercely blowing non stop.  We were stumbling left and right, I had to put my sunglasses away, we stuck real low to the ground and just scrambled up to the summit (pictured up above on the right).  AND…

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WE MADE IT!  We lasted 10 minutes at the summit, took some pictures (up above), and bounced real quick.  We crouched real low, got blown all around the place and finally got to where the wind was only 30-40mph again.  Then we hiked the longest 4.7 miles EVER to the car, cracked open some Leinenkugels and made our way back down to the 110 degree heat in Phoenix.

From there, I was a filthy mess, but I turned on to catch the last couple periods of the Bruins game.  All in all, it was a great day 🙂

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#10 Mt. Union (7979 ft.) Yavapai County high point

I was in need of some adventure and stumbled across a website that had the 15 highest peaks in the 15 different counties of Arizona.  New hikes?  Perfect!  A way out of the heat?  Ideal!  I put together a list of friends that might share my enthusiasm for impulsive adventure, and targeted our first peak.  Mt. Union.

This seemed to be the closest hike that we were capable of doing in the summer.  This was a couple hour drive, past prescott and is the highest point in Yavapai County.  After reaching Prescott we drove another 30 miles and onto a death trap of a dirt road that finally led us to our destination.  After a little white knuckling in the car, we got out and started our journey.

After a relatively easy hike we had reached the top.  Upon getting out of the car, I had realized my error of not packing sunscreen.  In fact, none of us had packed sunscreen.  Being the only person of Irish descent of the group, I was sunburned immediately.  The hike was relatively easy, and ended up at a fire watch station that is in use for the summers.
The guy running the station is more than happy to talk all day long about how he spots fires, and his travels to India and won’t be modest about stating to everyone how much better his life is than yours.

I took a little nap in his hammock, but quickly grew tired of listening to how much more this barefoot hippie knew than the rest of us, so we finally evacuated the fire tower and made our way down.  Here are some pictures of the summit, you can see for miles on a sunny day!

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The fire tower hammock at the top.  Enjoy yourself, but be prepared to have some unwilling knowledge bombs dropped on you.

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‘Dr Sues’ trees at the top.

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Me and Danger Dan at the top of Mt. Union.

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