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Best Hike Ever

Yesterday I went on one of the craziest hikes – this thing will invariably appear in one of my novels when I can make it work without seeming forced.

I went up to Flagstaff with… well, let’s call him Bobcat. So, in true Phoenix to Flagstaff form, we hit a huge traffic jam. Perfect way to start the day trip. Of course, we find our way back to the two-lane highway and follow the train of cars who have also decided to exodus from the 115 degree weather. We hit another traffic jam in Flag (which is inevitable) and after a quick stop at McDonald’s (c’mon, it’s a road trip, albeit 2 hours but still…) and Target, we wind our way to the lodge at Snowbowl/Humphrey’s Peak.

Now picture this: a beautiful mountain, perfectly cool weather where you can wear shorts and a t-shirt, and sun shining above. You’d think this would be the ideal conditions for a hike, right? Uh… no. Not when the weather in Flagstaff changes on a dime. Actually, quicker, more like a nickel. Or maybe even a penny. A ha-penny?

Anyway, first thing, we lose the trail. Yup, we lose the trail before we even find it. Instead, we pick our way through dense forest and thistle. I find out thistle is prickly and hurts! Plus, there is so many felled trees that it’s a bit disconcerting. Bobcat spots some people in the distance, presumably on a trail, and we change course accordingly, eventually landing on the path. Phew.

The hike to the saddle, which is just above the tree-line, proceeds as expected. A little light rain, friendly fellow hikers, and I almost trip about 1500 times. Well, more like 5, but who’s counting? Didn’t matter, still almost gave Bobcat a heart attack each time. Everything else is easy, and then we reach the saddle.

There are storm clouds covering the entire sky! Dark, lightning-filled storm clouds that are moving scary fast. Which is great when you’re at home and safe. Not so much when you’re about to hike for another hour on completely exposed mountain-top. It’s one of those stories you hear on the news: hikers saw lighting and storm clouds but continued to the summit anyway… (cue tension-building music).

We make the smart decision and turn around. Which turned out to be the right choice, because it starts to hail. Persistent hail which feels like God is shooting us on the top of the head with a bee-bee gun. So we run. The hail turns into a combo hail/rain and we continue to run. Down slippery forest paths with hidden puddles because guess what? Hail on smooth ground and hail floating on a puddle look exactly the same! I will say this, the hail-coated ground looked gorgeous, but that’s a side note.

Somehow, we make it down without any injuries. By the time we reach the lodge, we are drench and mud-splattered. I don’t think we would have looked much different if we had climbed out of a river. The people at the lodge, which is devoid of any other hikers because we’re the only ones crazy enough to still be there, are kind and bring us hot chocolate. Best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

After surviving the mountain, more storm hit us on the drive home. Lightning cracks in the distance, blinding and persistent. Rain pours down on the car. I’m impressed by Bobcat’s ability to navigate the mountain freeway back to Phoenix. And our wild adventure ends with us safe and back in Phoenix. Or else I’m writing this from beyond the grave. Boo!

So yeah… this crazy hiking adventure will definitely need to be something I force some characters of mine to experience for themselves. Mwuhahaha.

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