Have you ever done all your research and felt completely prepared for a hike, only to find out that you had SO MUCH MORE to learn once you got on the trail? Yeah, that's what it was like when we hiked Camelback.
Now, my son and I are pretty experienced hikers. With over 11 years of hiking experience in Scouts, and many, many miles on our hiking boots, we felt prepared to tackle this monumental task. Of course, all of our experience has been in Pennsylvania and Ohio, so we knew there would be differences hiking in Arizona. We checked out websites, gathered information, read blog posts, talked to friends - did everything we thought we needed in order to be ready for hiking Camelback Mountain.
What we didn't find in any of our research, however, was true trail conditions - pictures of what we face on the trail, and recommendations regarding gear. We were ready with water, our 10 essentials, boots and hiking staffs, and dressed for the weather we would face. But we didn't expect the rocks. Stupid, right? So for your entertainment, and education, here are 5 things we learned about hiking from going up the Summit Trail on Camelback Mountain:
1) Use the restroom before heading up the trail. Duh. However, we hiked the Bobby's Rock Loop Trail first, which added about an hour-plus to our trail time, and we didn't go back and use the restroom at the trailhead before continuing on the Summit Trail. Lesson learned.
2) Plan better about water needs. We were actually over-prepared with water. Had it been late spring/early summer, or even mid- to late-fall, we would have been carrying the right amount. However, since we were hiking in early winter, when the temperatures were in the low 50's and the sun wasn't strong, we carried A LOT of extra weight that made it more difficult when we got to the scrambling-over-the-rocks section of the trail.
3) Know the most appropriate footwear for the trail. In PA and OH, hiking boots are almost mandatory for any worthwhile trail. But in Arizona, the heavy tread and lack of flexibility in the boot make it more difficult to navigate the boulder-rocky terrain. Another lesson learned.
4) Take a day to watch people at the trailhead before deciding what you need for the trail. Out of all the preparation we could have done, I believe this would have been the most helpful. When we got to the Echo Canyon Trailhead, I looked around at everyone else who were heading up the trail. I saw a lot of people in running gear - trail shoes, spandex, and no packs. Uh-oh. Had we sat at the trailhead a day earlier, we would have been better prepared for the hike by lightening our load, changing our shoes, and ditching the hiking staffs. As a matter of fact, we only saw two other people on the entire trail that had hiking staffs - and one of them was an elderly lady who gave us some sage advice on how to better use the staffs we had.
5) Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, can make that climb! Normally, I am aghast at the number of people on any given trail who are woefully unprepared. This time, I was the one who looked at my son and I and thought, "We are completely OVERprepared!" Ugh. I can't even recount the number of children, families, and older "hikers" braving the trail, along with so many people in tennis shoes, jeans, and dress shirts. And every single one of them made it to the top. And managed to get back down. Safely. Impressive. Given enough time, you CAN hike that "Extremely Difficult" trail.
So here's to Camelback Mountain, Santa Claus, and lessons learned. Take your time, enjoy your hike, and eat a great meal to celebrate your accomplishment!
For more great pictures of our Camelback hike,
check out Featured Hike: Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon/Summit Trail @HowToHikeAndNotDie on Facebook!