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Kendrick Peak Day Hike
June 29, 2013
by Jim Buyens
 by Bill Zimmermann 

Do you believe in good luck? If not, this hike might change your opinion.

Temperatures in Phoenix were forecast at 118°. An escape to Flagstaff promised relief but not much: the forecast there was 95°! Of course, much of the trail was wooded and we’d be hiking at more altitude – 10,418 feet of altitude – one of the highest peaks in the state. The chance of rain in Flagstaff was negligible, only 10%.

Undaunted by the frying pan forecasts, five of us assembled at Fry’s and headed north. Everyone was on time, we left on time, there were no road closures, and traffic was light. Was that lucky or what?

We had no trouble following the forest roads to the trailhead and got there before nine o’clock. The outside temperature was 81° and we’d be gaining 2500 feet. Confident, reassured, and feeling fortunate, we headed out.

Jim, Anikó, Quy, Bill, and Diana at the trailhead.
A pair of equestrians approach us on the trail.
rosa spp. - Wild Rose
Damage from avalanche or winds.

On the way up two people from another hiking group (Arizona Desert Hikers) passed us and said there were six more behind them.

Our objective was the watchtower atop this mountain.
After about 200 feet of climbing, we had only 2300 to go!
    That seemed odd because I’d seen the hike during the week, and I knew they’d moved their meeting time back to 5:30AM, an hour earlier than us, in order to beat the heat. But it turned out they’d gotten lost and wasted over an hour finding the trailhead. Bum luck for them, eh?

Wildflowers around Phoenix this time of year are essentially non-existent, but we encountered a wonderful assortment in the northern shade. Butterflies were coming into season as well, adding to the colorful spectacle. It was perfect timing, wouldn’t you say?

thermopsis montana - Yellow Pea
[photos by Quy]
linaria dalmatica -
Dalmatian Toadflax
dalea purpurea - Purple Prairie Clover
sisyrinchium angustifolium - Blue-eyed grass
As usual, the view improves as we gain altitude.

The Kendrick Mountain Trail isn’t particularly steep in any one place, but in 4.5 miles it does relentlessly rise 2,500 feet. I think there’s one spot where you go down about twenty feet and then continue climbing, but that’s all. It’s a great workout and everything we expected.

There are a lot of switchbacks and most of the trail is wooded. Footing was good and generally smooth.

This butterfly hung onto my radio for about a quarter mile. [photo by Quy]
sarcostemma hirtellum - Rambling Milkweed [photos by Quy]
castilleja coccinea - Indian Paintbrush
More Rambling Milkweed, this time with a bee as the visitor.
frasera speciosa - Elkweed

Monument Plant, Elkweed, or Deer Ears; they’re all the same. These plants live up to eighty years as a low cluster of leaves, then develop a tall stalk with hundreds of flowers (as seen here), then die.

The mountain provided spectacular views of the northern Arizona, and of course the higher we rose the more majestic they became. To our good fortune, the temperature remained moderate. At times we even felt a cool breeze!

This looks like a small forest file, but it didn’t make the news. Hopefully, they got it under control.
Here we’re getting closer to the summit.
Again, you can see the small fire at the right.
aster subulatus - Slender Aster [photo by Bill]
lupinus arizonicus - Arizona Lupine
achillea millefolium - Western Yarrow

From time to time we could see the watchtower. The closer we got, the more we knew we’d accomplished. Of course, we could also see how much further we needed to climb, but everyone kept moving. We caught up with the two hikers who’d passed us earlier, and they said they were exhausted and returning without reaching the summit.

About a third of a mile from the summit stands an old cabin. The watcher of the day built it of rough-hewn logs in 1911-1912. Every morning the he travelled from here by horse to the lookout tower and every evening he returned. It remained in official use until the 1930s, and it’s still open for casual use today. This was our staging point to reassemble, catch our breath, and prepare for the final assault on the summit.

The watchtower comes into sight!
Only a few hundred feet of climbing left!
In front that’s Bill, Anikó, Diana, Quy, and Jim. [photo by Bill’s good twin]

Just then we heard thunder and considered skipping the summit. But the thunder seemed fairly high and distant, and it wasn’t raining yet, and so we started out. The watchtower was only about a third of a mile away and 100 feet up. The trail was wooded, and well-beaten. And everybody made it!

Success! That’s Bill talking to the fire watcher and Quy taking the last few steps.
The view from the fire watchtower.

With a thunderstorm moving in, the watcher only let us stay a few minutes. He let us climb up to the tower, but the thunder was getting closer and he was concerned that an “active cell” was forming above us. That meant we’d be in danger if we stayed and so, after a few quick photos, we headed down. It would’ve been nice to enjoy the view a little longer, but we were lucky the watcher was there to warn us. I asked if staying in the cabin was a good save plan, and he said that it was, and so there we headed.

Incidentally, the temperature at the summit was 78°. Our luck was holding.

Our view of the rain from inside the cabin. [photo by Quy]
With the thunderstorm progressing, we take refuge in
the old lookout cabin. Jim, Diana, Anikó, and Quy.
Bill has a high time waiting out
the rain. [photo by Quy]

So how often have you been on a hike, and got caught in the rain (let alone a thundershower), and been right outside a cabin with an open door and places inside to sit? Is that good karma or what?

Wild roses in the rain. [photo by Quy]

Altogether we stayed in the cabin for about thirty minutes, and then the thunder and the rain seemed to let up.

Optimistically we pulled out our rain jackets and headed outside. Yes, everyone had a rain jacket. Fortunate, eh?

As a further demonstration of good luck, the rain had dropped the temperature to about 60°, fully half of what it was in Phoenix! How lucky was that?

The rain intensified the green in these ferns. If you look closely,
you can see us in our foul weather gear. [photo by Quy]
Quy, Jim, Diana, and Anikó slug through the rain. [photo by Bill]
Anikó steps over a fallen tree.
[photo by Quy]

Hiking in the rain was remarkably pleasant. The thunder had stopped, the downpour was light, we all had our rain jackets, temperatures were cool, and the trail wasn’t slippery at all. We could only praise our good fortune.

Bill, Anikó, Diana, and Jim descend a switchback. By this time it had stopped raining. [photo by Quy]
Bill and Jim meet another hiker. Some pack to lug up 2500 feet, eh? She and
some friends were planning to camp overnight near the summit. [photo by Quy]
Amsinckia menziesii - Common Fiddleneck [photo by Quy]
    Luckily, the rain didn’t last long. Dropping half a mile of altitude is, of course, a lot faster and easier than trudging up, and so we made the trailhead in good time. The temperature there was only 75°, much lower and more comfortable than anyone had expected. It must’ve been kismet.

Of course we had no trouble getting back to Flagstaff. Bill suggested eating at the Lumberyard Brewing Company because they had outdoor seating. At first I was skeptical because the temperature was 88° but (ahem) fortunately, the building shaded us and there was a nice breeze. We saw two trains and a pub-crawling bicycle built for 20.

Bill, Jim, Diana, Anikó, and Quy relaxing and recovering at The
Lumberyard Brewing Company in Flagstaff. [photo by the waitress]

Going home we encountered very little traffic and no road closures, and therefore made it in good time. What else could we expect? Everyone was glad they’d come and glad they hadn’t chickened out because of the weather. All in all, it was a great hike.

Now if only I could figure out what did the trick. Was it my lucky compass, or my lucky hat, or my lucky GPS, or my lucky socks, or ...? Or was it because because Bill, for the first time in anyone’s memory, wasn’t wearing his legendary Wisconsin Bucky Badger shirt? Hmmm...

My statistics:
Total Distance: 9.32 miles
Maximum Speed: 6.2 mph
Moving Time: 3:46
Moving Average: 2.5 mph
Stopped Time: 2:37
Overall Average: 1.5 mph
Elevation at Trailhead: 7,787 feet
Max Elevation: 10,418 feet
Total Ascent: 2,179 feet

→   More pictures and commentary, by Jim Buyens.
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated July 8, 2013