This hike was Plan B. Plan A was a ranger led hike at Lake Pleasant...ultimately the hike was off park boundaries, going up to the Indian Mesa Ruins. It was cancelled due to rain. We were prepared for this to happen and had the track loaded to the GPS and the write-ups ready to go.
We left our house at 6:45 and the drive to Lake Pleasant was under one big rainy cloudy/foggy sky. After confirming the hike was cancelled we optimistically headed for Wickenberg. Heading west on the 74 did not look promising. But as the elevation began to plateau nearing the 60 we broke through the fog and could see stormy skies above though here and there were promises of blue skies.
We turned on Vulture Mine road and to our joy there was a big break of blue sky with a big bank of gray gloomy skies on the east side of the road and bright happy white clouds on the west. Where was Vulture Peak, though? It took us a while to figure out that the yet missing peak was right smack in the middle of the fog bank on our left. Ever the optimist, I instantly began imagining hiking all the way up through the fog and wet and upon reaching the top being rewarded by an above the clouds view below and sun breaking through distant clouds, maybe a distant mountain range also sharing the happy skies of blue. Folks on this day, it was exactly like that.
I have to say that, in comparing this to other hikes, this one for us had a touch of Flat Iron to it. By this I am talking to the pain scale. Camelback and Piestewa have exhilarating, empowering pain. Flat Iron has a brutal lingering demoralizing kind of pain. I am not sure was causes there to be a difference but I know it when I feel it. Like Flat Iron the "Coming Down" portion offers no reprieve where with most other hikes the descents offer a sense of relief.
We didn't see too much fauna with exception to one Rabbit, one Jack-Rabbit, and a couple of sightings of what I think is Phainopepla, whose name I can never remember correctly(Pinot Grigio..Peda..Nope that can't be it)out in the field. Seems larger on-line though than the one we saw. But sang happy sounding melody despite the gray skies, a nice little pep talk maybe. No Vultures on Vultures Peak, but white pooped perches spotlighted some of their favorite haunts.
From the 4x Trail Head, 3/4 mile or the hike becomes laborious. The Pass, which until we were upon it was hidden in the fog, was an absolutely gorgeous surprise. I especially enjoyed the brightly colored green lichen covering some of the cliff walls. Beyond the saddle the trail becomes more dangerous especially when there's just enough rain to keep the rocks wet and slick. It's as much a climb as a hike at this point.
Once at the top we ate an early lunch. Watched as another hiker made his/her way on the trail below. Enjoyed the sun, and the blue skies, and the illusion of standing above the clouds for as long as that lasted. Soon a cold wind moved in ahead of another high cloud bank and then more rain. We decided not to take our chances and headed back down. I decided that the other hiker must have turned around at some point because they didn't show up where I expected they would. Once down from the pass I could see him heading back towards the 4X Trail Head. I turned my man tracker skills on and determined that he/she made it 3/4 of the way up to the pass, probably just as the second cloud bank moved in. 5 minutes further down the trail I could actually make out fresh foot prints probably more visible by the rain that was pouring at the time he(unisex) was passing through.
To this hiker and to all this hike is well worth the effort!