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On 24 May 2009, I rode up from the Ol' Pueblo to Granite Mountain in Prescott. Last summer, Granite Mountain caught my eye, and I vowed to return. There is something very alluring about that mountain. Prior to heading up, I read Sande J's HAZ description of hiking on Trail 261 to the Vista Point Overlook and also GPSJoe's description of heading off trail to the Peak. In examining various maps, I noticed that some maps labeled GPSJoe's peak as Granite Mountain Peak (NE of the Overlook) while others labeled another peak to the NW of the Overlook as Granite Mountain Peak. GPSJoe's peak is certainly higher, coming in at 7626 ft v. 7295 ft. At any rate, I decided to go have a look at the peak to the NW of the Overlook. It would be something new and would be a shorter route to squeeze into the day that included about 500 miles of motorcycle riding back and forth from Tucson. Ultimately, I would come to refer to Peak 7295 as "The Throne", and that is how I shall refer to it herein.
Have a look at Sande J's description to get a sense of how this hike begins and a feel for Trail 261. Enjoy the relatively easy trail until you have hiked about 2.8 miles on it. "Time to say goodbye now." For GPS users, the coordinates where I left the trail were N34 38.134, W112 34.327. For non-GPS users, it took about 1 hour 10 minutes to get to this point from the trailhead at a fairly rapid pace. Also, you'll be getting off the trail shortly before it leaves its generally northern route and makes a sharp turn SE for a predominantly SE route toward the Overlook. Thus, if you find yourself no longer heading N and instead heading predominantly E/SE, you've gone too far.
As you step off the trail, you will only have a measly 1/2 of mile to reach The Throne. You'll only have about 500 ft of elevation gain. I set two waypoints as my general guides (after my jump off point) at about quarter mile intervals: one at N34 38.265 W112 34.562 and the second on the peak at N34 38.435 W112 34.578. Piece of cake, right? The 2.8 miles up to this point only took about an hour; this stretch should only take a few minutes. Nope. I took me just about as long to complete this .5 mile off-trail section to The Throne as it did to hike the 2.8 miles to get to the jump off point in the first place!
What took so long? Bushwhacking, rock scrambling madness is what took so long. It wasn't the toughest bushwhacking or scrambling, I've ever done, but it was tough. In this case, the bushwhacking was much nastier than the scrambling. As I write this a week later, the lacerations all over my arms and legs are still healing. You should consider wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants for this one. There were a few cacti like we are used to in SoAZ, but it was largely the shrubs that were kicking my butt. They were so freakin' thick and their branches sliced and diced me. Whenever I could find boulders, I would try to get on top of them for a few yards simply to get away from the shrubs and to have a look around.
From the jump off point, your general direction will be NW to The Throne. You will not be able to see The Throne from here. You will see a fairly immediate small peak to your right (N) and a small, less impressive looking peak farther in the distance to your left (NW). Head for the small peak to the left, keeping the more immediate one to the right of you. Once you reach the more distant small peak, the vegetation will thin out a bit here and there, and there will be more rock piles and slabs... a welcome reprieve. A fairly impressive rocky peak will come into view. Must be the one! "But it ain't ain't me, babe. No, no, no, it ain't me, babe. It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe." Nevertheless, head toward that peak and scramble around its right (E) side.
Now you see it: The Throne. Head straight toward its S base as it shoots up its stone face in front of you. It will become clear as you get closer that you won't be scrambling up the S face, which is about a hundred foot tall, steep mosaic of rock. Head left (W) around the peak and then scramble up the N side to the top. The top is split in two with two pointy tips, each not much bigger than the tables in Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night. Unlike those Cafe tables, however, you won't want to linger on the tips themselves too long. When I was up there, it was very windy. Even if it hadn't been, it wasn't terribly roomy or comfortable. Additionally, there was something about that 100 ft drop that, all things considered, made a long stay coupled with wildly snapping photos of the beautiful 360 degree views... rather than watching my footing... a bit precarious. Oh, I've seen what happens to people that get carried away with their viewfinders rather than paying attention. They fall in the water and things like that. In this case, I would fall off a cliff.
Fortunately, between the two tips, there is a nice little "V". It is the perfect place for one person to wedge himself in and face N over Williamson Valley and beyond, including Humphreys to the NE. This, my friends, is The Throne. I ate my lunch there and watched scattered bursts of virga--or as author Richard Shelton calls it, dancing rain... and storms in the distance. As tight as the spot was, it was about as lovely a throne upon which one could sit, anywhere.
It was time to go. Heavenly Highway 89 awaited my two wheels on the return ride to Tucson. Like I did, head back more or less the way you came. In my case, I got back on 261 a little bit farther down the trail from the point at which I had originally entered the forbidden kingdom. On the way down, have fun saying goodbye to the shrubs and rocks that guard The Throne. They'll be sure to give you a few more souvenirs by which to remember them.
Conclusion. I would highly recommend this hike for those who enjoy a little off-trail bushwhacking and scrambling. Also, it is an excellent opportunity to do some entry-level orienteering. You will likely enjoy this hike much more if you use a GPS unit, a compass, and a topo map. As I said last July, I'll be back. I'll probably do GPSJoe's route/peak next time, but I'll stay in Prescott overnight. It was a little much to do even my shorter hike and ride approximately 500 miles all in one day. Besides, Prescott is a fantastic town, and any excuse will do to hang out there for a bit. Here's to more amAZing, days ahead!
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