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Awesome View On Top
"A bear! I am shaking from fear and excitement! Sitting on a rock to change from sandals to shoes (hiking), I heard heavy slow crashing thru the brush. I thought it odd because it was heavy so I looked up from tying my hiking boots up.
Studying the trail ahead for more sounds and to see movement, I held my breath. It is light enough, but no shadows, a new day coming.
Suddenly movement behind brush and a bears head, shoulder appeared and stopped about 25 yards away.
I froze. The bear froze. And we studied each other. Primal fear welled up deep inside me as I watched it. A brown bear.
A minute passed.
And then it turned around and ambled off.
A dove called out.
Of course now I am scared to death of going up Hyde Mountain Trail."
Excerpt from my hiking journal. July 18th, 2004
Thus my day began! I had come here to climb Hyde Mountain, to visit the old fire lookout on top, and I see a bear! Totally caught me by surprise as I sat on a rock surveying the area around me. Scanning through the brush and trees I was hoping to catch a fleeting movement of the bear. My ears straining for the sounds of paws striking the ground and breaking twigs. Instead, I hear only the sounds of the forest, birds singing, a lone dove calling, and the trees rustling lightly from a gentle breeze flirting with them.
My heart was pounding and I was controlling my breathing. I was keenly aware I was alone, no weapon, other than my walking stick. My cell phone tucked away in my daypack, out of sight, out of mind.
I reviewed in my mind what had just happened. It is light enough to see clearly, the colors and features of the surrounding landscape. The trees, brush, and rocks; however, no shadows, the sunlight blocked by early morning clouds over the eastern horizon. The air was pleasant, slightly muggy, with the feel of an early afternoon storm in the air.
I had clearly seen the bear, brownish in color, and I could swear I seen black rings around his eyes as he faced me. I am sure he didn't see me to well and he wasn't lifting his nose to sniff the air. Yet, I am certain he sensed my presence as he studied his surroundings, showing no fear, yet slightly concerned it seem. Watching him with both fear and awe, I could not help but feel he was an old timer, having spent many years in the area, roaming unmolested, unchallenged, wise.
And I was scared to death to go on the hike. I briefly wrote in my journal to relate the experience and nursed a cup of coffee I just poured out of my thermos. To give some thought as to what I was going to do and give the bear the opportunity to continue on his trek around me. I wanted to get of the area, but common sense told me the bear would be no problem. I hope.
After about fifteen minutes, I convinced the bear had left my immediate area. I threw on my pack, locked the Jeep up, grabbed my walking stick, and began my stroll up Hyde Mountain. A small sign indicating where the forest road ends and the trail begins. A multi-use trail I was glad to see very little signs of trail bikes and quads heading up the mountain. Maybe folks knew about this bear.
The trail starts out easy and begins a slow steady gradual climb through the pines, juniper, manzanita, and assorted brush. I was in no hurry walking slow and steady, enjoying the quiet solitude engulfing me. Occasionally I would pause on the trail to look around behind me; the bear on my mind. The sun started making its appearance when I looked up toward Hyde Mountain and seen it blazing afire with sunlight. It was going to get warm soon.
Almost an hour into the hike I come up on a gate and took a bit of a rest, dropping my pack on the deck and looking around the area. On the post a sign stated "1/2 WAY GATE". I chuckled to myself thinking that was good to know as I looked up the trail.
After passing the gate the trail began to steeping and open up for the final assault to the top. It was warming up as I worked my way uphill, passing the lower saddle and hooking left following the trail. At one point I glanced at my small thermometer attached to my shoulder strap, the red liquid resting on the 80 degree mark. It wasn't even eight in the morning yet. Nevertheless, I leisurely pushed on, slow, uniformed steps, enjoying the view as I went. I was in no hurry to reach the top. Passing the upper saddle the trail is clearly exposed through the brush as it worked its way up the western side of the mountain. I looked up seeing the antenna the lookout used during their summer days watching for fire.
Not long after, I was on top. Opened, exposed to the winds, the elements, and the awesome 360 degree view. I stopped and thoughtfully looked at the sparse building with its auxiliary equipment scattered about. Everything locked up. Empty, silent, a shell of its former self, a ghost of its past; I felt a breeze softly touch my face. After a moment I stepped off to have a look around the immediate area of the former fire lookout built in 1936.
After a moment of looking around I sat on a rock in the shade of the old building. I began to pull out the essentials from my pack, mainly my hiking journal and trail mix. I regarded the landscape to the west. Rugged, broken, mountaintops scattered about with no rhymes or reason as far as I could see.
And even in the shade I felt the warmth of the day and humidity, my back cooling down from the sweat having soaked my shirt now drying. Pondering a little I looked down at the trail below to see if I would catch movement of hikers, or hear any sounds from their conversations coming up to me in the breeze. I didn't ponder long! Stripping off my inhibitions, I soon sat sunbathing, writing in my journal, and munching on my trail mix. The breeze felt even better.
Later, I walked around alone with my thoughts about the hay days of this lookout. I felt it would have been awesome to man this post in the middle of God's country. The most amazing thing to me as I looked over the distant scene and noting the prior week of monsoons cleaning the air, I estimated the visibility from the top of this 7,272 foot mountain at least 100 miles. I could see the Bradshaws, Granite Mountain, Mingus, Bill Williams, the red rock country of Sedona, and San Francisco Peaks.
My eyes then rested on Juniper Mesa almost thirteen miles to the north. I spied a small grayish white cotton puff floating in the air above. The conditions were right for another active day of storms and I was witnessing the birth of a baby boomer; the creation of a life giving, fast moving, terrifying, vocal, tempestuous storm. I hope so! I wanted to feel the wind buffeting my body, to hear the low rumbling sound of thunder, smell the earth as it rained. I said a silent prayer requesting the storm to mature.
However, I did not relish the thought of being caught on top of this wonderful mountain with no shelter. Without hurrying, I went about making myself presentable and putting my gear together into my pack, I hefted it on. I looked at the lonely building and its surroundings one last time. It is sad to see it empty, alone, leaving it to the storms and vandals.
It was time for me to go.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
Prescott FS Details
This trail is primarily a service trail to the Hyde Mountain Lookout, but is always open to hikers. Hyde Mountain at the fire lookout (7,272 ft.) is the highest point in the Santa Maria Mountains and offers excellent vistas of the Santa Maria Mountains and northern Arizona. The lookout is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as exemplifying CCC era construction.
The entire trail is a primitive or semi-primitive road. Motor vehicles less than 40" wide permitted.
Maps, other resources: Prescott National Forest, west half; U.S.G.S. topographic 7.5' quad for Camp Wood.
Trail layout: The trail climbs directly to the lookout on Hyde Mountain. The latter third of the trail is steep and difficult. A lookout is normally on duty during May, June, and July and visitors are always welcome. The trail branches about 1/4 mile south of the lookout, descending to the west for about 0.8 miles and joins the Brown Springs Trail #5 just northeast of the saddle between Hyde Mountain and Pinetop Mountain.
Precautions: This can be a hot, difficult climb. Take frequent breaks and carry plenty of drinking water; none is available on the trail or at the lookout on Hyde Mountain.