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Weatherford Trail from Friedlein Prairie TH, AZ
mini location map2014-06-28
19 by photographer avatarddgrunning
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Weatherford Trail from Friedlein Prairie TH, AZ 
Weatherford Trail from Friedlein Prairie TH, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 28 2014
Hiking21.99 Miles 5,080 AEG
Hiking21.99 Miles   11 Hrs   17 Mns   2.45 mph
5,080 ft AEG   2 Hrs   19 Mns Break
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Mt. Whitney training "simulation" hike with my son, Kent, in preparation for our Whitney attempt in 3 weeks.

I think Humphreys via Weatherford is about the closest you can get in Arizona to what Whitney will be like: Both are around 22 miles long, though Whitney has another 1500 ft + of AEG, but there's nowhere higher in AZ to climb :-). With an upcoming family reunion, we probably have one more good training hike left before the big event, so I'd be happy to hear any other good simulation hikes from any fellow HAZ-ers who have taken on Whitney ...

Back to the hike:

We drove up Friday night with the intent of camping along Freidlein Prairie Road, for the dual purposes of: (a) trying to acclimate a bit more to the altitude (Friedlein sits at about 8250 ft.), and (b) getting an earlier start without making a red-eye drive from Phoenix. I ended up not being able to leave work early, so we didn't get to the Snowbowl Road turn off till around 9 pm. Of course, it was dark and there are only 9 designated camp areas on FP road this time of year (sites 10-14 are closed from March through August, in an effort to get a couple of Mexican spotted owls to be in the mood to reproduce :kf: ). More info on Friedlein camping at: ... 7&actid=34 (By the way, I don't recommend FP road for non-high-clearance vehicles; we "survived" in my Honda Accord, but I don't plan on subjecting a sedan to that beating again ).

After driving through camps, they all seemed to be occupied, and though I wasn't excited about backtracking, I had scoped out another dispersed camping area a little further back down Ft. Valley Rd (Hwy 180). As we were making our way back to the paved road, camp area #5 seemed to be open. Upon closer inspection, we could see a tent set way back from the road, but no car in the area. We decided to try to share the site and set up our tent close to the road. As it was 9:30 at that time, we set up our tent in the dark and tried our best to be quiet, so as not to disturb our neighbor.

After sleeping for a few hours, I was awoken at 1:30 am by a car pulling into the campsite and then a man got out and began walking over to our tent, flashlight in had. A bit nervous, I poked my head out and asked if I could help. Turns out it was the guy who had set up the other tent (our neighbor). He had set up camp a couple of days before and had made a trip down to Phoenix and got stuck there overnight. He (thankfully) was fine sharing the campsite with us, and Kent and I got a chuckle out of all our hard efforts to be “quiet” so as not to disturb his EMPTY tent. Haha.

After an otherwise very pleasant night, we woke up at 5 am and it was already light. We cooked some oatmeal and stuffed our faces with donuts and hot chocolate, (which we shared with our neighbor, who also got up early), before packing up and heading down to the of FP road a couple of miles to where the trailhead is located. We hit the trail at 7 am. After about 3/10 of a mile, my son realized he had forgotten bring along his tennis shoes (we had bought him some hiking shoes the day before, and we didn’t want to get half way through the hike only to realize that his new shoes were killing him, so we wanted to bring the tennis shoes as a back up). Well, Kent dropped his pack and ran back to the car. When he returned, he realized that he had dropped his sunglasses on the way (oy!), so then I made a trip back to the car to find them for him. So, with that illustrious start of both of us picking up an extra 6/10 of a mile, we officially hit the mountain.

The weather/temperature/day was absolutely gorgeous for hiking!! :DANCE: Although we brought our jackets and long hiking pants—as it’s almost always windy and at least a little cold on top of Humphreys—we didn’t end up needing either. And for that matter, we didn’t end up needing Kent’s tennis shoes either (making all of that running back and forth at the beginning a waste of energy, but it’s all good--better safe than sorry!). I was glad his hiking shoes worked great (yay!), as he is pretty picky when it comes to footwear.

We enjoyed a lot of solitude [one of my favorite things about this hike] until we reached the saddle before Humphreys summit, where the trail turned into a regular super-highway, including a group of 170 hikers attempting to summit in support of fallen police officers, as well as a group of 40-50 teenage girls from a church camp(Go them—I was impressed!). :wlift:

We also passed wallyfrack on his way back down from the summit, with friend in tow. It was a bit of deja vu, as we met him and a couple of other HAZ celebrities in the the same area just a few weeks ago. We exchanged short pleasantries and then continued our ascent.

Despite the masses, when we got to the summit, surprisingly there were very few people there. We wondered why, given the traffic on that part of the trail, plus the fact that there was almost NO wind (very rare occurrence) and the temperature was very pleasant. Well, we found out in a hurry—GNATS. WERE. EVERYWHERE. And as soon as we stepped onto the summit we were literally "gnat-tacked" by them! I'll post a photo or two of the swarms. I guess that is one reason to be grateful for the normally windy conditions up there—they keep the gnats at bay.

In any event, our time on the roof of Arizona was pretty short-lived, plus we had another 11+ miles to hike, so we got back on the trail and headed down. Once beyond the Agassiz saddle, solitude set back in, and we enjoyed a mostly very shady and pleasant descent. We saw one overnight tent set up at Fremont Saddle, and passed a family of backpackers planning to overnight at Doyle Saddle. Our total trip time, including lunch and breaks was a little over 11 hours. We grabbed dinner at Chik-fil-a (Kent's choice) in Flagstaff and headed home, where we arrived, exhausted, about 9:30 pm.

Kent was an awesome hiker and hiking companion. I am so proud of him. :wlift: : rambo : He had a great attitude and called the trip “fun and tiring.” I'm glad that he doesn't see those two things as mutually exclusive :) . He also did better with the altitude this time than when we hiked the summit trail at the end of May. I think camping out at altitude helped a bit, and we brought some chewable aspirin and Tylenol, which I think also helped. Anyway, I’m encouraged that we just might be able to make the Mt. Whitney summit. Fingers crossed. :pray:

Another beautiful and satisfying day on the Peaks! :y:
Parry's Primrose
HAZ Member
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