|2,364 ft AEG|
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||no linked trail guides|
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|Friday-Sunday 10/9 - 10/11|
highs in the upper 50s and lows in the lower 40's
Well, this weekend didnt go exactly how it was planned, but went exactly how it was supposed to be.
The plan was to drive up Thursday from the valley and spend the night in Pinetop. Then drive to the west baldy TH and spend the next three days hiking the baldy loop in a counter clockwise direction. Ive had my eye on this hike for a cpl years now and was excited to finally get around to it. I was to be accompanied by my wife and 14 yr old daughter.
We arrived at the TH at around 0830 and the first 4.50 miles whizzed by. We stayed at nice little campsite situated in a clump of trees next to creek right before the trail really starts to climb. We opted for a light first and third day and a longer second day.
We spent the first day lounging around camp and napping in the meadow and some lite exploring of the surrounding area. The weather was GREAT and we went to bed feeling refreshed.
Woke up the next day and my wife was complaining about some pretty severe backpain and was having reservations about the 9 miles of hiking that was on the schedule for the day. Plus she was a little concerned about the altitude gain with the heavier winter packs we where carrying. After some "discussion" we decided it best not to push it and just enjoy our time out together and stay put and instead, just do a day hike to the top and back.
We spent the day hiking up to the 3.5 mile mark and turned around and headed back to camp. The trail was SO nice! the Aspens where changing, the sun was out, and a nice light breeze kept it comfy all day. We also where pleased to have some nice conversation with a family out doing the loop from Gilbert. Man and Wife, and four pleasant kids. It was good seeing another family out there getting it done.
As we where approaching our turnaround spot we started hearing a bunch of hooting and hollering from the direction of the summit. I surmised it must be a group of unruley boyscouts, or, maybe some sort of Native American ceremony thing. Couldn't really make it out but it sounded like a lot of voices, and it was going on for awhile, and actually, we could off an on hear them most of the way down the mountain.
Once back at camp, we had some coffee and prepared dinner. As we where cooking/eating we had a cpl backpackers come by and say Hi looking for a place to spend the night. Both groups where courteous and opted to go somewhere else to preserve everyone's solitude. As we where finishing up dinner, we could here voices and hooting and hollering coming down the trail. It was getting late and all i could think of was the large group a people on the top and guessed we where about to have a boyscout troop with a bunch of hollering kids camped next to us....great.lol
What really happened was two adults in their 30's came stumbling into view, and after spotting us, made a beeline straight across the meadow....It was later in the evening with about an hour left of light. It was a male and female. The male, was carrying a kids backpack, a gallon of water, and a large piece of wood. The female had her purse. My alarm bells where immediately going off and I whispered to my wife and daughter that something wasn't right and be ready.
As they approached i called out a greeting and they replied by asking where the road was. I told them about 4.5 miles down the trail. He tells me that he was with a group of 15 (explains the loud hooting and hollering) people at the summit (the two where definitely Native American) and some girl wondered off on her own and they left the group to find her, became disoriented, and went the wrong way, and where now lost. I asked him how they got to the summit and he told me they drove up to about 2 miles within the summit on the backside of baldy.....He was definitely intoxicated, she was not, and they both seemed nice enough to let my guard down a little and offer some water and snacks......after some short conversation they said they where going to try and beat the darkness and get to the TH. I advised that if they cant find their friend who wondered off they should call the sheriff since it was supposed to be pretty cold that night/morning.
As they worked their way across the meadow back to the trail, I wondered if I should of given them one of our headlamps but by the time i considered it fully they where out of sight.
They where definitely the topic of conversation as we cleaned up from dinner and sipped on some after dinner coffee and tea. The more we talked about them and processed what time they left, we realized it was pretty much impossible they where gonna make it out to the TH before dark...and the reality is they would prob only be able to cover about half of the 4.5 miles.....and even if they somehow miraculously made it out, they where going to be stranded in the middle of nowhere.
As dark settled in around our camp, I stepped out in the meadow to get a true sense of just how dark it was, and realized that night travel without light would be almost impossible.....Then the question. What where we going to do.
After some serious discussion between the wife and I, and the calculation of risk vs reward we came to the conclusion that they where in serious danger of hypothermia and serious injury if they where to get stuck out there at night or tried to continue on the trail. So we broke camp with the plan of catch up to them, escort them down to the parking lot and our vehicle, and get them back into town. So at 1930 we got to work breaking camp and at 2000 we started down the trail.
At approx 2045-2100 we rounded the corner and in the middle of the trail was the Male/Female standing around a fire they had made to stay warm. They where surprised to see anyone that late on the trail and where especially surprised to see it was us.
After we made them aware of who we where I asked the guy nonchalantly, "So, are you ready to get outa here?" His response was an overwhelming 'OH HELL yeah"!!! I helped him put out his fire, and clean up some trash they had laying around and we headed for the truck. They couldn't believe we broke camp and left in the middle of the night just to help them. My response was he was in luck, and I volunteer for a Search and rescue organization back in Phoenix....and wasnt going to be able to sleep knowing they where out there prob having a bad night......We had pleasant conversation on the way back to the truck and arrived at the TH at approx 2230 without incident. We drove back to cell service and he got ahold of his friends who have been looking for them for the last several hours (the girl who wondered off was also found). We arranged to meet at the sunrise bait store....and at approx midnight we passed the off to their friends and started our wy back to pintop with the idea of getting a hotel room.....
unfortunately every hotel room between pine and payson where either full, or wanted several hundred dollars to stay......so we ended up sleeping in the back of the truck on the barndhart TH turnoff at about 0200.....
woke up to the sunrise over the desert at out 0630 and headed back the rest ov the way to the valley.......
Th reality is these folks where not prepared to spend the night, which dipped into the 30's. They WHERE able to start a fire which was huge, and would have saved them from possible hypothermia....especially since the males feet where soaked from crossing the meadow to talk to us...we first calculated the risk to ourselves, and realized we had ate a good meal, we where adequately hydrated, and prepared to help.
||Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial