“The mountains are calling and I must go”. – John Muir
The White Mountains of northeast Arizona are home to the largest freestanding Ponderosa Pines in the world, a dramatic difference to the lunar landscapes, canyons and cactus desert that covers much of the state. The White Mountains are breathtakingly beautiful with air so fresh that is makes your lungs sing. Peace, serenity and connecting with nature are the main pastimes here and there are many fabulous hiking trails to find it.
The most well-known and beloved hike in the area is the 14-mile roundtrip hike to the sacred Mount Baldy. At 11,4000 feet, Mount Baldy is home to some of the oldest, most beautiful Douglas Firs in the world. Some of them are over 350 years old. Three years ago, my dad, my son Max and I did a three generational hike along the Mount Baldy Trail. Yesterday, we decided to repeat history and do it again. There was no way we could do the entire hike with a nine-year old but we were able to hike to the first lookout with a magnificent view of the forest and horizon.
We rose early to the morning sun lighting up the pine tree tops lining the White Mountains. The morning sky was a magnificent blue with not a single cloud in the sky. That would surely come later. In late August, the White Mountains are at the tail end of monsoon season where the magical clouds slowly appear, form and become bigger, whiter, brighter and then darker before they release their angry water.
We took the White Mountain Scenic Byway for a little over an hour, driving through some of the other small towns along the way. We passed through meadows, fields of wildflowers and lots of Ponderosa Pines (some dating over 700 years old!). It was a beautiful ride that took us through some unbelievable scenery. I had to pinch myself to remember that we were in Arizona as we had left the desert and cactus long ago.
We arrived at the start of the trail around half past nine. The sky was brilliant and the gentle breeze smelled of pines. It was completely still and quiet save for a few birds chirping off in the distance. It was a beautiful day for a hike.
I kept thinking about my favorite John Muir quotes and realizing how fortunate we are to have had such an amazing advocate for protecting our natural forests. What a gift these forests and parks have given to so many people.
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”. – John Muir
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”. – John Muir
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness”. – John Muir
“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” – John Muir
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul”. – John Muir
The hike was just as spectacular as I remembered. I hope it isn’t another three years until we do it again.