“Four Peaks” is just that. It is four giant rock peaks that together rise from one giant mountain base and which rises high above all of the other mountains in the surrounding area. (And “Wikipedia” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Peaks offers some very fascinating facts about the Four Peaks.) The peaks are kind of like the North Star. They are always there. You can see them from almost anywhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The Four Peaks are one of the main landmarks for those of us who live in the “Valley of the Sun” – a nickname for our area of Arizona. On a hot day, and from the top of the Peaks, one can see where our Valley of the Sun got its name. The valley just looks “hot” – though very beautiful.
So, with this in mind, I was delighted when my Troop 155 decided to take a trek up to the top of the north peak – which is known as “Brown’s Peak”. They had held kind of “mystical” attraction to me for years – since I had grown up looking at up at them. (I suppose that the other three peaks are also climbable – but we never hiked them – nor discussed the possibility of doing so.)
In Troop 155, we were pretty much known as a hiking troop. We did some car camping trips, but most of the trips that we went on involved hiking. As already noted, we planned hiking trips to Havasupai Canyon every year or two. And in preparation for the Havasupai trips, we always took several “short” weekend hikes in the months preceding the Havasu trips so that we would be in shape for the longer Havasu trips. And in the process, we saw some beautiful country as we hiked various trails within sixty or so miles around us. And since I went to Havasupai Canyon two times. I went on the Four Peaks hike twice also. And technically, I guess I could say that only one of those trips was as a Gnubie. The second time around I had kind of graduated out of the Gnubie status.
So, back to Four Peaks …The road into Four Peaks is in itself a major challenge. One has to really want to get there. To get there, one drives northeast from the Phoenix Metropolitan up toward the Saquaro Lake and further north to the alpine town of Payson. The dirt/gravel road takes off from Highway 87 and once on this road, you can see the Peaks looming above far above the desert floor. (Of course they were visible through all of the trip – but now they really loomed up there ahead of us.) And again, I say that once you are/were on the road, it seems that you are on it forever. It just kind of goes on and on … and you think that you will never get there. And the further in you go, the worse it gets. Initially around the turn-off, we could see a bunch of other people around the area. Most of them were 4-wheelin’ or shooting rifles off into the tules
I can still remember riding in Scoutmaster Nelson’s van on such occasions. As a Gnubie, it seemed that I often got stuck sitting on the van heater. And of course, this made for very pleasant riding and often brought the threat of nausea with it. So, under these conditions, the end could not come soon enough. The road did not add to the comfort of any of us.
We started on fairly “level” ground (though it was hilly at that point) – and kept going higher and higher. I felt every one of those thousands of rocks up the mountain over the twenty or so miles. It was not real pleasant. But, we pressed on and (oh, joy), we ultimately did make it. And once there, we had the place to ourselves. Not too many people were brave enough to endure that road. And once there, it was worth all of the effort that it took to get there.
We camped down below the peaks in a beautiful saddle (an area with tall “Quaking” Aspen, oak – and even some maple trees, green grass and flowers). By “saddle”, I mean that it was kind of the point at which the lowland desert met the high Alpine mountains. Everything changed at this saddle. This was really a nice place. And some of the time – at the right season of the year, there was actually water in the stream nearby.
We enjoyed a pleasant camp through the night. We had a good time. We looked forward with anticipation to the grand adventure that we hoped we would experience the next day. Morning did come and it was then time to head for the mountaintop. We drove on up – as far as we could go with the vehicles. We parked there by the fence. Then we piled out of the vehicles and put on our mountain goat shoes. We were greeted by low shrub oak and other bushes. It was a bit of a challenge to get through this vegetation.
With some persistence, however, we made it to the base of the rock “peaks”. Then the work really began. The way up was quite steep – and to look up to the top from down below, it was a sight that could discourage most folks.
It did not look possible to scale upwards. But, we implemented two of the most important skills of mountain climbing – to keep looking upward toward the goal and to keep putting one foot in front of the other – one step and one rock at a time. And as we did this, we made progress. The view of the “Valley of the Sun” down below became better and more magnificent with each of those steps up the rocks. (Though admittedly, it did make us wonder if we could somehow cling to the mountain without falling off.)
This hike kind was a “graduation” for any of us who were gnubie Scouts. After all, if a Scout could make it up this challenge, he had definitely proven that he truly was no longer a greenhorn. It was like an angel “earning his wings”.
Again, persistence and strong determination … “I can do this … I can make it up one more step …” we helped each other – reaching an arm down to those behind us – and ultimately made it to the top. (At this point, I should say “Thanks” to all of those non-Gnubies who were up above me and who continued to extend their hand down to me to help me up – along with their constant encouragement of “Come on! You can do this …” I didn’t know if I believed them at that point, but I must have listened to them – because I did actually make it to the top. I could not have done it without them.)
And to be honest, I really surprised myself when I found myself on the top of the mountain. Wow! The exhilaration of the view visible to us from the top was then worth the whole climb. There is nothing like the feeling of being on the tallest mountain peak in an area and looking down to the earth in all directions. What a hike! And what a view!
It was exciting as we entered our names in the permanent register there on the mountain top – with those of all the brave or crazy other folks who had climbed the peak before us. And I still remember the thousands of lady bugs that called the mountain top home. I was surprised that the wind did not blow them away – or us either.
We ate our lunches, took long drinks from our canteens, basked in the view, and returned the hiker log to the metal case. We took one last look at the vast world below us and left the peak to the thousands of lady bugs who would remain behind us there.
I don’t know if it would be possible to have descended down on the peak’s west side – the way that we had come up. We probably would have needed ropes and all of that good climbing stuff and safety equipment. So, we began our descent down the north side. This side was very steep but more like a giant mountain than the steep rock of the way up. But, it took great effort to get down. We soon got into a solid mass of the scrub oak trees. It seemed that these had formed a giant “blanket”. And believe it or not, the tree blanket was so “dense” that we actually had a hard time getting down to the ground below the trees. Half of the time – except when we would fall through – it seemed that we we kind of up on top of the trees. And as is the case on all such mountain climbs, the climb down was definitely much easier – and ten times faster than our trip up the mountain. It was a really hard trip – coming and going – but we did it. We learned that we could indeed do something hard.
It was a miracle, but somehow we did make it back to the vehicles and then made our way back to our “base camp”. Then it was time to relax in the shade of a tree on the grass. We were all pretty exhausted. We sure knew that our legs existed. (And is always the case, that feeling intensified ten-fold in the next couple of days.) And again it was interesting to look up once more to the top of the peak. Wow! “Were we really way up there?” Another Wow … or maybe a few of them. Amazing!
Such a trip had the effect of making me think about this beautiful world that our God created for us. It was amazing and wonderful and I tried to be truly grateful for all around me. And that gratitude came easy. What a beautiful world we have to enjoy! Thanks be to God! (And the feeling of that moment has come back to me on many occasions as I have thought back to that moment and the grandeur around me.)
That hike was a great experience. I could go on and on – but perhaps I’ve shared enough with you to help you get the picture of all the fun that is out there for you as you move along your trail from Gnubie to Eagle Scout. Whether camping or hiking a grand mountain top like Four Peaks, there are some great experiences out there for Gnubie Scouts and their older and proven brother Scouts.
Well, I guess by now you have realized that we had some pretty fun and crazy times in Troop 155. We did have … and of course, we enjoyed every minute of them! We did have great times together. And you are probably having some great Scouting times yourself. I hope so. That’s what it is all about. What a great game, this Scouting business! Isn’t it fun to be a Gnubie?