After a summer outside of Flag Matt Steele made it back to town on August 24th, the day before my birthday. I invited him to celebrate the occasion with Molly, Megan and I by hiking to the top of Mt. Humphrey's, Arizona's highest point, for the sunrise.
That photo makes it obvious to you that Steele accepted the invitation, hindsight's 20-20. At the time we weren't so sure he'd come. He'd made a date for the night before and expected to be up all night alcohol-izing.
At 0250, while brushing my teeth, I thought I heard something from the front yard, but couldn't quite be sure over the noise of the brush inside my head. As Megan and I were loading things in her car to go pick up Molly, I rolled open the van door. Inside was a fully dressed Matthew Steele fully horizontal on the bed.
After an evening of cavorting, he'd managed to bike himself to Megan's in time to catch the shuttle to the peak. Game on.
We started up with the stars still clear over our heads. Bit by bit things got lighter, and not long after we broke out of last of the thickly wooded sections of trail we were able to put our headlamps away. I got Megan and I lost somehow, but we caught up with Steele and Molly at the saddle just in time to watch an the daystar crest the horizon.
We sat there long enough to lose all the heat we'd built up on the way up, watching all the different ways the sun could set the sky on fire.
The sunrise was maybe extra poignant for Molly, who knew it'd be her last from her longtime home.
But come to think of it, that was true for all of us (well, the "last time" part, not the "long time"). Molly was moving to Bellingham, Steele to SLC, Megan was quitting her job and going to Asia, and with the three of them going, well, why would I stay in Flag? Just playing. I'm chasing the girl to Asia.
At some point the sunrise stopped being quite so spectacular - or the chill set in - and we started onwards to the true peak.
Boulder scrambling to false peak after false peak, but with a view of all the world around us. Humphrey's shadow stretched out to the west, reminding me of my evening watching Mt. Lemmon's shadow reach out to the east a few months earlier.
Steele got ahead of we three and made it to the peak well before us.
We found him passed out at the top. Not sleeping the night before a three hour hike uphill was setting in on him.
Our view was expansive. We could see the rim of the Grand Canyon to the north, and Oak Creek Canyon, gateway to Sedona, was obvious to the south.
Juniper taking in the view
I wonder what sign we wait for before we all agree it's time to turn back and go down. Whatever it is, we all found it, and turned our backs on the view in favor of home.
Down in the woods we passed a huge number of people going the other direction. I hadn't realized what a destination the peak was. Juniper ranged ahead of us a ways, and multiple times I overheard families arguing about whether they'd just seen a wild dog or not.
PS: Of Course, I Celebrated My B-Day With Style and Aplomb
No one else got naked, if you were wondering.