Photo Gallery: Hitting a High Point - Trekking Escudilla Mountain Arizona's Third Highest Peak

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The place you see in these photos is long gone now, utterly consumed in Arizona's largest wildfire that ignited on June 14, 2011 and didn't get 100% contained until July 8, 2011. The Wallow Wildfire. Arizona's third tallest peak, Escudilla Mountain rises to 10,912 feet and was once a pleasant refuge with its dense aspen groves, towering ponderosas, knee-high wild grass, and numerous trails. We first posted this story on October 7, 2009, shortly after spending a weekend on the mountain. We're bringing it back up now that the context has changed ...  
— Mark Stephens,


Years ago, Arizona Highways Magazine published a challenge of sorts. They ran an article that listed the highest peaks in each county of Arizona.  My friend Seth set out to do them all.  When he told me that, I blinked once and said, "Dude."

Shortly after, we didn't talk about summiting Mount Graham — the tallest peak in Graham County.  You see, hiking that peak is illegal.  One of the best things about getting older is devulging all the questionable (or not-so-questionable) antics you pulled off as a young punk in a colorful, ripping tale that often includes a few flavorful toppings: a broken down car, a police chase, a combative girlfriend, a bar room fist fight, an unsavory organized crime boss wannabe, a series of empty bottles, or a hustled game of pool gone awry.  Pick any three, you've got yourself a story.

But I wasn't a young punk when we didn't talk about summiting Mount Graham and when we didn't trudge up steep slopes of aspen, through a north facing bowl, and along an abandoned Jeep road.  Nope.  I wouldn't know much about that. That would have been illegal ...

Hitting the highest peaks is always on my list of things to do, and I'm much more domesticated these days.  Escudilla Mountain doesn't make the list of high points in each county because it gets outranked by Mount Baldy; the second highest peak in Arizona that also resides in Apache County.  Escudilla just gets the third highest point in Arizona.  She's 10,912 feet tall and takes up a certain amount of blue sky in Eastern Arizona south of Springerville off the scenic 191.

Chloe, almost a full 2 years old, rode on our backs in a classic Kelty Back Country child carrier for the 6-ish round-trip miles.  Child carrier backpacks are pretty cool, no doubt.  But geesh, you're dealing with a load that likes to move, lean, twist, kick, holler, drink all of your water and then ask for candy.  You didn't hear this from me, but I'd much rather lug around 70-lbs of bricks than a toddler on my back.

But I'm a dad you see, relegated to a certain aloof form of work akin to that of a burro on a Mexican ranch.  Whipped, unthanked, and tossed the left overs at each meal. If you're not a dad you won't get this, but yeah, it's the best ever. Because later that night, say when you're sacked out in the tent, you'll roll over onto your side and feel the breath of that little girl right next to you in her green footy pajamas. You might wake her with your turn. You'll notice a slight cramp in your aging leg from that hike, but then she'll sit up and use her hoarse midnight voice, "Mmmm, snuggle papa" and drop her head next to yours. And steal your pillow.

Yeah.  You'll live for this stuff.  From the top of one mountain to the top of another.


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