Katie and I stepped out of the van like a pair of well-oiled machines. She immediately got Noah out of his seat and started applying sunscreen while I took Thomas, our six-month old, and got him situated in the Tula. Within a few minutes the four of us were ready to go, and after a brief distraction with Noah and a large horse in the parking lot, we were at the trailhead. It was time to tackle the Hieroglyphic Trail with the family.
My last visit to this area had left me with a decent amount of confidence. I had climbed up South Peak on an off-trail route and descended down the full length of Hieroglyphic Canyon in a half-trot. The last few miles seemed like a breeze after the tough morning. There was little doubt in my mind that both Katie and Noah would be able to do the three mile in-and-out to the petroglyphs at the base of the canyon.
Even with our relatively early 6:30 start the sun was up and the temps were climbing as we started down the dusty path. A few people passed us, though there was no crowding like the inner city hikes of Phoenix. As we walked I made sure to point out the different areas of the Superstition Ridgeline to Katie, especially the interesting angle on Flatiron and Three Sisters, which I'm sure she enjoyed.
Our trail began to rough up a bit, becoming more boulders and gravel than flat earth. Noah had a hard time over this terrain. For a while Katie helped him over these sections, though he has a tendency to fuss a lot when we hold his hand after a period of freedom. We let him throw a little tantrum and then I scooped him up and carried him a few hundred yards. Even if it was tough carrying both kids, one in a carrier and one on my arm, it did feel good to stretch the legs and travel at a more adult pace for some time.
After a half hour of hiking we finally got a good view of the canyon opening ahead. I pointed it out to Katie, letting her know that all we had to do was reach the mouth over there (sort of) and we'd be at the old petroglyphs. She seemed relieved at that. The warm temperatures and Noah's slow pace was wearing on both of us.
For the next thirty minutes we alternated between letting Noah walk on his own and me carrying him. For my wife it had to be an odd mix - I walk too fast for her and our son walks to slow. She was either dragging her feet or racing to keep up. Noah didn't mind too much, and Thomas slept through it all. We reached the canyon and, a short time after, set up camp at the side of one of the small pools of water. I needed to get Thomas off of my chest (literally) and he was ready for a bottle.
While Katie fed the baby Noah and I raced down to the water. I wanted to show him the petroglyphs on the other side. He almost reached the edge of the water before I noticed the buzzing swarm of bees playing near the surface and I snatched him back. I'm not sure how a two year-old would react to a bee sting, though I wasn't in a rush to find out. We skipped past the pool and bees and headed up to the opposite wall.
He seemed pretty interested in the drawings, though I made sure to keep his grubby hands back from the ancient markings. There's no signs or fences around the petroglyphs telling people to keep back but I didn't want to be that guy who let his son leave sweaty handprints all over. We carefully edged our way along the rock ledges to check out the different walls before slowly heading back to Katie.
When we got back Thomas was just finishing up his formula and Katie was getting ready to pack up. She was more interested in starting the hike back then viewing the rock walls on her own. We situated the gear, watered up, and began the long walk back to the parking lot. Before we left the canyon I took one look up to a far-distant balanced rock above us. It seemed crazy that I had climbed up to it some months ago, and even crazier that it marked a mere one-third of that day's climb.
As we walked down it was surprising to see how much higher we were than Gold Canyon, back near the trailhead. Our hike was a mere 600' climb or so, even though it looked much more significant on the way down. Noah seemed to enjoy the downhill trend of our hike down and kept a much better pace. Well, he did until he took a good spill down a rocky section and scraped up his knee.
For the much of the rest of the hike I carried both sons. I thought a few times about perching Noah up on my shoulders. He was probably too tired for that, though, and I'm pretty sure I saw a few good head bobs along the way. Katie helped him walk on the flat sections to give my arm a break and, between the two of us, we got everyone back to the car safely.
While the petroglyphs were neat to see, today's hike was probably a bit far for us to attempt. The temperature was already over 90° as we drove back to the house and both kids were sweaty and tired. Loose rocks and the general climb on the way was probably too much for Noah as well. If I take the family out again before the cooler autumn temperatures we'll be keeping it short and simple.