Taking the Boys to Siphon Draw
Siphon Draw is one of the first areas I explored in Arizona. After that initial visit I began to treat the (normally dry) waterfall as a milepost to the more challenging Flatiron and ridgeline hikes beyond, a mere marker on more epic adventures, with the exception of one time when I carried then-baby Noah and took my parents for a desert hike. Over the last year I've begun to wonder exactly when Noah and Thomas would be ready to do the hike on their own two feet, and with the cool fall-time temperatures it was time to find out.
We started from Lost Dutchman almost a full hour after the sunrise. The sun was still hiding behind the impressive and photogenic monolith and temperatures were chilled, yet the parking lot was over half full and plenty of other hikers were already on the trail. A diversion showed up a short distance into the trail, either due to recent washouts or scheduled maintenance, and signs guided us onto roads for the nearby campsite. It was an annoying way to start the hike and I had to keep both boys very close to avoid the intermittent traffic.
Within a half mile we were back on the proper rocky path and I let them wander a short distance ahead. They each had a backpack and walking stick and were good at setting a steady pace and sticking to it. Charlotte kept quiet in the carrier behind me, moving around occasionally, somewhat immobilized by the multiple layers she was wearing. Kids get cold quick when they don't move much. As the wide, rocky path steepened we were passed by a lot of faster groups as the boys struggled with the taller steps.
The first 1.5 miles of this hike always drags for me. It's a slow uphill drag, steep enough to make you work, and the views are mediocre at best, plus the trail is very rocky and loose. It isn't until you start to enter the canyon that the views get better and the path gets challenging in a good way. It darts up some steep sections that force some people to use their hands for balance, slides around boulders, and even gets overgrown. The boys complained some here, saying that it was too tough and needing extra help, but at least Charlotte and I enjoyed it.
Flatiron became more significant as we climbed, shining brightly far above, and Noah and I had some conversations about it. There was a 7-year old and his dad who were heading up there today and I wondered how Noah felt about it. Definitely not something we'd try this year, or even the year after, just an interesting possibility for the near future. Who knows, if my boys continue hiking with me we could be doing some crazy stuff in the Mazzies over the next decade.
When we finally reached the dry waterfall it was dry, a small, stagnant puddle below that attracted a few bees. I let Charlotte out to stretch her legs while the boys rested - well, they rested for a minute, and quickly tried to climb the surrounding rock walls. I let them go for a short time before deciding to start the descent. If they had enough energy to not listen to me and try to climb dangerous stuff then they had enough to walk downhill.
The way down dragged. They were tired and the sun was fully up, instantly heating the whole area by fifty degrees (not scientifically measured). Noah has recently outgrown his hiking boots and was in tennis shoes, which meant regular slips and stumbles on the rock, and he was full of complaints. I gave them (and me) a long break in a partial cave halfway down, pulling out the last of the snacks and letting them play in the shade.
That break helped a lot and the rest of the hike went by relatively painless. We reached the parking lot before noon and the boys fell asleep within minutes. Can't blame them - this hike was five miles and well over a thousand feet of gain, their hardest hike to date. Charlotte and I chatted on the way home and I wondered if we'd be ready to tackle Fremont Saddle in the coming months. That's another difficult hike that I've been hoping to take them on, one that some adults I know struggle on, and it'd be a fantastic adventure for us.