Made of Iron
The first time I hiked Iron Mountain in the fall of 2011, the experience wasn’t pleasant. Between the heat and the elevation change, I had an asthma attack and I had to fight all the way to the top.
I’ll admit there was a lot of whining involved, dizziness and general unhappiness spawned by the lack of oxygen my body was receiving, and my immediate response to the negative experience was that I refused to ever hike Iron Mountain again. I even came up with multiple excuses as to why I couldn’t or wouldn’t hike the mountain whenever my significant other wanted to hike it after that—I was being that much of a baby about it.
When I decided I wanted to hike Havasupai, little things like being able to hike a mountain are considered a prerequisite because of the switchbacks that lead out of the canyon and up to the Hilltop trailhead. And even before you reach the switchbacks, you have to cover eight or nine miles. Not only is distance a factor, but elevation. Saying can’t or won’t or giving up is not an option, so I knew in order to feel secure on the backpacking trip, I had to tackle not only the physical hurdles, but the mental ones as well.
And Iron Mountain had become my Everest. Too high and too far to manage. It was time to put that idea to rest.
Scott and I headed to the trailhead off Poway Road in the mid-morning, strapped our water and snacks to our backs, and headed off.
We did the hike in two hours, which was a measurable improvement of the four hours it took me the first time, and even had a nice rest at the top, enjoying the views of east San Diego County, of Mount Woodson just across the highway, of the swath of purple wildflowers surrounding several homes in the valleys around the mountain, and of the hazy blue tinge that is the Pacific Ocean to the west. The view is breathtaking.
The best part of the hike, however, was when I got back to the car. I felt as if I were made of iron. I had tackled a mountain that had previously put me down and made me fear, and more than anything, I felt my will strengthen. Iron Mountain was no longer a big deal, but instead a little hill.
Distance: 7 miles round trip
Time: About two hours depending on pace and time spent at the top.
Elevation Change: 996 feet, switchbacks toward the end and up to the summit. This is a moderate hike, but because it is in eastern San Diego County, the trail can get pretty hot in the summertime, and there are no spots for shade.