Sunday, September 2, 2012
Pat Mullen Mountain
Hiker Jeopardy! And the answer is: because it’s there. Question: Why climb Pat Mullen Mountain?
In preparation for this hike, you’ll need the usual stuff---sturdy footware, water, sun protection and also, a fist full of pennies. The gear is for your body, the pennies will be for your wishes---which I’ll explain in a sec. From the parking area, trail 632 takes off by the info kiosk and also across the road at a small wooden sign that states Pat Mullen Mountain is 1.6 miles away. Either way works—it’s a loop. Just be sure to follow the blue diamond White Mountain Trail System tree markers to stay on track. There are several old roads that intersect the route, so be sure to locate the diamonds before making any turns. The turnoff for the half-mile spur trail up the mountain is marked by a sign reading “vista point trail”. But, don’t expect world-class epic views. The trail is swaddled in trees and although there are some pretty great “peeks” through the foliage, the "vistas" are sparse. On the way up, you’ll notice a magnificent old Alligator juniper tree decorated with all sorts of “offerings”. This is the Magic Wishing Tree, where a community of resin gnomes live in the hollow trunk guarding over a brass spittoon filled with pennies. A sign proclaims that wishes cost a penny apiece, but from the looks of the place, the gnomes also accept hats, buttons, sunglasses, Mardi Gras beads—or, whatever. (2016 update: several hikers have reported that the gnomes have been removed). On the tree’s lower branches, an empty Camelback bladder hangs among elaborate wind chimes. I deposited my payment --to protect against bad juju just in case this tree is actually some deranged lawn elf tollbooth or something--before continuing on up to the summit. At first, I wasn’t even sure if I had found the summit, but a local hiker assured me that the nondescript clearing with an arc of lava boulder seating was indeed the top. After taking a few photos, I headed back down to complete the loop, seven cents lighter and feeling lucky. (UPDATE: a hiker reports that the gnomes were gone on 2-23-14. Not sure if they hibernate and return in spring. Please leave a comment if you know their habits.)
LENGTH: 4.5 mile loop
ELEVATION: 7200'- 7612'
From the Lakeside Ranger station on AZ260 (White Mountain Blvd.) in Lakeside go 4.8 miles east and turn left onto Bucksprings Road (mile post 355 at the traffic signal). Continue 0.5 mile and turn LEFT onto to Sky Hi Road (FR182). Follow Sky Hi Road 2 miles to the 632 trailhead on the right near the junction with FR 185.
INFO: White Mountain Trail System