I had been wanting to hike the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Trail and finally, in April, I was able to go there with my granddaughter, Brenna. We didn’t get an early start, and it was a fairly warm day, So I had only planned to hike to the memorial which would be five miles round trip. To reach the trailhead, we drove through Yarnell and started down the windy road toward Congress. The parking lot is about halfway down. It is small, but we were fortunate enough to get the last parking space. There is a shuttle that runs 7 days a week from the Arrowhead Bar and Grill in Congress. That is a good alternative if the parking lot is full.
The first two miles of the hike are pretty rugged and mostly up hill. Fortunately, along the way there are nineteen plaques inserted into large boulders. These provided plenty of opportunities to stop and rest while reading the plaques.
Once we reached the summit, we were treated to a 360 degree view that was nothing less than spectacular.
Hiking down the back side toward the memorial, below us we could see the actual site where they died. That was when I began to amend my plans. I was pretty certain that once I reached the memorial, I would not be able to turn around without finishing the hike to the bottom.
The canyon where the hot shots were trapped was now fully visible and we could see its proximity to homes in the small valley.
The memorial was a nice place to rest and have a snack. There were covered picnic tables. The tribute wall was filled with tokens of appreciation left by previous hikers.
I was wishing that I had something to leave there, but alas I didn’t. If I ever have the opportunity again, I will certainly plan to leave a memento somewhere along the trail.
After a short rest, we began the mile hike down to the actual site. There we found the area surrounded by nineteen gabion baskets connected by chains to signify the unity of the hotshot team. Inside the circle were crosses where each man fell. It is impossible to stand there and not feel the terrific loss that occurred, especially after reading the nineteen plaques along the way.
Since I didn’t bring anything to leave behind, I looked around for something I could place there. I found a rock that I thought looked like a thumbs up. I placed it on a large rock that was between two gabion baskets to say, “Job well done.”