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On Top of the Mountain

by Ernie Cardenas

It was a weekend in October, my wife and I were on an archery deer hunt outside of Payson, Arizona. We arrived at our camp spot on Friday evening. The weather was beautiful with temperatures in the mid 70’s. Standing on top of the Mogillon Rim, there were ponderosa pines for as far as the eye could see. It was starting to get late, so we set up camp and got our packs ready for our morning hunt.

The next morning, we ate breakfast and started hiking as soon as the sun came up. We had been to this area several times to camp and scout our hunt, so we were very familiar with it. I had forgotten how cold it could get at sunrise. I watched the frost cover the brush as we walked by. Knowing that we had a day full of hiking ahead of us, we kept pressing on.

We had been hiking for a couple of hours when we started coming up on a ridge. I was hiking ahead of my wife and caught a glimpse of something that I had never seen before. I stopped dead in my tracks. My wife asked me what was wrong. I turned around, grabbed her by the arm and said, we have to go. She asked me why. I stood next to her and pointed it out. It was a black
bear. I had never seen one in the wild. It had to have been about 40 yards in front of us. My wife convinced me to stay and watch quietly. We watched the bear stroll through the forest, as if he had not a worry in the world. Suddenly, he stopped. He raised his snout up in the air and started sniffing the wind. He quickly made a sharp left turn and ran out of sight. I could finally breathe again. We waited there for a few more minutes and then continued on our hike.

We arrived at a canyon wall and there was no way around it. We had to climb up, which looked like it was at least a two hundred foot climb. It was around noon and the sun bouncing off the canyon walls just magnifying the heat right onto us. Our packs felt like they were filled with bricks. Every step seemed like it was getting harder and harder. There was no trail up this canyon wall which made it harder to go up it. It seemed like it took hours, but we finally made it to the top.

The view from the top of the mountain had made the hike well worth it. We both stood there in silence, in awe of the view of the lake down below. We both realized that this view had not been seen by many, and it was definitely something to enjoy and remember. After catching our breath for a few minutes, we started hiking again. We started to hear something moving around up ahead of us. We stopped and took cover. I hid behind a bush and my wife hid behind a big fallen tree about ten yards away from me. Suddenly, they came into sight. It was two young doe playing and running around. One of them caught our scent. She walked towards us and stopped about fifteen yards in front of us. She saw me. She kept staring at me. My heart felt like it was going to pump out of my chest. Everything seemed like it was happening in slow motion. She stood tall. Her ears perked up, her snout sniffed the wind. Everything was silent. She then let out a big yelp and the two doe ran off together.

We only had buck tags so we couldn’t have taken the doe if we had wanted to. Our hunt that year was unsuccessful. It was my first hunting trip ever. I saw and experienced things that I never thought I would. Still to this day, that was my most memorable hunting trip ever. There is nothing like the view from the top of the mountain.