It’s a gorgeous sunny day in Northern Arizona, although still pretty hot with a hot in the mid/upper 90s. I packed up this morning and took a brief wander down to the Colorado River beach to see how the river looked and hunt for a sign that Steve, a national park traveler friend who stopped by the Canyon and who I’d advised to stop by Lee’s Ferry had told me about. It marks the northern border of Grand Canyon National Park. I found it, on the beach where river trips launch to raft down the Colorado through the canyon. The last time I was here, the Paría River was flowing much stronger and you could see the two rivers flow side by side between the beach and the Navajo Bridge. But given how dry it has been recently that was not the case today, just the blue Colorado water. Seeing that deep blue water against the red cliffs of Marble Canyon is always beautiful, but it also breaks my heart a bit, because the river should be a muddy brown with sediment. In fact, literally the name Colorado River means “colored river” or “red river” in Spanish, and received that name due to the color in it from the sediment it carries. But Glen Canyon Dam now traps all that sediment, so it only turns its natural color after rains. The river now also runs about 40-50 degrees rather than its natural 85. Feel free to ask if you have more questions about the river, one of my favorite features of the Southwest and one I could write about in depth. What features do you have that you connect to where you live?
I then headed over to Lonely Dell Ranch at the mouth of Paría Canyon and enjoyed a ranger program there about the prior occupants of the ranch including John D. Lee, the namesake of Lee’s Ferry and someone perhaps best known for his role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, for which he was executed in 1877. The orchards at the ranch also have free fruit to pick, and I enjoyed some fresh pears before heading up Paría Canyon.
The Canyon was pretty wide today, but I’m not expecting that to remain the case moving forward. I have two weeks of supplies on me to get back to the South Rim. It’s also 15 miles to the first source of water at the top of the Chinle Formation, so I’m pretty loaded down with water today given that and the heat, can’t wait to drink down some of that weight and start eating my way through my pack. There’s a trail from Lee’s Ferry through the portion of Paría Canyon that is within Glen Canyon NRA, but after crossing the border into the Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness the river is the trail. I’m essentially doing the lower portion of the Hayduke Trail to get to the start of the Arizona Trail, and the landscape soon proves diverse and stunning, with old historic features at first, followed by spectacular colors and light in the canyon.
(Please note that a permit is required from the US Bureau of Land Management for all overnight stays in the Paría Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness. Permits are limited to 20 people/night and can be reserved online. Adequate preparation is essential before undertaking a trip through a wilderness area; one must be prepared to be self sufficient and away from all services and assistance. If you are interested, let me know and I can help and provide you with more information on the matter.)
The low last night was projected to be 12º, the coldest night yet on the trail, and I would say that may well have been accurate. Fortunately I came prepared for such conditions. Today I will be one of the first to walk the full new Happy Jack passage routing south of Shuff Tank.
It is brutally cold this morning, making it hard to even move much before 11. I believe it was around 20 at 9:00. Packing is a slow process in these temperatures. But, I pick up a few things that might make future packings faster in these temperatures, like doing most of it inside the tent at first and having a solid plan in advance to minimize time spent debating with oneself in the cold. Once packed, I head east along the forest road until coming to a trail crossing. There is a problem; the trail crosses on both sides. Clearly I missed a turnoff in the twilight yesterday evening. In both my purist nature and out of curiosity to see just where I made a wrong turn, I take the trail to the right, and it winds through the ponderosas back to Shuff Tank. It is clearly new, so this must be part of the new reroute, which has gone around the road stretch that I walked to get to the junction earlier. Instead of following the road on the north side of the tank, the trail now follows a singletrack around the west and south sides of the tank, then crosses the road on the east.
It’s brutally cold this morning, notably because of the strong wind that whips across the clearing to the west. Not setting up the tent last night was a mistake. I ultimately fill up for the last time at Navajo Spring and run into a few dayhikers who have completed over 300 miles of the trail themselves. Two of them are the Grouper and the Oracle. I continue south, aiming for Gooseberry Springs TH and Passage 29, Happy Jack.
Managed to push through the entire Blue Ridge Passage today, one of my best days on the trail. I left the Blue Ridge Ranger Station this morning and headed south for the Rim. Saw a herd of elk near the Blue Ridge Campground and Elk Tank while climbing Blue Ridge itself. The trail also passed through an active prescribed burn, though it was low intensity so probably not considered a public hazard at this point. I’m familiar with them anyway, having worked as a PIO (public informations officer) on one over the summer at Grand Canyon. The trail crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing.
It’s cold and raw after the rain the night before. I walk about 3 miles up the road to Double Springs and then use the AZT to get back to my prior campsite to grab the sleeping pad, then retrace my steps again. Did it hail up here?
Heading south the trail passes an overlook of the ridges and of Mormon Lake itself, Arizona’s largest natural lake. It’s low (it often dries up under drought conditions to become Mormon Meadow) but the spring was wet enough that it hasn’t disappeared. It’s so windy that I’m almost blown off the overlook and my glasses ARE blown off (thankfully I catch them before they fall).
There is a lot of cool railroad history west of Lake Mary Road, the trail follows an old logging railroad grade for much of the route and in places the ties are still visible. Very cool. The forest turns into a dense mixed conifer and I have a chance encounter with a mountain biker named Chris who recently moved here from Idaho. We talk about the trail ahead and some I’m looking at doing in Idaho.
Another period of big updates across the National Park System.
Here we will look at the status of all 500+ national parks and affiliates, see which have changed status or will soon, and look at the details of what is or is not currently available at each park.
Disclaimer: please observe all CDC recommendations for the safety of staff and visitors alike. They are there to help and serve you, please do them the courtesy of helping keep them safe.
The trail reaches Lowell Observatory’s Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI). The NPOI measures precise relative positions of stars in the sky for the Naval Observatory to use as reference when determining geographic positions of locations on both Earth and in space, as well as for use in timekeeping. Over four football fields long, it uses a six-mirror array directing multiple light beams from a star to a single point, enhancing image detail and separating stars that are so close that even the largest conventional telescopes cannot separate them visually. Near the NPOI is an excellent view of Upper Lake Mary in the valley of Walnut Creek below, after which the trail continues across Anderson Mesa. After reaching Horse Lake, I make camp for the night. The sky is black as coal and the night is filled with coyotes howling.
Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico. After doing a full resupply yesterday to get me through to Pine, where my next box has been shipped, and replacing some gear, including a new pair of boots and new sleeping pad, today started with breakfast with Oscar at Tourist Home, … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 29 – Flagstaff to Anderson Mesa
Another large petroglyph panel day, and a exhilarating squeeze through the Wire Pass Narrows leads to the Arizona Trail in Coyote Valley.
Discover Flagstaff – Where to Eat, Stay, Resupply, and Just Have a Good Time in Arizona’s Coolest Mountain Town
Discover Flagstaff, Arizona’s coolest mountain town. Whether you are here hiking the Arizona Trail or ust stopping through on a roadtrip, or perhaps train trip, Flagstaff is well worth it. Check out the restaurants, gear stores, resupply opportunities, and breweries that Flagstaff has to offer.
Along the AZT past Fisher Point, into Walnut Canyon and on into Flagstaff from the south to resupply. Tomorrow on my zero day in Flag, I’ll cover places to stop for food and supplies in Flagstaff.
The ponderosas are dense throughout, and their reddish bark glows in the light that filters through the green needles. The gambel oaks continue to impress along the route as well, adding splashes of yellow, red, and orange to the green ponderosa woodlands. The trail crosses two spur trails leading to overlooks with more magnificent views of the canyon.
The trail crosses FR 303, Old Walnut Canyon Road, and heads west toward Flagstaff. Rolling in and out of drainages, It traces the rim of Walnut Canyon in places, and veers away into the woods in others. Heading west, the forest transitions back to the ponderosas, rolling up and down through drainages. The ponderosas are dense throughout, and their reddish bark glows in the light that filters through the green needles. The gambel oaks continue to impress along the route as well, adding splashes of yellow, red, and orange to the green ponderosa woodlands. The trail crosses two spur trails leading to overlooks with more magnificent views of the canyon. Both well worth the minor extra mileage and time.