The Arizona Trail, Day 1 (AZ/UT Day 8, Part 4)

Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail

The Dragoos give me a lift from Wire Pass to the Arizona Trail Northern trailhead at Stateline Campground in Coyote Valley. Much appreciated!

The starting point of the Arizona Trail is well marked by several monuments and a large BLM sign. On one of the monuments sits a plaque inscribed with a poem about the trail written by Dale Shewater, the “Father of the Arizona Trail.”

In the land of Arizona
Through desert heat or snow
Winds a trail for folks to follow
From Utah to Old Mexico

It’s the Arizona Trail
A pathway through the great Southwest
A diverse track through wood and stone
Your spirit it will test

Oh, sure you’ll sweat and blister
You’ll feel the miles every day
You’ll shiver at the loneliness
Your feet and seat will pay

But you’ll see moonlight on the borderlands
You’ll see stars on the Mogollon
You’ll feel the warmth of winter sun
And be thrilled straight through to bone

The aches and pains will fade away
You’ll feel renewed and whole
You’ll never be the same again
With Arizona in your soul

Along the Arizona Trail
A reverence and peace you’ll know
Through deserts, canyons, and mountains
From Utah to Old Mexico

“The Arizona Trail,” Dale R. Shewalter, “Father of the Arizona Trail”
Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail
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Judging by everything I’ve heard about the trail and know about the area, it seems an extremely fitting description of the trail and it’s experience. It’s time to put the literature to the test.

We take the obligatory starting point photos, and I head out. I make it about 5 miles onto the start of the AZT, where I encounter some section hikers and camp near Buckskin Mountain. The sunset is spectacular as remnants of a tropical storm coalesce above Coyote Buttes to the west. Unfortunately my phone died coming out of the canyons so I didn’t capture a picture, but I am sure it won’t be my last or only spectacular sunset on the AZT. I get sprinkled on a little overnight but manage to stay dry for the most part. The true long trek to Mexico has at long last begun. The slot canyons were incredible, gorgeous, amazing – pick any superlative you want. But they are done, and the remainder of the Arizona Trail proper now awaits.

Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail
Coyote Buttes from the trail ascending Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Coyote Buttes from the trail ascending Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Coyote Buttes from the trail ascending Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
PJ (pinyon-juniper) scrubland is the dominant landscape on Buckskin Mountain, a dramatic shift from the alternately bare and green riparian corridor of the slot canyons in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
The Arizona Trail running through PJ scrub on Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
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Blackbush and PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail on Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
Blackbush and PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail on Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
Looking back on Coyote Buttes and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument from the Arizona Trail ascending Buckskin Mountain across Coyote Valley.
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
AZT passing through blackbush and PJ scrub on Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
A rather macabre sight…
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
As an open grazing area, one must always be careful of livestock when passing through this stretch of the AZT, as well as other stretches on USFS or BLM land. Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
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Arizona Trail, Day 36 – Passage 29 (Happy Jack)

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.

Arizona Trail, Day 35 – Passage 29 (Happy Jack)

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.

Arizona Trail, Day 34 – Passage 30 (Mormon Lake), Day 3

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.

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Arizona Trail, Day 40 – Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)

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.

Arizona Trail, Day 33 – Mormon Lake Zero

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?

Arizona Trail, Day 32 – Double Springs to Mormon Lake (Passage 30, Mormon Lake)

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).

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Arizona Trail, Day 31 – Anderson Mesa to Double Springs (Passages 30, Mormon Lake)

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.

Coronavirus and National Parks: All COVID-19 Impacts and Park Reopenings

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.

Arizona Trail, Day 30 – Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 and 30, Walnut Canyon and Mormon Lake)

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.

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