Unfortunately, I feel like the past few days off have broken my rhythm in terms of mileage. I spent last night with some friends on the South Rim before returning to camp for the night. Unfortunately, it seems I left my wallet at Maswik when I stopped there for dinner. So I’m up early, and head back to pick up my wallet at Maswick. I also grab some more cold weather gear at the Market before returning to the trail. I push through about 6 miles on the day across the Coconino Plateau, through more limestone ridges, rice grass meadows, scrub, and pines with gambel oaks. The trail ultimately passes through an area that seems the subject of a recent prescribed burn shortly before I call it for the night. The oaks aren’t quite the aspens but they are putting on a good show as well. Tonight is going to be a cold one; I set up the tent for the frst time on the trip to combat that. All clothes and electronics are in my sleeping bag tonight. The forecast is for the temperature to go down to 16ºF tonight, but unlike the Kaibab there’s no wind, so here’s hoping it’s a bit more manageable. Fingers crossed.
The trail begins the long ascent into the Red Hills, on a path that seems like it might be an old fire road. The grade is steady but not overwhelming, though quite tiring since it is unrelenting. It’s also quite exposed; according to the volunteer I mentioned in the last post, a fire burned the … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 49 – Red Hills (Passage 24)
Departing Polk Spring, the trail continues to provide magnificent views of the northern Mazatzal Mountains and the neighboring Red Hills as it descends to the East Verde River. The trail will pass through both mountain ranges – first the Red Hills, then the Mazatzals. The origin of the name “Mazatzal” is unclear, though one possible meaning is a Nahuatl term meaning “place of the deer.” The Mazatzal Wilderness, which the trail will remain within now until just shy of Strawberry in the central Mazatzals, is about 390 square miles in size. It was one of the original Wilderness Areas designated upon the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.
I got started around 10, heading down Passage 25 toward the East Verde River.
I hike through a gate and enter the Mazatzal Wilderness. Following cairns, the surface alternates between the basalt and more dirt – like walking through a wash. As the trail skirts the rim briefly, a magnificent view of the Mazatzal Mountains and Red Hills opens up to the hiker, then the trail experiences yet another spectacular sunset as it and the backpacker fall off the Mesa to Polk Spring near the East Verde River.