Arizona Trail Day 21, Part 3: Heart of the San Francisco Peaks (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 27)

Below the Arizona Snowbowl (yes, there are ski resorts in Arizona, and this is not the only one that the trail passes), I take a moment to do the side Aspen Loop. This grove of aspens appears to be peaking, and the experience of walking through an atmosphere of pure gold is very hard to put into words. It’s a short loop that soon rejoins the Arizona Trail continuing south toward Flagstaff. 610 miles to Mexico. I’ll again allow their magnificence to speak for themselves. A fire seems to be burning to the west as the two trails merge again. I know that some prescribed burns had been planned in the area, but I’m not familiar with this one. Something to look into when I reach Flagstaff.

The trail continues along, passing another potential water source. It’s borderline whether I’ll need it, but I ultimately pass based on the reports that I read on Guthook. I encounter Jim, a local mountain biker (this stretch of the trail in the Coconino National Forest is extremely popular with mountain bikers) near Aspen Corner. He’s heading back to his car and fills up my reservoir for me after a conversation around the trail and sports – including the baseball playoffs currently ongoing. It really is incredible to experience the culture that surrounds long-distance trails, the spontaneous support (often called “trail magic”) that locals provide, and just the opportunities to take a break and talk about the experience with someone for a while. Especially on a trail like the AZT, where you can literally go for days at a time without seeing ANYONE.

The trail continues south, reentering predominantly ponderosa forest. I’m not quite going to make it to Flagstaff today as I hoped, but I do encounter another thruhiker, Silver. (As fate would have it, I would encounter another acquaintance of his several months later as well). He’s heading north, hoping to reach the northern terminus and then head back to Flagstaff. (His plans changed. I’ll write about those in a postscript to this entire journey.) I eventually make camp near where the trail forks. My hope tomorrow is to do the resupply run into Flagstaff, take a zero there, then return and do the normal route around the town using a friend in Flagstaff as a home base, to cut back on the supplies I have to carry for a few days.

Aspens along the Arizona Trail on Passage 34, the San Francisco Peaks
Aspens along the Arizona Trail on Passage 34, the San Francisco Peaks
Aspens along the Arizona Trail on Passage 34, the San Francisco Peaks
Aspens and conifers along the Arizona Trail southbound (SOBO) on Passage 34, the San Francisco Peaks
610 miles to Mexico!
Aspens along the Arizona Trail on Passage 34, the San Francisco Peaks
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Surrounded by gold on the Aspen Loop, Coconino National Forest
Fire burning near Sitgreaves Peak in the western San Francisco Volcanic Field, as viewed from the lower San Francisco Peaks in the Coconino National Forest
The San Francisco Peaks from the Arizona Trail on their lower slopes, Coconino National Forest. Humphreys Peak at left; Agassiz Peak at right
Aspens among mixed conifers along the Arizona Trail on Passage 34, the San Francisco Peaks
Aspens among mixed conifers along the Arizona Trail on Passage 34, the San Francisco Peaks
Aspens among mixed conifers along the Arizona Trail on Passage 34, the San Francisco Peaks

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