Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Mormon Lake to Shuff Tank (Day 34; Passages 29 & 28, Mormon Lake & Happy Jack)

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

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.

Ponderosa forest on the ridge above Mormon Lake in early light, backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Frost covers the ground this morning, setting out hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks continue to shine among ponderosa, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through healthy ponderosa forest on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
If you needed any indication of air quality here, just look at the size of the lichen.
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest

The trail continues to pass evidence of the logging railroads that it follows in the area, particularly in the form of the grades that emerge. There is a memorial to someone by the name of Alvin Teague, adorned with horseshoes, atop one such grade. This seemed random at the time I passed, but such things rarely are, so I looked him up afterwards; apparently he was a World War II veteran who went on to work for the Forest Service for 34 years.

Old railroad grade backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Memorial to Alvin Teague, WWII veteran and 34-year public servant with US Forest Service
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Running along another railroad grade, hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Crossing another railroad
grade (Alvin Teague Memorial in center) while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest

But railroad grades arent the only evidence of the past – at one area of rock outcrops where I stop to rest for a while, I find an immense collection of railroad artifacts. Please remember that all such items are protected by the Antiquities Act as part of our shared American heritage, so please leave them for others to enjoy as you do.

Historic artifacts from the days of the logging railroad surround this spot, spotted hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Historic artifacts from railroad logging days, spotted backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Stopped to rest From hiking at a spot covered in historic logging railroad artifacts
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Stopped to rest From backpacking at a spot covered in historic logging railroad artifacts
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest

The trail passes Van Deren Spring – which, if it is what I thought it was, looked little more than a mudpit at present. Continuing on, the trail crosses Lake Mary Road once again and enters the Mogollon Rim District of the Coconino National Forest at a gate. It is 20 miles to the Blue Ridge Reservoir from this point, though I am not sure if that signage accounts for the new reroute that I know is coming up on this stretch.

Crossing onto the Mogollon Ranger District, hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Another great example of healthy ponderosa forest and rice grass in the evening, backpacking along the Arizona Trail
AZT, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Another great example of healthy ponderosa forest and rice grass in the evening, hiking along the Arizona Trail
AZT, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Healthy ponderosa forest among rice grass meadows backpacking along the Arizona Trail
AZT, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Wind in the rice grass , or, shall we say, “amber waves of grain”
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Wind in the pines
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest

Advertisements

To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

When many individuals are first looking at getting into thruhiking, they face one crucial decision after trail selection – to section hike, or thruhike. Each has different advantages and challenges, and may be better suited for one trail than another. Today, we’re going to discuss these. First, we need to define each. For our purposes, … Continue reading To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

National Park Quest: Tonto National Monument

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Inspiration Point to Roosevelt Cemetery (Passages 20 & 19, Four Peaks to Superstition Mountains)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Arizona Trail Backpacking Logistics – AZT Gateway Communities: Tonto Basin

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks South (Passage 20)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks North (Passage 20)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Four Peaks Passage to just south of Pigeon Spring. The terrain is incredibly precipitous – in places the trail seems to occupy the only level ground around. Fire impacts are present throughout as well, a legacy of the 1996 Lone Fire. Magnificent views of Roosevelt Lake, the southern Mazatzal foothills, and the Sierra Ancha across Tonto Basin.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Passage 29 (Mormon Lake)Passage 28 (Happy Jack)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack Dirt singletrack
Length (Mi)14.829.4
SeasonSpring-FallSpring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesMayflower Springs (mi 247.8 SOBO/540.9 NOBO)
Dairy Springs (mi 248.9 SOBO/539.8 NOBO)
Double Springs (mi 250.6 SOBO/538.1 NOBO)
Wallace Spring (mi 252.3 SOBO/536.4 NOBO)
Indian Springs (mi 255.0 SOBO/533.7 NOBO)
Mormon Lake Village (mi 255.0 SOBO/533.7 NOBO)
Spring/Tank (mi 257.6 SOBO/531.1 NOBO)
Van Deren Spring (mi 261.3 SOBO/527.4 NOBO)
Allan Lake Tank (mi 262 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
Maxie Tank (mi 265.2 SOBO/540.9 NOBO)
Shuff Tank/FR 135D (mi 266.7 SOBO/539.8 NOBO)
Bargaman Park Tank (mi 270.7 SOBO/538.1 NOBO)
Pine Spring (mi 271.5 SOBO/536.4 NOBO), off trail
Wild Horse Tank (mi 274.2 SOBO/533.7 NOBO)
Dave’s Tank (mi 277.3 SOBO/533.7 NOBO), off trail
Gonzalez Tank (mi 279.3 SOBO/531.1 NOBO), off trail
Foot in Tree Tank (mi 281.5 SOBO/527.4 NOBO)
Homestead Tank (mi 284.3 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
Sheepherders Tank (mi 285.2 SOBO/526.7 NOBO), off trail
Wochner Tank (mi 285.5 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
Hay Meadow Tank (mi 291.5 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
Blue Ridge Ranger Station, Forest Service (mi 292 SOBO/526.7 NOBO), off trail
TrailheadsNorth: Mayflower Spring (mi 247.8 SOBO, 540.9 NOBO)
South: Gooseberry Springs Trailhead (mi 262.6 SOBO/526.1 NOBO)
North: Gooseberry Springs Trailhead (mi 262.6 SOBO/526.1 NOBO)
South: Blue Ridge Trailhead (mi 292.1 SOBO, 496.7 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessNorth: Two track dirt road
South: Graded dirt road
North: Graded dirt road
South:
WildernessNoNo
Possible resupply pointsMormon Lake villageNone
DifficultyModerateModerate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Dairy Springs Campground
Double Springs Campground
Indian Springs – excellent spot, wide flat camping area at the junction of the Indian Springs Trail to the village of Mormon Lake and the Arizona Trail
Numerous spots south of Mormon Lake as terrain flattens
Various LNT-compatible locations throughout
ThreatsHeat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

Hypothermia – nights are generally about 30°F cooler than days in Arizona regardless of the time of year. Consider this in packing gear. Mornings can be cool year-round.

Hyponatremia – “drunk on water.” To avoid, ensure adequate salt & electrolyte intake and ensure you eat as well as drink water. Symptoms are almost identical to dehydration, but drinking more makes it worse. Prevention is by far the best solution.

Dehydration

Lightning
Heat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

Hypothermia – nights are generally about 30°F cooler than days in Arizona regardless of the time of year. Consider this in packing gear. Mornings can be cool year-round.

Hyponatremia – “drunk on water.” To avoid, ensure adequate salt & electrolyte intake and ensure you eat as well as drink water. Symptoms are almost identical to dehydration, but drinking more makes it worse. Prevention is by far the best solution.

Dehydration

Lightning
Permits Required? NoNo
Cell service?Limited Limited
Ecosystems traversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer WoodlandRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
HighlightsMormon Lake
Mormon Lake village
Railroad history
Largest ponderosa forest in world
Largest ponderosa forest in world
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail.
Advertisements
Advertisements
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* Ponderosa Pine
* Southwestern white pine
* Subalpine fir
* White fir
* Rocky Mountain maple
* Bigtooth maple
* Grey alder
* Red birch
* Red osier dogwood
* Cliffbush
* Mallow ninebark
* New Mexican locust
* huckleberry
* bilberries



Common herbaceous plants* fringed brome
* Geyer’s sedge/elk sedge
* Ross’ sedge
* Bronze sedge/dry land sedge/hillside sedge/hay sedge/Fernald’s hay sedge
* screwleaf muhly
* bluebunch wheatgrass
* Spruce-fir fleabane
* wild strawberry/Virginia strawberry
* Small-flowered woodrush
* mountain sweet Cicely
* bittercress ragwort
* western meadow-rue
* Fendler’s meadow-rue
Passage 31 & 33 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s