Arizona Trail, Day 36 – Passage 29 (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

Another brutally cold morning. 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 mostly packed up inside the tent, only heating my breakfast outside, which combined helped retain some heat while doing so. Of course, I would like to have been off the Mogollon by now and not having to deal with this at all. Still, seeing the game last night gives me a little extra energy, as does the knowledge that it is likely I am one of the first hikers to traverse the new reroute on this stretch of the AZT. Soon enough, I am back on trail, rolling through the pines once again. The trail leads to Bargaman Park, a wide open meadow area among the pines, and then curves around Pine Mountain to reach Wild Horse Tank.

Bargaman Park; Pine Mountain behind
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest

From here on, the guidebook and Guthook is out of date and I am one of the first hikers to traverse the new Happy Jack Passage. I will be merely following the trail ahead of me and relying only on the Coconino National Forest map I downloaded to identify potential water sources. To make matters worse, none in this area are reliable. It is going to be a challenging run to the finish of this passage, but I have confidence that I am up to the task. Following the trail from Wild Horse, more wildlife impacts are evident, including bones scattered around as well as tracks. Most seem again to be either mule deer or elk.

Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Slightly cooler and damper microclimate here, perhaps?
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Transitioning back to pinyon/juniper scrub
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Wildlife Tracks
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Wildlife tracks
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest

Despite the continued elevation, evidence of local climates emerges, possibly as a result of slightly lower elevations in places, or changes in aspect (the orientation of the land relative to the sun) – small cacti appear in places, and pinyon/juniper forest replaces the pines. It doesnt last, though, as soon enough the pines return as the trail rolls along the sides of hills and ridges once again to blend with the PJ scrubland, skirting the flank of formations like Turkey Mountain. Further proof that even when on plateaus around here, very little is truly flat. Still, it is downhill for most of the day, with only a couple climbs. Probably a good thing, given the limited water available in the area.

Small cacti appearing
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Wildlife skeleton
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Wildlife skeleton
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Jaycox Mountain through trees
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
West View from slopes of Turkey Mountain
Mahan Mountain (left, behind trees); Pine Mountain (center) and Hutch Mountain (right) visible
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
View from flanks of Turkey Mountain
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosas return
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosas return
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosas and PJ blend together
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosas and PJ blend together
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosas in evening
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Evening Ponderosas
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest

I pass Foot in Tree tank toward the end of the day, the first potential water source on-trail since Wild Horse Tank and Pine Spring. I am starting to run low, so I will probably have to return here to filter some water once I find a place to camp. This water wont be easy to filter, though – it is quite muddy. I set the tent up again tonight; it will only be slightly warmer at 19º tonight than it was last night at 12º. The day ends with a beautiful sunset, though, which helps prepare me for those temperatures.

The new routing seems great, it is certainly nicer to be on singletrack rather than the combination of USFS roads that made up the prior routing, but one should be aware of the difference in water availability until source listings are updated. Tomorrow I will include a listing of which sources have been added on the new routing, which stayed the same, and which on the prior routing are no longer directly on the current routing.

Evening at Foot in Tree Tank
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Sunset west of Turkey Mountain
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest
Sunset west of Turkey Mountain
Arizona Trail, Passage 29 (Happy Jack)
Coconino National Forest

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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Pine Mountain (Passage 21), FR 422 to Pigeon Spring Trailhead

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.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 51: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23), Part II

Disruptive event today, an F-16 that flew over while I was packing. It flew extremely low and around a mountain – possibly North Peak – and made me think very seriously about why that would be allowed over a designated wilderness area. Still, I manage to knock out a few miles to Chilson Spring before dark, with spectacular views of Deadman’s Canyon, the Verde Valley, and the western Mazatzal foothills along the way. The mountains are jagged and rugged and the trail traces steep slopes nearly the whole way across precipitous terrain.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50, Part II: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23)

It’s here. The Mazatzal Divide represents the heart of the longest stretch of the Arizona Trail within a designated wilderness area. To that end, a reminder on the meaning of wilderness. Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, wilderness is “an area where man is but a visitor and does not remain.” Consequently, motorized access as … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50, Part II: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50: Red Hills, Part II/II

Second day hiking through the Red Hills toward the Mazatzal Mountains. Earning their name through the red rock colors, the Hills also provide hikers with wildflowers and diverse vegetation, in addition to showing the scars of recent wildfires and spectacular views of the range north toward the Mogollon Rim.

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Passage 28 (Happy Jack)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)29.4
SeasonSpring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesMaxie 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: Gooseberry Springs Trailhead (mi 262.6 SOBO/526.1 NOBO)
South: Blue Ridge Trailhead (mi 292.1 SOBO, 496.7 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessNorth: Graded dirt road
South:
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsNone
DifficultyModerate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)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
Permits Required? No
Cell service?Limited
Ecosystems traversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Forest
HighlightsLargest ponderosa forest in world
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail.
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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.
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