Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail, Day 52 – Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide, Part III)

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

Ran into Kristoff and Lissa, who were pretty out of it last night but much more alert and engaging this morning. They’re also hiking SOBO toward Mexico. Then it’s back on the regular AZT route hiking south. The trail wraps precipitously around the west flank of Mazatzal Peak, the highest point of the Northern Mazatzals with 1700 foot cliffs rising above the trail. It had also been believed to be the highest point of Gila County until a couple higher spots were found along the Mogollon Rim, and it remains the highest peak in the county. Portions of the Arizona Trail in this area are slightly overgrown with manzanita and finding places to rest is difficult. Protective clothing – hiking pants, windbreaker – is important here to avoid getting scratched. Patches of old growth ponderosas are found among the burned out groves left from the Willow and Sunflower Fires of 2004 and 2012. Most has still been replaced by chaparral, at least for now. Still, the views and exposed geology are outstanding as the trail cuts across steep slopes toward Bear Spring.

Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Relict pine forests on the ridge lines of the Mazatzal Mountains, seen hiking the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Western slope of the Mazatzal Mountains, viewed backpacking the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Western slope of the Mazatzal Mountains, from the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Mazatzal Peak, west face from hiking the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Rocky, rugged peaks and canyons topping precipitous slopes characterize hiking the Arizona Trail in the Mazatzal Mountains
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Mazatzal Peak panorama
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Quartzite rock shows on the slopes of Mazatzal Peak
Arizona Trail, Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto 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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Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)24.3
SeasonAll year, but snow can make sections impassable in winter.
Potential Water SourcesHorse Camp Seep
Hopi Spring
Chilson Spring
Bear Spring
TrailheadsNorth: Red Hills Trail Junction
South: Mount Peeley Trailhead
Trailhead AccessNorth: Foot only. 5.75 mi from City Creek Trailhead
South: Foot & 0.5 mi hike on Cornucopia Trail from trailhead.
WildernessMost
Possible resupply pointsNone
ATA-Rated DifficultyModerate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)6.7, 9.4, 19.4, 22
HazardsHeat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

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
Ecosystems TraversedInterior Chaparral
Great Basin Conifer Woodland
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Relict Conifer Woodland
Interior Chaparral Great Basin Conifer WoodlandRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* Birchleaf Mahogany
* Ceanothus
* Holly-leaf buckthorn
* Manzanita
* Shrub live oak
* Silktassels
* Stansbury cliffrose
* Arizona alder
* Holly-leaf buckthorn
* Junipers
* Oaks, including Arizona oak, canyon live oak, Emory oak, Gambel oak, scrub-live oak
* Piñon pine
* Red barberry
* Serviceberry
* Silktassels
* Skunkbush
* sugar sumac
* 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* Buckwheats
* Globemallows
* Lupines
* Penstemons
* Sego-lily
* Wormwood
* 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
Common succulents* Agaves – golden flowered, Parry’s, Toumey’s
* Banana & soap tree yucca
* Barrel cactus
* beargrass
* beehive cactus
* buckhorn cholla
* Cane Cholla
* hedgehog cacti
* prickly pear cacti
* Rock echeveria
* Sotol
* Whipple’s cholla
* beehive cactus
* Claret cup hedgehog cacti
* Golden-flowered agave
* Parry’s agave
* Prickly pear cacti
* Whipple cholla
* Tonto Basin agave
Passage 23 & 22 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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