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From here on, the guidebook and Guthook is out of date and I am one of the first hikers to traverse the new Happy Jack Passage.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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Arizona Trail, Day 36 – Passage 29 (Happy Jack)

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 will be one of the first to walk the full new Happy Jack passage routing south of Shuff Tank.

Arizona Trail, Day 35 – Passage 29 (Happy Jack)

It is brutally cold this morning, making it hard to even move much before 11. I believe it was around 20 at 9:00. Packing is a slow process in these temperatures. But, I pick up a few things that might make future packings faster in these temperatures, like doing most of it inside the tent at first and having a solid plan in advance to minimize time spent debating with oneself in the cold. Once packed, I head east along the forest road until coming to a trail crossing. There is a problem; the trail crosses on both sides. Clearly I missed a turnoff in the twilight yesterday evening. In both my purist nature and out of curiosity to see just where I made a wrong turn, I take the trail to the right, and it winds through the ponderosas back to Shuff Tank. It is clearly new, so this must be part of the new reroute, which has gone around the road stretch that I walked to get to the junction earlier. Instead of following the road on the north side of the tank, the trail now follows a singletrack around the west and south sides of the tank, then crosses the road on the east.

Arizona Trail, Day 34 – Passage 30 (Mormon Lake), Day 3

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.

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Arizona Trail, Day 40 – Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)

Managed to push through the entire Blue Ridge Passage today, one of my best days on the trail. I left the Blue Ridge Ranger Station this morning and headed south for the Rim. Saw a herd of elk near the Blue Ridge Campground and Elk Tank while climbing Blue Ridge itself. The trail also passed through an active prescribed burn, though it was low intensity so probably not considered a public hazard at this point. I’m familiar with them anyway, having worked as a PIO (public informations officer) on one over the summer at Grand Canyon. The trail crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing.

Arizona Trail, Day 33 – Mormon Lake Zero

It’s cold and raw after the rain the night before. I walk about 3 miles up the road to Double Springs and then use the AZT to get back to my prior campsite to grab the sleeping pad, then retrace my steps again. Did it hail up here?

Arizona Trail, Day 32 – Double Springs to Mormon Lake (Passage 30, Mormon Lake)

Heading south the trail passes an overlook of the ridges and of Mormon Lake itself, Arizona’s largest natural lake. It’s low (it often dries up under drought conditions to become Mormon Meadow) but the spring was wet enough that it hasn’t disappeared. It’s so windy that I’m almost blown off the overlook and my glasses ARE blown off (thankfully I catch them before they fall).

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Arizona Trail, Day 31 – Anderson Mesa to Double Springs (Passages 30, Mormon Lake)

There is a lot of cool railroad history west of Lake Mary Road, the trail follows an old logging railroad grade for much of the route and in places the ties are still visible. Very cool. The forest turns into a dense mixed conifer and I have a chance encounter with a mountain biker named Chris who recently moved here from Idaho. We talk about the trail ahead and some I’m looking at doing in Idaho.

Coronavirus and National Parks: All COVID-19 Impacts and Park Reopenings

Another period of big updates across the National Park System.

Here we will look at the status of all 500+ national parks and affiliates, see which have changed status or will soon, and look at the details of what is or is not currently available at each park.

Disclaimer: please observe all CDC recommendations for the safety of staff and visitors alike. They are there to help and serve you, please do them the courtesy of helping keep them safe.

Arizona Trail, Day 30 – Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 and 30, Walnut Canyon and Mormon Lake)

The trail reaches Lowell Observatory’s Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI). The NPOI measures precise relative positions of stars in the sky for the Naval Observatory to use as reference when determining geographic positions of locations on both Earth and in space, as well as for use in timekeeping. Over four football fields long, it uses a six-mirror array directing multiple light beams from a star to a single point, enhancing image detail and separating stars that are so close that even the largest conventional telescopes cannot separate them visually. Near the NPOI is an excellent view of Upper Lake Mary in the valley of Walnut Creek below, after which the trail continues across Anderson Mesa.

After reaching Horse Lake, I make camp for the night. The sky is black as coal and the night is filled with coyotes howling.

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Arizona Trail, Day 35 – 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

It is brutally cold this morning, making it hard to even move much before 11. I believe it was around 20 at 9:00. Packing is a slow process in these temperatures. But, I pick up a few things that might make future packings faster in these temperatures, like doing most of it inside the tent at first and having a solid plan in advance to minimize time spent debating with oneself in the cold. Once packed, I head east along the forest road until coming to a trail crossing. There is a problem; the trail crosses on both sides. Clearly I missed a turnoff in the twilight yesterday evening. In both my purist nature and out of curiosity to see just where I made a wrong turn, I take the trail to the right, and it winds through the ponderosas back to Shuff Tank. It is clearly new, so this must be part of the new reroute, which has gone around the road stretch that I walked to get to the junction earlier. Instead of following the road on the north side of the tank, the trail now follows a singletrack around the west and south sides of the tank, then crosses the road on the east. I retrace my steps along the trail back to the road crossing, and continue following the trail on the east side of the road. The trail continues to wind east crossing rolling terrain on the Mogollon Plateau, through more pine forest, slightly thicker in places than that seen around, say, Gooseberry Springs, for example. I pause for the night east of a crossing of FR-135D. Game 7 of the World Series is tonight, might take the opportunity to watch if I have enough of a connection and can get settled into camp in time.

Ponderosa tower overhead
Arizona Trail, Passage 29
Coconino National Forest
Heading through the ponderosas. These show evidence of natural low-intensity fire on their lower trunks, which benefits the forest and keeps it healthy.
Arizona Trail, Passage 29
Coconino National Forest
Heading through the ponderosas. These show evidence of natural low-intensity fire on their lower trunks, which benefits the forest and keeps it healthy.
Arizona Trail, Passage 29
Coconino National Forest
Heading through the ponderosas. These show evidence of natural low-intensity fire on their lower trunks, which benefits the forest and keeps it healthy.
Arizona Trail, Passage 29
Coconino National Forest
Beauty in the ponderosas
Arizona Trail, Passage 29
Coconino National Forest
Heading through the ponderosas. These show evidence of natural low-intensity fire on their lower trunks, which benefits the forest and keeps it healthy.
Arizona Trail, Passage 29
Coconino National Forest

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Arizona Trail Thruhike, Day 26: Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon), Part 2 (Arizona/Utah Day 33)

The ponderosas are dense throughout, and their reddish bark glows in the light that filters through the green needles. The gambel oaks continue to impress along the route as well, adding splashes of yellow, red, and orange to the green ponderosa woodlands. The trail crosses two spur trails leading to overlooks with more magnificent views of the canyon.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Passage 31 – Walnut Canyon (Arizona/Utah Day 33)

The trail crosses FR 303, Old Walnut Canyon Road, and heads west toward Flagstaff. Rolling in and out of drainages, It traces the rim of Walnut Canyon in places, and veers away into the woods in others. Heading west, the forest transitions back to the ponderosas, rolling up and down through drainages. The ponderosas are dense throughout, and their reddish bark glows in the light that filters through the green needles. The gambel oaks continue to impress along the route as well, adding splashes of yellow, red, and orange to the green ponderosa woodlands. The trail crosses two spur trails leading to overlooks with more magnificent views of the canyon. Both well worth the minor extra mileage and time.

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Arizona Trail: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 4

Wrapping up at Walnut Canyon National Monument. After wrapping up the fantastic Island Trail, the Rim Trail yields some great sites as well, including an unexcavated site and several pueblos. The views of the canyon itself are pretty amazing too.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 3

This morning starts with a stop at my last national park in northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument. Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 2

Walnut Canyon National Monument, one of 420 national parks in the National Park System, protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

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Arizona Trail, Day 34 – Passage 30 (Mormon Lake), Day 3

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
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Frost covers the ground this morning
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks continue to shine among the ponderosa
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Arizona Trail running through healthy ponderosa forest
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.

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
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Crossing another railroad
grade (Alvin Teague Memorial in center)
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
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Historic artifacts from railroad logging days
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Stopped to rest at a spot covered in historic logging railroad artifacts
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Stopped to rest 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 of 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
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Another great example of healthy ponderosa forest and rice grass in the evening 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 along the Arizona Trail
AZT, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Healthy ponderosa forest among rice grass meadows 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

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Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part I

Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

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Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain, Part 3 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 31)

Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico. I want to note that this hike was completed before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, but it has left me with quite a bit of time in quarantine to write up my experiences on the trail. Exiting the shadow of Elden Mountain, I … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain, Part 3 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 31)

Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain, Part 2 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 31)

The Arizona Trail wraps past golden oaks and aspens through Schultz Pass and innumerable drainages, then opens out to areas potentially impacted by the 1977 Radio Fire. Hiking on, the trail skirts Little Elden Mountain. Views of Elden Mountain open up, and I hike across 89 through a tunnel, entering the Painted Canyon Preserve. Sunset clouds glow in the sky as I hike south.

Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 30)

The Arizona Trail wraps past golden oaks and aspens through Schultz Pass and innumerable drainages, then opens out to areas potentially impacted by the 1977 Radio Fire. Views of Elden Mountain open up, and I hike across US-89 through a tunnel, entering the Painted Canyon Preserve. Sunset clouds glow in the sky as I continue hiking south.

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Arizona Trail, Day 23: Flagstaff Zero (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 30)

Today is going to be a busy off day. I start it with a stop at Macy’s European Coffeehouse, an awesome breakfast place in downtown Flagstaff. They make particularly great waffles, but given the hiker hunger that all thruhikers suffer from, I add a smoothie and a breakfast sandwich for good measure today. I always make a point to stop here when I’m in Flag.

Arizona Trail, Day 22: Flagstaff, Part 3 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 28)

The trail crosses to the flanks of Elden Mountain and continues to drop down toward Flagstaff. It crosses the Coconino National Forest border onto McMillan Mesa and into Buffalo Park, managed by Flagstaff. A wide rice grass meadow composes much of the park, crisscrossed with wide paths providing magnificent views of the San Francisco Peaks. Just magnificent, especially seen now in the late afternoon.

Arizona Trail, Day 22: Flagstaff, Part 2 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 28)

The gambel oaks are glorious with the light passing through the leaves, and the views of Elden Mountain – the other side of which was “apocalyptically burned” in the 1970s Radio Fire, according to my AZT guidebook – are spectacular. Mule deer graze among the rice grass and trees. The gambel oaks continue to look incredible. It’s amazing how as I progress south I seem to be seeing the progression of the foliage across different tree species as well as within the species. Makes for an ever changing and spectacular color display.

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Arizona Trail, Day 40 – Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)

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

Managed to push through the entire Blue Ridge Passage today, one of my best days on the trail. I left the Blue Ridge Ranger Station this morning and headed south for the Rim. Saw a herd of elk near the Blue Ridge Campground and Elk Tank while climbing Blue Ridge itself. The trail also passed through an active prescribed burn, though it was low intensity so probably not considered a public hazard at this point. I’m familiar with them anyway, having worked as a PIO (public informations officer) on one over the summer at Grand Canyon. The trail crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing.

Elk Tank
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Arizona Trail heading into the pines again
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Elk are a bit more shy here!
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Climbing Blue Ridge, first major climb of day
AZT passing through a burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
View back north to San Francisco Peaks from
Blue Ridge
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
North View from Blue Ridge
Wildfire smoke drifting across sky
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Crossing Blue Ridge on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
South View at break, toward Mogollon Rim and Mazatzal Mountains
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Horned Lizard
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Traversing Blue Ridge through ponderosa
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forests atop Blue Ridge
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Giant ponderosa atop Blue Ridge
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forests atop Blue Ridge
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forests atop Blue Ridge
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forests atop Blue Ridge
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Gamble oaks in fall foliage, descending off Blue Ridge to Clear Creek Reservoir
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Clear Creek Reservoir
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest

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Arizona Trail, Day 21, Part 2: Heart of the San Francisco Peaks (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 27)

The Arizona Trail continues through massive groves of mature aspen and across rice grass meadows below the San Francisco Peaks. Contouring around below Humphreys and Agassiz Peaks, the two highest in Arizona, the view of the Peaks themselves and the western San Francisco Volcanic Field, over to Kendrick Peak and Bill Williams Mountain near Williams, is wide-open and magnificent.

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

As the trail ascends again to traverse the mountain flank, the ponderosas transition further to aspens and mixed conifer forest again. These seem to be slightly past peak in places, but many are still quite magnificent. The trail passes through mature forest and rice grass meadows as it contours along the lower slopes of the mountains below Humphreys and Agassiz Peaks, the two highest peaks in Arizona. The weather is perfect, and the aspen leaves glow in the high elevation light. I’ll let some of their beauty again speak for themselves here, before continuing on in the next entry.

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Arizona Trail, Day 18: Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 24)

Well, I’ve officially found my least favorite part of the trail so far. The first 5 miles today from Moqui Stage Station to the border of the Kaibab National Forest are nice…and then the views disappear and a long roadwalk down a valley begins where one crosses into the Babbit Ranch Passage (Passage 35). The … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 18: Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 24)

Arizona Trail, Day 17: Passage 36, Coconino Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 23)

Today began with a continuation of the southward trek along the Coconino Rim. The rolling hike along the rim of the Coconino Plateau passes through a combination of ponderosas and, through the trees, views off the plateau toward the Navajo Nation. As the trail rises slowly back to the top of the rim and heads … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 17: Passage 36, Coconino Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 23)

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Arizona Trail, Day 33 – Mormon Lake Zero

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

I grab some food at the general store and out of the hiker box that they have in the morning. It’s cold and raw after the rain the night before. I walk about 3 miles up the road to Double Springs and then use the AZT to get back to my prior campsite to grab the sleeping pad, then retrace my steps again. Unfortunately I’ve been delayed about a half day in the process, and my motivation is seriously affected. I pack up and manage to get back up to the AZT to camp at the Navajo Springs junction before dark. Did it hail up here? I think I saw some hail or possibly remnant frost on the way up.

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Arizona Trail, Day 15: Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Days 21)

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 … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 15: Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Days 21)

Arizona Trail Days 10-14: Triple Zero on the South Rim & Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Days 17-20)

My late arrival the other night meant that I wasn’t able to make it to the majority of the gathering, but I did still get to see some people. I was then able to spend a few days conducting post-hike job interviews, resting, resupplies – my main reason for the extended stay; I arrived on … Continue reading Arizona Trail Days 10-14: Triple Zero on the South Rim & Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Days 17-20)

The Arizona Trail Day 9 – Passage 39, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 16)

the trail reaches the Kaibab Bridge, or Black Bridge, over the Colorado River. A 440 ft suspension bridge, it is the crossing for all mule trips from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch, and along with the Silver Bridge downstream (visible from the Kaibab Bridge) it is one of only two crossings between the Navajo Bridge at Lee’s Ferry and Hoover Dam.

The river itself, unlike when I departed from Lee’s Ferry, is a deep brown today due to rain upstream. At such times, the river takes on its natural brown color, which in fact was what led to its name – “Rio Colorado,” meaning “colored river” or “red river” in Spanish. It’s refreshing to see it as it was seen for all of history before the construction of Glen Canyon Dam in the 1960s. 

In stark contrast to the North Rim at around 8800 ft, the Colorado at Phantom is only around 2500 ft, or around the same elevation as Phoenix, so the weather it experiences is more akin to Central Arizona valleys than it is the rims of the Canyon. A hike through Grand Canyon crosses between 5-8 ecosystems, depending of where the precise boundaries are drawn, and can be like hiking from Mexico to Canada from an ecological perspective. Below the rim, one passes through the riparian zone along the river, the Lower Sonoran Desert, Upper Sonoran Desert. The North Rim features ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests, and the South Rim ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forest.

Passing through a brief tunnel on the south bank, the trail quickly ascends around 1500 ft to The Tipoff on the edge of the Tonto Platform, the rim of the Inner Canyon. During this climb, I am treated to some great views of river trips launching again after having lunch at Phantom Ranch. The trail crosses the Tonto Platform and begins to climb toward Skeleton Point, through sections of the South Kaibab with colorful names such as the “Red & Whites,” and with outstanding views of the formations and scale of the canyon.

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Arizona Trail, Day 32 – Double Springs to Mormon Lake (Passage 30, Mormon Lake)

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

After packing up this morning, I make it to Double Springs CG. While it’s closed, there’s a nearby creek that I use to get a couple liters of water.

Gambel oaks en route to Double Springs Campground
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks glow along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks in fall foliage surround the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks in fall foliage in morning light
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks in the light along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks in fall foliage surround the AZT among ponderosa pines
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks in fall foliage among ponderosa pines
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

Heading south the trail passes an overlook of the ridges and of Mormon Lake itself, Arizona’s largest natural lake. It’s low (it often dries up under drought conditions to become Mormon Meadow) but the spring was wet enough that it hasn’t disappeared. It’s so windy that I’m almost blown off the overlook and my glasses ARE blown off (thankfully I catch them before they fall).

Mormon Lake
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake overlook spur
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake overlook spur
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake overlook spur
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

The trail continues south, passing more evidence of past logging railroads. A nearby interpretive sign reads as follows:

Loggers lived a dangerous and rough life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They spent long days in all kinds of weather felling massive ponderosa pines and skidding them to the railroads for transport to the saw mills. Their nights were spent in drafty bunkhouses without showers or running water. So what was it that kept them going – food, and lots of it.

The loggers that worked in these woods needed to eat between 6000 and 9000 calories a day to fuel their hard work. How about this grocery list for 45 men from a 1907 logging camp: one tub of lard, a sack of turnips, a sack of onions, a box of yeast, a case of cream, a barrel of sweet potatoes, seven sacks of potatoes, a case of peaches, a case of pears, two cases of eggs, a case of tomatoes, a barrel of apples, 112 pounds of cabbage, a case of corn, 22 pounds of cakes, 10 pounds of tea, 12 cases of strawberries, two barrels of flour, 15 cans of baking powder, and 300 pounds of beef. How long did it last? One week.

USFS interpretive sign

The trail ultimately leads to Navajo Spring, the last reliable good water source for a while. I take the opportunity to get some real food at Mormon Lake Lodge. Unfortunately I have to settle for Coors Lite, but a burger and some chili certainly help. A magnet from my Osprey pack gets lost in the shuffle; I leave a description and a phone number that I can be reached at in case it gets found. When I leave later, it’s raining so I end up spending the night on the covered porch of a closed building of the lodge. I also realize that I left my sleeping pad at the prior campsite, so I’ll have to get an early start tomorrow and get that.

Remnant logging railroad ties & spikes
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Animal tracks – possibly coyote?
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Coming and going
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Logging railroad ties and spikes
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Arrival at Mormon Lake, which has quite the population fluctuation!
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

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The Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon National Park Inner Canyon, Part II (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

It’s getting dark when I rejoin the trail, so I’ll supplement this stretch with some photos from May. The trail enters the Box for the final several miles to Bright Angel Campground. This narrow section of the canyon is carved out of the Vishnu Schist, some of the oldest rock visible in the world (about … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon National Park Inner Canyon, Part II (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

The Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon, Part 1 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

Grabbed a few things at the general store on the North Rim of Grand Canyon today, then packed up camp. The park has a number of special sites at the campground, available first-come, first-served, to those who hike or bike into the park. I then proceed over to the Backcountry Information Center, and get put … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon, Part 1 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

The Arizona Trail, Day 7, Part II: Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 14)

The North Rim lookout is located near the highest point on the entire Arizona Trail. A historical geographic marker still bearing the Forest Service name (the tower was moved to its current location inside the park in the 1930s) is beside the tower, along with a historic lookout register sign. This particular tower is also … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 7, Part II: Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 14)

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The Arizona Trail, Day 6: Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 13)

I’m on the trail early. As I noted in an earlier entry, one of the perils of combining being a seasonal ranger and thruhiking in the offseason (or shoulder seasons) is that one must make oneself available for interviews in sometimes inconvenient times or places. I owe a park a return call at some point … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 6: Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 13)

The Arizona Trail, Day 5: South Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part III (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 12)

Toward the end of the day there is a second encounter with another thruhiker, this time with Eric, the hiker that I encountered several days ago when he was headed northbound (nobo) to Utah; he’s now headed southbound (sobo). Hiking together for a stretch, Eric and I come to a golden tree tunnel of aspens … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 5: South Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part III (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 12)

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The Arizona Trail, Day 5: Southern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part II (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 12)

Aspens continue to take center stage throughout the day as the terrain rolls. From Telephone Hill the trail descends to Crane Lake, one of the Kaibab Plateau’s many limestone depressions that seasonally fill with water. Trail angels have also left water caches in several places, which given how dry the weather continues to be, is … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 5: Southern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part II (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 12)

The Arizona Trail, Day 4: Central Kaibab Plateau, Part III (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 11)

The trail continues through the burn scar of the 2006 Warm Fire, In between looking around at the aspens in the prior two posts, a crack opens in the tree line to the west. The first southbound view of Grand Canyon opens up in the distance. I ultimately ran out of light in the burn … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 4: Central Kaibab Plateau, Part III (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 11)

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Arizona Trail, Day 31 – Anderson Mesa to Double Springs (Passages 30, Mormon Lake)

First order of business today is to fill up on water at Horse Lake, then pack up and head south. I run through a lot of water today, probably because of the exposed going. By the time I’ve descended off Anderson Mesa, crossed Lake Mary Road and reentered the ponderosa forest I’m on at least my third liter of water, so I’ve gone into rationing in the hopes of making it to Double Springs Campground, which it looks from Guthook is the next likely source of water. The trail becomes more dirt on the descent off Anderson Mesa, and this becomes more fixed west of Lake Mary Road.

San Francisco Peaks from Horse Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Price Lake and Mormon Mountain
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Horse Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Wildflowers on Anderson Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forest on Anderson Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

There is a lot of cool railroad history west of Lake Mary Road. The trail started following something that appeared to be a mass of stones in what seemed to be an unnatural line with a tendency to curve in places. Looked very much manmade and piled.

Old railroad route following the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest
Former railroad grade along AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest

Eventually more of an obvious grade emerged, making the status of that particular feature an old railroad route quite obvious – particularly in the places where it was built above the level of the surrounding land. In some places you could even see where trestles would have been, and in others the ties were still visible. For someone like myself who is very much into railroad history – in this case, an old logging railroad, as confirmed by a nearby interpretive sign, it was really cool.

AZT crossing old railroad grade
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest
AZT crossing old railroad grade
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest

The sign nearby reads: “As you hike from Lake Mary toward Mormon Lake and south to Allan Lake on the Arizona Trail, you will pass and even follow the grades of many old logging railroads. The Flagstaff Lumber Company extended their old logging railroad from Lake Mary toward Mormon Lake and Mormon Mountain beginning in 1923. The railroad was constructed primarily to haul logs cut from the forest to sawmills in Flagstaff, Williams, and other areas. On weekends, the railroad would carry as many as 300 passengers to the Mormon Lake area.

The Flagstaff Lumber Company’s railroad ceased operations in 1927 due to a slump in timber prices and the high cost of operating a railroad up the seven mile grade to Mormon Mountain. Other logging railroads continued to operate in northern Arizona until 1966. Today these railroad grades provide a unique opportunity for the hiker to travel these traditional routes – under their own power rather than under steam power.”

Old railroad grade and ties along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest
AZT crossing old railroad grade west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
AZT crossing old railroad line west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
AZT crossing old railroad line west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Old railroad grade along AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Old railroad grade along AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Old railroad grade along AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

The forest turns into a dense mixed conifer and I have a chance encounter with a mountain biker named Chris who recently moved here from Idaho. We talk about the trail ahead and some I’m looking at doing in Idaho. With the delay, I don’t quite make it to Double Springs, but I make it within about 1.5 miles of it.

Gambel oaks in fall foliage along AZT west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Evening light on gambel oaks and ponderosa west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Todays route

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
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The Arizona Trail, Day 4: Central Kaibab Plateau, Part II (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 11)

Continuing through the aspen groves and ponderosa forest of the central Kaibab Plateau. It’s slow going, as the aspens in their splendor are very distracting. The day continues through ponderosa groves and then enters the burn scar left by the 2006 Warm Fire. Entering the burn scar, the wind picks up substantially, and even without … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 4: Central Kaibab Plateau, Part II (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 11)

The Arizona Trail, Day 3: Northern and Central Kaibab Plateau (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 10)

Continuing across the northern Kaibab today and onto the central (Passage 41). I encounter my first AZT hiker, Eric, to whom I give a great recommendation for Vermilion Cliffs – anyone who read my entries for the first week of this trek surely knows why. I also encounter some friends from Grand Canyon who were … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 3: Northern and Central Kaibab Plateau (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 10)

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The Arizona Trail, Day 2: Buckskin Mountain to Kaibab Plateau North (Arizona/Utah Day 9)

Another early start. I make it off Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain) by mid morning and break into the northern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 42). The land shifts from BLM land at the start and enters the Kaibab National Forest south of the Passage boundary. I’m having some issues charging given the intermittent shade cast by the … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 2: Buckskin Mountain to Kaibab Plateau North (Arizona/Utah Day 9)

The Arizona Trail, Day 1 (AZ/UT Day 8, Part 4)

“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”

Arizona Trail Approach Day 8, Part 1 – Buckskin Gulch to the Arizona Trail (Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Broke camp early in Buckskin Gulch this morning and headed out. I make better time than I expect, and encounter the Dragoos from Oklahoma about 1.5 mi from Wire Pass. I’m surprised that I’m that close to the Pass, since I hadn’t expected to make it for several miles. We have breakfast together and hike … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 8, Part 1 – Buckskin Gulch to the Arizona Trail (Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

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Arizona Trail Approach Day 6: Paría Canyon and Buckskin Gulch (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

I’m running low on battery in these canyons with extremely limited solar power to recharge. The day starts with a flight of bats flying down the canyon. After that exciting start, I decide to hike up to Slide Rock and then turn around and hit Buckskin Gulch. Just past the confluence of Paría Canyon and … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 6: Paría Canyon and Buckskin Gulch (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Arizona Trail Approach Day 7: Buckskin Gulch, Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

After several hours spent trying to fill water bags and talking with a friendly BLM ranger, as well as a farewell encounter with Philip and Raj, I head up Buckskin Gulch. After dragging my pack over the boulder jam – a much more difficult undertaking than yesterday without the pack – I start up canyon … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 7: Buckskin Gulch, Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

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Arizona Trail Approach Day 5: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Dawn finds me encamped at Big Springs. I get another slow start than I’d like, this time due to weather. Expecting potential rain and knowing about remnants of Tropical Storm Lorena in area, and in relatively safe spot with gear prepped for rain, I opt to wait. Flash floods are the top weather-related killer in … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 5: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Arizona Trail Approach Day 3: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Slow start this morning. The spring that I reached yesterday, the first on the trail, is little more than a trickle, and I have a lot of water to fill. It marks the border between the Chinle Formation and the Wingate Sandstone. As I begin to wind my way further up Paria Canyon, deeper and … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 3: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

What is Wilderness?

As I enter the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, I think that it’s important to take a moment to discuss the concept of wilderness.

The 1964 Wilderness Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, states “a wilderness in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.“ It was signed on September 3rd, 1964 and gives Congress the authority to create wilderness areas within public lands where things that are associated with manmade civilization – such as mechanized transportation, developed campgrounds, etc. – are prohibited and the area is allowed to remain in as natural a state as possible.

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Arizona Trail, Day 30 – Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 and 30, Walnut Canyon and Mormon Lake)

Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail as part of a 900 mile hike across Utah and Arizona to Mexico.

I’m on the trail by mid morning after unfortunately misplacing a tent stake that costs me some time. No more extra stakes now. I encounter two dayhikers and talk about my time on the trail with them. The trail exits ponderosa forest as it crests Anderson Mesa and then enters PJ scrub with some ponderosa mixed in.

The volcanic rocks from north of the Peaks has returned and covers nearly the entire top of the Mesa – looking at a geologic map of the area, my initial thought of basalt appears to be correct.

Gambel oaks in fall foliage
Arizona Trail, Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon)
Coconino National Forest
Arizona Trail through ponderosas on Anderson Mesa
AZT Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon), Coconino National Forest
Geologic Map of Arizona – South of Flagstaff; pin indicates my rough position at the start of the day, and the remainder traversed through the same geologic region.
Basalt rocks on Anderson Mesa
Arizona Trail Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon), Coconino National Forest

The trail passes numerous small lakes that serve as important waterfowl habitat and are managed as livestock exclosures. I spot a big tarantula – no doubt this time, unlike the one that I saw back on Passage 39 at Grand Canyon – on the trail just south of Marshall Lake where I pass from Passage 31 to Passage 30, Mormon Lake.

Arizona Trail sign entering Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Marshall Lake, one of a number of natural wetlands along the Arizona Trail atop Anderson Mesa
AZT Passage 30, Coconino National Forest
Tarantula crossing Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Basalt outcrop on Anderson Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Basalt outcrop on Anderson Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

The trail reaches Lowell Observatory’s Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI). The NPOI measures precise relative positions of stars in the sky for the Naval Observatory to use as reference when determining geographic positions of locations on both Earth and in space, as well as for use in timekeeping. Over four football fields long, it uses a six-mirror array directing multiple light beams from a star to a single point, enhancing image detail and separating stars that are so close that even the largest conventional telescopes cannot separate them visually. Near the NPOI is an excellent view of Upper Lake Mary in the valley of Walnut Creek below, after which the trail continues across Anderson Mesa.

After reaching Horse Lake, I make camp for the night. The sky is black as coal and the night is filled with coyotes howling. Hoping to make it to Mormon Lake tomorrow, I decided not to set up the tent tonight to have extra time in the morning. We shall see if that pays off.

Arizona Trail crossing Anderson Mesa through pinyon-juniper scrub
AZT Passage 30 (Mormon Lake), Coconino National Forest
Price Lake along the Arizona Trail (CONFIRM)
Glimpse of Lowell Observatory’s NPOI through the pinyon-juniper scrub
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Coconino National Forest
San Francisco Peaks rise above Price Lake and Anderson Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake), Coconino National Forest
San Francisco Peaks from Arizona Trail at Price Lake on Anderson Mesa
AZT Passage 30, Mormon Lake, Coconino National Forest
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San Francisco Peaks rising over pinyon/juniper and Lowell Observatory’s NPOI on Anderson Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Lowell Observatory’s NPOI
Lowell Observatory’s Navy Performance Optical Interferometer
Lake Mary valley overlook, Walnut Creek below, Upper Lake Mary at left and Mormon Mountain behind
Coconino National Forest
Wildflowers growing out of basalt on Anderson Mesa
Coconino National Forest
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Arizona Trail milepost on Anderson Mesa
243+ miles down, 558 to go!
Pinyon/juniper landscape on Anderson Mesa in evening along AZT
Coconino National Forest
Arizona Trail Passage 30,
Sunset over Horse Lake, Mormon Mountain behind
Arizona Trail, Passage 30
Coconino National Forest
Sunset over Horse Lake, Monmon Mountain at left
Arizona Trail, Passage 30
Coconino National Forest
Twilight on the Arizona Trail at Horse Lake
Belt of Venus and Umbra rising in sky
AZT Passage 30, Coconino National Forest
Today’s route map

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

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
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Arizona Trail Approach Day 2: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Today was an absolutely exhilarating day. I climbed around countless rapids and waterfalls heading up Paria Canyon further into the wilderness area in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The soil around here can be cryptobiotic – essentially, living – so I stayed in the stream whenever possible to avoid damaging living soil. The canyon has started … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 2: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

South Rim to Lee’s Ferry

First day description, traveling from the South Rim of Grand Canyon to Marble Canyon and Lee’s Ferry in preparation for beginning the southbound trek to Mexico.

Prologue: The Arizona Trail

I finally bit the bullet on a thruhike. Since I arrived at Grand Canyon National Park in March, I have been considering thruhiking the Arizona Trail across the state. For those who don’t know, the Arizona Trail is an 800 mile long hiking trail across Arizona. It starts at the Utah state line, skirts Buckskin … Continue reading Prologue: The Arizona Trail

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Arizona Trail, Day 29 – Flagstaff to Anderson Mesa

Coconino Sandstone walls in upper Walnut Canyon, Coconino National Forest (Arizona Trail Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)

Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico.

After doing a full resupply yesterday to get me through to Pine, where my next box has been shipped, and replacing some gear, including a new pair of boots and new sleeping pad, today started with breakfast with Oscar at Tourist Home, which I wrote about in my last post as one of the best breakfast places in Flagstaff. The weather is going to cool off again in the next few days, dipping down into the 20s overnight.

We encounter Neil Bob, another SOBO thruhiker from Seattle. He’s staying in town the next few days recovering from some IT band soreness. Oscar drops me and my 75(!) lb pack off near the Trailhead and we say goodbye. I hike down the access trail and rejoin the main Arizona Trail, then start south again.

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Arizona Trail in Upper Walnut Canyon, Coconino National Forest (Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)
Coconino Sandstone walls in upper Walnut Canyon, Coconino National Forest (Arizona Trail Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)

The trail passes through Walnut Canyon, beneath towering cliffs of Coconino Sandstone tinted gray and pink and highlighted with green ponderosa pines. Finally it climbs out and passes through a reroute in a burn area. It looks like the original trail here has been intentionally covered with logs on at least one end, and the reroute is marked with flags, so I’m guessing the reroute is permanent. Just shy of Marshall Mesa Tank I run out of daylight and stop for the night. Tomorrow will start the trek across Anderson Mesa toward Mormon Lake.

Fall on the slopes of Walnut Canyon, Coconino National Forest (Arizona Trail Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)
San Francisco Peaks from the Arizona Trail climbing out of Walnut Canyon, Coconino National Forest (AZT Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)
Gambel oaks in fall on the rim of Walnut Canyon, Coconino National Forest (Arizona Trail Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)
Arizona Trail in Coconino National Forest, Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon)
Gambel oaks, Coconino National Forest (Arizona Trail, Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)
Gambel oaks, Coconino National Forest (Arizona Trail, Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)
Gambel oaks, Coconino National Forest (Arizona Trail, Passage 31, Walnut Canyon)
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Arizona Trail Approach, Day 8 (Part III) – Buckskin Gulch to AZT

Wire Pass, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

I make better time than I expect, and encounter the Dragoos from Oklahoma about 1.5 mi from Wire Pass. I’m surprised that I’m that close to the Pass, since I hadn’t expected to make it for several miles. We have breakfast together and hike out, and find another large petroglyph panel at the junction between Wire Pass and Buckskin. After a tight squeeze through the Wire Pass narrows – I had to take my pack off and pass it through separately – and a water fill up and interesting conversation with Pete from Brockton, Massachusetts, they give me a lift over to the AZT.

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Buckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Buckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentBuckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Buckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentBuckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Buckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_4042.jpgBuckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Buckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Buckskin Gulch slot canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Buckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentBuckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentBuckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentBuckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentBuckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentBuckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Buckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Buckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Buckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Buckskin Gulch petroglyphs, undisclosed location within Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Wire Pass, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_4062.jpgWire Pass
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_4063.jpgWire Pass
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_4064.jpgWire Pass, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National MonumentThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_4069.jpgWire Pass, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_4065.jpg
Wire Pass
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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