Arizona Trail, Day 43, Part III – Passage 27 (Highline)

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

The Arizona Trail following the Highline continues its route around Milk Ranch Point, passing some artifacts – perhaps ranching or mining related, as many seem to be in Arizona. Magnificent views to the south are common, with the Mazatzal Mountains an ever-increasing sight to the southeast. There’s more evidence of bear scat, but still no evidence of a bear itself. Pine Spring and Red Rock Spring are passed, and the trail rounds the point, providing a view down into Pine. Hardscrabble Mesa rises behind to the south. The trail begins a steady descent to the Pine Trailhead, from where it is a couple mile walk into the town of Pine itself. After several weeks since Flagstaff, I head straight for That Brewery, which my friend at the Canyon recommended to me. It’s time to get some real food. They also let us thruhikers camp on their volleyball court, as it turns out, which is a big help. I’ll be taking a zero here tomorrow in order to pick up a resupply box.

Water Sources: East Verde River, West Webber Creek,

Trailheads: Col. Devin Trailhead, Washington Park Trailhead, Geronimo Trailhead, Pine Trailhead

Historical artifacts
Historical artifacts
AZT among ironwood astride Milk Ranch Point
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South panorama from AZT on Milk Ranch Point. Mazatzal Mountains at right.
Bear scat
Mogollon Rim
Mazatzal Mountains
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Hardscrabble Mesa and Mogollon Rim
Pine Valley, including Hardscrabble Mesa (left) and Mogollon Rim (right)
Mogollon Rim & Cacti
Walnut tree
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Arizona Trail, Passage 27: Highline

Water Sources (Southbound order)
East Verde River
Chase Creek tributary
Chase Creek
North Sycamore Creek
Bray Creek
Bear Spring
Weber Creek
Pine Spring
Red Rock Spring

Camp Spots: Various, particularly around springs and also a number in open areas with fantastic views of and south from Mogollon Rim

Trailheads: Col. Devin Trail, Washington Park Trailhead, Geronimo Trailhead, Pine Trailhead

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Arizona Trail, Day 49: Whiterock Mesa

Departing Polk Spring, the trail continues to provide magnificent views of the northern Mazatzal Mountains and the neighboring Red Hills as it descends to the East Verde River. The trail will pass through both mountain ranges – first the Red Hills, then the Mazatzals. The origin of the name “Mazatzal” is unclear, though one possible meaning is a Nahuatl term meaning “place of the deer.” The Mazatzal Wilderness, which the trail will remain within now until just shy of Strawberry in the central Mazatzals, is about 390 square miles in size. It was one of the original Wilderness Areas designated upon the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.

Arizona Trail, Passage 25: Whiterock Mesa, Part 2

I got started around 10, heading down Passage 25 toward the East Verde River.
I hike through a gate and enter the Mazatzal Wilderness. Following cairns, the surface alternates between the basalt and more dirt – like walking through a wash. As the trail skirts the rim briefly, a magnificent view of the Mazatzal Mountains and Red Hills opens up to the hiker, then the trail experiences yet another spectacular sunset as it and the backpacker fall off the Mesa to Polk Spring near the East Verde River.

Pink ribbons spread across the bluish/purple sky at sunset

Fossil Springs Wilderness – FR 708

Take a virtual hike through the Fossil Creek Wilderness! Fossil Creek Wilderness is one of the most spectacular areas in Arizona – so much so that permits are required from April 1-October 1. From the Fossil Creek Bridge trailhead, FR 708 begins to climb the wall of Fossil Canyon. A short distance up, the road is gated. Just on the other side is the trailhead for the Waterfall Trail, one of the most popular spots in the wilderness.

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Fossil Springs Wilderness – Waterfall Trail

Take a virtual hike through the Fossil Creek Wilderness! Fossil Creek Wilderness is one of the most spectacular areas in Arizona – so much so that permits are required from April 1-October 1. From the Fossil Creek Bridge trailhead, FR 708 begins to climb the wall of Fossil Canyon. A short distance up, the road is gated. Just on the other side is the trailhead for the Waterfall Trail, one of the most popular spots in the wilderness.

Fossil Springs Wilderness – Fossil Springs Trail

Take a virtual hike through the Fossil Creek Wilderness! Fossil Creek Wilderness is one of the most spectacular areas in Arizona – so much so that permits are required from April 1-October 1. The Wilderness has 11,550 acres with 30 species of trees and shrubs and over 100 species of birds. Fossil Creek itself is one of two Wild & Scenic Rivers in Arizona as well, designated by Congress in 2009 after the Fossil Springs Dam was decommissioned by Arizona in 2005. Fossil Springs, the source of the creek, release 30 million gallons of water per day, incredibly prolific for its location in Arizona.

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Arizona Trail, Day 46 – Passage 26 (Hardscrabble Mesa)

I finally get off around 11:30 & run into Matt and a female friend near East Tank. I’m glad for the company and we walk together for a while. The road condition is terrible – lots of loose basalt – and the going is slow. I finally reach the split to Strawberry and encounter them again, and their friend who picked them up flags me down and brings me a beer. Some more trail magic! I think my biggest challenges are becoming the pack weight and the solitude. I head for a short side trip to Fossil Creek.

Arizona Trail, Day 45 – Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)

The trail first rolls through the pines and passes Pine Creek (dry) and Bradshaw Tank on its way to the top of Hardscrabble Mesa, which provides an excellent overlook of Oak Spring Canyon, the highlight of the passage, before dropping to the bottom. Like on the Highline, foliage still lingers in the warmer Canyon. I also spot some cool geology in what appears to be dikes in some of the rocks.

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Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline), Part 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

The Arizona Trail continues west toward Pine, curving around parts of the Mogollon Rim that reach out, and segments that sit farther back, rolling across the eroded foothills beneath the parapets that’s tower overhead. The diverse plants continue to amaze. How often do you find blue spruce growing next to agave cactus! Remarkable how many microclimates there are in this area that vary depending on aspect (the direction the slope points), elevation, sun angle, and proximity to water, as the trail passes a number of springs and streams that flow off the rim. As I observed in the last section, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite passages so far. The diversity of the species encountered, the magnificent views of the Mogollon reminiscent of hiking within Grand Canyon and looking up at the rim, and the views off the foothills toward the next major challenge – the Mazatzal Mountains – combine for an incredible experience. As usual, as the sun sets I spot a relatively flat camping spot with a good view of sunset and sunrise alike, since the light on the Rim in the golden hours is nothing short of spectacular.

Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Douglas fir
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Diverse flora below the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Diverse flora below the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
AZT SOBO
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Moon above the AZT SOBO
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mazatzal Mountains from the Highline Trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Mountains
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Sunset along the Mogollon Rim, Southeast view from the Highline
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
South view from the Highline at sunset, including the Mazatzal Mountains (right)
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Mogollon Rim at sunset
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Moon over the Mogollon
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mazatzal Mountains at sunset from the Highline
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Sunset
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
343 miles down, 482 to go.
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest

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Arizona Trail, Day 43, Part III – Passage 27 (Highline)

The Arizona Trail following the Highline continues its route around Milk Ranch Point, passing some artifacts – perhaps ranching or mining related, as many seem to be in Arizona. Magnificent views to the south are common, with the Mazatzal Mountains an ever-increasing sight to the southeast.

Arizona Trail, Day 43, Part II – Passage 27 (Highline)

Having filled up on water and eaten lunch, the trail ascends from Webber Creek and the Geronimo Trailhead toward Milk Ranch Point, jutting out from the Mogollon Rim. This is a much more consistently wooded & shaded stretch that appears to have been spared by the Dude Fire of 1990 and February Fire (2006). It also seems to be wetter here – there are still touches of green in the ferns as the trail ascends. Gamble oaks, maple and ponderosa dominate the trail through this stretch, and the light filtering through the canopy and the leaves is magical.

Arizona Trail, Day 42-43, Part I – Passage 27 (Highline)

The trail continues to roll across the eroded foothills of the Mogollon Rim, the impressive and distinctive southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau, where the elevation jumps around 4000 ft in elevation. The Highline continues to define itself as a diverse landscape where the species of the desert below and the pine forests above mingle.

The Mazatzal Mountains – the next major hurdle once I make it to Pine – loom in the distance as well, and ironwood line the more open stretches of path across the Highline, where the Dude Fire burned the forest in 1990,

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Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline), Part 3

The Arizona Trail continues west toward Pine, curving around parts of the Mogollon Rim that reach out, and segments that sit farther back, rolling across the eroded foothills beneath the parapets that’s tower overhead. The diverse plants continue to amaze. How often do you find blue spruce growing next to agave cactus!

Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline), Part 2

Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline), Part 2

Magnificent views of the Mogollon Rim and one of the most ecologically diverse stretches of trail to date, this entry covers from the Washington Park Trailhead across the Highline National Recreation Trail.

Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline)

It’s another chilly morning, camped directly on the Mogollon Rim. I’ll be dropping several thousand feet today to the base of the Rim, completing the long traverse of the Coconino National Forest and entering the Tonto National Forest with views that are nothing short of spectacular.

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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 39 – Passage 28 (Blue Ridge), Part 2

The trail crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing. I was told that there may be water in one direction near the crossing but didn’t need it and therefore didn’t check. Climbing out the other side, the northern aspect of the slope is apparent – while ponderosas covered the southern slope opposite, the northern one featured Douglas fir and blue spruce. Obviously the different sides show different microclimates depending on the sun aspect, the temperature and moisture levels on each side given the orientation and angle of the slope. The trail rises back to the ponderosa forests on the Mogollon Plateau and traverses them, the site of my first human sighting in 3 days, then reaches General Springs Canyon. Dipping into General Springs Canyon, silence and quiet take hold. I passed a nice campsite near the end of GSC, but the pools nearby were still frozen at the end of the day, suggesting it would get colder in the canyon overnight (and that solar exposure during the day was limited) than on the Rim, so I continued forward to the rim itself. Lights can be seen in the distance, but I’m not sure which town. Likely Pine or Strawberry. Tomorrow begins the descent off the rim at long last.

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.

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Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline), Part 2

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

At Washington Park, the Arizona Trail joins the Highline National Recreation Trail (the namesake of the AZT passage here.) The trail turns west and begins to roll along the eroded foothills of the Mogollon Rim, with diverse plants that vary depending on aspect (the direction the slope points), elevation, sun angle, and proximity to water, as the trail passes a number of springs and streams that flow off the rim. Even seemingly subtle shifts change the species represented. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite passages so far. The diversity of the species encountered, the magnificent views of the Mogollon reminiscent of hiking within Grand Canyon and looking up at the rim, the brilliant red earth contrasting with the blue sky and green plants, and the views off the foothills toward the next major challenge – the Mazatzal Mountains – combine for an incredible experience.

Westbound on the Arizona Trail across the Highline. Mogollon Rim in distance.
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim above the ironwoods and pines.
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim above the ironwoods, brush grass and pines
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim above the ironwoods, brush grass and pines
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim above the ironwoods, brush grass and pines
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail westbound; Mogollon Rim rising above
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, seen from the Highline above diverse plants
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail through diverse flora communities
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Blue Spruce
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail SOBO
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Array of trees along the Highline – oaks, pines, spruce
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Gamble oak in fall colors
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Gamble oak in fall colors
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim through the pines from the Highline
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Pines and oaks along the Highline
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Blue Spruce, indicative of cooler, wetter microclimate
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Diverse plant communities along the Highline
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
How many different plants can you name in these images?
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline (AZT)
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline (AZT)
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline (AZT)
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline (AZT)
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
South-facing slopes are sparser in vegetation, and those growing here are acclimated to warmer, drier temps
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim peeks above the vegetation
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline (AZT)
Again, you can see the vegetation change as the slope tilts toward the prevailing sun
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline (AZT)
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest

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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.

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?

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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).

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.

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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 41 – Passage 27 (Highline)

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 another chilly morning, camped directly on the Mogollon Rim. I’ll be dropping several thousand feet today to the base. I make a short deviation back to General Springs Cabin and spot a historical sign relating to a local conflict between early settlers and native Apaches. (There’s another marker for the same battle further north, by the canyon that passed through on Clear Creek yesterday.) After checking out the cabin and packing up, it’s time to head down off the rim. The descent passes a cool railroad tunnel on a short spur, and since the temperature warms as the elevation drops, fall is still lingering on the descent. A sizeable stream, the start of the East Verde River, also runs along the trail all the way down to Washington Park at the base.

The East Verde is the second of four rivers crossed by the Arizona Trail, and the only one to be crossed twice. I’ll encounter it again in a few days starting the ascent into the Mazatzal Mountains. (The other three rivers are the Colorado, in Grand Canyon; the Salt, east of Phoenix, splitting the Mazatzals and the Superstition Mountains; and the Gila, southeast of Phoenix in Pinal County.)

At this point, the trail completes its lengthy traverse of the Coconino National Forest (which the trail had passed through almost exclusively since north of the San Francisco Peaks) and enters the Tonto National Forest. More to come tomorrow about the beginning of the traverse across the magnificent Highline Trail from Washington Park to Pine, with its incredible views of the Mogollon Rim.

Relive Video for today
Morning light on the ponderosa forests of the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Morning light on the ponderosa forests of the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Battle of the Big Dry Wash historical marker on the trail where it hits the Mogollon Rim. The actual site is in the vicinity of where I crossed Clear Creek yesterday. the inscription reads “Seven miles north of this point a band of Apache Indians were defeated by United States troops on July 17, 1862. A group of tribesmen from the San Carlos Apache Reservation has attacked some ranches in the vicinity, killing several settlers. Cavalry and Indian scouts were immediately sent into the field in search of the hostile a. Five troops of cavalry and one trip of Indian scouts converged on the Apaches. Surrounding them at the Big Dry Wash, the resistance of the Indians was broken after four hours of stubborn fighting. The casualties numbered two soldiers and more than twenty Apaches.”
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
General Springs Cabin. A USFS sign reads, “Built in 1918 by Louis Fisher and used for years as a fire guard station, a small spring near here was named after General George Crook, who uses the spring while traveling the old Fort Apache-Camp Verde Military Road.”
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Beginning the descent off the Mogollon Rim. 2 miles to the bottom, 481 to Mexico.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Coconino National Forest/Tonto National Forest border
Mogollon Rim from Corbin Canyon
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
View south off the Mogollon Rim as the trail descends.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Corbin Canyon & the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
View back up to the Mogollon after only a half mile or so of descending through Corbin Canyon.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
The Mineral Belt Railroad tunnel, just off the AZT below the Mogollon Rim; interior view. According to Hike Arizona, the MBR was intended to cross the state from north to south, from Nogales through Globe and across the Mogollon to the Utah border near Lee’s Ferry (my starting point for this hike). The tunnel was supposed to be 3100 ft; construction began in August 1883. It was never completed due to funding issues. But several yards excavated at the entrance remain.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Railroad Tunnel Spur
Tonto National Forest
The Mineral Belt Railroad tunnel, just off the AZT below the Mogollon Rim; exterior view. According to Hike Arizona, the MBR was intended to cross the state from north to south, from Nogales through Globe and across the Mogollon to the Utah border near Lee’s Ferry (my starting point for this hike). The tunnel was supposed to be 3100 ft; construction began in August 1883. It was never completed due to funding issues. But several yards excavated at the entrance remain.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Railroad Tunnel Spur
Tonto National Forest
The Mogollon Rim from Corbin Canyon
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
The Mogollon Rim from Corbin Canyon
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Small waterfalls on Mogollon Rim stream among golden leaves
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora – and intense greenery
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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 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 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.

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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.

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.

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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 39 – Passage 28 (Blue Ridge), Part 2

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

The trail crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing. I was told that there may be water in one direction near the crossing but didn’t need it and therefore didn’t check. Climbing out the other side, the northern aspect of the slope is apparent – while ponderosas covered the southern slope opposite, the northern one featured Douglas fir and blue spruce. Obviously the different sides show different microclimates depending on the sun aspect, the temperature and moisture levels on each side given the orientation and angle of the slope. The trail rises back to the ponderosa forests on the Mogollon Plateau and traverses them, the site of my first human sighting in 3 days, then reaches General Springs Canyon. Dipping into General Springs Canyon, silence and quiet take hold. I passed a nice campsite near the end of General Springs Canyon, but the pools nearby were still frozen at the end of the day, suggesting it would get colder in the canyon overnight (and that solar exposure during the day was limited) than on the Rim, so I continued forward to the rim itself. Lights can be seen in the distance, but I’m not sure which town. Likely Pine or Strawberry. Tomorrow begins the descent off the rim at long last.

Climbing out of Clear Creek
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Cooler and tamper conditions on the north-facing walls of Clear Creek Canyon are evidenced by the flora growing there, like this young spruce
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
The flora on the north-facing wall of Clear Creek Canyon I’m better attempted to cooler and wetter conditions than that on the south-facing canyon wall which was more adapted to sun and warmer temperatures
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Massive strands of lichen, reminiscent of Spanish moss, drape off the ponderosas on the north wall of Clear Creek
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Back on the plateau section south of Clear Creek, traversing through the ponderosas once more
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa Forest on the south side of Clear Creek
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa Forest on the south side of Clear Creek
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa Forest on the south side of Clear Creek
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Beginning the descent into General Springs Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Tracing the bottom of General Springs Canyon, evening
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Frozen pools show the microclimates at the bottom of General Springs Canyon. The orientation and depth of the Canyon, combined with the season, mean that these pools have not melted even after a full day.
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
General Springs Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Moon over General Springs Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
More legacy of the wet spring, now dried out from the summer
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Moon over the Mogollon Rim
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.

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 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)

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.

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)

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

To the south lies the San Francisco volcanic field, topped by the majestic San Francisco Peaks rising above. I’ll go into it in more detail as I approach them, but for now I’ll note that were it not for the canyon, the Peaks would be the most famous geological feature in Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point, stands at 12,633 feet. The Arizona Trail will reach and wrap directly around their flank on the journey south. The city of Flagstaff lies immediately beyond, at the foot of the mountain on the south side. Through the trees one can make out the rim of the canyon, but the dominant view in the foreground is the aspen foliage mixed with spruce/fir and ponderosa forest. Grand Canyon National Park fills the foreground with aspen foliage mixed with spruce/fir and ponderosa forest. Heading back down the road, I head west on the AZT to the park entrance and then south through the aspens toward the Rim.

The Arizona Trail, Day 6: Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South, Part I

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, Part I

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The Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part III: South Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part II

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, Part III: South Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part II

The Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part II: Southern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40)

Hiking south on Passage 40, the backpacker crosses Telephone Hill, where the pines and aspens offer a respite from the Kaibab winds. Dropping down the back side, the trail passes Crane Lake and proceeds south through a meadow before gradually ascending into aspens and pines once again. Aspens dominate the remainder of the route, rolling across hills hiking south toward Little Round Valley.

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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)

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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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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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 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 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.

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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 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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