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

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

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 views disappear until after Upper Lockwood Tank. From there it gets marginally better with nice views of the Peaks returning, but with a full moon I choose to hike a few extra hours at night to cut down on tomorrow’s distance on this passage. I meet Coyote, another sobo thru-hiker, on the trail twice today, first just after breakfast and again and he tells me about seeing some coyotes and a mountain lion fight over an elk that he saw that morning. Very cool wildlife encounter, maybe I’ll get to see something like that?

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The Arizona Trail heads through the pinyon-juniper forest of the Coconino Plateau
AZT Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch
Kaibab National Forest
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The Arizona Trail heads through the pinyon-juniper forest of the Coconino Plateau
AZT Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch
Kaibab National Forest
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The San Francisco Peaks rise above the pinyon-juniper woodland of the Coconino Plateau
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
Kaibab National Forest
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The San Francisco Peaks rise above the pinyon-juniper woodland of the Coconino Plateau
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
Kaibab National Forest
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Juniper beside the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
Kaibab National Forest
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The Arizona Trail exits the Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch.
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Entering Babbitt Ranch after exiting the Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)

Water along this stretch of trail is pretty limited. There was a cache at Moqui Stage Station and a tank that is open to hikers to use at Tub Ranch. Other than that, its hot, dry, and exposed. The only access point passed today was Moqui Stage Station off FR-301 at the start.

Section Details:

Water SourcesMoqui Stage Station (potential caches, no natural source)
Tub Ranch water tank
TrailheadMoqui Stage Station (accessed via FR-301 in the Kaibab National Forest)
Section details for today’s stretch of trail as hiked
Length24.5 miles
Water SourcesMoqui Stage Station (potential caches, no natural source)
Tub Ranch water tank
Cedar Ranch (supply box)
TrailheadMoqui Stage Station (accessed via FR-301 in the Kaibab National Forest)
Cedar Ranch
Full passage details
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The Arizona Trail passes through rabbitbrush meadows heading south
AZT Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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The San Francisco Peaks and San Francisco Volcanic Field rise out of the Colorado Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass meadows. Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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The San Francisco Peaks rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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Hills of the San Francisco Volcanic Field rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows. Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch).
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The San Francisco Peaks and the hills and mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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The San Francisco Peaks and the hills and mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch).
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The San Francisco Peaks (center) and the hills and mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, such as Kendrick Peak (right), rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch).
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The AZT curves towards the San Francisco Peaks (left) and the eastern hills and mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, such as Kendrick Peak (center), rise out of the Colorado Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch).
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Full Moon Hiking
Arizona Trail, Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Pine Mountain (Passage 21), Boulder Creek Trail

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

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 back across the Plateau, the ecosystem starts to shift. Junipers start to appear. The trail passes Russell Tank, one of the many wildlife tanks maintained by the state to provide water to wildlife. It’s the first time on the hike that I’ve had to filter water out of a tank, and the tank is low after the dry summer, but there is enough to pull but the water is decent quality, so I set up my Sawyer and get a few liters to get me to the Babbitt Ranch passage. One disturbing thing happens, though. As I step in the mud on the edge of the tank to suck some water into my filter bag, I feel a tug on the sole of my right hiking boot. Looking down, I see the sole of my boot start to separate from the body.

It’s going to be a race to Flagstaff now. Hopefully I can get there and get a new pair before my sole comes off.

After filtering the water of organisms and sediment (this IS Arizona, after all, one can’t be picky, but the Sawyer works great for filtering all that out), I’m heading south again. The ecotone is definitely getting into gear now. The pines start to thin out; more rice grass appears between them. Pinyon pines appear, joining the juniper that had appeared earlier. Moving farther from the rim, the ecosystem change is finalized. The ponderosas disappear completely, becoming replaced by pinyon pines and juniper spaced by rice grass meadows. Humphreys Peak and the San Francisco Peaks appear above the treeline. In a few days, I will be at their foot.

The day ends at the ruins of Moqui Stage Station, one of the stops on the original stagecoach route that took early tourists from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon. Stone ruins and an interpretive sign mark the site today – the main one being what could have been perhaps a water tank for horses at one point.

Setting up camp, I get a spectacular view of the full moon rising through the umbra (the shadow of the Earth) and the Belt of Venus. Just gorgeous to sit and watch that happen…with no one for miles around.

(Post will be updated with my Relieve video for today.)

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Dwarf mistletoe impacts along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Dwarf mistletoe impacts to young ponderosa pines along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail tracing the Coconino Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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View off the Coconino Rim from the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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View through the pines off the Coconino Rim along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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View through the pines off the Coconino Rim along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail through the ponderosa pines on the Coconino Rim
AZT Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Junipers starting to appear along the Arizona Trail, first sign of another ecosystem shift
AZT, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Juniper berries, Arizona Trail, Kaibab National Forest
(Note: Juniper “berries” are not true berries, but rather a type of cone with merged, fleshy scales, making it appear like a berry.)
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Downed trees are a major challenge on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail through pinelands, about 9 miles from the Kaibab National Forest border at Moqui Stage Station
AZT, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Unfortunately a photo cannot do enough to communicate the smell of walking through this particular landscape.
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks in fall foliage
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks in fall foliage
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Russell Tank
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
One of the first water sources along the trail that actually had water. Filled up here for the trek south.
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Russell Tank
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
One of the first water sources along the trail that actually had water. Filled up here for the trek south.
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Gambel oaks along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
7 miles from Moqui Stage Station, 12 from the forest boundary.
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Healthy, well-spaced ponderosas along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Healthy, well-spaced ponderosas along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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First glimpse of the San Francisco Peaks over the pines as the Arizona Trail emerges into rice grass meadows bordering the Coconino Rim
AZT Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest

San Francisco Peaks behind over the treeline.
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Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Pines and junipers among rice grass
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
Pines getting more spread out, transitioning to more junipers moving away from the rim.
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Arizona Trail running through junipers among rice grass
AZT Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail running through junipers among rice grass
AZT Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Pinyon pine
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Ecosystem transition to pinyon-juniper scrubland. San Francisco Peaks on horizon
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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San Francisco Peaks above pinyon-juniper scrubland.
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Sunset Juniper
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Remains of Moqui Stage Station
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Remains of Moqui Stage Station
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Sunset from Moqui Stage Station
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Full moon rising through the shadow of the earth (blue) and into the Belt of Venus (pink) above the pinyons and junipers of the Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)

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

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

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 49: Whiterock Mesa, Part III

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.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 48: Whiterock Mesa (P25), 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.

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.

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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.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Pine Ridge to FR 194 (Passage 26, Whiterock 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.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Pine to Pine Ridge (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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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 41, Part II – Highline Trail (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.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 40-41 – Highline Trail (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.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Highline Trail, Part II (Passage 27, Highline)

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!

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Clear Creek to Mogollon Rim (Passage 28, Blue Ridge)

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.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Buckskin Mountain to Kaibab Plateau North (AZT Day 2, Passages 43 & 42; Arizona/Utah Day 9)

Looking across Larkum Canyon on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain

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 early start. I make it off Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain) by mid morning and break into the northern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 42).

Backpacking the Arizona Trail SOBO through PJ scrubland
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
Exiting the Buckskin Passage of the Arizona Trail, on to Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain

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 continuing pinyon-juniper (PJ) forest landscape, so this will be brief. After a crossing of the Old Spanish Trail and long meadow section that ends near Government Reservoir, there’s a brisk climb to the end of the day after 14.3 miles.

After the better part of the last day or so of hiking through pinyon-juniper (PJ) Forest, today the trail starts to break out into open ricegrass and blackbush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
Backpacking south with the Arizona Trail leading ahead through fields of ricegrass and blackbush
AZT Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
While the rice grass in the meadows is mostly browned out from the lack of a monsoon, in some places microclimates or the lingering evidence of the wet winter can still be seen with a green tinge.
Arizona Trail Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
Looking across ricegrass & blackbush meadows toward another of Arizona’s mountain ranges, potentially the Moccasin Mountains to the NW or Buckskin Mountains behind on the trail, hiking view from the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
Backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
Looking back while hiking along the Arizona Trail through the rice grass & blackbush meadows and pinyon-juniper (PJ) forest of the northern Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
Backpacking along the AZT, looking across the rice grass meadows and PJ forested hills of the extreme northern Kaibab Plateau
Arizona Trail Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North

Some immense Kaibab Limestone outcrops are the highlight glowing gold in the evening light. I’ve broken into ponderosa forest and spotted some Gamble Oaks with tinges of fall color. It’s still pretty warm but fall is on the way.

Hiking south & climbing onto the main portion of the northern rim of the Kaibab Plateau, ponderosa pines take precedence on golden limestone. A cluster of Gamble oaks starting to break into fall foliage sits beside the trail.
Arizona Trail Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
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Backpacking through the ponderosa pines
Arizona Trail Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
Kaibab National Forest
Sunset from camp, seen hiking south on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 42, Kaibab Plateau North
Kaibab National Forest



The shift from PJ to ponderosa forest represents the first major ecosystem change on a trail famed for its diversity, and it is indeed quite the shift from a landscape perspective. Instead of shorter trees and intermittent shade, interspersed with meadows offering more direct sunlight, the landscape now features mature ponderosa and widespread shading and much more filtered light.

I should be to Jacob Lake in time for dinner tomorrow evening (and hopefully breakfast the following morning) before heading into the central Kaibab. Looking forward to my first real meal in 1-2 weeks.



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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 38 – Blue Ridge Ranger Station to Mogollon Rim (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 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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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Mormon Lake to Shuff Tank (Day 34; Passages 29 & 28, Mormon Lake & Happy Jack)

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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Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)Passage 42 (Kaibab Plateau North)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack Dirt singletrack
Length (Mi)10.816.4
SeasonMarch-November. Lower elevations hot in summer with little shade.Spring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesSeasonal tank (mi 4.1 SOBO/784.6 NOBO)
Seasonal tank (mi 10.6 SOBO/778.1 NOBO)
Rock Creek Apron (mi 13.3 SOBO/775.4 NOBO), off trail
Government Reservoir (mi 17.8 SOBO/770.9 NOBO), off trail
Ponderosa Trick Tank (mi 20.0 SOBO/768.7 NOBO), off trail
Umbrella Tank (mi 20.3 SOBO/768.4 NOBO)
Orderville Trick Tank (mi 21 SOBO/767.7 NOBO), off trail
TrailheadsNorth: Utah border at Coyote Valley (mi 0 SOBO/788.7 NOBO)
South: Winter Road Trailhead (mi 10.6 SOBO/778.1 NOBO)
North: Winter Road Trailhead (mi 10.6 SOBO/778.1 NOBO)
South: US-89A east of Jacob Lake
Trailhead AccessVehicular access to all trailheadsNorth: Vehicular access (dirt road)
South: Vehicular access (paved road)
WildernessNoNo
Possible resupply pointsNoneJacob Lake
DifficultyEasyEasy to moderate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Best near summit of Buckskin Mountain, after initial climb out of Coyote Valley/just before final descent into Coyote Valley. Developed campsite at Utah state line in Coyote Valley.Good LNT-compatible sites through National Forest. I liked a spot right at the northern end of the ponderosa forest, at the north tip of the Kaibab itself.
ThreatsHeat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

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

Dehydration

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

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

Dehydration

Lightning
Permits Required? NoNo
Cell service?Limited Limited to nonexistent
Ecosystems traversedGreat Basin Conifer WoodlandGreat Basin Conifer Woodland
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Forest
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail. Note that due to wildfire, Passage 43 is currently closed to access by the Bureau of Land Management.
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Great Basin Conifer WoodlandRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Forest
Common Trees/Shrubs* Big sagebrush
* Fernbush
* Fremont barberry
* Gambel oak
* Hopbush
* Mormon tea
* Rabbitbrush
* Serviceberry
* Stansbury cliffrose
* Junipers
* Piñon pine
* Ponderosa Pine
* Southwestern white pine
* Subalpine fir 
* White fir 
* Rocky Mountain maple
* Bigtooth maple
* Grey alder
* Red birch
* Red osier dogwood
* Cliffbush
* Mallow ninebark
* New Mexican locust
* huckleberry
* bilberries
Common herbaceous plants* Cutleaf
* Phacelia
* Wild onions
* Buckwheats
* Bladderpods
* Evening primrose
* Penstemons
* Sego-lily
* Grasses such as muttongrass & squirreltail
* Groundsel
* Indian paintbrush
* Locoweed
* Phlox
* Pinque rubberweed
* Sedges, such as clustered field sedge & western sedge
* Wild cabbage (unusual, thick stemmed)
* fringed brome
* Geyer’s sedge/elk sedge
* Ross’ sedge
* Bronze sedge/dry land sedge/hillside sedge/hay sedge/Fernald’s hay sedge
* screwleaf muhly 
* bluebunch wheatgrass
* Spruce-fir fleabane
* wild strawberry/Virginia strawberry
* Small-flowered woodrush
* mountain sweet Cicely
* bittercress ragwort
* western meadow-rue
* Fendler’s meadow-rue
Common succulents* Banana & Bailey’s yucca
* Beehive cactus
* Claret cup hedgehog cacti
* Prickly pear cacti
* Whipple cholla
Passage 23 & 22 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.

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

Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail

The Dragoos give me a lift from Wire Pass to the Arizona Trail Northern trailhead at Stateline Campground in Coyote Valley. Much appreciated!

The starting point of the Arizona Trail is well marked by several monuments and a large BLM sign. On one of the monuments sits a plaque inscribed with a poem about the trail written by Dale Shewater, the “Father of the Arizona Trail.”

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, “Father of the Arizona Trail”
Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_0579-1.jpg

Judging by everything I’ve heard about the trail and know about the area, it seems an extremely fitting description of the trail and it’s experience. It’s time to put the literature to the test.

We take the obligatory starting point photos, and I head out. I make it about 5 miles onto the start of the AZT, where I encounter some section hikers and camp near Buckskin Mountain. The sunset is spectacular as remnants of a tropical storm coalesce above Coyote Buttes to the west. Unfortunately my phone died coming out of the canyons so I didn’t capture a picture, but I am sure it won’t be my last or only spectacular sunset on the AZT. I get sprinkled on a little overnight but manage to stay dry for the most part. The true long trek to Mexico has at long last begun. The slot canyons were incredible, gorgeous, amazing – pick any superlative you want. But they are done, and the remainder of the Arizona Trail proper now awaits.

Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail
Coyote Buttes from the trail hiking up Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Coyote Buttes from the trail backpacking up Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Coyote Buttes from the trail hiking up Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
PJ (pinyon-juniper) scrubland is the dominant landscape on Buckskin Mountain, a dramatic shift from the alternately bare and green riparian corridor of the slot canyons in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Hiking through PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
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Backpacking through blackbush and PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
Hiking through blackbush & PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
Looking back on Coyote Buttes and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, seen backpacking the Arizona Trail ascending Buckskin Mountain across Coyote Valley.
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Hiking through blackbush and PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
A rather macabre sight…
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
As an open grazing area, one must always be careful of livestock when passing through this stretch of the AZT, as well as other stretches on USFS or BLM land.
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)

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Arizona Trail, Day 31 – Anderson Mesa to Double Springs (Passages 30, Anderson Mesa & 29, 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.

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.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 29 – Flagstaff to Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 & 33, Flagstaff & 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, … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 29 – Flagstaff to Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 & 33, Flagstaff & Walnut Canyon)

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Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Trail SurfaceDirt
Length (Mi)10.8
SeasonMarch-November. Lower elevations hot in summer with little shade.
Potential Water SourcesSeasonal tank (mi 4.1 SOBO/784.6 NOBO)
Seasonal tank (mi 10.6 SOBO/778.1 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Utah border at Coyote Valley (mi 0 SOBO/788.7 NOBO)
South: Winter Road Trailhead (mi 10.6 SOBO/778.1 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessVehicular access to all trailheads
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsNone
DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Best near summit of Buckskin Mountain, after initial climb out of Coyote Valley/just before final descent into Coyote Valley. Developed campsite at Utah state line in Coyote Valley.
ThreatsHeat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

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

Dehydration
Permits Required? No
Cell service?Limited
Ecosystems traversedGreat Basin Conifer Woodland
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail. Note that due to wildfire, Passage 43 is currently closed to access by the Bureau of Land Management.
Great Basin Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* Big sagebrush
* Fernbush
* Fremont barberry
* Gambel oak
* Hopbush
* Mormon tea
* Rabbitbrush
* Serviceberry
* Stansbury cliffrose
* Junipers
* Piñon pine
Common herbaceous plants* Cutleaf
* Phacelia
* Wild onions
* Buckwheats
* Bladderpods
* Evening primrose
* Penstemons
* Sego-lily
* Grasses such as muttongrass & squirreltail
* Groundsel
* Indian paintbrush
* Locoweed
* Phlox
* Pinque rubberweed
* Sedges, such as clustered field sedge & western sedge
* Wild cabbage (unusual, thick stemmed)
Common succulents* Banana & Bailey’s yucca
* Beehive cactus
* Claret cup hedgehog cacti
* Prickly pear cacti
* Whipple cholla
Passage 23 & 22 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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