Arizona Trail Approach, Day 8 (Part III) – Buckskin Gulch to AZT

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

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

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

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

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

When many individuals are first looking at getting into thruhiking, they face one crucial decision after trail selection – to section hike, or thruhike. Each has different advantages and challenges, and may be better suited for one trail than another. Today, we’re going to discuss these. First, we need to define each. For our purposes, … Continue reading To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Inspiration Point to Roosevelt Cemetery (Passages 20 & 19, Four Peaks to Superstition Mountains)

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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Arizona Trail Backpacking Logistics – AZT Gateway Communities: Tonto Basin

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.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks South (Passage 20)

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.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks North (Passage 20)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Four Peaks Passage to just south of Pigeon Spring. The terrain is incredibly precipitous – in places the trail seems to occupy the only level ground around. Fire impacts are present throughout as well, a legacy of the 1996 Lone Fire. Magnificent views of Roosevelt Lake, the southern Mazatzal foothills, and the Sierra Ancha across Tonto Basin.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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

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

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

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

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 47: Red Hills, Part II/II

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

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Backpacking Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Arizona Trail Approach Day 4)

I got an early start this morning but it took me a while to find the side trail that leads up to Wrather Arch. As I noted in the prior post, Wrather is not a true arch as we may think of, but is rather a cave-type arch. Located within the Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs wilderness, it is the least accessible natural bridge or arch in the southwestern United States, requiring an 18 mile round trip hike. So of course, having hiked so far to get to this point, I had to make sure that I made it to the Arch.

I did eventually find my way up to it, but it’s status as an arch is not obvious immediately. Shifting perspectives on the trail eventually makes this more obvious.

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Hiking up Wrather Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Wrather Arch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Wrather Arch
Note the slight visibility through to the other side on the right side of the arch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

After making my way back down from Wrather to the main body of Paría Canyon, the journey continues upstream. This entire area of the canyon traverses the Kayenta Formation, with its distinctive red rock. Part of the Glen Canyon Group, the red color is formed by oxidized iron in the rock. The black spots, known to some as “rock varnish,” or “desert varnish,” caused by oxidized manganese staining on surface of the rock.

Joints in the Kayenta Formation in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Joint cracks in the Kayenta Formation
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

The canyon briefly widens slightly in the vicinity of the junction of Wrather Canyon and Paria Canyon as the river bends – clearly a spot where flooding has both widened the canyon and both eroded and deposited sediment on both banks.It allows the sun to paint the walls and bring out that ethereal glow.

Paria Canyon panorama near Wrather Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

The canyon, which had widened in the area around Wrather Canyon, soon narrows again, with towering Kayenta spires above.

Kayenta Formation spires and walls in Paria Canyon
Kayenta Formation spires and walls in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Kayenta Formation spires and walls in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Canyon treefrogs in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Trees grow in the cooler, shaded side drainages within Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Water finds a way
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Water finds a way
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
In some places, the River has eroded small caves on the rock, probably in locations where joints or cracks in the rock made it susceptible to such action
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon Panorama
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
More “Swiss cheese” erosion of the rocks. Note also the white rock here – flash flooding on the river has removed the natural iron and manganese staining and bleached the rock white instead. Similar effects happen elsewhere such as reservoirs when the rock is submerged for extended periods of time.

Heading upstream, more of the geologic history of the area becomes obvious. Eroded fault cracks, some of the largest that I’ve ever seen, emerge in the Kayenta Formation. I make it to Big Spring for the night and set up camp in a sheltered location with my rain gear set up, knowing that there is the potential for rain overnight or in the morning.

Fault crack (left) in the Kayenta Formation, the first of four that can be seen in Paria Canyon.
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Second fault crack in the Kayenta Formation, Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Second fault crack in the Kayenta Formation, Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Paría Canyon panorama
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon panorama
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing under the cliffs of the Kayenta Formation, Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Joints in the Kayenta Formation, Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

View up the third fault crack along the route in the Kayenta Formation, Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Sacred datura around Big Springs, Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-VermilionCliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

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.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail – FR 194 to Pine Spring (Passage 45, Whiterock Mesa)

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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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.

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.

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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.

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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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.

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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 to narrow from its wide open nature at the bottom in Glen Canyon NRA and the lower section of the wilderness in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. I spotted petroglyphs a mile or two into the hike. It’s still very hot and sunny, so I went through water a bit faster than anticipated. Since it’s not usually advised that one drinks from the Paría (even filtered), I ended up rationing water until I made it to the first reliable spring where the canyon breaks out of the Chinle Formation and into the Navajo Sandstone. The clay and mudstone that make up the Chinle don’t hold water particularly well, so there are no reliable springs for the first 15 miles of the route. I decided to camp at the spring for the night since it gives me a reliable water source and cuts back on how much I may have to carry tomorrow. (Relive video follows photos below.)

Relive video for UT-AZ Day 2
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Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_0098.jpg
Lower Paría Canyon, upstream view
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Colorful Chinle Formation rocks in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Petroglyphs in Paria Canyon (location undisclosed)
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Petroglyphs in Paria Canyon (location undisclosed)
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Chinle Formation and Navajo Sandstone layering in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Colorful Chinle Formation and Navajo Sandstone in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing around boulders in Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Sacred datura, a poisonous perennial, flowering
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing around boulders in Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing around boulder pools in Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing around boulder pools in Paría Canyon Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon at sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River rapids
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon at sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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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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Arizona Trail Thruhike, Day 26: Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon), Part 2 (Arizona/Utah Day 33)

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

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

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

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Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Schultz Pass (Passage 32, Elden Mountain)

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

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