Sunday—May 2, 2010
Once again Gordon has come to fetch me and deliver me to the trail. This year to Arizona, to the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Some work on the van at my place (Joyce’s home) to begin with—a couple of days—then we’re on the road west.
First stop, Santa Fe, to see Gordon’s dear friends, Joe and Carol. I’d met them on our return from completing Odyssey 2008. So they’re now also my dear friends. A most enjoyable time.
Joe and Carol have hiked both the CDT and the PCT—and they’ve produced great documentaries on both. Check them out online—impressive!
Yesterday we continued rolling southwest, making a stop to see a dear friend and trail angel supreme—Lucy, who lives in Hachita, New Mexico, just north of the Mexican border where the CDT ends. Lucy had befriended me during Odyssey 2007. She was genuinely happy to see me. Gordon also, finally, got to meet Lucy. He has stopped by her place last spring, while in New Mexico supporting Oblivious on his CDT trek. But Lucy wasn’t home then. Just a great reunion with the most gracious trail angel—ever!
So, today we finally reach the Arizona/Mexican border, the beginning of the Arizona Trail at Montezuma Pass. But not so good a start—left front tire on the van is going flat. We’ve sure had our fill of tire trouble already this go-round—had to replace the right front tire Thursday when it gave out on the interstate.
So here we sit now, in another Wal-Mart, waiting patiently as the left front tire is being replaced. Still may get my miles in today, though, as I’ve planned only four miles, from Montezuma Pass down to the border and back to the pass. Ends up being plenty of time, and I get the hike in before dark. We’re in the Coronado National Monument, which closes at dusk. We’ve more than enough time to move below the pass and out of the monument area—to find a reasonably flat spot, where we call it a day. Not a bad start, really, to what should prove to be yet another grand adventure!
“The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult.”
Monday—May 3, 2010
Location—Parker Canyon Lake Trailhead
This will be my first full day on the Arizona Trail and I am the least apprehensive. There’s much climbing and I’m not in the best condition, not unusual for me at the beginning of a journey.
The day dawns clear and cold. Gordon has me out and moving a little after six. The trail goes straight up from Montezuma Pass. Doesn’t take long and I’m pretty much winded. By an old mine shaft I take my first break. Much more climbing, up to Miller Peak. Here I’m above 9,000 feet—and pleasantly surprised at how well I’ve handled it.
The views are remarkable, down to the road leading up from Coronado National Monument, and to the south into Mexico.
From Miller Peak the trail leads around to the. north slope—and lots of snow on the trail. More spectacular views, this time towards Sierra Vista, thousands of feet below.
In the afternoon I’ve another steady pull over to Copper Glance, then an incredible series of switchbacks down, and down some more.
The two water sources today were much welcome. First, Bathtub Spring, then the delightful brook running cold and clear down Sunnyside Canyon.
By three-thirty I reach Parker Canyon Lake Trailhead, my destination for the day. Tired feet, tired back—very happy to have this day done.
“A life akin to the mist on the wind,
This the wanderlust’s way.
He’ll roam about to his journey’s end,
A calling he must obey.”
Tuesday—May 4, 2010
Location—FR799, Canelo Pass
No problem sleeping last! Yesterday was sure a long, hard way to begin another odyssey. You may recall, and as I’ve said at the beginning of other journeys, other years, another year has passed, and I’m another year older. Not to make an issue of it, but I am 71 now, an age at which most folks become more inclined to just sit and rock. That hasn’t nor will it ever work for me. I’d rather be dodging rocks!
And so, this morning I’ll suck it up, shoulder my pack and be out for another day of trekking the trail. Thank you, Lord!
Gordon has me moving a tad after six. We’re on Mountain Standard Time here, so daylight comes early. Just as I depart, the sun pops over the horizon and I hear Gordon say “Have a good one, enjoy!”
Today I’ll be hiking Passage #2, Canelo Hills East. Not as much elevation change, but still plenty to contend with, over half a mile total. And loose rocks, plenty of loose rocks all along. Horses tend to unsettle a trail, and there have been many horses through this section. Not complaining. This Arizona Trail was thought up and pretty much came to be as a result of a horseman named Dale Shewalter. So we hikers are the beneficiary of all that early trail work, a great benefit for those of us who wish to hike—and enjoy—the natural beauty that is Arizona.
By noon I’ve covered the miles to Canelo Pass where Gordon patiently awaits.
Sure tired again, and a little stiff. But my legs are definitely coming back under me. Looks of it, I’ll suffer with shin splints, not unexpected, especially at the beginning of a trek with so much climbing right off the bat. Sure happy with my progress so far.
“When pain rears up its ugly head
You have to walk your way right through
Adventures always lie ahead
Each day is altogether new.”
Wednesday—May 5, 2010
Finished the day yesterday a little before one, very unusual. The trailhead at Canelo Pass was the perfect spot to spend the afternoon, a cool breeze and plenty of shade.
Not the least problem sleeping—again; I was very tired. Thankful though, am I, for such great stamina and drive. True blessings.
I’m out and trekking right at sunrise, which occurs here a little before six. It’s another glorious clear day on the Arizona Trail.
The highlight today is the hike through Red Rock Canyon. During the dry season (whatever that means) water can be a problem for hikers traversing the Canelo West Passage, but I have no problem. The two solar wells are working fine, and the creek is running clear and cold nearly the entire length of the canyon.
I’ve the 14 miles of trail hiked out by noon and the three-mile roadwalk into Patagonia completed by one. The library has Wi-Fi, and we head there right after lunch at the local cafe.
Don’t think I mentioned that PocketMail has gone out of business. That set me to looking for another way to compose my journal entries. I settled on the Apple iTouch. Quite a learning curve for this old man! Sitting here now, in the Patagonia Library, trying to figure out how to get hooked to their Wi-Fi—with little luck. By four, after a call to Webmaster, CyWiz, I’m finally able to send my first three journal entries for Odyssey 2010.
So, please forgive these first few days, they’ll be short, as I try getting up to speed.
Late afternoon now I hike on out of town, another roadwalk, this one six miles up to Temperance Gulch Trailhead, where we call it a day.
“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”
Thursday—May 6, 2010
Location—Gardner Canyon Road
The way it’s been working out I’m getting my miles in by noon or a little after. That’s good because the desert heat can really start kicking by early afternoon. Standard time is working out quite well–allows me to get out and going earlier, which, in turn sets up the early finish.
More climbing today, up towards Mt. Wrightson. Then it’s straight down the other side. Total, continuous concentration is required to keep from skating on the rocks and busting it.
The highlight for today is hiking the local history, that of the mining era. An elaborate system of aqueducts were built at the turn of the nineteenth century to carry water to the gold fields near a place called Kentucky Camp. For a good part of the afternoon the AZT follows one of the old, nearly level ditches for a number of miles (built to carry water used in hydro-blasting). Sure a welcome break from all the climbing.
Early afternoon I’ve got my miles in. A break for lunch–the day staying somewhat cool, I decide to hike on over to Kentucky Camp. At the site of the old town I meet Barry, caretaker. He takes time to show me around—and get me set up for a pass through their solar shower.
At the trailhead just outside the camp, Gordon gets the van situated. During supper, Jim stops by. He’s out for an evening ride on his dirt bike. Good conversation–a fun time.
Been a really good day, backpacking the great Arizona Trail.
“We are born wanderers, followers of obscure trails, or blazers of new ones.”
Friday—May 7, 2010
Location—Lakes Road/Hwy 83
Another very pleasant evening last; the desert cooled down right after dark. The van being home, I rested well.
I’ve had Gordon move the alarm back another half-hour, to 4:30. There’s plenty of light for hiking around five, and with the afternoon heat to deal with, it’s good to get an early start.
This morning we synchronize our GPSs, as it’s questionable concerning where we plan on getting back together this afternoon—not sure where Lakes Road is or how to get there. We’ve got the coordinates for it, so we should both end up at the same spot.
I’m not on the trail five minutes till I hear this loud grunt off to my right. It’s a little cinnamon bear, maybe 60 pounds. Startled us both. All I get is a good look at his rump as he bails off the hill.
Today will prove a mix of roadwalking and singletrack—not nearly the amount of climbing, a fun cruise of a day through the Santa Rita Mountains Passage. Sky Islands, they’re called, since they stand above the desert floor, much as do islands in the sea. A mystic-like feeling, from which I cannot escape, holds me captive as the islands pass.
The desert is a literal explosion of bloom now, most all the cactus about showing their bright colors—especially the prickly pear. One plant had both peach- and yellow-colored flowers. Since hiking/bushwhacking through the desert, the Tonto NF here in Arizona—that was in ‘02, I’ve been fascinated with the wonders of the desert. That fire in my gut, the raw wanderlust, unshakable as it is, has again drawn me back.
There’s an unfinished section of trail just before Lakes Road, so I move over to NM83 for a few miles before returning to maintained trail. Being early afternoon yet I decide to hike it on over to Sahuarita Road, another six miles. Nearing the outskirts of Tucson now.
Thus ends another fine hiking day on the Arizona Trail.
“Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a star agleam to guide us,
And the wild is calling, calling…let us go.”
[Robert W Service]
Saturday—May 8, 2010
Location—Three Bridges/Las Ciengas Trailhead
Another restful night in the desert—in the van. One of my dear followers (and staunch critics) continually accuses me of doing nothing more than day hiking. “You’re not thru-hiking; you’re just doing a bunch of stringed-together day hikes.” he constantly reminds me. Guess it really is true—depending on how you look at or define “thru-hiking.” Hope y’all will cut this old fellow some slack!
Today will be a short hiking day, only six miles or so. Ahead stands Mica Mountain, a climb of over 4,000 feet, followed by an equally abrupt descent. Won’t hurt the least to rest up some. So, the short day today, and another tomorrow.
I’d hoped to be able to enter the Saguaro National Park via the X-9 Ranch Road—from the south—but the road is private. We drive over to check it out. One of the residents we chance to meet at the gated entrance explains to me (in no uncertain terms) that no one, NO ONE, is permitted to cross their land. So, seems tomorrow I’ll have a roadwalk clear around to the park entrance, followed Monday by a considerably longer day up and over. But I’ll not fret nor worry over this circumstance.
The afternoon is spent at one of the many Tucson branch libraries, then it’s back to Three Bridges parking for the night.
“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”
Sunday—May 9, 2010
Location—Speedway/Douglas Spring Trailhead, Tucson
Three Bridges turns out to be a very busy place–trains, many freighters. One bridge carries the first set of tracks over the second, with both tracks running long strings of cars all night—with double pullers and pushers. After the first wakeup call, the rumbling vibration pretty much blended into my dreams.
Today is going to be a totally different hike than planned. Problem has to do with private land, X9 Ranch, to be exact. To get to the old Madrona Ranger Station, inside the Saguaro National Park, I’d have to cross a corner of their land. I’ve already filled you in on what happened yesterday, when Gordon drove me up to the X9 Ranch guard gate.
As it turns out, today will prove to be closer to a 25-miler than a thirteen. Plan now is to hike Old Spanish Trail Road out of La Posta Quemada Ranch, on into Tucson, then from there, head east on Speedway to the Douglas Spring Trail, which will take me over to the Tanque Verde Ridge—and back to the Arizona Trail. The plan works fine and I reach Tucson a little before two.
It’s a hot one today, the Tarmac cooking, so we take a break, head for McDonald’s, then the library to work journals and correspondence.
The remaining miles on out to Douglas Spring Trailhead go quickly, and by five we’re settled in for the evening. Always good to have a “Plan B” available, even if it’s not the best. Ha, guess that’s why it always ends up as the second choice! Many more miles today, but I’m set up now for fewer tomorrow.
“Give me a mind that is not bound, that does not whimper, whine or sigh.”
[Thomas H. B. Webb]
Monday—May 10, 2010
A somewhat fretful night last, what with my worry for this day’s journey. Being hassled by the local deputy, around three, didn’t help much either. I had Gordon set the alarm for four, so I might be on the trail just after first light, and I do manage to shoulder my pack and get moving a little before five.
Another cool, beautiful morning in the desert. Getting to where I’m taking this perfect hiking weather for granted–must pause to say my morning prayer and give thanks for all His many blessings.
The climb begins immediately. The elevation here at the trailhead is around 2,500 feet. By the time I reach Mica Mountain summit, a distance of some 12 miles, I will have climbed to over 8,600 feet, an elevation gain of 6,100 feet. From Mica I’ll begin an immediate descent back down to around 3,500 feet, a drop of over 5,000 feet. Scary–yes! I’ve managed some climbing during my hiking days, but never continuously–like over two miles of vertical elevation change in less than 24.
The climb is wicked, little chance to rest or catch my breath, just steady up, up, then around another switchback–and up some more. I manage Manning Camp a little after eleven, after over six hours of steady climbing. Disappointed to find no one here. The old cabin is battened and locked. The last log entry was seven days ago.
No problem resting awhile before heading on up to Mica. Another steady climb and I’m on the summit by noon. No views, but I find diversion making myself a snow cone from one of the many nearby snow patches.
The descent is a bail-off through the rocks. The going is treacherous. I avoid falling but do manage a couple of wild skids through the loose rocks.
End of the day offers up another healthy climb over to Redington Pass, where Gordon is waiting. He treats me to a Subway sandwich– and I call it a day, at a little before six.
Been one amazing day of adventure–and testing–of will and determination. Got a passing mark, barely. Remarkable views back and down to Tucson, and just beautifully designed and built tread–some of the most masterful step work I’ve ever seen on any trail.
The Appalachian Trail has its Shenandoas, the Arizona Trail, its Saguaro. It’s been a most memorable trek through; thanks folks!
“Adversity introduces a Man to himself.”
Tuesday—May 11, 2010
Location—Gordon Hirabayashi Trailhead
Slept soundly in my little spot, back of the van–over ten hours straight through. Well rested and not all that stiff, I’m ready for another day on the trail.
It’ll be a short one today, less than 16, with relatively little climbing, around a thousand feet. I’m out and trekking a little before five (had Gordon set the alarm back up to 4:30).
I’ve seen no one on the trail these past ten days. However, today comes an old drover moving cattle. I’m directly in the way. Luckily, the cattle don’t spot my. I move off the trail where they can’t see me. An interesting experience. Cattle, drover (and his horse), all appear perfectly content. Also saw three Javelina. Goofy looking animals. With such short legs, can they ever cover the ground.
By noon, the hike is done. Gordon loads me and we head back down to Tucson–to the McDonald’s, and the library.
In the evening, and back at the trailhead, I hand wash some clothes, jamb a water container in a tree (I found a tree) and rinse a couple layers of desert dirt off my tired old body.
“Today, I have done my best…God has already done the rest.”
Wednesday—May 12, 2010
Location—Sutherland Trail #6/Mount Lemmon
Today will no doubt prove to be another challenge—much more climbing, this time up Mount Lemmon, an ascent of nearly 5,000 feet.
Jacket on, gloves on, I’m on the trail by five-thirty. After a steep descent I pick up East Fork Trail and begin the day’s climb at elevation 4,400. Mount Lemmon stands at 9,200 feet, so for the next 17 miles I’ll have my work cut out.
The hike through Sycamore and Sabino Canyons is most enjoyable, well marked trail, plenty of water.
The climb is tiring, so I rest often, usually at photo vantages, and there are plenty.
Recent forest fires have adversely impacted the trail on the west slope of Mount Lemmon, where Sutherland Trail #6 passes. The recommendation is to bypass that section of trail by hiking a utility road over and up to the Mount Lemmon Trailhead—and that is the plan.
Plan, also, was to reach Mount Lemmon by twelve-thirty, but twelve-thirty comes and goes—and I’m still climbing. By two, after staggering the rocks, I finally reach Mount Lemmon, tired to the bone.
It’s been a physically demanding day, but great day—hiking the Arizona Trail.
“If you take each challenge one step at a time,
with faith in every footstep,
your strength and understanding will increase.”
Thursday—May 13, 2010
Location—American Flag Trailhead, Oracle
A very cold night, probably in the thirties, but certainly not unusual at altitude–Mount Lemmon, where I ended the day yesterday, stands at over 9,000 feet. That’s where we parked the van. Stayed warm; slept well.
A much easier day today, less than eighteen miles, down Oracle Ridge from Mount Lemmon, then on down to Oracle. Save for the climb up to Dan’s Saddle, it’s pretty much all downhill.
See some other folks on the trail today—for a change–a fellow on horseback, and two ladies, also on horseback, near American Flag Trailhead.
I’ve got the hike for the day completed before one. Only four miles into Oracle, and we head there for lunch and for mail. Oracle is a mail drop and I’m hoping for a couple packages from home. Super lunch downtown, and my mail is here. A great day on the Arizona Trail.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—
to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Friday—May 14, 2010
Location—Tiger Mine Road Trailhead
Lots of life in the desert. Heard many turkey gobblers yesterday coming down off Mount Lemmon. Bunnies, birds, lizards—and a fine coon-tailed rattler along the trail today.
A very short day, only eight plus. The rest will benefit me, what with the miles I’ll need be pulling down tomorrow and Saturday.
I’m back in true desert now–sand and heat. Thankful for the break, for continued success—and the joyful heart to venture on.
“You cannot stuff a great life into a small dream.”
Saturday—May 15, 2010
Location—Freeman Road Trailhead
Four o’clock comes early, but if I want to get moving at first light then I need to be up by four. Today will be a very long day, 28 miles. I need the early hours to do the high miles, so four it is. Gordon thoroughly understands the program and he has me pack-on and moving a little after five.
Dawn in the desert is a glorious time—everything waking to a new day. It’s especially invigorating to be part of it.
We had reviewed maps and data last evening, and having good vantage, we even took a good look out and across the desert to the north. Antelope Peak was the predominant feature on the horizon, my destination for today. It’s faintly visible this morning as I drop from the trailhead to the first of countless washes—more rocks, more climbing appear to be the order. In just a short while I pull up abruptly—the first of two ring-tailed rattlers. A short while later I see the second. By ten I’m half way through the miles for the day. I’m also half way through my water—and the day is really starting to cook. Quail and dove are everywhere, and I also chance to see a deer casually foraging—on something.
Early afternoon I’m climbing the flank of Antelope Peak, and by four the day’s trek is complete. Gordon has hiked in a short distance to greet me as I hasten on to the “white oasis” for a cold Coke.
A long, difficult day, what with the miles, plus a thousand-foot climb right at the end—plus growing old. Moving steadily north though. That’s good.
“We do not quit playing because we grow old,
we grow old because we quit playing.”
[Oliver Wendell Holmes]
Sunday—May 16, 2010
Location—Gila River/Kelvin Bridge
Another day to get up and out at first light. It will be my second longest this journey at just over 27. Yesterday was the longest at 28. Back-to-back long days, a tough situation. Just have to make the best of it.
The cool morning hours are best for hiking the desert. Daily mileages in the teens are manageable, and can be hiked out before noon with an early start. Anything over 20 pushes the hike into the afternoon, a bad deal, as the trail really gets to cookin’ after high noon. Yesterday I didn’t finish until nearly four—today, likely the same. Six or eight miles first thing in the morning is one thing. Six or eight (more) miles in the afternoon sun—another thing entirely.
So, here we go, into the frying pan—again. Five, I’m truckin’. Make good time all morning. Open desert, few rocks, easy trail. I’m able to water up at the spring-fed cattle tank around eleven—a great benefit. But noon comes, and the heat comes—and the climb for the day comes, a tough 700+ pull up what is simply called “The Hill” After, comes the bail-off down to the Gila River. It’s after three before I’m through for the day.
Gordon’s found a trailer park in Kearny, complete with Laundromat and bathhouse. A shower to drain the desert dust—then to suds some clothes. Great, Gordon. Thanks!
Another long, tough day on the trail—but the trail is home, and I am content with that.
“I sought the trails of South and North,
I wandered East and West;
But pride and passion drove me forth
And would not let me rest.
And still I seek, and still I roam,
A snug roof overhead;
Four walls, my own; a quiet home. . . .
‘You’ll have it — when you’re dead.’”
Monday—May 17, 2010
Location—Walnut Canyon Artesian Well
Took lots of soap to chase the desert grime. Oh, what a great feeling to be clean!
Plan for today is to hike the White Canyon Passage from north to south, reason being: Gordon’s chances of driving all the way down to the artesian well. He’d called Jim, Passage Steward for White Canyon, and Jim had told him there would be a “rocky section” to deal with.
We find the road as described—easy enough going down, to the “rocky section.” End of the road for us. But turns out we’re only a half mile from the well, so I shoulder my pack, head for the well—and Kelvin Bridge, where I ended the day yesterday. Gordon will also head back to the bridge, there to wait for me. Then, after another stop at the pizza shop in Kearny, a pass by the library, we’ll head back to the “rocky section,” there to spend the night—and launch the trek for tomorrow.
The bushwhack from the well, on down Walnut Canyon is a tough go, and I must stop often to pick my way down and through. But as the rising sun starts splashing the high canyon walls with pure radiance, and I become mesmerized by the magic of it, the spell being cast, the mystic silence, does the gnarly bushwhack present not the least problem! Ah, and now, in such of Nature’s cathedrals, might one who listens well hear those far-off, beckoning pipes.
Having a GPS, along with solid, reliable coordinates, a true blessing. Making the turns, following the designated route—no problem.
Having made the climb from Walnut Canyon, yet early morning, and as such vantage presents the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, and the Gila River below, I’m immediately content with knowing this day’s trek is in the bag.
Winding the side canyons awhile, then descending to the river, at the railroad trestle, I hop the tracks and hike on to Kelvin Bridge, where Gordon patiently waits.
A fun time, spending the afternoon (again) in Kearny. Meet Darrell and Gary, both local outdoor enthusiasts. A couple hours at the library, and as the day cools back down, we once more head to the trail.
“Here, in this wild, primeval dell
Far from the haunts of man,…
May one not hear, who listens well,
The mystic pipes of Pan?”
Tuesday—May 18, 2010
Location—Picket Post Trailhead
A half mile from the Walnut Canyon artesian well, that was as close as Gordon could get the van. So, I’ve that distance to hike to begin this day. And I’m out and hiking at five. From the confluence of White and Walnut Canyons, the artesian well located there, I’ve an abrupt pull first thing, 2,000 feet up and into the Tonto National Forest, the White Canyon Wilderness. The hike up is easy enough, good tread, welcome breeze. The climb’s behind me by seven. Walnut and White Canyons will stand out in my memory as a spectacular part of Odyssey 2010. The sheer walls, the sky-bound spires, together they form a cathedral-like setting—Gods own special place, where man might come to join Him, to be in His presence.
The remainder of the morning is spent passing Picket Post and Montana Mountain(s).
By eleven I can see and hear the traffic on busy US-60, and by quarter after I meet Gordon hiking up the trail toward me.
The afternoon is spent in Superior, lunch, library, then to the market for a few things needed for my first overnight on the trail.
“I live to hold communion
With all that is divine.
To feel there is a union
‘twixt Nature’s heart and mine.”
[George Linnaeus Banks]
Wednesday—May 19, 2010
Location—Rogers Trough Trailhead, then on to Walnut Spring, Superstition Wilderness
A quiet, cool, and restful night at Picketpost Trailhead. Had the alarm set for four, time needed to prepare for the next two days, to review maps and data, etc., as I’ll not have the benefit of support again until tomorrow evening. Yes, folks, I’ll be sleeping on the ground for the first time this journey!
From the trailhead it’s under US-60, across the tracks, a short section of open (flat) desert, then comes the climb up to and around Montana Mountain. A steep, very long, steady-at-it climb to reach Rogers Trough Trailhead. Make it by 12:30—my destination for today.
From Picketpost to AZ-88, Roosevelt Lake, it’s 48 miles. If I can split the 48 into two 24s, then one overnight in the Superstition Wilderness will do it. So for hitting it hard today, past Rogers Trough and on into the Superstitions.
From Rogers Trough, the trail drops 800 feet into Rogers Canyon before climbing 1,100 to the ridge, site of Reavis Grave. The trail then passes the ruins of the old Reavis homestead. A few broken terra-cotta tile on the uneven slab, a stone spring box, a few rusting implements—about all that’s left of the place. It’s apparent these folks didn’t have much. Hardscrabble can’t begin to describe their existence/subsistence, the lives these sturdy pioneers daily endured. Neither can remote begin to describe the isolation. Ah, but I suspect the Reavis family were happy, cheerful folk.
Up to this point there’s been fair traffic on the trail. At the junction to Reavis Gap, all that changes. The Reavis Ranch area is quite the oasis, watered as it is by the clear-running brook that passes the old ranch house. Most folks come up from the Reavis Trailhead, AZ-88, a shorter distance. Obviously, few venture deeper into the wilderness—reason I find out shortly—rocky, difficult tread.
After a 28, weary and tired to the bone, I manage Walnut Spring, another delightful oasis. The side-hill seep has been boxed up with old logs. It’s about three feet square, a couple feet deep—absolutely classic—cool water, sweet and clear. Forgive me for not getting a picture. The day was done—and so was I.
“It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us
how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.”
Thursday—May 20, 2010
Location—Cottonwood Spring, Superstition Wilderness, then on to AZ-88, Roosevelt Lake
On the ground, in my little Nomad tent, I slept soundly, waking just before four. With only 20 miles left to reach Roosevelt Lake, I’m confident I’ll make it on in today. But alas, after four hours covering less than seven miles, and not yet out of the wilderness, I begin wondering.
As I struggle through the rocks and boulders, seemingly endless as they are, I try keeping a good attitude. I had expected to be mesmerized, spell-bound if you will, by the unique beauty I know to be the Superstitions—but that isn’t happening.
When Sheltowee and I hiked/bushwhacked the Mazatzal Wilderness, Tonto National Forest—that was in 2002—from a high vantage we could look south, into the Superstitions. It was one of those far-off hazy days, the Superstitions appearing as a dream-like mirage, alluring and faint, Weavers Needle dominating the far horizon. I remember wanting to go there. I could feel the lure. Tom Mountain Man Hess, from Hatchett Creek, Alabama, whom I’d met during Odyssey ’98, had been to the Superstitions—and had got caught with some of the treasure he’d found (and taken) from them. The tale of his adventure totally captivated me. The memory of seeing Weavers Needle that day long ago—how vivid does it remain in my mind’s eye.
Hiking north from Superior, I could again see Weavers Needle, this time from the south. I was certain, beyond doubt, that the Arizona Trail would lead me to it. But it has not.
And so, now, as I continually struggle through the most treacherous tread I’ve ever been dealt, falling often, do the words of Maurice Brooks come to mind: “Blessed is the land whose fulfillment is greater than its promise.” And so, perhaps his words will help you appreciate and understand my deep feeling of disappointment this day.
Oh yes, I have seen splendid mountains these past two days, but not even the likes of those colorful sentinels recently passed in Walnut and White Canyon(s), certainly nothing the likes of Weavers Needle.
Forgive me, dear friends, AZTA, I had certainly set my expectations way too high. It is not the fault of the Superstitions—neither is it yours.
By three, in the stifling heat (hottest day this year) and after losing my way above the lake community, I finally reach the Roosevelt Bridge where Gordon is waiting. A six-pack (of Coke), a delicious steak at the local grille, then to the Forest Service campground for the night.
“We are, all of us, subject to crosses and disappointments,
but more especially, the traveller…”
Friday—May 21, 2010
Location—Mills Ridge Trailhead
What a fine facility, Windy Hill (USFS) Campground, right on Roosevelt Lake. Three bucks for the night, total for both of us (with Golden Age Passport), hot showers included! Probably be awhile before we hit a deal like that again.
Having done the extra miles yesterday, to reach AZ-88, leaves less than eight miles on up to Mills Ridge today. Not going to complain the least—the short day, some rest for my weary body, especially my war torn feet, from doing battle with the rocks.
Sure not used to short days after this past odyssey. A simple enough adjustment, just not easy. Seems I should be moving on with so many hours of daylight remaining.
Hand washed my clothing in the bathhouse sink last, so not only am I clean, but also my clothes—socks were really getting bad. Good old Gold Bond only goes so far!
It’s another clear, cool morning for hiking the Arizona Trail. After crossing the Roosevelt Bridge I’ve a climb of 1,500 feet to regain the ridge. Great views back down to the lake, and a pleasant hike along the secondary ridgeline on over to the trailhead where Gordon awaits. This day’s hike is finished by eight-thirty.
“It’s simple…it just ain’t easy.”
Saturday—May 22, 2010
Location—Pigeon Spring Trailhead
I don’t worry all that much, nor do I concern myself about all this climbing anymore. I’ve two thousand feet up first thing this morning, into the Four Peaks Wilderness. It is quite amazing that my legs have come back under me—one more time—thank you, dear Lord!
Another clear, cool, cloud-free day for trekking the Arizona Trail. Gordon has me climbing by five. No need to carry extra water, the springs and small creeks, all have plentiful pure, clear water. I’ve entered the Four Peaks Wilderness now, to trek the mountainside over and around the four high crags. It’s most interesting, the degree and extent of high country through which this trail passes. When Arizona is mentioned, one logically thinks of the Grand Canyon—or the desert southwest. Mountains with vast wilderness areas probably don’t come to mind. But Arizona has its share of mountains—in spades!
Late morning I’m into some remote, rugged trail. It’s a sideslab, the kind where you can touch the rocks (without bending) one side and quickly end up in another county if you do a header off the other.
A wildfire devastated the entire Four Peaks area in ‘04. Since, the underbrush has pretty much taken over. Following the trail becomes difficult. Thanks, whoever came through with orange flagging!
The final, critical turn for the day I’m able to make only after much consternation. My GPS saves me. No mention of a turn onto Pigeon Trail—after following Four Peaks Trail the entire morning. Pigeon Trail isn’t even shown on the map—but the Arizona Trail indeed turns away from Four Peaks Trail, to Pigeon Trail. My waypoint for the wilderness exit turned me in the right direction.
Early afternoon, fighting an incredibly strong wind, I reach the Forest Service road where Gordon is patiently waiting. Another tough day hiking wilderness. Many fine views back and down to Roosevelt Lake.
“There are no words that can tell of the hidden spirit of the wilderness,
that can reveal it’s mystery, its melancholy and its charm.”
Sunday—May 23, 2010
Location—AZ-87 at Sunflower
A very cold night last, actually a cold front blew through late evening bringing a definite chill. We were at 6,100 feet elevation, the highest point, yesterday and today.
Enjoyed an extra half-hour of sleep this morning and still managed to be on trail quarter past five. I head out without my jacket or gloves. Should have had both, as the day doesn’t warm up much until after nine.
The hike today is along a USFS road for a few miles to begin with, then singletrack the remainder of the distance down Sycamore Canyon, to AZ-87 at Sunflower.
Lots of rocks—a given, plus more great views from the higher elevations. Took a few, final pictures of Roosevelt Lake.
At AZ-87 the trail goes under the road (divided highway) at a drainage culvert. Gordon is parked and waiting by the guard rail. An enjoyable day hiking the Arizona Trail.
“Along the Arizona Trail
A reverence and peace you’ll know
Through deserts, canyons and mountains
From Utah to old Mexico.”
Monday—May 24, 2010
Location—Y Bar Basin Trail Junction
This morning I begin a two day trek through the Tonto National Forest, Mazatzal Wilderness, one of the longest roadless sections along the Arizona Trail—being a distance of some 48 miles. Plans are to do two back-to-back 24s, or some like combination of miles.It’s a very cold morning as I shoulder my pack to go. Gordon sees me off in his always good-natured fashion—“Have a good one. Enjoy!”
By the time I reach Mazatzal Peak, I will have climbed over 3,500 feet. A warning about trail conditions mentions a difficult section shortly after entering the Mazatzal Wilderness. It does prove problematic—tough, slow going through overgrown trail with a very scary landslide that took the trail with it, requiring a climb above into loose rock and dirt. Heard say that one true sign of age is fear of height. Based on that, I’m definitely old.
After a thirteen hour day, plenty of climbing and fighting the overgrown trail, I’m tired and beat. The cactus, brush, everything growing along (and into) the trail has thorns of one type or another. Sometime today I managed to kick one of the low-lying prickly pear cactus, driving a thorn through my shoe and into the tip of my big toe. When I remove my shoe, the thorn stays with my toe. When I try removing it, the bugger brakes off. I’ve dug at it for over ten minutes now with the surgical blade I carry in my first aid kit. No luck. Now it really hurts, but I’m just too tired to dig any longer—I give up.
I’d expected to find water at Windsor Spring, but there is none. Andrew, from Santa Fe (the first backpacker seen this trip) saves the day. He’s camped here for the night, too, and he’s lugging lots of water. Fills both my water bottles. Another cool night—jacket stays on.
“Pain is mandatory. Misery is optional.”
Tuesday—May 25, 2010
Location—City Creek Trailhead, Payson
A cold night, but I managed fine and slept soundly. I get myself up, out, and hiking just after five. Looks to be the makings for another clear, beautiful spring day in Arizona.
I’ve a number of turns today, so I must check my location often, relying on waypoints along.
I’ve good tread all the way to Sandy Saddle Trail and I make good time. Then the day starts coming apart. Up a wash where there’s been flooding, the trail all but disappears, as another problem develops. According to the distance and direction from my next waypoint, I should be hiking up the wash pretty much north, but instead, I’m headed southeast. With the deteriorating trail, along with mismatching map data, I’m concerned about being on the right trail, so I backtrack a mile or two just to make sure. I determine I’m on the right trail. So, back to the wash again, I hike on up. Cairns and ducks have been placed to help guide me, but they soon end too. The trail should turn west, which means it should leave the wash to my left. I spend much time searching. More backtracking, but no luck. Finally, I climb away from the wash, straight up to the ridge toward my next waypoint some three miles distant. Hopes are to intersect the trail somewhere on the other side. This works, and I do find the trail again, but only after suffering badly scratched up arms and legs. Each time I whack my left foot, the cactus needle gets driven deeper into my big toe. Fun this ain’t!
In a short time the trail disappears again. This time in a jumble of blowdown, dead snags from the Willow Fire a number of years ago. More time wasted searching for the trail. No luck. Another bushwhack, this time through a maze from hell. Again, after descending through boulders, blowdown, and brush, I pick up the trail. Indeed, this is a very bad place to be bushwhacking. This last one leaves me with bloody arms and legs—minus my fleece jacket and gloves. My pack got pulled open somewhere along, Lord only knows where.
Two more shorter bushwhacks get me to The Park—seven hours to cover a little over three miles. On the ridge again, I get a dancing-the-horizon view of the San Francisco Peaks, clear up by Flagstaff, yet some eight hiking days away.
The Mazatzal Wilderness is the third wilderness where, in the higher elevations, the most remote areas, the trail is not being maintained. I had similar problems in both the Superstitions and in Four Peaks.
With dark rapidly descending and with over six miles remaining to reach City Creek Trailhead, where Gordon awaits, I ponder whether to risk hiking after dark. There’s a full moon and I have my headlight, so I decide to hike on down (a drop of 2,500 feet).
No waypoint had been set in the ATZ data for City Creek Trailhead, so Gordon established one. Good thing, as I’m sure I’d never have found the van in the dark. Ten o’clock, I’m finally in.
Seventeen hours on the trail today, to do just a tad over 21 miles—not such a great day. Just glad to have it behind me.
“Finish each day and be done with it.”
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]
Wednesday—May 26, 2010
Location—City Creek Trailhead, Payson
The halfway point in this hike was reached two days ago. We’ve not taken a day off since the beginning of this trek. After the beating yesterday, I need a break.
First to Payson for breakfast. Then to the post office for my mail drop. Letters and care packages from family and friends—just a super boost, thanks folks!
On up the road to Pine to a little cabin right downtown. Then a long, hot shower to sooth my wracked old body—and more digging for the thorn in my toe. Finally, a good plunge with the tweezers and it’s out, the final quarter inch of it. What a relief!
After a trip to the laundromat, it’s feet up/relax time.
“Take time to recharge your batteries.
It’s hard to see where you’re going when your lights are dim.”
Thursday—May 27, 2010
The hike begins today just west of Payson, on the old road to Baby Doll, and LF Ranch(es), the very road over which Sheltowee and I hiked together some eight years ago. I was on my transcontinental trek at the time, and Dan was collecting fodder for his great book, America, One Step at a Time. Got a couple bars on my cell, so I give him a call—a special moment, to reminisce a special time.
The road leads past the ranches to the East Verde River. I figure this will be the place I finally got my feet wet this trek, but it turns a boulder hop.
From the river I’ve a long, steady 3,000-foot climb to Twin Buttes/Hardscrabble Mesa. It’s a very strenuous up, what with the loose rocks, which remain constantly underfoot.
The joy of this day is a stop by Whiterock Spring, to rest my weary body, to get out of the heat, and to slake my dusty thirst with the most refreshing, cool, clear spring water I’ve ever tasted. And Whiterock Spring? It feeds the most delightfully pleasing (to the eye) spring box I’ve ever seen, made from (straight) staves—as are barrels made—bound together with iron straps, the spring piped into the box. Just an absolutely classic design, as perfect as one could ever imagine. I tarry long! Pics and a video will be up in awhile. Be sure and check out Whiterock Spring!
Another fascinating time—hiking through such a strange collection of rocks—big rocks, little rocks, all with holes in them. Did you know that if you find a rock with a hole in it, that means “good luck?” I hike on up the trail with a pocket full of good luck!
The stumble and bumble continues all the way to Twin Buttes and FR-194, where Gordon awaits.
A hard day on the Arizona Trail, but I’m smilin’ and my chin’s up!
“It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit;
It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.”
[Robert W. Service]
Friday—May 28, 2010
Getting better all the time as a short order cook. Fixed spaghetti last evening—with a pound of ground round tossed in. Quite the high octane kind of meal. My energy level is right up there this morning. An abundance of “power” for this day, a short trek on over to Pine.
I’m out and hauling a little before five. Another grand day in the making—along the Arizona Trail.
I ended the hike last, and begin today’s on Hardscrabble Mesa. Now I think I know the meaning of hardscrabble. It stands for “rocks,” underfoot, overhead (the bluffs, which face up the mesas), everywhere, as far as the eye can see. There’s every imaginable size, little as a marbles to larger than boxcars—every size between.
The day begins on a power line cut, a total rocked up rut. Slow going. Don’t want to bust it here—end of hike would be the end result—so slow, SLOW, does it.
My poor, barking doggies are letting me know they ain’t happy, not the least, in no uncertain terms. New Balance didn’t come through with new shoes for this year’s odyssey, so I’m trying to get along with old (pretty much worn out) ones—from previous years. Soles are thin and inserts are shot on all of them. Not a good way to stumble these incessant rocks.
The highlight of this day is seeing a cow elk and her two little ones. They go stumbling across the trail 20 yards ahead of me. On, and when I startle a cow (domestic), it barely avoids busting its butt as it rattles through the rocks and off the side of the Mesa.
Hopes are to finish this day, only 12 miles, around ten, then head back down to Payson, to the mom-n-pop, where we had breakfast the other morning, then to the post office and library—and finally, Wal-Mart, for provisions to last us to Flagstaff.
The plan works. I’m in just at ten. Gordon’s waiting. Another grand, happy day on the trail!
“…Take the power to walk in the forest and be part of nature.
Take the power to control your own life…
Take the power to make your life happy.”
[Susan Polis Schutz]
Saturday—May 29, 2010
Location—General Springs Trailhead
Today’s hike will be transitional, involving a climb of 2,000 feet up and onto the Mogollon (say muggy own) Rim. First comes a 17-mile bumper ride on the Highline Trail, which stays below the rim but follows it along. Then the climb.
From Pine Trailhead the Highline starts out tame enough, but it doesn’t take long for the rocks to make a show. First come the up rocks, and in due course, the down ones. Mountain bikes and horses are permitted on the Highline, but you really wouldn’t want to be going through here on either. Problem is, there are countless spurs that form the face of the Mogollon Rim. As they drape down, do countless washes also form. And o’er this literal washboard meanders the trail, through up rocks, down rocks, and bolder choked washes (including the headwaters of the East Verde). Afraid you’d pretty much be pulling your horse or pushing your bike the whole way.
Although the Highline courses below the Rim, it rises well above most of the surrounds to the south-southwest, so the views out and across, and especially the views of the Rim face all along are incomparable. And do the many springs and washes—running as brooks—compliment the beauty.
The final two miles, the climb to the Rim, especially coming after such a long, hard day, prove the final challenge. “Rim Country” is a special place. Today I experienced the most rugged of it.
“The successful hikers are the ones who find goodness and joy
even in the difficult times…”
Sunday—May 30, 2010
Location—Blue Ridge Trailhead
Today should be a cruise, the Rim being relatively flat. I’m out at five with hopes of finishing this day’s hike before noon.
A cold morning; I begin with my down vest, wind jacket, and mitts.
There are few place in these forests that haven’t burned. The stately Ponderosa, being so tall, they’ve managed to escape the rage, so they dominate, providing shade and cover for a most enjoyable day on the trail.
This being Memorial Day weekend, everyone from the metros around are up here on the Rim. Seems they all have ATVs. I could hear them ripping and roaring all day yesterday, and the racket begins around nine again today. A very special weekend for all these folks, the first big weekend of the summer. Ha, but just another weekend for we hiker trash! Sure, the forest and woodland are our home—but we don’t mind sharing, time-to-time, as this wealth granted us rises from that font of Light—and does not diminish.
The day turns to be a cruise, just as predicted. I’m in at Blue Ridge by eleven—Gordon waiting. We head right down to Mormon Lake Lodge for breakfast. After, it’s laundry and shower time.
Back at the trailhead, and in the evening stops by Anne and Susan. Gordon had met them yesterday over by General Springs. We talk trail, especially about the beauty of passage hiked today—a fun time.
“Who walks in solitude,
And inhabiteth the wood,
Choosing light, wave, rock, and bird
Before the money-loving herd,
Into that forester shall pass,
From these companions, power and grace.”
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]
Monday—May 31, 2010 Memorial Day
Location-Allan Lake Landing
Alarm set for four again; going to be a very long day. In order for Gordon to provide support at the end of this day, I’ll have to hike 31 miles to the next road crossing—FR-3. So it’s pack on and hauling at five.
I mentioned the transition the other day, the result of coming up on the Mogollon Rim. But I hadn’t expected such a dramatic and remarkable change—it rains and snows on the Rim, there are trees and grass up here, true desert plants are few—yes, a most remarkable change.
The first hour, the time just before and after sunrise is definitely down vest, jacket, and mittens time. I’m not in shirtsleeves until nearly nine. The drop in temperature at night can often be drastic. It isn’t unusual to see swings in excess of 40-50 degrees.
The trail today is proving most kind, primarily dirt roads, well-maintained, wide open tread, few rocks, hardly any climbing. I’m able to move out without concern for every foot placement; quite unusual. By noon I’ve covered over seventeen miles, so I’m much less concerned now about the 31. I see more elk, and late morning comes the shrill call of a number of coyotes, either side of me.
Lots of turns, with the trail following dirt roads awhile before cutting back into the woods on singletrack trail. All in all, a very pleasant go of it.
By a little after four I break out at the FR-3 Trailhead, where Gordon is patiently waiting. I’m tired but pleased with the successful day. Any day over 25-miles is a long day. Over 30, especially so.
Yes, I rejoice in the good of this day. And now, also, I must take a moment to humbly thank all those who dedicated/suffered their lives over the years to this remarkable experiment, this United States of America. Thanks for making this great country of ours what it is. For…
“This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California, to the New York Island,
From the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.”
Tuesday—June 1, 2010
Location—Double Springs Campground
The Gooseberry Road Trailhead, where we spent the evening and night last, happened to be the road out from countless campsites in the Coconino NF. And with the long weekend all but over, camper after camper continued rolling out. Amazing, some of the rigs—big diesel dualies pulling them. A continuous dust cloud. We lucked out having the wind blowing the dust away. An amazingly popular playground for all the city folk—the Mogollon Rim—three-day weekends are a big deal. Ha, Gordon and me, we have a three-day weekend every three days—all summer!
Not as early a start today, what with only 12 miles to do, so we sleep in till five—I’m on the trail at six. Another day of super trail. Plenty of singletrack, wide and clear—well marked.
Haven’t hiked the Rim a single day without seeing elk and deer. Today I saw another cow elk with two young. But this was the day for deer—26, all in a line, moving incredibly fast right across in front of me. I’ve never seen deer moving in a herd like this.
By ten-thirty this day’s hike is done. I load up and we head the short distance down to Mormon Lake, the lodge and restaurant, for breakfast.
While in the little village I meet and chat with Larry, former executive director of the Arizona Trail Association. Everyone I’ve met here in Arizona is excited about their trail receiving national scenic trail status—so it seems, especially Larry.
There’s a forest service campground right by the trailhead. After a trip to the laundry and shower house next the lodge we settle in at the campground. An easy, leisure-like day.
“Wander a whole summer if you can.
The time will not be taken from the sum of life.
Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it
and make you truly immortal.”
Wednesday—June 2, 2010
Trail Mile—35.2/ 575.0
Location—Past Marshall Lake to Walnut Canyon/FR-303 Trailhead
I’m hiking by five, happy to be free this day; I am feeling strong and of good spirit. More top-notch trail. What a joy!
Another old railgrade, which the trail follows for three miles. More interesting history about the timber era of early last century. I enjoy hiking history!
More open dirt roads, well-maintained and marked singletrack. I’m able to make each turn with confidence, relying on my waypoints to bolster confidence.
Rounding a turn and gaining a slight rise am I offered the first stunning view across to the San Francisco Peaks—all sporting headdress of snow.
More elk again today. Also many deer. And for the first time, I see a pair of antelope.
We must get the van in for service, plus there’s the need to purchase provisions for the remainder of this odyssey, so the decision is to hammer down the miles today, head into Flagstaff, to Wal-Mart, this evening, then get needed chores done in the morning. A bit of a bumpy ride along the rim of Walnut Canyon, the final six miles or so, but a hike much worth the effort—Walnut Canyon Monument is a natural wonder.
I’m in, to the FR-303/Walnut Canyon Trailhead by a little before six. Then it’s on down to Flagstaff, to the Wal-mart “campground” for the night.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life,
it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
Thursday—June 3, 2010
Location—I-40, then on to AZ-89/Sandy Seep Trailhead
Plenty of commotion and racket in the Wal-Mart parking lot, but if it continued after I fell asleep, I can’t remember. Didn’t wake this morning till after six.
Lots to do today besides getting some hiking in. First order of business is a stop by Denny’s for breakfast—and a couple pots of coffee. Then to Jiffy Lube to have the van serviced. While Gordon waits on the van I shop groceries at Wal-Mart, provisions to get us on through to the Utah line. A trip by the post office, then the library, and we’re ready to return to the trailhead at Walnut Canyon.
Another glorious day for trekking the Arizona Trail. I’ve got my pack up and I’m back on trail a little after two.
Getting around Flagstaff requires a big swing to the east, to the four concrete culverts to get under old Route 66, both lanes of I-70, and the railroad tracks. Then begins a gentle climb up and around Elden Mountain, toward the San Francisco Peaks/Kachina Wilderness. Along the way I see more elk, even get some decent video of them.
Another concrete culvert under AZ-89 and another half-mile of trail and this day’s hike is done. Less than 12 miles—seems such a short day!
Looking forward to the high places again, the wilderness there, the Lord’s domain.
“And in the mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest…”
Friday—June 4, 2010
Second morning in a row starting out without jacket or mitts. Forecast calls for fifteen degree warmer days this coming week. Summer is definitely getting here.
I’m out and hiking at five again. The early morning hours on the trail are definitely the best. It’s also a good thing to have the day’s hike finished before it really gets to cookin’, which can begin as soon as late morning.
By our itinerary tinkering/fine tuning, we’re figuring nine more days to the Utah state line and the completion of this trek. So the oncoming frying pan days—the few we may have to deal with—we’ll not let them become a problem.
Ahead of me today stand the San Francisco Peaks, a climb in excess of 2,400 feet to reach Snowbowl Road at 9,300 feet, the highest point on the Arizona Trail. The climb turns pretty much a cruise, few rocks, gradual ascent. Above 8,000 feet I enter a zone much more alpine, spruce, fir, and aspen become the overstory. Some snow patches remain at the higher elevations, but none on the trail. A few good views down toward Flagstaff, and great views up toward the peaks. It’s a joy to be on the mountain, in the sanctity, this high place—my true home.
Early afternoon I reach the Snowbowl parking lot where Gordon waits. A drive on up to the restaurant for lunch, my reward for just a super hiking day.
“For you shall go out with joy, be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
Saturday—May 5, 2010
Location—FR-9008A, Cedar Ranch Trailhead
A cool morning, but I’m out again without jacket or mitts.
Today will be another transition day, as I descend from the San Francisco Peaks back down to the desert, a drop of 2,000 feet. As the trail leads down, and in less than two miles, the aspen begin thinning out, and in a few more, the Ponderosa. There are incredible views opening up, back to the Peaks, and I stop and turn often to soak in the beauty—lots of photos and videos—just heart-stopping glorious scenery, the snow-capped peaks, the open forests around.
One of the least effort days so far, no climbing, few rocks, just gentle, steady down. There’s not 100 total feet of climbing all day.
I arrive Cedar Ranch Trailhead a little after eleven, as the hot desert sun begins roasting the sand. Gordon’s waiting; a joyful, memory-packed day.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we
must carry it with us or we find it not.”
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]
Sunday—June 6, 2010
Location—Moqui Stage Station
Sunset last was a spectacular show. From where we set camp, and for a full 180 sweep, were we presented unobstructed views back toward the San Francisco Peaks. First, the low angle sun against the mountain, the bright glow from the desert, rising. Then the darkening shadows, spreading a monochromatic canvas across the desert floor, up the spurs and ascending ridges, to the snow-capped peaks. Finally, as we both gaped in silent awe, lifting subtly, then with crescendo-like force, before us did the entire horizon burnish purple. Yes, the purple mountain majesty we all get goose bumps singing about truly does exist—just a spellbinding moment—spectacular.
Out from the van and trekking at five—another perfect hiking day in the making. At the first gate, less than half a mile into the day, I stop to get a video of the sunrise as it creeps across the wide-open desert. Another amazing, spellbinding time. The low angle light, whether evening or morning, reveals the not otherwise seen secrets, the beauty of the high desert.
I’ve a roadwalk most this entire day, little-used service roads across the Babbitt Ranch, a distance of some 19 miles. Didn’t see a single vehicle or another person the entire day. A number of gates to pass through, each giving me the opportunity to stop a moment and look back at the Peaks—lots of postcard views—many photo ops.
In the ATA description for Passage #35—Babbitt Ranch, mention is made that the Ranch “…has granted permission for the Arizona Trail to cross the CO Bar Ranch.” Though following along primitive roads the entire way, the high desert through which the trail passes, the open-to-the-horizon views, provide a most memorable experience. Thanks—folks at Babbitt Ranch—thanks for letting me cross your land!
By early afternoon it really starts cookin’. Happy to have this day’s hike finished early.
“Oh beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”
[Katharine Lee Bates]
Monday—June 7, 2010
Location—Grandview Lookout then on to South Kaibab Trailhead
The hike today combines Passage #36, a distance of 19 miles, with Passage #37, a distance of 23.5 miles. However, since it isn’t necessary for me to resupply (ATZ passage sheet states “Grand Canyon South Rim uses bike paths as it heads west toward the town of Tusayan for resupply opportunities.”) so, from Grandview Lookout we found another, much shorter route to reach South Kaibab Trailhead, a distance of only 10.6 miles. This alternate route takes me up Coconino Rim Drive (FR-310), 1.3 miles north to Rim Drive (AZ-64), then west on Rim Drive for 9.3 miles to the South Kaibab Trailhead. So today’s hike totals 29.6 miles, not 42.5—but we’ll stick with the itinerary mileage for ease of data keeping.
The old Moqui Stage Stop, where we “camped” last, not much left of it save a dilapidated cistern. During the late 1800s it served as a stagecoach stop for tourists traveling from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. The bumpy ride took 20 hours and cost twenty bucks. When the railroad came to the Canyon, that was the end for the stagecoach route—and the Moqui Stage Stop.
The trail today makes for a very pleasant hike, along old forest roads through mature Ponderosa pine. Some rocks, a few minor ups and downs, a bunch of gates—and the ever-present dusty-bottom-dry stock “tanks” (say dirt ponds), and I’m at Grandview a little after eleven.
The alternate route on over, the short distance to the Canyon, is a no-brainer. I’ve got it hiked out by three. The park campground is full-up, so we head back to Grandview (out of the park), and call it a day.
The most exciting day of all the days, tomorrow, a rim-to-rim hike through the Grand Canyon, a distance of 21 miles, elevation change of near 12,000 feet. Oh yes, gonna be an exciting and memorable day—for sure. Lord, give me the confidence to step out, grant me the strength to endure.
“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield but to my own strength.”
Tuesday—June 8, 2010
Location—North Rim/North Kaibab Trailhead
Today is the day to do the canyon, the Grand Canyon—rim-to-rim, a distance of some 21 miles, elevation change of nearly 12,000 feet.
We’re up again at four and hasten to get going. From Grandview, where we’re camped it’s a twenty-minute drive to the South Rim and the Kaibab Trail.
We’re there by five and I bail off the rim a little after. As I start down I hear “Have a good one, enjoy.” Gordon’s always enthusiastic sendoff. Gordon’s been here many times before, with his mother, Mildred, his sister, Sue Ellen, and their dear friend from Nebraska, Evelyn. So, Gordon, dear friend, this hike across the canyon today, this hike’s dedicated to you—and yours remembered!
Folks who’ve been to the South Rim, who’ve tried to explain their experience, always appear frustrated with lack of proper words for an explanation. Usually there’s resignation to something like, “You’ve got to go see it yourself.” Ah yes, folks, if you’ve never felt totally insignificant, this place will do it for you. And that’s about the best I can come up with to explain. Anyway, it’s true, you’ve got to come see the Grand Canyon—South Rim—for yourself.
My hike down to the Colorado River, then up the North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim took eight hours, forty-five minutes. The last 1,400 feet, from the tunnel to the top seemed eternal. My legs just wouldn’t climb anymore. The temperature had risen to over 100 degrees, and the sun was drilling a hole in me.
During my time in the canyon, seemed I was stopping every minute for either a still shot or a video take. Some really breathtaking shots. Check the Odyssey 2010 album in a week or so, the pictures should be up by then. I hope they capture just the least of what I’ve seen and experienced.
An amazing day, one of the most physically demanding I’ve ever spent on any trail—and one of the most rewarding.
“It’s hard to capture just how small you feel here.”
Wednesday—June 9, 2010
Location—East Rim Trailhead
It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt as exhausted as I did at day’s end yesterday. My energy locker was completely empty when I finally reached the North Rim. This morning I’m out and hiking but not with my usual lightness of foot.
Thankful for the relatively short day today, less than 20 miles—a blessing for sure.
Not near the excitement today either, a hike along a telephone easement, a pleasant walk through a green, spring fed wash, a bit of climbing, and a view or two across the canyon.
Never really did get going well, at all—happy to get my miles done and call it a day. I will be strong again—tomorrow.
“He giveth power to the faint;
and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”
Thursday—June 10, 2010
Location— FR-249 (second crossing)
Another pleasant day dawning—to trek this next to final day on the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Wide-open tread, few rocks, a stack of switchbacks down to Upper Tater Canyon, not the least struggle, then more pleasant, well-watered meadows, and finally, a roadwalk around Telephone Hill, the high ground having fallen victim to a wildfire a few years ago—many blowdowns, walls of brush. So, to the road for ten miles, as recommended by the Arizona Trail Association.
I finish the day, again, on fine, well-maintained singletrack, up to the second crossing of FR-249, a relaxing time—time to reminisce, time to give thanks for this amazing journey.
A long-mileage day; but more a cruise.
“Here I am safely returned over those peaks
from a journey far more beautiful and strange
than anything I had hoped for or imagined…”
Friday—June 11, 2010
Location—Utah State Line
A fretful night last; I had difficulty sleeping—agonizing the ending of another amazing journey. But I did rest and I’m ready for this final day on the Arizona Trail.
The morning is pleasant and I’m able to get out without my jacket—for a pretty much down hike (down in elevation, and a bit of a funk-like down) the remainder of the miles to the Utah border. I’m back in the desert again, without the accompanying heat. It’s an overcast day, the first this trek.
The hike today is through sage, juniper, and piñon, along ridges and dry washes. Late morning I’m beginning to get views over to the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, and by twelve I’m able to see the end of this journey, the State Line Campground.
Gordon has hiked in a short distance, to the top of a little rise. He starts whooping when he sees me coming. We walk back to the van together, then to the sign marking the line between Arizona and Utah, the end of the Arizona National Scenic Trail—and my thru-hike. Gordon cheers me. I’m up now. Indeed, it is a great feeling arriving here, after nearly 800 miles, 41 days. Yes, a great feeling! This journey has proven a very rewarding time, a most worthwhile endeavor. There’s been much climbing, many days in excess of half a mile vertical elevation change. I’m thankful I was up to the challenge. That my legs came back under me one more time—a true blessing.
A relatively short trail, the Arizona, but much diversity, from high alpine (above 8-9,000 feet) settings, spruce, fir, pine, to the stark desert floor (in full bloom). The Arizona Trail is certainly worthy of National Scenic Trail status.
And now a word of thanks to the ATA, to the staff, to the stewards, to all who give of their time to build and maintain this trail—I am the benefactor of your untiring work, thanks!
Finally, to all dear family and friends, you who follow this old fellow’s wanderings about; it’s sure been my pleasure having you along!
And now home, for a few weeks of needed rest before heading for Glacier National Park, Montana, to trek the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail.
“Ask for the ancient paths where the good way is;
and walk in it and find rest for your souls.”
Blue Shadows on the Trail