Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mormon Lake’

Starting out at Mormon Lake

Starting out at Mormon Lake- Anne, Velma, Chris, Susan, Sirena, Cynthia, Sistine, Silver, India (myself)

May 12-14

Ten women, one mini-donkey and one therapy dog came from across Arizona—Tucson, Tempe, Sedona and Flagstaff—to join Sirena on a multi-day, 32-mile backpack as she traversed most of Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) and a portion of Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon), leading her ever closer to Flagstaff on her Arizona Trail Trek thru-hike. We came singly, or in pairs; some to support Sirena and promote the trail, some because of a prior professional connection and ongoing passion for the trail, some under the guise of a Mother’s Day retreat, and others to test their gear and skills in preparation for thru-hikes of their own, on the AZT and PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). All of us came to hike hard, camp under the stars, and create a shared experience on a beautiful high elevation, ponderosa, pinon and juniper lined stretch of Arizona’s National Scenic Trail.

Aspen at the approach to Navajo Spring

Aspen at the approach to Navajo Spring

We gathered at the end point (Sandy’s Canyon trailhead) and were shuttled to the start point at Mormon Lake Lodge by volunteers including Jim and Carol McFadden and Sirena’s dad. Larry Snead, former Executive Director of the Arizona Trail Association, was there to send us off with good wishes. After brief introductions we were on the trail, eager to get to know one another while logging some miles and trying to keep warm—a front was blowing through and had lowered the expected idyllic high 70s/low 40s to a much crisper high 50s/low 20s, accompanied by a relentless wind.

Old logging railroad interpretive signage

Old logging railroad interpretive signage

We hiked the short spur from Mormon Lake Lodge that connected us with the AZT. From here we passed our first grove of aspen, snacked at Navajo Spring, and followed an historic railroad bed built for the logging industry in the early twentieth century. Interpretive signs dotted the trail and added to the experience. Water was flowing from Wallace Spring as we passed by Double Springs Campground and rejoined the old railroad bed through a canopy of ponderosa pines.

Flowing water at Double Springs

Flowing water at Double Springs

Sampling the big ponderosas to find one that smells like butterscotch

Sampling the big ponderosas to find one that smells like butterscotch

Hiking alongside the historic logging railroad

Hiking alongside the historic logging railroad

We knew the first day’s hiking was nearing its end when Leigh Anne & Jasmine and Bonnie & Dr. Otis greeted us on the trail for the hike into our first camp near Lake Mary Road. What a welcome treat to be joined by these AZT legends! We awoke the next morning to Jasmine’s braying and fresh coffee “in bed.” How did we get so lucky?!

Leigh Anne & Jasmine and Bonnie & Dr. Otis joined and supported the crew

Leigh Anne & Jasmine and Bonnie & Dr. Otis joined and supported the crew

Leigh Anne makes the morning rounds - Sirena gets a pour of Joe

Leigh Anne makes the morning rounds – Sirena gets a pour of joe

On day 2, the trail continued to follow the historic railroad grade. As we headed north, the tree canopy began to thin and we made the short climb up onto the lava flow that mantles Anderson Mesa. We passed a very chilly black-necked gartersnake and found a wind-blown, handwritten “trail ‘hello!'” note that was possibly intended for cowboy Terry, before stopping for lunch near the Horse Lake trailhead, where we left our four-legged friends and their handlers for the trek across the basalt (but not until after they’d filled us up with water that we hadn’t had to carry, cookies, and kettle corn!).

Sirena on the approach towards Horse Lake

Sirena on the approach towards Horse Lake

The rocky trek across Anderson Mesa

The rocky trek across Anderson Mesa

Into the wind and along the road we continued, past Horse Lake, until we could no longer take the biting wind. We found a somewhat protected spot tucked amongst the junipers where we soaked up the last rays of the sun, watched the full moon rise, and sheltered for the night.

Full moon rising over camp

Full moon rising over camp

The next day we were treated to repeated stellar, sweeping views of the San Francisco Peaks looming ever closer in front of us as we continued our trek through the pinon and juniper woodland of Anderson Mesa, past Vail Lake. We were also afforded lovely views of Upper Lake Mary and Mormon Mountain before turning north towards Prime Lake, and on to our lunch spot near Lowell Observatory, where we were reunited with Jasmine and Otis and the gang, who once again refilled us with water, cookies and companionship.

The Peaks!

The Peaks!

What a great group!

What a great group!

Views of

Views of Upper Lake Mary and Mormon Mountain

Jasmine rejoins the herd

Jasmine rejoins the herd

One cow elk was spotted, and Sirena had several close encounters with horned lizards as we hiked past dry Marshall Lake. Continuing north, we began slowly descending through Kaibab Limestone and Coconino Sandstone, and through very recently burned areas, the result of April’s Fisher Fire.

Marshall Lake

Marshall Lake

Starting the descent into Walnut Canyon

Starting the descent into Walnut Canyon

Foreground to background: Recent Fisher fire damage, Walnut Canyon, the San Francisco Peaks

Foreground to background: Recent Fisher fire damage, Walnut Canyon, the San Francisco Peaks

Finally, we descended a few switchbacks into Walnut Canyon where we were awed by cross-bedded sandstone cliffs basked in an orange sunset glow. We spent a long while inhaling the panorama, avoiding what we knew was coming for all but Sirena—the end of our backpacking escape. A short hike up and out of Walnut Canyon, past early blooming irises, brought us to our waiting cars and inevitable goodbye-for-nows.

Cross-bedded sandstone cliffs

Cross-bedded sandstone cliffs near the head of Walnut Canyon

Nobody wanted to leave this special place

Nobody wanted to leave this special place

Sirena and sandstone

Sirena and sandstone

All of us were grateful for the support afforded us on this trek by co-hikers and volunteers, and envious of Sirena as she continued northwards without us. Just a reminder- the campaign to raise $20,000 for the Arizona National Scenic Trail will stay open until the end of June- already over $18,000 has been raised!  Donate now, and consider becoming a member of the Arizona Trail Association.

Jasmine represents, and you can, too!

Jasmine represents, and you can, too!

Sirena and her little friend

Sirena and friend

Walnut Canyon iris

Walnut Canyon iris

P-J Zone guest blogger trail selfie

Guest blogger trail selfie

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Pines as far as the eye can see

Pines as far as the eye can see

May 8-11

After I had a day to recover from my Very Bad Day on the Highline Trail, I was ready to keep hiking. But as I was getting ready to leave, I got a call that a news station in Phoenix wanted to do an interview with me. After some technical difficulties, I got the interview done around 10:30. I decided to dayhike southbound so that I could still get my miles in. My neck and back were still pretty sore from hitting my head on the Highline Trail. My dad, support crew extraordinaire, dropped me off on the Blue Ridge passage.

Happy to be in the cool pines!

Happy to be in the cool pines!

This area marks a stark transition from the rugged deserts and mountains of Southern Arizona for one big reason- the Mogollon Rim. The Rim is an escarpment of cliffs that marks the edge of the Colorado Plateau. Once you are on top of the Mogollon Rim, all of a sudden you’re in the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the world! The trail is at 7000 feet elevation, the weather is cool, and the walking flat and easy. It’s like a whole different trail.

Singletrack through the pines

Singletrack through the pines

I descended to the East Clear Creek crossing, only there was sadly no water to cross. All thoughts I’d had of taking a nice break near the creek vanished and I hiked on. I spent some time catching a horned lizard, one of my favorite trail activities.

Just a tiny horned lizard

Just a tiny horned lizard

The trail meandered among the pines and then came to the highlight of the passage: hiking in General Springs Canyon. What a beautiful piece of trail, next to a running creek on a perfect day with big fluffy clouds in the sky. I had to take a break to dunk my feet. My body has been holding up well on this hike, except for my middle toe on my right foot. It started hurting a week or so ago and now won’t stop. I keep it ensconced in a wrapping of Band-Aid Blister Bandages to cushion it. I hurt it during river season last year and the endless rocks of Arizona have given it quite a pounding.

Beautiful General Springs Canyon

Beautiful General Springs Canyon

After my creekside break, the trail followed along the stream until it reached General Springs Cabin, built in 1918 as a fire station.

General Springs Cabin

General Springs Cabin

I hiked toward FR 300, which runs along the edge of the Mogollon Rim. The trail descended steeply and then crossed the East Verde River, the same river I’d played in near the LF Ranch in the Mazatzals.

Coming off the Mogollon Rim

Coming off the Mogollon Rim

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe running creek was too good to resist, so I dunked my feet again and enjoyed the sound of rushing water and birdsong.

Feet-in-the-creek break

Feet-in-the-creek break

I reached Washington Park and my dad right as it was getting dark, he had just seen a bear cross the road nearby. We went back for one last night in Pine.

One last look at the Mogollon Rim

One last look at the Mogollon Rim

The next day, I didn’t get on the trail until 11:30, I had a bunch of emails and planning for the next segments to do. My dad dropped me off where I left off so that I could backpack for the next three days to Mormon Lake.

I had a small piece of the Blue Ridge passage left before crossing Highway 87. It was a gorgeous day, the weather was fantastic and after a while I realized that I could hike in a skirt instead of pants. I stopped to change and eat a snack and continued hiking.

Skirt weather!

Skirt weather!

After a while, I came to a road crossing and trailhead that looked way too familiar. How could it be- I ended up back at the trailhead I’d been dropped off an hour before!! I had gotten turned around after my break and I walked right back the way I came! Since the sun was overhead and the pine forest looks all the same, I hadn’t realized my mistake. Feeling sheepish, I turned myself around again and hiked the next half-hour of trail for the third time.

Finally I crossed 87 and the trail continued on singletrack toward Jack’s Canyon. I reached the 500-mile mark of the trip and had a little celebration.

Five Hundred Miles!!

Five Hundred Miles!!

The trail through Jack’s Canyon was pleasant, winding along the canyon bottom. Took a break to enjoy some strawberry jalapeno goat cheese and crackers and goat milk fudge from Fossil Creek Creamery- yum!!

The singletrack ended and I hiked along a series of two-track roads for the rest of the day. My right foot was really sore, sometimes sending shooting pains up my middle toe if I stepped on it wrong. The rocky roads didn’t help matters any. I found a spot to camp among the pines with soft needles covering the rocky ground.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next day was spent traveling a series of two-tracks. I thought I’d see people out for the weekend but maybe they were kept away by the cold, incessant wind. Only saw two guys camped near Bargaman Park. Stopped to talk to them and they filled up my water bottles and gave me a cold pineapple juice. I saw many groups of elk and lots of birds, often when I would approach one of the water sources. One red-tailed hawk sat in a tree, screaming over and over again to others in the area.

Hiking two-track roads

Hiking two-track roads

Beautiful Iris

Beautiful Iris

I hiked until it got too dark to see the trail and set up camp. My feet were killing me, having been relentlessly pounded by the rocky ground. Made dinner and called my dad, who suggested he meet me tomorrow morning and take my pack so that I could carry minimal weight for the final 9 miles into Mormon Lake.

The next morning it was cold with a biting wind and overcast. The remaining miles to the end of the passage were pleasant singletrack through bright green grasses. My dad met me at the trailhead with a second breakfast and a coffee- yay! I offloaded some of my stuff and continued on to Mormon Lake. Thanks Dad!!

Singletrack through the grasses

Singletrack through the grasses

Micro Chicken with a fancy feather

Micro Chicken with a fancy feather

I crossed Lake Mary Road and made my way along the windblown trail. I was all layered up and still chilly while hiking! The trail wound through the ponderosa pines and soon I was at the junction for Mormon Lake Lodge. Hiked down the mile-long access trail to meet my dad at the lodge and say hi to Larry Snead, former director of the Arizona Trail Association. It was snowing! Just flurries, but remember just over a week ago I’d been overheating hiking out of the East Verde River valley. My dad groaned about the weather, he lives in the Chicago area and they’d had the worst winter ever and now here he was, back in the cold again!

Hiking toward Mormon Lake

Hiking toward Mormon Lake

Mormon Lake Lodge

Mormon Lake Lodge

It was always such a treat to see my dad at the end of a day of hiking. He would drop me off, then go on his own adventures exploring the area, then we’d get together and share stories and pictures. He’s definitely where I got my sense of adventure from. So glad he has been such a big part of the hike, he’s the best support crew ever! He came out and helped me a lot when I was section-hiking the trail in 2008-09 and it’s so much fun to be able to do it all over again. It’s been almost 20 years since I moved away from the Chicago suburbs, so to spend this much time with my dad is definitely something I’ll cherish about this journey.

My dad and I went into Flagstaff for the night to warm up and got dinner from my favorite- Pato Thai- and checked into a hotel with a hot tub. It was just what I needed for my windswept, chilly, footsore self.

Up next: a guest blog about the Women’s Backpacking Trip!

I am keeping the fundraiser for the Arizona Trail Association open until the end of June- to date $17,800 has been raised! Click here to donate and help us reach $20,000!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: