It seems that any worthwhile hike in Arizona is going to start with something like what we find in the above image…waking a couple of hours before dawn and driving for those same hours to make it to the trail-head before the potential swarm of other humans and the known and persistent presence of the warming/heating/baking sun….
It was 4:37 am in the first image and then 7:12 am with this next one…145 miles later….
In my estimation, nothing compares with the sunrise on a forest trail…or a forest trail at sunrise…a most wonderful place to be on a September Sunday morning.
Many people know of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail…but maybe not so many know about the local version of those adventures, The Arizona Trail. This is a cross-state trek that literally goes from the US/Mexican border in the south, all the way up to the Arizona/Utah border in the north…800 miles of trail broken into 43 segments that can be accessed from various locations and hiked individually…as simple out and back day hikes, or as overnight backpacking treks…or however else one might desire to experience them. You can click on each of the above trail names to be taken to their internet home pages.
For those of you who have been following/visiting the blog for at least the last four years, you might remember various posts about Marshall Lake, Fisher Point, hiking in the Coconino National Forest, etc. The majority of those posts came from my hikes along the segment of the Arizona Trail that goes north from Marshall Lake to beyond Fisher Point…a stretch of the trail that is known as Passage 31: Walnut Canyon.
While it would be something of a dream to be able to thru-hike the entirety of the trail, the constraints of my life as it currently exists only allow for occasional forays. That said, I have hiked the southern part of Passage 31 four times over the last four years, so it seemed like it was time to try another segment…and for simplicity’s sake, I chose the one that heads south from the same trail-head at Marshall Lake…Passage 30: Anderson Mesa. For those interested, the numbering of the passages goes from south to north…Mexico to Utah.
If I’m going to be especially honest about this particular adventure, there was nothing thrilling about it…the only landscape change was going from my parking location down closer to Marshall Lake, up through a couple hundred yards of oak and pine forest, and then onto the plain of the mesa.
There was a lot of open sky…and prairie grass that was much greener than one can see in these photos…. Again with the honesty thing, I should include that it was still interesting…largely because it was different and unknown.
The middle “peak” in the above image of the San Francisco Peaks is actually the highest point in Arizona…Humphrey’s Peak…at 12,633 feet in elevation. I spent the better part of a Sunday climbing up and down that mountain three Septembers past…a wonderful and crowded adventure that you might remember from this post.
As I hiked and as the hours pressed onward, I kept waiting for something “more,” which didn’t and couldn’t really happen, given that I was hiking on the top of an essentially flat mesa…I had to look closely…to consciously view things with “new” eyes….open ones…watching eyes…even then it became a bit……..monotonous.
If I had had unlimited time and endurance, I could have gone the entire length of this particular segment, which was something like 17 miles…and I would have encountered scenery that would have been less…….monotonous.
But…the mountains were there, behind me, the temperature was in the 50s at the start of the hike and only in the mid-70s toward the end…so it was still a good…pleasant adventure.
Less than a mile from the trail-head, the trail passed the Lowell Observatory…and then it passed Prime Lake and Vail Lake. From what I could see, only Prime Lake contained water. Both bodies weren’t “lakes” as we often imagine them, but were more of marshes whose water levels would raise with the seasons. They were also both fenced and posted with signs identifying them as preserves or refuges for wildlife and migrating birds.
The open space in the above image is Lower Lake Mary…not holding any water when I was there…but which contained some during my visit last year which allowed me to capture this image…something I was hoping to duplicate on the morning of this hike.
Hiking across the open plains of the mesa did bring a couple of “firsts” with this adventure…the first time I saw antelope and a coyote while out on a hike. I have seen them plenty of other times, mostly while driving, but this was the first occasion of actually encountering them out in the “wild.”
The first image of the San Francisco Peaks above was from 8:26 am…and the one below was from 11:23 am…three busy hours in the jet-stream hauling clouds from their wherever places to the high desert and mountains of Northern Arizona.
Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into The Arizona Trail…..
The Wasatch Mountains as viewed from outside of the Cougar Park Nature Preserve, West Jordan, Utah…close to an acre of undeveloped land that has been allowed to remain in its natural state…and which happens to be the home of burrowing owls. Humans are invited to visit the preserve and follow the meandering trail…but only during the months of October through February….
A last reward after a long hike in northern Arizona…a view of the San Francisco Peaks from the shore of Marshall Lake (marsh) in the Coconino National Forest, just south and east of Flagstaff. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in that cabin in the distance….?
It was a beautiful, winter morning and I had gone west from the Salt Lake Valley in hopes of finding some migrating Bald Eagles. I had no luck with that part of the adventure, but I did find a sun-clad sky, snow-covered mountains, and a refreshing breeze moving through the valley that contained Rush Lake. If you’re interested in such things, you can click here to read what Wikipedia has to offer about the lake.
Call it what you will, but that’s what it was…and that’s the view I had while driving home from work yesterday afternoon…. The mass of rock and earth to the left of the cloudburst is Mt Olympus…rising to 9,026 feet in elevation with a prominence of 4,700 ft over the Salt Lake Valley.
This is the view facing east…up into Big Cottonwood Canyon, from Baker’s Pass, which is at the base of Gobbler’s Knob, above Mill A Flat, and positioned in front of Mount Raymond, on the east side…as one is preparing to turn to the left and head down into Bowman Fork…which leads to Millcreek Canyon…just east of Salt Lake City proper. Wildflowers and clouds are hard to resist when presented with a Wasatch Mountain backdrop…..
This post literally picks up the trail where the earlier post, Broads Fork – Part I, left off. You can click on the highlighted name of the post to go back to it if you’d like to see where we are in reference to it…. I took this photo standing next to the beaver pond that those two people were walking past in photo #8 of the last post…looking toward the west where we now see both of the Twin Peaks….
This is another backward perspective from the middle of a scree trail…we’re actually going the opposite direction, still heading toward the cirque at the end of the trail…maybe this photo is supposed to be after the next two, but I’m not sure…maybe, though….
You might remember this one…but now it has a wider/larger view of the mountainside beneath the loving cloud….
This is where we make the final ascent into the cirque at the end of the trail. Given that it’s the first week of July and it’s been rather warm down in the valley, I’m not too sure about walking across the remaining snow…don’t know how deep it goes…don’t know what’s under it if I fall through…so I went to the right of the snow field, up over the rocks….
…and found that the trail kept going up, up, up…. I discovered on my way down, by talking with a couple of people you shall see shortly, that the trail would have eventually taken me up to the saddle between Sunrise Peak and the western slope of the Twin Peaks.
But this is where I stopped, you can see my backpack in the lower right corner of the above photograph. You can also see the ascending trail in lighter rocks…. I didn’t research the hike the week before, as I usually do when going on a new trail. I had actually looked into it about a year or so ago when one of my sons and I went up to Lake Blanche (and two other lakes nearby), which is situated in the canyon to the east of Broads Fork and has it’s trailhead on the opposite end of the same parking lot as Broads Fork’s. So I already knew where the trailhead was located and knew that I’d be hiking for a bit more than four miles up into the mountains…but had forgotten most of the rest of what I had read over the intervening year. If I had remembered the rest of what I had read, I would have known that I could have hiked a bit further, switchback by switchback, up to that saddle, and then went up to either Sunrise Peak or to the western summit of Twin Peaks. But I was hiking alone and wouldn’t have attempted that on this trip anyway…so it doesn’t really matter that I had forgotten….
This is another shot, below, that I’ve provided for perspective’s sake…that’s actually a 57yo mother and her 25yo son crossing the snow field, with mom behind the son. I had turned around again to see my back-trail and noticed them at the top left of the snow field…and it took me a few long seconds to get the camera set enough to zoom in and capture them before they left the white background of the snow…so please forgive the uneven shot with the top of the peak missing….
There is a story in one of the religious texts or holy books that details an incident where the people’s god tells their leader to speak to a particular stone and it will bring forth water…the leader was angry with the people for being disobedient, so he struck the stone instead…and it still brought forth water…but he had to pay the consequences later by not being allowed to enter into the land that the god had promised to his people…. I think of this story whenever I see water coming out of the ground like this…sometimes I see it seeping directly out of a hillside and forming a tiny little stream that flows down that hill until it reaches another and larger stream…other times I have seen larger streams, again, seeping out of a hillside. This is the first time, though, that I have seen such a stream flowing directly out of the mostly flat ground…and appearing almost to come out of a rock. When I examined the spring more closely, I found that the water was not seeping from the rock field above it…the ground above the spring was not waterlogged…there was no water flowing from the rocks above, nor seeping or flowing down from the large snow field seen above…so either the snow is melting and draining into a natural cistern below all of those rocks and then pouring out of this spring, or this is a true spring with water flowing up from the ground…at over 8,500 ft in elevation. I don’t know which it is and I suppose it doesn’t really matter for our purposes here…but I thought it was rather fascinating…and beautiful….
These next two photographs are especially for Allen from New Hampshire Garden Solutions…another blog friend who knows and loves wildflowers…. I want to say that the flowers in the first photo are Pygmyflower Rock Jasmine, because that’s what the flowers looks like, even though the stem and the rest of the plant don’t….
…and we have a definite match with this second one…it’s called a Green Gentian, or Monument Plant…the coloring rather looks like a lizard’s skin to me…but maybe that just means that I lived in the desert for too long….
And now a final “Thank You” to the gentleman hiker who caught my camera before it hit the ground as he was changing the camera’s position from landscape to portrait orientation for this last shot….