The wildflowers were blooming along Lake Mary Road on the southeast side of Flagstaff this past weekend…too beautiful to resist…too compelling to keep driving past without capturing a few images…furthermore, it was 80 degrees in the mountains…and close to 110 down in the desert…so it was a Sunday morning/afternoon well spent up north.
It’s almost funny how the best images from the hiking trip were from before I even arrived at the trailhead….
Taking Lake Mary Road from the freeway takes one, not surprisingly, past the stretch of mountain meadow that has been turned into upper and lower lakes/reservoirs…and then to another forest road turn-off that leads one to the Lowell Observatory, or to Marshall Lake. My destination was the Marshall Lake trailhead that would lead me down into the canyon and eventually to Fisher Point. Six or seven hours later found me with less than 100 photos of the excursion…and substantial joy (?) at how well (to my thinking) the images turned out from the lower Lake Mary….
It’s been close to two months since I made the almost 190 mile trek north to flee the city and its trappings and find a bit of solitude and soul restoration in the wilderness of the Kaibab National Forest (Williams District) located just south and west of Flagstaff.
These lenticular clouds were an added treat as I found the silhouette of the San Francisco peaks in the distance…looking east. Humphrey’s Peak is at the far left of the ridge, the highest point in Arizona. You might remember my hike to the top in this post.
The weather forecast for the day said it was going to be partly cloudy up here…and those clouds in the first image were the only ones I saw for the entire six hours on the trail… No cloud cover, but excellent canopy cover in the forest….
The day’s hike is actually the Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail…an 11-12 mile loop that starts in the Ponderosa pine forest, crosses some meadows, meanders up into an oak and cedar forest that covers KA Hill…goes back down into the Ponderosa, and then skirts the Canyon.
The view above is entering that oak forest…and the view below is from atop KA Hill, looking east again at the San Francisco Peaks. That lighter area along the road is where I stopped to make the photo for my recent post “yellow…along the way…”
Coming out of the oak forest and making a fast descent from KA Hill through a mature Ponderosa forest quickly leads to this open area that looks like a lava field that is slowly being covered with wild grasses and less mature pines. I don’t know if this area has been burned in the last century, but the majority of the trees were much smaller than the surrounding forest. Maybe it’s because they’re growing in a lava field….
The drainage from the above field leads down into the natural pond/cistern in the below photo….
…and continues down into this stream bed that leads back into another forested area….
….and probably less than a mile later, leads to this surprise….
….a lava-wall-bordered pond with lily-pads…actual lily-pads…in a pond…in the high desert of Arizona….. Wow….!
Two of the three people I saw on the trail all day….and their two dogs….
Another of the “Pomeroy Tanks” that are important water sources for the wildlife in the area.
Heading back into the forest proper…crossing a dry stream-bed with more lava rocks….beautiful green….
The loop eventually comes to what are referred to as the Sycamore Falls…behind me and to the right in the below image…which was not flowing…and which is a favorite spot for rock-climbers to practice their skills.
You can easily see the two guys in the below photo…but how about the guy in the one above….?
I stopped to have a snack at the below location…on the eastern ridge of the canyon (looking west) with the falls to the right…where you can see a man in white above where the other two guys were climbing….
I think the stream-bed would be an excellent place to explore…for hours and hours…maybe even days or months…..
I made a wrong turn…or took the path less-traveled that took me to the cliff-edge of the canyon…and had to turn-around, retrace my steps…find the real trail…back to the loop, but it was a beautiful diversion…with lots of compelling green.
The trail eventually led up toward more of a plateau again…forest covered…with strong breezes and winds whipping and almost roaring through the tree-tops. With the lack of cloud-cover that I thought I would have for the day, the winds were welcome in keeping things from getting too warm when walking outside of the cover of the forest. Almost as surprising as finding the lily-pad pond shared above was the discovery of these Century Plants with their bright yellow bouquets…and attendant butterfly and humming bird.
Another view of the actual canyon rim…provoking thoughts of what the place must have looked like when it was forming in the aftermath of the San Francisco Peaks‘ volcanic eruptions in those 200-and-some millions of years ago….
Thank you for visiting….I hope you enjoyed going with me along the Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail…amid the green, forested north of Arizona….
PS….and for what it’s worth, this is my 1,000th post on WordPress….. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey, as well. I’ve met a bunch of wonderful people here and a solid couple of handfuls of very special friends over the past seven years. 🙂
Just over two years ago, I took my first “Arizona hike.” I had journeyed up to the Coconino National Forest just south of Flagstaff and ventured along part of the Arizona Trail to the convenient turn-around location of “Fisher Point.” In reflecting upon this particular landscape feature, I have referred to it as a stone tee-pee, as that’s how it appears….
I suppose the mass might appear to be large enough on its own, but I thought the miniature human bodies would help provide a bit more perspective. The “doorway” of the bottom of the rock is a bit of a cave that doesn’t go too far into the rock…maybe 20-30 feet. Fisher Point, by the way (unless I’m mistaken), is atop this particular stone tee-pee. There is a trail that takes curious hikers up through the draw to the left of this rock, winds up and along the hillside, and finally deposits them at a safe distance from the edge that still allows a greater view of the canyons and meadows that exist around the Point.
The prairie had a name…posted on a wooden placard roadside…west of Flagstaff and east of Williams…close to my destination and far, far away from home…that elemental and figurative place that exists in heart and mind…and has an elusive definition that encompasses both desire and acceptance….
It’s been a while since I posted anything…and it’s been another while since I have been out on any trails, especially mountain trails….but here we are again. This particular trail has been on my radar for several months. Someone had told me that hiking through the mountains of Flagstaff was very similar to hiking in Utah…the trails and the vegetation were supposed to be very similar….
And I would have to agree…they were very similar…and still very different to my discerning and and probably very biased or prejudiced eye. That spot of blue near the center of the below image was the first person that I saw during my hike…the first of so very many people…..
That aside, it was truly wonderful being back in the chilly mountains, smelling the mulch and other forest smells, feeling the trail and rocks beneath my feet again, and finding comfort and shade from the afternoon sun beneath the pine, fir, and aspen canopy on my way back to the truck.
The below image caused me to remember a particular hike that I made with two of my sons in Utah…my younger son and I were telling my older son that “we’re almost there,” and found that we really didn’t know squat about the trail and where we were going…and the substance of the words “false summit” became a reality to us…several times. Some passers-by, or fellow hikers on this trail to Humphreys Peak, were talking about false summits and how the “peak” in the below image was nowhere near our destination. You can see another spot of blue just down from the highest point near the center of the image…it’s a smallish person…or maybe a regular-sized person made smallish by the grandness of the surroundings.
Humphreys Peak (no apostrophe anywhere) is the highest point in the State of Arizona at 12,633 feet in elevation. The trail-head is somewhere near 9,300 feet…so it’s a vertical gain of roughly 3,300 feet and takes the hiker 4.8 miles to get there. I made the below image at some open spot along the trail, some little saddle between rises, that allowed a fairly clear view of what things looked like toward the east.
And this is what they looked like when facing north, toward our destination….above the tree-line…along the ridge of what is part of the remaining structure of a massive, extinct volcano that knew its glory-days some 250 million years ago…give or take a millennium or two…or more.
The on-line literature about the trail said that after reaching this point, if you lost sight of the trail, just keep an eye out for the trail markers…which turned-out to be tree branches carved and trimmed and marked with “TRAIL” and jabbed into the rocks along the way. There were places where the trail was not visible, where it really didn’t exist because of the multitude of boulders…places where one could only intuit where it was heading because it was visible again several yards further along.
The on-line literature also stated that this is the only “tundra” region in the whole of Arizona…a place where trees do not grow because the climate and soils preclude it. There’s another person in the below image…just right of center on the ridge-line.
We’re getting closer, but the end of the trail seemed like it was still pretty damn far away in the below photo….
More people below…four or more….
The final ascent, in the below image…
Taking a breather and looking east over the golden aspen before the final climb to the summit….
I joined six or seven other hikers on the peak before another handful arrived. It was very windy…and sweetly cool…it was the perfect setting to enjoy a chilled and crisp apple, a bottle of actually “cold” water, and some granola before feeling crowded to the point of needing to steer my tired self back down the trail.
approaching the end of a long day on the road, i saw clouds over the mountains and foothills and cinder-cones north of flagstaff, it appeared as though it might rain and i even thought i smelled it on the air as i came nearer to the mountain town, looking south and west at what was north and west of the settlement, i didn’t notice a wind, but maybe that is water falling aslant from the darker sky, above a fence-line dividing the earth in someone’s imagination