Caught a Lyft from my house to the Sandy Seep trailhead on the east side of Flagstaff to get to the spot where I got off the trail on April 24, 2019. Originally, I had planned to continue on after a short stay in Flagstaff but further hiking in 2019 was not possible because of my father’s illness, and then Covid hit in 2020.
So here I am 2 years later starting a 100 mile section to the Grand Canyon south rim. Hiking this section in late May is nice because it’s a bit warmer at night and the snow has all melted. The only problem with waiting until May is that the water sources are all drying up….
The trail winds around the east side of Flagstaff with views out toward the Navajo Reservation
The temperature had dropped into the low 20’s the night before I left and many of the oak leaves were damaged by the cold temperature
Heading north, the San Francisco Peaks come in to view. The trail took me over the shoulder of the peak on the left (Agassiz)
There is no water for the first 40 miles, so I cached a gallon at the 20 mile mark and another gallon at the 40 mile mark. I am trying to cover 20 miles a day on this section.
Daytime temps in the 60’s and very little wind – perfect!!
After marching through areas affected by fire, it was nice to get back to narrow trails with healthy vegetation. From the Kaibab plateau (8000 feet) we descended to about 6000 feet and left the ponderosa pine forest. We entered an area with pinon and juniper trees with sagebrush growing in between.
We saw a dust devil (like a dry mini tornado).
On the north rim, we saw several of these water collecting systems with a large rubber or metal (water impermeable) snow catcher that was up high and drained the water down into a reservoir, which ultimately fed cow troughs (or in our case, people troughs). Any water source that had metal or concrete side (as opposed to earthen sides) was considered a bonus.
One last night of cowboy camping (no tent).
More nice plants along the way.
Descending to the Utah state line
Ultimately we reached the State Line Campground to finish our 100 mile journey. My son, Matt, picked us up from this remote location and drive us 3 1/2 hours back to Flagstaff.
We had a final meal with Paula, Matt, El Tejano, Mr. Bean, and Hob (a veteran hiker who we met along the way). Then Hob went back to Connecticut, El Tejano to Houston, and Mr. Bean to Honolulu.
Looking forward to the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon stretch (next up).
As we headed north and left the Grand Canyon National Park, we entered the Kaibab National Forest. The area has been co-managed by the Park Service and the Forest Service since the early 1900’s. Logging, then grazing have been part of the history of this area, with evidence of both readily apparent. Early settlers included the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons).
So that brings us to fire. Through some combination of logging, overgrazing, and fire suppression (Smokey the Bear), the north rim has been subject to many fires since 2000. We hiked through several fire affected segments.
The first segment we hit was 20 years old and was still looking damaged, but was regenerating
Then we were rerouted from a single track trail to a forest service road for several miles to avoid a fire damaged canyon (with potential flash flood risk) from the “Mangum Fire” from last year. This more recent fire showed the immediate aftermath of a very hot fire
But, on a positive note, there were already signs of regeneration
Hard to know what to make of fire, other than it seems good in small doses.
These massive fires seem to be a reaction to an unbalanced system where mother nature takes charge to bring things back to where they belong.
Once we climbed out of the Grand Canyon on the north side we found ourselves on the Kaibab Plateau which is a relatively flat, high elevation forest. It ranged in elevation from 8000-9200 feet. The forest was aspen, spruce, and fir. The spruce and fir trees were tall and narrow. The forest was punctuated with beautiful alpine meadows. We left the bottom of the Grand Canyon with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees and found ourselves in a much cooler place with patches of snow here and there.
We came across a fire tower as we reached the northern end of Grand Canyon National Park
I climbed up inside. It was quite windy and the tower was a bit rickety.
After the fire tower we reached a meadow with some rocky outcroppings. These were limestone layers embedded with fossilized shells. It’s hard to imagine that this high elevation forest was once under a body of water with sea creatures in it.
Found a forest creature for my friend Pat.
Setting up camp at the end of the day.
Then enjoying the sunrise the next day (and a nutritious breakfast)
When I got to camp Saturday evening it was very hot, and I had been sweating a lot. I didn’t have much energy and felt a bit light headed. Mr. Bean said that he knew just what I needed. He is a nephrologist (kidney physician) and he recommended some of these.
Well, they are salted plums and I’m not sure that I ever tried anything that salty, but I really think they helped a lot. Grab some Ume for your next hike!!
Here are a few photos on the way up
And our group when we finally made it!!
I actually much preferred the climb to the descent. I really like climbing.
Enjoying the Grand Canyon (except the heat). Junco
Have you ever been hiking and gotten a blister on your foot? We’ve all been there.
Now when you pop that blister, it is commonly accepted that you leave the “cover” on to protect the raw skin while it heals.
However, if you now go for a float in the Gila River, you might end up with a blister chock full of river pebbles. That’s a Rock Pocket, my trail-namesake.
My current AZT rock pocket count is three. My hiking partner Giggles is only at one. I don’t think Junco has any.
Despite the occasional rock pocket, the sights and sounds of the AZT have drawn me in, and I’m almost halfway done. From snow at the top of Mt. Lemmon to boiling water out of cow tanks near Kearney, I’ve gotten a good fill of what Arizona has to offer, and I’m looking forward to the Mogollon Rim and the Northern sections!
This is a photo of a ??? snake, seen on top of the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix.
This scene was my favorite lunch spot yet, with a few cactuses and mountains to make for a beautiful midday rest.
The last photo is from when we got up at 5 to hike the sunrise and beat the heat near the Gila River.