Sunday, June 19, 2011

Humphreys Peak via Inner Basin

Mt Humphreys Peak - Hike
Inner Basin/Weatherford Trail
Flagstaff, Arizona
Mileage 22.55
Time - 8:56
AEG - 5600ft

A "big mileage" weekend was in order after logging only 3.1 miles last Sunday at the Arizona Road Racer's 5K, and what better place to do it than Flagstaff? Mark and I chose to begin the extended trek to the summit from the Inner Basin Trail because Locket Meadow is closed, meaning we would have this side of the mountain to ourselves. A true wilderness experience, so to speak.

A new trail into the Inner Basin took us through the healthiest (and greenest) aspen forest I have literally ever seen. Mark and I kept commenting to each other about how impressed we were with this incredible section of trees. Sadly, our hike through this area came to an end as we gained elevation and intersected the Weatherford Trail. Beyond Doyle saddle, we climbed several switchbacks, crossed the snow fields, and made our way to the Humphreys saddle. Along this stretch of trail, we picked up another hiker/runner named Justin. Come to find out, he finished the Zane Grey 50 back in April, although we didn't cross paths at the race.

The three of us reached a crowded summit (hikers from the Snowbowl Resort side), and met up with a handful of people from our hiking group. They were huddled among the rocks to block the wind while taking a lunch break, everyone appeared to be in good spirits despite the blistering gusts. We chatted a bit, talked about the hike, and a few minutes later Justin went his own way and the two of us were ready to make the lengthy return trip.

Nine hours and almost 23 miles later, the car was in sight. It felt so good to be off my feet for the moment. On the way down, I noticed a small dirt road leading to a meadow on a nearby mountain. "That is where I want to camp" I told Mark. A few minutes later we found the way up to what would become one of my all time favorite campsites. This is the third camping trip with Mark in 2011, so we have a pretty good system down as far as setting up, cooking food, clean up, etc. So before long, we were enjoying a hot bowl of chili and watching the sun go down over the mountains and Grand Canyon in the distance.

-Aspens in what we considered to be the enchanted forest

-A glimpse of Doyle Peak from the Inner Basin

-Our campsite on a plateau just East of Forest Road 418

Bear Jaw / Abineau Loop - Trail Run

Bear Jaw - Abineau Loop
Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Flagstaff, Arizona
Mileage - 12.45
Time - 2:19
AEG - 2615ft

Sunday morning Mark and I woke up, made breakfast, and broke down camp by 6:45am. We hit the road (FR 418) and headed around the mountain for approximately 10 miles in order to reach the Abineau-Bear Jaw trailhead. This was new ground for both of us, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore the area North of Mt Humphreys. I wanted to run, and Mark planned on hiking, so we set out in opposite directions on this loop trail. I ran (or should I say, fast-hiked) the Bear Jaw trail first, while Mark went up Abineau.

This area of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness is incredibly pristine and teeming with life. The gusting winds made the forest come alive, leaving my senses heightened with all the extra noise and activity along the trail. The occasional mule deer would cross my path, startling me temporarily, I tried to make as little commotion as possible and leave them undisturbed. With a heavy presence of deer, elk, bear, and mountain lions, running solo in "big game" territory is quite a thrill. Mark and I crossed paths after an hour, he snapped a quick photo, and then I rushed off the mountain in hopes of thawing out my extremities.

Knowing Mark would take a little longer to complete the loop, I decided to run a few extra miles on FR 418. I'm so glad I did, it was pure bliss. As you can see from the picture below, the scenery was breathtaking. Tall pines, aspens, green meadows, and a mountain range partially covered in snow provided views I could have enjoyed the for another dozen miles or more.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fossil Springs 2011

Fossil Springs Day Hike/Swim
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Strawberry, Arizona
Mileage - 8.02
Time - 6:00
AEG 1391

Summer is quickly approaching here in the valley, so it just seemed like the right time to make the annual trip to Fossil Springs. I led a group of about 15 friends, co-workers, and fitness center members for a day hike on the Fossil Springs Trail to the main falls for a fun-filled day of swimming, climbing, cliff jumping, and a little exploration into the water caves.

There are only a handful of places I return to each year, and this is definitely number one on the list. It's hard to describe how beautiful this area is, the natural spring creates a tropical paradise in the middle of the mountains that you'll just have to see for yourself if you've never been. I really enjoy sharing the experience with all of those taking their first journey into such a truly unique wilderness area. To everyone that came along, thanks for making this such a memorable trip! See you next year...