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Friday, May 18, 2018

Many Popular Coconino National Forest Trails now CLOSED Due to High Fire Danger

Fossil Creek, San Francisco Peaks, Mt Elden, Fisher Point-Fay Canyon Area, Mormon Mountain, Mogollon Rim south of SR87, parts of the Arizona Trail, Kachina Trail. Closures will stand until conditions improve.  


Arizona Forests and Recreation Areas to Close Due to High Fire Danger

Extremely dry conditions and high fire danger are triggering closures of some Arizona public lands. CLOSURES BEGIN WEDNESDAY MAY 23, 2018.
Lands under Stage III Fire restrictions mean there's NO ACCESS.  This includes hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, picnics---everything.  Restrictions began rolling out today and will remain in effect until conditions improve.
Know before you go.  Closures will be strictly enforced and violators will face steep fines and possible jail time.








Monday, May 14, 2018

Ghost of the Coyote Trail #641

Ghost of the Coyote Trail #641
Much of the Ghost of the Coyote trail follows old roads
One of the coolest trail names in Arizona teases of a place steeped in magic and mystery, but the reality of the subject path is decidedly earthy.  Ghost of the Coyote Trail sounds like the kind of name a bunch of weary ranchers would come up with while sharing stale campfire coffee, a flask of booze and a pot of beans. The experience of hiking the trail aligns with this vision. 
White Mountains vista can be had on the trail highpoints
With its imagination-seizing moniker, the 13-mile, double loop trail
located just a mile north of State Route 260 in the town of Linden, drips with cowboy culture in a classic rangeland setting. 
Open range on the long loop
The 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire (the second largest blaze in Arizona history), stripped many of the big trees along the route, leaving precious little shade. The land is recovering nicely and most of the charred trees have been harvested or have disintegrated into tangled piles resting in open prairies fringed with survivor pine-oak thickets and isolated pockets of high desert yucca and cacti.  Although there’s not a lot of elevation change, the trail ascends several knolls for sweet views of Eastern Arizona’s White Mountains.  From the high points, the hazy, low-slung profile of Mount Baldy (11,403 feet) and the distinctive flat top of Escudilla Mountain (10,912 feet) can be seen poking above a jagged horizon.
The well-marked trail follows old ranch and logging roads sharing several junctions with the Maverick Motorized Trail system. Many unmarked primitive paths that crisscross the land can cause minor confusion. Adopted by the White Mountain Trails System, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest route is now marked with white diamond blazes.
Bluegrass Tank, one of several stock water holes on the trail
To stay on track, be sure to located the next marker before moving ahead. The trail also has location markers posted every quarter-mile that correspond with downloadable White Mountains Trail System maps.  If you pay attention, it’s nearly impossible to get lost here.  Another appealing feature of this route is that it can be done as either a 13-mile giant loop or two shorter ones.  Beginning from the main trailhead on Burton Road, follow the access trail 0.2-mile to the beginning of Loop 1 and head out in either direction. 
Location markers like this one guide hikers through the loops
This compact 5.71-mile option packs in a great deal of variety with stock tanks, meadows, vista points, shady enclaves and inevitable cattle encounters. 
The trail winds through ranch country
Roughly halfway through the loop, look for the shortcut passage marked with yellow dots to circle back to the start point, otherwise, continue onto Loop 2 as it enters sunny grasslands and sprawling ranches. 
The trail is marked with white diamond emblems
Big skies and see-forever views define this airy swath of cattle country. 
A weather-ravaged trail marker
You’ll pass among grazing cows, horse farms, rustic barbed wire gates and plenty more stock tanks with good opportunities to spot wildlife and maybe even a ghostly coyote skulking in the scrub.
Pinion pines provides sporadic share
Conflicting reports state that this trail is ranges from 12 to 16 miles in length. My GPS recorded 13.5 miles for both loops, not including the shortcut.
Loop 1: 5.71 miles
Loop 2: 7.99 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6000 - 6200
Gate near Capps Tank
Main Trailhead, (short loop access):
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 80 miles east on SR 260 to the town of Linden. Just before milepost 333, (and 8 miles west of Show Low) turn left onto Burton Road (Forest Road 134) and continue 1 mile to the trailhead on the left.
Long Loop access:
From SR 260 in Linden, go north on Pinedale Road (Forest Road 129) at milepost 227 and continue 1.8 miles to the gate at Capps Ranch Road. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Two Events Will Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Arizona National Trail System Act

Two Events Will Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Arizona National Trail System Act
Passage 1 at Mexico border
Help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Arizona Trail System Act and the 25th anniversary of the trail, by participating in one or both of two commemorative events. 
Passage 28

On Saturday, October 8, 2018, hundreds of trail users across the state will join to collectively complete the entire 800-mile Arizona Trail in a single day.  Be part of history--sign up to hike, bike, run or ride a segment on this epic occasion.
Near Saddle Mountain
Golden Spike: Gila River Canyons
50 FOR 50
Sign up to complete at least 50 miles of the Arizona Trail on your own during 2018 and you’ll receive a cool 50th Anniversary patch!
Overlooking Kearny

Alamo Canyon




Monday, April 30, 2018


Fay Canyon
Not to be confused with the Fay Canyon Trail in Sedona, Flagstaff’s version is a totally different experience. The meandering trail that follows the course of a gully that feeds into majestic Walnut Canyon southeast of town is a mellow, woodsy walk.  Located just east of the heavily-traveled Sandy’s Canyon trail off Lake Mary Road, the Fay Canyon route is a quieter trek with similar qualities.  
Creeping Barberry
The unsigned route is a little tricky to follow. Hike up Forest Road 9477B to the 0.3-mile point, veer left at a gate and pick up a single track heading north.  For reference, there’s a sign warning of heavy horse traffic a few yards down the trail. 
A ravine bisects Fay Canyon
Within a short distance, the trail makes a sharp turn to the right and begins a downhill plunge on long switchbacks.  This piney segment decends on an easy grade to emerge in at the head of the canyon.  Over the next two miles, the gorge gradually transforms from a steep-walled sliver to a gaping valley. Bisected by a water-scoured ravine, the canyon has horse trails on both banks. These can be confusing, but they eventually merge. Just keep heading north and you’ll be fine. 
Arizona valerian
Along its expanding course, the trail passes by pockmarked limestone cliffs, rock shelves and shallow caves.
Fay Canyon
A closer look at the limestone reveals crystal-filled geodes, entrenched fossils and glinting quartz nodules. 
Tiny crystals in limestone
In moister areas beneath the mixed conifer canopy, an understory of thorny-stemmed wild roses, gooseberries and willows grow in profusion among clumpy grasses and patches of creeping barberry, Arizona valerian and daisies galore.
At the 2.6-mile point, the trail ends in an airy meadow where the Arizona Trail passes through. 
Lizards are easy to spot in Fay Canyon
This is the turnaround point for an out-an-back hike, however, trail signs show distances for continuing to the Flagstaff Urban Trails System, Marshall Lake or Fisher Point.  One fun option is to make the short, but steep walk up to Fisher Point. Known for wild winds that churn up speed as they funnel through a network of forested gorges, the area surrounding Fisher Point is a fascinating enclave of contorted rock formations softened by wildflower fields and swaying pines. 
Dunes beneath Fisher Point
To get to the lookout point 400 feet above the major trail junction, follow the signs 1.2-miles and enjoy the breezy vistas. 
Wild rose
View from Fisher Point
LENGTH: 2.6 miles one-way for Fay Canyon, or 8.2 miles round trip with Fisher Point option.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: Fay Canyon : 6,620'-6,950' or 7,033' to Fisher Point
From Flagstaff, go 4 miles south on Lake Mary Road to S. Wildlife Road (at the “Hitching Post Stables” sign).  Turn left and drive a few yards to a “T” intersection, veer left and continue less than 0.1 mile to the sign that reads Walnut-Skunk-Fay Closure Area, No Motor Vehicles.  Parking is very limited.  Please respect private property in the area by not blocking roads or driveways.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tinder Fire near Kinder Crossing

R.I.P. Kinder Crossing
Kinder Crossing
Tinder Fire near Kinder Crossing
Horse Crossing on East Clear Creek
All I can say is NOOOOOOOOOOOO! The human-caused Tinder Fire reported on April 27th continues to grow and is under investigation.  The wildfire is burning roughly  9 miles northeast of Clints Well on the Mogollon Rim near Kinder Crossing and Horse Crossing trails. These two lush trails that lead to East Clear Creek are (sorry, were) favorite summer hiking destinations. I am beyond sick to know that a careless person has put this rare riparian corridor at risk.
Kinder Crossing
Let's hope the firefighters working the blaze stay safe and that damage to these classic trails can be minimized.

Horse Crossing

Monday, April 23, 2018


Van Deren cabin 
“A woman’s bullet kills as quick as a man’s!” These menacing words from a lobby card for the 1948 film, Blood on the Moon, spoils one of the movie’s several twisted story arcs.
Western serial movies don’t get any more typical than this one.
Van Deren homestead
Starring Robert Mitchum and Barbara Bel Geddes (in her glamourous pre-Miss Ellie of Dallas phase) the film’s luscious cinematography features several Sedona locations. 
Despite the film’s period-accurate stilted dialogue, unfortunate stereotypes and marginal production qualities, it’s a captivating tale of a sinister businessman versus a good cowboy (and his “spitfire blonde” love interest---the one with the bullets) who foils an evil plot.
Sure, there are plenty of horses, cattle and smoking-gun action scenes that play out in the pristine Sedona countryside that dominated the area before Sedona became Sedona.  
The road to the cabin crosses Dry Creek
But two things make this celluloid psycho-drama special--Mitchum’s noir-ish swagger and vintage silver screen images of what would become Red Rock Country hiking hubs. Yup, you can hike to two of the film’s focal points--Van Deren Cabin and Cathedral Rock.  While many well-known trails including Templeton and Baldwin lead to the world-famous spires of Cathedral Rock along Oak Creek, there’s only one way to get to the less obvious cabin locale.
Constructed in the 1890s, the two-room abode passed through the hands of various colorful characters including homesteader and cattleman Earl Van Deren.  The cabin’s juniper-shaded enclave on a ridge above Dry Creek is a popular 4x4 destination for local Jeep tour companies. You could shell out for a butt-bruising ride, but a hike by way of two beautiful trails northwest of town is a less jarring, satisfying experience.  
Wooly paintbrush flowers are plentiful on the trail.
Slickrock passage on Chuckwagon Trail

Plaque at the cabin gives an overview of the site's history 
Although much of the land surrounding the cabin is private property, the forest service purchased the sliver of territory around the homestead to preserve it as an historic landmark.  A plaque at the site gives an overview of its moonshine-steeped history of ranching, outlaws, murder and romance.  Some say, a ghost lives there now. Apparently, the true history of the cabin would make quite a good film as well.
View from the cabin site
The least congested footpath to the cabin begins at the Long Canyon trailhead. Hike 1.4 miles on the Chuckwagon Trail to the Brins Mesa junction. Follow Brins Mesa 0.1-mile to where it crosses a dirt road.  Turn left and hike the road 0.3-mile to the cabin.  First glimpses of the famous movie set clash with the foreboding words of another promotional lobby card: “When there’s BLOOD ON THE MOON…Death lurks in the shadows.” Usually, the only things lurking in the cabin's shadows are squirrels and lizards.
View from the cabin site
Chuckwagon Trail parallels Dry Creek
Dust, birds and critters slip through ample gaps in the cabin’s cypress log walls.  A corrugated tin-roof that spans the building’s two rooms and breezeway appears to be the only thing preventing the peeling timbers from collapsing.  The homestead’s roost above the creek surrounded by 360-degree mountain vistas is a Hollywood art director’s dream.  
Cabin is constructed of Arizona cypress logs
Although mid-century tinsel town had a love affair with depicting the Old West through a polished, romantic lens where men wore clean shirts and women were perfectly coiffed, life in the remote cabin could not have been that rosy.  Probably the only common thread between the cabin and the forgotten film in dire need of Netflix resurrection is that both Van Deren and Mitchum won their women in the end.
LENGTH: 3.6 out-and-back or backtrack to the junction and follow Chuckwagon for a 5.2-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4480 - 4680 feet
Long Canyon Trailhead:
From the State Route179 /US89A traffic circle in Sedona, go 3 miles west on 89A (left, toward Cottonwood) to Dry Creek Road (Forest Road 152C), turn right and continue 2.9 miles to Long Canyon Road (Forest Road 152D), turn right and go 0.5 mile to the trailhead on the right.

Monday, April 16, 2018


First glimpses of Sedona on the way up to Crystal Point
Cut into a gentle ridgeline where the red rock marvels of Sedona melt into Flagstaff’s tall pines and mountainous terrain, Crystal Point Trail provides a taste of both worlds.
Franciscan Bells decorate the trail
The trail has been adopted by the Munds Park Trail Stewards (MUTS), an organization that maintains recreational routes around the community.  Thanks to volunteer workers who perform regular maintenance, the trail is neatly brushed, signed and switchback-mitigated.  The non-motorized path makes an easy climb through pine-oak woodlands, meadows and edges bolstered by lichen-encrusted boulders.  Even in dry years, high-country wildflowers like brilliant blue Franciscan Bells add pops of color in sunny spots along the way. The trail’s appeal is rooted in its birds-eye glimpses of Sedona that begin to appear through the trees about a half-mile into the hike. 
Summit ammo boxes hold trail log books for hiker notes
Views of rusty escarpments layered with white limestone that stand above the green valleys of the Verde River watershed gain in scope as the route makes its way to Crystal Point.  
Views of Sedona from Crystal Point
The trail tops out on a knoll at the 1.3-mile point where a picnic table with ammo boxes full of hiker logs invites visitors to stay awhile, enjoy the sights and peruse the inspiring—sometimes weird—comments scrawled in dog-eared notebooks.  While some hikers are satisfied to call this the turnaround point, it’s not the end of the trail.  The journey may be extended by continuing down the ridge toward Odell Lake. 
Munds Park Trail Stewards maintain the route
This 2.5-mile segment descends on lazy bends offering even better views than those seen on the summit. 
Wood betony
Once off the hill, the trail follows a wide ravine to the lake. A dry winter has not been kind to Odell Lake. The shallow reservoir has shrunk to a collection of muddy pools. Still, the area near the water teams with birds and waterfowl.  The path ends at a gate in a residential area at the end of Golden Lake Trail.  
Oak buds

View from the switchbacks
Although it might be tempting to explore around the lake, much of the land is private property, so be respectful.
From trail’s end, you could make a loop by hiking 1.3 miles on paved streets back to the trailhead, but it’s not very interesting.  Instead, head back the way you came for a rewind viewing of a pleasant show. 
LENGTH:  3.3 miles one way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  6480 - 7190 feet
From Interstate 17, take the Munds Park exit #322 and continue 2 miles east on Pinewood Blvd (Forest Road 240) to the parking area on the left.  Trail begins across the road. Roads are paved with a short section of maintained dirt that's fine for all vehicles.