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Friday, April 10, 2009

BLUE RIDGE

BLUE RIDGE Passage #28 of the Arizona Trail Coconino National Forest In 1994 a group of dedicated hikers formed the Arizona Trail Association to fulfill the dream of a geophysicist, teacher and long-distance runner. The seeds of the Arizona Trail were planted back in the 1970s when Dale Shewalter thought it would be cool to hike the Appalachian Trail, but instead, moved to Arizona. Once in the Grand Canyon State, Shewalter quickly succumbed to the geological diversity underfoot and set out exploring. By 1985, he had blazed his way from Nogales to Flagstaff by linking existing trails and roads spawning a plan for a state-traversing hiking path. Over its 750-mile route, the Arizona Trail passes through virtually every eco-system in the state. From its origin in the desert near the Mexican border to its terminus on the Kaibab Plateau, the trail is designed to showcase Arizona’s diverse landscapes. Divided into 43 “passages” the route can be tackled in manageable chunks. The Blue Ridge passage samples the canyon-riddled high country south of Flagstaff. Best experienced as a 2-day backpack or one-way car shuttle hike, the trail is mostly flat except for where it plunges into the awe-inspiring gorges of East Clear Creek and General Springs canyon. Throughout the hike, the blue-green ridges, for which the trail was named, take center stage on the pastel horizon. HIGHLIGHTS: Pleasant introduction to the northern segments of the Arizona Trail featuring scenic views and a plunge into East Clear Creek Canyon. LENGTH: 15.8 miles, one-way RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 7,300’ – 7,500’ Driving distance from Phoenix: 165 miles one-way GETTING THERE: North access: From Payson, go north on Highway 87 to Forest Road 138 (road signs say Moqui Campground). Turn right onto FR 138 and continue for about 100 yards. The trailhead is on the east (left) side of the road. South access: From Payson, go north on Highway 87 to Forest Road 300 (General Crook Trail). Follow FR 300 (stay straight) for 12 miles to a turnoff on the left that leads to “Battle of Big Dry Wash” historical marker. From there, turn left and follow the power lines for roughly a third-of-a-mile to the General Springs trailhead. Information: (928) 477-2172 or fs.fed.us/r3/Coconino or aztrail.org

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