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Friday, March 26, 2010


SUNSET TRAIL Coconino National Forest There are a hell of a lot of mushrooms growing in the forests surrounding the San Francisco Peaks. Not the ordinary cream-colored buttons and portabellas available on grocers' shelves, but huge, showy parasites. Neither plant nor animal, mushrooms make a living off the decaying remains of, well, plants and animals. Kingdom Fungi pesters humankind with such maladies as athletes' foot and ringworm and then earns redemption through bread and beer. The shadow of the Dry Lake Hills provides a spore-friendly environment and in summertime, the meadows and forests of the Sunset Trail are in full "schroom". The fungi show provides a convenient distraction from the affects of thin air. Starting at 8,000 feet and climbing to 9,274 feet the high-altitude trail passes through a burned area where young conifers and aspens grow vigorously among the charred old growth and little white caps thrive on wood corpses. Once past the destruction, the trail weaves through pines and brilliant meadows teeming with yarrow, daisies, snakeweed, beardtongue, lupine and thistle. The Sunset Trail is not a particularly long or demanding hike. The beauty of this trek lies in the many details along the way: forests, mountains, resurgent life, and the mushrooms that sprout from the dead. LENGTH: 4 miles one-way RATING: Easy ELEVATION: 8,000- 9,274 feet DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 155 miles GETTING THERE: From Flagstaff, drive north on Highway 180 to Shultz Pass Road (FR 420). Turn right onto Shultz Pass Road and continue 5.3 miles to the Sunset Trailhead. INFORMATION:

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