Monday, May 23, 2011
ARIZONA TRAIL: HAY MEADOW
AZ TRAIL PASSAGE #29
Near Clint's Well
We love smelling trees. Not just any old species---we prefer “yellow bellies” -- the crème de la crème of local aromatic timbers.
Yellow bellies are mature Ponderosa pines with distinctive yellow-brown, scaly plates enveloping their trunks. This species can live 300-600 years and it takes between 150-250 years before the smoother ash brown bark the trees are born with evolves into the fragrant veneer we love to savor. When warmed by the summer sun, the bark emits an olfactory spectrum of scents like butterscotch, vanilla, cinnamon, cherry-almond and a pungent delight I’ve dubbed “eau de bois”. No tree smells exactly like its neighbor and connoisseurs will gravitate toward the complex aromas of the largest, crustiest specimens. Because northern Arizona—specifically the Mogollon Rim-- is home to the world’s largest swath of Ponderosa pines, it’s easy to find a forest to inhale by hiking various Rim-area passages of the Arizona Trail.
Hay Meadow is a good place to start. Following a portion of the 32-mile Happy Jack passage #29, this hike features some truly gourmet pine sniffing opportunities. Mostly flat, the route passes through a patchwork of conifer-oak woodlands and sun drenched meadows before dipping 400 feet into the narrow corridor of Jack’s Canyon. Near the end of the canyon, trail signage tends to succumb to the ravages of toppled trees, winter runoff and rock slides, making the route difficult to find. It’s here where we end the casual “Hay Meadow” trek, returning the way we entered---a blithe band of bark-breathing backpackers.
LENGTH: 7 miles roundtrip
ELEVATION: 6,838’ – 6,585’
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 125 miles one-way
From Phoenix, go north on I17 to Camp Verde. Connect to SR260 east (toward Payson) and travel 31 miles to the SR87 junction. Turn left (north) and go 9 miles on SR87 to Clint’s Well. From here, continue 8.3 miles to the turnoff for the Moqui campground (FR138). There will be a “Moqui” sign a few hundred feet before the road on the right. Turn right onto FR138 where a sign located roughly 50 yards in from SR87 reads: "Blue Ridge Campground/Moqui Campground/138". The trailhead is on the left about 100 yards from SR87.
ALTERNATE: From Phoenix, take Loop 202 east, connect with SR87 north and follow it through Payson and Pine-Strawberry all the way to the trailhead. It's a few miles longer this way, but the scenery is nice.
From the trailhead, hike back out to SR87, cross the highway heading north to a gated dirt road (FR9852). Pass the gate and follow the road a few hundred yards to the signed turnoff for the AZ Trail on the right. From here, watch carefully for AZT signposts and rock cairns to stay on track.
INFO: Coconino National Forest, Mogollon Rim Ranger District: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/mog_rim/az-tr-happyjack.shtml
Arizona Trail Association: