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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hike to a volcanic lake

Coconino National Forest

Walker Lake
This expansive swale is a photographer’s paradise--especially since the couple of monsoony weeks we've had have coaxed out the wildflowers.  The combination of great views, reflecting pools, abundant wildlife and a carpet of colorful summer blooms provides unlimited photo opportunities.  Acres of wild field mint, daisies, silverweed and New Mexican vervain, lace the air with a refreshing herbal aroma.  In summer this ephemeral lake--which is an eroded volcanic crater--- shrinks to a patchwork of shallow pools with clumps of water smartweed lilies bobbing on the surface. The rim of the cinder cone forms a high fortress around the lake, giving a real sense of being inside an extinct cinder cone. On the eastern horizon, the lofty pinnacles of the San Francisco Peaks touch the sky. To add length and more interest to the hike, scramble up to the crater’s rim with a pair of binoculars to scope out the elk, deer, bear, porcupines and prairie dogs frequent this reliable water source.

San Francisco Peaks
LENGTH: 1-mile roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  8,060' - 8,189' 
From Flagstaff, go 19 miles north on  US180  to the northern exit for Forest Road 151 (Hart Prairie Road) just past milepost 235.  Turn right and continue 1.6 miles on the good dirt road to Forest Road 418.  Turn left and go .2 mile to the second road on the left (across from a log cabin).  Go left onto this unmarked dirt road, continue a short distance to a 3-way roundabout and then go right to the circular parking area.  The trail begins at the “road closed” sign in the northwest end of the parking area.
New Mexican vervain
INFORMATION: (928) 526-0866, or refer to the Coconino National Forest map

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