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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Escudilla Mountain Wilderness re-opens for hiking this weekend

After being closed to public access since last year's devastating Wallow Fire, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest will re-open Escudilla Mountain Wilderness beginning this weekend.
Escudilla Mountain Trail: August, 2006
However,  the announcement also advises all entering the area to "look up, look down, look around" for stump holes, teetering snags and other dangerous post-blaze hazards.


Gladiator Fire video tour

Here's an excellent video that details the progression of the Gladiator Fire near Crown King:


Monday, May 21, 2012

One trail--many loops

Coconino National Forest

Loop trails are the big thing in Flagstaff’s Elden Mountain-Dry Lakes Hills area.  Every trail connects with another making for myriad hiking options, especially on the west side which was spared from the 2010 Shultz Fire.  Oldham trail #1 is an easy-to-access route leading to some of the most scenic and heavily traveled loops—most notably, the Brookbank and Sunset trails.  Pine, fir and oak trees shade much of the area and several experimental forests and aspen regeneration projects add interest for kids and forest-loving adults alike.  With so many choices, selecting an Elden-area loop hike is a tough decision but, this day, we decided to connect with the Lower Oldham, Rocky Ridge and Easy Oldham trails.
Rocky Ridge Trail

Here’s what we did:  Begin at Buffalo Park and hike 0.5 mile straight thru to the Lower Oldham trailhead—which is also a portion of the Arizona Trail (AZT).  Hike 0.4 mile to the first junction, veer right (northeast) and hike another 0.4 mile to the second junction at Pipeline/Fatmans trail.  Continue hiking northeast (follow the AZT signs) for another mile to the third junction where a sign for Rocky Ridge Access indicates that the AZT turns west (left) here.  This will be the return part of the loop, so continue 0.8 mile north (stay straight) to the big Lower Oldham trailhead on FR557 (Elden Summit Road).  From here, cross the road, pick up Rocky Ridge trail and follow it 0.8 mile to the turnoff for Rocky Ridge Access/AZT---this will be a 3-way junction.  Your path is located slightly downhill near a giant boulder.  Heading east, hike 0.3 mile back to Lower Oldham, turn right (south) and retrace your steps back to Buffalo Park.
Mount Elden seen from Lower Oldham trail

LENGTH: 7.1-mile loop
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION:  7110’ – 7580’
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 146 miles one way
DOGS: dogs must be on leash in Buffalo Park
BEST SEASON: late April - November
From Flagstaff, travel north on Fort Valley Road (US180) to Forest Ave.  Turn left and continue to the stop light at Gemini Drive.  Turn left and follow the signs to the park.
INFO & MAP: Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-526-0866

Bill Williams Mountain Watershed closed to entry

Hi Hikers, fire season continues to take its toll on Arizona  summer hiking destinations.
Due to extreme fire danger, Kaibab National  Forest has decided to CLOSE TO ENTRY the sensitive watershed area around Bill Williams Mountain south of Williams as of May 21, 2012. This means no access to Bill Williams Mountain Trail, Benham Trail, Bixler Saddle and other surrounding routes.The closure is bounded by Perkinsville Road (CR73) on the east, south to FR122, west to FR108 and north to I40.  Once the area has received sufficient rainfall, the forest service will consider re-opening access. CALL THE WILLIAMS RANGER DISTRICT BEFORE HEADING OUT TO HIKE. 928-635-5600

Gladiator Fire closes parts of Prescott National Forest

You should re-think any plans to hike  Groom Creek, Wolf Creek, Poland Creek and Mt Union in the Bradshaw Ranger District.  That's because the Gladiator Fire burning near Crown King is still raging and smoke is very heavy. Review  the closure notice below and steer clear of the area!
View of the Bradshaw range from Spruce Mtn lookout

(From the National Forest Service press release:) An expanded Closure Order is in effect, as of May 20, 2012 at 6 p.m., for all Prescott National Forest, Bradshaw Ranger District land south of the following: Beginning at the southwest corner, Township 12 North, Range 3 West, Section 33; south of River Pasture, along Forest Road 72 west to FS Road 667, following Middlewater Creek to the south of Maverick Mountain, east to Forest Road 9403C and onto Forest Road 52B connecting to the Senator Highway (County Road 56). Senator Highway east continuing to FS Road 261 east of Mount Union Lookout towards County Road 58 through Breezy Pines, extending to Poland Junction. All roads leading into the community of Crown King are closed. Cleator – Crown King Road (County Road 59) is closed at Cleator. Senator Highway to Crown King (County Road 52) is closed at the junction with Poland Rd. (County Road 58). Mayer-Bolada Road (County Road 177) is closed at the Forest Boundary. Forest Road 711 is closed south of the Forest boundary at Cow Creek Forest Road 362 is closed south of the Forest boundary at Wagner. Forest Road 192 is closed. A Yavapai County fire ban is in effect across all fire ban zones. Prescott National Forest Campfire and Smoking Restrictions are also in effect. For AZ Fire Info & Restrictions Information call 1-877-864-6985 or visit