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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hiking in Arizona's Bigfoot territory

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

Attention all Bigfoot seekers---this is your trail. Whether you take the existence of the reclusive beast with relish or a grain of salt, know that many alleged  sightings in Arizona have occurred in the forests surrounding Bear Canyon Lake.
Even with boisterous crowds of campers, anglers and hikers flocking to this popular summer destination--the beast abides. So, you’ll want to come prepared with binoculars, video camera and---for serious seekers---supplies for making plaster casts of footprints. However, finding the shy beast can be a challenge, even for cryptozoologists--those who study legendary or “hidden” creatures. That’s because the thick pine-oak woodlands surrounding the lake provide ample hiding places and dense undergrowth makes exploring a major endeavor. In the event Bigfoot fails to make an appearance, there are still plenty of other attractions on this high country trek. A scenic aspen-ringed peninsula, bald eagles, elk and secluded, moss-embellished coves make this a worthy hiking trail---even without scoring a peek at the mysterious creature lurking among the pines.
Red Cinquefoil

Red Cinquefoil
Potenilla thurberi
Habitat: loamy soil, pine forests
Elevation: 6,000 – 9,000 feet
Blooms: July-October

LENGTH: 2 miles round trip (on main trail)
ELEVATION: 7,560 – 7,500 feet
RATING: easy
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 147 miles one-way
GETTING THERE: From the junction of AZ 87 and AZ 260 in Payson, go east (right) on 260 for 30 miles to Rim Road (Forest Road 300). Turn left and continue west on FR300 for 12 miles to Forest Road 89, turn right and go 3 miles to the lake.
The last 14 miles are on good dirt roads. The trail goes downhill from the parking lots 0.25 miles to the lake where it continues along the shore in both directions.
INFORMATION: Black Mesa Ranger District (928) 535-7300,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Monsoon insurance in a bag

BHEESTIE Bags dry out soaked personal electronics

It happens to me all the time---a summer monsoon storm hits while I'm hiking in Arizona's high country and suddenly, my little point-and-shoot camera fogs up. It has a tendency to collect consensation when exposed to cool moisture especially after being used at 80+ degrees just moments before. This not only makes the lens hazy, but also can damage the electronics. Used to be, when this happened, I'd shut the camera off for a few days and hope for the best--sometimes the gamble paid off, sometimes not.  So, when two sisters from Oregon contacted me about field testing their BHEESTIE dry-out bag invention---I was all in on that! The product is a pouch filled with moisture-absorbing beads that pull away water, fog or whatever other wet stuff has gotten into your camera, cell phone, iPod, watch or GPS devise. The feather-light, flat bags fit easily into a backpack and are way more effective at drying out electronics than the "old rice-in-a-ziplock-bag trick" (or doing nothing) and can be re-used for up to a year.  Although there's no 100% guarantee that a BHEESTIE can save your drenched devise, having one handy is like  cheap insurance for that $400 smart phone.  It did work on my monsooned Nikon Cool Pix camera. 

Available online and at REI

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a free BHEESTIE bag to field test with no obligation to publish a positive review. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cool & easy Flagstaff summer hike

Coconino National Forest

Passage 34 of the Arizona Trail runs through 36 miles of stunning high country territory beginning in the cool pine forests around Schultz Tank and ending on the arid scrublands near Cedar Tank Ranch. With numerous easy-access trailheads, it's a cinch to hike this passage in a series of short day hikes like the one we did last Saturday. Beginning at the Schultz Tank/Weatherord trailhead, our objective was to do a 7-to-10-mile, out-and-back trek.  About 50 yards up the Weatherford trail a nice wood sign marks where the AZT heads left and also states that it crosses the Moto Trail at 3.5 miles. Given that the sky was churning with ominous storm clouds, this sounded like a do-able turnaround point. As it turns out, there's no sign at the Moto junction (although some graffiti points the way to Snowbowl and So. Flagstaff).  Because the trail is so flat and easy (and the rain clouds were dissipating), we decided to continue hiking. It's at about this point where the mountain bike traffic really picks up.  That's because the Moto trail connects with the Fort Valley Trails System---another favorite of bikers.  And its easy to see why--the relatively new trail is smooth, free of rocks and full of long hairpin turns gliding through fern gullies, fields of lava boulders and coniferous forests.  The route crosses several dirt service roads and various off-the-maps mountain bike trails (a biker who stopped to chat identified one as the "Dog Food" trail) as it gradually climbs up to the aspens along Snowbowl Road--a good turnaround or car shuttle point.
LENGTH: (all one-way from Schultz Tank)
to Moto Trail junction: 3.5 miles
to Kachina trailhead: 7.6 miles
to Snowbowl Road: 7.8 miles
RATING: easy-moderate
to Moto: 8020'-8800'
to Kachina: 8020'-9321'
to Snowbowl Road: 8020' - 9310'
BEST SEASON: May thru October
Schultz Tank Trailhead:
From Flagstaff, travel north on US180 (Fort Valley Road) to milepost 218.6 and turn right on Schultz Pass Road (FR420).  Follow FR420 0.7 mile to a fork, veer left to stay on FR420 and continue 4.8 miles to the Schultz Tank/Weatherford trailhead on the right. Schultz Pass Rd is bumpy dirt-- passable by sedans but high clearance is recommended.
Snowbowl Road /Humphreys Trailhead:
From Flagstaff, travel north on US180 (Fort Valley Road) to milepost 223, turn right onto Snowbowl Road and continue 4.2 miles to the trailhead on the left. Roads are paved all the way to the parking lot.