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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A stumbled upon "social trail"

Coconino National Forest
Schultz Loop

Weenie Walk
Seems like every time I'm out hiking in Flagstaff, I discover at least one "no-name" trail. The forest service refers to these unauthorized user-created routes as "social trails".  Apparently, mountain bikers and renegade hikers have blazed their own maze of secret  trails---and they DO have names as I've come to learn---mostly from bikers kind enough to fill me in and an underground map acquired from an anonymous source.  Cool names, even, like Super Fly, Jedi, Ricochet and the one we stumbled upon recently:  Weenie Walk.  The "social trails" link below connects to a forest service document explaining why these user-created paths can be problematic and what plans are in the works to meet the need for additional recreational routes. Anyhoo, as non-motorized cross country travel in non-wilderness areas (which would include hiking on fugitive trails) is currently legal on the Coconino, we made an unplanned detour on Weenie Walk while hiking the Schultz Loop trail.  Here's how:
From the trailhead, locate the start of the Schultz Loop trail, pass through a big "road closed" sign after about 0.1 mile and continue another 0.6 mile to a junction with a sign indicating to turn right to head toward the Schultz Creek Trail.  This is where to turn right is all you want to do is the loop, however, the woodlands flanking the road leading straight ahead looked so inviting, we took a detour.  After hiking up the road about 0.4 mile, we noticed an unsigned trail heading off to the left.  Again, it looked so green and pretty, we just had to explore.  We didn't know it at the time, but we had just entered the Weenie Walk.  This slim path climbs gently uphill, paralleling the Brookbank Trail briefly before swinging east to eventually  connect with Sunset Trail.  It's a beautiful, quiet, pine-shaded stroll that passes through several sunny meadows.  We got about 2 miles in when claps of thunder in the near distance hastened our decision to turn around and head back to the Schultz Creek Junction and complete the loop in totally legal territory.
LENGTH:  1.6 mile (loop), 5.6 round trip with Weenie Walk as described here.
RATING:  easy
ELEVATION:  8,000' - 8,100' or 8,000' - 8,700'
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 155 miles one way
From Flagstaff, travel north on US 180 to milepost 218.6 to  (FR420) Schultz Pass Road.  Turn right and continue 0.5 mile to a fork, bear right to stay on FR420 and go 4.9 miles to the Sunset Trailhead on the right.  Schultz Pass Road is maintained dirt with a few rough spots.  High clearance is recommended, although we got through in a sedan.
INFO: Flagstaff Ranger District, 928-526-0866

Monday, August 13, 2012

Walking Wupatki: Part 6

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Summit of Lenox Crater

View from the trail
Woe to Lenox Crater. Crushed, pummeled, bullied and ultimately overshadowed by its younger, more aggressive volcanic neighbors, this humble cinder cone is older than the tumultuous lava flows and red-tinged peaks that have nearly obliterated its rounded and relaxed profile. Unlike the park’s star attraction---Sunset Crater---it's okay to climb Lenox. It's not a difficult hike, however, pea-to-pebble-sized black cinders underfoot create a mildly hazardous carpet of sandpapered marbles.  Ponderosa pines and Gambel oaks shade the trail on its way up to the summit. On top, there's no discernable "crater”, but an impressive cinder-ash flow sliding down the south face is evidence the hill's explosive past.  Take a moment to scoop up a handful of cinders and examine the structure and lightness. Pumice like this can sometimes float on water and has been used to smooth and file rough skin. Each of these pebbles began life as a molten projectile spit from the crater like terrestrial meteorites.  To the north, the mounds of O’Leary Peak and Strawberry Crater stand out above the Bonita Lava Flow.  Both of these volcanoes---located outside of the monument boundaries---are climbable and although, Lenox Crater concludes the Walking Wupatki series of hikes---guess where I'm going next? 

LENGTH:  1 mile roundtrip
RATING: moderate (loose footing)
ELEVATION: 6,940' - 7,240
PETS: are not allowed on any park trails in buildings.  
Please do not leave pets in cars---heat can be fatal.
FACILITIES: restroom, visitor center, vending machines
From Flagstaff, travel north on US 180 to milepost 444.5.  Turn right and continue 30 miles to the turn off on the left. Roads are 100% paved. Alternate access: enter the park from US 180 at milepost 430 and go 5 miles to the trailhead.
INFO: National Park Service, 928-679-2365