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Monday, July 27, 2015


Apache Sitgreaves National Forest
Aspen Trail #411

Okay Boomers, sing along with me. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind. Signs, the 1971 protest anthem by the Five Man Electrical Band would make a fair theme song for the Carr Lake Trail System on the Mogollon Rim. That's because there are a bunch of brain-boggling signs on the trails.
Although the directional markers do not mimic the song's "evils of conformity" theme, they are a befuddling lot. The trail emblems on the Aspen #411, Carr Lake #412, Boulder Hop #413 and General
Crook #140 trails merely indicate where you are instead of where you should go.
Summer mushrooms
Forest Service maps of the area are marginally helpful but don't include the complete lay of the land or distances. Perhaps the most telling sign of all is at the trailhead. It suggests you use gps, map and compass to stay on track. For experienced, well-equipped hikers, getting around the Carr Lake System isn't too tough. The routes are tagged with diamond or chevron-shaped tree markers and most (but not all) junctions are well-signed.
Sego Lilly
Novice trekkers could easily loose their bearings. However, with sound preparation, exploring the coniferous woodlands and wildflower-splattered meadows of this high county hiking hub is worth the extra effort.
Here's a narrative for one long loop option using the Aspen and General Crook Trails:
From the "ABC" sign at the trailhead, hike 0.2 mile to the General Crook #140/Aspen #411 junction. This is the beginning and end spot for the loop. Go right on #411. At 1.3 miles, where the Boulder Hop Trail #413 goes left, continue straight ahead on trail #411.
Stock tank---not Carr Lake
Tricky move---where the trail meets an unsigned road at mile 1.7, turn left, hike a few yards and pick up the faint trail on the left. At the 2.5-mile point, there's a sign marking the junction with Carr Lake Trail #412. (This is a good turnaround point for a casual day hike).
Carr Lake---is just a mucky swale
Go right and follow the trail (it transitions into a primitive 2-track road) to the 3.1-mile point where sign posts mark a sharp left turn.
At 5.7 miles, make another hard left at a somewhat confusing double arrow tree marker. The General Crook Trail #140 junction appears at the 6.3-mile point and is marked by white chevrons tacked to trees. From this point, continue hiking straight ahead following the chevrons. Over the next 3.4 miles, you'll encounter five more signed junctions---just follow General Crook back to the trailhead.
LENGTH: 9.7 mile loop
RATING: easy hiking, difficult route finding
ELEVATION: 7,105' - 7,881'
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 29 miles east on SR 260 to Rim Road (Forest Road 300, signed for Woods Canyon Lake). Turn left, go 5.2 miles and turn left at the Carr Trailhead sign (Forest Road 9350) and continue 0.1 mile to the trailhead.

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