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Monday, August 8, 2016


Kaibab National Forest
Laws Spring
Way back in the mid-1800s a hardy battalion of 4-legged "ships of the desert" helped to blaze a passage through the Southwestern wilderness. It was Lt. Edward F. Beale who bestowed the noble title upon 22 camels imported from the Middle East to help survey the unforgiving landscape for a highway into the newly acquired Western territory. The Beale expedition team of 1857-59 had high hopes for the humped beasts that were hailed for their strength and tenacity. Although their work ethic did pan out as advertised, they didn't win any popularity contests among workers because of their smell, spitting habits and cranky temperaments. Hence, they were retired from government service after the project was completed.
Camel motif on Beale Wagon Road trail post
Although short-lived, the work of the lanky creatures is memorialized on wooden posts bearing their image along the original rough cut, 10-foot-wide trail that was to become the precursor to Route 66, the Santa Fe Railroad and Interstate 40. Today, bits of the 1,240-mile Beale Wagon Road that ran from Arkansas to California have been relocated and adopted into recreational use. In Arizona, much of the route cuts through private property, but the 23-mile section that winds through Kaibab National Forest is marked and open to public use.
Pinion-juniper prairies dominate the landscape

One of the most beautiful stretches runs between Laws Spring and Forest Road 84. This historic path begins at a perennial spring surrounded by boulders etched with the artistic symbols of ancient inhabitants, Beale party initials and the unfortunate scrawls of modern visitors. A plaque at the site details its historic significance. Beyond the spring's muddy pools, a narrow walkway leads to the sketchy path of Beale Wagon Road.
Pools around Laws Spring
At the double-arrow camel sign, the route is easiest to follow by heading west (left). Not your traditional hiking trail, its faint course is marked by rock carins and posts. It takes constant attention to stay on track. The trick is to "leap-frog" from marker-to-marker, spotting the next before moving ahead. Don't let the tricky route finding get in the way of enjoying the breathtaking mountain vistas that rise above pinion-juniper scrubland and wildflower speckled prairies. At Forest Road 84, the route enters private land, marking your turnaround point on a trek through an unusual episode of Arizona history.
Rock carins mark the route

LENGTH: 3.5 mile one way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6,480' - 6,820'
Laws Spring trailhead:
From Flagstaff, travel 23 miles west on Interstate 40 to Pittman Valley exit 171. Follow the access road 0.1-mile, turn left at the stop sign and continue 7.7 miles on Forest Road 74 to Forest Road 141. Turn right and go 0.5-mile to Forest Road 730, turn left and continue 2.2 miles to Forest Road 115. Follow FR 115 1.9 miles, veer left onto Forest Road 2030 and continue less than a mile to the trailhead. High clearance is required beyond FR 141. 

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