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Sunday, August 13, 2017


Stump Tank along Forest Road 108
The year 1926 marked the birth of two American icons---Route 66 and Devil Dogs snack cakes. That year, the Mother Road, which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, received its official numerical designation and the Drake Baking Company rolled out the chocolate cream-filled treats. So, how do these bits of trivia distill into a story about hiking? Easy—the subject route begins at the Interstate 40 Devil Dog exit and follows two decommissioned sections of Historic Route 66.
Although it’s more likely that the Devil Dog Loop #117 was named for the World War I moniker for U.S. Marines instead of the kiddie lunch box staple, the trail makes a name for itself as a history-steeped walk in the forest.
1922 alignment of Route 66
For much of the 20th century, Route 66 served as a major highway through northern Arizona. Its demise came with the construction of Interstate 40 which gradually replaced the scenic road with a modern freeway.
Walter (not a devil dog) on the 1932 alignment
The section near Williams was completed in 1984. Except for preserved segments that run through places like Flagstaff and Winslow, all that remains of Route 66 are weedy tracks and patches of cracked asphalt. But our nostalgia for artifacts of simpler times motivates us to preserve historic transportation corridors by repurposing them into recreational trails.   And, that’s what was done with the decommissioned 1922 and 1932 realignments of Route 66 west of Williams.
The woodsy circuit  isn't too difficult to navigate as long as you pay attention.  There are a few strategically placed bike emblem trail markers, but they are easy to miss. From the trailhead kiosk, continue hiking south on Forest Road 108.
Trail marker on the 1922 alignment
At 0.4 mile, the road meets the grassy swale of Stump Tank. Go left at the next junction, hike to the 0.7 mile point and veer right. At 0.9 mile the road meets the loop portion of the route, go right at the Hat Ranch sign (the left fork is the return route). After a short distance, a rough dirt road veers off to the left---this is the 1922 alignment (a.k.a Forest Road 45). Follow this road to the 2-mile point and go straight at the junction.
Mushrooms thrive along the route 
At 2.4 miles, the trail loops back on the 1932 alignment (a.k.a. Forest Road 9217E) and is easy to follow.
Remnants of pavement and stonework culverts conjure images from John Steinbeck’s depression-era novels and pre-digital days when folks cruised in Model Ts, Studebakers and souped up Chevys.  
Stump Tank
To get your fix of axle grease and chrome, the town of Williams hosts several classic car shows each year and you can almost always spot a few restored beauties parked near the mid-century-themed diners that line downtown streets.
Get your kicks on Route 66
1922 alignment of Route 66
For those who enjoy hiking to music, won’t you get hip to this timely tip: download one of the many iterations of the tune (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66. The 1946 Nate King Cole version is a master class in rhythm and blues, but if you prefer a rock spin, try the one by the Rolling Stones. Either one will put a hop in your step as you trek through history.
Wild geraniums are a familiar sight in summer
LENGTH: 5-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6236’ - 6800'
From Interstate 40 in Williams, go 6 miles west to the Devil Dog exit # 157 for Forest Road 108. Follow FR 108 to the first "T" junction, go right then make a left at the next "T" and continue to the kiosk and parking loop on the right.
INFO & MAP: Kaibab National Forest

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