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Sunday, September 3, 2017



Kaibab National Forest
J.D. Cabin site on the Kaibab National Forest
Literature is rife with tales of creatures both real and imaginary. Books like J. K. Rowling’s "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and the 1963 classic "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak introduce readers to magical places and whimsical creatures. These fanciful tales might inspire you to explore the equally enchanting real-life critters and locations of Arizona. There’s an easy way to indulge your curiosity and step back in history along the dirt roads and prairies southeast of Williams.  This two-part outing begins at Sunflower Flat Wildlife Area. Situated in a high-country wet meadow surrounded by mountain peaks of Kaibab National Forest, the site is unique in that its condition varies with rainfall, and visiting wildlife responds accordingly. When there’s lots of rain, the 160-acre Arizona Game & Fish property is a shallow lake that plays host to myriad waterfowl and shorebirds like ruddy ducks and mallards.
Many varieties of sunflowers bloom in the marshes
As the water wanes, look for cinnamon teals, herons and northern shovelers poking around in the marsh. Even during the driest times, residual puddles and reflecting ponds draw hawks, elk, pronghorn, black bears and deer and there are always plenty of frogs, lizards and gartersnakes enjoying muddy bogs. Exploring this ephemeral wetland begins at an information kiosk where you can learn about the site and its special place in the landscape. Because the objective of this peaceful enclave is to protect and enhance wildlife habitats, please read and respect the trailhead sign that has tips about how to view the local fauna responsibly.  Spot any bald eagle nests along the way? The majestic birds nest here in winter. Also, look for areas where tall grasses have been flattened into circular beds. These are animal wallows--places where elk, deer and other beasts sleep and rest.
Bill Williams Mountain over Sunflower Flat
The hike follows the perimeter fence and takes roughly two hours.
A favorite spot for waterfowl at Sunflower Flat

Sitgreaves Mountain & the San Francisco Peaks on horizon

Corral at the J.D. Cabin site
The second destination is the J.D. Cabin and grave site. To get there, hike back up the wildlife area access road, turn left and follow the road 0.7-mile to a turnoff on the right marked "no camping here". This is the historic homestead of James Douglas. An array of rustic buildings with metal-roofs and rough-hewn log construction is remarkably well preserved and gives an idea of what life on the prairie must have been like back in the 19th century. A walk around the deteriorating bunkhouse, cabin, corrals and crumbling foundations takes about an hour.  Ol’ J.D. is buried nearby among soaring pines and wildflower meadows.
a wallow
KA Hill looms over the wetlands
Sunflower Flat: 3.7 miles
J.D. Cabin: 2.2 miles
RATING: easy
Sunflower Flat: 6620' - 6640'
J.D. Cabin: 6640' - 6680'
Sunflower Flat:
From Flagstaff, go 27 miles west on Interstate 40 to exit 167. Turn right and go 3.8 mile south on Forest Road 141 and veer left at a fork. Continue another 4 miles to Forest Road 109, turn right and go 3.3 miles to Forest Road Road 14. Turn right and continue 1 mile and turn left on Forest Road 14A. The trailhead is 0.4 mile down this road.  Roads are good gravel and passable by passenger car up to FR 14 where high clearance is recommended. Forest Road 14A is rough dirt and requires high clearance.