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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Route 66 Ghost Roads Convergence

Route 66 Ghost Roads Convergence
A spring house on the Route 66 Ghost Road trail
Historic Route 66 embodies a uniquely American sort of inertia: constantly changing, evolving and adapting to innovations while respecting its roots.
The Mother Road that ran for 2,448 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles is no longer the arterial travel corridor is was from the 1920s to the 1960s, but its legacy has been curated in stretches of drive-able pavement and backwoods “ghost roads” accessible only by way of bike or foot travel.
In Northern Arizona, the iconic road was re-routed several times before being replaced by Interstate 40. Today, bits and pieces of the decommissioned road have been repurposed into scenic driving tours, bike trails and walking paths that preserve its heritage and crumbing imprints on the landscape.  One interesting location to explore on foot is where remnants of the road’s 1921, 1931 and 1941 alignments converge north of Interstate 40 in the tiny community of Parks.
Three alignments of Route 66 meet at this point on the trail.
Hiding in plain sight along a motorized stretch of Old Route 66 about halfway between Flagstaff and Williams, in Kaibab National Forest, a dusty pullout and information kiosk mark the beginning of an easy stroll at the juncture of three ghost roads.
Plants take root in the abandoned 1931 alignment of Rt. 66
Located not far from the Pines General Store Deli & CafĂ© and postal annex that’s been around since 1906, the who-knew trailhead surrounded by a fading log-pole fence directs hikers onto a mile-long segment of the 1931 alignment--the northernmost vestige on the hike. 
Trailhead sign shows the evolution of Route 66 near Parks.
A few yards to the south, the 1921 alignment is a barely-there dirt two-track that’s slowing being reclaimed by the forest. South of the vanishing dirt passage, cars whiz by on paved Old Route 66 (1941- 1964) while the hum of vehicles on Interstate 40 betray the location of the freeway that diluted Route 66’s status as a major thoroughfare and gateway to the Southwest down to a recreational curiosity.
The ghostly footprint of the 1921 alignment of Route 66
The 1931 road-turned-hiking-trail makes a straight shot through pine-oak forests and weedy meadows.  
Calliopsis grown in drainages along the trail.
At the start of the hike, part of the road appears to have been bulldozed away.
A decommissioned segment of Rt. 66 is now a hiking trail.
Piles of broken concrete along the north edge of the route soon give way to patches of intact pavement in varying degrees of decay. Underfoot, the remains of the road include a montage of blacktop, concrete and a pinkish pebble conglomerate that hint at the challenges of Depression-era road maintenance.

A Depression-era culvert spans a drainage on the trail.
The route passes through pine-oak woodlands in Kaibab NF.
About a quarter-mile in, a culvert bearing the clean lines and subdued edges typical of 1930s design spans a drainage area replete with wildflowers.
Gate at trail's end.
Beyond that, near where a wall of basalt bolsters the road’s edge, there’s a stone spring house that had been used as part of a defunct forest service camp. 
The trailhead is in a pullout on the 1941 alignment of Rt.66
A few steps past the spring house, the trail passes a wooden gate where a pair of culverts--one from 1931 and the other from 1941—mark the merger point of the three ghost roads that are the fading predecessors of the modern-day interstate highway system.
An old forest service camp spring house along the trail.
Yellow sweet clover grows along the edge of the trail.
The 1931 alignment is composed of various materials
LENGTH: 2 miles out-and-back
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7,015 - 7,171 feet
From Interstate 40 about 13 miles west of Flagstaff, take the Parks exit 178 and go 0.4-mile north to Old Route 66. Turn right and continue 0.4-mile to the trailhead on the left.
INFO: Kaibab National Forest
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Monday, July 22, 2019

See Spring

Water rushes from a crevice at the head of See Spring
On the jagged cliffs below the Mogollon Rim, dozens of springs dispense water that filters through the porous limestone escarpments.
The hike begins with an easy crossing of Christopher Creek 
The springs range in flow from steady trickles that drain into green seeps to icy founts that gush from solid rock, carving gullies and fostering thick forests.
  See Spring is one of the later. Its location half-a-mile off the See Canyon Trail along Christopher Creek in Tonto National Forest twenty miles east of Payson makes it a popular choice for a short day hike or add-on to the 2.5-mile mile artery route that climbs over 1700 feet to the top of the Rim.
There’s a local hiker adage that claims when trekking See Canyon, all you see is the canyon. This is mostly true, but, oh, what a canyon it is to behold. 
New Mexico locust grow in dense thickets on the trail.
Dense woodlands shade the See Canyon Trail
Right out of the chute, the trail delivers a rich palette of sights and sounds plus enough challenge (or not) to satisfy a full gamut of hiking styles. You don’t have to walk very far before becoming immersed in the perennial flow of Christopher Creek and the lush woodlands that thrive in its moist environs. 
Christopher Creek is a main feature of the trek.
Boxelder trees love the moist environs near See Spring
The journey begins with a brief walk on the Highline Trail. From the trailhead, follow the footpath to where a pair of white diamond symbols tacked to trees indicate where the route makes an easy crossing of the creek. On the opposite bank, walk a few yards and veer left at the See Canyon Trail junction. The next half-mile traces the stream through a mix of meadows and forests of New Mexico locust, boxelders and Ponderosa pines. Beneath the leafy canopy, healthy tangles of canyon grape vines mingle with insidious clumps of poison ivy--leaves of three, let it be.
Canyon grapes flourish in moist areas on the trail.
It’s smart to wear long pants on this hike to avoid getting an itchy rash.
Mountain vistas are sparse, but water features are plentiful
The path crosses several rocky drainages as it gently gains elevation to reveal glimpses of Promontory Butte, a major Rim land feature.  At the 0.8-mile point, head right at the See Spring Trail junction where the half-mile spur path swerves away from the creek and begins a moderate climb.  
Bigtooth maples filter sunlight on See Spring Trail
The “all you see” adage really hits home here as thick stands of Bigtooth maples, Gamble oaks, Alligator junipers, Arizona walnut and soaring Douglas and white firs choke the trail into a shady, slim passage obscuring all but sky and vegetation.  A few sets of switchbacks mitigate the 400-foot ascent that lands hikers in an enchanting natural water park setting.
Tree cover on the See Spring Trail
Roughly 1.3 miles from the trailhead, the first signs of the See Spring conglomerate of waterworks appear as jumbled ravines funneling crystalline streams.  Follow the faint footpaths another 0.2-mile and you’ll arrive at the spring source where water pours from rock crevices all around.
Golden-beard penstemons add brilliant color to the trek.
The splashy rhythms of water rushing over mossy boulders and flattened ferns complemented by bird calls and rustling leaves combine for a calming culmination of short trek with much to see. 
Scampering lizards are constant companions on the trail
See Canyon-See Spring junction
You're never far from water on this Mogollon Rim classic
See Canyon Trail traces Christopher Creek
Icy water spills from See Spring
Poison ivy. Leaves of three, let it be.
LENGTH: 2.6 miles roundtrip (5 miles with See Canyon Trail)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  6106 – 6725 feet (7860 feet with See Canyon Trail)
From Payson, go 20.2 miles east on State Route 260 to the Christopher Creek Loop exit, turn left and continue 1 mile to Forest Road 284 (across from the Tall Pines Market), turn left and go 1.6 miles to the trailhead. Access road is good dirt/gravel suitable for all vehicles. There’s a restroom at the trailhead.