The map said 15.8, but my foot said 19.  I don’t think my foot was lying…

Left Flagstaff with Devon at 6AM, and drove out to the trailhead off Highway 87 which is about a mile west of the Blue Ridge Ranger Station.  Got on the trail at 8AM.  Both wearing gloves, and hats, and fleeces.  The day was incredibly windy, with storms predicted for early in the evening and we packed accordingly, which meant big packs for a day hike but I think we both wanted to be prepared for the possibility of an overnight, or some other sort of emergency.

The day had quite a bit of up and down, and we were forever taking off the layers then putting them back on.  Heading up from the bottom of East Clear Creek we stopped for some foot repair, and while stopped saw a cow elk with her calf.  They could smell but not see us, and we got to watch them through the trees for a good 5 minutes or so.

There was also a lot of animal prints and scat on the trail, and Devon and I got to play the ‘name that animal’ game throughout the day.  We guessed fox, coyote, bobcat, elk, deer, and mountain lion during the day.  Also fun to hike with someone that has studied geology.  I could point out a certain rock, and say something eloquent like “oooh, pretty,” and Devon could tell me what it actually was.

There was one section of the trail that was marked badly enough that we missed a turn and had to back track ~ ¼ mile.  Not sure why that is always so hard, the going back…

The last 2 miles were long, and lovely.  I’d really like to see this area during monsoon season when the ferns are green and the water is flowing.  Dad met us, and after looking at our faces didn’t want to say how much of a hike we had left.  But we did make it, eventually.  Nice cabin of historic significance at the end.

After the 18 dirt road miles back to my truck (thanks, Dad!), Devon and I headed to Mormon Lake Lodge for beer and cheesy potatoes (which may or may not be the best meal I have had in my entire life).  The drive back in to Flagstaff after dinner was interesting, because the storm finally hit and it hit hard.  Tons of lightning, rain, sleet, snow, and more rain.

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no miles!

Molly and I drove out to the trail head in the early AM.  Took Lake Mary Road out to Highway 87, then south on FR 95 for 18 miles.  We left her car at the end point, which is on FR 300 – at the very edge of the Mogollon Rim then started back to the beginning point.  At ~ 4 miles back down FR 95, my front left tire popped.  We unloaded the jack and jacked the truck up to take the pressure off the rim of the tire, then began the ultimately unsuccessful attempts to lower the spare tire.  After an hour or so, some nice folks gave me a ride back to Molly’s vehicle and I drove it back to where the truck was stuck.  A few more hours in, dad came out to rescue us.  He also couldn’t remove the spare tire, so he took the ruined one with him to Long Valley in the hopes of getting it patched.  That was a no go, so he returned as the sun was going down with a slightly used tire.   So, 8 hours later and some serious frustration with the design on the 2001 Tacoma (don’t EVER get a bumper cover or you’ll have to remove the tailgate to change your tire), we headed back to Flag (after a stop at the Mormon Lake Lodge for a beer and cheesy potatoes).

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10/13–15 – 4 miles each day

Drove out to locate the trailhead on 10/14, for the last stretch of my AZ trail hike.

Molly and I head out 10/15, and are making the last 16 miles a two day trip.  The weather is supposed to be lovely – one of those last really great fall weekends – and while I’m sad to be finishing this portion of the adventure I am really looking forward to getting back out on the trail.

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10 miles

Hiked from the southern end of the Babbitt Ranch to FR 523.  The first stretch of the hike was relatively flat, with sparsely spaced juniper trees.  Saw two groups of the ranch’s horses.  Had one horse follow me for a while, until I reached the end of the property.  Kept telling him that I didn’t have any carrots, and he kept trying to chew on my hair.

After crossing off the Babbitt land there was less top soil and more volcanic rock.  The juniper trees thickened, and there were the clear remnants of flooding in washes (the swirling of dirt around dirt).  In the loosened newly laid soil, there were many animal tracks.  Those of horse, of elk, of deer, of cow, and of mountain lion.

A few miles in, the trail began climbing and the junipers soon were interspersed with pinyon and then later ponderosa.  The hills clearly volcanic.  Reds and blacks of lava deposits.  Red tail hawks and ravens were taking advantage of the rising heat and were spiraling up and up, above me all morning long.

Had a very un-Snow White moment about six miles in.  Was singing a song called Jerusalem by Dan Bern, which oddly enough, besides Christmas carols is probably the only song that I know all of the words to, when I noticed quite a few woodland creatures (3 ground squirrels, 2 cottontails) scattering through the woods ahead of me.  Not scattering toward.  Scattering away from.

A few miles from FR 523, a water tank and cows – that unlike the majority of bovines on this adventure – did not run as I approached.

Am even more sunburned today…

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Have a very sunburned face today (even after wearing sunscreen and a hat… well, maybe I didn’t always wear the hat), and very swollen feet.  Thank goodness for rest days!

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15 miles

Had a very cold night last night, even with the long johns, gloves and knit hat.  Temperature got down into the low 20s, which isn’t that cold… unless you’re lying on the ground.

Got up before sunrise when the sky was just beginning to take on the sepia tones it occasionally gets out in the desert.  The coyotes were still calling, as they had periodically through the night and just on the edge of hearing there was an elk bugling.  I worked to break down camp while stopping periodically to take pictures of the changing light on the mountains around here.

The first stretch of trail was lovely today, lots of grass land with a few junipers that had oddly twisted trunks.  Hiked for an hour before stopping to have breakfast and changing out of my under layers.  The day remained cool for a while, with a steady wind from the east.

All the walking was on ranch road and the hard pack of it made my foot ache intensely before I had made 7 miles  (I stepped down badly at some point yesterday and my not quite healed foot feels a little crunchy).  The temperature warming steadily through those miles.  In one pasture I spooked a large group of cows and their yearlings and when I rounded a rock outcropping there was a large bull eyeing me.  The road, of course, directly between his overlook and his herd.  I hiked back up the trail a bit, and waited for half an hour (in the 11 o’clock sun) for him to mosey over to where the other cattle had gone.

During the last hour+ of the hike, I was exhausted with an aching foot and had to count each time I pushed my poles out ahead of me.  This is between every third and fourth stride, and I reached a count of 853 before reaching the end of the Babbitt Ranch.  Then only half a mile to where I’d left the truck.  Perhaps the counting was meditative, perhaps not.  I’m just thankful to have completed this stretch.

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~14 miles

Hiked a little less than 14 miles in under five hours.  Started at Moqui Station then headed out over the Babbitt Ranch land.  Have just set up camp under the old juniper tree where dad and I dropped water off yesterday.  The view out to the peaks is stunning and they are white capped with snow.

It’s been a breezy day – about 60 degrees – and I started out hiking through juniper which is my least favorite kind of hiking.  Feels too closed in.  Takes away my best sense (that of sight).  After five miles, the trees opened up and I had about nine miles of draws.  There was one fence crossing where I had to lift my pack over the top line of barbed wire then climb over because I was too weak to open the gate.  It was very precarious.

At one point I spooked an elk that was drinking at a water tank with a high embankment.  It was the closest that I have ever been to an elk at under 20 feet.  Close enough that I could feel the weight of his hooves reverberating under my own feet.  Later in the hike I had to leave the trail and hike up a steep embankment of rock and juniper in order to avoid a bull that was eyeing me.

Saw my first cottontail today.  Today too had lots of carnivore shit on the trail.  A lot of it was mountain lion, and it is a strange feeling to want so badly to be able to identify exactly how long ago a piece of shit was left on the trail.  Also saw a quite a few old, empty whiskey bottle scattered in the trees along the route.  Made me wonder if I should have maybe brought a flask for evening times.

Camps all set up and I have 2.5 hours until the sun goes down.

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