Mormon Lake segment of the AZT – sort of.

This week, my son and I – for his birthday and his idea – hiked ore than 30 miles of the Arizona trail south of Flagstaff.

(Ben’s 16.)

We went roughly 35 miles over three days from a road north of Fisher Point to the Double Springs Campground near Mormon Lake. En route, we covered parts of two hikes I have written about: Sandys Canyon (above which towers Fisher Point) and Anderson Mesa.

We started on Monday (June 3, 2013) at about 12:30 pm at the furthest point south my dear, sainted mother could coax her Toyota Prius, which turns out to be about a mile south of Log Cabin Tank. From there, we followed the dirt road until it was heading clearly west. Realizing that this was running parallel t the AZT, but only a quarter mile north of it, we mad a brief run cross country due south, and soon found our target – the AZT on the rim of Walnut Canyon.

For the record, this was as close as we came to getting lost. So there.

I should also add that we greatly benefited from the recent maintenance and upgrades the AZT has received through this section. It is well marked and in good shape.

We paused for photos at Fisher Point, and then wound down into Sandys Canyon. The cave at the base of Fisher Point has acquired a hornet nest. The east flank of the canyon has suffered recent fire damage. Now you know.

The AZT leaves Sandys Canyon to bolt south over the greater part of Anderson Mesa. This was the only serious climb on day one, and the first time we began noticing our blisters.

You know how they always stress that you need to break in your boots before hiking in them. That;s good advice for day hikes, but that’s an absolute necessity for a multi-day hike. because whatever those boots are doing to your feet – they’re gonna keep doing, and it only gets worse (and worse) (and worse).

We made camp on top of the mesa just north of Marshall Lake. At this point, our blisters were only annoying.  We found some oaks to swing ur hammocks from. I saw elk. It was a good camp. In the morning, we pushed to the Anderson Mesa trailhead by the observatory (the working part – not the tourist part) where we had cached a gallon of water. That’s where we had breakfast.

We spent the rest of the day following the AZT across the lava-studded dome that is Anderson Mesa. Past Prime and Vail lakes (the part of the hike I wrote about) and further across what I called “either a meadow crowded with trees or a wide open forest, depending on how you wish to phrase it.” In general, despite the relative openness of the terrain, you can only see a hundred yards in any direction.

By this time, the blisters were a real problem.  I am between good hiking boots. Ben’s normal boots had failed zippers. But he and my wife and I are all within a half-size of each other. So he borrowed my work boots, and I borrowed my wife’s new hiking boots, and this worked for about 8 miles, and it was tolerable for the next five, but now 14 miles in we were both dealing with multiple blister points, and getting worse.

We contained the damage with a defensive rotation. I took the work boots – which are heavy, but broken in for me, and Ben continued on in my camp sandals. In this way, we continued without developing new blisters.

At the edge of the mesa, 24 miles in, we made camp deliberately close to the Horse lake trailhead. There was some optimism that some kind motorist would give me a ride to the car (still 12 miles distant) but this never worked out. I have forsworn any angry comments about this.

The next morning, feet have covered in bandages and duct tape, we started the last leg of our journey with careful steps.

These are my insights to hiking with blisters:

  • When you feel one coming – stop and treat it right then.  It really. really does only get worse.
  • You are going to go slower and stop more often. Pain saps energy. This is not a failure – it’s just damage control.
  • The worst part is starting after stopping for a while. Accept that you’re going to go slow, and let your pace develop gradually – like a semi-truck.
  • If you think about something else, your feet will find a stride. Oh – it will still hurt. Consider though, that thinking about every step doesn’t make it hurt less, but it does make the pain that much more obvious.
  • Keep some shoes or better sandals in the car. The sooner you get out of the boots, the better off you will be.

From the knees up, this last stretch of our hike was actually the most pleasant. The AZT passes through thick pines following the old RR grade, which is cool with both shade and history. It then skirts the slope of Mormon Mountain, which is a lot fo up and down, and much less fun. Perhaps the blisters color my perception here.

We stumbled into the Mormon Mountain TH, by Dairy Springs Campground, by lunchtime. We were psyching urselves up for the last two miles, when I was able to flag down a passing ATV truck thing, and those nice ladies gave a ride the last two miles to the car.


Will update later with pics and maps.

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