Archive for the ‘Hiking with Ben’ Category

Taking the Inner Basin off of my bucket list

Friday, September 18th, 2015

My single biggest disappointment about writing Five Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona was that I could not include the Inner Basin Trail #29. I was literally driving up there on [date] to set up camp at Lockett Meadow, and hike that trail the next morning, when I had to turn around.

They had closed AZ 89 north of Flagstaff due to the smoke from what would become the Schultz Fire.

Area affected by the 2010 Schultz Fire. The Inner Basin is under the key.

Even after that fire was finally out, Lockett Meadow had been trashed by use as a staging area for the firefighters, and was closed for a year to be rehabbed. By the time that was complete, I was already past deadline.

I finally had another chance this August.

The brief hike description below lacks the sort of detail and documentation you’d find in my book, because, to be honest, I don’t go out equipped to take those kind of note anymore.  I hike for fun now. But I will share what I remember.

I have pictures, but this site doesn’t have room for such new-fangled things as photos (which are known to be one of the biggest drivers of traffic to blogs – but I’m not the expert. Just sayin’). (The image above is a copied URL.)

You can see them on my Tumblr page though.

UPDATE: I can copy URL’s from my own blog….

Lockett Meadow

Inner Basin Train starts from the Lockett Meadow Campground north of Flagstaff. Lockett Meadow campsites require a fee, but trailhead parking is free.  You should know, though, that you are starting – starting – at 8900’ above sea level, and it only goes up from there.

The tall grass of Lockett Meadow grows over a shelf made by a collapsed section of the caldera wall of the San Francisco Peaks.  The SF peaks are remnants of a much taller single volcano that erupted catastrophically millions of years ago. The Coconino Plateau sits over a magma plume. That’s why the springs are sometimes hot, and the hills are covered with lava rock.

The first part is a climb through spruce and pine forest, skirting the farthest advance of the Schultz fire. Do not despair, for you soon climb past all of that, as the dirt single-track now winds and switches back through a huge stand of aspen trees.

Seriously, if you believe that you cannot possibly get enough of towering, trembling white aspens all around you, this trail will test that notion.

The trail evens out, and the aspen surrender to the spruce again, when the trail joins Waterline Road. This road, which circumnavigates the northern slopes of the Peaks,  was built and maintained for utility vehicles to service the water pumps  on the slopes, and in the basin. These facilities provide Flagstaff with much of its water. The road keeps winding up the mountain to a large pump station, where signs will explain this.

This is where most of the local hikers – who can be numerous on weekends with good weather, turn around. If this were for the book, I’d tell you this is the turn-around for the Easy version of the hike.

There is a spring at the place, water dripping out of a pipe, and another sign warns you that it is not treated in any way. This water has not, however, drained through cattle country, which is the source of the most common contaminants and parasites that make stream water perilous in these parts. So it would be reasonably safe. But it tastes just like the pipe.

From here, you can follow Waterline Road east then south (ish)and down towards Schultz pass (where the fire started). Or you can follow it around west then north(ish) over towards its junction with the Bear Jaw and Abineau trails (which I covered in the book). Or you can keep going south-ish, and definitely up towards the basin.

The road rounds steep, grass covered hills until the broad meadow of the Inner Basin opens up. Following the road through the tall grass and intermittent stands of spruce trees brings you to another water pump station. It was pumping along loud enough when I arrived that I had to shout to my son six feet away. That’s not always the case, happily.

This is the turn-around for the medium hike. You are about three miles from the campground at this point.

The road past that, further south and further up,, degenerating into rocky single-track as the forest of Christmas trees  mostly Engleman fir trees, close in around it.  It follows a steep ravine towards the edge of the Caldera, roughly beneath the shadow of Aggassiz Peak.

If you were to keep climbing (and I confess that we did not) the trail will wind and then switch back until it terminates at its intersection with the Weatherford Trail (also in my book) just below the tree-line. That’s the hard hike.

Now, because you got this far, here’s the secret hike. There is a closed road off to the side of the main trailhead. You cannot drive upon it. The gate is closed, and it’s choked by deadfall after a quarter mile in any case. But you can hike it.

The road parallels the trail, though pines and then aspen, only a little more direct, and a lot more secluded. On a Saturday afternoon, I has the road to myself to the point where I was worried about bears.

Oh yeah – the Peaks have some black bears. They are shy – which is why they’re still around to be honest – but this place was isolated enough that I could imagine encountering them. I didn’t.

After two miles or so (I wasn’t prepared to accurately mark the mileage) I heard voices. The Secret Road intersects with the Waterline trail near that same pump station with the spring.  I returned the way I came.

Inner basin trax map

My map generating skills aren’t what they used to be either.

Wilson Mountain

Friday, December 12th, 2014


Wilson Mountain  and North Wilson

DATE: 10/30/10



END TIME: 5:30p




Ben and I hiked up North Wilson Trail  #123 to its juncture with  Wilson Mountain Trail #10, which we took to both look-out points up on the top of the mountain, then down Mount Wilson Trail to the Midgely Bridge Trailhead. My wife (and Ben’s mother) was kind enough to drop us off and pick us up.

Mount Wilson Trail goes up the south side of the mountain and North Wilson Trail goes up the north side of the mountain. They meet near the top, making this an easy car shuttle. I have been surprised by how often I have to back up and explain that we did not climb the mountain twice.

North to south is acceptable in the winter time. North Wilson is the steeper of the two, and I prefer to go up the steeper side and down the gentler side. In hotter months, though, North Wilson has shade, so that’s where you want to find yourself come afternoon.

As the You Tube video will painfully demonstrate, there was a lot of wind up top, and that did not help my nasal congestion at all. Also, some locals call it Mount Wilson, but its Wilson Mountain on any map.

Ben is now taller than I am.

Here are some notes and photos on the You Tube:



Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

New thing: I have a tumblr going – Travels with Bongo – where I post photos, many from hikes.

Old thing: Another behind-the-hike from Five Star Trails in Flagstaff and Sedona.




Hike #1

DATE: 4/26/10

COMPANIONS: Steve (an adult friend), his son, and Ben.

START TIME: 12:30p

END TIME: about 5pm



Hike #2

DATE: 5/7/10


START: 9am




Yes, it really is called the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness. I’ll pause now so you can make the inappropriate comment my publisher would never allow me to make myself.




Done now? OK.


Easy hike to do – hard hike to write. The biggest reason was that this was hike #2 – and the first hike I knew For Certain would make the guidebook. (Airport Mesa – hike #1 chronologically – was in and out of the line-up for a while).  I had imagined that I could cover every possible spur and alternate route, and the guidebook would be Epic and Exhaustive.


Turns out that even if I had the time and energy to document each hike that way (and no one does), I have a word limit. It’s a guidebook – it’s not an encyclopedia.


But that’s why I had a second hike – to cover the Brockett and Weir spurs I didn’t get to on the main hike. The Weir spur is totally worth it – by the way.


The publisher was also spooked about the crossing through private property, and I had to show them the Forest Service language that explicitly authorized this. It’s cool, kids. Just stay on the trail.


The photo on the back cover of the book is from this hike. The boys are Ben and his friend – my friends’ son.




upload a video of you at the Brockett trailhead, giving your most dramatic reading of Brockett’s poem. If your reading of the poem is better than mine, I’ll send you a copy of my book.

Mormon Lake segment of the AZT – sort of.

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

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.

Cathedral Rock

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I have nothing really clever. My hike suggestion is Pass Mountain (or Fish Rock Pass if you want a little adventure, both from the same trailhead in Apache Junction.

And now…

Behind the Hike: Cathedral Rock


Featured in Five Star Trails – Flagstaff and Sedona


Hike 1

DATE: 8/23/10



END TIME: 6:45p




Hike 2

DATE: 9/10/0






I spent a month in Sedona in relation to my day job, and got one hike in. One. This one. And I couldn’t really use it – I had to come back.

(I have written about this earlier).


The first hike started from the near trailhead and went right up the rock – the easy hike that tourists do in sandals. Nothing wrong with the experience, I had a good chat with a  Forest Service volunteer, but it wasn’t enough.


The second hike, with Ben, came in from the north along Baldwin Trail, and simply adding that short section doubled the quality of the experience.


You need a Red Rock pass for either approach.


Ben and I met a local woman on that hike who was very helpful in explaining vortex phenomena, and described herself as a film-maker. I wrote her contact info in my little notebook that I have since lost. If she’s reading this, [how to contact]


The extra mileage on the second trip came from Ben and I following a spur trail along the creek towards Moon’s Crossing – not part of the hike.


Easiest of the Must Do Before You Die Sedona hikes. Also, a vortex site.

You Tube Video:



Elden Springs

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

#2 in the series of behind-the-scenes hike notes for 5 Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona

DATE: 9/12/10


START TIME: 11:45am

END TIME: 2pm (one way)


OFFICIAL MILES: 4 miles one way

So the astute reader will note that 18.7 miles is a long way for a 4 mile hike, and this is because originally this was going to be a loop hike up and around Mount Elden. That didn’t work out because half the original route had been fried to a cinder in the Schultz Fire. We found our way up the mountain anyway, and I don’t want to comment on that route other than saying we should have found a different way.

As a not-necessarily related side note, if the FS wants to close a trail, they should put signs on BOTH sides of the trail. Don’t want to point to a specific instance – in writing. Just saying.

So we got to the top and became separated. You can use a combination of access road and connecting trail to basically orbit the peak, and Ben and I were on opposite sides of that circle, looking for each other, for the better part of an hour.

We found each other, still near the peak, in time to watch the light of Flagstaff twinkle on as the Sun set on the far side of the mountains.

Humphrey’s Peak trail switches steeply back down to Fatman’s Loop, so we got to hike that trail twice. It’s not a 5 star experience in the dark.

A You Tube clip from the morning, when things still seemed promising:

Elden Spring 5 Star Hike #2

Fat Man’s Loop

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

As I did for the Tonto Guide, I’m going to provide some background notes for each hike in

Five-Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona 5 Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona cover

In the order they appear in the book.

Fat Man’s Loop

DATE: 9/10/10



END TIME: 7:30p


Ben is my son, and accompanied me on more hikes (by far) than any other companion throughout the book. He was 13 at the time.

We had a late start because we had done Cathedral Rock in Sedona earlier that day.

Later that night, we met up with some friends and shared their campsite for the Barn Burner bike race. My friends were HAM operators providing support.

The next morning, Ben and I did Bill Williams Mountain.

I wanted to include an easy (and relatively adult) hike close to town. It is the counterweight to Airport Mesa in Sedona.

So, the clip below is YouTube video #1 – and there’s a learning curve. Plus, I had run the battery dry earlier that day, and was filming on fumes both in available power and available sunlight. All that survived are a few stills and my DVR notes. That’s the raw observations that I later write a hike description from.  I also made  a few into the clip below, for whatever that’s worth.

East Webber Trail

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

East Webber Trail #248

DATE HIKED: June 1, 2008

Companions: Ben and Max ( our Labrador).

START TIME:12:35pm

END TIME:6:10pm

TOTAL MILEAGE: 8.8 miles

One of the few guidebook hikes I took with the dog. These “working” hikes are complicated enough with the DVR and the GPS and such without adding 60 lbs of excitable dog on a leash. But this was a short hike, I was towards the end and feeling pretty confident, and I had Ben to help out if it came to that.

We got turned around a couple times past Camp Geronimo, which may have added to the mileage some.

We ate lunch on our way up at the second crossing, beside the big log. Max spent the whole time in the creek.

About 4 miles up, we encountered the signed junction with the “Rimview Trail” though we could not discern an actual trail. The sign indicated it went east and eventually hit the Highline around Poison Springs. Not on any maps I own, and we couldn’t pick it out from the ferns and deadwood.

My buddies at HikeAZ inform me that this trail was “blazed” by boy scouts, and actually goes nowhere. Thus, I left it out of the hike description.

I drank water straight from the first spring, and my insides did not explode. So that was good.

Second only to Horton Springs as far as face-of-the-Rim hikes go.

Horton Springs

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Part of our ongoing series of behind-the-hike profiles.

NOT part of the 10-day run. We’ll get back to that.

See my profile on Upper Tonto Creek Campground on Examiner.

DATE HIKED: 7 October 2007


START TIME 10:45am

END TIME: 5:15pm


This was the very first hike I undertook for the book, and while I didn’t get lost, I learned a lot anyway.

This hike takes the Derrick Trail #33 up the Mogollon Rim to the Highline Trail to the lush and reliable Horton Springs. It then takes the Horton Trail #285 back down to form a cool loop.

October 7th, it turned out, was the last day the campground was open. The caretaker was in the process of closing up for winter. He did take the time to show us the trailhead, which is still not well marked in the campground (at least, not compared to the giant sign that signifies the Horton Trail). It remains, though, across the road from the outhouse. It’s a six way intersection, but every corner has a campsite except the one with the trailhead.

If you do this as a loop, you’re far better off starting up the Derrick. The Highline is unmistakable as you come up the Derrick. You can, however, easily (and repeatedly, as I did years ago) miss the Derrick from the Highline. If you just want the easy up and back, stick to the Horton trail.

Ben had a tough journey. He ripped his pants crossing a log on the Derrick, and then fell into Horton Creek as we crossed it a few hundred yards down from the springs. It was cold enough that wet socks wer an issue. He made it down the Horton sans socks.

The entry in the guidebook on this hike is by far the most heavily edited couple of pages in the book. The original editor, Russell Helms, made me write multiple drafts trying to beat me into Menasha Ridge Style. (Menasha Ridge actually has a 60 page style manual they give to authors. I didn’t really read it.)

Among his many notes, I couldn’t just write “big trees”. I had to describe what kind of trees. I can now tell an Arizona Sycamore from a cottonwood on sight, but at the time, they were all either pine trees or other trees.

This site helped me suss out that mystery.

We also, after some negotiation, settled on the term “horse apples” to our mutual satisfaction.

Still one of my favorite hikes.

Hell’s Hole

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

[Part of our ongoing series of Behind-the-Hike for Day and Overnight Hikes in the Tonto National Forest]

Hell’s Hole Trail #284 is mostly within the Salome Wilderness. It is concurrent witht the longer but less famous Denton Trail for the first thrid of its travel from Reynold’s TH.

This was part 3 of the 10-day Run, where I took a week of vacation and just banged out as many hikes as I could just car-camping across the National Forest. Ben went with me for most of them, including this one.

This is one of only two destinations (Fossil Springs is the other one) in the Tonto NF that qualify for the Arizona 20/20 challenge – though I would take issue with their exclusion of Hell’s Gate.

DATE HIKED: 13 June 2008


START: 8:50am

FINISH: 5:15pm


First, yes, people live and work in those rickety buildings down by the creek.

The Denton Trail is on my list of trails to return to.

Our actual time on the trail was about 7 hours. What took us so long was about an hour of skinny-dipping (we had the canyon to ourselves) and then bushwhacking downstream until, we found a little waterfall that fed the main drainage. This was Ben’s first skinny dip as a voluntary participant. I know he went a few times as a toddler, but he doesn’t remember. Some troublesome footing in spots, but worth such trouble.

Remembered the can of oysters. Forgot the fork. Ate them with sticks while watching the water bugs try to sort things out after we had finally exited their ecosystem.

A lot of folks camp down there, but IMHO, you can adequately exlore the place in a day, and then face the switchbacks with a relatively lighter load.