Posts Tagged ‘Flagstaff’

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. https://www.tumblr.com/blog/lostyet

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.

O’Leary Peak

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Onward with our behind-the-hike series on Five Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona.

O’Leary Peak

Hike date : 7/11/10

Companions none

Start 11:45am

Finish 5:30p

Total time 5:45

Total miles 10.26

The first part of the hike was done in the pouring rain, but happily that cleared up for most of the hike afterwards.

The lookout tower on top of O’Leary is manned throughout the summer. The lady in it when I was up there invited me up after some hesitation. At night, she told me, she could still see the embers from the Schultz Fire glowing across the mountainside.

She wasn’t happy that I was writing a hiking guide. She didn’t want a lot of visitors disturbing her. She did tell me about a woman writing a book about fire watch towers throughout Arizona. Pretty sure she meant this one. Good luck finding a copy.

This is a public land hike from start to finish, and her own agency touts it on their website. So her right to privacy is only protected by the 2000′ of elevation gain over the course of 5 miles. Nonetheless, there is no right to tour the look-out tower. If she ( or whoever has that station) doesn’t want company – that’s it. You get a view from the rocks.

Still worth it, of course.

BTW – the geo-cache on the saddle between the two peaks – that’s mine. Enjoy.

More on this hike on You Tube

O’Leary Peak on You Tube

One last thing – this is why comments are closed for most of my posts:

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Mount Eden Loop

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Part of an ongoing series of behind-the-hike descriptions for 5 Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona. This is Hike #3.

Big Elden Loop

DATE: 9/18/10

COMPANIONS: Ben

START TIME: 1:42p

END TIME: 6:21p

ACTUAL MILES: 7.77

OFFICIAL MILES: 7.5

NEED TO KNOW:

Up the Upper Oldham Trail, West across the Sunset Trail, Back down the Brookbank Trail. Start at TH on Lookout Rd.

This was our second attempt at finding a worthwhile loop hike up and down Mt Elden outside of Flagstaff. Our first effort was done in by fire closures from the Schultz Fire. Some of that first hike was salvaged into Little Elden Springs. Some of it I can never describe in detail in writing.

This one went much better. Good start, good weather, good hike. We did not actually take the spur to the look-out tower. I used the GPS data from our first attempt.

There are several good geo-caches along Sunset Trail.

The road up to the peak is strictly 4WD. That would be why there’s always plenty of parking.

The You Tube video for this hike was actually put together by Ben.

Mt Elden Loop You Tube video

“Shore is perty up here…”

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

COMPANIONS: Ben

START TIME: 11:45am

END TIME: 2pm (one way)

ACTUAL MILES: 18.7

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

You can help restore the damage from the Schultz Fire

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

If you live in or around Flagstaff, that is.

From the Coconino National Forest:

Flagstaff, AZ – The Flagstaff Ranger District is happy to announce the completion of the planning process for the Schultz Fire Long-Term Rehabilitation Projects on the Coconino National Forest. These projects will improve public safety in the areas affected by the Schultz Fire as well as address the long-term recovery needs of forest resources.

Rehabilitation efforts will include reconstructing and maintaining forest roads and trails, removing hazard trees, stabilizing cultural and recreational sites such as Bonito Amphitheater, promoting revegetation through planting and protection efforts, and constructing the Copeland Canal fence. Implementation on some projects will begin this spring and will continue over the next few years.

The public can anticipate opportunities to help with some of those recovery efforts, beginning with the Copeland Canal fence. “Now that we’re through with the planning portion, and we can focus on implementing the projects, we’ll be looking for ways to include the community,” says Mike Elson, Flagstaff District Ranger. “The first opportunity for the public to help is just around the corner. April 9 and 10, we’re seeking volunteers to help construct a fence around the Copeland Canal behind Fernwood.” The completion of the fence will allow the Forest Service to move forward with lifting the closure in the area.  Other opportunities to volunteer in the more distant future may include trail reconstruction and replanting in portions of the burn area.
Crews and volunteers will be building approximately 3 miles of fence which will provide a buffer around the canal to help the public to remain at a safe distance, as well as protect the banks of the ditch from damage and reduced capacity.
“Since the Schultz Fire, we have received lots of offers from the public to help with the recovery efforts,” says Elson. “We’re looking forward to working with community members on a project that will help us reopen the forest for public use.”

Who: Anyone eager to help with Schultz Flood recovery efforts. Participants of all ages are welcome, but minors need to be accompanied by an adult.
When: Saturday April 9 & Sunday April 10; 9:00a.m. – early afternoon
Where: Copeland Canal behind the Fernwood neighborhood.
What to Bring: Sturdy shoes, gloves, sunscreen, appropriate attire for the weather, plenty of water, and your lunch.
RSVP: All those planning to attend should RSVP to Justin Loxley or Brienne Magee at the Flagstaff Ranger Station, 928-526-0866.

This fence is part of the Schultz Long-Term Rehabilitation Projects. These long-term rehab projects – which also include preparing roads and trails for safe public use and replanting in some portions of the burn area – are separate from the ongoing burn and flood emergency response efforts.

Continued Burned Area Emergency Response efforts will take place this spring and summer; an assessment in the spring will determine the effectiveness of the previous aerial seeding and mulching, as well as the need for further measures.
For more information on the Long Term Rehabilitation Projects, visit the website at http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/nepa/index.shtml or contact the Flagstaff Ranger District at 928-527-0866.

For additional information on the upcoming Copeland Canal Volunteer Weekend, or to RSVP, please contact Justin Loxley or Brienne Magee at the above number.