Posts Tagged ‘hikes with the kids’

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.

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.

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:



Bell Rock and Broken Arrow

Friday, January 20th, 2012

It’s going to be highs of room temperature in Phoenix for the foreseeable future. I may never wear a jacket in daylight in this city ever again.

This weekend: go to the Superstitions – anywhere in the Superstitions.

Need specifics? Go do Bluff Springs Loop

From the Tonto Guide (Day and Overnight Hikes: Tonto National Forest).

(The cover photo was taken somewhere in that area.) (Not by me.)

Now, the behind-the-hike for Five Star Hikes in Flagstaff and Sedona:

Bell Rock and Broken Arrow


DATE: 10/23/10

COMPANIONS: Ben + his friend


END TIME: 7:45p


OFFICIAL MILES: 10 mile car shuttle


HIGH ELEVATION: 4600 at 9 miles


2nd Hike on 11/17/10

This was originally conceived as a single hike car-shuttle – and if you do that it’s 5 hours of awesome – but start in the morning. You can intuit from my end time what happened.

We started at Bell Rock Trailhead south of Bell Rock, and ended the day (or rather started the evening) at Morgan Road Trailhead at the north terminus of Broken Arrow.

The reason this became two hikes in the book, though, is that both trails are popular enough and cool enough on their own to warrant separate entries. And the format calls for easier hikes rather than adventure marches.

We got lost at Chicken Point. I mention a side trail in the Broken Arrow description called the Jim Bryant Trail. I discovered that because we went a good mile into the wilderness following those scattered cairns across the ravines before we concluded that whatever trail this was – it wasn’t Broken Arrow. I found its name on a map later.

By the time we found our way to Chicken Point, the sun was going down in one direction and clouds were gathering in the other. We ended up following the jeep road back to the trailhead – roads are much easier to follow in the dark than trails.

A few weeks later I came back for Broken Arrow, and other than some camera difficulties (my camera died completely soon afterwards) the hike went well.

Why yes – there is a you tube video, mostly chronicling the hike between the two trails.


Bell Rock to Broken Arrow on YT


Parson Springs Trail

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

This weekend: starting to see snow around Flagstaff, and possibly as low as Sedona. A little nippy up there, but perfect hiking weather in the high desert.

Try Ballantine Trail – one of the best hikes from Day and Overnight Hikes: Tonto National Forest.

Now on to our behind-the-hike series on the new book, Five Star Trails in Flagstaff and Sedona

Parson Springs

HIKE DATE 6-13-2010






The second crossing on this hike is a popular local swimming hole.

The hike went smoothly except for the camera. I only have two vid clips because I realized the battery wouldn’t make it. Worse, there was some sort of snot-smear on the lens. I had no chance of seeing that on the LCD screen in broad daylight, so the lesson is clean the lens at the trailhead.

You can see the smear in the You Tube clip below, and even though we tried to finesse it out, you can see it in the book photo as well.

Ben and I actually went a little further up the canyon than the trail, just to check it out. Above the springs, its just a canyon full of rocks.

Link to You Tube video

Butcher Jones Trail #463

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Going around the shores of Saguaro Lake.

Tonto NF Services description here.

Flickr set here.

Round Trip 5.25 miles

Date hiked: 5 January 2008

Companions: Ben and Julie

Notes: The overcast day did not lend itself to photography. We were sprinkled on, but te weater was otherwise mild.

This was Julie’s only hike for the guide (she was 8). Our actual hike time was just over 4 hours.

This is the shortest and probably the easiset hike in the guide.

Ben and Julie going down into Burrow Cove