Posts Tagged ‘Schultz fire’

Little Bear Trail reopens

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Little Bear Trail was definitely a Five Star trail before the Schultz Fire. Now it’s at least open again.

From the Coconino National Forest:

Little Bear Trail reopens after being closed for 6 years

Flagstaff, Ariz., Oct. 20, 2016, For Immediate Release — The Flagstaff Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest is pleased to announce the re-opening of the Little Bear Trail in the Schultz Fire burn area after many donations and years of volunteer efforts.

The trail was closed in 2010, when the entire area was closed for public safety concerns after the Schultz Fire impacted the area. Following the Schultz Fire, numerous hazards along the trail such as falling trees, rolling rocks and unstable trail conditions kept the trail closed, and monsoon storms continued to severely erode and flood the trail.

“Without the amazing efforts of our Flagstaff trail volunteer community, this re-opening would not have been possible,” said Sean Murphy, Flagstaff Ranger District Trails and Wilderness Technician.  “It is a privilege to work for, and with, such a dedicated and involved community!”

The trail’s revitalization was a huge effort from multiple partners with the Forest Service. Individuals and businesses within the community stepped forward, and more than $40,000 was spent to employ American Conservation Experience (ACE) crews in the interest of seeing the trail stabilized and made safe for public enjoyment.

Flagstaff Biking Organization (FBO) and the U.S. Forest Service used grants and work days to repair treacherous rocky terrain to once again provide a safe trail for bikers, equestrians and hikers.  Not only did Flagstaff Biking Organization have three volunteer events in 2016 to work on Little Bear Trail, but they collected $10,000 in grants and funds garnered from events managed by the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA). This allowed for additional ACE crews to help realign one of the most problematic spots on the trail. Additionally, the Flagstaff Ranger District obtained another $30,000 in grant funds to keep ACE working through the fall.

Other organizations assisted in repairs, sponsored trail events and helped provide refreshments to those working on the trail. This included the Coconino Horseman’s Alliance, Coconino Trail Riders, Cosmic Cycles, Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution and Run Flagstaff. Fratelli Pizza, Kickstand Coffee and Biff’s Bagels graciously provided refreshments.

“Some of the things that ACE has completed on the trail are, quite frankly, works of art,” said Deborah Soltesz, volunteer trail worker and Coconino National Forest webmaster. “The work involved not just major rehabilitation labor, or the moving of dirt and rock sloughed over the trail, but fixing some washed out drainages and trail rerouting by building new trail near the old one, where repairing the old eroded trail was unfeasible.”

During the last trail day sponsored by Flagstaff Biking Organization on Oct. 15, more than 45 people participated, representing all types of forest users and community volunteers.

“The trail closure is one of the little wounds left by the Schultz Fire,” said Soltesz, “and the process of reopening it has been part of the community’s healing following the [Schultz] fire’s devastation.”

Little Bear Trail climbs the Dry Lake Hills from Little Elden Trail to meet Sunset Trail in a quiet nook between the Dry Lake Hills and Mount Elden.

The trail climbs through the skeletons left behind by the Schultz Fire and patches of surviving ponderosa pine and Gambel oak. It gradually winds through Douglas-fir, limber pine, and pockets of aspen trees at the top. The trail offers outstanding views of the San Francisco Peaks, Sunset Crater, several prominent volcanic peaks, and in the distant background the Painted Desert acts as a colorful backdrop.

Many wildlife species make their home in this area including mule deer, elk, porcupine and black bear for which the trail is named. In addition, red-tailed hawks, raven and the occasional turkey vulture will dazzle you with their aerial acrobatics.

The Coconino National Forest would like to thank all of those who helped support this effort over the years it took to rehabilitate this trail.  “This was a true multi-partner effort!” said Murphy.

For images of the Oct. 15 Trail Day, please visit the Coconino National Forest Flickr site at https://goo.gl/3omDwj.

More information and a map showing the location of Little Bear Trail is located on the Coconino National Forest public website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=55124.

 

 

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.

Pre-hike checklist

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

First, for those who may not have been able to follow the story, the Schultz fire is fully contained. You can see a couple spots on the mountain that still smoke, but those are deep within the burn zone.

Most of the eastern and central slopes of the San Francisco Peaks remain closed.

But I have a plan as soon as they open…

On that subject, as promised earlier:

Checklist for hikers

(and hiking guide authors)

Items that pertain to normal people are written normally.

(Items that pertain only to guidebook authors are in parentheses).

AT HOME:

  1. Pick a hike. Don’t just drive somewhere and hope for inspiration.
  1. Pick the best hike feasible. Never skip a good hike for a mediocre hike thinking, “I’ll get to that other hike soon enough…” Weather/health/family/jobs sabotage hiking opportunities all the time. (If you haven’t prioritized your hike list by coolness vs accessibility, go do that now.)
  1. Do a little research. This, of course, depends on how comfortable you are with uncertainty. Some hikers like to know everything before they go (for which guidebook authors must be grateful). Some just want to know how to get to the trailhead, and let everything else be a surprise. At a minimu, though, you should know what the weather’s going to be like, and the water or fire conditions.
  1. (Learn something about the history, geology and ecology of your hike destination – so you know what to look for on the trail. Yeah, you can do a lot of that afterwords, but why work harder?)

PACKING THE GEAR

  1. Get a map. Bring it with you. Your GPS does not count. (Print an extra one for your wife – so she can refer to it when she calls the emergency response team later)
  2. Organize your essential survival things. (Have these in a kit ready to go, and keep that kit in your vehicle, so your son does not plunder it).
  3. Calculate the most water you could possibly consume on the hike, and put at least twice that amount in the car.
  4. Don’t forget lunch!
  5. Make sure your GPS, flashlight and camera are charged.
  6. (Make sure your GPS has memory left.)
  7. (Make sure your flashlight actually works.)
  8. Make sure you camera has memory.
  9. (Clean the lens on the camera.)
  10. (Bring a notebook and a working pen – because bad things can happen to digital recording devices in the wild).
  11. If the hike is more than 10 miles round trip, or you know you won’t make the trailhead until after 11 am, pack extra batteries for the flashlight, and bring an extra layer of clothing. At ten miles or more, or a noon start or later, you are one wrong turn from looking for the trailhead by moonlight.
  12. Gather this stuff the night before if you can.

AT THE TRAILHEAD

  1. Turn on the GPS, and let it find the satellites while you do the rest of your things.
  2. Finish your coffee. It won’t taste good when you get back.
  3. Now drink something else – don’t start the hike dehydrated.
  4. (Write down the GPS coordinates of the trailhead. Don’t just recite them into the DVR – write them down! Remember altitude.)
  5. Top off all the water containers.
  6. If there is some sort of toilet – use it. Especially if there are a lot of other cars at the trailhead. I don’t have to explain this logic – right?
  7. (Test the recording devices. Get the date and start time in the first recording, so you can use it on your blog seven months from now.)
  8. (Take a Bongo picture at the trailhead.)
  9. Lock the car.
  10. (Catch up with your companions who grew weary of your fussing and have already started the hike.)