AB Canada – Banff National Park, Around Town, Mount Rundle (05/23)

This mountain is hard to ignore. The distinctive shape, size, and ever-presence have made it one of my most photographed subjects. I can see it from my bedroom window, observing it at sunrise and sunset has become my daily ritual. Hiking the flanks was on my list. I’m calling this the Rundle Rumble.

The Spray River separates Mount Rundle on one side and Sulphur Mountain on the other. It was Saturday of a holiday weekend and there was no way I was joining the masses on Sulphur Mountain. Many enjoy the gondola ride to the top. I had the hike on my list but it would wait for a somewhat less busy time.

There are at least two options to summit Mount Rundle. From the Town of Banff side, access is considered a scramble route with the first two-thirds a hiking trail, that was the section I planned to hike. Another option is from Canmore, called the East End of Rundle or EEOR.

Parks Canada website includes a detailed description of this trail (link). The hiking trail ends at Central Gully, my planned turnaround location.

I parked at the Spray River West Trailhead and hiked clockwise. After crossing the Spray River, the river trail was an old road full of rocks and roots. I was happy to switch to singletrack at the junction.

It was a steady climb, up, up and more up, so I was glad for distractions of the floral variety. Good morning Fairy Slippers.


There were a few flat soft sections along the trail, these made my heart (and feet) sing.

Occasional views were offered as I gained elevation.

Looking across at Sulphur Mountain, the gondola, and The Rimrock Resort near Banff Upper Hot Springs.

On the left is the Sulfur Summit Discovery Center and on the right is the Cosmic Ray Station. I visited both while in the area.

Way down there is the Town of Banff, with Mount Norquay in the background.

There were a few sections of trail on the switchbacks that weren’t in the best of condition, but nothing too sketchy for most hikers.

After 4 miles and 2,000′ elevation gain, I reached Central Gully, an avalanche chute. I met a group hoping to find water in this ravine. Parks Canada has this advice, “The Central Gully marks the end of the hiking trail and the start of the “scrambling” section of the trip. The route to the summit crosses this gully and ascends to the top by way of the forested ridge beyond. Do not climb up the Central Gully! Despite appearances, it is not a safe route to the summit. The gully is easy at the start but gradually steepens, forming dangerously smooth slabs where several people have been killed!

This is a super long chute. Looking up from where the trail crosses.

I met two groups of young men heading for the summit. One of these guys was sliding as he tried to traverse this chute. One slip and you are going down, down, down.

The quick way down. The lead guy in the above photo had hiked this route previously and said he made the mistake of missing the crossing and started down before realizing his error. From the Parks Canada website, “On the descent, it is critical to return to this point and stay on the hiking trail for the rest of the way down. From across the gully, the end of the hiking trail is surprisingly difficult to see. Several fatal accidents have occurred when descending climbers missed the trail and fell while on a shortcut through the first cliff band that lies 100 m downhill from here.

For those who dare . . . I can’t help but wonder how many of the 20 hikers I met on my way down attempted the summit.

Here are a few words from the Parks Canada website, “Scramble up the steep track in the trees just right of the rocky outcrops. Stick to the most obvious path that climbs directly up the slope. There is no “built” trail—only a few cut trees, and the path is slippery in places. About 100 m up the slope, the path traverses horizontally to the right and away from the steeper slopes overlooking the Central Gully. From here on, the route climbs almost straight up through the forest. The path is well worn but continuously steep and smooth. Near the treeline the path has eroded badly to expose the smooth bedrock underneath. This entire section can become extremely slippery when wet. The slope that the route follows is actually a ridge bounded by the Central Gully on the left side and another similar large gully on the right. This ridge leads most of the way to the top. Above treeline the ridge gradually narrows to form the “Dragon’s Back”, a sloping spine of rock between the two gullies. Its surface is the smooth slope of the limestone bedrock. For much of the way, it is covered by loose gravel, and there are steep cliffs on each side. Careful footing! The ascent beyond the Dragon’s Back is a long and straightforward slog up the loose scree to the summit ridge. The ridge crest is a sharp edge with the vertical east face of Mount Rundle below. Traverse to the right along the ridge for about 100 m (mostly along the right side of the crest) to the summit high point marked by a cairn. There is a modest flat spot here to rest and enjoy the view.

To complete the loop, I hiked south on the Spray River Trail to the Quarry Loop bridge. You get good views of Sulfur Mountain, the Gondola line, and The Rimrock Resort near Banff Upper Hot Springs.

You have to hike a bit south beyond the bridge before working your way back north.

There are hoodoos along this section of the trail, where you’ll often also see rock climbers.

From the bridge, you get a view of the Banff Hot Springs Hotel.

This was a nearly 9-mile, 2,200-foot elevation gain/loss loop hike.

Mount Rundle Portraits

While this great mountain is visible from many places in the Town Of Banff, it is best photographed a bit further afield, like this view from Two Jack Lake in early May.

Lake Minnewanka view.

Johnson Lake.

Back at Two Jack Lake for sunrise reflections.

Mount Rundle playing second fiddle to Banff Hot Springs Hotel (Fairmont).

The view from Cascade Ponds.

Sharing the limelight with the old train cars at Lower Bankhead.

Looking down at Mount Rundle from Tunnel Mountain summit. My early morning hike didn’t provide for the best photographic light.

On a smoky day, the view of Rundle from the Hoodoos trail.

The Rundle view from one of the town pedestrian bridges over Bow River.

As seen from the Upper Banff Hot Springs pool.

I stopped at Tran Canada Highway 1 overlook on my way into town at the end of April.

As I dropped into town, I stopped at a pullover for this view with Vermillion Lakes in the foreground.

Town view from the Mount Norquay Road.

Coming down the Mount Norquay Road.


AB Canada – Banff National Park, Around Town, Mount Norquay and Stoney Mountain (05/23)

The road to Mount Norquay Ski Resort offers excellent views of town, the surrounding mountains, and the Vermillion Lakes. The road also leads to the Stoney Lookout Trailhead, the focus of this post.

Mount Norquay as viewed from Cascade Ponds.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep on the Mount Norquay Road.

Who knew sheep could fly?

Handstands take practice but this one has it mastered.

Hey buddy you’re going the wrong way.

I can go wherever I want because I’m the most handsome of them all.

Stoney Lookout Trail

According to Wikipedia, “Stoney Mountain is located between Cascade Mountain and Mount Norquay, in the Vermilion Range of the Canadian Rockies. Stoney Squaw is the second smallest mountain adjacent to the townsite, taller only than Tunnel Mountain. It is much rounder than many of the other mountains nearby. Ernest Ingersoll wrote in his 1892 “Canadian Guide Book” that the mountain takes its name “from the traditional story that some years ago a brave old Assiniboine woman sustained her husband, who lay sick for several months in their lodge at its base, by hunting upon its top and sides, where there are open glades which still form favorite spring feeding-places for the big-horn or mountain sheep. The name became official in 1922. The adjacent Cascade Mountain used to be referred to as Stoney Chief, though this name is now largely defunct.

I hiked the 3-mile 700′ elevation gain/loss lookout trail as a counterclockwise loop.

The trail travels through a forest where trees were covered in lichen.

Cute little ferns made for a nice ground cover.

It was a good day to focus on vegetation because the views were not the best. I was in denial initially about the smoke-filled skies. The weather forecast called for a cloudy day, so when I saw the reddish sun I didn’t think too much. When I saw what I thought was “low clouds” I still wasn’t alarmed. Looking down at the Vermillion Lakes basin and slightly obscured mountains.

Hazy Cascade Mountain

Well, I could say this was fog but sadly this was smoke from the numerous large wildfires in Northern Alberta.

Mount Brewster was cloaked in smoke as well.

Mount Norquay was still visible as I completed my loop.

I stopped at the town viewpoint on my way down Mount Norquay Road. It was a sad sight, and one I’m all too familiar with given the much too-long wildfire/smoke season I’ve experienced elsewhere. I was hopeful the forecast rain that evening would wash the smoke away.

Sadly the rain didn’t come and I was forced into an inside timeout for a few days while I waited for the wind to shift direction. The smoke drift was expected to cover the US within a couple of days.

There was no nearby place to escape so I settled in to catch up on my photos, blog, and some reading. There were 75-100 wildfires burning. It was unprecedented for this early in the year. AQI reached over 400, well beyond what my asthma tolerates. “Alberta’s provincial government declared a state of emergency as tens of thousands of hectares continued to burn.


AB Canada – Banff National Park, Around Town, Cave & Basin National Historic Site (05/23)

Cave and Basin has been a special place for Indigenous Peoples for over ten thousand years and continues to be so to this day. In 1883, three railway workers happened upon the thermal springs, sparking a series of events that led to the creation of the first national park in Canada. Today, the site is a gathering place for sharing stories about conservation and the connection between people and the land. Visitors can enjoy interactive exhibits, short films, seasonal activities, and stunning views of the Rocky Mountains.” Source: Parks Canada

Signage around town makes it easy to find your way; however, I found it helpful to also download the latest town trails map (link), which can be used with Avenza on your phone.

Marsh Loop

This is a birder’s paradise! I enjoyed listening to the birds but of course, was drawn to the plants. My first find was budding willows.

I’m sure this is a haven for mosquitoes although I read on an interpretative sign that mosquito fish were introduced to help with that problem but they’ve not become a bit of an invasive species.

I found another view of Tunnel Mountain aka Buffalo Mountain, maybe looking a bit more like a bison, although I’m still not convinced. It’s still hard to believe this is the most popular peak to hike in the area. I think its original name, Hill, is most appropriate. If it wasn’t such a cloudy day you’d see the big peaks in the background.

You can see all the new spring green in this photo of Sanson Peak.

I found a new-to-me plant!

I found a bird’s nest in a willow.

A cool bush or tree budding.

Lower Boardwalk

This trail provides interpretative signage and viewpoints, plus the opportunity to see some rare plants which I’m hoping to find blooming before I leave the area.

The first thing I saw upon arrival was a plethora of garter snakes. Little did I know they were a rare sighting.

I returned a week or so later in hopes of finding more blooms. These were in a boggy area. I believe they are Watercress (Nasturtium officinale).

Upper Boardwalk

This trail has a lot of interpretative signs explaining the relationship between the Cave and the Basin.

There were lots of sulphur streams and pools but this was the granddaddy. I forgot my Park Pass so I couldn’t visit the museum on this date.

I was able to go inside the building with the First World War Internment exhibit. It had a lot of interpretative information and ties back to the internment camp memorial I stopped at along the Bow Valley Parkway.

I found these clematis blooms as I wandered the boardwalks. Most areas are fenced off or out of reach so distant photos are the best you can get. I’ve been using iNaturalist to determine species based on location and month. Accordingly I believe these are Purple Clematis (Clematis accidentalis).

I believe these are Hookedspur Violets (Viola adunca).


AB Canada – Banff National Park, Around Town, Bow River (05/23)

The Bow River runs through the town of Banff. There are paved and dirt trails along both sides of the river, accessible from many locations, with bridges at reasonable intervals. Cascade Mountain takes center stage on this crossing.

This is a view from the north side near Bow Falls.

I continued east on the Tunnel Mountain Hoodos Trail. It diverts away from the main channel of Bow River for a bit before rejoining near this location.

I found a few patches of pasqueflowers.

I then walked the south side of the trail going east from the footbridge toward the Bow Falls viewpoint.

This side of the trail is wide and busier with many benches along the way. There was more lingering snow although it was a warm day and many were sunbathing on the other side with a few taking a dip.

There are several sets of stairs as you near the falls.

With all the pointy rocks I can’t imagine this would ever be a floatable river, at least not this section which would dump you over the falls.

So it seems the front-facing camera on my phone isn’t so good at capturing distant objects, or maybe it’s the screen protector causing focus issues; it seems they neglected to leave an opening. I should have asked someone to take my photo. Oh well . . .

Views after Bow Falls as the river bends and continues east.

I made a new friend, the only wildlife sighting this day, except for the always annoying and plentiful magpies.

It seems the section of the Bow River after Bow Falls is a calm place for personal watercraft. I took this photo a few days later when I explored trails along the Spray River. This is where the Spray meets the Bow.


After hiking a bit of the lower Tunnel Mountain Hoodos Trail on a previous day, I drove to the main Hoodoos parking area and hiked a loop starting with the Toe Hoodoo Trail and then taking some random mostly unnamed trails.

Sadly the views were less than stellar due to smoke from the large wildfires in northern Alberta. The hoodoos are on the bottom left of the photo, along the bank of the Bow River with Mount Rundle in the background.

On a clear day, this would be a great place to see Rundle (on the left), Tunnel (on the right), and Sulphur (in the distance) Mountains, with the Bow River running down the middle.

You can also see the Banff Hot Springs Hotel (aka The Fairmont) tucked in the valley.

My goal on this day was to saunter in the forest, and see what I might find. My first discovery was this vetch, according to Seek it is Boreal Sweet-vetch (Hedysarum boreale).

Hookedspur Violet (Viola adunca).

Prairie Smoke/Three-Flowered Avens/Old Man’s Whiskers (Geum triflorum).

I was delighted to find my first-of-the-season Fairy-Slipper orchids (Calypso bulbosa). According to iNaturalist, these are Eastern Fairy-Slippers (Calypso bulbosa var. americana). They are much smaller than other varieties I’ve seen, ranging in height from 2-4 inches.

Virginia Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana).

Lewis Flax (Linum lewisii).

It was time to say goodbye to the pasqueflowers (aka prairie crocus) and hello to Dr. Seuss mopheads.

I found one late blooming pasqueflower, to keep alive my near-daily sightings through the month of May.

There were lots of green shoots promising future flowers, plants I can’t identify until they bloom. I couldn’t help but wonder, wonder, wonder what this one would be? According to Seek pink anemone.

This coyote had very dog-like behavior. It was standing next to the trail in front of me. When it saw me, instead of turning and heading into the woods, it trodded down the trail next to me. This is the second daytime coyote sighting while visiting Banff.

Rundle Riverside Trail

This is the most primitive trail I hiked along the Bow River.

Cascade Mountain is visible frequently.

There are a few views of Mount Rundle.

Yellow Anemone (Anemonastrum richardsonii). This plant didn’t show on iNaturalist in this location so I contributed to citizen science by posting and asking for identification.

Bino Bob at 1.25″ tall says they are BIG!


AB Canada – Banff National Park, Around Town, Highlights Edition (05/23)

This was my third extended visit. My first was in late summer 2015 and was sadly somewhat marred by wildfire smoke; my second was in the fall of 2016 when I was introduced to larch season. There was no doubt early spring would be a very different experience, with access limited to the front country. The pink, purple, and blue in this image represent snow depth at the beginning of May.

I was super fortunate to have this opportunity to not only experience spring in this area but to have a home base in this awesome location. I was housesitting for friends who are avid adventurers and who were more than happy to supply me with a list of outings and maps. My first order of business was buying a Park pass and bear deterrent, after all this is grizzly country.

Town of Banff

This is a crazy busy place, when people say they are going to or have been to Banff they often mean the town. My introduction was around 2008 when I was taking a bike tour of the Canadian Rockies and the Town of Banff was the beginning and ending location. It’s way too touristy for my taste. In fact, according to the Learn About Banff website, “The Town of Banff official population is about 8,000 residents. Everyone that lives in Banff must meet a “need to reside” requirement regulated by the federal government. More than 4 million people visit Banff National Park every year, and almost all of them visit the Town of Banff. On the busiest summer days, daily visitor-adjusted estimated population is above 50,000.” Rarely is this sign devoid of people posing for photos.

Given my tendency to avoid crowds, my strategy was to be an early bird and accept the inevitable with patience and grace. Parking is a nightmare, providing plenty of motivation to bike or walk to most places. Banff Avenue is closed to vehicles for five months beginning in mid-May, adding to the traffic congestion on alternate streets. Free parking is available at the entrance to the Town of Banff near the bus depot, whereas limited town parking is currently priced at $5 per hour.

This photo of the town was taken from a viewpoint on Mount Norquay Road. Since this is a National Park, sprawl is limited.

The view from Tunnel Mountain offers a much different perspective.

It’s easy to see why many tourists don’t venture much beyond the Town of Banff with much to explore nearby. I walked to most of the following places from my friend’s house, with occasional driving for harder-to-reach trailheads or for sunrise/sunset wildlife viewing.

Vermillion Lakes

There is a short road allowing easy access to a few viewpoints. It’s a popular road for cycling as it leads to the paved Banff Legacy Trail. Parking is extremely limited near the trailhead.

Views of Vermillion Lakes from the Banff Legacy Trail with the Sundance Range in the background.

Vermillion Lakes view from Mount Norquay.

I returned a few days later to find most of the ice melted.

Cascades of Time Garden

This garden is free and easily accessible as it not only has free parking with a decent size lot but is also within walking distance of most hotels and downtown.

It was a dreary misty day, so I decided to see if anything was blooming in the garden. The Banff Park Headquarters building shares space with the garden.

I’m sure the gardens are beautiful in the summer but in May they were recovering from winter.

You get a good view of Tunnel Mountain from this location.

By the third week of May, with the weather heating up, the hillsides were soon dotted with dandelions and other colorful blooms.

Future Posts:

Bow River, Bow Falls, and Hoodoo Trails

There are nice trails along both sides of the Bow River, with viewpoints to see the falls and hoodoos. Some sections are more primitive than others.

Spray River Trails

The trail begins near the Banff Springs Hotel. The west side trail runs 38 kilometers to Spray Lake; the east side provides connections to both the Bow River and Mount Rundle trails.

Tunnel Mountain Summit Trail

As the most popular summit hike in Banff, it was on my must-do list.

Stoney Squaw Lookout Trail

Mount Norquay Road offers viewpoints different from others around town.

Mount Rundle Trail

This view is one not many get to see.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

There are many nearby trails, some with interpretative signage. There is something for everyone, history, geology, plants, and wildlife.


2023 – In Pursuit of Spring from Arizona to Canada

Driving, driving, driving seems to be the theme of 2023. I drove about 1,200 to Arizona in early March before returning home in mid April. I was home about a week before driving another 1,200 to Canada. That’s a LOT of driving for me. I’m a hiker, not a driver! But when opportunities knock, Jan says YES. In this case, I was invited to housesit in Banff for the month of May.

I said goodbye to Mount Shasta as I started my drive north. With such a heavy snow year, it was sad to miss out on snowshoeing adventures but flowers and new views awaited.

I didn’t have time to lollygag but I needed breaks. This one was in Hood River along the Columbia River.

If I was ever going to cruise, this might be my ship of choice. It was docked at Hood River.

Fishtrap Recreation Area provided an opportunity to stretch my legs. I found this early spring bloom which I believe is a hesperochiron.

Violets are always sticking their noses up in the early season.

I traveled through Oregon, Washington, and finally Idaho before nearly reaching the border.

I always have nervous anxiety at border crossings. The agents are so intimidating.

I passed the test and was soon on my way.

I found my first bloom in Canada.

When will spring arrive?

The Town of Banff is inside Banff National Park, which is in Alberta, Canada. Seeing elk and deer grazing in the neighborhood is a good reminder.

My friend provided a book with lots of ideas, as well as maps and guidebooks. My first order of business was getting a park pass and bear spray.

Get ready for a barrage of posts, sharing stories and photos of my experiences in Alberta and British Columbia, primarily in Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country which includes several Provincial Parks.

  • Banff National Park
    • Around Town
      • Bow River
      • Cave and Basin National Historic Site
      • Mount Norquay and Stoney Mountain
      • Mount Rundle
      • Spray River
      • Sulphur Mountain
      • Tunnel Mountain
    • Along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Road
      • Bankhead Ghost Town and beyond
      • The Lakes Tour featuring Johnson, Two Jack, Minnewanka Lakes and Cascade Ponds
      • Stewart Canyon and Lake Minnewanka Trails
    • Bow Valley Parkway
      • Castle Mountain
      • Johnson Canyon
    • Icefields Parkway
      • Peyto Lake
  • Kananaskis Country
    • Bow Valley Provincial Park, Many Springs
    • Bow Valley Provincial Park, Grotto Canyon
    • Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Mount Yamnuska
    • Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Lakes
    • Quaite Valley Provincial Recreation Area, Barrier Lake and Yates Lookout
  • Yoho National Park
    • Emerald Lake

Spoiler Alert! YES, I found spring and plenty of blooms. The first 2-3 weeks were dominated by pasqueflowers aka prairie crocus.


AZ – Arizona Trail, The Friendship Edition (Mar/April 2023)

Many hikers are introverts by nature. I consider myself an extroverted introvert. After a long winter hibernation I was more than ready for a little social interaction. I had zero expectations for this trail or jaunt which made it easy to be overjoyed by all the unexpected connections. It was super fun to share 30 of my 40 days on the Arizona Trail with trail friends.

Within 24 hours of arrival, I connected with this foursome, first meeting up with my long-time Canadian friend, Tour Guide, followed by a reunion with the Wander Women, and finally meeting Mary Poppins, a previous virtual friend.

Tour Guide and I both crossed paths with Yak several times. It is believed he was the first to complete the Arizona Trail this year and will be one of the few spring completers due to the Grand Canyon closure.

I’d been wanting to meet Apple Pie for years and was thrilled to cross paths a couple times on this trail. I met both Greenleaf and Little Bird on different legs of her hike. She too was bouncing around and getting double credit for many sections.

With all this social time, I spent more time eating out than ever. Treehugger, Tour Guide and I were stuck in Globe for a few days waiting out a storm but we made the best of it and it was way more fun than had I been solo.

After 20ish days, it was time to say goodbye to Tour Guide. I had so much fun meeting up with her at trailheads and assisting with transportation and logistics. Her husband is known as Wife Tracker when he provides this type of support, so I guess I was his substitute.

Hiking with the Wander Women for a couple of days, even though they were sick and injured, was a highlight. They are my kind of peeps.

I was thrilled to spend a week with Joan, my J&J adventure partner. We always make such great memories, doing hard stuff while finding ways to smile and laugh.

And just when I thought my time in Arizona was over, I got an invite to hang out with Mary Poppins and her Canadian friends.

When we finished our hike we had another reunion with the Wander Women. So much fun!!!



AZ – Arizona Trail, The Wildflower Edition (March/April 2023)

I found my first blooms along the Arizona Trail in early March. With plentiful rain, there was no shortage of flowers. Poppies stole the show. Disclosure: I took most of the photos with the Galaxy S22 Ultra phone instead of my Sony RX100 camera and the quality especially on macro photos isn’t up to my normal standard. I also did my best with flower identification, but there may be errors and would be happy to see corrections in the comments.

Tuber Anemone

Redstem Stork’s Bill


Owl’s Clover

Henbit Deadnettle

Fairy Duster

Scorpion Weed







Blue Dips and Globemallow

There are a few places in Arizona where you can find pink poppies. I found a few on a previous trip but had planned to visit an area known for mass blooms. This didn’t happen but I found a few of these yellow outliers instead.

Fringe Pods hiding among the Poppies.


The predominant blooms of early spring was Blue Dips (Dipterostemon). They come in a variety of colors from fuchsia to pink to blue to purple to white.

Four O’Clocks?

I’ve always loved the purple round balls on sticks, aka Salvia or Chia.

I was a little early to enjoy cacti blooms.

I was too early for the ocotillo blooms as well.

The yellows brighten the desert. The desert marigolds are one of the first to make an appearance.

By the time Brittlebush line the trails, many of the other blooms start to fade.

I found evening primroses in yellow and white.

Cream Cups?




Wild Rhubarb.

Miner’s Lettuce.







Allium (desert onion).



Carphochaete bigelovii, Bigelow’s Bristlehead?


Spring Beauties.



Happy Jan playing in the blooms.

These photos were taken while hiking the following sections of the Arizona Trail.



AZ – Arizona Trail Passage 26 NOBO/EABO, Highline National Recreation Trail (04/23)

The Highline Trail runs east/west below the Mogollon Rim with the western 20 miles overlapping the Arizona Trail between Pine and Washington Park Trailheads.

I hiked the overlap section in 2019 (link). Joan and I had one more partial day together so we decided to hike east from the Pine Trailhead. We then said our goodbyes and I packed up ready to begin my drive home the next morning.

But as they say, best laid plans . . . Instead I got a text from Mary Poppins (Moving Mountains Blog) who invited me to join her and her Canadian friends on a hike of another section of the Highline Trail. I was hesitant to say yes, but my no regrets policy kicked in and I said YES!

According to the USFS website, “The Highline Trail, established in 1870, was used to travel between homesteads and to attend school in Pine. Zane Grey and Babe Haught used the Highline Trail while hunting.” The trail mileage is currently noted as 56-60 miles due to reroutes. We planned to hike from the Washington Park Trailhead east to the Two-Sixty Trailhead. Hike Arizona has detailed information (link).

We had to shuttle vehicles between trailheads leaving Mary Poppins and I to catch up with the Canadians.

And then we were six, although John was planning to turnaround and would be meeting us at a future road crossing.

We had many views of the Mogollon Rim. The Mogollon Rim is a topographical and geological feature cutting across the northern half of the U.S. state of Arizona. It extends approximately 200 miles, starting in northern Yavapai County and running eastward, ending near the border with New Mexico. It forms the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. Source: Wikipedia.

The Highline Trail isn’t flat. This is the profile according to Hiking Project (link). We soon called it the rollercoaster trail, although it felt like we were almost always ascending.

This wet year had us seeing plenty of water.

The trail was mostly easy to follow, although in meadow, grassy or flooded areas there were a few challenges. We were grateful for the orange flags recently added for an upcoming race, and the blue flags indicating the wrong way.

The Canadian gals had planned to finish the Arizona Trail this season. They started at the Mexico border in 2020 and made it to Picket Post before COVID derailed their plans. This year they returned only to be turned back by snow conditions once they reached the Mogollon Rim.

We had a hard time finding a location suitable for four tents. After much deliberation we settled for this old rocky road which provided amazing views.

It was cool to see so much of the Mogollon Rim.

After a lovely dinner, conversation and sunset views, we all settled down for some much needed sleep. Mother Nature had other ideas. About 8pm, she decided to huff and puff and try to blow our houses down. My new tent took a beating but stood strong, although some of the guylines suffered a bit. Had I expected wind I would have done a better job securing my lines. It was a very noisy night and none of us got much if any sleep.

At first light I packed up and headed down to the manzanita forest for a reprieve from the wind where I could make my coffee and breakfast.

I forgot to pack my umbrella and was jealous of Karen. The sun was intense and I was quite warm frequently.

At least the creeks provided opportunities for keeping myself wet and cool.

Our campsite the second night was much more peaceful.

The next morning we were ready for the next leg of the trail. Meet my new friends from left to right, Karen, Mary Poppins, Denise aka Camelback, and Kathy.

Little did we know we’d be enjoying an early morning swift water crossing, the first of several this day.

Soon enough we were hot enough to make snow angels.

For the agile, this is one way to collect water.

Balancing skills!

Cool water plants.

Bright red worm or caterpillar.

You know the water is cold when it’s surrounded by snow.

This area seems to showcase the blue-ridged mountains.

When we reached the Christopher Creek crossing, we were in for a surprise.

Fording this creek was not a good idea. As Camelback said, “better safe than dead.”

Thankfully Denise’s husband John came to our rescue.

He had his vehicle and transported us to the community of Christopher Creek where we inquired as to possible access through their private property. We connected with the right person and before we knew it we found ourselves back on the Highline.

The crew coming back up from touching the east side of Christopher Creek.

Here was Denise touching the west shore of Christopher Creek. As a thru-hiker she was determined to hike as much of the trail as possible.

We hiked the short trail to See Spring. Mary Poppins had been previously and shared her delight at the waterfall. But alas on this high snowmelt year, it most likely was overrun by a creek, and we were skunked. Curiosity kept us going but eventually it was time to get back on the Highline and hightail it to the trailhead to meet John.

We were all obsessed with the Jeffrey Pine trees. They share characteristics of Bristlecone Pines, where much of the tree appears dead.

They hike, they climb, they sing and smile. What a fab group of gals.

According to Gaia, this was a 44 mile, 3,800′ elevation gain, 3,300′ loss trip.

We finished our hike and made it back to Payson in time to connect with the Wander Women (link).

It was so fun connecting our groups. What a fab way to end my Arizona jaunt.

The next day I drove north where I found the float edition of the Arizona Trail. Swim, kayak, paddleboard or packraft options at mile 530.7 Lake Mary Road.

Mount Humphreys and Lake Mary.

Jacob Lake Ranger Station, mile 771.8. I hiked the Kaibab Plateau in 2019 (link) as well as the north side of the Grand Canyon (link). I’m still missing some significant Arizona Trail miles, most notably between the Colorado River (mile 708) to Highway 87 north of Pine (mile 500.7). I think these might be good sections to do one fall season.



AZ – Arizona Trail Passage 23 NOBO Loop, Barnhardt Trailhead (04/23)

Since Joan and I already had a car staged at this trailhead from our previous section we decided to eliminate the need for more driving by hiking a loop. We hiked clockwise starting with the Y Bar Trail, connected to the Arizona Trail, and returned via the Barnhardt Trail.

Since we were further north and at higher elevation, spring was lagging but still found a few blooms.

It was a bit shocking to find a small patch of poppies. What a wonderful gift for Joan.

This baby fern forest caught my attention. There was a lot of manzanita and oaks in this area.

It’s always a bit shocking to me to see cactus where they don’t seem to belong.

Plentiful water continued to be a theme on the Arizona Trail this season. I was thrilled to limit my weight by carrying minimal quantities.

First views of snow.

Up close and personal with the colorful rocks that make up these mountains.

Reassurance signs are especially important on these sections of trail that have been rerouted due to erosion, fires, floods, etc. Much of the higher sections of the Y Bar Trail didn’t match our maps.

We were excited to finally connect with the Arizona Trail after 2,300′ of climbing on VERY rocky steep trail.

The climb had been tedious. I was so focused it seems I didn’t take any photos but Joan thankfully captured this one.

The views along the divide were incredible.

We found a lovely campsite along the Arizona Trail and Mazatzal Divide.

We were treated to a colorful sunset.

Juniper trees are so cool from their berries to their bark, and their fake dead appearance.

We admired the snow, and thanked it for it for filling the creeks, but were glad to escape potentially treacherous hiking.

We had heard there were several waterfalls along the Barnhardt Trail. We were excited to save this for our final leg of this loop.

There were some treasures to be found along the trail.

The hidey holes proved to be nice stretching platforms.

This was a 15-16 miles 2,500′ elevation gain/loss loop hike. I recommend hiking clockwise starting with Y Bar due to steep rocky ascent which I much prefer to a descent in those conditions.

I found these beauties near the trailhead.

We found nearby dispersed camping where we were once again treated to a nice sunrise.

Goodbye Mazatzal Peak.