The weather forecast was for rain, rain and more rain. So after my hike at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park the previous day, I planned on a driving day.
- March 10-12, 2020
The weather forecast was for rain, rain and more rain. So after my hike at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park the previous day, I planned on a driving day.
As I continued my drive I saw several decorated bushes as well as memorial crosses. But as I approached the viewpoint at Sitgreaves Pass I came upon this scene. I met a guy who told me a bit about the area and was dropping off the ashes of his wife and grandpa. According to an online account, “Jackie Rowland, vice president of the Oatman Chamber of Commerce, said the grave markers actually are memorials to deceased people whose cremains are scattered at the site. Rowland says people have scattered ashes and erected memorials at the Black Mountains site for as long as she’s resided in the area. She said it’s not uncommon for friends of the deceased to hold quiet ceremonies, or folks throwing raucous “going-away parties” there. “We had one where there was a 21-gun salute,” she said.” There were also pet memorials in evidence. Interestingly the human remains vessels aren’t always buried either.
Note: I’m cautiously traveling during the COVID-19 and taking extra precautions, as well as following State and CDC guidelines limiting exposure to myself and others. When I stopped in Kingman to grab groceries, WiFi and fuel, I was reminded of current status. I like many others feel conflicted about the correct response.
Piece by piece maybe someday I’ll complete Section L. In 2016, I only made it 8 miles north of Rainy Pass before I had to turnaround due to tendonitis in my shin (link). I landed in Mazama after completing a hike in Glacier Peak Wilderness, including a small piece of Section K (link), in need of a weekend adventure that wasn’t overcrowded.
Ptarmigan or grouse.
Hello mountains, what beautiful texture you wear.
I couldn’t help but reminisce about a previous trip into the Pasayten Wilderness (link).
The trail was in good shape following fires the previous year. Thankfully it was a fairly short stretch.
Rock Pass campsite.
As I hiked through the area, I couldn’t help but visualize the terrain covered in snow as the southbounders experience it during their 30-mile hike to the border and back from Harts Pass. These photos illustrate the dangers and severe consequences. Definitely adds an element of eh gads to the beginning of their journey.
Slate Peak Lookout.
Just a short drive from Harts Pass is Slate Peak Lookout. Upon my return to the trailhead, I drove to the lookout parking area and then hiked up to the Lookout. This is the view of the lookout from the PCT.
There were a couple of nearby ridges worthy of a hike. I would have loved to explore this one but alas I had places to go.
The interpretive signage was helpful, especially showing peak names. I was surprised to learn the peak on the right was Jack Mountain. I hiked around that mountain a couple years previous (link). That’s snow-covered Mt Baker between the Jack and Crater Mountains.
Not a bad morning view, well except for the fact I was a bit worried about the weather given the day I had planned.
Good morning Mt Adams.
Goat Lake and Mt Rainier.
First light on Goat Lake.
This section lives high on my list of favorite memories. I was looking forward to hiking it as an out and back, double-dose happiness.
Memory is a funny thing. I don’t remember this rock field.
Ah, there’s that beautiful ridge, but I seemed to have forgotten all the up and down and up and down and various trail surfaces.
Looking back at where I’d come and where I’ll get to go again. Hello Old Snowy, I’ll skip the summit but shall never forget witnessing a proposal during my last visit.
The views were as incredible as I remembered.
And then I found the goats.
It was great to experience the views with snow as my previous visit was in September.
This rock was my favorite to walk on. It sounds like wind chimes or broken china. I took a video during my first hike. Of course in my mind the whole section was made of this material and it was just a flat ridge. Oh memory oh memory, you are not my strength.
There is always a question of taking the high or low route. The low, or official PCT and stock rock across Packwood Glacier, comes with it’s own challenges. The high, Old Snowy route, provides views but is exposed and can be sketchy in bad weather. Of course on my way out I took the high route for the views. On the way back I really wanted to take the shorter low route but had heard mixed opinions with the majority saying they thought they might die and don’t recommend. So I elected to put forth more energy by climbing back up and over. The low route takes you across three snowfields and through several scree fields. If you look closely at the photo you can see where the path’s diverge.
My evening was spent watching fog envelop Goat Lake. It was a constantly moving ghostly figure covering and exposing only to change shape once again.
The clouds surrounding Mt Adams were putting on quite a different show.
Hello Mt Adams, where did you go? Will it rain? Nope! Just free entertainment, so much better than television.
I decided I best check the weather forecast on my InReach, such a great feature. Thankfully the precipitation/snow prediction did not come true. Temperature dropped to 34 in my tent, quite a contrast to 49 the previous night.
But this was my 6:30am view.
Would it burn off? How long might that take? I didn’t wait around to find out. It was time to get off this ridge.
The low visibility really made the flowers pop.
The Dr. Seuss-ish flowers looked like mop heads.
Soon enough it was time to descend on the Snowgrass Trail. It is touted as wildflower heaven. Will it surpass what I’d already experienced?
In 2013 I hiked through Goat Rocks as part of my first solo PCT jaunt (link). I left with the regret of not taking time to visit Goat Lake. I was excited to find myself in the vicinity to make this wrong right. This trip started at the Berry Patch trailhead.
And then I made it to the PCT and got to camp at nirvana, the spot I’d wished for on my previous trek but my timing wasn’t right as I’d spent the previous night at Cispus Pass. On this night, I could say goodnight to Goat Lake and Mt Rainier.
Far in the distance is Mount St Helens I’d visited just a week previous (link).
With the Knife’s Edge on the agenda for the next day, it warranted a separate post (Part 2). Here’s a teaser photo.
When a friend heard I was in the Central Oregon Cascades in search of wildflower hikes, she recommended the Iron Mountain/Cone Peak loop. I rate this as an A+ WOW-per-mile hike.
The Cone Flower wasn’t blooming yet. Was Cone Peak named after the Cone Flower?
Well on this day the mountains said, nope, look at the flowers instead. Use your imagination to see Three Sisters.
I’d attempted a visit to Colorado National Monument in early September 2017 (link), but it was too smoky and too hot for hiking. I was excited to give this place a second chance.
Almost immediately upon entering the park I saw this sign.
Lucky me, a couple of turns later and I had my first and only sighting over the week I spent visiting the park.
I entered the monument from the Fruita entrance (west) and after stopping at the visitor center and most of the wayside displays to reorient myself, I started hiking near the east entrance.
There are a lot of unmaintained, well-used and defined trails in the area so it’s pretty easy to find yourself heading up the canyon rather than exiting at this monolithic formation (yes that’s what I did).
Looking down on Devils Kitchen, due to my navigation error.
A view of the first pool. Midday light is not the best for capturing this pool and cascading waterfall, nor the next waterfall. This is a seasonal pool and stream. It was such a delight to hike along a stream after recent hiking in more arid environments and suffering from the heat.
You can see here the size of the stream in places.
Kudos to the trail builders. It looks like the tread could use a little maintenance.
I met a couple groups who said the first waterfall was not flowing but after finding it myself, it seems they didn’t hike far enough. The location matched my Gaia map. Tip: if you don’t see this sign, keep hiking.
It was challenging to capture the waterfall with the sun shining at a less than optimal angle.
Bonus: First collared lizard sighting. He ran to the shade and said this is the best you’re getting.
The trail descended but thankfully not all the way to the canyon bottom. There are a few named formations along the way including this one called Kissing Couple. I guess a lot of imagination is required.
Independence Monument is probably the most famous in the park.
From each angle it looks a bit different.
I’d stopped at some of the viewpoints along Rim Drive to view Independence Monument from different angles.
There was a tiny bit of water in a few places but as per LNT expectations it’s to be left for the critters.
On my return hike, I was a little frustrated waiting for a group of about 60 kids, on a field trip, plus another group of about 10 adults to pass going in the opposite direction. It probably only took 10 minutes but I could hear them for a long ways. It was near noon and the kids were expressing their feelings of being hungry, tired and hot. But my reward was finding my second collared lizard, this time it was resting in the sun making for a much better photo. I can now check this experience off my bucket list!
A good view of the some of the switchbacks to help with the transition between the canyon rim and bottom.
As I climbed back toward the trailhead and canyon edge, it was tempting to skip the short hike to view the coke oven formations, but I knew I’d regret it so onward I went.
An interesting perspective of the coke oven formations.
There were several of these bench-like structures along the trail. They were all quite tall but this one was the tallest nearly reaching my chest. I forgot to ask about them at the visitors center.
The “route” to Otto’s Bathtub is not a maintained trail nor marked on maps. This junction was evidence it’s a very well used path.
Otto must have been a big guy! I’d call this a bathtub suitable for sasquatch.
There was even a little water in the bathtub’s drain.
The views were WOW WOW WOW! I enjoyed looking back into Upper Monument Canyon were I’d begun my hike to Independence Monument.
There had been a little rain the previous night which nicely filled the pot holes, much appreciated by the wildlife I’m sure. I loved walking this slickrock ramp. This view looks toward Black Ridge which I’d hike the next day.
The ridge below the snow-covered mountain is the one that houses Otto’s Bathtub and the slickrock I so enjoyed traversing.
This little guy said don’t forget about me. You like those colorful collared lizards but hey I’m the much more common variety.
It only made sense to hike Otto’s Trail after hiking to his bathtub. Who is Otto?
He pioneered many routes in the canyon including a climber’s route to the top of Independence Monument.
I was fortunate to see climbers on top one day.
This trail provided more distant views of the canyon and surrounding mountains.
I found one of the original signs from this historic trail. I enjoyed walking along thinking about how this was a cattle drive route, something still done in my home town.
For those with ambition and interested in both a good workout and some technical hiking, you can start in the valley and hike up the old route which runs along the second level in this photo. I plan to explore on a subsequent visit.
This is a fertile valley with the Colorado River running through it. I was impressed with the miles and miles of agriculture country.
I really liked the variety of this park. The landscape was beautiful offering so much more than a canyon. I liked the options of hiking along a creek, past waterfalls, scrambling on rocks, walking ridges, etc. I left many hikes for future visits. I’ll return for certain. I’m always happy when expectations are exceeded!
Yes there were blooms!
“Cedar Mesa is a network of canyons that are home to numerous prehistoric ruins and rock art panels. Excellent exploration opportunities exist for those seeking beautiful scenery and fascinating cultural remnants. Ancestral Puebloans inhabited the canyons and mesa tops between 700 and 2500 years ago. Many of their dwellings, farming areas, and rock art sites remain in excellent condition. Stone and bone tools, pottery pieces, and other artifacts give us hints of the lifestyle of these people.” Source: BLM Trip Planner
This was another J&J adventure, my 5th year sharing a spring trip with Joan aka Hemlock. We spent five days roaming the canyons of Grand Gulch first going south and then east, starting and ending at the Collins Spring Trailhead. I hiked a portion of this section in the fall of 2017 with Nancy aka WhyNot?! (link). Since I don’t have a great memory, it was almost like a new trail. The first point of interest was the Cowboy Camp, now that I remembered.
This trip made me feel like I was in a living art gallery.
Besides wildflowers, rock art is one of my favorites. When I posted about my last trip, I was reeling from a comment left on facebook inferring that the sharing of these panels was disrespectful. I’ve since spoken with rangers who have stated otherwise. Most of the sites have been looted and it’s important that what remains be preserved, thus they recommend removing geo tags and withholding exact location. Part of the thrill of walking these canyons is self-discovery. I’ll admit my vision is not nearly as good as Joan’s and I would have missed a lot without her eyes. Furthermore, while these sites have been removed from current digital and printed maps, research may offer additional details. The theme of this trip was hands, birds and anthropomorphic characters, as well as red, white and blue.
There were also architectural sites to be discovered.
Shaw’s Arch was chunky compared to those in Arches National Park.
Viewing pottery sherds, corn cobs and other historic items in their natural environment is a real treat. Something like 90% of these sites were pilfered long ago. I’m glad the Edge of Cedars Museum now houses many items of historic significance.
We saw a ton of buds and a few blooms, a sure sign spring is on it’s way.
Another theme of this trip was mud. It was to be my first experience walking on spongy sand turned quicksand where I sunk to my knees and felt the death grip trying to steal my shoes.
This is The Narrows at 4pm on April 19th.
About 8pm we witnessed a spring flood, said to be fairly rare, when we discussed our experience later with the rangers at Kane Gulch Ranger Station. We heard what sounded like leaves rustling from wind only to discover what had been mostly a dry canyon now flowing rapidly, carrying with it plentiful debris swept from the banks as the water surged. The next morning we hiked back to The Narrows to see the difference. The Ranger we spoke to said it was caused by the 200% snow received in places like the Abojos, combined with 80-degree temps of past few days, late snow fall, cooler temperatures earlier in the month resulting in south facing slopes holding snow longer than usual (such as Bears Ears).
It was a cloudy day and we were a little nervous about rising waters since we didn’t know what had caused the surge. I checked weather on my InReach. It indicated we might get a few sprinkles. Thankfully we met a couple who were out for a day hike and had stopped at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station and were assured while there might be slight rises in the afternoon, there wasn’t any significant rain in the forecast.
Just like in the mountains, as the temperature warmed during the day, the water rose. We were on an out and back hike so we saw this waterfall in the morning and again later in the afternoon when indeed it was rushing and gushing a bit stronger.
We kept our feet fairly dry as we crossed the gulch a zillion times during our first three days but by the fourth day our luck ran out and we gave in to having wet feet.
Sometimes you just gotta embrace the muck . . . and pretend like you’re sitting next to the Chocolate Milkshake River.
Collecting water wasn’t a problem for our first few days when water was plentiful in puddles and pot holes.
Once the water started flowing, finding clear water became a challenge. One solution is to gather the muddy water through something like a buff, bandana or shirt and then let it settle for about 12 hours before pouring off the top 50%.
We stopped at the Edge of Cedars Museum in Blanding. Well worth the $5 to see the fantastic displays of pottery, fabrics, tools, etc., as well as absorb more information provided through interpretative displays.
And then it was time to close the chapter on another memorable spring trip with Joan. Where shall I go next? When will I once again reunite with Joan? Only time will tell!
I continued my travels north after finding the Oracle area a bit too warm for my winterized body. I found myself in Pine, a place I remember fondly from an aborted hike in 2016.
The Arizona Trail connects many existing trails including the bulk of this section which shares tread with Highline Trail #31.
There’s the Mogollon Rim. That’s where I really wanted to be but there’s still a bit too much snow and deep sole-sucking mud. Besides conditions and temperatures were perfect and I still had plenty of time for higher country. The Highline Trail reminds me a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail where you stay below the high point, feeling teased all the time to climb just a bit higher to walk the ridge. Dirtmonger wrote an interesting post (link) on the Mogollon Rim and how it runs from New Mexico through Arizona. Of course he hiked the route. I’d be really interested in traveling Forest Road 300 which traverses along the rim (link).
Mogollon Rim sunset tease taunting me to come visit.
There was a great mix of vegetation. One of my faves was the Juniper Pine sporting alligator bark.
I don’t know the name of this tree but the orange really popped.
What are these called? Buds?
There was plenty of seasonal water along the trail so I didn’t need to use any springs or wildlife tanks and in fact didn’t need to carry more than a liter at a time. What a pleasure after hiking in 2015, a drought year.
Natural water sources rank high on my list of desires when selecting trails. I really hate carrying water. That 2 pounds per liter is a killer for my body. For me it takes the enjoyment factor from fun to drudge.
I’m always happy to find bridges. Water crossings are high on my anxiety list.
This was my most challenging crossing not because of the water flow but because it was hard to make the leap from the rocks up that eroded embankment, and no way was I walking the logs. The main reason I’m including this photo however is a reminder to watch for wildlife cameras. At a small stream, I’d taken off my shirt to wet it down when I looked up and saw the camera. I wish I would have taken a photo and looked closer to see if it had any owner identifying information. My understanding is that these cameras are not permitted on forest service lands. Furthermore it was along one of these small streams I saw what I believe was a coatimundi. I wish I could have gotten a better photo. It’s been confirmed that these critters can be found this far north.
This section of trail has several car friendly access points, is well signed and easy to follow.
I eventually transitioned from the Highline Trail to the Colonel Devin Trail #290.
I did this as an out-and-back hike starting from the Pine trailhead, traveling through Geronimo and Washington trailheads before turning around at Forest Road 300 and the Battle of Big Dry Wash Historical Monument, which mark the end of Passage 26.
Climbing the two miles up powerline road was quite challenging. I was happy to finally see the AZT sign!
I was saddened to see this graffiti on the Battle of Big Dry Wash Historical Monument.
The view from the top from where I’d come.
There was a lot of amazing trail work along this section to prevent erosion by bike riders and equestrians. Even the hikers caused some deep holes hiking through the mud. There were several sections with giant ruts asking for a twisted ankle.
A nice example of what happens in this soggy red dirt. The good thing is that these ruts seem to crumble when dry allowing it to once again become smooth trail.
Nice trail work to reroute deep channeled sections. The rut on left will eventually fill in.
The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) has done an outstanding job raising funds to replace rancher gates with this much more friendly hiker, biker and equestrian gates. I was a little surprised to see the old gate lying on the ground rather than being removed.
I took a detour on the BSA (assuming Boy Scouts of America) Rim View Trail. It hasn’t been maintained in a long time and didn’t show use beyond animals.
The trail leads somewhere up there.
It eventually leads to the point left of the tree.
Follow the green and orange signs plus a view triangles and a few cairns. Was it worth it? Not really.
Where there’s Boy Scouts, there must be Girl Scouts? I actually met a group of Girl Scouts out for a night I believe on this section. It was a bit disappointing to see them being led by a male. Just a reminder we need to step up to mentor the younger generation.
I thought I was looking at the Four-Peaks but now I think this is the Mazatzals, which I hiked the following week.
Or maybe I’m right and those are the Four Peaks and these are the Mazatzals? I didn’t have sufficient battery to check my Peaks app nor explore more on Gaia. I read that in this passage you’d spend a lot of time looking at the Mazatzals.
Nature’s art. Loved this!
Look it’s a giant heart.
The rocks were sparkly and colorful.
Hard to capture the color and sparkle.
Nice of the trail maintainers to cut a seat while they were cutting the log.
The ATA has created a program called the Remote Maintenance Task Force which encourages users of the trail to help by carrying shears or a saw (which they provide) to help with trimming.
And YES, I found some early blooms.
Spring means ladybugs and butterflies.
There’s one place on trail where you cross a road near private property. As I was approaching this sign at first glance I thought it said, “Loaded Gun, Turnaround.” Funny what the brain sees.
First signs of being out of shape. My poor tender feet suffered a bit. I haven’t had skin tears, rubs or blisters in years but always carry leukotape just in case. This was made worst by forgetting to let the leukotape fall off naturally.
I found temperatures perfect for hiking and backpacking. Chilly nights in 30’s to 40’s with daytime temperatures 50’s to 70’s.
Although this time of year, you really have to watch the forecast. This is mountain country.
Not quite sure how this big chunk of styrofoam got to this location. It was fairly remote. I didn’t carry it out.
Seriously, the campsite doesn’t need to be swept clean. Pine needles make for soft bedding and prevent a muddy mess.
By far the worst offender. It was full of something. Might of been leftover food, or garbage or . . .
Seeing a thru-hiker leave this package outside the restroom at the Pine Trailhead was unacceptable. There were three vehicles with AZT hikers who would have carried it out. I offered to a group when they camped near my car and they accepted. I know another driver offered to a large group; sadly it was one from this group who decided to leave this gift for the trash angels instead. There is a large sign clearly stating no garbage service. If this area is abused like so many others, the forest service will remove this great hiker camping option.
I said goodbye to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and headed east on Highway 86 where I found some delightful wildflowers including these Prickly Poppies. They were such standouts I couldn’t resist pulling over to photograph and see in person.
I was so near the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, I figured I’d regret not stopping by. I really didn’t want to pay the $24 entrance fee but I talked myself into not being a tightwad. I was concerned as the temperatures were in the 80’s when I arrived and since I was already suffering I worried about enjoying the experience. As anticipated I continued having signs of heat stroke or exhaustion even though I was wearing my hat but wishing I’d brought my umbrella. I made the best of my time although cutting it much shorter than the $24 fee warranted.
I especially liked the hummingbird room.
My friend Petra had given me maps and information for hiking the Santa Catalina Mountains including Sabino Canyon, which I’d hiked as part of the Arizona Trail (AZT) in 2015. I was excited about these possibilities until I saw 93 degrees registered on my car and the forecast for continued increasing temperatures. It was time for this winter acclimated gal to find higher elevation. As one who avoids traffic I found myself on the wrong side of the mountains. Waaaa
I drove and drove and drove way more hours than I like trying to find cooler temperatures. At least I found a sunset.
I eventually found myself at Tiger Mine Road Trailhead near Oracle where I have some of the best memories from when I hiked Passage 13 with Joan in 2015 (link). This is when we made our funny gear shakedown video which still makes me laugh.
I saw these flowers blooming when I hiked this section before but wasn’t able to identify with my wildflower app.
I was glad to find a few blooming beauties along the trail.
The trail has become so civilized.
So inviting. Love this photo!
Too bad it’s dry.
I liked how this wallflower intermingled with this yucca.
This wallflower stood tall as the standout.
Mixing things up.
I’d love to see this cactus in bloom.
Wildflowers sure cheer up this normally dry grassy terrain.
Near the end of my hike, I was overheated and thankful to take a break in the shade of this underpass.
Bad LNT 😦 Yes, I picked it up although usually TP is where I draw the line.
So glad this rattlesnake sang loudly as I approached and that it wasn’t too close to the trail.
The Arizona Trail Association is to be commended for doing such an outstanding job growing this trail into one that many now desire to hike as either sections, day hikes, or long thru-hikes. It’s a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and equestrians.