Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hike #44: See Canyon Trail, Tonto National Forest

Length: 7 miles

Just below the Mogollon Rim east of Payson, the See Canyon Trail works it's way through the dense forest along the Christopher Creek and eventually climbs to the Rim's top.

Beginning alongside the creek, the first ½-mile follows a relatively open path surrounded by thick knee-high grass. Due to the proximity to the cool creek, this segment of the trail is immensely popular and likely to be quite crowded; however, the trail soon forks and most people will choose to follow the shorter path leading to the See Canyon Springs (in fact, after this intersection I didn't encounter anyone along the next 3-miles of trail!)

Eventually the trail leaves the main creek bed, following a much smaller stream, which eventually becomes nothing more than a dry riverbed. Along this portion of the trail, the forest becomes quite dense, and the trail can be difficult to follow in many spots; numerous fallen trees and large boulders don't make the passage much easier.

After a couple miles of gradual assent, the trail comes upon the Mogollon Rim and makes a more dramatic climb through slightly less-dense woodlands. Although one expects an amazing Rim view after the difficult climb, the only site to view is a well-traveled forest road. After a brief moment of disappointment at encountering nothing more than a forest road, it's time to turn and follow the same path back to the creek and trailhead.

To view more photos of the See Canyon Trail, click here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hike #43: Kendricks Mountain Trail, Kendricks Mountain Wilderness, Kaibab National Forest

Length: 9 miles

Climbing to a height of almost 10,500 feet, the Kendrick Mountain towers over its remote flat surroundings just west of Flagstaff. Although the mountain is somewhat off the beaten path, the dirt roads leading to the trailhead are extremely well-maintained and make for easy access. (Be watchful, however, of the numerous cows if coming from the north on FR 144.)

Although there are three different trails leading to the mountain's peak, the Kendricks Mountain Trail is the most direct and easiest to follow path. Beginning at the trailhead, the trail follows what once was apparently a forest road; however, nearly all traces of a "road" have completely disappeared. Unfortunately, since this was once a road, it follows a gradual incline with practically no level segments.

After climbing along this road for a couple miles, the trail switches to a series of much more dramatic switchbacks, which continue steeply up the mountain. Fortunately, this segment of the trail does provide a great wealth of wildflowers (wild roses, columbine, Indian paintbrush, etc.) to enjoy along the way.

Eventually, after having climbed just over 4-miles, the trail opens to an open meadow which houses a historic forestry cabin built in 1912. From here, the trail continues for another ¼-miles to the current fire tower atop the actual peak. Atop the tower, one can see spectacular views of the San Francisco Peaks, Bill Williams Mountain, and the Grand Canyon. (Unfortunately, massive storm clouds blocked our views of many of the surrounding landmarks.)

After a quick break at the top, the trip downhill is a quick, easy re-tracing of the previous trail.

To view more photos of the Kendricks Mountain Trail, click here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hike #42: Fossil Springs Trail, Fossil Springs Wilderness

Length: 8 miles

Located just north of Payson near the small town of Strawberry, the Fossil Springs Trail is commonly listed among Arizona’s best summer hikes. However, with higher July temperatures (85+) and little shade along the way, the Fossil Springs Trail can be a brutal experience better saved for late spring or fall…

The trail begins with a study descent, which grows more and more steep as the trail progresses. Although the distant views of the Mogollon Rim are somewhat impressive, the immediate trail surroundings leave a lot to be desired. The first three miles of this trail offers little more than scrawny trees and cactus. The one interesting aspect was the numerous plants in bloom; excellent examples of both agave and prickly-pears were standing in full bloom!

However, after the first three-miles, the trail reaches the basin's floor, and the true beauty begins. Following along the dry stream bed, the trail continues west for about a ½-mile before one actually encounters the spring water. Beginning with a series of shallow pools, the water-level gradually grows the further one continues along. (When the "river" first begins, the trail crosses the stream and continues along the right bank. While you can continue scrambling along the stream bed, the official trail leads away from the water and continues for the final ½-mile.)

Eventually, the trail will lead to a magnificent waterfall, which marks the end of the trail. Climbing down the rather steep riverbanks, allows one an excellent resting place beside an interesting grotto just downstream from the falls. Although views of the waterfall are blocked from the grotto, one can scramble along the north bank for an amazing view at the foot of the falls.

After a well-earned break/swim, you must now retrace your steps for the difficult climb back to the trailhead. While the original descent made the trail seem extremely easy, the return can prove quite difficult due to the trail's steepness; general fatigue from the trip down; and the afternoon heat, which can be quite oppressive.

To view more photos of the Fossil Springs Trail, click here.