After crossing Highway 87 in Pine, the scenery went from rocky volcanic grades to a terrain of lush ponderosa forests. The wildlife has been remarkable as I have seen numerous herds of elk in this area. The foxes are red as can be and the birdlife is downright therapeutic. Almost every morning the last week, I have woken up to the coyotes’ howl—their echoing shrill is like clockwork! This is world-class hiking and I get the trail almost entirely to myself. There are only two other thru-hikers I know of on trail at the moment. Missing the February and March “bubble” has its benefits. Although a late start (May) means less of a hiking community, the solitude and feeling of remoteness is intensified.
Heading north out of Pine, I hiked up the Mogollon Rim (pronounced mug-ee-yun)—a jutting and defining geographic feature that cuts across northern Arizona. Hiking up the Mogollon Rim, I bumped into a couple named Jill and Jeremy who were trail angels and who just so happened to be day-hiking the Rim. They were a sweet set and had offered me accommodation back in Pine. Just south of the Rim I saw some fresh bear tracks but unfortunately have not seen any of those cuddly big boys.
Arriving in Mormon Lake, a small village and popular RV camp spot, I took a coin-operated shower (12 quarters buys about ten hot minutes) and then did some coin laundry. I was also able to resupply in the snack shop and drink a throat-cooling beverage. The trail angel Shannon and her hiking dog Graham came up from Pine and hiked with me out of Mormon Lake, which made great company. North of Mormon Lake, I followed a long-abandoned lumber railroad. Since I love history, this was a real treat and made for a pleasant evening walk.
All in all, northern Arizona has been much easier on the legs than the southern portion of the state. The climbs have gotten easier and the terrain more forgiveable. Sleeping on pine needles is always better than those little sharp rocks that penetrate through a tent’s groundsheet (and pop a hole in your air pad!)
Now I’m in Flagstaff taking a zero at a trail angel’s house (Cathy and Tim). Their house backs up to the Coconino National Forest and they basically have the Arizona Trail in their front yard! After a “hiker-helping” of fajitas at Agave Mexican Restaurant, I resupplied at Fry’s and am now all set for my next leg toward the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Excitement is definitely building—only about ten more hiking days to wrap up this Arizonan escapade.
573.2 hiked, 206.1 to Utah
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—David Mizer “Outback”