The Arizona Trail Day 59: Base Camp

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The AZT near Flagstaff has been smooth and kind for biking, and today I encountered constant cyclist traffic. In peaceful silence I would be enjoying the scenery, then the bushes behind me would rustle… I would turn around… and a bike would be looming there like in Calvin and Hobbes, and I would dive off the trail in fear (or say hi and step aside). Most of the cyclists were friendly. One man was rude and behaved like he had a problem with hikers being on the trail. Another was particularly nice, despite the fact that he was one of the ‘you’re really hiking the Arizona Trail?’ people, and chatted with me about upcoming water sources and camping spots. He mentioned a snowmelt stream up by the Snowbowl junction but warned that the water quality was probably bad. It’s probably great water! But I’ll check for a ‘Beware: dead owl in snowmelt stream’ note beside it (according to Hardcore, there was a note at Beehive Well warning about a dead owl floating in the water).

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Despite being almost entirely in forest today, the trail was still interesting with hills and varying vegetation. There were aspens, but most were leafless, so I couldn’t hear them rustling.

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The path climbed towards Humphreys Peak, the summit of which is the highest point in AZ. There’s a trail to the top, but the peak was still snowy especially in the forest, so an ascent wasn’t in my plans.

Near Snowbowl the scenery opened up to offer good views, particularly around Alfa Fia Tank. I wasn’t tempted to camp there though because of the early hour and wind; I also wanted noncommittally to camp at Little Spring, which is labelled on the ATA maps as… Clinton Hart Merriam Base Camp! Clinton Hart Merriam developed the concept of life zones and was one of the founders of the National Geographic Society. I walked on, passing signs at the Aspen Loop junctions that listed distances to Mexico (610 miles) and Utah (190 miles). I’ve lost track of distances in this journal, but as you can see, I’m about 3/4 done.

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The trail to Little Spring was clogged with deadfall. I don’t know whether the deadfall was a result of someone deliberately trying to block the trail or just the unintentional outcome of ‘forest stewardship’, but there was no sign telling me I couldn’t go, so I went. Sadly, no relics were lying around (what was I expecting?). I found water though, and that’s good enough for me.

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