Sunday, May 8, 2016

Arizona National Trail—Passage 22 Scouting Trip (May 3, 2016)

Saddle Mountain (Sunflower to Mount Peeley)


The Passage begins at the Bushnell Tanks Trailhead.  I spent a night there before I hiked.  There was a car there when I arrived.  Several cars pulled in so people could relieve themselves as there is no place in Sunflower to do that.  It is a tight small trailhead parking area and on a slant, but I am o.k. with that.


They say this passage is some of the most beautiful on the entire AZT, but I found myself a little uncomfortable being low in a valley rather than high on a ridge. But there was beauty to be found there.  I love the Sycamore Trees.


And water… Sycamore Creek was running and looked clean.  I guess there was a bad fire here in 2012, but it looked like the land and plants were bouncing back.


It’s about .25 mile from the parking area to the AZT Trail… but lots to see.  Lots of volcanic rocks.  A log jam in the creek… must be a lot of water coming through there at times.


You pass through a cowboy gate… and you are on the trail.


When I have to hike a ways just to reach the AZT itself, it always feels good to me to spot the AZ sign, like when I return from kayaking and spot my van on the shore.


Some trail work had been done here and I guess someone found an old shovel.  I like that they left it there.


The trail follows the creek westward… and reaches this tunnel which they say was built with the AZT in mind… wide enough for houses to pass through.  It goes under Highway 87.


Hikers sometimes leave messages for other hikers.  Here is one I found.


For me, the best part of this hike was the marriage of these two trees, one giant Sycamore Tree and some kind of Evergreen.  Click on photo to see how they are intertwined with each other.  My day pack is there to give you some scale.


I see lots of rabbits and lizards, but finally one held still long enough for a photo.


I returned to my van and drove on to Cross F Trailhead… which book says is a “signed” trailhead.  There was no sign in the parking area at all… and I had to search around for this one down the road a bit.


The parking area is shaded and maybe four cars could fit, but the drop off at the edge of the pavement is pretty deep.  Be careful.  I guess this gate is the trail heading back toward Sunflower, but as I passed through it, I could not spot the trail or any cairns.  I thought this woman’s car signs were funny.  If someone were to drop water for me or meet me along the trail, this would be a good place to do it.  The road dead ends just past this point.


It was a good paved road into that trailhead… and only 3.4 miles to the highway.


And so then…. My scary drive this morning. I don't know why I felt scared... it's not a feeling I am very familiar with.  The road would not have bothered me at all if there had been room for two cars to pass each other. I tried to imagine backing up or down the road to let someone pass.... and just could not get an image. Had enough trouble going forward, sure as heck was not driving backwards. At that slope, I don't even know if my van would go uphill backwards.  I imagined an impasse where someone insisted I back up so they could pass. The impasse remained in my mind’s eye.... cause I would not do it.


One at the top of FR 627, it ends at the corral.  Fires had destroyed the signage and it was never replaced.  Funny how that reflection worked out.  This is called Mormon Grove Trailhead.  Must be some interesting history to that name.


The AZT is 1/2 mile uphill from here.  The corral was destroyed by the fire.  For some reason I was very uncomfortable here… like something was watching me.  I did spend the night but did not sleep well.  Next morning I posted this on my Facebook:

I am not comfortable taking a hike and just want to get to the bottom of this mountain I will leave at 9am. Should not take more than 30 min to reach bottom. I will send an OK Spot message at 9am and a second one at bottom. Probably won't have internet signal down there, so please post on Facebook that I have safely reached the bottom. I am also putting SPOT on tracking mode during the drive down, so if I stop moving and you don't get a second OK signal, I may have gone off the road. I will push HELP if that happens, but Road Service won't come here. If I wreck, I may not be able to reach the SPOT device to push 911. I am at the Mormon Grove Trailhead on Forest Road 25, heading back down to FR 201, then to FR 627 and back to the highway 87. You should hear from me or one of my Spotters by 10am. Sorry to worry everyone, but I am concerned about this road.

This is the first time in seven years on the road, that I have ever sent out such a message.


Because that peak and the antennas on it were in direct line of sight, I had good internet connection.


But I was happy to get off that mountain.  Here is one of the hairy hairpin turns, I actually had to back up three times to make the turn.

I can not visit the Mount Peeley Trailhead on the northern end of this Passage as it is a long 10 mile drive in and that’s just too much on roads like this and then it is a 1/2 hike to the AZT.  This area… the Mazatzal Divide and wilderness is going to have to wait until I am in better condition.

Last: Passage 21 – Pine Mountain

Next: Passage 23 – Mazatzal Divide

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1 comment:

  1. It seems like you're having lots of fun, don't quite, keep going !


Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.