Come visit me and my original paintings. It’s a new venture for me!
Come visit me and my original paintings. It’s a new venture for me!
Have you ever finished a hike and said, ” This is the worst hike I’ve ever been on and I will never ever do it again.”
No? Yes? Well, I have never said those words.. until yesterday.
I’m actually angry about it. Like, really upset and frustrated.
Even if a hike is challenging I always feel like I’ve at least accomplished something. But not yesterday.
Even if a hike is slightly boring I always say , well at least I can check that one off my map. But not yesterday.
Even if I can barely move and every muscle aches I always feel proud I pushed myself to finish a hike. But not yesterday.
What in the world happened yesterday?
This rant is an attempt to figure out the answer to this question as I process through this hike with all you readers.
It might have something to do with the fact that I thought I had already completed this trail. I agreed to do it again because it is the premier hike to do in Flagstaff during the Fall. People from all over the country come to view the glorious array of color on display in Locket Meadow.
Seriously , look at a few of the photos I took yesterday .
The last picture looks like God is shining His spotlight on His marvelous handiwork.
How could it be possible that I would feel anything but awe?
Let me clarify; I was definitely in awe as I was walking through a thick carpet of golden leaves surrounded by such a vast variety of green and golden hues nearly blinding me with their radiance.
When people ask me my favorite color, I will now respond with a single word: October.
I digress, back to my anger.
The drive to get to this amazing Meadow involves a very long, curvy narrow road with blind corners and drop offs that would cause anyone a bit of anxiousness if forced to teeter on the edge to let another vehicle pass. Imagine what a drive like this would do to a already anxious driver with a fear of heights and a feeling of certain impending death ? If Visions of driving ( flying) over the edge happen at each and every curve in the road you can almost visualize my churning stomach, sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, and the flashes of my life playing over and over in my head.
Hmmm, the drive didn’t make me feel angry. Scared, yes. Angry, no.
Okay let’s cross that off the possible causes of my anger.
Back to the carpeted trail with its gentle but steady incline . My mind tried to take in all the beauty so I could later attempt to paint my interpretation on canvas when I returned home.
Way too soon the gentle carpet gave way to a dusty gravely road. Having done this before I was aware of the reward awaiting me at the top of this climb.
A large open Meadow with picturesque city wells and nestled around beautiful mountains.
Ahh, I’m at the beautiful Inner Basin.
Oh wait… the Inner Basin trail
doesn’t end here . I’ve always ended here. At this perfect place for a brief rest and snack before returning back down from hence I came.
No problem. I will really ,officially able to check the inner basin trail off my map when I complete the rest of this relatively short ( 4.3miles one way ) hike.
I’m not angry. It’s no big deal.Right?
Well… the trail continued just a bit before it rudely and abruptly took me out of this scenic serene Meadow onto an old Jeep road. Now, I don’t own a Jeep, but I’ve imagined how fun it would be. But this horrendous road could not possibly bring any joy. It basically feels like a boulder field that wants to do nothing but break your ankle. It goes in a very steep straight line….. it never ever ends! Nothing but rocks and dirt can be seen for 6,000 miles. Okay, maybe it’s only 2 miles.. but I’m telling you it’s endless. Yes, perhaps this is where my emotion starts changing into unhappiness . But I just keep telling myself this HAS to eventually end. Please. Please let this end. I’m staring at me feet willing them to continue and not get twisted or sprained or broken. Every time I break my eyes away from my feet I wobble and my eyes are only greeted by this endless road stretching above me into a bleakness of lost eternity. So I faithfully stare at my feet and will them to continue.
A slight glance up I see a sign ahead. My unhappiness and hopelessness begins to break.. Glory be.. the end is in sight. Literally.
But I was wrong .
The sign was merely directing me off the endless road into a forested part of the trail.
I believe the anger might have gotten real about here.” Are you kidding me???!!! It’s not over??!!! What? What??!”
At least I’m off that relentless endless torturous horrendous grunt road.
I like the forest. I do not like this trail in this forest. No end in sight. Once again. I climb and climb, lungs burning, ability to breathe lessening, desire to continue fading. There is NO way I’m turning around now. I am going to win. I am going to make it to the end. Wherever the end might be. If there is an end. Please let this end. This is never going to end, is it?
I am forced to stop to take a sip of water. Apparently I’m unable to walk and sip on water , I don’t have enough air in my lungs for both. I hate stopping. It just makes starting again harder.
What is that sound?
I think it’s me.
I’m pretty sure I’m growling. Or groaning . Whatever it is, it’s not pretty. I hope I’m not attracting wild animals.
I’m officially angry. I’m tired, I’m struggling, I’m going to keep pushing. What am I angry about? That I feel out of shape? That I don’t know when this trail is going to end? Am I angry at myself? The trail? My stupid goal of doing every hike on the map? Why does my goal now seem ridiculous? Did my map lie to me? Is this hike really 20 miles? Is this even worth it? Why in the world am I doing this?
There is an intersection ahead. A trail sign. What terrible news does it have for me?
It says ” Weatherford Trail”. I have now completed the Inner Basin Trail.
Relief, yes. Happiness? No.
Just another muttering under my breath as I throw my backpack down at the base of the sign.
” I am Never, ever going do this hike again. Ever”
I sit for a minute, maybe two. I can’t stand it. I have to get out of here and back down this trail. Maybe it will seem shorter going back. It was literally uphill the whole way. So all downhill from here. Yay. Get me out of here .
Hmmm. I’m at almost 11,000 feet elevation at this intersection. I’ve been on higher hikes before. But perhaps not at such a steep incline in so few miles. That is unless the map lied to me.
Downhill I go. There are places that require attention due to the steepness. I want to finish this hike back down, but not by tumbling down. Though a tempting thought to have it over with quickly.
I come to the old Jeep road . Well, I can breathe easier. But the footwork is still aggravating . Oh, this is as endless as it was going up it. On and on and on. Maybe I’m angry I’m not in a Jeep bouncing over these rocks. I now know it will end at some point. But seriously….. how can this road not be 100 miles long?
Finally back into the meadow. I feel a slight grin forming, I can see the painted desert in the distance. I can see the leaves sparkling, dancing in the sunlight. I see the aspens and pine trees creating a sight I can barely comprehend.
I’m back on softer footing, I’m led into a majestic path through a explosion of color.
Is there a life lesson here? Do I so quickly forget all the beauty when difficulties arise? Do I get angry when the beautiful things are momentarily out of sight? Do I not want to accept the bad with the good? Can I possibly appreciate the good or even recognize it if I have not be exposed to the bad. Do I get angry because things sometimes feel hard? Because things don’t go the way I think they should?
Things to ponder.
But I swear, I’m never ever going to do that hike again.. at least not the hard part,
No. Never again.
Maybe I haven’t really let the life lesson sink in yet.
But don’t be a angry hiker.
I set out to solve the mystery of the elusive Secret Trail. This time I started out at the Sunset parking Trail head off Shultz Pass Road. This Trailhead is the start of many trails.
I actually need to return here to do the Rocky Ridge Trail!
The Secret Trail actually started right at the trail sign and continued to cross several forest roads and the Arizona Trail. I even passed a guy sleeping in a hammock suspended in the trees. This trail was rerouted in several areas. I’m not sure why, but I was thankful they made the old trail obvious by filling it with dead tree branches.
Some of the old trail signs remain in place but thankfully the areas they pointed to were obviously now non existent.
This sign pointed off the trail and into the forest at large.
The temperature was in the low 60’s with a chill in the breeze. My favorite hiking temperature!
The overlook on the trail was beautiful. I enjoyed photographing the rock formations.
As I walked I came across the Newham trail which is one I passed on my last attempt to find the sunset trail. Alas, come to find out I was on the Sunset trail past this point but had no idea due to lack of signage. Deciding to complete the trail as I started out to do I continued on til I came across a guy sitting in a camping chair, on the side of the trail, reading a book.
” There is going to be about 100 people on bikes coming up this trail in about 30-45 minutes”, he said.
What?!!The signs for the bike race and bike ride today didn’t mention the Secret Trail. But it did mention the Rocky Moto Trail that connects with it. Ugh. So I continued hiking until I was forced to turn around before being forced off the trail by bikers. My timing was perfect, just as I passed by the guy in the chair again he said, ” look behind you” and sure enough the first three riders were just about 25 feet behind me. They were turning off onto another trail so the rest of my hike was in peace.
Thankfully there was beautiful scenery to enjoy and I figured after crossing back and forth the end parts of the Secret Trail four times qualified as completing it.
The total mileage for this trip was 8.2 miles.
As you can see, no wrong turns in this out and back hike.
All and all I’d say it was a great day for a hike !
Then again, everyday is a great day for a hike !
I’m going to call the forest service and commend them on a great job of marking and maintaining the trail. That is , up until and leading to , the Newham trail from the other direction . Oh, I might also suggest removing old Trail direction signs as to avoid confusion. If they’d let me, I’d be glad to do it. I’m signing up for the next sponsored Trail Day and give back to those who work so hard to allow hikers like me to enjoy the beautiful forests that surrounds our city.
The mountains are calling,
On my journey to complete all the hikes listed in the Flagstaff trail guide map I came across a hidden trail.
While searching for a campground near a hike I was doing, my friend showed me the Fort Valley trail system which is in an unmarked road side camping area. It was there that I saw a trailhead that listed 3 trails, and one of those trails was the Secret Trail. It was on my to do list! I made a mental note to remember this spot and to return to it to soon!
A month or so later a friend asked to go on a hike with me and I immediately thought of this trail!
Her trail name is now ” compass “. I actually just made that up, but it suits her and you’ll soon find out why!
I had no trouble remembering where the side road turnout was so we soon found ourselves standing before the trailhead sign that read ” Secret Trail 3.6 miles” . Now some signs give you the trail mileage before you start so you know how long the trail is. Makes perfect sense. But this sign was just telling you the distance you had to go BEFORE you even get to the trail! A detail that would have been very helpful to know ahead of time,
Alas, we set off on in blissful ignorance of this fact.
A cloudy sky made the temperature perfect. Compass, her adorable dog Tinker-bell, and I happily began our nicely planned hike. The trail was relatively flat and easy as we set out. Very bright and easy to spot orange arrows mounted on the trees assured us of staying on the right trail.
Soon we reached a trail sign that read ” Damper Trail” hmmmm… we kept following the orange arrows and soon saw a trail sign for the “Flue Trail” at this point we figured out all these trails must be taken in order to reach our desired Secret Trail. We continued on to complete the Chimney trail, Moto Trail and the Newman Trail. Over 5 miles into this adventure we have yet to come across a sign for the Secret Trail. We are now laughing that this trail is really secret. So secret that maybe it doesn’t exist. But low and behold we come across a sign for the Secret Trail and it’s only 1.3 miles away! Hurray we are on course though the mileage is still a mystery. We picked up our pace to reach our destination. One reason for the speed ; we just wanted to prove it was real, and the other reason being dark clouds were rolling in and thunder in the distance was threatening to come closer. The 1.3 miles become another lie… we had gone further than 6 miles without a trace of this so called Secret. These beautifully marked trails had deceived us. Frustrated and running out of daylight we had to turn back. I mumbled for at least a mile about how I hated not finding it ,how the mileage was so wrongly marked, how I had to come back again to give it another go , and how we might be late for our other obligations that night.
Thankfully Tinker-Bell was a great mood lifter as she looked at us as if to say ” hey, it’s beautiful out here and we’ve done a lot of trails in a short time so be happy”.
To add to her charm she loves to chase squirrels up trees and then strut around the tree in great pride.
Compass spotted a really large and fluffy squirrel off to our right but Tinker was off to our left smelling bushes. So too get her attention Compass started calling out ” go get it, go get it Tinker” as she pointed to the fluffy cuteness Tinker somehow had not spotted. Finally with a little more pointing and coaxing Tinker bounded out after it. And then to our shock and great distress Tinker actually caught this squirrel that was almost as big as her! Compass was yelling let go, and amazingly she did, but darn if that squirrel didn’t just start running in circles around Tinker daring her to try again. Not a great choice on the squirrels part. Tinker couldn’t resist the challenge and grabbed the squirrel in her mouth and began to swing that poor creature like a washing machine set on fast spin. Now both Compass and I begin yelling at Tinker to have mercy and drop it! Tinker proceeded to ignore us until she had her fill of fun. Compass got a hold of Tinker and declared the squirrel was still alive. I breathed a sigh of relief , but it turns out I was the only one worried about the squirrel.. Compass was worried about Tinker picking up some disease from the wild squirrel! We laughed at our opposing concerns and continued on.
Then we came to a fork in the trail. Which way should we go? You guessed it, with a 50/50 chance of choosing correctly, we did not.
All the reassuring orange arrows had disappeared. We found ourselves walking in some sort of wildlife trail, bunny trails, and no trail at all.
Compass remained calm and suggested we just continue and hope to run into a main trail soon. Sure enough we came across a trail with a post that we knew would contain a map.. we had seen these on our way through all the trails we had taken. I’m pretty sure I clapped my hands in excitement and anticipation of learning where exactly we were!
Here is what we found on the post as we got closer …
Umm… this wasn’t helpful at all. I’m betting some other lost and panicked hikers ripped the map off so they could cling to it until they reached civilization. Thankfully Compass was neither panicked or feeling lost .
My amazing GPS watch couldn’t help us because the owner of such said watch has yet to learn to operate anything besides the time, distance, pace and elevation. 😳
Compass was beginning to mention how she was going to plan the next hike upon realizing I was woefully unprepared and unaware of the need for planning. I readily agreed with her. I just want to hike.
Compass fiddled with her smart phone and was able to input where we had parked her car and then the phone located us and provided us with a small arrow in the direction of the car.
We ignored all trails and just started bush whacking to keep the arrow pointing in the right direction. Somehow climbing over steep hills and transversing through thorn bushes turned this hike into a grand adventure. We were explorers discovering new lands.
Ultimately we found her car and even made it back in time for our other obligations that night.
When I got home I was able to
Sync my watch with my phone and see the path we took. You can clearly see where we took the wrong fork but you can also see Compass’s amazing skill in keeping us closer on track then we even realized. I was expecting to see some circles, crazy 8’s path, etc.
You’d never guess we had such a grand adventure by looking at this:
azing how close we were to the actual trail! Had we stayed on track it would have been just one red line. Funny enough I think the 1440 feet in elevation gain all happened on that last bit of bush whacking.
I still have to go find the Secret Trail so stay tuned!
I was honored to help plan and lead a first ever backpacking trip for Nick, age 11, who needed to complete a 5 mile trip to earn his 2nd class rank in BoyScouts.
Nick is from Wiley,Texas and very driven to earn his Eagle Scout rank someday. He has never hiked with a pack before nor cooked a meal in the great outdoors. Though he was able to use a map and compass to gain his bearings! Well done.
This was Nicks first time in Flagstaff. As soon as he arrived, after a long 2 day drive, with his grandfather, the first thing he asked me was; ” Can we go on an adventure now?” I knew right away he was in the right place and that we were going to have a blast!
So we wasted no time and hiked around Sandy’s canyon and down to the popular climbing area called ” The Pit” . He loved all the rocks and wanted to climb them all! We got caught in a rainstorm and the rocks became slippery so we hiked back to the car for a short drive to Lake Mary. We spent the next hour getting extremely muddy and desperately seeking to catch a live crawl daddy . Which in Texas is called a decapod.
The next morning we threw on our backpacks and headed out for the Kachina Trail. I had asked what he and his grandfather,John, had packed before we left just to make sure they were completely prepared. They had everything! What I didn’t consider was to ask how much their packs weighed. Mistake number one.
Nick and John pose in front of the trailhead sign. Looking ready for the easy 5.5 downhill hike I promised them. I wanted to make sure Nick enjoyed himself and would fall in love with hiking like I have. Here comes mistake number two. The 5.5 mile hike is actually 8.1 miles. I did not account for the distance before reaching the trailhead nor the distance from the end of the trail to back to where we had parked our second car !!
Mistake number 3…. there is indeed some steep uphill sections on this trail which I didn’t remember. This is probably due to the fact last time I hiked it I just had a small daypack. Nick asked if we could take a rest break. This is when I discovered this 93 pound kid was carrying about a 25 pound backpack!! When I tried to lift Johns backpack I realized he was probably carrying over 50 pounds!!! Clutch and I tried to lighten their loads by taking water and a few other items out of their packs into ours. Nick immediately said he felt so much better so I felt better. I also gave him one of my trekking poles to help balance with the rocky up and down sections.
Mistake number 4…. I wanted this to be a leisurely hike with as many rest breaks as we wanted. Well, dark clouds rapidly covered the mountain and the rain started. No worries, we had our rain gear ! The worry came when the thunder started and we were totally exposed in a meadow. Our pace had to rapidly pick up to reach a more protected area. At this point I feared Nick would never go hiking again, nor speak to me again.
Nick was such a great sport, even though he was tired he kept going!
Finally out of danger with the storm moving away from us we finally could take a rest.
Nick cooked his first meal outdoors during this rest. Top Ramen noodles! He had just completed all his requirements to make rank of 2nd class! John, Clutch and I cheered and congratulated Nick!!
Nick is definitely a class act!!!
He definitely had a unexpected adventure this day!
And just a side note.. he had one last adventure before heading back home
He was “robbed “while on a train returning from a visit to the Grand Canyon!!
Here’s to Nick and his achievements, adventuresome spirit, card trick skills, and awesome attitude!!!