2nd class looks a lot more like a 1st class act to me!

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!!!

A Love Affair ❤️

Have you ever experienced that overwhelming feeling where you forget to breathe? The feeling so strong that your eyes well up with tears? The feeling that you never want to end? The feeling that you think you will never have again? There is no doubt this feeling is love.

Yes, I’m being very vulnerable with all you readers today. I’m exposing my true feelings. The kind you hesitate to share because somehow you fear others will just not understand.

But I’m thinking anyone reading this just might know what’s coming next. That you might be able to relate. That you could also say, “Yes, I have felt the same way”.

It all started at 7am on a clear sunny day.


Let me introduce you to my new love.  Kachina Trail.  It’s what every hiker dreams of. The shaded path with sunlight kissing the few lucky exposed strips of meadow grasses that glow in sheer happiness.


The 50 shades of green that lead your eyes up to majestic rolling hills and mountain tops.


The welcoming path into the wide wonders and watchful eyes of the aspen. The trees that share a single root system, deeply connected forever.


The signs of past scars that just reinforce the strength and beauty of the woods, with a peek at the distance as in anticipation of the future yet to be experienced.


The rock formations that proudly display steadfastness and share secrets of hidden caves and crevices that protect fragile flora and fauna. The kindness of assured shade and shelter.


The largest and oldest humbly towering above with untold years of wisdom.  If it would only speak and share with me from its deep well of knowing.  I wish it would let me sit in the comfort of it’s shade forever as it revealed all I desire to know.


It provides clear signs to let me know I’m on the right path. That I’m not lost.

What a perfectly wonderful affair indeed!

I gladly entrust a piece of my heart to the mystery, grandeur, and quiet wisdom.

K

The Land of the Tree Stumps 

Today I asked Clutch to help me knock out a few short hikes on the trail map I’m trying to complete.

First stop was the William Wood Trail. Exactly .5 of a mile on a paved road from Lakeview Campground to Lake Mary Road. Nothing like starting with the easiest of easy trails. Upon crossing the road popular for biking , we continued walking until we reached the Lake.


Beautiful warm day for a walk alongside the banks of Upper Lake Mary. We watched people fish, kayak, canoe , small motor boat ride, and picnic. But alas, we had no such time to linger we needed to move on to the next Trail.

Marshall Lake which is located on Anderson Mesa is popular for duck hunting, fishing, camping, and off road vehicles.


The Observatory has an interesting history and conducts fascinating research. Click below to learn more.

Lowell Observatory
This facility is closed to the public but they have a location downtown that boasts breath-taking night sky viewings and educational programs. This facility is also where astronauts trained and the planet Pluto was discovered !

The first trail we tried was steep, rocky, and eventually led to an open meadow where we could hear gun shots. We decided not to venture any further. Part of the Arizona trail passes through the Marshall Lake area and was much better maintained than the first trail we tried. I marked a few spots on my map so I could come back and explore more in depth on my own.

Time for the final hike. Fay Ridge trail is only marked by a numbered forest road sign. We drove on this dirt trail until we found what looked like a trailhead. As we approached I saw what I guessed to be detailed maps of the area. Upon getting closer this is what I found:


Just the structure awaiting map installation.  To be on the safe side I set our location using my Garmin watch and we set off on the most likely looking trail. The trail was open to bikes, hikers, and motorcycles. Fortunately, we saw no one else while on this trail.


There’s my boot on the rocky trail. Just to give you an idea of the terrain.


I was enjoying the trees and the occasional tree stump until we stumbled upon the land of the tree stumps:



It appeared to be acres upon acres of just stumps. I couldn’t help but wonder why. I saw no sign of disease. No paper factory. No log cabins. No sawmill. Oh… could this just be an area thinned out by the State Land Department/Forest Service? I’m guessing they were trying to create natural meadows in the midst of the forest? Regardless of the reason, it was a depressing scene.


Thankfully the hike didn’t end in the land of the stumps. This bright wildflower stood out almost as a sign of hope for a meadow to evolve and fill with fields of flowers and abundance of wildlife.

Without a map it was impossible to know if we were on a loop trail or an endless trail of trails. We decided to call it a day and head back towards the trailhead.

I’m looking forward to tackling a long hike soon.

Have I mentioned how much I love summer hiking?!

❤️

K

Sunset Trail

One of my favorite hikes in Flagstaff. I do believe this was the first hike that Dee and I did as a kickstart to our training for the Colorado Trail last year. This trail meets up with the Heart Trail that I did a few weeks ago. It also takes you the back way to the top of Mt. Elden, which I blogged about in my Fat Mans Loop post . I love how many trails in Flagstaff intersect. This allows a tremendous amount of options for hiking plans.

You can imagine how excited I was to see the warning of bears sighted on this trail! I’ve been anxious to get another chance to use my bear whisperer skill! 

This trail starts off in a heavily treed area before opening into a meadow.

It’s a very popular trail for mountain biking. Most bikers use a bell to let you know they are coming. When they are coming downhill their speeds and rock jumping abilities are impressive! I’ve found myself on more than one occasion shouting ” Be careful”  as they fly by me. Must be the mother instinct in me. A ” don’t worry about me” grin is the usual response I get in return. 

As you climb out of the meadow you are greeted by great views and a breeze that is almost chilly.
From this point you enter the “catwalk” that takes you up to the Mt. Eldens lookout tower.

As you can see there still is a lot of forest recovery needed after the big fire roared through this area.Speaking of fires, you can see the smoke in the distance that was started by a campfire during Memorial weekend . Thankfully it was quickly contained.

A quick stop on Signal hill for a lunch break. This is the only spot in Flagstaff that my phone gets a full 5 bar signal!! Signal hill is just below the Elden Towers.
This hike is rated moderate. I believe the round trip mileage is 9.7. I’m still trying to figure out how to use my new Garmen Fenix watch! It is capable of so many cool things, but somehow I’m still just trying to learn how to set my location and find the start button! I’m wondering if it can track bears?! I was disappointed not to see any on this trip.

Until next hike!

K

Mount Elden

Mt. Elden is a very popular hike in Flagstaff.  You have the options of a 45 minute loop trail, or a short trek to access the Buffalo Park trails, or the complete grunt up to the top to the lookout tower – where you’ll gain 3,000 ft of elevation in under 3 miles.


The trail is rocky and steep but the views are great and all the moisture this winter and spring brought pretty blooms.


One of the highlights is the unique boulders that are scattered through a section of the loop, affectionately named Fat Man’s Loop.


Wildlife such as deer, snakes, lizards, and the occasional mountain lion like to hang out here.


I love to photograph the trees on this mountain. Between the alligator juniper, Ponderosa Pines, and Aspens the colors, shapes, ages, and stages are an always changing wonder to observe.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this hike is the best training hike in Flagstaff. Many prepare for hiking the Grand Canyon here. Firefighters can be seen running this trail with full gear as part of their fitness routine . You’ll see people sitting beside the trail trying to catch their breath, red-faced, and feeling defeated. Even the tower watchmen who climb this mountain frequently declare this hike never gets easier but it does start to feel shorter after a few months.

The loop is the most popular choice, and for the most part anyone can do this with just moderate effort . But to climb to the top I’d advise you to be acclimated to the elevation of Flagstaff (7,000 ft), bring lots of water, a few salty snacks, and keep a slow steady pace.