It’s the End of The World as We Know It

Sounds like a song, doesn’t it? But, no. It’s an absolutely gorgeous sight, set right out in the middle of Nowhere, Arizona!

I can’t honestly say that this stunningly surreal spot is officially called The End of The World; but that’s what the locals call it, so I’m sticking with it. Other than being a tad bit hazy due to the wind kicking up some dust, it was a gorgeous view and definitely clearer than the pictures depict.

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After taking at least 103 photos, we headed back to the car and further on down the road; which, to our surprise, dead-ended after only about a half-mile at a gate marking the entrance to the USFS Lookout Tower.

From this point, it’s boots on the ground only, so we gladly abandoned our car and hoofed it on foot for about another 1/2 – 3/4 miles to the tower. Which I did in my flip-flops, by the way, since I completely forgot to grab my more appropriate shoes that I carefully placed near the door at home so I wouldn’t forget them. Thankfully the road was well-maintained. Though the slightly rocky, steady incline did make me wish more than once that I wasn’t quite so perpetually forgetful.

East Pocket Knob USFS Fire Lookout Tower
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Check out that earth curvature! Proof that we were truly at the end of the world. (Or that I’m a bad photographer)
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A beautiful view of the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff AZ

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After spending about 30-40 minutes taking pictures and talking with the Forest Service Ranger, we decided to head back down so we could make our way home before sundown. This time of day is always a great time to see wildlife, and we were hoping that would be the case today. A little treat to top off an already great trip.

We were definitely not disappointed!

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We actually saw much more than this. To include a herd of about 30-40 elk frolicking off the side of the road, hardly taking notice of us as we drove by. Not to mention three other large elk just like the picture above. It was more than we expected and we were thrilled!

And then it happened…

We heard it before we felt it. And when I say we, I mean my husband.

Psssssssst….. Flat tire. In the middle of nowhere. With at least 15 miles of dirt road to go. But thank God for donuts! And for my efficient husband, who had that tire changed quicker than the Dad in The Christmas Story. Less than 6 minutes, from start to finish! And we were back on the road like nothing had ever happened.

To Access:

Take Historic Route 66 west from town (east from I40 E) to Woody Mountain Rd, which quickly turns to dirt and begins SR 231. EOTW 01This is a 23 mile stretch of dirt road that eventually dead ends at the gate to the East Pocket Knob USFS Lookout Tower. A word of caution: there will be other SR’s veering from SR 231 (as you can see from the picture on the left), so be careful to stay only on SR 231 for the entire distance. About a half-mile before the road dead ends, you will reach the holy grail; aptly named, The End of The World. You can camp here short-term, and there is even a ready-made fire pit for you to use. Dependent on current fire restrictions, of course. The road is in very good condition for the majority of the drive, with only about 5 miles of typical dirt road conditions. We drove a car and made it with no problems (except for that teeny-weeny flat) but when we do it again, we will definitely take our truck for a more comfortable ride. And thicker walled tires.

Happy Trails!
Dee 

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Bill Williams Mountain Trail by Karen

This hike is 7.5 miles round-trip from the ranger station to the fire tower and back, with an elevation gain of 2122 ft in the 3.75 mile hike up.

 

Someone left American flags at the base of a tree. It’s nice to see patriotism, especially in light of recent events.

Bill Williams Mountain is very well maintained trail, minus a few fallen trees across it. Started the hike at 7am and enjoyed shade for most of the time. The trail ends at a dirt road that winds up to the look out tower. Just before the road you’ll find two benches to sit and rest on, and there is an outcropping of rocks behind the benches; step to the top, and you’ll get an incredible view!

This is a beautiful hike, which I will likely do again. Maybe with a full pack next time for training! And maybe lunch for the ranger in the lookout tower… if he happens to be there.

I. Need. Shade.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a Grade A Wimp when it comes to heat. And by heat, I mean anything above 80 degrees. Actually, I’m being quite generous, because I really prefer mid-70’s. Now, I know what you’re thinking… I’m going to be in a lot of trouble on the Colorado Trail if I don’t start training in warmer temps. Well, consider this hike my first.

Kendrick Peak Trailhead
Kendrick Peak, Flagstaff AZ / Round Trip: 9.2 mi / Elevation Gain: 2,718 ft

Not that it’s my first time on the trail. It’s my third, to be exact. But it is my first during a state-wide heatwave. A true heatwave. Not just my personal version of a heatwave. I’m talking record-breaking temps. So, what do we decide to do with our day? Hike Kendrick Peak. Late morning of all things; 10am, 89 degrees and rising. What were we thinking??

Before you start hating this trail as much as I did at that moment, I should tell you that Kendrick Peak actually rocks. It’s one of the highest of a dozen or so mountains within the San Francisco Volcanic Field in Northern Arizona. That not only makes for a challenging hike, but the views at this elevation are spectacular (one of which is Mt Humphreys, the featured image for this post and the highest point in Arizona) and that makes it an even cooler (figuratively speaking) place to hike!

Interesting fact: Kendrick Peak is technically not a mountain at all. It’s what is called a lava dome. It was formed approximately 2.7 to 1.4 million years ago (depending on your source) as a result of a series of volcanic eruptions in the region; as are all of the mountains within the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

Kendrick Peak HikeThe trail starts out in the Ponderosa Pines, but it quickly climbs out of the trees and begins a series of switchbacks across the face of the mountain. Due to significant fire damage, as well as the steep grade of the switchbacks, there is very little in the way of overhead vegetation. In fact, except for a spattering of shade under trees here and there (patches too small to provide relief while moving, but perfect for a brief pause to cool down as needed), the first 4 miles of the trek is almost entirely exposed to the sun. To be fair, this is only an issue in the summer. And during heatwaves. The lack of shade is actually a godsend during the majority of the year, and makes the trail passable even during the winter months. Kendrick Peak HikeBut as we learned earlier, I am a heat wimp, so all I can think about is how hot I am right now, and not how truly great this trail is during the rest of the year. As I feel my strength ebb and flow with the patches of shade, I begin to understand how a person could literally fall off the side of a mountain as the heat inside and outside their body rises. Though I’ve not yet reached the point of fearing spontaneous combustion, or toppling over the edge, I do feel slightly light-headed and my pit stops in the intermittent shade are becoming increasingly more frequent. As I begrudgingly place one foot in front of the other, refusing to concede defeat, I quickly realize that I’m not the only one struggling, as I begin passing others huddled in the tiny spaces under the occasional tree.

Kendrick Peak Hike
San Francisco Peaks (Humphreys, Agassiz, Fremont, Aubineau, Rees, and Doyle)

Just as I feel my strength begin to wane, I round the final switchback and find my oasis… the half-mile home stretch to the Forest Service Tower at the summit. The forested and shaded home stretch!

Such a welcome sight! A stark contrast to the past 4 miles of trail.

[Side note: The below cabin is actually the original lookout cabin built in 1911 that was used for many years before the current tower was built. This cabin is still in good condition and can actually be used in case of inclement weather, or maybe even to spend a night in emergency situations. Inside you’ll find a bed, a table, and a journal to leave your thoughts for fellow hikers; all courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.]

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Kendrick Peak Hike
My first glimpse of impending conquest!

This segment of the trail is my favorite. And not just for the obvious reasons, though relief from the sun and heat is reason enough, but because it’s so incredibly beautiful and varied. It’s almost as if I’ve secretly and suddenly been transported to another trail on another mountain; full of birds and other critters, and an abundance of vegetation and trees. Just being here has revived my strength and lightened my spirit.

After visiting the tower, reuniting with my hubby (who I sent on ahead of me in a fit of heat-induced frustration), a light lunch, and a brief rest, we headed back down the trail. Together.

Kendrick Peak Hike
U.S. Forest Service Lookout Tower

There are varying reports as to the round trip length of this trail, however, we’ve used a GPS tracker during our climb on two separate occasions, and both times we’ve registered 9.2 miles round trip.

This trail is rated as challenging: due to significant elevation gain, lack of any water source, and the effects of fire damage.

Remember, Arizona is HOT. Even Flagstaff at times. So bring plenty of food and water, wear a hat, and start earlier or later in the day to avoid the full strength of the sun. And whatever else you do, avoid hiking this trail during a heatwave.

Happy Trails!
Dee 

Click below for:
usgs map, location & access, Elevation, and gps information

 

Our First Adventure

SUNSET TRAIL, MT ELDEN, FLAGSTAFF AZ
TRAINING HIKE
ROUND TRIP: 7 MI
ELEVATION GAIN: 1100 FT

Sunset Trail

Our first training hike together! And we couldn’t have picked a better day. The forecast called for rain, which made for really great cloud cover and cool conditions the entire hike. Not that one would necessarily need that, as a good part of the area along the trail consists of a dense alpine forest that does a pretty good job in itself of providing a nice overhead canopy and shelter from the sun.

In fact, the entire area is packed with an assortment of trees and other vegetation (you might even run into a cactus or two… but let’s hope not), not to mention a diverse population of wildlife (of which we saw neither hide nor hair, unless you count three little horny toads); making it one of the most popular and widely used areas in Flagstaff. And not just for hikers, but bikers and equestrians as well.

[As a side note: The trail on the opposite side of this mountain resembles something akin to high desert. A disparity that I always find curiously strange, although this type of oddity is really not so unusual in Arizona.]

The trail begins its gradual ascent practically from the start (elev. 8000 feet), and becomes increasingly more vertical over the next 4 miles, where it ultimately summits at the U.S. Forest Service Lookout Tower atop Mt Elden. At 2300 feet above Flagstaff (elev. 9287 feet), the view is breathtakingly beautiful. And when the tower is open to visitors you can freely venture up to get an even wider range of viewing above the treetops; you might even learn a few interesting tidbits about the area from the resident FS Ranger.

Note: For those of you thrill-seekers out there, if you’re lucky enough to be granted admission to the tower on a windy day, your appetite for adventure will quickly be satisfied when you experience the vertigo-inducing sway of the tower beneath your feet. The higher you go, the better it gets!

Overall, this trail makes for a great time and can be enjoyed by experienced hikers of any skill level. As for the rain, we managed to make it to the very end without a single drop. Then, once back inside our car, the skies opened up to deliver their liquid gold as promised. 🙂

Happy Trails!
Dee