Hiking the Kachina and Weatherford Trails

The Kachina Trail runs along the southern side of the San Francisco Peaks, shown here, at the 9800 foot line. The highest Peak is Humphrey's Peak at 12, 633 feet. (3851 m) This is the highest point in Arizona.

The Kachina Trail runs along the southern side of the San Francisco Peaks, shown here, at the 9800 foot line. The highest Peak is Humphreys Peak at 12, 643 feet. This is the highest point in Arizona. This photo was taken from Schultz Pass Road at about 7000 feet elevation. Flatlanders planning on hiking the area should allow time for acclimation.

Kachina Trail sign 1

The Kachina trail is named for the Kachina Peaks Wilderness through which it runs. The San Francisco Peaks, or Kachina Peaks are sacred to many tribes including the Havasupai, Hopi, Navajo and Zuni. The trail head shown here is located just below the Snowbowl ski area outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Kachina Trail winds through the aspen groves

For much of the 6.8 miles, the Kachina Trail winds through massive groves of Aspen trees.

Kachina trail enters wilderness area

The Kachina Peaks Wilderness area covers over 18,000 acres. and only foot travel is allowed. The ecosystem is fragile, and hikers are encouraged to stay on the trail.

Quaking Aspens and big meadow

Quaking Aspen trees line the edges of the many grass and fern covered meadows.

Hanging garden on layered lava wall

Everywhere are reminders of the violent origin of this mountain, a stratovolcano, which last erupted 1.4 million years ago.The original 16,000 foot summit collapsed, maybe in a blast such as Mt. St. Helens, creating the caldera now named the Inner Basin. Ice ages have passed this way previously, and glaciers scarred the slopes. These peaks are the centerpiece for a huge volcanic field which was last active in AD 1100, when indigenous peoples inhabited the area. Here you can see various layers of lava flows now hung with delicate greenery.

 Long View from clear area

Looking south from the high elevation you can see far into the northern Arizona countryside, spotting some of the 500 cinder cones of the volcanic field.

Ferny slope leads up to peaks

Looking north you can see the tips of several of the San Francisco Peaks, which are above tree line.  Here are Agassiz, Fremont, and Doyle Peaks. The tallest, Humphreys, lies hidden behind the others. If you imagine drawing a line to connect the sides of these slopes up in the air, you can get a picture of how large this volcano once was.

Sunny start

Summer weather around the San Francisco Peaks can change rapidly. What starts out as a sunny day with a low chance of precipitation can change quickly. Do remember to bring plenty of drinking water on your hike. Elevation sickness can be eased by staying hydrated.

Kachina Trail, Rain coming!

The sunny sky can suddenly darken with rain-laden clouds.  Hail is a common occurrence. Come prepared for heavy summer monsoon storms with possible lighting and loud thunder.

Verbena macdougalii

Fields of wildflowers join the ferns in the meadows. These are Verbena macdougalii.

Forest of ferns

The ferns are huge and grow tall in the sunlight. Can you spot the trail? It’s there…

Hiker lost in ferns

Luckily, we hike with our dog, so staying on the trail was easier.

Here's the trail!

Can you see me now? Here’s the trail!

The slope

There are some long uphill slopes and some very rocky passages.

Narrow passage

Some of the trail leads over and through huge boulders.

Ridges and ravines

Eventually the Kachina Trail begins to lead downward towards Schultz Pass and the Weatherford Trail. The trail dips into several ravines carved long ago in the volcanic slopes.

Kachina rain drops on ponderosa

The Weatherford trailhead is located at Schultz Tank at 8800 feet elevation. As you descend toward it, the vegetation changes and you find dense stands of spruce, fir and Ponderosa Pines.

Fine tall ponderosa

Some of the tallest and healthiest Ponderosas along the trail are a good reminder of why these pine trees own that name. The tallest known pine on record is a Ponderosa. Arizona hosts the world’s largest contiguous stand of these trees. Mature trees have orange-brown bark, and some say they smell like vanilla.

After the rain, the insects are visible

After the rain, the insects come out of hiding, and go back to work. This fly is on a Lupine flower.

Weatherford Trail sign

The Kachina Trail intersects with the Weatherford Trail and the Freidlein Prairie Trail.

Weatherford trail is an old road

The Weatherford Trail is an old road that once was an enterprise to take Model T Fords to the mountain top. It has been closed to vehicular traffic. It must have been quite an adventurous ride in a car, back in the day.

A stand of aspen seen from Weatherford

Looking back toward the Peaks from the Weatherford Trail, you get another nice view of a dense grove of Aspen.

Approaching Schultz Tank

Since the Weatherford Trail itself leads uphill again, we take the lower section that leads down to Schultz Tank where it is possible to park a car. There are also bathrooms at Schultz Tank. We left a car at the Snowbowl, hiked one way, and used the second car at Schultz to retrieve the first one.

End of trail, or beginning, depending on your plans

The end of the trail, or perhaps the beginning, if you choose to hike up to the Snowbowl trailhead, or take the Weatherford trail to up Doyle Saddle.

Slide Fire Update

A drive through Oak Creek Canyon in northern Arizona this week allowed for a glimpse of conditions since the Slide Fire was extinguished.  Since the beginning of the monsoon season is upon us, worries over the safety of visitors to the canyon in the event of flash flooding has caused many closures.  The camping areas affected by the fire as well as other parking for day use along the canyon are now closed. Thus the photos I post here are all from a moving car, not the best of situations.  However, you can see that if you are looking for fire damage, you will find it, however, most of the beauty that is Oak Creek Canyon remains.

This is the north end of  Slide Rock Park a short time prior to the fire.

This is the north end of Slide Rock Park a short time prior to the fire.

This is the same location currently.

This is the same location currently.

View from bridge at Slide Rock

Heading north, this is the view from Slide Rock Bridge, just below the origin of the fire.

The worst of the burn area, as visible from the road, is where the fire started.  It burned very hot here. Note the discolored ground in the burn area.

Near start of fire Mid burn area First view of burn area above Slide Rock Burn area soil colorAs you drive along the canyon, most of the views to fire damaged areas are blocked by the lush greenery near the creek.

The entrance to Cave Springs Campground

The entrance to Cave Springs Campground

Junipine Resort

Junipine Resort

The fire moved up the steep, rocky hillsides and moved on.

The fire raged up the steep, rocky hillsides and moved on.

As you drive along the switchbacks out of the canyon, you pass some burned areas where fire was stopped right at the road.

As you drive along the switchbacks out of the canyon, you pass some burned areas where fire was stopped right at the road.

You can see from the many signs and banners in Flagstaff, how appreciated the efforts of firefighters were. The question currently on the minds of locals is how much damage could occur due to runoff from the anticipated summer monsoons.  Oak Creek has many fans awaiting the answer, and thinking ahead to their next trip.

Slidefire in Oak Creek Canyon

Smoke filling the Flagstaff sky today from the Slide fire. Photo by Amy Dryden

Smoke filling the Flagstaff sky today from the Slide fire. Photo by Amy Dryden

Two weeks ago we camped with our tent trailer at beautiful Cave Springs Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona.  We have lived for decades in the area, but never actually camped in the canyon previously.

Yesterday, Tuesday, May 20, a devastating wildfire started in the canyon south of the Cave Springs Campground, and has been whipped along by high winds. Twenty-four hours later it is estimated at 4500 acres and has topped out of the canyon and approaches Flagstaff, Arizona. ABC News 15, reports at this time the fire is zero percent contained. (Air15 fire photos at the link)

San Xavier del Bac

San Xavier 1

San Xavier del Bac, Tucson

Interior photos and information here.

Construction on the current San Xavier del Bac began in 1783.  More than 200 hundred years of harsh desert climate, use, abandonment and attempts at restorations have taken a toll on the interior and exterior of this incredible structure. Finding funding for proper conservation has been an ongoing challenge.This year, 2014, conservation and preservation efforts are underway. Photos here.

San Xavier del Bac: The  White Dove of the Desert

 

T is for Texas Canyon, Tombstone and The Thing

If you drive a car on I10 in southern Arizona, you will undoubtedly see sign after sign asking “The Thing?”  In fact, a miracle in advertising, the first signs begin near El Paso, TX, traveling west. By the time you arrive at exit 322, in the middle of the desert between Willcox and Benson, Arizona, your curiosity should be aroused.  For a whole dollar, you can find out just what The Thing, the Mystery in the Desert, is.  And you can buy an ice cream cone, or other tourist delights.

In the same southeastern corner of the state you will encounter beautiful Texas Canyon, rich in the history of Arizona Territory, the Butterfield Stage Route, ranching, and Apache country.

Entrance to the historic Adams Ranch in Texas Canyon

Entrance to the historic Adams Ranch in Texas Canyon

Fascinating rock sculptures in Texas Canyon

Fascinating rock sculptures in Texas Canyon

Mesquites in Texas Canyon

Mesquites in Texas Canyon

Balanced rocks in Texas Canyon, Arizona

Balanced rocks in Texas Canyon, Arizona

Texas Canyon, Arizona

Texas Canyon, Arizona

A few minutes driving will take you to famous Tombstone, Arizona. In 1877 Ed Schieffelin announced to cavalry stationed in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, that he intended prospecting in the valley of the San Pedro River.  He was warned that he would only “find his tombstone there.” It was a dangerous time in Arizona Territory because this was Apache country.  But he persisted, found silver and staked the Tombstone and Graveyard claims.  Soon other rich deposits were discovered and more prospectors came and the town of Tombstone blossomed. It was a rough, tough boomtown until 1886 when fire destroyed the pump works and the mines flooded.  Tombstone remains as a thriving tourist attraction, complete with shootouts in the streets, busy saloons, stagecoaches and people dressed in the best of western wear.

Tombstone gunfighters

Tombstone gunfighters

Tombstone retains some of its rough and tough attitude

Tombstone retains some of its rough and tough attitude

Last stage to Tombstone

Last stage to Tombstone