I had reached the point where I was hoping to see something that would break up the pleasant monotony of the forests. Though the hiking was easier and the days cooler, I missed the grand views and overlooks that invited a needed rest for weary feet.
Due to the mid-20s low, I wound up sleeping in a bit later than I had hoped, all the way to sunrise. I was still up and on the trail shortly after 7am and was making quick and easy time through a juniper forest.
There was plenty of water along this stretch of the trail, but much of it required a bit of trickery to get to. Some of it was just way off trail, while other sources were just way too marshy to try accessing. I hadn’t anticipated this, so fortunately, the one liter I had had with breakfast was holding over quite well thanks to a lighter pack, cooler air, and little-to-no elevation gain or loss. But I would definitely need some eventually.
The San Francisco Peaks from time to time would pop up from behind the trees to remind me that things would be changing soon, but not just yet. Soon the trail gave me one of those views I had been missing though. To the south was a large valley carpeted in evergreen trees, and in the middle was the dammed Upper Lake Mary. The expansive landscape reached all the way back to Mormon Mountain where I had been just the day before.
The San Francisco Peaks grew closer and larger as I continued on, watching the ravens playing in the strong winds that lasted all day before I dropped down into a thick oak and pine forest. I was beginning to get thirsty by this point, which was when I ran into a day hiker going the other way named Bud. Bud was a mix of blue healer and German Shepherd, and his owner was a friendly girl named Hannah who offered to take me back to her camper van and get me rehydrated.
She fed me lots of amazing fruits and veggies and different snacks, and of course, got me hydrated again. We had some great conversations before she joined me for a few miles down the trail toward Flagstaff.
She turned around at about 3.5 miles, and just a short distance after, Mount Humphreys shot up through the trees right above the trail, completely covered in new snow from all the recent weather. A bit farther, Walnut Canyon carved a massive gorge into the earth where lava rock mixed with other rocks in a deep canyon. Across the canyon, some climbers were ascending one of the cliffs.
I followed the trail down into the bottom of the canyon where I found the spur trail to head off the AZT and into Flagstaff. The nearly four mile trail took me into the southern end of town where I was picked up by my friend, Cydney, who then brought to the hostel. After cleaning up, we met up with Hannah and had some dinner and beers at a couple of Flagstaff’s signature brewpubs before calling it a night. Ah, sweet calorie replenishment!