Denny and I hit up our second AZT segment today. Woke up at 1am, met Denny at 2am, Grace shuttled us(thx Grace!) and off we went at 5am. We did cache water where the trail crosses Lake Mary Road.
With a little uncertainty we took off from a non descriptive trailhead. Passing Allen Lake Tank quickly put our concerns to rest. Allen wasn't large but was loaded with that reed type grass that grows in water. Soon we were greeted by maybe a hundred elk looking to cross ahead of us. The bugle fest was a great start to our hike. Not much later we witnessed an owl hunting a squirrel. Does it get any better? We continued through the healthy forest up towards Mormon Lake. The official trail is currently rerouted for a Timber Sale. Which appeared to be a logging operation. We took the official trail anyhow and witnessed the large scale operation first hand. We didn't encounter a sole so it all worked out.
Unfortunately there are no views of Mormon Lake even though you are hovering above it. The trees are simply too thick. You do get a short low-profile glimpse as you pass Double Springs Campground. This is an ultra cool little place with an ideal setting and a running creek from the springs. Denny almost slipped into Tibber mode so I brought him back to "longest hike of your life reality" and we moved on. Here we got off trail following the bypass but common sense didn't let us stray far.
After a few contours around Mormon Mountain (now I finally know where and what it is!) the trail heads down to Lake Mary Road. It may have been earlier but somewhere it passes an ubber cool piece of history. It follows a raised berm from an old railroad. This must have been disassembled in the early 1900's judging by the huge trees now in place. Some of the practically rotted ties are still in line in places. We saw maybe a half dozen spikes too. Each time Denny did a little skit where he'd wave the spike in the air hollering out "I am the sausage king of Chicago"...while rubbing his belly. I have no clue what it meant but being a long hike I played along and simply agreed. Little plastic plaques tell the area history along the way. Some of the hand built rock berms are mind boggling, definitely a must see for train enthusiast.
We arrived at Lake Mary Road an hour earlier than anticipated. This certainly put a kick into the grind as all the sudden we were two-thirds through the hike... yippee! This also marked the end (almost end) to the great weather and beautiful forest. An easy mile up the grade takes you out of paradise into bone dry juniper hell. Apparently there's a hole in the ozone layer here as despite 90% cloud cover the sun pierced through for hours on end. There was no breeze, no shade and plenty of sun on a very humid day. Whereas we reached Lake Mary Road early this one never ended. The view point over Lake Mary is sweet indeed but we both wanted to get our blistering feet off the trail. Determination panned out and we marked this bad boy as done!
There seems to be lots of water resources along this route. Prime Lake up top is stunning and a must see for all. The mileage here is beyond my comfort zone yet I'm very glad I did it! I read about a guy that backpacked the PCT averaging 32mi per day(very AEG intense terrain too). I can now say (as a whimpy day hiker) with complete confidence I will never be that guy...