I started at a gate around 5960', and I didn't bother with the actual high point. I "summited" around 5:15 Arizona Mountain Time, so I didn't have time. Instead I explored the top a little. Access was pretty good, and I met the guy who lives near the water tanks. Turns out, he works where I will, so this might be a trail I hike with some frequency. Time will tell. Will it be my new Mount Elden, or Humphrey, or just like an AB Young or Bear Mt? All the roads in are wide and reasonably well graded, if you come in from the Kayenta Inn. Only the last road, which is really a driveway to the water tanks and the group of houses, is rough, and parking near the bottom can solve that.
I found the trail pretty easily and made the mesa top with no trouble. The Mesa is a lot drier than I expected, both this summer with a poor monsoon showing, and over all, with ponderosa pine only in the protected areas, and pinyon dominating at over 8,000'. The Douglas-firs by the trail and on the slopes leading up to the mesa look terrible, and drought over the last decade took out most of the large ones near the trail. There are still some large ponderosa pines and Doug-firs on the north slopes above the trail, but not right along it. The Gambel Oaks are shrubs and not tree like, not even as tall as on the South Rim of the Canyon.
The mesa top had some clearing for grazing with windrow bulldozing done some time in the past. Judging by the decay of the trees and the dryness of the area, it could have been decades. My guess is that is is at least from the 1980s, but it could date to the 1970s. There is hardly any grass, just a lot of shrubs, so it seems bulldozing the pinyons was not the best idea. In the great basin, BLM managers "chained" pinyons by using two bulldozers to drag a large chain over the land and up root pinyons in the theory that removing the trees would benefit the grasses. I think that was in the 1960s. This treatment may parallel that.
Views are great, but one sided. It didn't seem humid, so the haze might have been from the power plants, or some other source. As it was, the Chuska Mountains were barely visible, the Abajos were not, nor was anything in Colorado, even the close Ute Mountain.
The trail is in pretty good shape, and there has been some maintenance. Not sure by who, but this has got to be used by locals and possibly for stock. There are cairns in the confusing sections and if you make your way to the narrow ridge on the west side of the large basin, you'll find the trail pretty fast. It helped that someone had been out in the last day or so and hiked this, but it is easy enough to find on your own. A "gate" of cairns marks the top of the trail and there is a nice campsite (road accessible) over looking it.
The trail itself felt a lot like the Capitol Butte South Face in Sedona, but in general distinct and different. My first hike on the reservation.
||Wildflowers Observation Isolated