On Saturday, after a Friday afternoon and night of heavy rain and wind that shook the tent (camped along Freidlein Prairie Road), I went up to the upper Kachina TH (Lot 6 at Snowbowl). There are picnic tables and views directly across the road to the west from where I parked. I went over there to have a look, and liked the look of the grassy hill below to the west. So I worked out a partially off-trail loop route. Started out hiking down that hill just below the picnic tables. I soon ran into a small trail, which I followed for a while, but when it seemed to be forcing me too far to the south I struck out off-trail again for a while. Eventually I came to another trail that turned out to be the Arizona Trail (section 34c), which I followed south for a short way toward a dense stand of trees (Aspen Corner). I found the old closed road that is shown by a dotted red line on my map. The map is "Flagstaff Trails Map," Emmett Barks Cartography, 7th Ed. 2016. The closed "road" is now just a pair of tracks with lots of grasses in between, and the left track disappeared quickly after I turned west on the "road." This took me to Alfa Fia Tank, which was quite lovely. I tossed a rock into the center to test the depth, and the sound indicated the tank was at least 3 feet deep. The water looks great to drink (after filtering or other treatment, of course). There were bright blue dragonflies on the eastern bank, and wild irises on the western bank, though only one of the irises had bloomed. It would be worth checking this place out in another week or two, if you want to see wild irises blooming -- there were many buds. The western bank has a bench that someone made out of a log across two big rocks. While I sat there making notes, a group of small birds (maybe ducks? - they were awfully small, for ducks) began to swim across the tank. I had not seen them fly in. Maybe they live nearby. This area would be nice to camp at, if you were backpacking along the Arizona Trail -- less than a quarter mile detour off the AZT, and trees nearby to the south to provide you some privacy. (Have to camp at some distance from the water source, and the ground around those trees is where I'd look for a place.)
Heading west-northwest from the tank, the old road becomes a much wider and more obvious line that you can envision used to be a road. On it I crossed a pipe that was partially buried but very visible where it crossed the old road, and I passed two groups of hikers who were headed uphill along the same path. It brings you out onto Hart Prairie Road (FR151) at a place where there is what looks like a chute for livestock, built of flat, planed boards. (Most wood fencing out there is made of round, stacked logs.) The chute was on my left, as I headed west. Turning right (north) and hiking along Hart Prairie Road, I came almost immediately to a sign for "Galinas Tank" on the west side of the road. I made the short detour, on a trail through tall grasses, to check out the tank, which had no water, only plants that like damp spots. Here there were two, 3-foot high mounds of dirt. I couldn't imagine what, or who, would have made these big piles of dirt -- I snapped a photo with my phone, and I will post a photo later, after I finish the trip I'm on and if I can figure out how to post a photoset from the phone. (I'm way behind most of the country on tech!)
Back on Hart Prairie Road headed north, there was a sign for private land on the right side for a camp (its name is Camp Colton, if I recall right) owned by Flagstaff Unified School District. I had seen a few huge green tents from the abandoned road/trail, before I reached Hart Prairie Road, so I guess those were part of this camp. Continuing north along HP Road, I came to a red-dirt trail headed uphill to the west. I'm bad at estimating heights, but the hill looked about 40-50 feet high, and I took that detour to see what I could see. Nice views of the mtns to the west, which I'd been using for orientation during the off-trail portions of the hike. Also nice views east, to Humphreys and Agassiz. Could see rain falling on a couple of places to the south -- maybe raining in Sedona.
Continuing north on HP Road, I passed mile post 4 and hiked what felt like another half mile or so, to a right turn on Road 9007T. This road is only 1/4 mile or less long, and it ends at a parking area big enough for several vehicles, with a sign that says "Fern Mountain Wildlife Area." The road is a dead end, but points you to the east in between two areas of private property, so you can do an off-trail hike east from road's end across Hart Prairie without trespassing. I hiked uphill across the grassy prairie to catch the Arizona Trail (34c) again, and close the loop that way. While I was on that off-trail part of my hike, I began to hear gunshots. Since there's a cell signal in that area I called 911 after the 5th bang, but the man who answered said it was "probably just someone target shooting," which is a legal activity in the National Forest in July, "as long as they're not shooting toward campsites." I was concerned since I was off-trail, that the shooter might assume he could shoot in my direction without hitting any people. But I could not be sure where exactly the shots came from, because I was hearing them echo off Humphreys -- the only thing I was sure of was that the shooter was somewhere between me (in the middle of Hart Prairie), and Snowbowl. Later I saw the man with the gun, and he was on the Arizona Trail, just hiking at that point, having fired off 15 rounds or so.
I came into dense trees again, just before reaching the AZ Trail. Then I hiked south a couple miles along the AZ Trail (section 34c) until I reached Aspen Nature Trail, which I followed up (east) to the TH for Aspen Nature Trail, which is a very short walk from the TH where I'd left my car.
I saw two white-tail deer after hearing the gunshots. One was headed north on Hart Prairie, across my path as I headed east off-trail, about to enter a stand of pines. The second bounded across the AZ Trail, in a section where the trail was in dense trees.
Only a few steps south of where I hit the AZ Trail there was a sign, oriented toward people hiking north on the AZ Trail, about restoring the meadow character of Hart Prairie by removing conifers from some areas. The sign has photos that were taken from the same vantage point, toward Fern Mountain, one in the 1890s and the other in the 1980s, to show the conifers encroaching on the meadow.
A great day. Some distant thunder, a bit of rain, a bit of drizzle, overcast all day, but no scary lightning to deal with. Absolutely lovely views, easy route-finding, a family in a car on Hart Prairie Road who stopped to ask me whether I was "stranded" because a storm was threatening to break.