for my HAZfest hike I had planned on being on my own to do Elden #4 but when Ambika said she'd join me for a hike, I found something longer and hopefully more fun but just as hard. I had been reading the Elden #4 trip reports and stumbled across johnr1's report that looked interesting. So in about an hour or so, I did a bunch of preliminary Rx mostly to confirm I could do the Loop
and it wasn't going to be THAT hard. Another hiker that thot about joining us caused me to have a backup plan as she isn't that strong a hiker, it would have been an up and down on Sunset Trail.
From HAZ camp I drove over to the Sandy Seep TH to meet Ambika. I think we got started a little after 9:15. My legs definitely weren't feeling it the first two miles
but fortunately, that situation would change and I would get a nice rhythm going. The SANDY SEEP TRAIL
is a nice trail as it starts out. Once it narrows, it has ruts in spots so you have to maneuver around them. You do get views of the mountains around you
so that is kind of nice.
You gradually go up 350 feet or so to the junctions with the second junction being the Heart Trail. Thru this area, you can really see the damage from the rain. The HEART TRAIL
climbs ever so slightly at first and because of the recent rains, once again you have to work around some of the ruts. Part way up I was having a toe issue which I was able to repair at about the 1/2 way up point. From there, the switchbacks began in earnest which was fine with me. There were a couple steep ones but for the most part, "very doable" especially as the views changed
. The only thing I wish for when going straight up is for a less rocky trail tho I guess it really wasn't that bad.
Always in the back of my head is only 1400 feet in two miles. It was fun to guess where the trail was going to take you. There were a couple hikers ahead of us so sometimes we got hints. Basically you switchback one mountain only to find yourself on another and then up to the Sunset Trail. The weather had been somewhat threatening at this point. We were armed with umbrellas and ponchos, it would be only the lightning
that would make us nervous. At the junction with Sunset and Heart, we took a break in the shelter of the boulders and the forest.
I did encounter a biker who said the trail had become quite slippery after the rain and in fact, we would see another biker's bike slip off the trail as we made our way up. This part of the SUNSET TRAIL
is rather fun as you are somewhat on a ridgeline that you cross over from the east side. Soon you can see Agassiz and part of that mountain range off to the north. And even better, once you get to the now mostly treeless top of the ridgeline, it seems the whole world opens up for you to see
. We also got to enjoy the flora of the season and the dancing of the clouds in various directions. It was hard to leave this area that was also quite windy.
We headed off toward the tower and discussed whether to go up the hill or not as the Sunset Trail wraps around the north side of the tower hill. We decided to head up the tower hill and around to the other side where there is the other trail junction to Elden #4. Ambika decided we would take a break at the Elden Saddle which was not too far away. However, getting there involved rather large step downs and certainly hardly a level piece of trail. I knew right away this ELDEN TRAIL #4
was going to be evil
. We were about half-way through our hike.
It was windy and a little nippy as we finally got down to the saddle where we had our lunch. We would run into several hikers coming and going at this point and for the rest of the trail down to Xmas Tree. Reluctantly, we prepared to head on down the trail. This trail gives you little breathing time where you can hike on a level turf. You really have to pay attention
cuz it also gets slippery in certain sections. It's not the best trail to stop and take pics either as you end up with the city and/or Flagstaff Mall in the background. Plus, it seems like we'll never get to the next trail at this pace if you could call it a pace.
Finally we hit the junction with FATMANS LOOP TRAIL
and almost immediately, you feel like you're walking on air in an upright position able to breathe normally once again.
Oh this is a fun little trail with plenty of entertainment; especially with all the boulders and such. It's definitely a trail I won't mind doing again. We were only doing about 3/4 of a mile to reach our junction.
We had one last snack and sit down before finishing off the last 3 miles. The CHRISTMAS TREE TRAIL
starts a little close to the road for awhile but soon veers away and you get to enjoy the solitude of your environment. It was a pleasant enough 1 1/2 miles but it seems when there is at least another 1/2 to go, you really stretch your eyes looking for the junction with Seeping Sandy. There were a few interesting things along the way but I was pretty much in "Tibber back to the barn" mode
Once you reach the junction with SANDY SEEP TRAIL
it's a bit of a relief as there is only 1 mile and 1/2 to go. You walk and cross the messed up drainage before getting on the decent trail that had some ruts from time to time. Along the way, I did spot a couple deer in the soft glowing grass. They spotted me too quickly though and seemed jittery so I didn't grab my camera. Instead I waited for Ambika to catch up to me hoping she would get a chance to at least see them but just barely before they headed into the forest.
Before you know it, you're on the nice wide trail enjoying the sun setting on the grassy floor. It seemed the TH came up much faster than I anticipated but that is not a bad thing. I took my gear off and drove Tonto over to where Ambika was. We shared some watermelon Kat (Snakemarks) had given me that morning. Watermelon always seems to hit the spot
. Ambika and I parted ways and once again, I was stuck eating at McDonalds as it was late but I did make it back to Camp Chumley just before dark.
Two videos from the hike:
1 Seeping Sandy and Heart and Sunset - http://youtu.be/zOEisAM4HHM
2 Elden #4 and Fatmans Loop - http://youtu.be/oZ_6Kt6wBS8Wildflowers