I was going to be in Flagstaff for the weekend and wanted to get a good hike in, but wanted to avoid the popular and crowded options. That ruled out pretty much anything that's a trail! I think most people who hike Rees begin in the Inner Basin, but after OHs recent camping trip report, I decided that was a crowd I'd like to avoid.
In no hurry to start the day, I got to the Bear Jaw trailhead around 10 and was happy to see only about 5 other vehicles in the lot. Signing the register I noticed somebody had written about a "huge" bear sighting on Friday. A few minutes later I passed a hiker finishing the loop counterclockwise who told me he had seen a huge bear in Abineau Canyon earlier in the morning. I know there's not a lot of bear in the Flagstaff area, but it's nice to know there's a healthy one in this area. I hope the population is able to expand a bit!
I cruised the Bear Jaw trail up to the Waterline Road and just went straight up from there. The first 500-700 feet of elevation were choked with a lot of deadfall and travel was a real chore. Lots of bouncing left and right to get around things, and plenty of climbing over. Eventually the forest thinned out, but it also steepened. I wasn't sucking wind as hard as in Colorado a couple of weeks ago, but I still took plenty of short breaks just to catch my breath. Near the top, I wasn't gaining more than 50 feet before taking an oxygen break!
Along the way, I got a text from a trusted friend who suggested that I couldn't hit Rees without also hopping over to Abineau. Though that wasn't the plan, that seed was now planted. Once hitting the summit of Rees, the jaw-dropping views of the Inner Basin and the rest of the peaks were amazing. I enjoyed a short break there, but decided that Abineau would be worth the attempt. There was rain visible to the west of the peaks, and an occasional distant rumble of thunder. I was a bit leery of the weather, but after looking at the clouds for a while and determining that they were moving slowly away from me, I decided to continue on.
The route between Rees and Abineau is loose and steep. Both down to the saddle, and back up to the peak. Travel is slow but steady. Abineau does not have the trees Rees has and offers 360-degree views. I could see dozens of people on the summit of Humphreys just a mile away. This peak had a register that was very recent and only had three names. I searched for another one but couldn't find anything else. I found this to be a bit strange.
After photos, a well-earned summit beer, and some snacks, I headed down along a ridge that appeared to have the most moderate slope on the topo contours. As on Rees, the upper part was steep but more open, and the closer I got to the road below the more deadfall that needed to be negotiated. The descent wasn't too bad, but climbing this route would have been steep.
Back at the road, I contemplated heading up the road to descend Abineau--primarily in hopes of spotting the bear. But I wasn't in the mood for the extra mileage, so I headed back to Bear Jaw and hobbled back to the car. Some light sprinkles added to the breeze and the refreshing sound of the quaking aspen. It was a perfect day and the cloudiness provided the perfect relief from the warm June sun.
I might have to do this one again sometime