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Elden Loop Explore, AZ
mini location map2014-06-14
15 by photographer avatarddgrunning
photographer avatar
 
Elden Loop Explore, AZ 
Elden Loop Explore, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jun 14 2014
ddgrunning
Hiking11.20 Miles 3,451 AEG
Hiking11.20 Miles   6 Hrs   10 Mns   2.39 mph
3,451 ft AEG   1 Hour   29 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Another training hike for Whitney in July.

Headed up to Mt. Elden--an old stomping ground from my youth. I was born and raised at the foot of this mountain, though we rarely hiked the "official" trails. Mostly just off-trailed it straight up the face of "Pete's Dragon"--the rock formation that covers most of the western hump of the mountain.

Today, though, we (mostly) stuck to the trails. Headed up from Phoenix early, and were on the trail by 8 am.

First task: Up the Lookout Trail. The hike up was pleasant, albeit windy (though, for much of the hike up, the mountain itself provided shelter, as we hiked up the east side, and the wind was blowing from the west). Once we reached the lookout tower, however, all bets were off, and the wind let 'er rip! On seeing my son, the ranger in the tower made an effort to toss down a Smokey-the-Bear aerobie and some FS knick-knacks. The wind took the "gift" and carried it down the mountain a bit, but we eventually were able to retrieve it and wave a "thanks" to the ranger. (Though, I would have preferred an invite up to the tower over the knick-knacks .... ;) )

After exploring the tower area and taking some shelter from the wind, we backtracked to the Sunset Trail junction and followed it for a bit before deciding to go off-trail over to the other set of towers on the western hump of the mountain, where I had spent most of my "summit" time as a youth. It was fun to see the area, including where the hang gliders used to launch from (not sure if they still do...) We looked down on Flag below, and I pointed out various landmarks to my son, including Coconino HS and our old home.

We then wandered our way back to the sunset trail, exploring some aspen groves along the way. Shortly before the Sunset Trail descends to the Heart Trail junction, we stopped for lunch on the ridgeline, in the shade of the pines.

After lunch we headed down the Heart Trail and lamented the long-lasting scars of the Radio Fire. Our family was in Utah on vacation when it started. I still remember driving home to the billowing smoke and flames and wondered how long it would be till the pines returned. 37 years later, it's still going to be awhile.

The descent on Heart forces you to pay attention, as the trail is covered with lots of loose, small rocks that threaten to turn your hiking shoes into roller blades at every step. Thankfully, we made it down without incident.

The Christmas Tree trail was a bit of slog back to the TH--very easy going, but just a bit "blah" after the ups and downs of the upper mountain.

As we reached the trailhead, we ran into a guy from Show Low and his dog, whom we had crossed paths with on the top of the mountain. Turns out he had started from Buffalo Park and had underestimated the distances and water needed. He was out of water and his dog had not had anything for the last few miles. We gave him one of our water bottles and ultimately offered him a lift to his car. He was grateful, and we enjoyed the opportunity to be an answer to someone's else's prayer on this occasion.

A fun hike!
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