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Mazatzal Peak Loop
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mini location map2015-05-16
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Mazatzal Peak LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar May 16 2015
Hiking15.00 Miles 2,400 AEG
Hiking15.00 Miles
2,400 ft AEG28 LBS Pack
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Technically…this is our very first backpacking trip. First, why? For my 50th birthday, I will start section hiking the AZT. In the effort to get acclimated to this new hobby, we have planned a few trips leading up to our AZT kickoff on July 20th.
Our kickoff began with the Mazatzal Peak Loop trail. A little ambitious, I know, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

The day begins with the phrase “getting there is half the battle”. Left Phoenix with the intent to get to the Barnhardt trailhead by nine a.m. It had rained in the area the night before and was expected to rain a little that morning. We weren’t worried because we were prepared. Except for one thing…the road to the trailhead becomes very slippery after a rain.
Keep this in mind because it will cost upwards of $300 to have a four-wheel drive recovery tow company come and get you out of the ditch. We decided we would hike as planned and after our truck was safely out of the mud, we left it parked off the road (about one mile in from SR 87).

Our backpacking trip began three miles before it actually began. We did catch a short hitchhike from the tow truck driver, who came up behind us a little bit later on the road to rescue yet another ditch lover.

So now to the actual hike itself. By this time we were about three hours behind schedule, so we were just going to wing it as far as how far we would go the first day. We headed out from the parking lot and about a mile in we ran into some hunters on a scout. They mentioned the Big Kahuna waterfall and said it was stunning and not to miss it.

This first trail was beautiful. We could hear the springs running all around (thanks to the unseasonable rain) and could see the snow on the Mogollon Rim. By the way, it never did rain on us that morning; although it was pretty humid to start. I’m sure if we hadn’t been prepared for the rain, it would have rained.

So we climbed and climbed up and up. Overall it was not a very hard climb. It was only difficult for us because we weren’t used to carrying 28 pounds on our back. We came across what I think was the Hawaiian Mist spring. We drank right from the water running over the rocks. It was running solid and clear and cold.

We made it to the Big Kahuna falls for lunch and it was beautiful. I sure most of the flow was from the recent rain. We did climb up into the canyon just a little ways and took pictures. I will try to get those posted.

Next stop, the Barnhardt saddle. I now know exactly what a “saddle” is. We did see one set of footprints after this saddle, presumably a hiker on the AZT going northbound. It was still pretty early so we pressed on. The thing about hiking I have found is that you round a corner and you see way off in the distance a mountain top with a strange looking group of pine trees on the top and just a couple of miles later you look up and, Voila, you are so close to those trees you can’t believe you came that far.

The Mazatzal Divide trail is a little overgrown, again, probably because of all the rain we’ve gotten this year. We just kept our eyes on the ground as were able to keep our eye on the trail. We ended this first day at almost the seven-mile mark. At this point we decided we would continue the loop as recorded on HAZ as opposed to returning the way we came since we didn’t get as far as we wanted (was hoping to get to the Windsor Spring). Oh, well, go with the flow, right?
After we had dinner, camp set up, took pictures of the sunset, we rested our tired feet in our tent. I’ve learned hiker’s midnight is 9 p.m.; however, for this newbie, hiker’s midnight is 7:30, taking pictures of the sunset, we rested our tired feet in our tent. I’ve learned hiker’s midnight is 9 p.m.; however, for this newbie, hiker’s midnight is 7:30!!
Slept well. No animals in sight.

Headed out the next morning around 8:45. Trail was still overgrown quite a bit. I don’t think I mentioned all the wild rose bushes on the trail. There were still buds on the bushes and some were bloomed. Watch the thorns!
We came across another “saddle” and looked to the east and saw the most beautiful site…the Mazatzal Peak!! Absolutely worth finishing the loop.

Because of all the rain, I think there were some extra springs that aren’t listed on HAZ. About ½ mile from the last saddle that I don’t know the name of there was some good, clear, cold water running down over the trail. The only noise we had heard in this wilderness other than the running springs everywhere were the two Air Force jets that scared the crap out of us as we were stripped down taking off our long johns.

We filled up our water at this point and continued on along the Mazatzal Peak enjoying the absolutely stunning views. We did see off to the west what we later determined to be Horseshoe Lake.

After we came across the Windsor saddle, I agree with HAZ, this part is grueling with all the rocks. Our hips were sore, as were our knees. Did I mention how old we were? Other than the rocky terrain, the trail was uneventful from here, besides some great photographs.

At this point we just wanted to get back to the trailhead because we knew we had to walk the road back three more miles to our truck. This was a very long five miles. Switchbacks would have been nice, but I know that would have probably doubled the mileage on this section.

We finally dragged ourselves into the parking lot and five minutes later a very nice man came down from Barnhardt trail and he had a pick-up truck. I’m sure he wasn’t sure about us, but he gave us a ride back to our truck. He wouldn’t take any money from us because he was “impressed” that we had backpacked that far. Little does he know, two nine-mile days is probably nothing to brag about. BUT…we did it had have pictures to prove it and are one trip closer to the AZT.

Happy trails!
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