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Abineau - Bear Jaw Loop
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mini location map2007-10-14
6 by photographer avatarwhycoyote
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Abineau - Bear Jaw LoopFlagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 14 2007
Hiking7.00 Miles 2,115 AEG
Hiking7.00 Miles   6 Hrs   30 Mns   1.08 mph
2,115 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
My trip was cut a little short so it's not the full 7 miles. Well, it is if you count the short-haul.

Early on Sunday there was hardly any traffic heading up to Flagstaff.
The weather was beautiful, sunny and about 60. Gaining elevation as I
drove north on the freeway the trees alongside the road changed from
scrubby pinyon and juniper to the taller and majestic ponderosa pines.
The air cooled and took on the "sweet vanilla pine" smell of Arizona

Turning off paved road onto FR151 the Toyota bumped and jostled over a
cattle guard. Almost there! The parking lot at the trail head had a
few cars, and one couple were putting sunscreen on their faces before
heading up the trail. I smiled and waved as I drove by, but got
nothing but a stare in return. "Huh," I thought, "they must be from
back east." It never fails to amaze me when people aren't friendly out
here. How can you be anything but happy when you're about to head off
up an incredible trail?

I check my backpack and get started. A little way up the trail splits,
Bear Jaw to the left and Abineau to the right. I've already decided on
going to the right. Abineau is much steeper than BJ, and very rocky.
I'd rather go up steep and rocky than down. But what's this? A sign
that says the trail is impassable? We'll see about
that! No one has mentioned that you can't get around the loop, and the
sign-in log shows people making the loop in the days and weeks prior
to today. So, up I head. The trail is as beautiful as I remember, only
more so because now it is covered in brilliant golden aspen leaves.
For a couple of hours there is no sign that anyone else exists on this
earth. All of a sudden I see what "avalanche conditions" means. The
trail has been obliterated by piles of downed trees. It's been long
enough, though, that the trail now continues around and above the
devastation. Many people, it seems, have not let the avalanche stop
them from completing this challenging hike. After clearing the piles
of trees I stop for lunch. While I'm sitting in the sun enjoying the
view of Arizona stretching for miles to the north an older couple
comes along up the trail from behind me. They stop to chat for a
little. They are concerned that I'm hiking alone and I explain the
cell phone signal and that I am always VERY cautious. They continue
onward as I pack up my trash and take a last long look at the vista.

I'm almost to the top of Abineau now (3 miles and 1900 feet in
elevation gain). Just a little bit more and then there is the pipeline
road which connects Abineau and BJ. Pipeline road is a breeze to hike
being slightly downhill and very wide and flat. After about 1 1/2
miles the Bear Jaw trail meets up with pipeline. Heading back into the
trees I know I'm on the home stretch. As the trail heads down it is
steep and rocky in parts, but nothing like the Abineau. About 1/2 mile
down it evens out a little, but is still rocky. This is were I run
into trouble. I'm just striding along at a pretty good pace when my
foot slips on the scree in the trail. I catch myself and make note to
be a little more careful. Slipping on loose rock is an everyday
occurrence on AZ trails. It happens every time I hike, and sometimes
the result is me sitting on my butt in the middle of the trail looking
more than a little sheepish. Not four or five steps later I slip
again, this time I'm not lucky enough to catch my balance. My left leg
slides forward as the toe of my right boot is caught by a rock and
held back. As I head downward I twist my body trying to pull my right
leg out from under me, to no avail. As my weight comes down on my leg
I can feel and hear the crunching and tearing of my ankle which is
twisted because my foot was caught. Like lightening I pull my leg out
from under me to be greeted by the sight of my foot hanging from my
leg at a really strange angle. Not good, I think, not good at all. I
give voice to my anguish with a very loud "NOOOOOO, OH NO NO NO NO
NO!" This causes me to suddenly stop and glance around hoping no one
was close enough to hear, then immediately hope someone was.
Fortunately my cell phone is in my pocket within easy reach. "911 what
is your emergency?" "I've fallen on the Bear Jaw trail and broken my
ankle." This was followed by questions, a detailed explanation of how
to get to the trail, and my location on said trail. After about
fifteen minutes the WHUP WHUP WHUP of a helicopter can be heard. A
sheriff's dispatcher calls me back on my cell so that we can direct
the helicopter to my location. So, have you ever sat in the middle of
a trail watching a helicopter try to locate you? It's pretty
frustrating. I'm watching the helicopter, telling the dispatcher where
it is in respect to me, and the dispatcher is trying to relay the info
to the chopper. This takes about 15 minutes.

After spotting me the chopper hovers overhead and the pilot leans out
the door and waves. I wave back. Off they head to scout the area.
After a little while I realize I can no longer hear the whup of the
blades. Hmmmm...My cell phone rings and it is Dana the dispatcher to
let me know there is no place for them to land and they've headed back
to Flagstaff to pick up the short-haul expert. I look at my phone and
see that it has been approximately 35 minutes since the fall. Just
then I hear jingling and a golden retriever and long haired black mutt
swarm around me. Their owner is a dark haired woman who asks me why
I'm sitting in the middle of the trail. My reply is "cause my ankle is
broken." This question and answer session is repeated three more times
as other hikers arrive on the scene. When the cute black dog trips
over my foot and changes the angle of it by about 20 degrees the dark
haired woman decides it's time she and her dogs move on down the

Four people stay with me. They are Joe & Susan, both business college professors at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and a couple from Flagstaff. The woman in the couple is a nursing student and she is very upset that she can't do anything for me. Later I will find out her name is Liz. I never found
out the name of the man. Liz tells me they are 27 and 30
years old and about to be married. These four wonderful people stay
with me until the chopper comes back about 2 hours later. Liz and her
guy aren't really dressed for cooler weather and the sun is going
behind the mountain. Even though I try to talk them into it, they
won't leave. Joe and Susan give me some ibuprofen and start making sure I'm comfortable, pulling out my hat, gloves and space blanket and bundling me up. That shows I wasn't really thinking as clearly as I thought. I had ibuprofen in my pack,
but never even thought to take it. I didn't even remember it was there!

We sit around making small talk (mostly initiated by the others). As
the adrenaline starts wearing off the pain in my ankle gets worse and
worse. I'm trying to stay alert and involved in the conversation but
eventually end up lying back with my eyes closed just listening.

Again the whup whup is heard over the trees and leaves and dirt start
flying. Susan & Joe rush over to wrap the space blankets around me and
cover me against the onslaught of debris being thrown over us. (They
were so great.)

So there I am, huddled with Susan & Joe as dust and leaves are whipped
around us by the helicopter's downdraft. Suddenly the buffeting stops
and I look up and there stands the most beautiful sight, a guy in an
orange jumpsuit. He yells out "Hey, can somebody come pack this rope
up for me?" and Joe heads down at a trot. Mr. Orange Jumpsuit spends
what seems like forever unhooking and hooking and packing and
unpacking before he comes over to take a look at me. "Hi" he says,
"I'm Mark." "Well, hi, Mark" I say, "it's very, very nice to meet

The next few minutes are spent with Mark asking me questions about
other injuries; did I hit my head - how is my back - hurt anything
else? "No" I am happy to tell him, "it's just my ankle." The moment
I've been dreading arrives, Mark says "I can try to take your boot
off, or we can splint it with the boot on." Now, I'm pretty fond of
those boots, and not really fond of incredible pain, so I choose to
leave the boot on. The splinting goes pretty well, I use my childbirth
breathing with Joe as coach to get through it. Mark promises morphine
when we reach the ambulance.

I am hustled into a seat sling, goggles and helmet and the next thing
I know the helicopter is back hovering overhead. The line from the
helicopter is hooked to me with a carabiner, and Mark hooks himself to
me with another carabiner and suddenly we are airborne. Wow! Straight
up past the trees and suddenly the entire mountain unfolds beneath us,
bathed in the glow of the setting sun. I am captivated by the view and
don't even notice if it's cold or if there is any pain. Too soon we
reach the trail head parking and we are placed ever so gently on the
ground. Again the downdraft whips around us sending dirt and cinders
flying. I will be digging those cinders out of my mouth, nose and ears
for the next two days.

I'm lying on the ground and another helmet encased head appears upside
down above me. "Hi" this head says, "I'm Scott." Wow, these rescue
guys are polite I think. Scott has a partner whose name is Kira. Kira,
Scott, Mark and a sheriff's deputy lift me into a gurney and then into
the waiting ambulance. Whew, I think, this is almost over.

On the ride to the hospital I learn that morphine has absolutely no effect on me except make my mouth REALLY dry. In the emergency room I find out that fentanyl works EXCEPTIONALLY well as a pain reliever. The doc says that surgery is required and I sign the release. I'm just glad to not be lying in the middle of that trail anymore. :o
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