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Sunflower Flat JD Cabin Loop, AZ
mini location map2017-08-12
17 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Sunflower Flat JD Cabin Loop, AZ 
Sunflower Flat JD Cabin Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 12 2017
Hiking7.20 Miles 421 AEG
Hiking7.20 Miles   5 Hrs   37 Mns   1.28 mph
421 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day seven of an eight day camping trip to the rim area west of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness. This was to be a loop hike starting from the HAZFest campsite and heading more or less in a straight line to Sunflower Flat and then continuing on to the historic JD Cabin and Grave site. From there I had no definite destination, just wander around in the woods until I got tired and then head back to camp. The other HAZFest attendees all set off in different directions either in small groups or solo for a day of hiking. The straight route to Sunflower Flat was through a flat area with a lack of hilltop views and less scenic vegetation than surrounding areas. So not the best choice but a longer more scenic route probably would not have gotten me to the JD Cabin site before the torrential rain,hail and thunderstorm which cut short my trek later in the day. Sunflower Flat was a worthy destination with a huge meadow/wetland covered with, you guessed it, tiny yellow sunflowers. The remarkable thunderhead clouds forming in the distance made for some great photos but were a warning of what was to come. The wetland, at least the part I crossed was dry.

Sunflower Flat is a 160 acre Wildlife Area purchased in 1989 by the AZ Game and Fish Department in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited. A well constructed fence around its perimeter keeps livestock out. I'm told (Chumley) that in the springtime the flat is covered with a large shallow body of water but evidently not after heavy monsoon rains.

After enjoying a leisurely stroll across Sunflower Flat with numerous pauses to take photos I continued on towards the JD Cabin site. I did not have a precise gps location, just an approximate location from a Kaibab NF map. I was taking a "short cut" rather than following the road and after hiking some distance without seeing the cabin stopped to take a look at the gps but then spotted movement at the edge of some trees several hundred yards away. A quick zoom with my camera revealed it was Chumley and his hiking entourage, lindaagn and The_N. It was a fortunate crossing of our paths because the mosquitoes were becoming real pests and Chumley shared some of his 100% Deet which took care of that problem and they confirmed the location of the grave and the cabin.

The grave had a marker indicating James Douglas died on Aug 29, 1884 at the age of 64. I've since been unable to find any historical info on Mr. Douglas but after my experience later in the hike I wonder if he wasn't struck my lightning during an August thunderstorm. The cabin and barn at the JD site are of quite stout construction but clearly were built sometime after JD's demise. There are remains of a much older log structure almost completely rotted away with time that may have been JD's original cabin. The corral is probably the largest rail fenced corral I have ever seen.

After spending some time studying the buildings I started hiking down the road which leads to FR14. A sprinkling of rain started and the sky indicated more was in store so I put my camera and cell phone in a water tight bag in my backpack. The sprinkle soon turned into a downpour with frequent lightning strikes nearby. The visibility dropped to about a 100 ft, I was getting soaked and my waterproof hiking boots were filling with water running down my legs. The level ground was covered with 2-3 inches of standing water. The loud cracking booms of thunder and the nearby lightning strikes were starting to scare the heck out of me. I decided to start sending frequent "I'm OK" locations with my waterproof SPOT so at least folks could find my body if I got struck by lightning. Fortunately I had put Chumley's cell phone on the list of folks receiving my OK locations. Since Chumley is always checking his cell phone, if I was lucky he would hop in his truck to come get me. Now if I could just get to a road. Reviewing my gps track today revealed that I was within about 400 ft of FR110 when I lost directional orientation and went in a semicircle heading back the way I had come. I've had this happen before due to not checking my gps often enough under low visibility conditions. After some dithering, I finally came out on FR110 just as Chumley pulled up in his truck to give me a ride back to camp. :y: He had been driving up and down the road near my location blinking the headlights and honking the horn but with the low visibility and the noisy storm I had no clue he was there until I stepped out on the road. So other than getting soaked, the hike ended well.
Named place
Named place
Sunflower Flat
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