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Middle Leonard Canyon
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mini location map2021-09-02
18 by photographer avatarkingsnake
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Middle Leonard CanyonPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 02 2021
Hiking10.11 Miles 724 AEG
Hiking10.11 Miles   4 Hrs   23 Mns   2.31 mph
724 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
It was overcast when I started hiking at 8:20 a.m. Rather than canyon crawl Middle Leonard Canyon from the beginning, I hiked FR 9735T for the first mile along the canyon’s east flank. Decommissioned FR 9735T was easy to follow, and had multiple wide puddles. It was obvious the wet forest would be providing many mushroom photos. 🍄

Typically for the Mogollon Rim, the canyon had elk bones scattered along its length. There were lots of butterflies: Some, a flat yellow, that would not hold still, and an atlantis fritillary that did me a solid and posed. I also spotted a dead mouse doing the “dying cockroach”. 🪳

My first mile in the canyon did not seem too congested, yet it took me an hour to hike it. That stretch ended in a ½ mile long meadow, dotted with western dayflower. Then the real fun began …

The next 2½ miles of the canyon to the junction with West Leonard Canyon were even more congested. (Though there were also shelf trails here and there, providing brief respites.) I mean, I could cruise along the canyon rim, or at least far upslope, but when canyon crawling I try to stay as close to the canyon bottom as practicable.

Still, I low-crawled at least five large, downed, pine trees. I took care to avoid being scalped by sharp, broken, branches. Or being pancaked by accidentally jarring a log loose. 🥞

There were many pools of water in the canyon, below the meadow. The pools ranged from boot sole-deep to calf-deep. The pools often stretched from one side of the narrow canyon to the other. At first, I was able to cross dry, but eventually gave up.

As I hiked further north in the canyon, I started to keep and eye out for relatively easy bail points, in case I reached an unbreachable obstacle or just got too damn tired. I found three options on the west slope of the canyon, between 3½ and 4½ miles into my hike. I did not climb up them to be sure, but they looked good.

In the midst of that one mile stretch of the canyon, I found an rocky overhang that would make a pretty good rain shelter. The overhang is not the same as the cave which I’ve heard is in the area. (And which I forgot to look for.) ☔️

I stopped for lunch ⅓ mile after the overhang, at another obstacle. While digging through my pack looking for my QT egg roll, I found some mottled green & black month-old hiking food. I think it may have been a burrito. I really should clean my pack more often.

I’d felt a few random rain sprinkles while eating lunch, but no big deal. They just kinda drifted out of the sky. After that obstacle, Middle Leonard Canyon cleared up a bit. I arrived at the junction with West Leonard Canyon, a ½ mile later, in only 20 minutes. As is usually the case in Mogollon Rim canyons, the spur forming the point of the junction, was steep, but climbable.

The topo map claims FR 300H extends to the top of that Middle Leonard Canyon spur, but no such luck. Still, cross country travel was easy. Six miles into my hike, I found a clearing that was the actual north end of FR 300H. Just past the clearing, I stopped for another snack break. I’d barely had time to sit, before the skies opened up. ⛈

Cutting my break short, I hastily improvised a rain coat from a garbage bag, heading out with a quickness. At least one thunder was pretty close. The worst of the rain lasted 20 minutes. Taking no chances, I covered the 3⅓ miles of FR 300H back to FR 9735T in only an hour and ten minutes.

Hike Video:
HAZ - Selfie
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
Western dayflower (particularly in the canyon bottom meadow), coneflower, Richardson’s geranium, alpine leafybract aster, hairy golden aster, orange jelly, and many other fungi.
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