|Backpack||22.10 Miles||1 Day 23 Hrs 2 Mns |
|2,603 ft AEG|| 5 Hrs 40 Mns Break|
|This was my first backpacking trip in a couple of years. I went by myself, camping two nights. I had never been to the area before. Believe it or not, I'd never been on Road 300, except maybe way over by Heber. The closest I'd been to this area (other than driving 87 and 99) was car camping at Rock Crossing and also kayak camping at Blue Ridge reservoir. |
I didn't take my better camera, just the little waterproof Fujifilm, so the images suffer. I really need to get myself a better pocket camera, maybe a Canon Powershot, or a Nikon waterproof.
Day 1: Parked at General Springs cabin. This cabin has been restored to the standard that all the others SHOULD be restored to, lest they fall down pretty quick. The fastest way to destroy a log building (other than by forest fire) is to let it have a leaky roof. I think I am going to write a letter to the Supe. There are volunteers who will do this work. John Azar comes to mind, but there are others as well. (I seem to recall a certain Hazzer did a restoration on one of them, without permission?? Can't remember who. This was quite a few years ago?? Is this person still around? PM me if so.)
I started up the AZT/Fred Haught trail. Didn't meet any hot Freds, alas, but eventually, not far from the washed-out part, I met a backpacker named James, who said it was his very first backpacking trip. He was doing fine with it. Very nice guy. We chatted a while. He gave me good advice about crossing the gully where the bridge washed out.
Once I had settled into hiking with the big pack again, I started feeling happy with the hike, with the terrain, the plants, trees and singing birds. The trail tread was good, and the trail's followability, if that's a word, was easy. Even after the AZT peels off, the Fred trail is easy to follow. This kind of surprised me, as I seem to recall reading that route-finding skills might be needed. I did have it loaded into my GPS, but didn't need that. I also had the Guthook for the AZT in my cell phone, which I peeked at occasionally. The pack wasn't too bad, less than 30 pounds, but not much less. Water is heavy, and I did carry some. I don't have the SUL thing quite dialed in, though. But I do have a Nemo Hornet 2, a sub 2 pound freestanding tent, so la-di-da!
Meeting James on his first trip made me think. I don't know how many backpacking trips I have done, but the first one was about 49 years ago, in the spring of 1971, as I recall, with my good friend Ray (who is still my friend). We went to Alder Canyon in Anza-Borrego. That trip resulted in many blisters on my feet, plus bruises on my hips and shoulders, but I couldn't wait to go again. At that time I had a Camp Trails blaze orange aluminum frame backpack, a Sierra Designs sleeping bag, and a Svea white gas stove. I was 18, if I have the date right. (It might be 48 years/1972/19 years old. Ray doesn't remember, either.)
Meanwhile, back on the Fred trail, I reached the place where the bridge is washed out. It was not difficult to follow the "hiker workaround" to cross it. After hiking around 8 miles, I made camp across the creek from the Pinchot Cabin. This cabin is in dire need of a new roof. If a roof is not installed, the cabin will rot, and this nice little piece of our heritage will just become a crumbling pile of logs. Please do write to the superintendent about this, and the other cabins. I intend to do so as well.
My camp was very nice and flat, next to the stream. I made my little home in the woods as comfy as possible.
I had brought only a Steripen, which worked fine. It was the first time I had ever tried one. I am not convinced it's such a great thing, however. But it works fine in clear water. I used my cup to fill my Nalgene bottle, so that I wouldn't contaminate the rim of the bottle with untreated water. This is the bad thing about the Steripen. You definitely don't want to dip the bottle into the creek, and then use the pen in it. You have to have one container you are willing to contaminate, in order to fill the one you are going to treat. I carefully poured water from my cup into the bottle, then treated it. I wasn't worried about the metal cup, because I would not be using it until I cooked dinner in it, killing any germs. I'm thinking about getting a different water treatment. I have one of those squeeze bag things, don't like it. I have a Katadyn, which is big and heavy, I use for kayak trips. I have an old Hiker Pur, too heavy as well. How about an MSR miniworks? Any recommendations?
I spent the afternoon playing my ukulele, singing badly, and reading a memoir about bicycling across the US. I have Kindle loaded onto my phone, and it always serves me well on camping trips. I fell asleep about 7, and didn't get up until 6 a.m. This is a very long sleep for me! I slept great.
Day 2: I lazed about camp, and as I recall, I didn't get started hiking the second day until about 9 a.m. or so. First, I walked back over near the cabin, and got onto the Houston Brothers Trail. I had in mind I would check out McFarland Spring as a possible camping spot, but when I got there, it was too early in the day, and I had not covered enough ground. I reasoned I might be dry camping that night, so I filled up my bottles, making my pack a bit heavy, and waddled on. There was one cabin I passed that didn't have a sign with a name for it. It was at Aspen Spring, as I recall. It also is being left to rack and ruin, although at least it has a metal roof. There are so many people with skills who would love to volunteer time to fix these cabins, it just boggles my mind it hasn't been done. There are people with pack mules who would help bring supplies in, just for the fun of it.
There was another backpacker camping at Aspen Spring. I had seen him pass my camp the evening before. We never did speak. I saw him a total of 3 times, always at a distance.
I passed a couple of day hikers, going the opposite direction. We stopped to chat briefly. They were car camping near Pinchot Cabin. I didn't see anyone else the rest of the day.
Eventually, the Houston Brothers trail leaves the riparian area and starts cutting across the grain of the land. So, you go up and down and up and down and up and down. Uhhhhhhh. And up and down and up and down... Not having a topo map (both my and my daughter's printers are on the blink) but only the GPS route, I had a hard time really visualizing what was coming up. I just figured I had better hike at least 6 miles or more. I passed the junction with the Barbership Trail. Since Covid-19 is happening, I am doing my own hairdressing, (with frightening results), so I opted out of looking for a haircut, and soldiered on along the Houston Bros. trail.
I'd stopped earlier to treat a blister. I was tired, it was kind of hot, and I decided, around 2 p.m. or so, to look for a flat spot with lots of shade to camp. I ended up in a copse of Gambel Oaks, a place where elk had bedded down, next to a fenced-off area. There are a number of these areas, fenced to keep the elk and cattle out, to allow the land to recover. It was not a great campsite, but I made do. I saw no one else that day. It was really early, but I was tired. I kept myself busy, reading, writing in my notebook, and scaring the bears away with my singing and playing the uke.
Little did I know, if I had only hiked up another small hill I would have found a much better campsite. Oh, well. I made that place work for me.
Day 3: I have a peculiar form of insomnia. I wake up at 2 or 3 a.m., and cannot get back to sleep. This actually serves me well on camping trips if I want an early start, and I did. I got up at 3 a.m., set up my Luci Lite, donned my headlamp, and started taking the camp down, making coffee, etc. I didn't hurry. I read a bit, drinking my coffee, and by the time I was ready to go, I could see my feet without the headlamp on. I started hiking at 5 a.m. I reached Road 300 near 6 a.m. I had thought there might be a portion of what @Jim_H calls the "Generally Crooked Trail" to follow, but I did not see it. I walked along the road. Very soon I saw Milepost 16. I was also seeing lots of great views. I saw no vehicles at all for some time, not even people camping. About Mile 14 I noticed that the Crook Trail was paralleling the road, so I walked on it. It has recently been worked with a little machine in that section, one of those mini-tractors, I'd guess. Soon, it crossed 300, went along for a bit, but then led back to 300 and disappeared. Eventually I ran into a big crew of people from Arizona Conservation Corps, out of Flagstaff, who are working on the trail. They directed me to a new section of it that goes toward General Springs Cabin. They were working that section with hand tools. I complimented them on their work.
The ACC camp was set up at General Springs Cabin area, which was where Wanda the Honda (2006 CR-V) was waiting for me. As always, at the end of a hike, I just want to go home and take a shower. So, I did.
Yes, and of course, I now want to go back and do the other half of the Cabin Loop, to include the U-Bar and Barbershop trails. I may start at the north end for that loop. I am not sure when I'll have time to do it, but I'm hoping to go in August or September.
Thanks to all who posted info and GPS tracks for this hike. I hope my rambling essay is helpful as well.
|There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians|
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.