October 22nd,2016 ~ Day 211
My friend Jamie came into town from Colorado, and were planning to do a hike today. I’ve seen this hike for the Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop posted a few times on Meetup, but I’ve always had other plans and haven’t been able to make it to any of the events. Part of the San Francisco Peaks, Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop has all the write ups of being one of the best hikes in the Peaks. So when Jamie asked me what was on my bucket list, this is what I chose.
Driving from Phoenix, we made it to the turn off onto FR420, about 15 miles north of Flagstaff. From here we had another 9.5 miles up a rocky dirt road. Luckily I have a Subaru Outback, because some portions of the road are quite rocky with huge boulders and deep crevasses. They did recommend a high clearance vehicle for this route, going slowly I was able to make my way through.
Reaching the trailhead, we snapped a picture before beginning our hike. Initially you begin walking on a bed of crushed lava rocks for about .3 miles before coming to the actual loop. Starting out on the Abineau Trail first we began our climb.
The leaves of the aspen trees have fallen to the ground. I’m sure the beautiful golden colors of the leaves against the white tree bark would have been amazing. Maybe next year. I seem to be too early or too late during this journey to see any of the leaves changing colors. Even though we came a little late to see the leaves on the trees, seeing this golden color littering the trail, was just as impressive.
Choosing to hike the Abineau Trail, and starting at 8536 of elevation, we climbed the 1900 feet of elevation in two and a half miles, getting the hard part done first. It was difficult for me to catch my breath as we kept climbing higher. Going uphill was a slow 30-45 minute mile. These climbs seem to be getting tougher every time I do them. It’s not going to ever stop me, but one day I’m going to need more time.
Growing up in the Midwest every Fall the leaves would change colors and fall to the ground. As a child, I loved to play in the leaves. We would rake them into a pile and jump into the leaves, over and over again. Phoenix doesn’t get the changing colors of the leaves so we have to visit Flagstaff, Payson, or anywhere the temperature gets cooler than here in the desert. Since the leaves have already fallen, it was fun to play with them again today. Who says hiking isn’t fun?
Barren aspen trees, mixed in amongst the conifer trees, had an alluring beauty in itself. White against the green with the clear blue sky, such an breathtaking view. These trees must be forty to fifty feet high towering above us into the heavens.
Coming to the top of trail, we came to a clearing. Fallen trees lay strewn about from an avalanche that happened about ten years ago. The vastness of this area was enormous. It’s amazing how much damage this had caused and how we can still see its effects. Even with the destruction, the beauty still had me in awe.
Climbing to 10,284 feet we were at the top. Not quite above treeline, but to be able to see through the tops of the trees was spectacular! The one thing about climbing to the top of a mountain, you get to see for miles around you! These are the moments I live for. I love being in nature enjoying the moments of peace and serenity. The quite calm that surrounds you. Nothing can compare, and knowing you can only get here by taking a hike makes it that much better.
From the clearing, we were able to see the Grand Canyon. It was windy up here, as we were in the valley. It was all downhill from this point. Jamie and I decided to take a quick break once we were back in the trees, to avoid the wind.
The trail became a road through the aspen and pine. I’m not sure what the road is used for, but it was nice to have such a wide trail. The trail, littered with golden aspen leaves and pine needles, was made of packed dirt. Somehow, this still seemed soft under my feet. With the pine needles scattering the earth, the smell of pine was strong. One of my favorite smells in the wilderness.
After climbing 1/3 of the trail uphill, the first half of the downhill was easy, the second half had a few tricky spots. Rocks on the trail along with loose gravel and dirt made some parts of the trail a little difficult. Climbing over and under branches that had fallen. It was fun though, especially with Jamie hanging like a monkey from the tree. Going downhill, we were able to pick up the pace a little.
As we were meeting the end of our hike, more beauty surrounded us with the beautiful golden color of the dried grass along with the white aspens and green pine. The trail was again lava rocks. We decided they must have brought this here, it was too fresh and not packed in to have been here naturally. It added a little bit more to the beauty surrounding us though.
We hiked just over seven miles in three and a half hours. Not planning that extra hour drive through the dirt road, we were pressed for time getting home. It ended up being a thirteen hour day with seven hours of driving and it was worth every moment. I was able to spend the day with a great friend and we were able to go hiking in a beautiful place. I can’t wait till the next time!