With the first hundred degree day fast
approaching, John and I began looking to the high country for our hiking
adventures, because the heat of the desert can be brutal -- and yes, even
fatal -- to hikers. Thankfully, we live in a state where we can enjoy outdoor
recreation any time of the year, so when the weather gets too hot in the
desert, we can escape to the forest; and once winter comes, we can still hike
in the desert. This is due to Arizona's diverse climate and landscapes. In
just a few short hours, you can go from the low, hot desert of Eloy (home of
Skydive Arizona) to the high forests of Flagstaff, where, even in the month of
May, you can still find snow on the ground in the higher elevations.
That is exactly what we found during our adventures of that weekend. Our
weekend began in Eloy, Arizona, where John was training with AZ Fast Track,
and I went to Tucson to have my wedding dress fitted. Then, Sunday morning, we
went to Flagstaff to hike into the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness via the Bull
Basin and Pumpkin Trails, which form a ten-mile loop trail that takes hikers
up to the summit of Kendrick Mountain. There is also a third trail -- the
Kendrick Mountain Trail -- that goes up the south side of the mountain. This
is the trail we ended up taking because it would have taken too long to get to
the Bull Basin Trailhead.
The Kendrick Mountain Trailhead is located within ten miles of the
Tube, which John and I have visited twice
before. From US 180, at mile marker
230, we turned left onto FR 245; then, at the T-intersection with FR 171, we
turned right and continued on for several miles until we reached a sign
indicating the trailhead. Had we traveled another half-hour -- another
thirteen miles or so down the road -- we would have reached the Bull Basin
trailhead, but since it was already nearing nine o'clock in the morning, we
decided to hike the Kendrick Mountain Trail because its trailhead was closer.
Access to the trailhead is rather easy; though the forest roads were a little
muddy from the melting snow, we had no problem taking the Oldsmobile along
these roads -- well, except for the fact that we got the car extremely dirty!
The trailhead is easy to find as it is well marked with signs and maps. There
is also ample parking and even an outhouse that is handicapped accessible!
At 9:00 that morning, we began hiking the Kendrick Mountain Trail - a
4.6-mile long trail (9.2 miles roundtrip) that gently climbs to the summit of
the mountain, from 8,000 feet to 10,400 for a total elevation gain of 2,400
feet. A quarter mile or so from the trailhead, the trail enters into the
Kendrick Mountain Wilderness area, which is part of the Kaibab National
Forest. For us, this was not only a new wilderness area, but it was also our
first exploration of that national forest, which meant that we were "required"
to play naked there...but that would depend on the temperature for the day.
There was a good chance that it would be too cold -- or that there would be
too much snow on the ground -- for us to be able to play naked, but we
wouldn't know that until we got there.
Due to the freak snowstorms during the month of April, there was still quite a
bit of snow on the ground. Even at the lower elevations along this trail,
there were several large patches of slushy snow, in which there was only one
set of footprints, which belonged to a lone jogger who passed us just after we
had begun hiking. "Look, honey, a lunatic!" John said to me as we saw the
jogger coming towards us. We later found out that he had jogged all the way to
the top of the mountain and all the way back to the trailhead by 9:00 a.m. We
found his footprints all along the trail, through the thick patches of snow.
They ended at the summit, next to the forest service watchtower. Obviously he
was a very physically fit individual to have run the entire length of this 9.2
mile-long trail! (Or he was a really sick bastard...)
The higher we climbed, the more snow we found on the ground. At some points,
the snow was at least six inches deep and covered the entire trail. Had the
jogger not been there already, we probably would have gotten lost along the
trail, so it was because of him that we were able to find our way to the top.
The Kendrick Mountain Trail is absolutely beautiful -- and the fact that it
was covered in snow made it even more so. Throughout the hike, we had the most
outstanding views of Government Prairie and the San Francisco Peaks -- which
made us wish that we had a panoramic camera so that we could capture that
beauty on film. In addition to that, the trail led us through forests of pine,
aspens, spruce and firs. Towards the top of the mountain, some of these trees
still had snow clinging to their branches. Each time a breeze picked up, it
would shake the snow from the trees onto the unwary hikers below. (Of course,
at first I thought it was John throwing snowballs, so I blamed him!)
The highlight of the trail, though, was towards the end, when we arrived at
the US Forest Service cabin. When we read in the trail description that there
was a cabin along the trail, we were expecting to find just a shell of a cabin
with no roof and nothing inside but rubble, so we were surprised to find that
the cabin was still intact. Built in 1911-12, this cabin used to be home to
the forest service supervisor, who would stay there during the warmer months
in order to man the watchtower. It now serves as shelter for hikers who are
unfortunate enough to be stuck on the mountain during bad weather. The forest
service keeps the shelter well stocked with MRE's and canned food, water,
blankets, and a first aid kit, all of which are tucked away in a large foot
locker next to the bunk beds. In addition to the bunk beds, there is also a
single bed with boards over the springs, and there is a desk in which there
was supposed to be a logbook, but it had disappeared.
John and I took full advantage of the cabin. Once inside and away from the
wind, we made ourselves comfortable and ate lunch. Then, after covering the
boards with one of the blankets, we played naked on the bed. It was cold, and
both of us were shivering, but it was worth it!
Having finished our lunch break, we got dressed and set out to complete the
trail; we only had a half a mile to go before we reached the summit, where
we would find the US Forest Service watchtower. This half mile was the
steepest part of the trail, but having rested, we were ready for it. Besides,
we were so close to the top that there was no stopping us. Upon reaching the
watchtower, we found some of the most breathtaking views I had ever seen. From
the top of Kendrick Mountain, we could see the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff,
Red Mountain (which we have
hiked before), and even the south rim of the Grand
We didn't stay on top of the mountain for very long because there were gray
clouds forming overhead, and it was beginning to get a little too cold and
windy for us. After taking some pictures of the scenery, John and I began our
two-hour hike down the mountain, stopping every so often to collect pine cones
for our wedding reception centerpieces (per Erika's request). Along the way,
we passed another group of hikers -- two girls and their dogs -- and we
laughed at how close we had come again to being caught naked in the woods by
We completed the hike at 2:00 p.m., exactly five hours after we had begun the
hike and earlier than we expected, which meant that we had plenty of time to
take care of some wedding details while we were still in Flagstaff. We stopped
by the hotel to confirm our reservations. Then, we went to Albertsons to look
at wedding cakes. While we were there, we did a little grocery shopping to buy
stuff for spaghetti sauce to celebrate another anniversary:
May 3, 1998, the
day of our twenty-three-hour date -- a day we spent hiking and teaching each
other our spaghetti sauce recipes.....and the day we first had sex.
Our adventure for the day having ended, we went home to celebrate our
anniversary (a day early) and to relax, tired but content.