Saturday, September 15, 2012

Flagstaff Excursion - 9/10 thru 14/12

 Approximately forty members of the Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club of Las Vegas took a road trip to Flagstaff, Arizona and Sedona, Arizona for a few hiking excursions. Jerry Thomas and Mike O'Connor report about two of the hikes below.

 Tuesday - Airport Mesa Loop

 The forecast for Tuesday was dire with an almost certain chance of rain starting around 12pm.  Chris decided to switch the hikes around so that Mt Humphreys would be attempted on Wednesday and Tuesday would be the day for hikes around the Sedona area.  Two hikes were offered with Munds Wagon Trail being the more strenuous and the Sedona Airport loop the least strenuous.  The author decided to go on the airport loop so that more time could be allotted to shopping in Sedona.  We held an orientation meeting in the hotel lobby where Chris said that we should all car pool down to Sedona and stop at the Oak Creek Visitor's Center.  He said at the time that the Visitor's Center was close to Slide Rock State Park.  Well, when we jumped in our cars and arrived in Sedona (only 31 miles from our hotel in Flagstaff) several cars pulled into Slide Rock State Park.  The others drove down to where the Visitor's Center was.  Chris had to find the wayward hikers in the park and direct them to the Visitor's Center.

  We parted ways at the visitor's center where Chris went on to lead the strenuous hike and Diane the not so strenuous Airport Loop hike.  The hike was uneventful and the views spectacular as the clouds continued to build throughout the hike.  By the time the hikers reached their cars at the end of the hike, it had just begun to rain.  It was about 11am.  The hikers on the more strenuous hike were not so lucky since they were barely halfway through their hike when it started to rain.  Although some hikers were very wet all made it back to the hotel safely.

 Wednesday - Mt. Humphreys Peak

 On Wednesday the weather forecast was for a 40% chance of rain in the afternoon.  It was decided to leave early by 6:30am to increase the chances that the Humphreys Peak hike could be completed before the rain began.  Ten hikers piled into vehicles and drove the 20 miles to the Snowbowl Ski Area where the trailhead was.  The hike coordinator mentioned that there was a good chance that the group would break into faster and slower hikers.  He made sure that each had radios to communicate with.  We started up the trail through a large meadow which appeared to be part of the ski slope and then through a dense forest of large Aspens and conifers.

 The trail had numerous exposed roots from the forest which eventually would wear down the hiker's feet.  We climbed up through the forest, through large switchbacks and the tree roots on the trail gave way to stones.  The author's feet were already hurting.  The fast hikers reached the saddle on the ridge-line about 9:30am.  They took a short break and then proceeded up the ridge toward the summit.

 The terrain had transitioned from dense forest to sparse forest to no forest.  The ridge was bare being above the tree line.  The only living plants appeared to be lichens.  The earth had transitioned from moist organic dirt to volcanic rock most probably basalt with some pumice also apparent.  The fast hikers reached the summit at 10:30am.

 The weather had still held out with only low clouds on the horizon.  We took a 30 minute break and then started back down.  None of the rain that was in the forecast ever materialized.  We made it back down to the cars at about 1:30pm.  We were back at the hotel by 2:15 in time for a short nap.  The slow hikers were only an hour behind, had equally good weather and kept in touch throughout the hike using the hand-held radios.

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