I’m back! I’ve been doing some hiking, but haven’t been posting for a variety of reasons. I’ll try to fill in some of the previous trips, but most recently I decided to go to one of the most remote places in Arizona.
The “Arizona Strip” is the part of Arizona north of the Grand Canyon. In a perfect geographical world, this would probably be part of Utah. There’s hardly any population out there, and there’s only one way to get there from the rest of Arizona without passing through Utah or Nevada. The lower areas near Utah are high desert and mesa country, while much of the higher terrain is volcanic, capped by Mount Trumbull, at just over 8000 feet.
It is a 50+ mile off-pavement drive to the Mount Trumbull area and it is mostly BLM land with a few private ranches. The ranches are so remote that apparently many of the ranchers live in southern Utah and commute in when needed. Most people that drive through this area are probably headed to the dramatic Toroweap overlook at the Grand Canyon. However, Mount Trumbull is another attraction and I decided to do a double shot of this area on back-to-back days. Trumbull is particularly valued by peakbaggers because it has nearly 3000 feet of topographic prominence, ranking 25th in Arizona by that criterion.
Some people had Columbus Day off from work for a 3-day weekend, but I had the previous Friday off. I snuck out early on Thursday afternoon for the drive to Kanab, Utah, just north of the Arizona border. The first winter-ish storm of the year was just ending, and I hit rain at a temperature of 40F getting into Kanab. Before getting into this last bit of rain, I stopped along Highway 89 just past Lake Powell and shot this mesa (which is unnamed on the topo map) as it was getting dark:
I decided that Saturday would be the big hiking day, and didn’t plan to go more than about halfway out to Mount Trumbull on Friday. It may be that the road has been improved lately, but it was much better than I expected. There are all sorts of warnings that one should take two spare tires and expect to use at least one of them. Granted, flat tires are always a threat on backroads, there is basically no cell service out there, and not a lot of traffic. However, there was only one mediocre part of the road and that was on Saturday close to Mount Trumbull. I would totally recommend turning back toward civilization if you do get a flat and have to put on the spare. But, as long as you are careful this is not some kind of tire-destroying monster. (I do drive a Subaru AWD with high-clearance, but with standard touring tires.) Allegedly, the final part of the route to the Toroweap Campground, which uses much of the same approach, is more of a tire-destroyer so keep that in mind.
Anyway…I decided to pick up 2 or 3 minor peaks along the road to Trumbull to get a feel for the area. The first was the highpoint of Heaton Knolls, the first volcanic feature about 25 miles from pavement. To keep the hike short, I played a bit and drove up a rough two-track and splashed through a couple of mudholes. The view to the east shows the high desert landscape:
I continued away from town and picked up another non-descript hill, then kept continuing away from town until I was about 80% of the way to Mount Trumbull! That was mainly due to the road being better than expected. I decided to hike a third hill as sunset approached. Unfortunately, a 30-minute wave of nausea hit me before and during most of this hike, so it took longer than planned. But, that put me closer to sunset for some shots toward the Toroweap cliffs:
I didn’t make it back to Kanab until after dark and only saw a few vehicles the entire afternoon on the 90-mile round-trip gravel drive.
On Saturday, it was time for the main event, Mount Trumbull. I made the 2-hour drive out to the well-signed trailhead just past a BLM ranger station. A pair of women were there eating lunch and another vehicle was parked there, which belonged to two older gentlemen who were on the trail up Trumbull. I knew that the trail got very sketchy up on the summit plateau, so I had GPS with me. I followed the sketchy upper trail and cairns, but vectored in on the true summit with technology. The main thing is that you can’t see the summit until you are there due to tree cover and the relatively flat upper terrain. I passed the two guys on the way up when they were off the trail at an overlook, and then caught up with them again on the way down near the trailhead. It turned out that they didn’t make the true summit, so I didn’t feel too bad about being a technophile.
Views are very limited along most of the route and even at the summit due to the thick forest. The effects of a fire last year were pretty minor along the route. One interesting thing about the summit view is that I could look over the Grand Canyon and see the fresh snow on Humphreys Peak 110 miles away:
Trumbull is an old shield volcano, sort of like Mauna Loa, and it doesn’t seem obviously volcanic. But, this view from a definitely volcanic peak across the road shows a significant lava field in the foreground that’s about 10-20 feet thick. (A rough road skirts the far side of the lava in this shot, which I drove to climb this peak.)
Total hiking stats (October 11th-12th, 2013): 7 peaks, 14.1 miles, 4240 vertical feet