I divide my weekends up into blocks: roughly morning & afternoon, each day. I avoid taking on more than one activity per day, to leave time to do other things. In the case of hiking, that usually means restricting myself either Saturday or Sunday morning. I like hiking, but I also have other things I like to do — or need to do, like clean bathrooms — and want to leave time to do them. Enough time that I don’t have to rush to get them done, which defeats the whole purpose of not being in the daily salt mine: De-stressing.
I’d seen Stillernator’s Sycamore Canyon hike on the calendar, and looked at the route and thought it would be doable, but being so far north, would take all day. Other things to do, including spending time with spouse. Then on Friday afternoon, I hit on the idea of pitching it to my wife as a trip together, and while I was hiking she could do tourist stuff. She liked the idea, so at the last second it was on.
It was my first time back in the area in 22 years: When I lived in Flagstaff 1985-1990, I was a military policeman at the next door Navajo Army Depot. There’s 900 bunkers on the base big enough to drive a tank into, which contain things we were never told. (Probably big boom booms.) My job was to drive around and make sure no “patriot groups” — our only real security threat — had broken into a bunker and made off with the goodies. Thirty minutes to do one round every two hours left a lot of time to explore and observe nature. *Massive* herds of elk and deer, plus wild turkey, pronghorn, fox and black bear. At the same time, I was in ROTC at NAU, and we did several field exercises near Garland Prairie. (Including one where they had us doing a night compass course, without flashlights, on the side of a mountain: I’m surprised no one died!) So, I was looking forward to getting reacquainted with my old hood.
My wife and I met up with Stillernator at the Parks combo gas station/grocery/post office. I told my wife, “Just keep an eye out for a jeep covered with Steelers stuff”, and sure enough she spotted him right away.
Regarding the hike itself, what we thought was the HAZ trailhead was actually a mile west of where we started, which was good as it gave us 20 minutes to get our legs warmed up before heading up the 500 aeg KA Hill. (“kay-aye”, not “kah” hill.) Great views from up there, particularly of a small forest fire on the side of Humphrey’s Peak near Snowbowl.
Sycamore Canyon itself was just beautiful, and would have been even better in clear sunlight rather than overcast with intermittent rain. (Thanx for the Dollar Store poncho!) Anybody else wanting to go up there, look me up: I’m in.
While ROTC used to go on 10k “ruck runs”, I was no longer acclimated to 7000+ foot elevation, so hiking with Stillernator made it much easier than it otherwise would have been because he likes to stop so often for pictures. As it was, I was used up by the time we got back to the trailhead — which we managed to walk past until Stillernator wondered why we weren’t back yet after going .2 miles past the distance. It resulted in a funny coincidence, though, as our mileage was exactly the same as our aeg: 12.20 miles and 1220 feet.
Back at the Parks mall, we parted ways, my wife and I heading east on I-40 to the Bellemont truck stop for some biscuits and gravy. One problem: The diner no longer exists. It has been replaced by fast food chains. Okay, whatever. We’ll hit up the diner in Cordes Junction. Get there 90 minutes later and … same situation. What the hell!? What good is a truck stop without biscuits & gravy, meatloaf or chicken-fried steak? It’s a communist plot!
Distance: 12.20 mi.
AEG: 1,220 ft.
Time: 5h 01m