The Covid summer just rolls along, but at least being outside I feel much less likely to contract the virus. Rising at 4:30 a.m. I head up North for cooler weather to be found in the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff. My goal was to find the Weatherford trail that looks to connect to the ascent up Mount Humphrey, the highest point in Arizona. It’s a hike I’ve been itching to do ever since going up Mount Humphrey back in November 2017.
Soft light makes its way through the thick ponderosa pines as I slowly drive up the dirt road to the Schultz Tank trailhead area. It’s just after 7 a.m. but the parking lot is already full of cars. I luckily snag one of the few remaining spaces, and ready my gear. I look at the map and can’t locate the Weatherford trailhead, but several trails are in front of me. I decide to just rely on luck.
The trail I picked weaves around a small lake with a beautiful reflection of the mountains upon the still water, then turns into a dugout fire trail. My inner voice tells me to follow the fire trail upward, using the Mt. Humphrey peak as my guiding beacon. Sublime temperatures and a bluebird day have my spirits high as I climb the strata-volcano.
The fire trail ends, connecting to a dirt road, which eventually turns into a more respectable trail again. I seem to be going in the opposite direction of Mt. Humphrey though. Mountain bikers whiz by me occasionally, no other hikers are to be found. I keep climbing, letting the trail lead the way….
I reach the summit by mid-morning, and survey the area before me. The burned forest to my south, Mt. Humphrey to the north. I’m way off course of my intended destination, but at least I can now see which way I need to go. I look down and see a swarm of ladybugs busily doing something in the tall grasses around my feet. I watch them for a spell, then start hiking again to see if I can find my way up and over these smaller strata-volcanoes to get myself to Weatherford and my intended destination.
My descent is quick, finding a trail that takes my almost straight down the mountain, back to the lake I passed when starting this route. I take another trail, and see some signage, yet find none point the way to the Weatherford trail. I give up on ever finding it, and decide to push on this new trail, destination unknown.
This new trail is a connector for the infamous 800 mile Arizona trail that traverses the State from Mexico to Utah, and is something that I’ve been dreaming about for a while. I know that I’ll never do it in one stretch, but I do have future goals to complete sections.
Standing on the trail, contemplating whether I want to do a section of the AZT today, I see dark clouds forming in the distance, which gives my answer.
No need to get caught in bad weather today.
I head on back to the parking lot, arriving just as the skies open up and drench the earth. As I climb in my truck and circle to head on back to Flagstaff, I see the Weatherford trailhead. It was literally thirty feet away from where I started.
I laugh and wonder if my legs will have enough energy to come back in the morning and try to hike the trail that was my intent.
I need food first, then rest. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.