I’ll start with the usual stats before I tell you how I felt about this one. 👀
Located along the Arizona-New Mexico border just outside a little town called Nutrioso, this area was devastated by fire in 2011. On this trail we *clocked* 7.74 miles to the official peak with an elevation gain of 1,554 feet topping at 10,877 feet at the peak. This peak is listed as the 3rd highest in Arizona and is the 4th one we have completed.
*(our “clocking’ does not always exactly match what you find about here trails online. We think it could be an minor inaccuracy with our devices, for the sake of being transparent).
This trail wastes no time with the climb in elevation but has a very even distribution of climbs and level hiking making the section up the fire tower not too difficult, save for the much thinner air with the starting elevation just under 10,000 feet.
The wildflowers were abundant and here was a wide variety of colors with much of the earliest section of the trail being lined generously. Plenty of beautiful butterflies, including a totally new one I hadn’t seen before and a few little lizards.
More giant dandelions, lol. Can you tell I’m a little obsessed with these?
Strangest sighting of the day: a bee flying around with a little leaf stuck to his butt. 🤣 he could have been hanging on to it intentionally but I really don’t know. 🤣🤓
As previously stated, in 2011 this area was devastated by fire and the effects are still very visible today. The main trail itself has been cleared and the deadfall (downed trees) has been cut through all the way up to the Fire tower lookout. Many sections of the trail either is either lined by fields of deadfall or fields of young aspen and pine. These scenes were a sight to see, the deadfall fields could be eerie and solemn while the lush new growth reminds you that new things and grow from total devastation.
This Pano is the best idea of the expanse of devastation that remains years later. Hopefully you can view it in a large format.
Now, here is where the trail becomes it’s most challenging section, once at the fire lookout you are not at its official peak. There is a ridgeline from the fire tower up to the official tallest peak and this section of the trail is NOT cleared and cut from the fire. What exactly this meant was really not as clear as we thought! So, you might wonder?
First let me preface that our ide of where this part of the trail was to pick up was not as informed as it should have been, so on the first little start here we blazed our own and this involved a nightmarish scene of millions of knats swarming us through this section of young aspen. There was screaming involved and maybe a few tears. 🤣🤣
Once we got past the tiny forest of knats, we came to this horrific realization that this part was a lot more than we had mentally prepared for but we pushed forward. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to traverse the 1 mile of dead fallen trees and rocks. We used our poles for balance and the fear of impalling ourselves was very real.
Here we are at the cairns with the tin can containing the register for those brave enough to come this far. It was a satisfactyinh feeling to put my name in that book. I should have signed with a coo,ent “y’all some crazy m’fers”!
From the finish line, it was much easier to find the complete path back to the turn off where we SHOULD have turned for this section, we aren’t really sure how we missed he huge milk jug marking it! But we added a cairne to the marker. LOL. This return from the peak on,y took us 50 minutes so it would have made a big difference to void the lair of knats. LOL
Here is a collection of he various burn patterns I noticed during the hike.
The cool temperatures made the day pleasant and on the return we had a little thunderstorm brewing on our heals only catching a few sprinkles along the way. We are looking forward to monsoon season brewing here in the valley and he upcoming hikes will require a bit more prep for these unexpected storms.
Since the trailhead was more remote than the usual we waited until we got back in to Show low to have a nice early prime rib dinner at Cattleman’s Steakhouse and Lounge. The prime ribs were quite delicious for their Friday special and some standard local drafts washed them down.