October 13th, 2019
Cedar Ranch Trailhead mm 163 to Moto/Chimney Trail Junction mm 194.2
Distance in miles: 31.2
It was a good campsite overnight. The road was quiet, it was a lot warmer than previous nights and coyotes sang in the distance. I started the morning by climbing from the desert scrub, back into the ponderosa forests. I was on the flanks of the San Francisco Peaks, a chain of mountains that are the highest in Arizona (12,600′) and may have once stood 16,000′ before the super-volcano blew its top. The most recent eruption was about 900 years ago, according to a pamphlet I read later. That’s not so long ago by geologic standards.
The sides of the mountains were speckled with aspen, all red, yellow and green. From far away, they looked like multi-colored lichen growing on a rock. As I got closer, I ran into tons of people who were out leaf-peeping. There were also many mountain bikers. All this was not surprising, given that it was gorgeous fall Sunday.
I tok a side trail to the Snowbowl, the local ski area. From there, a spur trail went to the top of Mt Humphreys, the tallest peak. I contemplated this climb but it was 5 miles one-way and already 3 pm when I arrived. I wouldn’t have enough time to make it back before dark. Plus, the trail was packed with people.
I was at least hoping that there would be a restaurant open at the resort, but it was dead quiet. So my side trip was a bust. I continued along the main trail and found a cache of water, the last until reaching town in the morning. I walked for another hour, looking for a good site. In my search, I saw a porcupine climbing a tree. It was the first one I’ve ever seen while hiking.
I found a site just as it was getting dark. I spent a long time cleaning my legs and feet before I crawled in my tent. This was the case many nights beforehand. The trail was so dry and dusty that my feet were black at the end of each day. Trail running shoes are designed to breathe…a good thing but they also let in a lot of dirt. I was very much looking forward to a shower and laundry the next day.