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Begins: Mar 13, 2020
Date: Mon, Apr 4th, 2022
Start: Cross F Trailhead, Mazatzals
End: Doll Baby Trailhead
Daily Distance: 50
Trip Distance: 788.5
Entry Visits: 57
Journal Visits: 1,680
Guestbook Views: 18
Guestbook Entrys: 2
Arizona Trail Map
Well, I just spent an hour telling the story of our final section of the trail to complete this 5th time on the trail. Crossing the Mazatzals was the last section completed on our first time doing the distance. It seems fitting that it would be our last section this time too!
I can't spend another hour detailing these days. It took us 3 1/2 days to up, up, up, then down, down, down these mountains. The earliest we'd ever done them in the spring. Lots of water, lots of hikers, lots of flowers. First camp at Thicket Spring, Second near the Juniper site below Barnhardt Trail Junction, Third at Brush Spring.
Unlike our prior times here, no one fell, nor got sick, nor got snowed on! We could have been in better shape but were happy to cover the distances each day safely.
We didn't get as far as we hoped the first day. Knowing that water and campsite availability dictated the miles, we stopped at Thicket. We had seen many hikers and thought if we continued that we would be shut out of a camp, since the trail does a long ascent beyond Thicket to get around Mt Peeley. Turned out to be a great decision. The Spring had plenty of water and the campsite beyond was on a hill with beautiful views. Because it was a bit off the main trail, we only had one visitor (who just wanted to see who was camped). We spent a bit of time while hiking talking with other hikers: Ringtail (who thrued last year), Funny Bone (who had been a professional biker and had done lots of hikes since that time).
The next day I usually consider the 'hump' day of this passage. One gains elevation to get around Mt Peeley, then continues to climb on the Mazatzal Divide Trail. The good part is that there are lovely pine trees with their scent of forest. Even saw one small patch of snow. We stopped at Bear Spring for water and lunch, then climbed onward up another part of the ridgeline. Finally, we got to go downhill as we approached Mazatzal Mountain and the Y Bar Trail Junction. Spotted the campsite we didn't get to use on our first time thru this area (it was already occupied, and the hiker didn't want anyone to stay in the area near him). The trail continued downhill on narrow tread. At one point, a horse party was climbing towards us; we found a wash where we could get out of their way. The washes were somewhat washed out after last year's monsoon season, making it a bit difficult for the equestrians. We ended the descent with circling a hill and meeting the Barnhardt Trail Junction. Just beyond this is a big Juniper, The Place to camp. Occupied, although the hiker offered to share. The wind was gusting, and we were able to find a sheltered and more isolated camp nearby.
The 3rd day is generally a descent to lower elevations (with of course a number of hills thrown in so one doesn't get out of practice!). The prettiest part is the canyon the trail circles beyond Mazatzal Mountain. The early morning light lit the cliffs, and a creek flowed creating a waterfall. We took a break there, then continued past Horse Camp (a great place to stay) and Hopi Spring. We hoped to make some miles this day, and once beyond this canyon, the sights are not quite as interesting to us. We stopped for water at the Park (another flowing creek!) and enjoyed lunch under the pine trees beyond the creek. Climbing/rounding more hills, with evermore views towards the Verde River. The elevations had some kind of white-flowering bush that was fragrant, making the walking sweet. The trail was as rocky as ever. I know the Stewards do so much work on the trail, but the Crews that are needed to really address the persistent problems in this area still have much to do to bring it up to NST standards. We finished at Brush Spring, where there is a collection of nice camps. We were the only ones there, although a hiker passed thru late in the day. For some reason, a trail was built beyond this campsite to a dry creek, a sign directing hikers down to it. In all the times we've hiked thru here, this creekbed only had water once. But...if you follow a well-cairned path behind the campsites, you can easily find pools of water.
The final day, we only had to do a brief climb to a saddle, then a loooong drop to a road near the Verde River. At this elevation, we started smelling a different perfume coming from Apache Plume/Cliff Rose. Once we reached the road, one last climb and drop on the road got us to the trailhead.
And so ends our 5th time completing the trail! I have to admit, I got a bit teary-eyed at the end. At ages 68 and 82, we will probably not do a repeat of the distance (although we will visit those places we love). All wilderness trips are a rich experience, but being from Arizona, this trail and the people, places, and stories will hold special places in our memories and hearts.