Semi-Apocalyptical Burnt Out Mountain Hike
Flagstaff Travel Blog› entry 8 of 15 › view all entries
The next day, I woke up at 6AM, after a surprisingly restful night of sleep by the traintrack-side hostel. I decided I had time to hike Mt. Elden, just north of Flagstaff.
A unpaved road off Highway 89/Route 66 leads to the Little Elden Springs trailhead. The trail leads through a pretty golden meadow beneath the mountain, dotted with ponderosa pine, white bark birch and happy, Christmas-y douglas fir. The birds sang, and the soft morning light flitted through the trees and reflected on the tall flaxen grass. It was like fricken Bambi or something.
About a mile in, the trail intersects with the Little Bear Trail, which winds its way through the forest and up the mountain. Wide, swinging switchbacks lead through the trees, past several overlooks where you can see all the way to the desert.
For the longest time, it was just me, alone with the mountain. Halfway up, I encountered 2 extreme looking ladies that were literally powerwalking up the mountain with their dog, and then some mountain bikers on the more-often used sunset trail. Other than that, the trails were completely desolate. It was especially desolate on the Heart trail.
The east slope is completely different from the verdant, evergreen forested north side I had climbed. The entire slope was destroyed by the Radio Fire of 1977, or so says the Coconino National Forest website.
The lack of foliage meant I could see all the way down the mountain --- down the red, plunging slope dotted with dead trees that rose high in the foreground and like tiny pins in the distance. The path was steep and gravely, impossible to navigate with any speed, and seemed to threaten to dissapear around the next corner. I was constantly looking down into the distance and thinking, how the hell is this path getting down there?
It had been cold in the chilly mountain morning, but now the sun beat down relentlessly.
The last part of the hike was generally flat, along a sandy path that wound its way around the mountain back to the north side. I was so tired and parched at this point, it felt like forever, like one of those movies where some british guy stumbles through the desert while licking his canteen for its last drops of moisture.
I encountered a grizzled looking hippie dude with an external frame backpack going the opposite direction. He looked kinda like Jesus. He looked at me and said "It's not far". You is wise, hippie Jebus, you is wise!
I think I could have started hallucinating at any point there.
Anyway, I got back to the parking lot in one shape.