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Arizona Trail Day 47 – Leaving Flagstaff | Average Hiker

Tank on the Kaibab Plateau on the AZT

April 26, 2022

There is not much to say about Flagstaff, mostly because I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express for two days on the outskirts of town. I needed to catch up on some things, so I parked within walking distance of a few restaurants and ensured I was near no other distractions. My only trip into town was an Uber to REI for a few items like socks. It was a boring visit but productive from a non-hiking perspective.

Even though I had stayed on the edge of town with no intention of meeting anybody I knew, I still ran into Nailz and Spielberg while exiting the REI. We exchanged trail information, caught up briefly, and headed our separate ways. I wasn’t sure I would see them again, so it was nice to run into them one last time.

I was the first one at Denny’s for breakfast on my last morning in town. I had brought my backpack to head straight out of town after eating. I had my traditional big breakfast so I would not have to carry anything but a snack and a small dinner for the day.

The hike through town wasn’t bad, but I was glad when I reached Buffalo Park TH and began to head back up into the mountains, climbing up and over the flank of Humboldt Mountain.

In classic plateau style, I climbed onto the Humboldt flank and began my trailing through the Ponderosa on relatively easy to moderate terrain. I stopped and chatted with one couple out hiking for the day and was passed by three young thru-hikers moving at twice my speed. I had thought I was moving briskly and making good time until they passed me with a wave of their hands. I swear I felt as if I was standing still!

Temperatures began to drop as I climbed up over 7,000 feet. The wind was a constant cold-biting beast that nipped at me every time I began to slow down. I knew I needed to add a layer, but my jacket was packed away, so I picked up my speed and pushed harder to generate more heat without sweating too much. Cold-weather hiking is often a balance between exertion and layers for me.

I did not plan to hike 25 miles, but when I arrived at the Alfa Fia Tank, there was a group of locals hanging out, so I continued along the trail until I passed the Snow Bowl and began looking for a place to camp. This search, which I thought would be quick, ended up lasting late into the afternoon.

At first glance, the terrain seems grassy and relatively flat, but under all that long grass is red rock and large lumps of grassy dirt. The ground is also angled, and finding a flat smooth spot can be hard. When I find a good place to camp, it is often around the base of the Ponderosa or Pine trees.

As the sun dropped, I picked up speed to stay warm. A few snowflakes brushed past my face as I squinted into the disappearing light, and I saw what looked like a reasonably level spot at the edge of the trees, about 70 yards off the trail. I turned and began picking my way downhill, determined to camp no matter what I found. It was cold and beginning to get dark, and I needed to stop before I headed back down to the steeper slopes below me.

Pushing past the deadfall around some Ponderosas, I stopped in amazement. Nestled in the center of the trees was a perfectly flat smooth spot that appeared as if it had been made for me. Not only was it a prime tent spot, but it was also sheltered from the icy cold wind chasing me down the trail. I set up my Hexamid quickly and settled in for the night.

I was camping at close to 9,000 feet, so it would be a cold night. Fortunately, my Katabatic Sawatch quilt was rated down to 15 degrees and close to its temperature rating so I would warm up as soon as I burrowed in for the night.

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