I took a trip over to the wonderful White Mountains and the Blue Range Primitive Area in eastern AZ a couple weekends ago. This area is incredible. The remoteness, lush vegetation, mountain streams and lakes, high elevation, diverse wildlife, steep canyons and extensive trail network make it one of the best patches of forest I have ever experienced. Late September or early October is the best time to visit because the leaves are just starting to change color and the elk are in rut. I could hardly sleep the first night because the elk were bugling (squealing and grunting) so loudly. I would probably visit here every weekend if it wasn’t a 5-6 hour drive. But the fact that it is so difficult to get to keeps it pristine, empty, and largely undiscovered.
Highlight of Trip: Mount Baldy Loop Run
The highlight of the trip was my run to the top of Mount Baldy, Arizona’s second highest peak (~11,400 ft). There are two paths approximately 7 miles each to the pseudo summit (b/c the peak is on Apache land technically you are not allowed on top): The West Baldy Trail (#94) and the East Baldy Trail (#95). There is a connector trail (#96) about 3.5 miles long that ties both these trails together creating a ~18 mile loop entirely above 9,000 feet. Naturally, I wanted to do the loop because going up and back down the same trail is just not fun. This is the way I went: Sheep’s Crossing Parking Lot 94 Actual summit 95 96 94 Parking Lot
I wasn’t feeling too good early in the run. I was tired because the bugling elk kept me up all night and I had already wiped out after I tripped over my own feet. I wanted to quit and turn back after about 25 minutes but then I heard some rustling in the brush and a monstrosity of an elk bolted out of the brush 30 yards from me. What a large, stunning creature. I stood there for a minute; the elk had long since disappeared, and I just started laughing: That’s why I come up here. I was too focused on my own discomfort (and the 18 miles) to really soak in the scenery around me. From this point forward everything just clicked: I started picking up the pace a little, the rocks and roots on the trail seemed to disappear, I saw more elk, turkeys and deer, and I was enjoying every moment.
random airplane wreakage @ 11,000 feet
jogging over the Little Colorado River
Another Good Run
The day after my long Mount Baldy run, I did a spectacular out and back stroll on the Foote Creek Trail (#76) in the Blue Range Primitive Area near Hannagan Meadow. This trail was relatively flat and soft which my body required after the difficult 18 miler. The trails here remind me of the ones back home in PA because they are so soft, rolling, wet, and shaded verses hard packed, dry, and exposed where I currently live. I enjoyed this trail so much that I ended up going twice as far as I wanted: 90 minutes instead of an easy 45 or 50.