April 20th-25th, 2021
Pine was the perfect place to take a zero day. The local grocery had everything I needed for the next leg to Flagstaff. I enjoyed a second delicious breakfast at The Early Bird before settling into a relaxing day at the cabin. For dinner I hit up THAT Brewery for some good food and a few beers. As one of the first restaurants a thru hiker sees when entering town, this is a must stop. The beers are good, and if you buy the Arizona Trail Ale 5% of all proceeds go to the Arizona Trail Association.
After a short road walk I rejoined the trail at the Pine Trailhead and headed north. The Mogollon rim was now only a days hike away. That night I camped next to Chase Creek in a thickly wooded area.
Climbing up the Mogollon rim things started to look very different from the trail to the south. For starters there was running water! The trail followed along the creek before turning into switchbacks that winded up the Rim. Climbing up an onto the Mogollon Rim really felt like a doorway into Northern Arizona. Having grown up in Flagstaff, walking amongst the ponderosa pines on a trail of fine dirt and lava rocks felt very familiar. I was excited to be back in a zone that I was familiar with.
In Northern Arizona the varied nature of the trail continued to keep me entertained. On the third day out of Pine I noticed a large plume of smoke off to the northwest. At first it appeared to be pretty far off, but as I continued north I got closer and closer. I could smell the smoke and see ash falling around me. It appeared to be off in the direction of Happy Jack and increased in intensity throughout the afternoon. By the time I set up camp for the day the plume had mostly disappeared. I assume thanks to a quick acting hotshot crew. That night camped at around 7500 ft it snowed.
I decided to take a side trip into Mormon Lake Lodge for a hot meal and a resupply. I needed a few more snacks for the two days I had remaining to Flag. Jumping onto the Navajo Springs trail Mormon lake was only about 1.5 miles from the AZT. Mormon Lake Lodge was exactly what I needed. On location there was a restaurant, convenience store, showers, laundry and a campground. I spent the afternoon enjoying the amenities and relaxing at my campsite, which had a picnic table! In hindsight staying at the campground was probably a mistake. Apparently there was a wedding going on across the street at the lodge. From my tent I could here the party throughout the night. I finally drifted off to sleep, after midnight, to the sweet sounds of drunken party goers screaming along to the lyrics of Shout. A LITTLE BIT LOUDER NOW! A LITTLE BIT LOUDER NOW!!!
The timing into Flagstaff was ideal. I rolled into town with blue skies and perfect weather. I walked along Butler Ave. to Downtown. Lots had changed since I’d left, but overall Flagstaff still felt very familiar. I stopped at a brewery and relaxed, watching the trains roll by. Felt good to be home!
The next day a storm swept in and dumped several inches of snow. From the comfort of my Dad’s couch I lounged the next two days away. I was very thankful to being enjoying the comforts of home rather than camping in the snow.