Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mt. Elden

September 11, 2014
Mt. Elden via Elden Lookout Trail (9,298 ft.)
~6.4 miles roundtrip, 2300 ft. elevation

Hiked up Mt. Elden yesterday with an old friend from Georgia, Kristen, who happens to live in Arizona too. It took us about an hour and half to get up and an hour to get down.

Looking to the northwest towards the San Francisco Peaks
The Greater Short-horned Lizard; Usually dwells in arid mountains between 9,000-11,000 ft. elevation
Alligator Juniper tree; Unique to Arizona, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim under Full Moon

September 10, 2014

Hiking from one rim of the the Grand Canyon to the other is a physical and logistical challenge.  My buddy, Michael, his wife Emilie, and some other family and friends of his, obtained a permit to camp in the canyon over 6 months ago.  They applied for dates in late September and they were given permits for a 1 night at Phantom Ranch on September 8th and 1 night at Indian Garden on September 9th.  When it comes to camping in the Grand Canyon, beggars can't be choosers (and we're all beggars).  Their plan was to start at the North Rim and backpack across to the South Rim in 3 days and 2 nights.  However, that meant once they reached the South Rim, their car would be 177 miles away by road but only 23 miles by trail.  That's where I come in.  

Michael called me 4 days ago and the conversation went like this:

Michael: "Hey, what's your schedule like on Tuesday evening and Wednesday?" 

Me: "I'm free all day on Wednesday if I need to be.  I have class until 2 pm on Tuesday. Why?"

Michael: "What do you think about meeting me at Indian Garden on Tuesday night and hiking over to the North Rim on Wednesday?"
Me: "Sounds fun, I'm down."

Fast forward to Tuesday evening...I drove from Flagstaff to the South Rim and hiked down with my overnight gear 4.5 miles, ~3000 ft. to Indian Garden where I met Michael and his family.  I brought them bananas and muffins for breakfast for the following morning.  I ate a Chipotle burrito for dinner that I got to-go in Flagstaff. 

Michael: "What do you think about leaving tonight instead tomorrow morning?"

Me: "Yeah sure man, it's up to you."

So instead of negotiating crowds of people, mules, fresh mule crap, and the heat of the sun, we chose to hike across the Grand Canyon in the dark, under the full moon, by ourselves amongst less fresh mule crap.  In the end, it was the best decision.  The entire canyon was illuminated all night by the bright moon.  I barely used my headlamp.  The temperatures were mild and at times, chilly.  Once on the North Kaibab Trail, we didn't see anyone until we were less than a mile from the North Rim, which we reached around sunrise.  It took us ~11 hours to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim via the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails with an overnight load (which I didn't end up using) - 23 miles, 5,000 ft. drop, 6,000 ft. gain.  

Bright Angel Trailhead
Bright Angel Trail with Indian Garden below
The Battleship
Indian Garden at sunset
Hi. I'm Kirk and I'm fat
Indian Garden, 30 second exposure 
Colorado River
North Kaibab Trail 
Roaring Springs Canyon

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kendrick Peak

Kendrick Peak (10,418 ft.) Trail Run via Kendrick Peak Trail 
September 6, 2014

After a lazy Saturday morning, I decided to go run up Kendrick Peak just 30 minutes west of Flagstaff.  Kendrick Peak is the second most prominent peak within the San Francisco Volcanic Field.  The mountain is the product of an extrusion of viscous, volatile-poor lava (rhyolites and dacites) approximately 2 Ma.  For more information on the geology of the region, click HERE.

I started running just after 4 pm.  I planned this late departure because I knew the lighting would be better for photos.  The moderate trail makes its way up the southwest side of the mountain towards the summit and the fire lookout over about 4.3 miles, 3100 ft.  I ran on flatter sections and hiked quickly on steeper sections.  After about 5 minutes of running, a coyote trotted across the trail in front of me without even noticing I was there.  I stopped and watched it trot into the trees, nose to the ground and then it disappeared.  After the quiet moment and thinking about what other wildlife may be around, I continued upward.  I reached the summit in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I spent 20 minutes alone on the summit as I watched small rain storms move across the high desert.  Rays of sunshine would occasionally find their way through the clouds and illuminate the small and forested cinder cones below.  The North Rim of the Grand Canyon was obviously visible and lit up by the southwestern sun.  The views were incredible in all directions.  Northern Arizona is my new home and I'm not upset about it.

After a nice break, I made my way down.  I reached the trailhead after about 45 minutes of continuous downhill jogging just before dark.

Wildflowers along the Kendrick Peak Trail
A nice conical cinder cone with a central crater
Fire lookout tower on the summit of Kendrick Peak 
Looking east towards Humphreys Peak 
Scattered rain storms move across the high desert of Northern Arizona
Dark sky, bright beard
Moon rising over Humphreys Peak to the East