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Fat Man’s Loop Day Hike
Flagstaff
August 5, 2017
by Jim Buyens
Loop   GPS Map 
Loop   Elevation 
Caves    GPS Map 
Caves   Elevation 
group
Ready to go at the trailhead. [photo by Dave M.]
Ann, Dan, Jim. John, Debbie, Tom, Gabe, Tamar, Michelle, Mark, Heather, Ralph, Dave F.

This was yet another Flagstaff hike designed to beat the heat in Phoenix and savor the pines. Thirteen of us got to the Elden Lookout Trailhead by 8:15 AM and it was good we did. The place was already packed. Somehow, though, we all found some semblance of a parking space and after snapping a group photo, we started the hike at 8:38 AM.

The first leg of our adventure was Fatman’s Loop, a well-maintained and interesting trail at the eastern foot of Mount Elden. I remembered this as an easy trail but there was more climbing than I recalled: almost 1,000 feet. We did the loop counterclockwise and really enjoyed the vistas, scenery, and the vegetation.

group
The group gets under way. The trail is well-maintained but seldom level. [photo by Tom]
tree
Jim, Dave, Michelle, Debbie, Tom, Heather, Ann, and Dan enjoy a colossal alligator juniper tree.
[photo by Ralph]
John
I told everyone to be prepared for rain and this, apparently, was John’s solution. [photo by John]
weed
The Devil’s Loco Weed, also called Yerba Diablo or Sacred Datura, has an alluring bloom. [John]
group
John, Mark, Jim, Michelle, Ralph, Dan, Ann, Dave, Tamar, and Heather stop for a breath. [photo by Tom]

About three quarters of the way around we sidetracked onto the Pipeline Trail and went searching for Elden Spring and for John Elden’s homestead. We missed a turn at one point (a misleading sign, obviously) and found ourselves in a trailer park. Then we found an unmarked trail that headed in the right direction, and was cleared like the Pipeline Trail, and had wires overhead like the Pipeline Trail. So we gave it a chance and eventually found a sign pointing to the Spring Trail. A spring being out objective, we tried that direction and sure enough found the spring.

There’s not much left of John Elden’s homestead: just a faint rectangular outline marked by a Forest Service sign. The spring is just nearby and was flowing, although only a trickle. There’s still a makeshift steel water trough where the Eldens and their livestock could drink.

Nearby is the grave of John Elden Jr., who was shot in 1887 at the age of 6 by a muleskinner named Bob Roberts in a water dispute. After catching Roberts, John Elden Sr. moved the family to California. Some children had left stuffed animals on the grave in John Jr’s memory.

group
Heather, Tamar, Debbie, Dan, and Tom pause at the Elden Spring. [photo by Ralph]
bug
The smallest century plant produces the largest
seed pod, shown here. [photo by John]
picture
Dan pauses to check his equipment.
[photo by Tom]
grave
This is the grave of John Elden Jr.
[photo by Ralph]
tree
Ann admires another large alligator juniper.
[photo by Michelle]

From there we returned to the Fatman’s Loop by backtracking on the Pipeline Trail, this time, however, avoiding the trailer park detour. After that we finished the loop and arrived back at the trailhead. Our distance at that point was 6.4 miles, about what I expected.

My plan for the day was to add a few miles at the Old Caves Crater trail, which was just a few miles down Rte. 89. On paper this looked like a fairly interesting hike; you climb up the side of a volcano, see a collection of lava caves, and stand on the rim of the crater looking in. Unfortunately, about three quarters of the volcano had crumbled away to nothing and what’s left seems more like a butte than a volcano cone. The caves were small but with a bit of care you could go in for a peek.

view
A view east of Flagstaff from the rim of Old Caves Crater. [photo by Tom]
clouds
No, Tom, those aren’t rain clouds behind you. Or maybe they’re moving away. Or maybe ...
[photo by Tom]
cave
This is one of the old caves on Old Caves Crater. They don’t continue inward very far.
[photo by Michelle]
group
Gabe, Mark, Dave, Tamar, Jim, and Heather collaborate on where we are. [photo by Tom]

After climbing up the south side we descended on the north and then got to a five-way intersection. We ended up following a sign that pointed back to our trailhead, and that turned out to be a bit less scenic and a bit more distance than the route I’d planned. We did get back to the trailhead, though, and then congratulated ourselves on perfect timing. A few drops of rain started within minutes of our finishing the hike.

food
Tamar, Gabe, John, Heather, Jim, Mark, Michelle, Ann, Debbie, and Dave quickly offset
whatever calories they burned on the hike. But it’s great to see them so happy! [photo by Tom]

Before driving home we stopped at Beaver Street Brewery, which in the few years it’s been open has become a Flagstaff fixture. As usual the food and the craft beer were both excellent.

On the way home we encountered some heavy rain south of Flagstaff, but that didn’t stop us. Everyone had a great hike and was already planning for the next weekend.

Happy trails!

Loop Hike Statistics
Total Distance:6.4miles
Starting Time:8:38AM
Moving Time:3:13hrs:min
Stopped Time:0:17hrs:min
Duration:3:31hrs:min
Finishing Time:12:10PM
Avg. Speed Moving:2.0mph
Avg. Speed Overall:1.8mph
Starting Elevation:6,901ft
Minimum Elevation:6,586ft
Maximum Elevation:7,430ft
Total Ascent:1,141ft
Calories:640
Starting Temperature:60° F
Finishing Temperature:70° F
Caves Hike Statistics
Total Distance:4miles
Starting Time:12:41PM
Moving Time:1:42hrs:min
Stopped Time:0:07hrs:min
Duration:1:49hrs:min
Finishing Time:2:31PM
Avg. Speed Moving:2.3mph
Avg. Speed Overall:2.3mph
Starting Elevation:6,691ft
Minimum Elevation:6,482ft
Maximum Elevation:7,175ft
Total Ascent:693ft
Calories:400
Starting Temperature:70° F
Finishing Temperature:72° F
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated August 11, 2017