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Weatherford Canyon Day Hike
August 4, 2018
by Tamar Gottfried
  GPS Map 
by Tom Simonick
Trailblazers pass muster at Schults Tank Trailhead. [photo by Dave M.]
front:  Gabe, Rudy, Mary, Tamar, Li, Tom
back: Jim, Michael, John, Terry, Dave, Dan, Monika

Lucky number: 13 Trailblazers assembled at the Flagstaff McDonalds from Phoenix, Payson, Prescott and Flagstaff, ready for a day of hiking in the aspens. Six of us had rented a house in Flagstaff to ease our acclimatization and allow a little sleeping in, so our 12 minute commute to the meeting spot was ideal. Five cars left for Schultz Pass Trailhead and easily drove the miles of decent, but dusty, dirt road to get there.

We hit the trail at 9 AM. The weather was refreshing and the elevation gain gradual. We tried to find a trail through the aspens which parallels the main Weatherford Trail less than a mile from the trailhead, but didn’t realize we had passed it until we consulted a Li’s topo map. Group consensus was to continue on the main trail.

We’ve got to watch the weather. [photo by Dave M.]
Looking sideways at the aspens. [photo by Dave M.]
Looking up at the aspens. [photo by Dave M.]

We took a brief break at the intersection with the Kachina Trail at 1.7 miles and saw the end of the “aspen” trail at the 2 mile mark, where the Weatherford makes a big U. We passed and laughed at the sign that indicates that the Doyle Saddle is 4 miles away (because we know it is really almost 2 miles further than that) and continued onward and upward. The trail is gradual switchbacks and rocky for the remainder, but has nice logs and rocks to rest on and intermittent shady areas combined with sunny ones.

At about the 3.5 mile mark, the “shorter” hiking group of five, who wanted a nice day at elevation in the pines and aspens, but didn’t want a lung buster long day, decided to turn around. The remaining eight of us soldiered on, getting a nice view of town and an observatory in the distance and slogging up the trail.

We stayed as a fairly close group until 10,000 feet, where four fast hikers jumped and stayed ahead, and the other four of us took a more gradual pace.

Low-hanging fruit. [photo by Dave M.]
Dan, and Agassiz Paek. [photo by Tom]
Mt. Elden from the Weatherford Trail. [photo by Tom]
Yes, this is the way—up. [photo by Tom]
The way I see it ... [photo by Tom]
We found a path through the aspens. [photo by Tom]
Hiking the Weatherford Trail. [photo by Tom]
Above 10,500 feet and over 6 miles of hiking, I began to recognize the signs of “Acute Mountain Sickness” or altitude illness in myself. My pace slowed, I felt nauseous and clammy, and had to force myself to eat and drink.

Is there a Curse of the Weatherford Trail for Trailblazer hike leaders? Chuck valiantly lead this hike 3 years ago and wasn’t able to complete it either, due to a rapid onset of bronchitis. Wanting to set a good example of not pushing limits when altitude sickness is recognized, I decided not to proceed for the last mile of the hike and felt much better with a little descent.

The other seven hikers made it to the saddle, rested, and took photos. Tom called and said that, according to his topo, they were at Fremont Saddle, not Doyle, and wanted to push on to the next saddle. I thought his map may be wrong and it was already 1 PM, so I asked them to not go any further and start to descend.

Li, amid the aspens. [photo by Tom]

Apparently there is a topographic controversy as to the names of the peaks and saddles, so that Doyle and Fremont are often transposed on maps and mapping systems. According to Dave M., who was at the saddle 3 years ago on the club hike, they were at the same saddle, that we will call Doyle. Fremont is the next one. The Weatherford trail goes all the way to Humphreys Saddle, another 7.5 miles from where our hikers turned around.

After an uneventful and fast descent, the eight of us reconvened at the end of the aspen alternative trail. We veered off onto this trail and enjoyed immersion into the forest, even though there were numerous downed trees, big and small, to climb over. We reached the parking lot around 4:30, tired and hungry, but satisfied with a good long day of hiking in 70 degree weather.

Trail Crest Brewery. [photo by Tom]

Six of us met for dinner at the Trail Crest Brewery near NAU for burgers and brews, and then went on our separate ways by 6 PM.

Supplemental Report
by Tom Simonick

Seven Trailblazers—Dan, Dave, Terry, Monika, Li, Rudy and Tom—hiked up to Doyle (not Fremont) Saddle at an elevation of 10,784 feet. Prior to reaching the saddle, we had working our way up a series of switchbacks through beautiful mixed conifers and aspen forests. While hiking up the last switchback we enjoyed an entirely new view, Mt. Humphreys and the Inner Basin. There was no question that we were looking into the remains of a giant volcano.

After taking pictures and talking to other hikers, we sat down for lunch in the ”fort”, where logs had been stacked together to create a three-sided sitting area out of the wind. Using Li’s binoculars, we could people on the summit of Mt. Humphreys. There were high clouds, but none obstructed the views of the other peaks. We pondered continuing our hike to Fremont Saddle, forty-five minutes away, but after consulting with our hike leader, we realized the 90 minute roundtrip would throw off our hiking plan by making our other Trailblazers wait for us. We’ll save Fremont or maybe Agassiz for another hike.

Dave, Dan, Rudy, Monika, Terry, Tom, Li.  The dog is named Grizzly.  [photo by Dave M.]
Dave and Dan. [photo by Dave M.]
Li, Tom, Dan, Dave. [photo by Dave M.]
We have a great view from up here. [photo by Tom]
Mt. Humphreys and Agassiz Peak. [photo by Tom]
“Switchback” Group: Dave, Monika, Rudy, Dan, Terry, Li, Terry. [photo by Tom]
Taking a break on the way down. [photo by Tom]

Prior to leaving the saddle, Dave asked another hiker to take a group picture and then we were on our way back down.


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updated August 8, 2018