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AZ Passage 34 - FR 418 to Bismarck Lake
Flagstaff, north of the SF Peaks
August 24, 2019
by Michelle Jelsma
  GPS Map 
by Tom Simonick
Trailblazers ready to hike. [photo by Quy]
front:  Chris, Quy
back: Jim, Michelle, Terry, Bettye, Debbie, Biljana, Dubravka, Heather O., Jane, Ramona, Li, Tom, Heather K., Neil, Lin, Carl, Mark

After a few cancellations and one hiker lost trying to find the trailhead, 20 Trailblazers gathered at the AZ Trail junction on FR 418. Mark and I have recently joined the AZ Trail Association and have started our mission of hiking the full trail, mainly by day hikes. We were in Flagstaff a month ago and did some scouting and hiked this same section. We found it such a beautiful hike that we felt we had to share this with our fellow Trailblazers.

We all gathered for some quick introductions and hit the trail just before 10:00. It was a beautiful morning with clear blues skies and very refreshing cool weather.

We will take the trail going south towards Bismarck Lake. The trail starts in a somewhat open forest with tall grass all around us. It is well maintained and easy to follow.

Hiking through the tall trees. [photo by Quy]
Off we go, into the forest. [photo by Quy]
The Aspens stand tall on this cool morning. [photo by Lin]

We soon find ourselves walking through a field of ferns. They were tall, and all around, as they led us into the forest. In the first mile of the trail we pass through two of these fields of ferns.

Don’t get lost in the ferns. [photo by Quy]
We see the Aspens and Ponderosas through the ferns. [photo by Quy]

As we continue, the forest becomes denser with large Aspens and Ponderosa Pine trees mingling together. The trees in this area are big, both round and tall. So much so that they kept us in the shade for probably 3½ of the first 4 miles. The trail had a very gradual ascent and was well maintained so it made for a pleasant hike through the forest. We were actually able to see the condition of the trail far enough in front of us that we were able to look up and enjoy the view.

After about 2 miles of a brisk walk we stop to let the group get back together and look around and enjoy the views. It was a nice opportunity to catch up with some of those we haven’t seen in a while. After a bit, we get started again with the junction of the AZ Trail and Bismarck Lake Trail being our next stop.

Someone has mentioned that we are not seeing any Aspens in this area and wondered why. I assured them we would see more and, before you know, the Aspens and Pines had come together again. We even found an Aspen and Ponderosa coming out of the same root.

This trail is easy to follow. [photo by Quy]
Trees stretching to the sky. [photo by Quy]
This looks like a good spot for a break. [photo by Quy]
Off we go. [photo by Quy]
Is that two different kinds of trees coming out of the same roots? [photo by Michelle]
You don’t say ...  [photo by Quy]

It wasn’t long before the trail was leading us through tall grass and open skies. We knew we were close to the trail junction. Once we reached the trail junction, we held up there to take photos and wait for everyone to come together. We then headed for Bismarck Lake, where we would take an extended snack break. The lake does not have much water. In fact, a few people totally missed it as they followed the trail around the north side of the berm of the lake.

The spot we chose to take a snack break turned out to be a real hit. There are large boulders where everyone was able to find a comfortable spot to sit. Then there was the tree that the more agile ones in the group were able to climb. We had some good laughs watching some of those not so agile trying to climb the tree.

I’m not sure what’s happening here. [photo by Michelle]
They made it. [photo by Michelle]
Afternoon shadows look over us. [photo by Li]
Another group photo. [photo by Quy]
9 miles later and still smiling. That’s a good day! [photo by Tom]

After some monkeying around, lunch, and another group photo, the group heads back the way we came. The view on the Bismarck Lake trail to the AZ Trail junction gave us a beautiful view of the San Francisco Peaks with the clear blue sky looming over us. The trail back has a short ascent to the AZ Trail junction and then it is all downhill from there.

Everyone was back to the trailhead by 2:00. We had a cool day with an average temperature right around 70. Twelve hungry hikers headed to Salsa Brava for lunch while the others went directly back to Phoenix.

Salsa Brava. [photo by Michelle]
→   More pictures, by Michelle
→   More pictures, by Li
→   More pictures, by Quy
→   More pictures, by Tom
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated August 30, 2019