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Aspen Corner and Aspen Loop
October 3-4, 2020
by Carl Lunde
  GPS Map 

Several Arizona Trailblazers stayed at the Fort Tuthill Campground just outside Flagstaff on Friday night and Saturday Night. This is a fall colors weekend of camping and hiking: Saturday was Aspen Loop and Aspen Corner hike, and Sunday was the Inner Basin hike.

There were eight of us camped at Fort Tuthill. Saturday morning we left the campground to go to the Aspen Loop Trailhead – at the same place as Mt. Humphreys Trailhead – the Snowbowl parking lot. The parking lot area was overflowing with cars. Before we started out, we celebrated two birthdays: Li’s and Mary’s. Each of them received a card signed by all the Arizona Trailblazer hikers and a bottle of champagne (courtesy of Lin, our hike leader).

They were total of 17 today. Li led the fast & long-distance group of hikers. They were Li, Tom, Michael, Ken, Kevin. Lin led the slow and short-distance group. They were Lin, Carl, Mary, Carol, Mohammed, Julie, Ann, David French, Sally, John S., Nancy, and Alice. The Aspen Loop Trail includes portions of the Aspen Nature Trail hike and the Arizona Trail, and we took a side trail to Aspen Corner. This is an especially photogenic area of Aspens, all in their prime colors for the fall! We hiked about 5.5 miles total for the Aspen Corner and Aspen Loop Trail, part on the Arizona Trail.

John’s home for the next two nights. [photo by John]

The Aspens were such a nice golden color, yet with a few Aspens still green. The fern undergrowth had changed from fern green to a dark golden color. The Aspen leaves that had already fallen carpeted the ground and the trails. On the trails, trampled by thousands of feet attached to people of all walks of life, oohing and awing over the majesty of the colors.

The two groups, fast and slow, were together at the beginning of the hike and, as shown in the photographs, bunched together like a group of very colorful trees.

Scenic view of the aspens and mountains. [photo by Lin]
Celebrate Li’s birthday. [photo by Lin]
Entering the Aspen Golden Colors. [photo by Lin]
John oversees the group. [photo by Mary]
Enjoy the fall color, Tom. [photo by Li]
Trailblazers still in formation but far more colorful than gold and green! [photo by Lin]
Warm up now, Michael. [photo by Li]
Fearless Dave. [photo by Li]
Starting the hike. [photo by Lin]
Just as colorful as fall color. [photo by Li]
Tom smiling. [photo by Li]
Crossing a dry meadow. [photo by John]
Time for a break at Aspen Corner. [photo by John]
Group at the trail junction. [photo by John]
Red looks very good on me. [photo by John]
Marching on. [photo by Li]
Happy Kevin. [photo by Li]
Happy Michael. [photo by Li]
Li and Lin enjoying the moment. [photo by Tom]
Lin, our hike leader. [photo by Li]
Mohammed, Lin and Carl. [photo by Li]
Time to take a break yet? [photo by Li]
Sally, John, and Alice. [photo by li]
Which way? [photo by li]
John surrounded by golden leaves. [photo by Lin]
The photos on the next few pages show the golden yellow colors of the Aspens, the still-green Aspens, and the carpet of golden leaves on the ground, with the dried-out ferns adding their darker golden colors to the mix. Then the hikers, many of them standing out in their bright colors, took the opportunity to frame and capture this magnificent yearly change, in all of the beauty a nice sunny day with blue sky.

The photos on these pages also reflect how everyone was taking photos and trying to find ways to best capture the beauty of this special time: fall colors! The other thing that is great is that nature provides some great sitting areas, sofas for the weary hiker! These seating areas (nature’s sofas) allow us a chance to contemplate the beauty while pausing to reflect on the splendor, and to enjoy a moment of peace and joy and socialize with our fellow Arizona Trailblazers.

Julie, Nancy, Carl, ad Ann, snacking at Aspen Corner. [photo by Lin]
Mohammed and Carol. [photo by Lin]
Mary, contemplating the beauty. [photo by Lin]
Arizona Trailblazers lost in gold: Dave, John, Julie, Nancy. [photo by Lin]
Sally, Alice, Mohammed, at Aspen Corner. [photo by Lin]
Arizona Trailblazers lost in gold. [photo by Lin]
Carol, with a smiling face. [photo by Lin]
Breathtaking fall season. [photo by Lin]
Red car at Aspen Corner. [photo by Lin]
Golden color at Aspen Corner. [photo by Lin]
Fall is here! [photo by Lin]
Nancy, taking pictures. [photo by Lin]

The photo above shows how hikers, even brightly colored ones, get swallowed up in the majesty of the lighter gold of the Aspens and the darker golden brown of the ferns.

Lunch after the hike is always a highlight for some of us. We already pre-burned all the calories; we can eat anything we want and need. And yes, we did. Seven of us—Ann, Julie, John, Carl, Nancy, Mary and Lin—went to Beaver Street Brewery and we had great meal and great time.

This was a magnificent hike, enjoyed by all. Many thanks to Lin, who always orchestrates great hikes and camping trips! While Lin gave Champagne to the two people with birthdays, we all should lift a glass and toast Lin for another hike well done and appreciated.

→   More pictures, by Li
→   More pictures, by Li
→   More pictures, by Lin
→   More pictures, by Tom
→   More pictures, by John

Supplemental Report
by Li Li

After parting with Lin’s large group from the Aspen and Arizona Trail junction, my group of five continued heading south on the Arizona Trail. We did wind up on many inclines and declines throughout the forest for about two miles, until we reached the next trail junction. The forest was filled with pine on this part of the trail. The tall pines provided lots of shade, so we didn’t feel hot at all.

We only saw a few bikers and hardly any hikers on this trail. By the end of the 2-mile mark, we saw four motorcyclists passing through the trail, racing into the forest. It was like a movie, rather than reality, with their flashy motorcycles and gear.

We took a small snack break on the big tree stump, then returned to where we came from in order to get to the trail junction again. The weather was getting a little warmer, so we sat on the trail junction to take a long break while waiting for Michael to join the group. After regrouping, we continued heading back and steered to the right into the aspen forest at the foot of Humphreys Peak. This part of the trail is filled with large mature dense aspens with beautiful yellow leaves and white trunks. Tom and I were excited to snap many pictures. We were so glad that we finished our hike in the most beautiful part of the forest.

Just ahead, a ski lift appeared in front of us, accompanied by the magnificent Humphreys Peak, marking that we had finished the hike. I was so happy that we had a great hike even though we did not hike 10 miles as we planned. Everyone was satisfied. We celebrated a successful hike at Pita Jungle. Both spirits and stomach were happy!

Thanks to Lin for organizing this beautiful fall color hike!

My fast-paced group. [photo by Li]
San Francisco Peaks. [photo by Li]
We found some shade to take pictures. [photo by Li]
Log makes a comfortable bench. [photo by Li]
Trailblazers on the march. [photo by Li]
Tom [photo by Li]
Li [photo by Tom]
Kevin [photo by Li]
Energy, nature’s energy. [photo by Tom]
Michael and Kevin amid the trees. [photo by Li]
Late lunch. [photo by Li]

Inner Basin Trip, October 4, 2020
by Lin Chao

We, as a club, have been hiking this trail for fall colors for the past four years. Never tired of the color, the cool crispy air, and the beautiful trail. On Sunday, October 4, 14 of us got up early, ready to enjoy this most fabulous fall color hike on the Inner Basin Trail.

We arrived at the Locket Meadow Campground before 8:25 AM. It was cold. Well, we had a long summer this year, our blood was so thin, even 50° F will freeze our blood. But we were prepared. We put on our winter jackets, vests, and gloves. Nothing was going to stop us from enjoying the fall color display today!

After a quick introduction, we divided into two groups. Tom, my co-leader, led the longer and faster-paced hikers. They were Li, Kevin, Ken, and Tom. Lin led the shorter and slower-paced hikers. They were Lin, Carol B, Mary, Nancy, Les, Gary, Julie, Mohammed, John S, and Ann.

Tom’s group was off at a fast pace. After the group picture at the trailhead, they disappeared from our sight. Please read Tom’s trip report for his group.

This year we had a long hot and dry summer, the aspen trees were so stressed out, you can obviously see from the Lockett Meadow Campground. The leaves were smaller and thinner than usual, with brown spots on the edges. The leaves that had fallen earlier had turned yellow. We need rain. We need lots of good winter storms.

The trail started climbing at the trailhead. We got an early start. Not too many people on the trail yet, but you do see few dedicated photographers who were hiking down already. Wow, I really hope they got their pictures.

After about a mile, we were into the Aspen tree section, the fall color section. It always gives me so much pleasure, joy, and happiness to see those tall dense Aspen trees—the white bark, with marks of carved names. They stand still, one by one, faithfully watching each other and holding hands; the still greenish leaves, dancing in the wind, still trying to catch the last summer breeze. The yellow leaves, just happy that they finally can dress up for the short season before the winter wind took their dress away; the golden leaves they were proud, elegant and shout out with the voice “Fall is here, Fall is here, and I am pretty as ever!”

I have led this hike for a few years, there are a few who come back every year, but I always had a few first-timers. Ann, Nancy, Julie were here for the first time today. Boy, I hope they were not disappointed.

It was a slower than normal pace for some of us on the trail. We just really enjoyed the view. When we arrived at the water pump station, Les and Gary were ready to hike down (they were hiking with Tom’s group). Even though we did not hike together, I could tell Gary and Les had great time.

Our usual break place is about 0.1 miles farther from the water pump station. We love this spot, because they are many sizes of logs that we can sit on. It is away from people, has shade and plenty of space for big crowds. Not everyone came up here to take a break with us, but Nancy, Carol, Julie, Ann, John, and Lin sure enjoyed the quiet and short break.

Hiking down to the trailhead is easy, it’s all downhill from the top. But by then, the trail got very busy. Wave after wave of people, many with dogs, were hiking up. By now the light was from a different angle. It lit the golden aspen trees with fire. It was beautiful.

When we got back the trailhead, the fast-paced hikers were not back. Since most people were planning to return home today, we decided that we were not going out for lunch as we usually do. Mary, Les and Gary already left. John, Mohammed, Carol, Ann, Julie, Nancy and Lin went back to the campground, because John, Ann, Julie, and Nancy needed to pack. In the meantime, Carol, Mohammed and Lin were to stay one more night at Fort Tuthill.

It was a wonderful day, the temperature was perfect, the fall color was not at peak, but lucky us we saw green, some yellow, yellow and the golden color of Aspen trees, all in one afternoon and all on the same trail. Life is good, and fall is here.

Group picture. [photo by Lin]
front:  Lin, Carol, Mary, Li
back: Nancy, Les, Gary, Julie, Mohammed, Ken, Kevin, John S, Ann
The fast-paced group: Ken, Tom, Li, Kevin. [photo by Lin]
Ann and Julie, girlfriends forever. [photo by Lin]
Beginning of the Inner Basin Trail. [Carol]
Let us dance! [photo by Carol]
Ground covered with golden leaves. [photo by Lin]
Still-greenish aspen trees. [photo by Lin]
I want all the energy from the aspen tree. [Lin]
Mohammed [photo by Mary]
Fast-paced group at the end of the trail. [Mary]
Flagstaff water pump house. [photo by Mary]
Julie and Ann are enjoying the view.
Ann is having a good time. [photo by Carol]
Fall color. Lin is enjoying it. [photo by John]
Lin, Ann, Julie, and Nancy at the end of the Inner Basin Trail. [photo by Lin]
Energy bunny Mohammed, and Carol, [photo by Lin]
John marching on the trail. [photo by Lin]

Supplemental Report
by Tom Simonick
  GPS Map 

After enjoying the beauty of aspen trees and the views from the Inner Basin, Kevin, Li, Ken and I continued on the Inner Basin Trail up to the Weatherford Trail junction at an elevation of 11,000 feet. We left most of the aspens behind, and walked a rocky trail through pine trees, with occasional open areas. In those areas, we could see Agassiz and Humphreys Peaks, and the Weatherford Trail running along Agassiz Peak. The last part of the Inner Basin Trail ends in some steep switchbacks, which that day seemed particularly steep, as we stopped several times to let our heart rates slow down.

Ken reached the Weatherford Trail junction first, and patiently waited for the rest of us to catch up. From the junction we headed east about a half mile on the Weatherford Trail to enjoy the views into the Basin and Humphreys, Aubineau, and Rees Peaks above us. It made for a great lunch spot.

Kevin pointed out an alternative trail back to the trailhead, so at the junction with Aubineau Trail and Waterline Road, we turned slightly left (north) and headed down the unnamed trail. This was an old road that had plenty of aspen trees. It is not nearly as picturesque as the first two miles of the Inner Basin Trail, but it was pretty enough and there were no other hikers.

On my AllTrails map, it is designated as NF-552. We arrived at Lockett Meadow, through an open gate, a couple of hundred feet north of the Inner Basin Trailhead. We found the Meadow essentially empty of cars and occupied campsites. It was a very strange feeling compared to the morning, when cars and people were everywhere. Thanks to Kevin for driving us and to Lin for organizing another fine weekend of hiking!

Distance: 11 miles.

Elevation Gain: 2687 feet.

Time: 6 hours.

Li, smiling. [photo by Tom]
Ken, smiling. [photo by Li]
Snack time for Tom. [photo by Li]
Kevin is taking a break. [photo by Li]
Inner Basin, from the top. [photo by Li]
Basin view, Ken and Kevin. [photo by Tom]
Li and Tom. [photo by Kevin]

Final Note from leader Lin

Wow, what an awesome weekend in the high country! We had a cold night and morning, but almost perfect weather during the daytime. The fall color was awesome, the company was the best. So happy to see some of you that I have not seen for a while. It was nice to see Nancy, whom I met few weeks ago, join us. It was nice to meet Gary, Les’s friend. We had a great weekend. Thanks for coming.

Thanks Li and Tom for helping to lead the longer and tougher hikes. I know I can always count on you. Thanks John, Nancy, Kevin, Les, our excellent drivers who drove us to the Inner Basin Trailhead. There are so many things I need to be thankful for, but most of all, I am thankful that we are safely back home, and no one got hurt.

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updated October 31, 2020