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AZT in a Day, Happy Jack
Happy Jack
October 10, 2020
by David French
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  Elevation 
group
Trailblazers at the midway point. [photo by Dave]
Dave, Apoorva, Tom, Li, Dwight, Carol, Kevin, Michael

This was the third annual AZT in a Day event, held each year to try to get a group or person to hike on every section of the AZT. This year, several sections of the AZT were closed to hiking due to wildfires earlier in the summer. I selected a portion of Passage 28, Happy Jack, because I had not hiked this portion previously. The AZT recently realigned a large portion of this passage onto a new single track and off old forest service roads.

I chose Section 57, Gonzales Tank to Bargaman Park, 8.4 miles. Access to the trailhead was expected to be an issue, so Dwight and I drove FR 93 several weeks ago and indeed found that the last 2.5 miles to FR 93 were not passable in my Subaru. So we added that 2.5 or so miles to the length of the hike and announced it as about 11 miles, which turned out to be correct.

We met at FR 93, just off Lake Mary Road, at 8:30 AM on a bright sunny but cool day with overnight temperatures in the 30s but in the 50s by the time we started the hike. Eight of the 10 expected hikers showed up on time, and we proceeded to divide into two groups of four. We selected four vehicles to drive to the trailheads and swapped vehicles, so that hiker’s vehicles would be there at the end of the hike. Four of us proceeded in two vehicles north on Lake Mary Road to FR 294 and drove 5 miles eastward to the trailhead near Bargaman Park. This is the southbound group that I led.

group
Dave, Tom, Li, Kevin. [photo by Dave]
hikers
Kevin, Li, and Tom are good hiking companions. [photo by Dave]
leaves
Ah, the autumn leaves! [photo by Dave]
hikers
Li, Tom, and Kevin amid the trees. [photo by Dave]

Dwight led a group of four in two vehicles on FR 93 as far as they dared, and then parked off the road. This is the northbound group. They hiked about 2.5 miles on FR 93 and 9364J, past Gonzales Tank to the AZT, and then proceeded northward on the trail.

group
Michael, Dwight, Apoorva, Carol. [photo by Dwight]
hikers
Stepping through the gate. [photo by Dwight]
moon
By the light of the slivery moon. [photo by Dwight]
leaves leaves
Autumn leaves. [photos by Dwight]

The two groups met at about the midway point near noon and stopped for a lunch break and a group photo. We then proceeded in our respective directions and then reconvened on FR 93 just off Lake Mary Road. The hike took about 4.5 hours and was 11 miles in length. The southbound hikers dropped about 1050 feet and gained 500 feet. Obviously, the northbound hikers did the opposite. The elevation range was 6903' to 7466'.

burn
They’ve had a fire. [photo by Li]
leaves
Autumn leaves. [photo by Li]
Tom
Tom. [photo by Li]

The hike was along a new single-track trail. The northern portion was through a more mature pine/Gamble Oak forest. We did hike through some burn areas, and the middle section where the two groups met was more pinon pine and juniper.

sign
This must be the Arizona Trail. [photo by Dave]
sign
They’ve got a tank named after me. [photo by Dave]
pond
Water your livestock at Dave’s Tank. [photo by Dave]

Since it is October and hunting season, we did hear several rifle shots in the distance and the southbound group did encounter a large group of hunters in two large ATVs on FR 93, getting ready to take off. One of the northbound hikers got a glimpse of a deer near Gonzales Tank.

Prior to the hike, Dave drove south from Munds Park on Lake Mary Road and encountered an early morning delay caused by a huge herd of cattle crossing the road and shepherded by about a dozen cowboys. On the way out on FR 93, again we encountered an unattended herd near and crossing the road. I guess the ranchers are trying to round up their cattle before the hunters get to them.

cattle
Cowboys and cattle crossing the road. [photo by Dave]
cattle
No cowboys in sight. [photo by Dave]

All in all, it was a very nice day with great weather (although we desperately need rain). We welcome Apoorva, an Electrical Engineering student at ASU. He is from India, and this was his first hike in Arizona.

hikers
Dwight and Apoorva. [photo by Li]
hikers
See, it’s like this. [photo by Li]
beer
Congratulations on a job well done! [photo by Tom]

By the way, the couple that was supposed to join us on the hike did not recognize Lake Mary Road just past Clint’s well on SR 87 and were about an hour late arriving. By text I directed them to the northern trailhead on FR 294 so they could hike south and perhaps catch us or at least meet the northbound hikers. They arrived at the trailhead and Dwight took a photo of their vehicle, but never encountered them on the trail. I got a phone call from them later that evening and cannot explain how they failed to meet the northbound hikers.

→   More pictures, by Li and Tom
→   More pictures, by Dwight
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated October 12, 2020