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Schultz Creek Loop
Flagstaff, AZ
July 19, 2014
by Jim Buyens

The objective of this hike was to navigate the Rocky Ridge, Brookbank, Sunset, and Schultz Creek trails in a loop without getting lost.

Don’t laugh. The previous year I tried the same route in a clockwise direction, only to find an unmarked intersection along the Brookbank trail. And of course, after serious consultation with the group’s brain trust, we’d chosen the wrong fork and followed the unmarked Little Gnarly trail back to the Schultz Tank. No serious harm, we just had a couple of extra miles to hike, but the experience left me determined to try again and get it right. Diabolically, this year we’d do it counterclockwise and see if that did the trick.

Jim, Linda, Rudy (aka Rodin's Thinker), Darren, Quy, Gary, Molly, and Heather ready for adventure.

The repeat almost began tragically. Someone had told me the Rocky Ridge trail was on the opposite end of the trailhead from the Schultz Creek, and sure enough there was a trail there, except that it was unmarked. But there was a visible sign a couple hundred yards down the trail, and so we proceeded to see what it said.

Well, it didn’t say that was the Rocky Ridge Trail. Then again, it didn’t say it was any other trail, either. And so we played the old navigator’s trick and waited for someone else to come along. And they did and it wasn’t. And so we headed back to the trailhead, asked around, and found that the two trails began within ten feet of each other. Yup, there it was, Rocky Ridge Trail, nice new sign not fifteen feet from where we’d taken the group photo. And thus embolden by our resiliency and resourcefulness, we started the hike for real.

The early going on the Rocky Ridge trail was fairly easy.
And yes, it was in fact a bit rocky in places. [photo by Quy]
A horned toad tales little notice of our passing.
Linda, Heather, Molly, Darren, and Rudy negotiate a gentle climb on the Rocky Ridge trail.

The Rocky Ridge Trail runs generally east and west for about 2.8 miles. It features a mixture of open and wooded terrains, with a moderate but generally upward ascent as we hiked west to east. The trail was a little rocky in places but what Arizona trail isn’t?

At the end of the Rocky Ridge trail we faced a choice between the Upper Oldham and Brookbank trails, but that intersection was clearly marked and we knew we didn’t want the Upper Oldham. Easy peasy.

The intersection of the Brookbank and Little Gnarly trails was a snap as well. It was still unmarked, but I remember the wrong direction very well. And thus inspired, we continued climbing up the Brookbank trail.

Rudy seems ready to impart to some of his folksy wisdom.

In one sense the climb was a little difficult: 1050 feet in 3.4 miles. We’d already been hiking a while, though, and it was close to lunchtime. Somehow, though, it didn’t seem right to stop just a few hundred feet from the high point of the day, and so I kept urging everyone forward with promises of how great the summit was going to be.

The summit, though, was more of an ordinary spot along a ridge than an awe-inspiring mountain top. I must have been thinking of somewhere else. Everyone was still glad to stop and rest though, so it wasn’t all bad. A couple of side trails might’ve led to lookout points but no one felt like trying them.

This view of the San Francisco Peaks was from our maximum elevation,
where the Brookbank trail met the Sunset. [photo by Quy]
After climbing the Brookbank trail we paused here for lunch.
The seats, as usual, were hard. [photo by Quy]
Heather takes a break along the trail.
Linda and Heather while away the miles. [photo by Quy]
Here I am overlooking the event.
Rudy stops to check for acquaintances.
[photo by Quy]
Could that be a lightning bug?
[photo by Quy]

The Sunset trail was all downhill as we took it, from south to north, and that was fine. The Sunset Trail meets the Schultz Creek Trail at, as you might suspect, the Schultz Creek Trailhead, which we reached without incident.

The Schultz Tank trailhead features this small pond (or should I say mud hole?) [photo by Quy]
Horse riders from the Little Eldon Springs horse camp.

After a brief rest we continued on the Schultz Creek Trail back to the trailhead and the end of our journey. The trail runs generally parallel to its namesake creek with undulations and water crossings but no major climbs or descents. There wasn’t much water in the creek but there’s been enough recently to produce some nice greenery and wildflowers. There weren’t many butterflies but I suspect it may have been a bit early in the season for that.

I'm not sure what this is but it seems to like flowers,
[photo by Quy]
This one too!
[photo by Quy]
No, that fallen tree wasn't my doing.
I was a bit worn out by then.
Gary pauses along the Schultz Tank trail. [photo by Quy]
An ugly insect gathers nectar
from a beautiful flower[photo by Quy]
Nature abounds when
there's water nearby. [photo by Quy]
Rudy and Linda on the home stretch.
The long shadows are from finishing late in the afternoon. [photo by Quy]

After the hike we headed into Flagstaff for some rest and recuperation at Plaza Bonita, a Mexican restaurant just across the street from Target on Milton St. Unlike its sister place in Cottonwood, this one was pretty ordinary but it still served its purpose of friendship, conversation, and camaraderie.

Relaxing at Plaza Bonita's in Flagstaff. [photo by Quy]

The drive back to Phoenix was uneventful except for some mile rainfall along the way. Everyone enjoyed the day, though, and I’d certainly do this hike again even though I didn’t get lost this time. Perhaps this is the beginnings of a streak!

Hike Statistics
Total Distance:12.9 mi
Moving Time:4:44
Stopped Time:2:16
Avg. Speed Moving:2.7 mph
Avg. Speed Overall:1.8 mph
Starting Elevation:7014 ft
Maximum Elevation:8758 ft
Total Ascent:1681 ft
Starting Time:9:22 AM
Finishing Time:4:22 PM
Starting Temperature:75°
Finishing Temperature: 72°
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated September 1, 2014