May 30, 2020

Mogollon Rim: Happy Mormon

Mike was putting the wraps on a week of camping with his family up north when I asked if he wanted to ride a section of the Arizona Trail. As luck would have it, they would be heading back south the day I'd be heading north, so we arranged a meetup at the Horse Lake trailhead on the north side of Mormon Lake. We'd leave my car there and Mike's wife would then drop the two of us off down near the Blue Ridge Ranger Station on their way home. We would then ride back to my car along the AZT knocking out the entire Happy Jack & Mormon Lake passages, about 50 miles or so.

Mike was out exploring some of the Anderson Mesa passage when I arrived. We soon packed up the van and were on our way south.
Not many AZT signs like this. Photo by Mike.
After all our shuttle logistics were worked out, we pushed out of the trailhead a few minutes after 9a.
Start of the Happy Jack passage.
The trail immediately crosses AZ87 and there are two large AZT super gates on each side of the road. I mentioned to Mike that there were a lot of gates on this section of trail, so we began to tally Spanish, for fun. Uno, dos...

This was Mike's first time riding both Happy Jack & Mormon Lake passages. He's really racking up the AZT 'ridden' miles.

The first few miles are generally downhill and fly by.

Before we knew it, we had reached the new re-routed portion. This photo shows the old 'rugged' jeep road the AZT used to follow. Ugh.
I don't know what number gate this is, but they were adding up quick!! Photo by Mike.
Nearing Homestead Tank.
So much better than the chunky jeep road!! Photo by Mike.
Most of the route hovered between 7,000' & 7,500' elevation.

I'd love to know the history behind the name here: Foot in Tree Tank.
Hedgehog bouquet. Photo by Mike.
The forest floor was just beginning to turn green.

Don't worry, there are still rocks to dodge on Happy Jack!!

What's this? Another AZT mobile sighting? The trail crew was out cutting dead fall from the trail. Thank you!! This was a good place for a snack break.

Moments after this photo, while filtering water, a wind gust knocked my bike over & broke my GPS mount!! Gah!!

Looks like a great place for a nap.

'Hello! Ma Baby, Hello! Ma Darling, Hello! Ma Ragtime Gal!!'
Bargaman Park Tank. Photo by Mike.
There was some chunky legacy Happy Jack trail after Bargaman Park, but things smoothed out quickly. Photo by Mike.
Much of the trail here gives you that remote feel.

Shuffs Tank. This was the last section of the Happy Jack singletrack project to be built, my first time on it and it was fantastic!!
Coming around the south end of Shuffs Tank. Photo by Mike.
Lots of great trail up here.

I really believe the stigma associated with the Happy Jack segment will shift to the positive side.

Tally up another gate...

The route winds around a couple of large boulders as it nears Gooseberry Spring trailhead.
Land of the ferns. Photo by Mike.
More buffed out singletrack into Gooseberry Springs, then across Lake Mary Rd. to the Mormon Lake Passage.

Closing in on Flagstaff!!
I forgot how good the first few miles of trail were after crossing Lake Mary Rd. It seemed the next 5 miles flew by, but I knew the rocks were coming.

Plenty of water up here near Allan Lake Landing.

It was on the warm side by afternoon, so we took the side trip down the Navajo Spring trail to see if water was flowing...

We were in luck!! Cold clear water right from a hillside tap.

It's only 0.1 mile off the AZT. You can also continue down the trail another mile for resupply at Mormon Lake.

There's an old railroad grade the AZT uses, these information plaques tell an interesting story.

Hard to imagine a railroad cutting through here so many decades ago.

The reminders are seen every so often.

The rocks return!!

Mike giving this tough switchback a solid attempt.

Nearing the north end of Mormon Lake.

The rocks relent as the trail reaches Double Spring CG. Water is available in the mineral rich stream or campground when turned on, it was off today due to the campground being closed to the public.

Smokey the Bear welcomes you to the Coconino Nat'l Forest.

Holding another gate open.

Riding northbound, the railroad grade is slightly downhill.

The old rail line, that's the AZT to the right of the frame.

Maybe it was a good thing the railroad was built, removed all the nearby rocks for the track bed!!

Golden Hour near the end of the ride.

I think Mike is enjoying it out here.

Our first good glimpse of Humphreys Peak. Mature trees now grow in the middle of the rail bed.

Mike putting the wraps on the final miles as we finish up at Horse Lake trailhead.

Sunset grab at the Mormon Lake overlook on our drive home.
Really glad the logistics worked out for this one. It's a wonderful ride, 100% singletrack, and typically a good summer ride when Phoenix is baking. Great to spend trail time with Mike too as he's often juggling family responsibilities like a good Dad/husband. Cool to see him tick off another 51 miles of AZT terrain. Until next time, ride on.

So, how many gates were on this section?? Treinta y uno. (31)!!