Sunday, June 6, 2021

Running around Humphries (FKT)

We're back in Flagstaff for a short time, which was perfect timing for a new FKT to pop up on the board.  Mikey recently created one called "Round Hump", 32 miles of circumnavigation around the San Francisco Peaks including the Arizona highpoint of Humphreys Peak.  It involves several trails that we hadn't seen yet but have been interested in running.  Perfect distance and a good time and place for a long-ish run at a solid pace.

John joined me for the first 9 miles up the Waterline Trail, a nice long day for him on a road that we've spotted from the top of O'Leary and other east Flagstaff locations.  We both carried our own supplies, but I definitely enjoyed his company so I gladly chose the "supported" version of the FKT for this go-round.

I don't usually carry this much weight for a supported adventure, 140 ounces of liquid and Spiz/snacks for 9 hours.  Happily I didn't need extra clothing to start, no lights, so I could pare down the pack weight to nothing extraneous.  Good training for a longer rogaine later this summer.

Starting at the bottom of the Weatherford trail at first light:


Looking down the road where we were headed, a short run before turning up onto Waterline:


A quick picture of the sign so I could read it later.  Once we started climbing the long, long and very gradual grade, I wondered out loud whether it had been a railroad once?  John recalled the name of the road and we immediately realized that the original purpose was to bring water from a mountain spring down to the town.  Well that makes sense.


The grade was helpful for my run/walk strategy.  My pinched nerve is stubbornly hanging on, but still only after I walk for a few minutes, so it's good motivation to start running again.

Beautiful dawn light on the Elden/Dry Hills area across the way:


Admiring the stone work in the drainage crossings, possibly with recent upgrades to prevent erosion:


Another view back the way we'd come from:


Looking ahead:


This is apparently a popular downhill bike ride, I could see that.

Shadow photo on the fly:


The tunnel, yay!  It was fun to surprise John with this one:


I made it!


Cool rock spires:


There are many new aspen growths after the fire from several years ago.  And the occasional tall old one - might be dead, maybe not?


We noticed a few worm webs, haven't seen those anywhere else lately:


I love the dramatic scenery:


And the patterns of the white aspens:


Catching back up to John after a quick pit stop:


I spotted a deer on the road up ahead so we stopped to watch it figure out where it wanted to go.  It took off directly up the steep hill and started bounding higher and higher.  We then wondered if it might be a young elk?  Possibly so, although we didn't see any parents or sign of a herd around.  Curious.

We noticed these signs off to the side in a couple places.  One had a small trail leading up to it, but this one didn't, and it seemed out of place.  John reported that it says "No motorized vehicles allowed"


John did a bit of trail work here and there, moving branches off the road and making it a clearer path.  Then he ran to catch up, keeping an overall pace that was similar to my run/walk strategy.  Most impressive, as I wasn't slowing to wait for him.  Well, except to take an occasional photo, of course:


I called this "Hell-O-Leary" (i.e. hello, O'Leary):


Starting to see more woods, older trees, and fewer burn areas:


Welcome to the forest:


Evidence of elk:


More evidence:


After many long innies and outies along the side of the mountain, we made a corner and finally started into the Inner Basin.  We also finally caught sight of Humphreys for the first time, although only briefly through the tall trees.  I wondered how much it would be visible to us today.

A failed attempt at a photo of the peak but I did get a bit of John:


John remarked that this would be a great place to run or bike in the fall when the aspens are turning colors:


Our first "people sightings", one hiker coming up from Lockett Meadow and two cyclists heading down the road, a convergence of sorts:


I finally managed something of a picture of Humphreys, I think...


There are a couple small structures at the intersection with the Inner Basin trail:


John making me laugh with his selfie pose:


Here we are:


John debated heading up the basin to Weatherford to return to Schultz Pass that way, but decided there was a bunch more trail work he wanted to do on the Waterline road instead (and that would involve a whole lot less additional uphill).  I continued on my FKT quest on the Bear Jaw/Abineau trail.  See you later, John!


More running/walking up the same gentle grade, more enjoyable shade.  I spotted a light tan medium-sized rather chunky, very furry animal scampering across the trail ahead of me.  It reminded me of maybe a badger?  I didn't see any sign of it as I passed that spot.  Cool!

Oh hey, there's the Bear Jaw trail dropping down to the right.  I pulled out the phone to verify that yes, this is my route:


As promised, it was rather rocky and kind of slow (for me) for the initial descent, then opened up to nice singletrack.  I took a short break on a log to stash my water bottle (switching to the bladder), finish a Spiz, and rearrange my supplies.  I'd managed slightly faster than 4 mph on the 12-mile uphill but gave back the cushion on the downhill, oddly enough.  Time to get moving with purpose again.

I almost zoomed through the next intersection trying to pass a couple hikers who were just getting up from a break, but had the presence of mind to check the phone again.  Oh right!  A second right turn, I'd forgotten about this one and it wasn't on my printed route description.  No time lost, happily.

Basically, never follow signs toward "Abineau", except the first one back at the Inner Basin.


Red dirt path heading toward the trailhead, and I'm getting better at taking photos on the run (or at least the walk):


Nice looking parking lot:


I ran down the trailhead access road and turned left onto 418.  This might be a view of Humphreys from the back side, I'm not completely certain:


The road run, where I was lucky to get passed by only one vehicle so I didn't have to avoid too much road dust.


501 feet  :)  I gave myself one shot at this, and was supremely happy that it worked out:


The AZT, yay!  I believe I came down here, back in one of my first runs in the Flagstaff area, the Stagecoach 100-miler in 2015.  I remember it being one of the highlights of the race, a long flowing switchbacked section of trail.  I didn't remember the stop sign at the road intersection:


It was an equally lovely climb, more walk/run combos on a smooth trail:


Most of the downhill mountain bikers were attentive and careful, and I was happy to get off the trail to let them pass.  Only a couple seemed to own the road and not even slow down.  It does look like a fun place to ride.

One intersection, partway up the trail where it starts to traverse various meadows:


Spring columbines, yay!


I believe that's Kendrick Peak in the distance, the other end of the Flagstaff Fearsome 4 route:


More excellent AZT singletrack:


The left turn up toward Snowbowl (bye and thank you, AZT!)


I'm familiar with this area from scouting and running the Fearsome 4.  Staying on trail this time involved going left on the Aspen Nature Loop toward the ski area:


The top of the short trail, right before it intersects with the Humphreys Peak trail at one of the ski lifts:


And the Humphreys trailhead - wow, it's crowded!  Good to see so many people getting outside on a gorgeous Saturday.


Info sign for the mountain:


I ran across to the Kachina trailhead, where this odd box is sitting there inviting curious looks.  Anyone know what this is?


Only a few miles left!  I've been wanting to run on the Kachina Trail for quite some time and was happy to be here.  I've heard that it's a bit challenging and slow, so I was glad to have made up some time on my arbitrary 8-hour goal pace.  For sure, this is not a trail to be impatient or in a hurry on.

Two reasons: Many little ups and downs (seemingly never ending).  And rock scrambles.

It starts out nicely enough, heading into the wilderness:


Most of the rocky sections are on the western end of the trail.  Very cool rock faces and little "pick your way" parts.  Quite entertaining, really.


A small cave-like overhang:


The eastern half of the trail is more runnable, but seems to go on forever.  Not a big deal if you have plenty of water, food, and time.  I thought I had all of that, plus music on my iPod.  Still got a bit impatient.

One more little climb:


One last fueling up - a treat from Vermont:


A nice view of Agassiz Peak, with Humphreys long gone behind it:


Happy to find the end of Kachina, yay!


I turned left up the last uphill section, then spotted some movement on the trail.  I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this horned toad since he sat so nicely for me.  If it had wings it could be a dragon:


Finally to the Weatherford intersection, and finally to the last 2 miles of wonderful downhill running.  Such a joy!

Still, I was also happy to be done!

I think I took this picture to remember how dusty I was, from head to arm to toe:


Thank you to Mikey for the fun FKT route!