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(May 9th - Coconino Rim, Arizona)
After a rest day in Flagstaff I was back on the trail heading north from the Moqui Stage Station. The terrain remained moderate and offered easy walking, and as the trail slowly gained elevation a thick forest of pine trees and junipers took hold.
After lunch the trail abruptly swung west as it skirted the top of the Coconino Rim, a two or three hundred foot high escarpment that fell off to the northeast. Walking this rim, it was very exciting to catch glimpses through the trees of the upper rim of the Little Colorado Gorge and the Grand Canyon itself. Utah was getting closer!
Late in the afternoon, the Grandview Lookout (not to be confused with Grandview Point on the South Rim) came into view, towering above the trees. A classic steel lookout tower at about 80 feet tall, Grandview was built back in 1936 and has been in service ever since. A small residential cabin was built nearby to house the fire lookouts.
A hand written sign near the lookout declared “Hiker Friendly” and another sign gave permission for visitors to climb the steep stairs which scaled the tower. The tower was rattling a little bit in the stiff wind that was blowing, but I started up the stairs looking forward to the expansive views that surely were available near the top of the tower. About half way up, I heard a voice yelling in the wind “Come on in, come on in!” Looking up, I saw a friendly smile and the waving arm of the fire lookout, who had opened the small hatch in the floor of the “cab” to call out to me.
Roger, the fire lookout, guided me up the last few very steep steps into the cab, and I spent the next hour enjoying Roger and his wife Kathy’s friendly hospitality. Roger pointed out dozens of landmarks easily visible from his high perch, including the Grand Canyon to the north, and a smudge of smoke rising from a prescribed burn to the south, as well as the tower instruments and various tools of his trade. He told me about the Arizona Trail thru hikers who had stopped by the tower over the past few weeks. Once the entire tower shuddered in the wind and Roger commented, “That happens when ever a gust over 40 miles per hour hits.” Spying Kathy walking near the cabin far below, he grabbed a walkie-talkie and informed her that they had a guest and that I would be down soon to visit her at the cabin.
In The Lookout
Down at the cabin Kathy offered me a chance to fill my water bladders and then produced a tin of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Roger joined us a few minutes later, and as Kathy and Roger sat down for their evening meal and I munched on cookies, we chatted and talked about what had brought all of us to this steel tower in the middle of the trees. A wonderful visit!
Leaving Roger and Kathy just before sunset, I walked a few miles west along the trail into the woods. In a small meadow I startled a group of grazing elk and decided to make camp there. I fell to sleep dreaming of the Grand Canyon.