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(May 12th - May 13th - Jacob Lake, Arizona)
crawled out of my tent in the crackling cold, and as I surveyed the
numerous snowdrifts scattered about, decided to walk Forest Road 610
for about 8 miles north to a point where the Arizona Trail intersected
it, rather than following the trail as it swung east towards the rim of
Marble Canyon. Looking off in the direction the trail took, the woods
looked crowded with snowdrifts. I had struggled last night staying on
the trail through the snowdrifts near the Park boundary. Hopefully the
dirt road would be easier to follow this morning.
This plan worked out well. FR 610 was quiet, empty of any traffic, and generally free of snow. By the time I rejoined the Trail, there was very little snow showing and I felt confident hopping back on the official route.
Again, the Trail served up a beautiful morning of hiking as it worked steadily north across the Kaibab Plateau. My favorite sections here were where the trail made its way through some of the gorgeous meadows that are scattered across the Plateau. One of the nicest such sections was a nearly 2 mile walk along the meadow in Upper Tater Canyon. I collected water there too, in a shallow pond fed by snowmelt and littered with all kinds of animal tracks.
Upper Tater Canyon on the Kaibab Plateau
After passing through more meadows in Pleasant Valley, Little Pleasant Valley, and Little Round Valley I came across a sign at Crane Lake which displayed a trail closure notice for the section of the Arizona Trail directly ahead. The sign explained that the closure was in effect for safety reasons. The next 8 miles of trail went through an area ravaged by the 2006 Warm Fire. Forest Service officials were concerned about the danger posed by the giant swath of dead trees left by the fire that now seemed ready to topple to the ground.
So, I took the second detour of the day, this time following the paved shoulder of Highway 67. Happily, traffic on the highway was pretty light since all of the facilities at the North Rim were still closed for the winter. They were not scheduled to open until May 15.
In the afternoon, dark clouds took over the sky and a cold wind picked up. I put on all my rain gear as cold rain and sleet began pelting the Plateau. I reached the end of the trail closure area well after sunset and gratefully walked off and away from the pavement into the woods to make camp. As dark gathered, it began to lightly snow.
Though I stayed dry and warm, it was a bit of a visual shock the next morning to find my camp blanketed with two or three inches of new snow. And what about following the trail in this snow? I certainly did not want to return to the pavement on Highway 67, so I decided to give the trail a try. Though covered with a layer of snow, the path along the trail presented a subtle, scooped groove that made it possible to follow. I lost the trail only a couple of times, quickly finding it again with help from the GPS.
Snow Camp on the Kaibab Plateau
By 11 o’clock, I reached Highway 89. Utah was a mere 28 miles away! I turned west though, and walked beside the highway for a couple of miles to the restaurant and motel at Jacob Lake. Here I cleaned up and enjoyed plenty of hot food. In the evening Jim joined me at the motel. Tomorrow I would load up with water at Jacob Lake and start the final leg of my journey to the Utah border.