Our original plan for Sunday, May 19, was to hike Humphreys Peak in Flagstaff, after Myron's tennis match. But wind and the thought of too cool temps at high altitudes made us change that plan. So, we headed south a few miles for the much warmer Village of Oak Creek, where we had a tasty lunch at Tara Thai, and I changed from jeans to shorts. We drove out Jacks Canyon Road and found a parking lot and trailheads for Jacks Canyon (#55) and Hot Loop (#94) trails that go into the Munds Mountain Wilderness of the Coconino National Forest.
The Hot Loop trail is 12.4 miles one way, and meets up with Jacks Canyon Trail (6.8 miles one way) to form a loop. That would NOT be a day hike, as a prominent sign warns. No cell phone service is available. Under "Emergencies," the sign says: DO NOT BE ONE! DO NOT PUT YOURSELF AND OTHERS AT RISK. I love that. It reinforces the whole concept of a "heads up hiker." The sign also reminds trail users to take a minimum of two gallons or water apiece for each day, overnight gear, and be prepared for a strenuous, difficult hike in extreme temperatures.
Since it already was middle of the afternoon, we hiked for maybe an hour-and-a-half and about 1.5 miles, the first part skirting a subdivision. We stopped at a small saddle, where, finding no unencumbered trees to string up our hammocks, and with gnats buzzing, we turned around instead of heading up to Horse Mesa, above Woods Canyon. Even though we were just short of the Wilderness Boundary, we still were treated to a splendid view. On the way back, some of the Red Rocks area's landmarks to the northwest were a feast for the eyes.
Most of the red dirt trail we walked goes through brushy terrain, with small pinon and juniper trees that have low-growing branches. It's not flat, but not a steep climb at that point. A turkey vulture soared around for awhile to check us out.
Again, take lots of water, and if you pack it in, pack it out.
Two special notes:
FIRE RESTRICTIONS began May 22 for entire Coconino National Forest. Fires, campfires, charcoal, coal and wood stoves are allowed in developed campgrounds only. The restrictions also limit smoking to within enclosed vehicles or buildings or in developed campgrounds. Using a device that is solely fueled by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and off is allowed in areas that are clear of flammable materials. Fire restrictions remain in effect until the forests receive significant precipitation.
GNATS are out. For me, these tiny critters have become worse than mosquitoes, as far as itchy, hard, lasting bumps. If you're prone to strong reactions to the anti-coagulant that gnats and mosquitoes release, repellant doesn't always do the job in preventing stings. But it helps. Apply liberally and often, especially when sweating heavily, like I did on the Hot Loop Trail. I got one bump while sitting at the tennis courts in Flagstaff, before using repellant, and two more on the trail.