It’s been a weird year, right? I think everyone’s plans have been thrown askew this year, and my normal yearly backpacking trip was no different. This year I was ready to do a solo backpacking trip but events conspired against me and it just wasn’t going to work. I still felt like I need some time outdoors in the woods, so I decided to take off on a little car camping trip around Northern Az and just find a few cool things to do!
I headed out on Monday, up towards Flagstaff. I left Phoenix around 9am and made pretty good time out towards Mormon Lake about 20 miles Southish of Flagstaff. I was able to get a really nice campsite at the Dairy Spring Campground, it always helps to show up early afternoon on a Monday! I planned on being there a few days so I set up my big tent to have a nice basecamp, it was great to have all that room and be able to stand up inside the tent but it’s a lot more work to put up!
After I got my camp set up I headed out for a quick mountain bike ride, and man did the altitude kick my ass. The hills took it out of me and I just couldn’t get into a good rhythm. Really wasn’t enjoying myself, except for the excellent temps, so I headed back to camp. Still glad I went on this ride, I feel like it jump started my acclimation.
After getting back to camp I just chilled out the rest of the evening and enjoyed being outdoors. I was able to have a fire, and relax next to it enjoying a few beers. Dinner was a Mountain House Beef Stroganoff, one of my favorites and something nice and warm in the stomach because it got cold that night!
The next morning, after not the best night of sleep I’ve had in a tent, I woke up and lazed around camp for a bit while fixing breakfast. The goal for the day was to hike Mt Humphreys, the tallest peak in Az, and I want to get going at decent time. I grabbed my gear and headed towards the mountain!
The trailhead is at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area base. There were a decent amount of cars in the parking lot, lots of people getting in one of a few cool hikes around there. You see some people for the first mile or so, and after that it’s a lot of walking alone in the woods, which was pretty peaceful.
My favorite part begins once you go above treeline and get to the saddle between the peaks. From there you really feel like you’re up in the mountains as you climb the ridge towards the summit. If you do this hike always remember that the mountain tries to fool you with a few false summits. After a bit of hanging out and taking some pics on top it’s time to head down. Once your back below treeline the hike starts to kind of wear on and on and I’m usually ready to just be back to the truck! Overall it’s a cool hike that puts you at the highest point in AZ with some great views.
After my hike I headed back out to the campsite for another evening of relaxing by my fire and a few beers. This night it felt really cold, I’m willing to admit that I’ve become a wimp to the cold after 20 years in Phoenix, but it was a cold night all around, even wrapped up in the sleeping bag.
The next morning I decided to move on to places more warm. I’d never seen Horseshoe Bend and wanted to look into a little paddling on the Colorado River.
It was about a 2.5 hour drive over to Horseshoe Bend, and while it’s kind of touristy and more of a stroll over to the edge of the canyon, it is a really cool and beautiful thing to see. I took some pics and looked around, at one point I could see kayakers on the river below, that really cemented my desire to see the Bend from the river as well! So, after taking in the sights I got back in the truck and headed over to Lee’s Ferry about an hour away.
Lee’s Ferry is in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and very near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, all places with some really cool stuff! It is also the spot where rafting trips start down the Colorado, if you pass Lee’s Ferry you’re committed at least a 2 week river trip and need a hard to get permit.
Pretty nice campground there, no problem getting a spot around 3pm, but it did fill up as the evening went on. Great views of the surrounding cliffs as the sun set. The coolest campsites seemed to be at the far low end, where they looked over the Colorado River.
After getting set up I reserved my spot to get hauled up the river and rented a kayak from Kayak the Colorado for the next day. Got to hang out on the small beach area next to the river for a while, it was an overall beautiful night outdoors!
My kayak reservation the next day wasn’t until 12:30, so I took my time at camp in the morning, reorganized things in the truck and slowly packed up. Still having time to kill, I took a little drive around the general vicinity, lots of really cool cliffs and rock formations, and finally headed towards the put in area.
The paddle down the river was super cool, it’s completely flat water, you can pretty much just float if you’d like. I started off about 10 miles up river from Lee’s Ferry, there’s some really cool ancient petroglyphs to see (unfortunately some jerk named Trent felt the need to add his name).
I got to see Horseshoe Bend from the top and the river and the whole paddle was awesome, with the canyon walls soaring right out of the water to hundreds of feet above you! Took one off river hike up a canyon, it had some really cool rock formations but the walking in the deep soft sand was not my favorite.
It took me about 3.5 hours to do the paddle, I’d love to go all the way to the dam and paddle back, there are a few spots that are designated campsites, it would be awesome to spend a night on the river!
After returning my kayak it was time to head home to Phoenix, it was a great time overall and I got to see somethings I never had, it wasn’t the trip I thought I’d have this summer, but this year you take what you can get!
Upper and Middle Blue Lakes – Colorado