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Saddle Mountain Day Hike
Mazatzal Mtn
October 7, 2023
by Tamar Gottfried
     GPS Map    
by Tamar

Nine ambitious Trailblazers met in Fountain Hills and caravaned to the Cross F trailhead in the Mazatzals on a clear Saturday morning. Although we had been planning this hike for a few weeks, it turned out to be one of the segments of the Arizona Trail in a Day event, so we signed up to join the event. This is sponsored by the Arizona Trail Association and attempts to have every segment of the 800 + mile Arizona Trail hiked or biked on one day in October. This event may have to be pushed forward later in Fall in the future as it was still quite warm that day, probably even warmer where the Arizona Trail starts near the Mexican border.

The sun rises as we start. {photo by Cindy}
There are trees on this trail. {photo by Li}

We hiked the first bit to the official junction with the Arizona Trail and continued toward Saddle Mountain. This was the absolute driest we had ever seen this trail. The last time we hiked here, there was mud so thick that it stuck to boots and impeded our progress. Where there have usually been rolling streams and small waterfalls, we only had a few unimpressive stream crossings for the first 1/3 of the hike.

Az Trail
We are at the Arizona Trail. {photo by Michael}
Though the gate we go. {photo by Li}
This is why you need to close all gates. {photo by Li}

We went up hills, through washes and up to the higher ground with panoramic views of the desert meadows and all the way to Mount Ord. Finally we reached the saddle and decided to hike almost to the Mormon Grove trailhead another ½ mile off the Arizona Trail to complete the segment. We stopped for a break above the trailhead, and 4 members of our group, feeling hot and not wanting to retrace our steps back, decided to follow the forest roads back to our starting point, hopefully cutting 2 miles off the hike.

Hills and washes. {photo by Li}
Tree left by the fire. {photo by Cindy}
Trail to Mormon Grove trailhead. {photo by Li}

The rest of us started back, feeling the heat more especially on the few climbs left on the trail which felt much longer than they actually were. We reached the trailhead and found 2 of the other group waiting (but not for that long) and the other two hitched a ride back and arrived soon after. Turns out the "shortcut" wasn't that much shorter and not as scenic either.

Ron at the trail junction. {photo by Cindy}
After the fire what is left of Mormon Grove trailhead. {photo by Li}

We reassembled our carpools and headed back to town, grateful for cool drinks and air conditioned cars even on the first week of October at 5000ft elevation. We were happy to be included as well in the Arizona Trail event as we incorporate that Trail into many of our Arizona hikes.

Mormon Grove trailhead. {photo by Cindy}
Prickly pear fruit. {photo by Li}

Note: these links are temporary. Look at the pictures while you can.

→   More pictures, by Li
→   More pictures, by Cindy
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona updated December 2, 2023
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