If you are familiar with Arizona then you know that north of Payson you trade cacti for pine trees, your zoos and gardens for actual wild things and your monstrous monsoons for captivatingly theatrical thunderstorms. We encountered these wonderful treasures in the woodsy wilderness of the Mogollon Rim Cabin loop trail. This is a 26 mile loop which is formed by following a handful of different trails.
The starting trail, the Fred Haught trail, is also a part of the Arizona trail. We did the half loop which takes you along the half circle of the whole loop and cuts down the middle. Within the 1st 8.5 miles you encounter the 4 log cabins. We started at the Fred Haught trail-head with cabin number 1, General Springs cabin, continued past cabin number 2, Fred Haught cabin (not venturing off trail to visit it), on to cabin number 3, Pinchot cabin, and finally breaking camp at cabin number 4, Aspen Spring cabin.
This was all in the first day of 8.5 miles of hiking over mild ups and downs along a fairly active creek which trickled, pooled and played hide and seek at times. Though it was kinda flowing, our water filters felt the pressure of filtering water from a stream that was less than a foot deep in most areas.
We were extremely lucky to go on a weekend with a forecast of a high of 80 with scattered thunderstorms throughout the day. We thought that it was a risk given the nature of lightning, but were rewarded for our bravery with moderate rain which brought that 80 degrees temp to what felt like a cool mid 70’s throughout the last couple of miles of hiking on the first day. Then came the hail just as we reached cabin number 4, however, we felt rewarded here as well since we gained shelter and friends in fellow backpackers as we united under the leaking tin roof of log cabin number 4.
After the rain and hail stopped, we were able to set up our tents. We were also able to get a fire going by miraculously uncovering some precious dry wood (thanks Rach), getting it to light, and using that fire to dry off other not so dry wood. We had a cozy fire and a cloudy sky for the night.
The hike out continued the trend of the mild ups and downs through lush forestry and took us along dirt pebbled roads. For the final several miles we emerged along Rim Road which would take us back to cabin number 1 while giving us the scenic view of mountain ranges, valleys, and cliffs. It was hot and long, but we passed the time taking pics, singing songs and really taking in the beautiful scenery. The trip back totaled about 11 miles and we definitely felt it!
A few things to keep in mind
We encountered a lot of scat AKA animal poop on the trail which told us there were a lot of elk hanging out, some bears and at least 1 mountain lion. We were not lucky/unlucky enough to encounter any of these creatures, though our cabin 4 friends said they had seen some elk there earlier. We tend to consistently sing and talk which hurts our chances of running into anything other than squirrels and the like, and our scent and our 2 mascots (our dogs Bingley and Charlie) scent tends to be pretty deterring. I love nature and animals, but I don’t really need to feel the rush of surprising any territorial animals or having my dog get swiped by a mountain lion while we are hiking. So all in all, I was glad to have no run-ins.
This hike is advertised as moderate. I don’t know if it was the 40lbs on my back or the fact that it had been a few months since my last backpacking trip, but the small but consistent ups and downs were definitely felt!
Also as mentioned above, the water sitch proved a bit concerning since there was a lot of sediment from grabbing the water from a not so deep barely trickling creek. Next time I would skim water off of the top rather than dipping my whole bag into the stream. And “redundancy is key” was again proven true since I forgot the hose to my water filter, and was able to use my boyfriend’s Grayl (thanks Dexter) until we figured out can be replaced with a Camelbak hose (thanks Rach). I feel like I am always humbled and learn something new with each trip. Water continues to be a main concern, which is known, however it isn’t driven home until you find yourself rationing!