April 27, 2012

Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff was our “chill out” place. We’d seen so many national parks and monuments and visited two large cities in two weeks’ time, we needed a place to park the trailer and just do nothing for a bit. We also needed a place to plug in the trailer and charge everything back up, as we’d been living off the grid for 5 nights straight. We picked Flagstaff because it was on the way to the Grand Canyon, and offered some decent hiking/biking opportunities.

We parked ourselves at the Woody Mountain RV park, just west of the city, on historic Route 66. We wasted the rest of the day watching more Weeds and laying around. (And doctors, and lawyers, and business executives, all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same…) Wednesday we pulled out our mountain bikes and went to explore the FUTS, the Flagstaff Urban Trail System.
Flagstaff has 50 miles of urban trails that wind their way all over town. The trails are a mixture of paved, unpaved (gravel), and dirt single track, as well as bike lanes on the city roads. They have a goal to add 30 more miles in the near future, which seems like a great goal…but Flagstaff was so tiny, I’m not sure where they will stick all these new trails.

FUTS trailhead at Buffalo Park
We biked to the visitor’s center from the RV park, got a good map, then biked to the Buffalo Park (on the northeast extremity of town), and then hit the trails back towards our home, going through two more urban parks on the way back. There is a section of Mars Trail, just north of the Lowell Observatory (where Pluto was discovered!), that is so steep that I had to get off the bike and walk up the hill. Sky had no problem. :o) Flagstaff takes their sky viewing pretty seriously...they are the first International Dark Sky City!

Biking near the Lowell Observatory
Thursday we had the freak snow, where we altered between heavy rain and heavy snow pretty much all day. Thursday turned into another movie watching/book reading day. I might have even completed a puzzle…

Unexpected snow in Arizona
Friday we packed everything up, with hopes of hiking to Humphrey’s Peak (the tallest peak in Arizona), and then hitting the road towards Grand Canyon. We drove to the trail head, and realized that there was no way we were going to be able to do it with my running shoes. The trailhead is at over 9,000 feet elevation, and there the snow had not even begun to melt. So, we turned back around, and headed to Flagstaff to finally purchase me some decent hiking shoes. After picking up a great pair (for under $30!..huge sale), we grabbed some lunch at an awesome Greek restaurant called the Greek Islands. For less than $7 you can get a HUGE gyro with loads of meat, feta cheese, and all the fixings and a boat load of fries. We then rounded out the day by hiking with the pups on more urban trails through the Northern Arizona University campus.

We decided to give Humphrey’s Peak another go in the morning, so we parked the trailer for the night at a dispersed camping spot just off highway 180, on road 222 in the Coconino National Forest. In case you’re interested, to get there, head out of Flagstaff on highway 180 north, go 7 miles. There you will pass the turn off for the Arizona Snowbowl ski area on your right. Just over half a mile further down hwy 180, you will see road 222 on your left. This is a dirt road that heads into the forest, and has wide turn offs where you can park your trailer or camp for free.

Road 222 in Coconino National Forest
Our campsite off of road 222
 Of course there are no amenities here to speak of, but it sure is peaceful.

Dusk at our campsite
See more pictures of Flagstaff here.

Happy back woods camping,


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