Location : Barnhardt Trailhead (NOBO Mile Marker 717 )
Weather: Clear skies, starting temperature 61 degrees, cool throughout the day.
Total Mileage Completed : 10.8 miles on AZT (10.2 Barnhardt Approach Trail) Total 21
Back to the Barnhardt Trail, I said to Tom as we drove up Highway 87. At least this time there would be no scary Peeley Trailhead road. We had done this approach trail once before on Hike #79 and I was so looking forward to the return.
The hike itself was now pretty typical of the Matazals. Up and down elevation, rocky rough trail and thorny bushes. Fortunately the day was cool and the views were nice. The Matazal Wilderness / Mountains do have some of the most amazing views on the AZT. Nowhere else can you look into Phoenix, Flagstaff and Four Peaks unless you were flying in an airplane. This fact itself makes the hike worth it. I would say if you were to only hike into the Matazals once, this hike should be it. Nice easy drive to the trailhead, awesome Canyon Hike with climbs on the Barnhardt trail and once upon the AZT, you will catch some spectacular 360 degree views.
Made the turn (mile marker 411.6) at the Bear Spring connections. Bear Spring was a little bit of a disappointment. If you need water, head down there. Otherwise it was an unnecessary 1.5 mile add on.
So….. word of caution. On the return hike through the Barnhardt trail, we were clipping along at a good downhill pace of maybe 3.2mph. Tom, hike in front of me, caught his foot on an exposed root and it launched him off the side of a trail drop off. Like literally, he was there one minute and then diving like into a pool off the side of a 500 foot drop. I seriously though he was a goner and as I ran up to the spot of the trail he leap from, to my surprise, he was caught in a large bush not 1 foot off trail and 2 feet from the rock cliff. I grab his trekking polls and by the grace of God pulled him back on trail. I have no idea how he did not keep tumbling down to his death but somehow that bush caught him. Just a word to the wise. trail hiking can be dangerous. When you hike so many miles, it’s easy to loose focus. On tight winding dropoff trails, hike to the inside and watch every step…… please. Tomcat the Great, by the hands of God was aloud to hike another day.