Playing Above The Rim (Mogollon)

Not all those who wander are lost!
JRR Tolkien

This time of year when the NBA playoffs are in full swing we think of a rim as one attached to a backboard. Not necessarily!

In Phoenix, many think of a rim as a Mogollon. The Mogollon Rim marks the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona and stretches 200 miles from the southwest of Flagstaff to the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. The name Mogollon comes from Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón, Spanish Governor of New Mexico from 1712-1715. The average elevation is about 7000 feet, and is known for its stands of Ponderosa pine, which comprise the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the United States. It can easily be accessed within a 2 hour drive from Phoenix.

A few years ago while stopping on a back road for a 100 mile sweeping view, I came across a retired couple from Massachusetts who were mesmerized by the brilliant hue of purple as the sunlight was fading. While chatting with them, one commented "Isn't the Grand Canyon beautiful?"
Yes it is!!

But so is the Mogollon Rim.

Our backpacking group of four consisted of Hannu legend, Larry the Mountain Man, Dingo Dog and El Lobo.

Hannu is from Finland and is a world class orienteer. His navigation skills and speed on the trails are legendary. Hannu walks faster than most people run and he does not stop for anything. He has been slowed by 2 knee operations but still maintains a torrid pace.

Larry spent many years in Alaska and has climbed two faces of Denali. He used to jog in -50 temps and employed the use of 3 socks. I will let you guess where he put the third.

Dingo is a solid outdoorsman, loves to get out and explore, particularly the canyons of the southwest. He has worn the same "Red Dirt" t-shirt a record 823 times!!

We chose to do the relatively easy 22 mile historic cabin loop, following historic trails and featuring historic cabins and incredible views from the rim. The trail is the link between the earliest fire guard cabin network in this area of the rim and has its roots in the beginning of the Forest Service era there.

I had not backpacked for over a year and my soul was in desperate need of the Wilderness. My job as an adventure guide and other outdoor activities had taken me from my passion. Backpacking to me, is pure and spiritual. I love the required efficiencies, and opportunities to travel where few go. It is also a great work out. For me, this is an unbeatable combination.

Our "pack" started at the General Springs Cabin. We followed the Fred Haught Trail for six miles to the Pinchot Cabin where we pitched our tents in a gorgeous meadow.
It had snowed here last week and water was abundant in all the drainages. There were also a number of springs and perennial water sources.
The Cabin Trail passed through some of the most spectacular country that I have seen in Arizona. I had to pinch myself to believe that I was not hiking in the Rockies or my beloved Sierras, less the mosquitos.

Arizona is extremely diverse. Here we have every eco system from Mexico to Canada. You can enjoy the great outdoors all year round. In the summer you go to the mountains and in the winter you spend your time in the Sonoran Desert.

Normally, I do not build a fire when backpacking, but the camaraderie of the group, the in place fire pits and the 40 degree night time temps changed my thinking.

Larry served hors d"ouevres of salmon and cheese and elk bologna. He also brought a flask of Bushmills. Dingo brought a bottle of high grade sipping tequila and served with lime and salt. Hannu chipped in with Absolut Vodka and Lobo ponied up a fine bottle of Cabernet. We decided to save the vodka and vino for day two camp.
Around the fire, the stories grew, like the size of a fish that the man claims broke his reel.
The exchange was deeply philosophical, similar to the dialogue of the young boys in the camp fire scene in the movie Stand By Me:

GORDIE: alright. Mickey's a mouse. Donald's a duck. Pluto's a dog. What's Goofy?
TEDDY: Goofy's a dog, he's definitely a dog.

GORDIE: I knew the sixty-four thousand dollars question was fixed. There's no way anybody can know that much about opera.

CHRIS: He can't be a dog. Wears a hat and drives a car.

GORDIE: Wagon Train's a really cool show. But did you ever notice that they never get anywhere? They just keep wagon training.

VERN: God, that's weird. What the hell is Goofy?


HANNU: In Finland everyone goes naked in the sauna. I'm telling you guys, a Finnish sauna is so hot you can not get an erection in there even if a good looking woman comes in there.

LOBO: BS Hannu!! I guarantee you I could if Pam Anderson came in there naked!!

HANNU: Hey guy, no you couldn't!!!


DINGO: Does anyone know the high and low temperatures where an erection is not possible?

LARRY: I think that the low is -50.


The following day we hiked ten miles on vague and confusing trails. Hannu had his map and compass. Larry had his GPS. Man against machine. The best of both worlds was necessary to stay on track. Whenever we would lose the trail Hannu would scowl "percolay." I think "percolay" is something bad in Finn.

That night we camped in a beautiful bright green meadow in Barbershop Canyon. A fire was built, wine and vodka flowed and the stories grew larger like the tale by the time its been told by more than one.GORDIE: Wagon Train's a really cool show. But did you ever notice that they never get anywhere? They just keep wagon training.

VERN: God, that's weird. What the hell is Goofy?

The next morning we packed up early and had an easy six miles to close the loop. On the rim, Hannu picked up a satellite signal on his Blackberry and Larry and I anxiously asked him to get on the Net and check out the score of the Celtics/Pistons playoff game. Our blood flows green and this had to be one hell of a backpack for us to miss this game.
Hannu announced the score-89-81. But who won?? Who won!?? Hannu was either messing with us or not. I considered going for his throat just before he proclaimed-Lakers-Celtics in the finals!! Music to our ears. The Celts also had played above the rim.

Still Runnin' Against the Wind


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