Mile 549, the Coconino Plateau

Out of Flag via the southbound urban AZT which runs just a mile east of the Grand Canyon Hostel.

The hostel itself is an old and rickety but clean building. The manager claims it was a brothel in former times, but that is probably true of most old residential buildings in central Flagstaff.

I believe it was Ed Abbey who said that the women in Flagstaff were so homely that even a cowboy could get laid there. That sounds like the Flagstaff of my youth, a beat-down trucker/cowboy/logging town.

But it now is a university town, and the men are far more likely to sport man-buns and handlebar mustaches than cowboy hats.

There were two breweries on the same block as my hostel, and six within a half mile radius. They varied in quality, but the Historic and Flagstaff breweries would hold their own with the best Colorado breweries.

The town has transformed itself, but has kept much of its Route 66 ambiance. Three neon motel signs are mounted on towers over downtown, having apparently escaped being torn down as the eyesores they objectively are. Jerry Garcia once observed that the Grateful Dead were much like old whores and bad architecture- they had stuck around long enough to become respectable. The motel signs are apparently now respectable.

Stopped in for breakfast at the Grand Canyon Cafe, which I am pretty sure my family ate at in the 60s. It now features several taps of local craft brews, and the only other patron at the counter was clutching a stout. He was obviously a man after my own heart and we struck up a conversation – he is a baker at the cafe and had just finished his shift, and thus a beer at 6AM was totally appropriate (not that beer is ever inappropriate). He’d been making English muffins from scratch, which is apparently very time consuming due to long rises and multiple proofs. He was kind enough to toast one up for me and it was really good. And when I told him I commonly had pop-tarts for breakfast on the trail, he set me up with some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies to take with me and eat instead. Sometimes it pays to be the first customer in a cafe in the morning.

I took a double zero in Flag, giving the inflammation in my left foot and right hip a chance to die down. They did, but only a bit. I think I’ll manage.

Felt a bit nervous heading out of town and into the wild again, and a phone call to Cathy left me feeling homesick and missing her.

The trail itself was more plateau walking, although now it is walking on a lava flow and much more rocky. The soil is a thin brittle crust that my hiking poles keep breaking though, causing them to stick.

The foliage is the usual mix of ponderosas, oaks and cedars, varying with the soil and the slight changes in elevation. But the forests are very open and I had good views of Walnut Canyon and the SF peaks all along the trail.

Looking back at the SF peaks. And there are clouds!

This is open, lonely country with few highlights and big distances. Yet its roughness and desolation have their own peculiar charms. I hope I can find the right state of mind to appreciate them.