May 24, 2017

Kaibab National Forest map roads traveledNorth Kaibab National Forest map marked with roads traveled

So many roads I could spend a lifetime exploring Kaibab National Forest ranging from sage brush at 3,000 feet to 9,000 foot spruce and fir forests with meadows and Juniper/Pinyon woodlands in between plus Grand Canyon views too.  Of course there’s the convenience of the North Kaibab being adjacent to Grand Canyon’s North Rim where I live, work, and play all summer.  Yet even after nine years and many drives into the forest there are still blank places on my map.

aspen and evergreen forest SR67 North Rim Grand Canyon National Park ArizonaDuring a drive along SR67 through the forest the previous week I’d noticed most of the aspen leafed out except at higher elevation where they barely showed buds.  I like the stark white trees against the evergreens and wanted to get some photos of the contrast.  Yet I also wanted to explore more of the many gravel roads in the Kaibab National Forest so my next days off I went for a ride.

meadow forest Crane Lake Kaibab National Forest Arizona

duck snow Crane Lake Kaibab National Forest Arizona

Meadow chickweed Crane Lake Kaibab National Forest ArizonaI intentionally got a late afternoon start so my planned drive east wouldn’t have me staring into the sun.  Besides, as most of you know, I’m not an early morning person.  First stop, a pull off along SR67 at Crane Lake.  It may look like a pond to you but in this arid environment of northern Arizona we call them lakes.  At about 325 feet across the lake will shrink over the summer yet provides critical water and food to wildlife and is fenced to keep out cattle and bison-hybrids.  I walked carefully across the still damp meadows from snow melt-off sticking to the high tufts of bent over brown grasses with a few scattered Meadow chickweed and saw one duck.

2006 Warm Fire forest FR241 East Kaibab National Forest ArizonaThen I continued my journey about 15 miles from the park boundary and headed east on Forest Road (FR) 241 into the area of the 2006 Warm Fire.  May seem strange to explore an old burn but eleven years later there is so much regrowth and recovery.  Even though we might not like to see a charred forest, fire plays an important role in forest ecology.  The Warm Fire began by a lightning strike and was initially managed for the health of the forest.  Then a storm cell moved in and high winds carried the fire across SR67.  A back burn was lit and ultimately almost 60,000 acres burned.  The North Rim was closed and evacuated for almost a week.  Fortunately, Ponderosa pines are fire resistant so patches of survival were evident.

pond forest FR241 East Kaibab National Forest ArizonaNot far into the drive I saw a lovely camping area under the tall trees and discovered a small body of water I’d call a pond at not more than 50 feet across which provided nice reflections.  The North Kaibab Plateau had a decent snow-pack this past winter so most of the “lakes” are full.

2006 Warm fire deer aspen snags FR241 East Kaibab National Forest ArizonaA great place for wildlife as it doesn’t look like this road sees a lot of traffic.  In fact I startled a few deer grazing along the road as much as they startled me.

2006 Warm Fire forest FR241 Kaibab National Forest Arizona

2006 Warm Fire forest FR241 Kaibab National Forest ArizonaFR241 basically follows a ridge-line with a few dips and rises along the way winding through the old burn filled with young aspen, the first tree to pop up after a fire because they clone from root shoots.  It will be several of our generations before a dense forest is seen here again.

2006 Warm Fire forest FR241 Kaibab National Forest Arizona

flowering Oregon Grape FR241 Kaibab National Forest ArizonaI could have followed the road a bit further but wanted to get home before dark with a few stops along the way.  The drive back to pavement with lowering sun lit the lime-green leafed aspens to an almost blinding glow against the contrast to the stark standing snags.

Flowering Oregon Grape/Mahonia//Barberry


meadow forest SR67 Kaibab National Forest ArizonaBack on the main highway I stopped to walk into a little meadow but found the ground extremely wet so settled with just a view and will try again after some drying occurs.




spreading phlox meadow Kaibab National Forest Arizona

spreading Phlox meadow Kaibab National Forest SR67 ArizonaAnother stop by a big meadow with a few small rocky areas revealed patches of spreading phlox in colors from white, pastel lavender and almost magenta.  The ground was soft with gopher mounds and burrows so I didn’t walk far.

meadow forest SR67 South Kaibab National Forest ArizonaOn the dusky journey home I saw at least 150 Mule deer grazing on the multiple meadows.  A good reason not to drive here after dark.

Unfortunately I had the camera focus set wrong and most of these photos are a little fuzzy.  But there are plenty of gravel roads on the North Kaibab National Forest and I plan to explore more of them on future days off work.