Ghost of the Coyote Trail #641

Ghost of the Coyote is the best name I have ever seen for a trail.  Texas really liked to name trails “Golden Warbler Trail,” I’ve hiked at least 4 different Golden Warbler Trails and to the best of my minimal bird-watching knowledge have not seen this endangered species on any of them.  Sure – I didn’t see any Ghost Coyotes on this trail – but isn’t that the point of it being a ghost?  There was a bit of coyote scat…so that is probably close enough.

This trail is located in the White Mountain Trail System in Arizona and its interesting in that multiple sources disagree on length.  The WMTS website seems to think it is 16 miles, another source says 13 miles, and the Forest Service (the trail is located in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest) says 15 miles.

Well – in order to add to the confusion, my GPS says 14 miles.  Although – I did take two unmarked spurs that lead to great vistas.  Which lends credence to the 13 mile number.

The confusion may arise from the fact that there is a shortcut, which effectively cuts the loop in half.  Maybe if you walk the shortcut in addition to the rest of the path you come to the larger number?  In any case – I advise against the shortcut…you miss out on the road less traveled and lots of great views.  And by road less traveled, I mean foot prints (and hoof prints) basically ceased to accompany us as soon as we passed the turn off for the shortcut.  Although – maybe I’m overstating the amount of company the footprints provided.  During the course of our 5 and a half hours of hiking we saw no other hikers on the trail.  On a Saturday!

We had picked up a White Mountain Trail Maps book from the ranger office at Fool Hollow Lake Recreational Area and I imagine it is available at all local State parks or ranger stations.  I would say you need the map – if only because there are some stretches in around the 7 mile mark that are scantily marked.  But if you skip the map and travel the trail clockwise – just know that you spend quite awhile on a ranch road.  We followed a side path that looked promising but it just ended up returning to the dirt road.  All told you’ll probably spend about 1.5 miles on the ranch road and the markings are very few and far between.  The good news is that when the turn off comes it is well marked.  We kept wondering if we had missed a turn off!

Also, if you are not familiar with large farm animals, prepare to go hiking with some cows on this one!  I’m used to hiking along fences with cows on the other side – but this trail goes straight through a stretch inhabited by about a dozen of these walking hamburger factories.  We didn’t really know what to think of it, but the cows only gave us a couple of curious glances before returning to doing whatever it is cows do.

On a less domesticated, but no less large, side of things we saw more than 30 elk in 3 groups.  The first was a fleeting glimpse of at least 3 elk through thick woods.  That was pretty cool and we would have been content with that but as we left the woods and walked into a big field we spotted another 20+ elk.  They were a ways off (as you may or may not be able to see in the follow picture), but it was an awesome experience never the less.

Elk in there somewhere!

The field was pretty cool too.

Ghost of the Coyote Trail
Big field!

One thing I had read before going on this hike was that fairly extensive fire damage lingers from a big forest fire in the early 2000’s.  This is true…but don’t let that deter you.  The path is still beautiful, and if you are like me and have a fascination with big snags…maybe even more sosnagOne important thing to know about this trail is that it follows old logging roads, but not entirely.  Keep your eye out for roads leading off the main path that go uphill.  Two of the best vistas were had on these unmarked spurs.  The first came at the 2 mile mark.  It is a fairly short jaunt to the top of what proved to be the highest point of our hike (6645ft/2025m).  There is a big Utah Juniper at the base of a road leading off to the right.  Fairly hard to miss.

You can see for a ways...The other overlook appeared more impressive, and is a bit more out of the way.

2nd vantage pointThe views are of the surrounding fields, and are a fun way to see the route you’ve taken to get their.  The climb is steep and fairly loose rock – but not terribly hard.  Definitely worth it.

Ultimately this trail was a great hike.  I think 12 miles is still my ideal length, 14 is just a little bit long, but skipping this hike on the basis of a few extra miles would have been a mistake!

The biggest bummer of this trail really came from inconsiderate people (a recurring complaint on the White Mountain Trails sadly).  Some rude individuals chose to make an area their personal shooting range and the damage ranged from shot up signs to mounds of spent shells.  The jackass shooting signs was probably not the same person shooting clay pigeon…but the impact of both was a removal from the serenity in which I was hiking and the resignation to the fact that humans too frequently take away from the beauty of the world in which we inhabit.  So remember: Pack it in, pack it out.  That includes trigger trash.

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