Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

September 19, 2019

“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist monk


by Michael McCaffrey

No place are you more in tune with your feet and lungs than a trek up steep trails. And what better place to put your mind and body into this earth foot kissing mindset than the Abineau-Bear Jaw trail system north of Humphrey’s Peak. Excuse the next bit of frivolity, but this trail has been dubbed the A B Lung trail in honor of Oak Creek Canyon’s temporarily closed A B Young trail.

At the Abineau/Bear Jaw junction we travel right to enter Abineau Canyon and the daunting elevation gain from 8500 ft. to 10,400 ft. – a fitting test for your lung capacity. You can almost hear the foot puckering kisses and the lung induced gasping as we slowly wend our way through a mixed forest of ponderosa pine (butterscotch or vanilla aroma?), aspen and mouse hiding cones and stands of Douglas fir.

The peak, canyon and surrounding area was named for Julius Aubineau (1852-1903) who was a prominent person of interest in the early years of Flagstaff’s development.  A native of France, he came to Flagstaff in 1891 and received his citizenship in 1894.  His connection with the Peaks involved his ownership of Aubineau Spring and his role in the development of the Inner Basin water system.  He engineered the route for the Inner Basin waterline and Waterline Road in 1898, and built the first sewage system to serve the town businesses in 1899.

The last half-mile of the Abineau Trail passes through an avalanche prone area that has been stripped bare of most trees.  Early in 2005, an avalanche did extensive damage to the trail in Abineau Canyon. Although the trail reopened by that summer, evidence of the avalanche still remains in toppled trees and gouged rock filling the avalanche shoot.

After nearly two miles of steady climbing, the Abineau Trail tops out as it links up with Pipeline Road at Abineau Spring in a large open meadow. This is a scenic area among many scenic areas with great views of the north side of Humphreys Peak and, 70 miles away, the Grand Canyon, cutting a gap in the plateau stretching from the mountain to the horizon.

From the junction we will continue hiking east on the road for two miles to the signed junction for the Bear Jaw Trail. We continue hiking north and then northwest for an additional two miles on the Bear Jaw Trail, descending through a heavy forest cover, as we make our way back to the trailhead. About mid-way along this trail we checkout the interesting carvings (interesting being a quite descriptive euphemism), mostly names and dates (some going back to the late 1800s), on the larger aspen trunks in this area of long-abandoned sheep herder camps. 

We spend a great deal of time exploring and documenting these dendroglyphs and come across the remains of a long dead elk, the bleached backbone of a magnificent animal that punctuates the gallery of provacative Basque art.  

This route passes through an area colorful at all seasons of the year. In late spring, alpine wildflowers such as lupine are even visible and thriving in late summer while stands of aspen are beginning their turn to gold and yellow in the waning days of 2014.

“Most of the time I am sunk in thought, but at some point on each walk there comes a moment when I look up and notice, with a kind of first-time astonishment, the amazing complex delicacy of the words, the casual ease with which elemental things come together to form a composition that is--whatever the season, wherever I put my besotted gaze--perfect.” 
― Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Perfect… What better way to spend a day with friends than on this voyage to expansive beauty and thigh building nirvana. A special thank you to our leaders, Cathy Lutz and Brad Bell and our tailgater, Linda Warren

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, Nov 13, 2014 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.