Last Flagstaff Fall Post: The Inner Basin

So, when I shared my last post on Facebook, I said that I planned to go to the Inner Basin at sunrise the next day. I did. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, though. I had been spoiled by my two previous searches for fall colors in that I really didn’t have to hike too far to get where I was going. That day, I hiked and hiked and hiked and it was all up hill and in a snowstorm. Okay, well, it FELT that way.

Don’t get me wrong–I like hiking. But often hiking and photography don’t go hand in hand, especially if you’re trying to time sunrise. Or at least unexpected hiking and photography don’t go hand in hand.

Part of the problem is that the information on the interwebs about the Inner Basin is so confusing. I started with the US Forest Service, assuming they’d be the most accurate. Maybe they’re accurate, but they’re also awfully vague about what they’re being accurate about.

Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 10.58.15 PM.png

Other websites were downright alarming, in addition to being vague and inaccurate.

Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 11.03.02 PM.png

Possibly because I was feeling a bit tired the night before, I decided to believe a trail guide posted by Arizona Highways. 4 miles round trip, I thought. Cake. Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 11.06.42 PM.png

After a somewhat grueling drive up to the Lockett Meadow campground, I set out on the trail. I hiked well over four miles up a steep trail that was marked “Inner Basin Trail” before hitting the Weatherford Trail. I almost didn’t make it to the Weatherford Trail because a very nice (but also confused) hiker–the first person I saw on the trail that day–told me it was another FOUR MILES to the Weatherford, at which point I began to weep I turned around. Then about three minutes later, he yelled down that he had found the Weatherford, so then I turned back around and hiked up the 100 yards I had just hiked down, joined him momentarily at the trail sign where I proceeded to beat him with his trekking pole we said our goodbyes. He then took off at lightning speed, clearly ashamed of his GPS miscalculation on his way to Humphrey’s. I hiked up Weatherford for another half mile or so, then turned around.

In all that time, I never found a meadow. You know why? Because Lockett Meadow, as far as I can figure it, is the meadow at the beginning of the hike. It does have a pretty great view of the Inner Basin, as I discovered when I left the campground.


You do not get a view of the Inner Basin from the Inner Basin Trail because the Inner Basin Trail goes into the Inner Basin. It would be damn hard to get a view of the very place you are unless you had a really really long selfie stick or something.

You wouldn’t know it from some of the trail descriptions, though.  Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 11.05.22 PM.pngI’m not the only person who was confused. Several people on the trail register wrote that their destination was “the meadow.” And on my way down, I met a pair of lovely gentlemen who asked if I had come from “the meadow” (which by now become a thing of legend, not unlike El Dorado), and I had to tell them that I had found no such meadow even though I had hiked far and long. And one of the men nodded his head and said, “It was at the campground, right?” And I said, “I think so.” And then both of then began to weep said, “Okay” and continued on their way.

As is often the case in travel (and life), I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, but it turned out I got exactly what I needed. (That’s a song, right?) I hiked the beginning part of the trail in near darkness. However, on my return, the aspen were all aglow, and the feeling of walking within them was–oh, I hate to use such a foofy word but it’s right–sublime.

Compared to the others I had visited earlier, the aspen along the Inner Basin are taller, have skinnier trunks,


and they’re much more densely packed.


This gives the forest a weird yellow glow



and casts strange shadows.




I was still able to get some of those upward angle pictures that I love so much.


Because the trees are on a hill, the forest has a strange diagonal to it.


P.S. You can get some pretty cool effects with an extended shutter speed and just slowly panning your camera up.


My big experiment of the day was to take a bunch of single frames of leaves falling and merge them into one image to give the impression of the downpour of yellow I saw that morning. But I only caught falling leaves in three frames, so the final image wasn’t a downpour so much as a sprinkle.


My favorite image of the day was of an aspen and ponderosa pine, two trees that don’t often exist together.


So, while I didn’t really want to hike ten miles, in the end who can complain about a gruellingly steep walk in the woods? This girl.






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