With temperatures hitting 100 most days here at Pipe Spring, Tom and I often look for cooler places on our days off. A couple of weeks ago we headed east and up to Jacob Lake and the North Kaibab National Forest.
Because Jacob Lake is at an elevation of 8,000 feet, it is generally about 10 degrees cooler than we are at 5,000 feet. That, plus the ponderosa pine forest, makes it feel delightfully cool compared to the lower elevations. Oddly, there is no lake at Jacob Lake most of the time. After a heavy rain, water will fill the depression in the ground that is usually tall grass.
Jacob Lake is a gathering of buildings set up for tourists. There is a motor inn with a gift shop, diner, restaurant, and bakery. The bakery is well-known in these parts, with people driving an hour to buy some cookies or cinnamon rolls. Tom and I had to try some of the cookies, so we tried the peanut butter chocolate chunk, the oatmeal raisin, the chocolate chip parfait, and a kind called cookie in the cloud. The cookie in a cloud is a chocolate cake-like cookie with a marshmallow and chocolate covering. Tom really liked the chocolate parfait which had milk chocolate chunks and I really liked the cookie in a cloud.
Jacob Lake is located at the junction of AZ 67, which is the only paved road into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and US 89A. There is a gas station, a big campground, a convenience store, and a place to go horseback riding.
After buying our cookies, we looked around the gift shop and then headed over to the North Kaibab National Forest Visitor Center. We talked to a nice young woman from Fredonia who was running the Visitor Center that day. She gave us some helpful trail suggestions and told us about the section of the Arizona Trail running close by. I also stamped my passport book even though it is a national forest and not a national park site. The North Kaibab National Forest allows dispersed camping.
The Arizona National Scenic Trail runs 800 miles from Mexico to the border of Utah. It is a long, wild non-continuous path linking all the diverse ecosystems of Arizona together. One of the rangers here regularly runs the Kaibab Plateau North section of the trail on his days off – 34 miles roundtrip. I don’t think Tom and I will be doing that, but we might do some hiking in the forest.
Although you can hike in the North Kaibab Forest any time, AZ 67 is closed in the winter. The plateau gets about ten feet of snow every winter. The Bowman family, which has been running Jacob Lake Inn since 1923, keeps the inn open year round. In the summer they have to hire extra help, but after October the family runs it by themselves. The current owners are the fourth generation of the Bowman family to do so.
We look forward to returning to Jacob Lake when we want to escape the heat. We will be doing some hiking and – as a reward – eating more cookies!