I continued my travels north after finding the Oracle area a bit too warm for my winterized body. I found myself in Pine, a place I remember fondly from an aborted hike in 2016.
The Arizona Trail connects many existing trails including the bulk of this section which shares tread with Highline Trail #31.
There’s the Mogollon Rim. That’s where I really wanted to be but there’s still a bit too much snow and deep sole-sucking mud. Besides conditions and temperatures were perfect and I still had plenty of time for higher country. The Highline Trail reminds me a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail where you stay below the high point, feeling teased all the time to climb just a bit higher to walk the ridge. Dirtmonger wrote an interesting post (link) on the Mogollon Rim and how it runs from New Mexico through Arizona. Of course he hiked the route. I’d be really interested in traveling Forest Road 300 which traverses along the rim (link).
Mogollon Rim sunset tease taunting me to come visit.
There was a great mix of vegetation. One of my faves was the Juniper Pine sporting alligator bark.
I don’t know the name of this tree but the orange really popped.
What are these called? Buds?
There was plenty of seasonal water along the trail so I didn’t need to use any springs or wildlife tanks and in fact didn’t need to carry more than a liter at a time. What a pleasure after hiking in 2015, a drought year.
Natural water sources rank high on my list of desires when selecting trails. I really hate carrying water. That 2 pounds per liter is a killer for my body. For me it takes the enjoyment factor from fun to drudge.
I’m always happy to find bridges. Water crossings are high on my anxiety list.
This was my most challenging crossing not because of the water flow but because it was hard to make the leap from the rocks up that eroded embankment, and no way was I walking the logs. The main reason I’m including this photo however is a reminder to watch for wildlife cameras. At a small stream, I’d taken off my shirt to wet it down when I looked up and saw the camera. I wish I would have taken a photo and looked closer to see if it had any owner identifying information. My understanding is that these cameras are not permitted on forest service lands. Furthermore it was along one of these small streams I saw what I believe was a coatimundi. I wish I could have gotten a better photo. It’s been confirmed that these critters can be found this far north.
This section of trail has several car friendly access points, is well signed and easy to follow.
I eventually transitioned from the Highline Trail to the Colonel Devin Trail #290.
I did this as an out-and-back hike starting from the Pine trailhead, traveling through Geronimo and Washington trailheads before turning around at Forest Road 300 and the Battle of Big Dry Wash Historical Monument, which mark the end of Passage 26.
Climbing the two miles up powerline road was quite challenging. I was happy to finally see the AZT sign!
I was saddened to see this graffiti on the Battle of Big Dry Wash Historical Monument.
The view from the top from where I’d come.
There was a lot of amazing trail work along this section to prevent erosion by bike riders and equestrians. Even the hikers caused some deep holes hiking through the mud. There were several sections with giant ruts asking for a twisted ankle.
A nice example of what happens in this soggy red dirt. The good thing is that these ruts seem to crumble when dry allowing it to once again become smooth trail.
Nice trail work to reroute deep channeled sections. The rut on left will eventually fill in.
The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) has done an outstanding job raising funds to replace rancher gates with this much more friendly hiker, biker and equestrian gates. I was a little surprised to see the old gate lying on the ground rather than being removed.
I took a detour on the BSA (assuming Boy Scouts of America) Rim View Trail. It hasn’t been maintained in a long time and didn’t show use beyond animals.
The trail leads somewhere up there.
It eventually leads to the point left of the tree.
Follow the green and orange signs plus a view triangles and a few cairns. Was it worth it? Not really.
Where there’s Boy Scouts, there must be Girl Scouts? I actually met a group of Girl Scouts out for a night I believe on this section. It was a bit disappointing to see them being led by a male. Just a reminder we need to step up to mentor the younger generation.
I thought I was looking at the Four-Peaks but now I think this is the Mazatzals, which I hiked the following week.
Or maybe I’m right and those are the Four Peaks and these are the Mazatzals? I didn’t have sufficient battery to check my Peaks app nor explore more on Gaia. I read that in this passage you’d spend a lot of time looking at the Mazatzals.
Nature’s art. Loved this!
Look it’s a giant heart.
The rocks were sparkly and colorful.
Hard to capture the color and sparkle.
Nice of the trail maintainers to cut a seat while they were cutting the log.
The ATA has created a program called the Remote Maintenance Task Force which encourages users of the trail to help by carrying shears or a saw (which they provide) to help with trimming.
And YES, I found some early blooms.
Spring means ladybugs and butterflies.
There’s one place on trail where you cross a road near private property. As I was approaching this sign at first glance I thought it said, “Loaded Gun, Turnaround.” Funny what the brain sees.
First signs of being out of shape. My poor tender feet suffered a bit. I haven’t had skin tears, rubs or blisters in years but always carry leukotape just in case. This was made worst by forgetting to let the leukotape fall off naturally.
I found temperatures perfect for hiking and backpacking. Chilly nights in 30’s to 40’s with daytime temperatures 50’s to 70’s.
Although this time of year, you really have to watch the forecast. This is mountain country.
Not quite sure how this big chunk of styrofoam got to this location. It was fairly remote. I didn’t carry it out.
Seriously, the campsite doesn’t need to be swept clean. Pine needles make for soft bedding and prevent a muddy mess.
By far the worst offender. It was full of something. Might of been leftover food, or garbage or . . .
Seeing a thru-hiker leave this package outside the restroom at the Pine Trailhead was unacceptable. There were three vehicles with AZT hikers who would have carried it out. I offered to a group when they camped near my car and they accepted. I know another driver offered to a large group; sadly it was one from this group who decided to leave this gift for the trash angels instead. There is a large sign clearly stating no garbage service. If this area is abused like so many others, the forest service will remove this great hiker camping option.
- The trail as shown on digital maps excluding the specialized Arizona Trails app, have not been updated to show current trail. I tracked my hike using Gaia with several map layers including National Geographic, USGS and Gaia Topo. None showed current trail.
- Unlike the PCT and AT, the Guthook/Atlas Map app does not show campsites. They are fairly plentiful along the way and some are mentioned in comments for water or trail junctions, etc.
- Yep there are bears in these mountains.I carried an Ursack.
- Knowing we have missing hikers who like me don’t always leave an itinerary, this is one method to help SAR should something happen.
- This was a challenging section. Lots of up and down. This denotes one way going north.The trip totaled about 45 miles and 6,000 feet elevation gain/loss.
- Camping is allowed at the Pine Trailhead. The evening after my hike, I found these elk gathering.
- Laundry is available in Pine but no showers without paying for lodging. THAT Brewery is known to be hiker friendly although service can suck. I had an awesome experience at Joy’s Sweet Shop and Espresso Cafe. They had great WiFi as well as good coffee, sandwiches and friendly staff; however they are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you need a shower, I recommend hitching to Payson and visiting the Payson Campground and RV Resort. You can grab a shower for $10 and laundry for $4 (as of this writing), including WiFi. The place is extremely clean and friendly.