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Pine Loop Trail Day Hike
Pine
March 9, 2019
by Li Li
  GPS Map 
by Tom Simonick
group
All together now. [photo by Tom]
Heather, Jeff, Debbie, Bettye, Michael, Carolyn, Jamus, Li, Terry, Tom

Fourteen Trailblazers and guests headed to Fossil Springs on a cold early spring day for a beautiful scenic hike. When we got to the Fossil Springs Trailhead we found that the trail was closed, although I had called Coconino National Forest ranger station the day before and was told that the trail would be open the day of our hike.

I was very disappointed after driving 120 miles to get to the trailhead. After discussing the situation, we came to a consensus that ten people would hike the Pine Canyon area, which was a few miles away from Fossils Springs instead of driving back to find other trails. Four hikers decided to go to the Tonto National Forest to hike the Ballantine Trail, since they had not hiked there before.

sign
Pine Trailhead is marked with a sign. [photo by Li]
hikers
Let’s make the best of it. [photo by Tom]

We separated at Pine Trailhead and started to head southeast for a part of the Arizona Trail. About a half mile into the forest, the creek with its raging current blocked our way. The creek was wide, with only a few slippery stepping stones between both banks. Only a few hikers made it to the other side. A few of us watched as they jumped from stone to stone while we were unable to cross, out of fear that we would fall into freezing cold water.

I decided to have them come back to the Pine Canyon Trail. After regrouping we headed back, trying to turn east where we met one local couple, Tom and Bobbie, walking their two lovely dogs. After a short conversation they realized that a small river blocked our way. They volunteered to take us around to a different route.

The couple moved from Scottsdale to Payson a few years ago after retirement. Tom and his crews helped build a new trail here. He was so excited to show us his crew’s work. He said that this trail was closed last year right after they finished working, due to the forest fire warning, so not so many people even knew this new trail existed. He gladly showed us their great work on the trail. His wife told us that from there up to the hill we could see beautiful mountain ranges. We followed them, walking on this brand new trail. Although some parts of trail were muddy, the majority of the trail was in excellent condition. On the way we met another guy who is well-known in the local community for organizing marathon activities.

We took group photos and took a small snack break on the hill and waved goodbye to Tom and Bobbi before we continued heading up. The trail was getting a little rough and muddy, due to recent rains and snows. We saw a few hikers ahead of us, walking in the same direction as us. Everyone was happy walking in the forest while enjoying a clear day in the pines. We did not see any flowers since the weather was still very cold, but the clear sky and green pines, Ponderosas, Arizona cypresses and alligator pines provided the scenic view. We stopped at the lookout area for a lunch break.

Michael, who is familiar with the pines, showed us different mountains and listed lots of names which I have never heard before. He is very knowledgeable about this area and we were lucky to have an accounting from someone who knows so much.

guys
Michael knows a lot about this area. [photo by Li]
hikers
Jamus, Jeff, and Heather find a cool spot. [photo by Tom]
snow
There’s still snow on the Mazatzals. [photo by Li]
hikers hikers
We had a good time anyway. [photos by Li]
hikers
We had a good time. [photos by Li]
sign
New trail sign. [photo by Tom]
hikers
Li and Carolyn lead the way. [photo by Tom]
lunch
Lunch break. [photo by Tom]
lunch
Lunch break. [photo by Tom]

After lunch break we headed up the hill toward Dripping Springs trying to get a few more miles. I was surprised with how little water there was in the Dripping Springs. We only saw mud and a few drops of water in there. The name matched the description for sure! We were planning to go from muddy Dripping Springs to Pine Canyon, but the trail was realigned so we could not get there. Since it was close to 1: 00 PM, we decided to return to the Pineview Trail and loop back to where we came from.

meal
That Brewery. [photo by Li]

The total hike was 7.3 miles with an elevation gain of 600 feet and accumulated elevation gain of 1340 feet. We ate lunch at That Brewery. Although we did not get to see Fossil Creek this time, everyone was happy that we hiked at the Pine Canyon area. I really appreciate everyone’s understanding. I hope that we can return to hike Fossil Creek next time.

→   More pictures, by Li
→   More pictures, by Tom

Supplemental Report
by Quy Nguyen

Upon arriving in Strawberry, we saw the notice that the road to Fossil Trailhead is closed due to weather conditions. Four of us: me, Neil, Bille, and Dubravka, decided to hike the Ballentine Trail instead of the Fossil Springs Trail. It’s my favorite hike in the winter, and three of us had never hiked this trail before.

All of us enjoyed hiking this beautiful trail with its variety of rock formations, wildflowers, a breeze now and then. We started around 10:30 AM and finished around 2:30 PM, for total distance of 8 miles.

Quy   

flowers
Cape marigolds brighten our passage. [photo by Quy]
group
The fabulous four: Neil, Bille, Dubravka, Quy. [photo by Quy]
trail
The trail ahead. [photo by Quy]
hikers
Made it to The Boulders. [photo by Quy]
Neil
Neil stands tall. [photo by Quy]
trail
Everything is so green. [photo by Quy]
hikers
March we onward. [photo by Quy]
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated March 20, 2019