This trail is in the Four Peaks Wilderness. The trailhead is off the Beeline
Highway (Route 87), seven miles north of the road to Four Peaks.
It was a bright, sunny day, with just a few high cirrus clouds in the blue
sky, and just a little air pollution to the west, wafting up from the valley.
It was around 70° by noon and was headed up to 80° by 4:00 PM.
We took the right fork of the Pine Creek Loop from the parking lot and
ascended the hill, with views of the highway and surrounding valley to the
left and nearby peaks to the right. We climbed up through the desert and
chatted about the winter Olympics. There was no sight or sound of any water
in the creeks to the left and right of the ridge we were descending down to
the Ballantine Trailhead, which is 1.5 miles in.
Suddenly, to the left, everything was scorched and blackened, and far below
near the creek bed we could see a line of chili-pepper red fire retardant
sprayed onto the ground. Unfortunately, the whole area around the Ballantine
Trailhead was blackened, and it continued as we ascended the hill past red
rocks and eroded granite boulders and hoodoos. We could see the devastation
from the fire all around as we reached the plateau lookout point, from which
one can see a huge balanced rock monolith as well as a bridge on the beeline
which is an impressive engineering feat (it was written about in the Dec. 15,
1997 issue of Engineering News Record). The barrel cactuses were singed
to the point where their needles were burned off, many saguaros were yellow or
black, and the yucca plants had burned to charcoal, leaving only some yellowed
leaves and a short stem which made them look like a black pineapple.
The rock formations were still magnificent and the surrounding scenery was
still quite beautiful, but it was depressing to see the eroded jumble of dirt
and rocks with blackened cholla and other cacti interspersed. There were a few
jojoba bushes and some other green plants poking their heads up, but most of
the area was badly burned and had not recovered.