Great hike. This may be my favorite way to get from the Icehouse CCC to the top of the Pinals.
Started way too late, and took way way way too many pictures. I had to make up for taking zero pictures on Bob's Apache Maid Death March. I got to experience 3 "bubble" loops, i.e. routes that branch off of the main trail only to rejoin it later. However, one of the bubble loops didn't rejoin the trail I was intending to take.
Saw the remnants of a squatter's camp at Doghouse Spring, then continued on the Telephone Trail. It heads roughly east from Doghouse Spring, and then it does a buttonhook that redirects the trail back towards the top. This is where I made my first mistake by taking the trail to the left. A few hundred yards later I noticed a trail headed back towards the buttonhook, and took it because it offered great views of the Cobre Valley. I only took it halfway, and on the way down I figured out that this "spur" trail is actually the correct trail.
A few hundred yards more I noticed a very prominent fork: the left fork looked to head slightly down into the canyon through a dense manzanita thicket; the right fork looked to head straight up the top of the ridgeline. I went right. To this point I had not noticed any tracks, human or bovine. About 3/4 of a mile up I started to notice very fresh bootprints, and it puzzled me. Did someone head down a little ways on this trail, and then go back up? Someone sure did as I discovered a few minutes later when I ran into some dude who was repairing the barbed-wire fence that is a few yards to the west of this trail. I asked him if this trail connected with the Sixshooter Trail as the Telephone Trail does. He told me yes, but it most assuredly does not. It was actually the lower portion of FR 651M, and it dumped me out on FR 651 at the upper end of the Icehouse Trail.
Went over to the Pinal Recreation Area via the road, and had lunch right next to the Pineline Trail. Then took the Pineline Trail to the Middle Trail, and the Pineline was a mess. Had to find my route with help from the GPS that I had previously been too lazy/unaccostomed to use, and ended up at the Middle Trail. The Pineline Trail is in a fairly recent burn area, and I have never seen so many hummingbirds buzzing around. Orange ones. Bird calls were all around. The hummers were very agitated, and going at each other. I couldn't tell if they were fighting, courting, or both. I guessed both.
The Middle Trail is a little easier to follow, and I ended up at its junction with the Sixshooter Trail. This segment here is one of the most beautiful stands of aspen I've ever seen. Took that one down to its junction with the Telephone Trail after another bubble loop, and enjoyed a little monsoon action on the way down.
The lower portion of the Telephone Trail is fairly overgrown, but easy to follow. The worst it offers is a lot of Arizona pinstriping.
On the Telephone Trail below its junction with the Sixshooter I heard a very curious loud "scream" or something. My first thought was that it was an elk bugle, but it was noticeably deeper. It also tailed-off into something much deeper. Whatever made it was down in Sixshooter Canyon. My second guess was that it was a sasquatch, and my third guess was that it was some sort of bird. I'm going with sasquatch
Of course my camera was in a drysack in my pack underneath a pack-cover, so I was expecting Mr. Sasquatch to make an appearance.
This was the first trip I've made using a GPS, and I'm still figuring it out. Garmin 400t that my mom "lent" to me so I could figure it out, and teach her how to use it. I'll get it back to you in about 3 years, mom