This area has caught my attention and each successive visit does not disappoint!
I have now hiked the entire length of Apache Creek, from the source at Apache Springs to the confluence with Walnut Creek.
I tried to cut some miles off my hike by driving up FR95B, but despite having hiked it just 6 days earlier, apparently I forgot what a hellish road it really is. I gave up after a mile or so and a tire pressure warning after scraping a sidewall on a really narrow section. Since I didn't want to have to drive out that road on a spare, I decided to park right there and head out.
My first goal was Granite Knob, the most prominent peak in the Wilderness. It ended up being more choked with manzanita than I thought it would, but was still not too bad. The top was fun with a class-4 climb to the summit. No register or any sign of anybody else having been there. Despite not being the highest peak in the area, the views were spectacular.
From the knob, I headed west and up Pinetop Mountain. Along it's flat top, I encountered Pine Trick Tank, by far the most impressive wildlife catchment/cistern/tank setup I have encountered in Arizona. From here a road leads down the mountain, and I followed it for a bit - encountering two bow hunters looking for deer. At the saddle I turned downhill on the old FR9890A road which is nearly non-existant. After a mile, the old road disappeared completely and water appeared in the drainage. I didn't see any actual springs, but groundwater is apparently feeding the surface water here, and has for a while. A bunch of corrals and fences indicate this area was used extensively for grazing in the past.
Downstream from the springs was an adventure of off-trail creek hiking. It's been a wet monsoon, and the creek was flowing nicely. But it is generally shallow, with only some small pools, usually only a couple of feet deep. I did take the time to swim a couple of times when I encountered a pool that was 4-5 feet deep. The creek alternates between some flatter sections and some that drop dramatically, requiring some easy down climbs or short bypasses. There are countless cascades and small waterfalls, and a few 10-foot plus falls. The vegetation is sparse, so it's not at all a fight to get through.
Eventually, I reached the deep pool we had been to last week, and I took the opportunity to jump and swim for a few minutes again before heading the last half mile back to the trail.
I forgot how much uphill this trail is going south. Or maybe I was just tiring after so many off trail miles. I encountered fresh scat on the trail for BOTH bear and kitty.
Hiking alone in this wilderness with the highest concentration of mountain lion in the state, I had my gun holstered at my side all day. If nothing else, it made me feel better.
Ended up hiking the same road back to my truck that I had done exactly a week before, fighting daylight just as we had done last week. This time, my truck was a couple of miles closer, so I was enjoying a beer sooner, and back at camp with a fire going before dark. Not too bad!