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Warning Wildfires have damaged large portions of the Superstition Wilderness.
Never sick of more Sycamore
This pleasant hike through the Eastern Superstitions starts at Miles Trailhead following the West Pinto Trail (212) west to Oak Flat then north on Campaign Trail (256) to the Campaign / Pinto Divide. This hike has polar opposite split personalities, with the first half being a lush, shady, mild climb and the second being a steep, relentless climb through dry scrub land.
Miles Trailhead is the site of the old Kennedy Ranch and in addition to being a very picturesque area, there are many old buildings and remains of the ranch to be seen. It appears that grazing is still done there, but I haven't seen any cattle in numerous visits.
The trail starts out westbound along the southern border of the ranch and gives views of the beautiful open meadow very reminiscent of Reavis Valley. At not much over a half mile in and near the western end of the meadow you come to the Bull Pass Trail (270) intersection. Remain on W. Pinto Tr. and you quickly reach the bed of the West Fork Pinto Creek. Unlike many streamside trails, this one stays predominately in or close along side the creek the entire way for maximum riparian scenery. The trail has undergone complete maintenance very recently all the way to Oak Flat and beyond. Beware of abundant Poison Ivy along side the trail, which is easily avoided. The route meanders along the creek bed through some narrow canyons filled with Sycamore, Cottonwood and various other deciduous varieties. Just prior to the 2 mile point you will find a nice spring in the creek bed providing clear trickling water in several pools with minnows swimming about.
At about the 2.5 mile point you will come to the Cuff Button Trail (276) intersection and the eastern edge of beautiful Oak Flat. The beginning of Cuff button is quite pretty but appears seldom used and may present a descent route finding challenge. Continuing on for about another tenth mile you'll come to the Campaign Trail intersection. It was formerly the Pinto Peak Trail and was still signed as such as of this writing.
Oak Flat is a lush area where there is a confluence of numerous creeks and washes. This whole area, a favorite overnight spot for backpackers, begs to be explored, so take a break and spend some time looking around. I was informed by Jack Carlson that there are a couple of cabin remains in the area. The central circular corral is easily spotted, but I was unable to locate any structure ruins, other than the bizarre efforts of someone with too much time on their hands. Either they have since disappeared, or I was looking in the wrong area. Jack has indicated they may be at the northwest corner of the Flat, which is an area I didn't really check.
This would be a great turn around point for those wishing a shorter and less strenuous hike for a total of about five miles RT. For those wishing to continue, it's basically "up elevator" from here with nearly the entire vertical gain of the trip concentrated in the next 2.5 miles. The mapping software profile view of the hike looks like one of those ramps used by freestyle aerialists, so I figured it wasn't going to be pretty. It is actually not that bad and your attention is diverted to some neat features and awesome views along the way. The trail maintenance ended about half up where things then get a bit close, but remains easy to follow. As I've said before, too much time spent on detail at the expense of mileage.
Just prior to the 3-mile point and shortly after you have begun the climb you'll come alongside a small pinnacle rock formation that is easily climbed for some great birds eye views of the Flat and Saw Tooth Ridge to the south. Beyond that at about the 3.75-mile point you may notice some orange plastic ribbon attached to some bushes on your left. I noticed it again further up just beyond 4 miles along with numerous yellow flags placed along a slightly trampled route through a forest of Catclaw. On the way back down I decided to follow the markers and ended up in a nasty bushwhack that was essentially nothing more than an alternate detour around the perfectly good trail. I have no earthly idea what purpose could be served by such deliberate effort. Probably some kind of Owl's nest along side the main trail, so the Forest Service solution is to hack the place up to avoid it : ).
As you near the lip or "kicker" of your "freestyle ramp" climb it gets ever steeper, but you know it's got to end soon. At the top it is windswept and open with nice views of the prominent Pinto Peak. This is the Pinto / Campaign Divide where the ridge defines the separation of drainage on the north side into Campaign Creek and to the south into Pinto Creek. Both eventually drain into the Salt River to the north.
From here you could continue on down the Campaign Trail to Fire Line Tr. or all the way down to the Campaign Trailhead. For this hike, it's simply back the way you came. On the way I happened to eye a neat looking area below in the bed of W. Fork Pinto Creek west of the Flat, and decided to take a detour directly south down the slope. Major mistake! That whole area is a "mine field" of Catclaw that you don't really notice so much from the trail. Oh yes, it was "neat" down there, but definitely not worth the blood loss. Is it just me, or does any body else curse under their breath when they get in these painfully stupid predicaments? Oh well, last week's scratches were needing fresh replacements anyway.
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