February 23rd, 2003:
Sinful! While the east and northeast is digging out of the aftermath of a large winter storm, I enjoyed a grand and glorious Sunday when I arrived at Smith Ravine, Trail # 297 in the late morning. Admittingly, I was thrown off at first looking for the trailheas, having passed a dirt road with a street sign claiming "Smith Ravine". I immediately went into react mode to turn around, fortunately, when I spied a turnoff to the right, I spied a small sign placed in the bushes stated the trailhead was there. I turned hard right into a small parking area, barely large enough to hold six vehicles.
Off the beaten path on Walker Road, two things strike me about Smith Ravine. First, it is a quiet trail that caters to hikers, horse folks, and mountain bikers.And secondly, while I studied the trail, I got the feeling Smith Ravine is a popular mountain biking trail. I seen more tire tracks embedded in the ground than foot prints of passing hikiers.
Ninety percent of the trail travels under the canopy of Ponderosa pines. Surprisingly, and I am grateful, I seen very few brown pines ravaged by the bark beetles. However, it is the first mile of the trail and the old growth of manzanita bushes on both sides. Some appear to be struggling to stay alive. Many are dying as you pass them. Most are dead. Grotesque gray branches and limbs, no longer bright red, vibrant, alive, and challnging. Skeletal remains of their former self, reaching to the sky.
The trail travels upward, with short brief downward jaunts. If you are are lucky, as I was on this hike, you may catch a glimpse of deers running, crashing through the trees and bushes to get away from you. At certain points you will get some awesome views to the east and to the north. My favorite was the view of Mingus Mountains, the red rock country of the Verde Valley, and San Fracisco Peaks.
Near the two and a half mile mark, I noted a small creek below. It was a broken creek you might say, water running above ground and then disappearing, and then coming back to the top. You could hear the slight pleasant lulliby of water running over rocks. You will know when are near the end of the trail when you spoted Spruce Mountain lookout tower high and to your left at about 7600 feet above sea level. It is a solitary man-made structure made of iron and wood, empty during the winter.