|Hiking||9.80 Miles|| 7 Hrs 30 Mns ||1.96 mph|
|1,875 ft AEG|| 2 Hrs 30 Mns Break|
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|What a great loop this more or less is. The less is coming down the Pine Mountain Trail on the west side. In the fall, I would rather do it as an up and back. The trail coming down on the west side isn't much fun though it had its scenic moments.... just too few.|
Karl and Kathy got us on the trail around 8:30 AM. It was a brisk but refreshing start. On the way to the TH, (and yes, the road is what it's cracked up to be) we could see strong evidence of fall colors in the canyons and drainages and creek so the excitement built as we got closer to our destination... but not before passing through a herd of deer that had split up (some on each side of the road). And remember Karl, they can't shoot Bambi .
The sycamores are HUGE and the leaves were big and turning. This hike starts off with a bang as far as the foilage and then the creek comes into play for quite awhile. I was very pleased as I started sinking into Tibbermode so quickly. The sumac were on fire and in many stages of fall color. The sunlight was hitting them just right and it was hard not to be in awe.
Walking up toward Nelson Spring was interesting. It was flowing substantially and we saw two downed trees that had sizeable leaves growing from their branches. We also noticed several rock walls in this area. And then the creek itself had quite a bit of water. This one area had a couple cool cascades that we had to get photos of and some reflections in the water too.
And then the coup de grace of the hike, though on the way back, the colors were even more intense.... the maples were out in full force and all degrees of color too. We had to get closer so we went off trail to check it out.
Once we hit the Willow Springs intersection, we veered left and soon the guys realized we somehow veered when we should have stayed straight (we all missed it) so we had to backtrack slightly. That's what can happen when you get to gawking. A little ways up this trail we came to some of the more burned section but it was filling in with massive amounts of little pines; in fact too many. It will certainly be a matter of survival of the fittest. Some other trees are also trying to squeeze in. But we all know how greedy pines are about water.
Not too far from the Spring area, we came into another colorful section of the trail with lots of maples in various stages. Here the leaves were much larger that had fallen on the ground so that was nice. We all had to take pictures of each other in this section. We had already done that back at the AZHighways tree.... and we would do it again on the way back cuz the lighting was pretty different.
We had been slowly gaining elevation and though my breathing always get heavier the moment we start any elevation, soon it would start a little more intensely until that last switchback push up to Pine Mtn. It was steep but manageable though I stopped twice for about 30 seconds (altho once was to take pics of Humphreys etc). Everyone had hiked ahead of me stopping once to make sure I didn't miss a turn. There is one little false summit before you get to the turn up to Pine Mtn. That is a brief but straight up hike to the summit before you see a giant juniper with golden grass below it.
And as you walk closer to the edge; there it is. THE view ! and more views and more views. Over to your right coming down a mountainside was a see of red too. I have to say those maples photographed much better than they looked. Here we had lunch for about 30 minutes. Kathy brot some great NY apples via their trip to Disneyworld and they were so DELISH!
Then it's along the ridge before you start the long haul down on not the best surface (though I originally typed "service" ) as it was quite rocky. One of those trail textures that makes you appreciate those smooth city trails. The views are varied due to the burn but there was this one really nice section of junipers that Kathy and I stopped to admire and talk about the burn. You next reach a false bottom not realizing there is still more down. The trail seems to take you down pretty fast and switchbacks are limited.
Eventually (about 2 miles later) and gratefully you reach the Willow Springs intersection where surprisingly (I found this out after loading my route on to HAZ) you still have 700 feet more of down.... but it's over nearly 3 miles. Less than a mile from the intersection, we found ourselves admiring the colors of the trees across (south) Sycamore creek so we went for it. We got up close and personal with the many colored trees and then found ourselves wowed even more as we looked down the bank so we continued and eventually ended up in the dry creek bed. It reminded me very much of Ash Creek Gailuro even though the trees were not as big and as massive. We had a great time making our way down and doing some boulder hopping.
Meanwhile the boys were ahead of us though we knew not where since we continued to admire our surroundings. We did get out of the creek when we found them toward the tail end of the color in the creek bed. Mike pointed out one particularly red maple so I grabbed a photo of that before we continued thinking I finally can come out of Tibbermode (ya, right!). Well that didn't happen as I could see reflections in the creek and the sun continued to highlight the color of the trees. Oh, we also saw an apple tree.
I noticed the rock walls more this time than I did on the way up. I think because I was taking video I missed the amount of rock walls. We did encounter a nice black angus bull and I jokingly said "well at least we don't have red on".... but both Karl and I had red scarfs. Anyway, there was lots of sumac between us and the bull so I was comfortable with that anyway. The boys pointed out the giant BS along the trail.
We proceeded on though I ended up down at the creek to try and catch some of the glowing reflections . It's a pretty steep bank coming out of there so I had to make a bit of a run to get out. Also on the way back we noticed the steep eroded bank that the trail goes on. It is eroding quite a bit so the trail may have to go higher and higher.
Well as you can see, I had another louzy day on the trail.... happens to me so often, ha! We had some beverages at the now pretty much vacant TH before Karl drove us out. It is incredibly scenic though rough ride especially at this time of day. We stopped to pick up a piece of pie (peach in my case) to go. I so enjoy hiking with Kathy (she laughs at all my jokes).
I shot 30 minutes of video but the first one's quality is not the best due to coming in and out of light causing flickering issues off and on. The other two are fine.
Video 1 http://youtu.be/pWfovRpxnZI
Video 2 http://youtu.be/7N7B7Ez49UI
Video 3 http://youtu.be/MztFTOTkmCQ
||Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial
Sumac OH MY!, maples, sycamore, oak
|For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination. |
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.