This area of AZ is incredibly breath taking! What an experience to pull us away from the sprawling city and enclosed dark saloons we find ourselves frequenting. The flipside though was this trip was only possible this time of the year probably due to the ridiculously dry season. The roads were in great condition from Payson to getting on FR-300 and FR-95. Got to come back with my 2wd hatchback badged up with snow and mud tastefully splattered across the body. Coming up the forest roads was peaceful with panoramic sights nonstop. Just a couple of cars were seen on the way up and looking out over the rim was a must.
Once at the Houston Brothers TH we excitedly hopped out and took off down the trail. We briefly surveyed the semi frozen creek and cabin planning to indulge there on the way out. The only people we met on our loop was a vibrant group of 4 on their way out about a mile into Houston brothers. The forest, the space, the patches of snow on the ground was another world compared to our usual day to day trek. I loved the trees towering over us, hearing them grunt and moan swaying in the wind. I loved hearing the rare crunch of snow under our boots, and then hoping the moisture didn’t seep through my roll back boots. We even saw a herd of cow Elk stealthily making their way across the trail. Checking Barbershop Spring most of it was snow and there was only standing water at what I assumed was the source. We decided to pitch just east of Coyote Spring, which was in the same condition just a shallow pool of standing water. As the light faded it definitely cooled, but with a small fire and surprisingly filling good to-go meal, by the time we tucked in we were certainly at ease.
COLD. Rising just after sun up there were tiny crystals of condensation that had frozen over on our rain fly. Once outside of the tent we were back on our way waiting for the warmth to return to our toes. Probably could have stepped up to a full cushion DarnTough here, but after about a quarter mile down U Bar it was back to basking in this winter wonderland. Dane Spring was running pure straight out of the pipe and Barbershop Canyon creek was glistening and running feely through patches of ice. Completing the loop we took in the history of Pinchot Cabin and signed out the trail log. There is no question to whether you should hike out here. Thanks for the time can’t wait to be back!