Posts Tagged ‘Pine Mountain Wilderness’

Pine Mountain Wilderness

Friday, June 19th, 2009

After our dayhike to Tule Mesa, Ben and I drove to Salt Flat campground and spent the night.

The Prescott National Forest has vague criteria for what is and is not a fee area. Essentially, though, it boils down to water, toilets and some sort of full-time host. Salt Flat has none of this – so its free. It does have picnic tables and fire rings – though the Prescott is currently under fire restrictions.

We woke up in the morning, packed our bags, threw the balance into the vehicle, and crossed the dry wash to the Salt Flat TH, where the Nelson Trail begins.

The Nelson is the central trail for the Pine Mountain Wilderness – just about every other trai connectes with it a some point.

We soon reached the Nelson Place, which consists of remnant stone walls and huge trees (Arizona sycamore, cottonwood, oaks) growing from Nelson Springs. These springs are the only reliable fresh water in the area, inconveniently located less than a mile from the TH. In fact, we soon came upon a pair of backpackers on their way out who reported that all the other springs they came across had been dry.

Which is why I was lugging five liters of water.

All of which I would end up using.

From the Nelson, we went east on the Willow Springs Trail. Willow Springs seemed dry, but there were some puddles in the streambed. Ah well. That trail climbs up Willow Canyon until it meets the Verde Rim Trail – the other main trail in the wilderness. At that junction, we had climbed about a thousand feet in four miles.

Verde Rim features jaw-dropping views of the Verde Valley to the east – the good part where the Wild and Scenic portion flows in front of the Mazazatl Wilderness. On a clear day, such as that one, you can see Horshoe Lake far to the SE.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it keeps climbing as you head south.

[If you go north, though, you will eventually come upon a jeep trail that will lead you to Cavalier Point – a plan that we rejected only after much debate.]

Soon, you start switching back up the slopes f Pine Mountain, coming within 500′ of the peak. At that point, the signed spur trail to the top is certainly worth the marginal extra exertion.

Past Pine Mountain, we began to wind down the ridge, crossing limestone-covered ridges, and fiannly descending into some pine forest, where we camped.

Having emtied our water, we found ourselves filling our bottles from a deep, but bug-infested puddle while mosquitoes filled themselves on us. Even though I got to use all my filter/chemical/boil methodology, the effort was not recreational, and we decided to opt out of  our optional second night.

Instead, we returned to the Nelson Trail, follwoing it through pine forest both burned-out and pristine, and back to our car.

Total estimated mileage: 14

Total hike time: 14 hours

Pine Mountain Wilderness is obscure and poorly documented compared to some other wilderness areas, but the trails are in good shape, and the journey is worth it – providing you come prepared.

Photos on my personal blog (where I have bandwidth left): What Have We Learned?