>Today, 3/25/11, a small group of us hiked Ballantine Trail. More correctly we hiked Pine Creek Loop (see description at http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=90 ) interrupted by a jaunt about 2 miles out and 2 miles back on Ballantine Trail (see description at http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=248 ).
When I say small group, we were precisely 3 in number! Those of you who didn’t go missed one of the nicest hiking days of the season, and a great hike. See below the entire troup, less yours truly. (Somebody had to take the picture!)
Starting the hike, George took us up the south fork of Pine Creek loop. This route immediately wakes up your legs with about 500 feet of elevation gain in what I’d guess is about a quarter mile. Good footing and no bouldering, so the climb isn’t bad. This climb gains you altitude to a ridgetop trail running about a mile with scenic canyons off to each side. At the end of the ridge you drop into a saddle where you can return to the trailhead by another route, or continue outward on the Ballantine.
Leaving this junction on Ballantine toward Boulder Flat and you’re back in uphill mode, gaining about 1,000 feet over the next two miles (where we turned around). This stretch of the trail is pure scenery, with a variety of rock types, and interesting structure, including this stone lion guarding the top of a canyon rim.
A fair amount of color at these altitudes, with ubiquitous yellow brittle bush, some very nice globe mallow, and (finally) the hedgehogs are starting to pop.
Quite a few bees working the flowers, including this one on the tallest thistle plant that I’ve ever seen.
Heading back, we took the north fork of Pine Creek loop back to the trailhead.
Thanks, George, for leading a great route.