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Hiking the Pinals

By Bob Zache

Bob Zache leads hiking classes for Gila Community College. He is on a new season of hikes this Winter and we’ll bring you a fresh perspective when we join one of his hikes into the Pinals. This is a 2011 article he submitted to GMT about his hiking adventures.

Take 50 steps, stop and catch your breath; take 60 steps, stop and breathe again; really push it and take 75 steps before stopping to pant.

Huffing and puffing up a steep trail near the top of the Pinal Mountains, we repeat the mantra, “It’s the journey, not the destination.” The message helps; it really is about how we get there, not the top of the mountain, that’s important; that’s why we’re here: to enjoy the scenery along the trail, the serenity, the sweeping vistas back down toward Globe and Miami, the scream of an eagle overhead a minute ago, now circling a little below us in the canyon.

But we’re still huffing and puffing; pushing uphill as far as we can until we have to stop 30 seconds and catch our breath. Yes, I’ve timed it: hike about a minute, 60 or 70 steps, and stop to breathe. At 7,000 feet, the air is thinner and breathing is harder. But it’s worth it.

Hiking the Canyons  

We’re hiking up one of my favorite trails around here, the Six Shooter Canyon Trail  (Forest Service Trail No. 197). It starts at the old CCC Camp up Ice House Canyon south of Globe and ends at Ferndell Springs near the top of Pinal Peak. I’ve hiked from the CCC Camp before, but I prefer to drive a couple miles farther on up toward Pioneer Pass and park at the iron bridge. There’s a wide spot just before the bridge big enough for half a dozen cars. About 100 yards up, the trail crosses the road; take a right and start hiking; it’s about five miles to Ferndell Springs – and about 3,000 feet straight up.Hiking  2768

The head waters of Pinal Creek, which flows through the middle of Globe, are up this canyon and our trail crosses it several times before switch-backing off to the east for awhile. It’s rocky in places and several trees have blown across the trail making it necessary to crawl under. And, like I said, there are some really steep places near the top that are going to get your heart pumping and require frequent stops to catch your breath.

There are lots of trails in the Pinals but other favorites are the Kellner Canyon, Ice House Canyon and Telephone trails. They all start near the CCC Camp and proceed to the west. About 100 yards up, the Telephone Trail forks off to the left and after about a mile the other two fork: to the right is Kellner Canyon (FS Trail No. 242) and to the left, Ice House Canyon (FS Trail No. 198). Telephone Trail is FS 192. (Pick up maps at Tonto Forest Station). The elevation at the bottom of the Pinals is about 4,500 feet and the top, 7,800 feet, so hikers progress from catclaw, mesquite, through ponderosa pine and black jack oak, to aspen at the top. As a hiker, you’re likely to see mule deer, coati Mundi and a maybe even wild turkey long before you’ll see another hiker. If you are limited on time, you can have someone drive you to the top of the Pinals  (Forest Service Road No. 651) and hike down. The Views are striking as you get glimpses of the Valley below as you emerge from the trees and it is a do-able hike for most levels.

Hikes ‘Around Town’

Closer to home, the City of Globe’s Round Mountain Park has about five miles of good trails and it is easy to access by taking South Street half a mile from Ash Street (U.S. 60) on the east end of town. (Turn at Country Kitchen) The visitor center has a drinking fountain, restrooms and picnic tables sheltered under ramadas with barbecue grills.Starting from the visitor center, hikers can take either the East Trail or West Trail and make the loop around Round Mountain. Off-shoots include the Bulls Eye, Box Canyon, Boulder Canyon and Ridge Trails – you can take an easy stroll up to one of the ramadas and come back, or make the mildly difficult loop all the way around, about three miles.

Another hike which caters to those who like to stay closer to town is down Pinal Creek (yes, the same Pinal Creek you cross up in the Pinals on Six Shooter Canyon Trail). A number of people have been working to make Pinal Creek a “river walk,” a developed trail with benches and interpretive signs along the way. They would have to be well built, of course, because summer storms, and even a good winter storm like the one last January, will fill the creek bank to bank. Meanwhile, it’s still an interesting hike – when the creek’s not running.

Park at Globe Community Center and walk down the beautifully landscaped garden path almost to Canyon Fire Department on Jesse Hayes Road. Cross the road to Beer Tree Crossing and start down the creek bottom. It is rocky in places and you will have to pick your way carefully. In the Spring and Summer, the cottonwood and sycamore trees create a canopy of green over the creek. Cross under the bridge by Connie’s Store, under the Willow Street-Ash Street-Hwy. 60 overpass and proceed on down past the train station. This might be a good place to leave the creek bed and walk up to the old restored railroad depot and ask, pretty please, can you use the restrooms, usually reserved for train customers.

Then back down to the creek bottom and on north downstream past the middle of downtown Globe. You cross under Willow St. again and then the railroad bridge just north of Mesquite St. and proceed on down under Broad St. It’s sometimes hard to figure out where you are down in the creek, but it’s interesting; you get a whole new perspective of the community. Behind McSpadden Ford, up on the bank above flood level, are some old adobe ruins. Chinese lived in them in the late 19th Century and “working girls” later on during the boom years of the Old Dominion Mine.

There’s a spring that has water year around, even during dry years, that flows from under the bank in back of Libby’s El Rey Mexican Restaurant. It flows under the Broad Street Bridge just downstream. One more bridge and we come to the slag dump from the Old Dominion. Another half mile and we can exit the creek on a dirt road that leads to Globe’s sewer treatment plant, across from Cobre Valle Motors. This meandering hike covers about 3 miles and puts you close to the Chamber of Commerce

Bob Zache conducts two hiking classes through the Gila Community College Wellness Center. Beginning and Advanced, each is conducted on alternate Saturday mornings through April 24. For information on enrolling in either (or both) hiking class, phone the college at 928-425-8481. He is also available to lead private groups on Sundays and Mid-Week. 928-961-0392.

Bob Zache
Bob Zache

Bob Zache Born and raised in Miami, Robert J. Zache graduated from Miami High School in 1955. After spending time in the U.S. Army and the mines, he graduated from ASU with a BA in Journalism, and went on to work for the Phoenix Gazette, Gila Pueblo College and the Arizona Silver Belt. He retired from the Silver Belt several years ago, and now writes a regular column “Zache Talk” for the Nugget.

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