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Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Thompson Creek
Have you ever wondered about how forest trails came to be? Their origins range from repurposed game trails and Depression Era Civilian Conservation Corps projects to collaborative efforts between grassroots teams and land management organizations. The White Mountains Trail System represents the work of TRACKS, a group of volunteers dedicated to the development and preservation of non-motorized trails within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and surrounding communities. Their ongoing work harnesses partnerships between government, business, private organizations and dedicated volunteers to raise the funds and provide labor to build and maintain a 200+ mile system of linking trails with its epicenter around Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside.
Wildflowers and meadows on Springs Trail
A good introduction to this system is the Springs Trail. The easy to find, 3.6-mile loop located just off State Route 260 in Pinetop-Lakeside showcases the project's many fine qualities. The trailhead has plenty of parking and a map kiosk that shows the route and its connector trails. There's excellent signage throughout so even novice hikers won't get lost. Diamond shaped tree tags indicate the way and numbered location markers that correspond with downloadable maps are placed every quarter mile so you'll always know where you are on the trail. This is handy information to have in case you get in trouble and need to call for rescue. The forested trail winds though bucolic pastures replete with grazing cattle. Billy and Thompson Creeks, stock tanks and springs add watery points of interest. At the western edge of the loop, Pinetop Springs occupies a meadow dotted with concrete troughs that attract a mix of domestic livestock and forest critters. Water levels in the creeks varies with seasons and rainfall, but there's almost always a few reflecting pools. An especially productive spot to observe wildlife is where the trail follows the cliffs above Thompson Creek. Here, pine shaded volcanic boulders overlooking the yawning water course provide convenient places to sit and scope out the elk, deer and ravens that congregate among muddy pools and fringy shrubs.
Pinetop Springs
LENGTH: 3.6 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7120' - 7210'
Calliopsis blooms June - September
In Pinetop-Lakeside, go south on State Route 260 (White Mountain Blvd.) to Bucksprings Road. Turn left and go 0.6-mile to Sky-Hi Road, turn left again and continue 1.1 miles to the trailhead on the left.
INFO: White Mountains Trail System

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