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Monday, July 20, 2020

Porter Mountain via Flume Connector

White Mountains views from the summit of Porter Mtn.

Anchoring the heart of the 200+-mile White Mountains Trail System (TRACKS), the Timber Mesa and Panorama loop trails offer easy access, moderate workouts and abundant scenic beauty.
Exposed cinders along the road to Porter Mountain
The popular, close-to-town loops are tethered by two lesser-used connector routes: Sawmill #626A and Flume #636B. While enabling seamless travel between the two big circuits, the auxiliary routes also demonstrate that, like a crèam-filled sandwich cookie, the best stuff is in the middle.
Porter Mountain seen from the Panorama trailhead
Prickly poppies bloom April - November
Of the two, the Flume Connector is the easiest to reach. Beginning at the Panorama trailhead, the shady single track moves through the woody space between Flume and Porter Mountains before making a mild ascent to the top of Timber Mesa. But to add some extra punch to the hike, a detour up Porter Mountain delivers the goods.
See-forever vistas from the scenic lookout point
From the trailhead, follow Flume Connector 0.4-mile to where it crosses Forest Road 223, the summit road. Make a mental note of this spot as it’s easy to miss on the way back. Head right and begin hiking uphill, veer left at the first fork and get ready for amazing displays of bizarre geology and White Mountains scenery. Within a few yards, the road makes a hairpin turn through a broken flank of the extinct cone volcano. Below, a gaping cinder pit sits below volcanic outcroppings and disintegrating slopes of russet and black cinders. Farther up the road, views of Scott Reservoir, Show Low Lake and the wetlands of Jacques Marsh sparkle through acres of pine forests and rangelands. This area is particularly beautiful in late summer when  sunflowers paint the landscape brilliant yellow.
At the 1.1-mile point, a dirt turnout serves as a scenic lookout for enjoying see-forever views of the Mogollon Rim and pockets of civilization surrounded by a patchwork of trees, plains and isolated peaks. To get to the summit proper, hike past the vehicle gate and make the final 0.4-mile climb toward an array of communication towers. This final section showcases glimpses of Mount Baldy (11,403 feet) to the southeast and dozens of lumps, bumps and prairies of the  Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. In between ogling the sights, don’t forget to look down to see the potpourri of plant life protruding from the disturbed road margins and mountain escarpments. Wax current shrubs, prickly poppies, globe mallow, rare Graham’s tick-trefoil and the ubiquitous sunflowers sprout from seemingly inhospitable volcanic scree.
Flume Connector is part of TRACKS 
Prickly poppies are abundant along the route
Distant Mogollon Rim viewed from Porter Mountain
Black cinders spill from a break in Porter Mountain
Wax current shrubs grow near the summit of Porter Mtn.
Scott Reservoir (left) & Show Low Lake from Porter Mtn.
The ponds of Jacques Marsh viewed from Porter Mtn.
Mt. Baldy seen from Porter Mountain
Graham's tick-trefoil is a rare sight along the route
Beginning of the Flume Connector at Panorama trailhead
Flume Connector toggles Timber Mesa & Panorama trails
At road’s end, wander around on several dirt paths that lead to photogenic vantage points to cap off the show. When done exploring, descend back to the Flume Connector and hike 2 miles west on the pleasantly shady, sparsely traveled route to where the trail joins the Timber Mesa loop, the turnaround point for the hike.
Porter Mountain: 3 miles up-and-back
Porter Mountain with Flume Trail: 8 miles out-and-back
Flume Connector alone: 5 miles out-and-back
RATING: moderate
Porter Mountain: 6,961 – 7,584 feet
Flume Trail #636B: 6,961 – 7,184 feet
From State Route 260 (White Mountain Blvd.) in Pinetop-Lakeside, turn left on Porter Mountain Road (Forest Road 45) and go 5 miles—watch for a sharp right turn-- to the Panorama trailhead on the left. Roads are 100% paved.
INFO: White Mountains Trail System

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