It was scheduled to hit 115 degrees in the valley and we knew it was time to get out. A total of three of us piled into a Fiesta and pointed the nose towards Payson. We had our sights set on the Pine Canyon/Donahue loop that starts at the Pine Trailhead just outside of.......wait for it....... Pine, AZ.
Anyway the loop consist 11.75 Miles and links multiple trails and roads together. The hike starts with a gradual climb, slowly working it's way up to Milk Ranch Point. Along the way we were feeling the heat as it was still hovering around 85 degrees. The trail showed signs of recent work and was a pleasure to walk along. On the way we stumbled upon a large dead fox. After observing the creature and some tastful "What Does a Fox Say?" jokes we were on our way. Suddenly the trail takes a sharp turn (at a marked junction) and literally heads straight up the side of the mountain. This portion of the trail is one of the steepest routes I have ever done. The footing is terrible and you are using all fours to claw your way up, in between short bouts of slipping. Anyway after some very mild scrambling you reach the top and the end of the trail. Here you begin a short but slow bushwack as you make your way towards a fire road. Reaching the fire road is a welcome relief. The route continues along a second fire road and eventually delivers you to the Donahue Trail. This route consisted of moderate switchbacks dropping us on the Highline Trail. The Highline felt like a super highway as we cruised on back to the car. This hike has some emergency water sources, but you should not count on them. This hike is a tough one but provides excellent views of Pine.
Trail Information can be found here.