Saturday, November 5, 2011
Ballantine Trail - Hike
Mazatzal Wilderness, AZ
Mileage - 10.17
Time - 4:11
AEG - 2,207ft
Now that the cross country season is over, I have the freedom to get out and hike at my leisure, which is something I really missed doing over the last few months. Matt and I drove East on Highway 87 towards Payson with hopes of summiting Mount Peely on the Western side of the Mazatzal Mountains. A freak winter storm passed through Phoenix Friday night and lingered in the mountains this morning. Conditions worsened as we gained elevation driving up toward the trailhead, and by 4,000ft, low visibility and freezing rain made our decision to turn back pretty easy to make.
Plan B; the Ballantine trail. We had no idea what was in store for us just a few miles away from the Highway. A landscape so unique, Matt called it a "Suburb of Mars." Not sure exactly what he meant, but we had a good laugh about that one. The best way I can describe this area would be something along the lines of a rock forest. Heavy cloud cover allowed us to hike comfortably through this totally exposed area and and enjoy the scenery without the intense rays of the sun that are normally present. Matt and I hiked up past Boulder Flat in search of a cabin, though I don't believe we went far enough to find it.
There are certain times when you're out in the mountains and you just know your chances of seeing wildlife are much greater than usual. I can't explain it, but today was one of those days. We saw Javelinas on our way into Boulder Flat, and several more on the way out (in the exact same area). Then, just a mile from the trailhead, I spotted a fox across a ravine from where we were hiking. We watched as he cautiously disappeared into the hills, and we pressed on to put an end to a great hike.