Jasmine the pack donkey paused along the Mint Spring Trail to munch sweet summer grass and snatch a brief break in the bargain.
Hikers Leigh Ann Thrasher and Kat Gray - whose trail gear Jasmine was toting - felt no urge to spur her on.
After all, a brief stop along the trail high in the Catalina Mountains was a chance to savor a soothing, sylvan world more than a vertical mile above the desert. A WHIFF OF WILD MINT
A summer trek on the 1.6-mile Mint Spring Trail takes hikers past colorful clumps of wildflowers, groves of young aspens, and pine forests in recovery from the 2003 Aspen Fire.
A stop at the trail's namesake spring is worth the trek in itself.
About a mile into the hike and marked with a sign, Mint Spring is an enduring, wet wonder.
Water issues from the earth in a grassy clearing and collects in a small wooden catchment box. Someone has left a cup in the box for dipping water - but it's important to filter or treat the water before drinking because even a protected spring can harbor harmful contaminants.
Fragrant wild mint grows around the spring, adding visual and olfactory beauty. Some hikers harvest a few leaves to add zing to a salad or other food.
FERNS AND FLOWERS
It will take decades for new trees to replace the towering giants burned in the Aspen Fire - but ferns and wildflowers are flourishing anew in the wake of the flames.
Bright-red penstemons, yellow columbines and a wild garden of other blooming species grace the trail along with expansive clumps of ferns.
A trek to the spring and back makes a good short hike, but it's easy to extend your journey on connecting trails.
Hikers who follow the Mint Spring Trail 1.6 miles to Marshall Saddle can pick up other routes including the Marshall Gulch Trail and Aspen Trail.
GET TO THE TRAILHEAD
Take Tanque Verde Road to the Catalina Highway and follow the highway past milepost 24 to the village of Summerhaven.
Drive south through the village and watch for a right turnoff for the Carter Canyon Road. Follow the road to a broad turnaround area and park there. Find the trailhead on the left before you reach a boundary with private property.