April 4, 2015, Cherry, AZ- On any given day, there are hundreds of possibilities, for both good and ill. I set out this morning for Tonto Natural Bridge, looking to explore the northern approach to the Bridge, via Pine Creek Trail. I had gone the southern route on my first visit, last Fall. The link between the two is a six-inch wide ledge, that is navigable by hugging the rock face, for about three feet of trail. I have declined to so navigate. My purpose in hiking is never bravado or machismo, but understanding.
I spent about an hour there, looking at the remnants of a waterfall, above Pine Creek, and walking along the creek, going through the small caves above it and marveling anew at the Natural Bridge.
The slight sprinkle of fluid, at the “waterfall” is not done justice by a mere photograph.
Pine Creek Trail, on the other hand, means lots of boulder hopping, along the creek bed.
The basalt, which makes up much of the area, may be examined up close.
This is the consummate Southwest- constant interplay between rock and water.
Small caves abound, north of the Natural Bridge.
You may see the first of my confirmations, as the two ledges meet.
Segments of the Bridge show escape hatches for the light.
I stood, contemplating the Natural Bridge, for about ten minutes, while encouraging those who had selected to traverse the narrow ledge between the north and south sides. I can’t see the thrill, but they felt it.
After a satisfying lunch at Early Bird Restaurant, in Pine, I headed over to Pine Trailhead, for a five-mile roundtrip intro to the Arizona Trail.
Actually, I have walked about three miles or so of the Trail, in Davidson Canyon, near Tucson. The Trail itself runs 807 miles, 795 of which go directly from the Mexican border to the Utah state line. The other twelve miles circumnavigate Flagstaff.
I chose Oak Springs Trail, which takes one across Highway 87, over to a Reservoir and up to a ridge line.
Spring is springing! These looks like houndstongues, but I could be mistaken.
There was no mistaking the horned lizard, however.
I rested at this little nook, just east of a reservoir, called Bradshaw Tank.
I did not go all the way to Oak Spring, choosing to save the majority of this magnificent trail for another time. There were some anomalous sights on the way back: A memento of a previous hiker’s visit;
A scene of life that is emerging;
and finally, my second confirmation of the day.
I headed back down towards Camp Verde and Prescott, after that.
There is an interesting pullout, on the way up to the Mogollon Rim, at Mile 13 of the General Crook Highway. This area is closely associated with the unfortunate conflict between the U.S. Cavalry and the Tonto Apaches, as I have explained in a 2012 post on Fort Verde State Park.
Thus was the interplay between light and shadow. Little did I know, driving down the switchbacks and along I-17 towards Hwy 169, and home, that this drive would likely be the last, for my trusty Kia Optima. Its brakes locked, as I approached the stop sign at the 169 just a bit too fast, and ended in a ditch. Two hours later, my car, shattered windshield, deployed air bag and all, was in a tow yard. I was at home, explaining to those closest to me, by phone, what had happened, as my client listened and offered his own support, while organizing his possessions for Monday’s move. The State Patrol and the judge in Mayer are sympathetic, but still say I need to take an online Traffic Safety course. Yes, indeed, officers, and Your Honour. I will take the course, treat my scrapes and scratches, work with the insurance company, get back to mobility and not take anything for granted, ever again.