We originally had planned to go to the Gila in southwestern New Mexico to meet some friends and do a hike/run in the mountains there. But...before that we flip flopped about 50 times about if we had the time to go or wanted to spend the money and to top it off Susan was maybe getting sick. We really wanted to explore a new area and hang out with friends but we just weren't sure if we could justify leaving town.
|(The Catwalk. This is where our hike/run in the Gila was supposed to start. Looks pretty rad. Maybe some other time.)|
Well, when we finally did get in touch with them they said that the loop we wanted to do was snowed in and in rough shape so they were headed further south in the Gila toward Silver City to climb, hot spring, eat steak, wander galleries and explore trails.
Poop...that foiled our plans to go there as we didn't have the time to drive further south and it wasn't worth it to drive all the way there if everything was going to be snowed in.
We parked it in a small town in eastern Arizona and tried to figure out a new plan... We were 3 hours from home and in need of a new direction for weekend play. We discussed exploring the trails of Gallup and brainstormed about other areas we didn't know much about and finally decided to head back to Northern Arizona and explore things a little closer to home. We turned the car around and headed to Payson.
That night, after a few more hours of driving, we drove through Payson and camped along the beautiful East Verde (an area that Jeff and I put up some sport routes last year). Finally!...we stopped driving, relaxed and got a great night sleep listening to the creek 100 feet away. East Verde is very reminiscent of Oak Creek between Flagstaff and Sedona. It's a small creek chalk full of lush grass and trees that contrast the dry and dusty desert surrounding it.
Then next morning we made a plan of visiting the Tonto Natural Bridge between Payson and Pine and then to Pine to run on the Highline Trail or Sedona to run. I was really excited to go to the Tonto Natural Bridge and explore it more as it is one of the most amazing looking 'potential climbing areas' in the United States and I wasn't able to walk through it during my visit last year (they weren't allowing people to walk under it as the creek was too high). I was convinced by that one visit, though, that this was a place I wanted to climb at (climbing there is not cool right now).
Well, our visit was awesome and I still wish that climbing could be possible there, but... after walking through it and being intimate with the space, I just don't see how the State Parks would ever feel comfortable with allowing us to put sport routes in there. The routes would be world class, hands down, but it seems to me that the state will never allow us to climb all over this gem...or at least it would take way, way more work and time than I, or potentially, anyone else would ever have to sway the State to allow climbing.
I guess it's better just to look at it and marvel. I guess we don't need to climb everything...arg.
|(Approaching the massive arch. That thing is 200 ft high!)|
|(First steps inside the arch.)|
|(Huge underbelly of the arch. This thing is 300 ft from one end to the other!)|
|(Really amazing swimming holes under the arch...no swimming allowed though. Lame.)|
|(One of my favorite features of the cave. This wall is at least 150 feet tall and covered in tufas!!! I guessed there could be at least 20 routes on this wall alone!)|
|(Another view of the impressive tufa wall. Holy crap!)|
|(Having fun grabbing cool features and wishing I could climb here.)|
|(Loving it. Yes, we are in the middle of the arch. This thing is huge!)|
|(Beautiful place. Oh yeah, that IS a waterfall flowing over the exit of the arch. Sick!)|
|(Marveling at all the features.)|
|(Oh...just another 150 foot tall tufa covered wall...)|
|(Want to get a sense of the size of this arch? Check out the two people at the bottom of this photo. THIS ARCH IS HUGE.)|
|(Exiting the back side of the arch.)|
|(WOW. This wall is over 250 feet tall and overhangs at least 200 feet and, yes, it has holds all over it!!!)|
|(I couldn't resist...)|
Susan and I were going to do the west most 5 miles as an out and back starting next to Pine....until we got creeped out by the dude in the van that gave us a weird look as we parked. He was just hanging out in the parking lot, sitting in his van. After that weird encounter and a guy at the parking lot telling us that the weird guy in the van had been there for at least 4 hours, we decided to drive a few miles away to another trail head to start our run on the Highline Trail.
So, we drove over to the Red Rock Trail. It added a 1 mile approach to the Highline Trail and connects at Red Rock Spring. We used this trail to access the Highline Trail and then ran on the Highline west for a few miles. The trails (Red Rock and Highline) were in terrible shape, as I have been told by many, so we didn't really run very much. We just resigned ourselves to a day of hiking with a little running sprinkled in. I mean, who ever originally built that trail was whack. It is in extremely bad shape mostly due to water erosion because of how it was built. In fact, the trail is pretty much loose rocks, bushes, fallen trees and water gullies. Fun for me on an adventure run...but not fun for a relaxing run out with the wife. Luckily, the expansive views were nice so we enjoyed exploring the (new to us) trails. It's hard not to enjoy new trails!
|(Red Rock Trailhead)|
|(This sign says that the trail is maintained by 'Payson Packers'. Hmmm...they have a different definition of maintained then I do.)|
|(Red Rock Trail/Highline Trail Junction)|
|(Part of Red Rock Spring.)|
|(A really nice spot, high on a ridge, on the Highline Trail.)|
|(Red Rock Trail sign on the way back to the car.)|
Well... about half way through the night the rain started and didn't stop. It only got stronger and stronger. We had to pack up and move the car to a camp spot miles closer to pavement than our original remote dirt road camp spot in fear of how treacherous the dirt roads could become.
Sunday morning we got up, recognized that there was going to be no running with how the trails would be a complete mud bog and carefully maneuvered the muddy dirt roads to 89a and headed home.
So, it ended up being a weekend away, but at home all the same. Kind of fun to do a weekend away in our own neck of the woods. We have an amazing back yard! Good adventuring! Gotta love Arizona.