Payson, AZ

Tonto Natural Bridge

We didn’t know where we wanted to go, but we knew we wanted to get out of town. Throwing darts at a map, we ended up hiking through Payson. We worked our way through Tonto Natural Bridge, Water Wheel Falls, and Horton Springs.

It was a beautiful morning, with clear blue skies. After paying our admission fee, the Park Guides explained the Observation Deck was closed today. We decided to take the Anna Mae Trail down and found it ridiculously easy compared to what we were used to. Under the bridge, we had to scramble along the rock face to get to the far side, and that proved a bit more challenge, but delightfully rewarding. The water falling from the bottom of the bridge was so beautiful to see.

On our way out, we chose the Pine Canyon Trail, and figured it would be a nice stroll through the woods. That was a mistake, as it was much longer and harder than we had anticipated. Lots of scrambling and rock crawling, and a little bit of accidental bouldering throughout the trail.

At one point, I had lost my footing on an overhang, and managed to maintain my handhold on the rock face. I instinctively clutched my camera to my chest to protect it. My left shin slammed into the underside of the overhang. I felt my death grip on the rock tighten, and my right arm’s muscles began to burn. As my arm slowly extended from fatigue, I felt like I was falling in slow motion. Has it been hours, or days even? No, just a few seconds. My grip finally exhausted, and I landed on my backpack with a thud, a fall of about two feet. I asked why she didn’t even try to catch me. She said she was, “mesmerized by the awkward display of strength with the grace of a ballet school droput.” Quite literally one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me.

Also, there was a squirrel.

By about noon, we had finally made it back to the car, and drove towards Water Wheel. Sadly, we were completely unimpressed and bored by the trail, and promptly made our way to Horton Springs. Again, the trail was short and unremarkable. While walking through the woods, we decided it was our fault for going on the best ride first, so to speak. Of course the merry-go-round is boring after you’ve just gotten off of the feature rollercoaster.

When we got back down the hill, we drove to The Wilderness in Chandler for dinner and beer. We ended the night satisfied and exhausted.

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