The shutdown of the Federal Government ended a rather elaborate Grand Canyon vacation plan involving friends flying in from several different states, camping on both rims, R2R and R2R2R runs/hikes and general good fun. But Alison and I headed north anyway – on the one hand there is no substitute for the Grand Canyon, on the other Arizona is literally filled with substitutes…
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park had been in the back of our minds for several years and it was an easy decision to stop by on our way from Tucson to Flagstaff. There is a bit of hiking and short canyon trail, but the highlight and real reason to visit is certainly being able to view (and walk under!) the Tonto Natural Bridge.
It was amazing to stand under the bridge, see rainbows in the mist, feel the cold water and watch the sun slipping behind the walls of the bridge – too soon park hours demanded that we continue towards Flagstaff.
Memory changes reality – we have been in Tucson 13 years and when I hike in the mountains near town I am rarely alone even if I don’t have any partners for the day – most hikes, at some point, cross paths with the phantoms of past adventures. We were on Humphreys Peak just a little over a decade ago and it was fun to remember that trip and those friends as we hiked.
After several false peaks (that we remembered from our hike 10 years ago) we reached the top – it was crowded when we arrived (we were not the only ones finding alternatives to the Grand Canyon!), but we were lucky and had a few minutes alone to enjoy the views.
The summit just over a decade ago – Joe, Tim, Chris (leaning on the sign), Me, Alison, Dave, Leah – all except Leah were Summit Hut employees.
Sycamore Rim Trail
I had trained for the Grand Canyon, but after a long day on Humphreys Peak I was happy to end up on a hike without quite as much elevation gain/loss. After taking pictures of the Prairie Dogs near the road we started the hike at the Dow Springs Trailhead. The hike was a great contrast to Humphreys and different than the terrain near Tucson – water, green, springs, Ka Hill, Pomeroy Tanks, Paradise Forks, Sycamore Canyon, moon, stars…
It was fun to be in this area again – in past years we climbed at Paradise Forks a number of times, but in this one hike we saw more of the area than we ever did in all our climbing trips…
We had read that this trail could be crowded – at least near the numerous trailheads – and noisy from the roads cutting thru the area – but we didn’t see anyone for the entire 12 mile loop! A nice contrast to the line of people on Humphreys.
We were tired but decided to fit in a short hike on the way back to Tucson – Cathedral Rock in Sedona. We parked at the Baldwin Trailhead and took the Baldwin and Templeton trails along Oak Creek to the Cathedral Rock Trail – the Cathedral Rock Trail is short, steep, fun and takes you to a great view and a classic photo opportunity –
And then back to Tucson…