The Arizona Trail

As we came down out of El Capitan Pass, still in search of an enormous old man saguaro to snap my crazy mug beside, we pulled off on a very narrow shoulder into what turned out to be an incredible natural botanical garden of high Sonoran desert flora.

Roosevelt Lake

When we came down into the valley where the reservoir of Roosevelt Lake was created, we pulled off at an “overlook” that was barely a dozen feet above the valley floor, but with a view of the Tonto National Monument and the even a distant glimpse of the Salado Cliff Dwellings, which I’m hoping we’ll go back to see in the fall — the upper cliff dwellings are only starting from November.

The Arizona Trail

It wasn’t until more than halfway through our travels for the day that we realized we were following by car approximately the route of the Arizona Trail, a cross-state hiking trail passing through multiple biomes of Arizona. It was one of a number of things we found along the banks of Roosevelt Lake, including a nice steel span bridge and some birdwatching spots we’ll have to come back to with better shoes for dirt, maybe even a rented kayak.

I got very close to an Abert’s towhee and some hummingbirds. The north end of the lake is a known breeding ground for bald eagles, snowy egrets and ducks, of all of which we think we saw but at a great distance. We heard lots of birdsong, too, but nothing close enough to identify.

The plan was to end the day with sunset on the Mogollon Rim, and at this point we determined that we would have to head more or less straight there to make it.

Pine Creek

We didn’t even stop to admire the herd of elk casually grazing right along the main road in the middle of the town of Pine Creek, so all I have are these shots from the moving car….

Mogollon Rim

Even so, it was pretty dark by the time we found our way to the right forest road, picked a spot to park, and tromped our way out into the underbrush in the gloaming to the edge of the Mogollon Rim. Fortunately, I’d been there before, so I knew what rugged majesty was hidden out there in the dark. This time, more than the vistas, we were entranced by the play of lightning across the night landscape. Definitely worth a return trip, though!

What I thought was going to be a fairly direct drive to the Grand Canyon turned into a grand all-day adventure through a series of different and distinctive landscapes. I had no idea Arizona had so much to offer, and I’m looking forward to more of these road trips!

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