Payson and the Mogollon Rim country in general have always been favorite hiking spots of mine. Just the drive from Phoenix to Payson is beautiful. As you come up onto the tops of the hills, the sky gets bigger and bigger. The world seems to fall away and become nothing but clouds.
I try to find the spots near water for hiking, because that’s where you find the best plants and the coolest shade. To that end, I have done many hikes into the Tonto Natural Bridge (now closed to the public) and into Fossil Creek (which is thankfully still open!)
On my last hike, I was searching for something else. I hadn’t been there in years. It’s the kind of spot where teenagers go to get in trouble. It was off the Beeline Highway, and it was a long road that wound to cliffs with deep, clear pools of water below them. I had been there several times with friends back when I owned a truck and did a lot more camping, and I wanted to find it again.
I took a right on what I think was Flowing Springs Road, just outside Payson but not yet into the town of Pine. It’s not a long drive to the end of the road. All of a sudden you reach a place with huge signs that say “Private Property” and “No Trespassing, Keep Out.”
I was devastated when I got to the end, because I had been sure it was the right road after driving past several things that I thought were familiar. I wanted to leave the car at the end of the road and keep walking, but I was with Rob, and he is one of those people who only break the laws he doesn’t like (and the trespassing law is not one of the ones he doesn’t like.) I can only assume I was on the right track and the land beyond what was public had been sold. It always makes me sad to find public land turned private and opportunities for exploration cut short.
But we got out and walked around anyway, and the part that you can still walk around is nice. The water isn’t clear anymore. It’s been damned up to make fishing holes. But it’s still pretty country, and there’s nothing quite like the sound of a babbling brook to sooth a person’s soul. I always feel like I didn’t even know I was holding my breath until I get up to the rim and let it out. *Sigh* What a great place!
So if you get the chance, head up to Payson. It’s still hot there, so bring lots of water and don’t expect it to be chilly. It’s Arizona in the summer, and it gets hot. And please, if you are a smoker, bring something to put your butts in. As Arizona becomes more well-traveled and crowded, I have been sad to see cigarette butts on a lot of my favorite hiking trails. So, as the guy in Jurassic Park says: “Hold onto your butts.”