It was with relief that we moved to the cool, clear air of Payson AZ from the yellowish smog of the Picacho Peak area. Being at a much higher elevation (about 6000′), it seemed obvious that we should spend our time exploring the many hikes in the area. So, we did.

Our base for four nights was the Houston Mesa Campground in the Tonto National Forest. Other than the Camp Host, we were the only campers in this 100 site campground. What a change from the packed Picacho Peak State Park! This campground is a gem.

Day One: The first hike we selected was a bust. Called the Monument View hike, we hoped for something with sweeping vistas of the Mogollon (Muggy On) Plateau. Nope. What we got was a walk through a hard-packed ravine where trail motorbikes must often race around. 20180305_1221191162682630.jpgIt was quite a disappointment. The best thing was this huge boulder alongside the road. It was impressive, just sitting there all by itself.20180305_133210117398971.jpgThe rest of the hike? Meh…

Day Two: It seemed like a good idea to take a hike with a bit of elevation involved, since our legs had finally recovered from hiking at Picacho. So, the Military Sinkhole Trail seemed like an obvious choice.20180306_1248171357081767.jpg We started at the bottom, and hiked a rocky trail up and up. 20180306_1206231361577040.jpgThe number of downed trees in the forest was amazing – I understand now how all this brush can fuel a forest fire – some of these trees had obviously been down for years, if not decades.20180307_124845119157993.jpg Thick carpets of pine needles and leaves made the path soft underfoot. When we finally arrived at the top, we were puzzled as to where the sinkhole actually was. John consulted Google, and we located it across the street from our scenic lunch spot. 20180306_121912369153406.jpg20180306_1218501013557682.jpgSadly, the sinkhole itself wasn’t photogenic in the least – there really was nothing there to see. But, what a gorgeous hike.

Day Three: The most popular hike in the Payson area is the Horton Spring Trail, according to Alltrails.com. Why not? This was totally different than the other two, as it followed Horton Creek up to its source. For four miles we followed along the rushing, cool creek – past small waterfalls and rocky outcroppings in the creek. 20180307_1148421088939701.jpg20180307_122622357031273.jpgAt one point, we passed two large wooden teepees. This photo doesn’t do them justice – somebody had to work hard to erect them – the logs in the big one were huge! I’m hoping it was a Scout project of some type – I really wanted to wade across the creek to examine them more closely, but there just wasn’t a spot where I felt I could cross without likely falling and filling up my boots!20180312_121604922202610.jpg Horton Spring is at the end of the hike – the water pours out of a rock from an artisan spring. Amazing. Most of my photos were a bust, so just take my word for it that it’s a gorgeous area, and a cool walk in the woods was the perfect activity for the day.

We were really sad to leave the Payson area after four nights. There’s a lot to explore here, and the cool air was much to our liking. But, we had a return date at Lost Dutchman State Park for a few nights. We took in a Cubs spring-training baseball game (Cubs beat the LA Angels 6-1). In case I don’t get to see the Detroit Tigers this year, this may have to satisfy my baseball game watching urge. We had pretty mediocre seats, but it was still fun.

Lost Dutchman has a trail that has intrigued us since the first time we saw it. It reaches from the campground up to the Flatiron – a peak at about nearly 3000′ above. 20180308_14364265722636.jpgIn a distance of about 3 miles, that’s a lot of elevation! It truly was the hardest hike I’ve ever done – the Trail was crowded with adventurers on a Saturday morning. There were even some paragliders out early on that Saturday morning. You can barely see one of them in this photo.20180310_084531-1144373445.jpg The crowds made things easier and harder at the same time. It was beneficial to have others around to point out the best handhold or route up an uncertain path, but it also led to a few logjams where we had to wait for our turn to haul ourselves up a particularly rough area. It took us exactly three hours to get to the top, and my legs were like jelly! Wow – what views! But, I never want to hike that one again. Once and done!20180310_0957441415430516.jpg20180310_1231401012063050.jpg20180310_112648-1939817177.jpg20180310_1133121389221668.jpgNow we’re holed up at Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. It would be tough to find a more beautiful campsite.20180311_155250-12087199245.jpg20180312_094446-11588087552.jpg We’ve got five days to explore the area – revisit a few of our favorite spots, and find a few hidden gems.



7 thoughts on “Hikeathon

  1. I’m impressed, 3,000 feet of elevation change! That’s more than there is in the entire state of Michigan from the shore of Lake Erie to the highest of the “peaks” in the Porcupine Mountains of the UP. Of course the 600 miles of hiking between those two locations would wear a person out more than the elevation change. ;) That does help me to understand the area that you’re in. I need to get out of the flatlands more often.

    My favorites of the hikes that you did was the Horton Creek Trail, I’m sure that the weather there is better than in Michigan this time of the year, but everything looks so dry and dusty in most of the photos, so it was nice to see some water for a change.

    There’s a series of sinkholes just to the west of Alpena, Michigan that I hiked to a few years ago, they were the most disappointing natural features that I’ve ever seen, although the hike to them was quite pleasant being in northern Michigan.

    I do enjoy seeing the blue sky in your photos, after a few nice days here, we’re back to the cold, dreary weather of winter again, although the snow doesn’t stick around for very long.


    • Have to laugh at your comparison of hiking elevation between a three mile AZ hike and all of Michigan. If I had to pick a,fave myself, it would have to be the Flat iron hike, if only because of the sheer brutality of it (not to mention the relief of having done it.)

      Like you, I’m done with sinkholes! Twice i had high expectations for nothing! Not going to chase,another sinkhole sighting.

      It’s amazing to be so mewhere with such a diverse landscape. I love Michigan’s beauty, but it’s just not the same.


  2. What a journey you are undertaking. So many huge hikes on rough trails! It’s wonderful that you and John can do this together, seeing such wonders! Love the pictures and the travelogue! Keep it coming.


  3. It was fun to read your descriptions and see your pictures of what we call The Mogollon Rim area. I knew there is a Houston Trail but I wasn’t aware of the campground. I may try camping in it next summer. The Military Sinkhole is the one I wrote you about several months ago. It is not photogenic but is definitely a hole in the ground. “Military” because it still held a pond fed by a spring during the Apache Wars and General Crook used it as a watering hole. He built his 2-rut, dirt Crook Road so that it went close to the sinkhole. The current, graveled Crook’s Road, parallels Crook’s Road but uses the old roadbed only in a few places. Wish I were able to visit you while you are wandering around Arizona and Joshua Tree Monument, but I wait day by day for carpenters to come and finish reconstructing my bathrooms.


  4. Beautiful Judy! You’re making me feel really lazy! But I certainly see why you and John love it out there. I’m living vicariously through you. Keep up the good work but take a break – have a beer!


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