Hiking the Natural Bridge

Travel Journal – February 15, 2016
Arise and Shine

The alarm rings early for me, 6:30 am. It’s still somewhat dark at that time here in Arizona this time of year. I get ready for the day. Today I plan on spending with my family at the Tonto Natural Bridge, just outside of Payson. It’s officially Presidents day and everyone has the day off and we are all looking forward to spending it together hiking.

I take Jagger outside and spend a little time with him before saying good bye for the day. I will be gone over six hours and they don’t allow dogs on the trails at this site.

After putting him in the Coach and setting the AC and music, I’m off down the road. The weatherman is reporting it will be 84 here in Mesa and 68 where we are going, which is at almost 6,000 feet in elevation. I met my daughter, her boys along with her friend and her son at a McDonald’s near Riverview and we all climb into the workhorse for the hour and a half drive to the park. It’s a beautiful, clear Arizona day with not a cloud in the sky and a slight breeze.

The Natural Bridge
Leaving the parking area on our hike

Leaving the parking area on our hike

On our arrival at the gate, I ask if my “National Parks Senior Pass” will work for the entry fee. The attendant says not at this facility and I expect to pay an entrance fee of maybe $7. Nope, they charge $7 per Adult and $4  per child 7 through 14. That seems a bit steep, but I’ve seen fees raising dramatically in the western states and some in other places I have visited. Also the camping fees have been moving up, what seems like more than is reasonable or fair in some cases. I pass him the fee and we enter, driving to where my Son, his wife and children are waiting for us to arrive.

Hiking the Trails

The trails we are hiking today are fairly short, but several have an elevation gain that’s quite steep, so we pack light and take off for the first trail of the day. During our day we hiked every trail and saw all the viewpoints that were open. The water level is high this time of year, so several trails were closed unfortunately due to the snow melt and runoff.

The resulting formations we saw were awesome. The pictures here don’t do justice to the actual formations we viewed. The sun and shadows make it difficult to capture. It’s amazing what time, a few minerals and water will do adding gravity. We traversed a few slippery slopes and muddy trails, while visiting with fellow travelers along the way. The “waterfall” was not very spectacular in it’s own right, but streams of water cascading down the cliff, creating formations and moss along the way.20162015NaturalBridge (28)

Lunch Break – A Picnic

After our steepest climb we went back to the truck and pulled out our prepared lunches, taking a break to recharge. Then we finished up our climbing with only one slight accident for the day. One of the grandchildren fell, skinning his knees and elbows. No major damage, just a little embarrassing for him, but he’s a tough guy.

Return to Camp

After our adventure for the day we drove back down the mountain, going our separate ways. It was a great day to be out exploring and making good memories with my family again.

When I arrive back at the Coach there was a very excited Jagger waiting for me. We ate and then went for a walk at the park nearby. Afterwards returning to the Coach I saw my neighbor was out enjoying the soon to be starlit evening. I joined them, along with another neighbor from across the way and we shared stories and life experiences this evening. What a great day it was here in Arizona.

Until next time, Safe Travels…Gary

More Photos: Tonto Natural Bridge

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