It has been 20 weeks since our last real vacation from boat work, and to say that we were ready for it was the understatement of the century. Sure, there’s been the random day off here or there. What’s come to be known as ‘Bloody Mary Sunday’ where we spent a day at the marina drinking way too many bloody marys with friends in the work yard and were in bed by 3 pm; the 2 days we took off to head to Miami for our Vineyard Vines photo shoot; and one morning where I put my foot down and told Matt I couldn’t go on anymore without a break, so we watched a marathon of Mad Men in bed instead; but other than that, each day has consisted of some form of work.
Luckily there have been the occasional BBQs at the patio in the evening or different sets of friends stopping by to give us a little nightly entertainment, but otherwise our nose has been to the grindstone as we’ve spent way many more months working on the exterior of Daze Off than we ever thought it would take. So when my parents had offered in their last visit to see us in December to host us at their place in Arizona anytime we wanted, we knew it was time to take them up on that offer.
Our flight out of Palm Beach gave us great views of the ICW and coastline out the window, and even a shot at Lake Worth below us where our friends Johannes and Cati were sitting at anchor. Although we missed our connecting flight to Phoenix and arrived two hours later than we originally anticipated, it was still nice to be able to travel where I could hand over the reigns of getting there, and all I had to do was show up. I still laugh at the people who complain how hard it is to fly somewhere because of connections or having to stand in any number of random lines. Seriously, try sailing there. You still have it easier while you’re sitting in a waiting area playing around on your wifi.
Because of our 1 am arrival to my parents house, we thought our first day would be full of lounging in front of the tv with air conditioning blowing on us, and maybe taking a dip in the pool after drinking a cold beer or two in the afternoon. Little did we know that my dad had taken a half day off work so he could take us sightseeing. After hearing a few comments from Matt in the past of “I could never live in a desert, I need something green around me”, I think my parents took the hint on what he might want to see with his time there.
Piling into car, we did make a quick pit stop before our destination de jour to an overlook of the Superstition Mountains that run on the outskirts of where my parents live in Mesa, and the river that winds around them. We were told about some hiking trails just up the road, and I was determined that at least one day during our stay, Matt and I would get around to seeing them.
For the next 90 minutes or so we rode through a mix of expressways and county roads, our elevation changing, and the scenery along with it. Fields of dust gave way to groups of cacti, which turned into low shrubs, and eventually pine trees. The area we were eventually trying to end up that day was the Mogollon Rim that runs through Payson. Located at an elevation of 5,000 ft, it’s a popular place for people in the valley to escape the heat and take in some spectacular views while they’re at it.
As soon as we jumped out of the car we noticed the sharp temperature drop, having gone from 80’s back in Mesa to barely hitting 60 degrees here. As we walked out toward the edge off the rim, turbulent winds came out of hiding and made you second guess every step you took closer to the edge. The views below were well worth any lack of stability though, and it felt like we were transported to a scene that was more appropriate for South Carolina, but definitely not the Arizona we had been expecting. My parents definitely hit the mark when they decided to take us here.
Taking a few different trails down to different areas of the rim, I took in every view I could while teetering on top of the large rocks that separated me from the bottom. At the end of one trail we saw a memorial sign for a pet and I really hoped that someone wasn’t playing an ill located game of fetch with their dog, until my dad mentioned that it may have been the dog’s favorite place to go and not how he died. It did turn into the running joke of the day though, pretending to throw a ball and then making woofing sounds that slowly died out.
Taking shelter from the winds we drove further into the park where a small lake was situated. Strolling the banks of it for a few minutes, we also decided it was a good time for a small picnic of cheese and wine by the water. Since it was the middle of the week and also the beginning of camping season, things were rather slow and we had the whole place to ourselves.
Our last stop of the day was an unintended one, but a pleasant surprise to all of us. My dad had seen something on TV recently about Tonto Natural Bridge Park, and since we were so close we decided, why not? Unfortunately we did end up there about an hour before closing, but it still gave us enough time to do a little walking and take in some great sights.
The Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. It stands at 400 ft long, 150 ft wide, and 183 ft high. The first path we took to view it brought us out to the back side of it where you could start to see that a cave was forming, but mostly took in the large amounts of reddish limestone in front of you. If we thought that was a great view, we had no idea what was waiting for us on the other side.
Retracing our steps back through the parking lot and to the next viewing area, we had no idea that we were in fact walking on the natural bridge until an open grate in the cement showed us the view to the rocks and stream 183 ft below us. Getting off the bridge and turning a corner onto another path, we were able to look back to where we had just come from. A lone tree sitting on a lump of soil was hanging precariously over an edge that led to a sheer drop surrounded by jagged limestone on each side.
All for of us stood in awe for a few moments since this had been such an unexpected surprise, and I don’t think any of us knew what to predict from our visit here. From our perch on the walkway we could see another path at the bottom of the bridge which led right up to the cave, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time before the park closed to be able to check it out.
Instead, with our remaining time, we decided to quickly check out the waterfall trail right next to where we had parked the car. It didn’t look like much from the trail head, but as we got deeper into it we quickly began descending steep steps in the dirt that led to lush greenery. The walk wasn’t very long, and soon we were straightening out and could see a small waterfall in the rocks ahead of us. Again the change in scenery was sudden and unforeseen. Who knew such a diverse geography could be held in such a small area?
Spending just a few minutes taking in the sights, we knew we needed to be out of the park before it closed. Plus those large couches, air conditioning, and a large dinner from Five Guys was calling our name. Settling back in the car for the two hour drive home I finally let the toll of the last days travel set in as I fell into the cracks of the cushions and my little travel pillow. For our first day in, we’d taken in more remarkable sights than I’d been expecting to see during our entire stay. And since this was only day one, who knew what else awaited us.