Monday, July 6, 2009

Northern Arizona pine country - Part 6

I know I have a long day ahead of me so I'm in no hurry at all. I woke up talked with Sandy and Lisa. They didn't take long to pack up and leave, but I had no plan on leaving just yet. Today is my big trip to the Tonto Natural Bridge. I get packed up (which was mainly just my camera) and head on out. The bridge isn't very far from Payson so I had a very short ride. I was well rested and had a great day yesterday so I really enjoyed the ride there.

Now after the turn off its about a 3 mile ride down to the bridge area. Looks much like a high desert landscape with little pines.

Once you get most of the way down the road, you drive the side of a cliff all the way down.

Because it was very steep with many switchbacks I did not take any more photos of the road. My safety was much more important and I really should be paying attention to riding.

Here is a map of the area.

This used to be private owned, and I did go when it was such. Since the state took this over and are keeping it well preserved, although it was never in bad condition. I walked most of this and was completely exhausted in doing so. Its not just walking, there is quite a bit of hiking. I was surprised my knees held up so well. I was a little irritated the whole day tho, my camera did not seem to be functioning all day. It wouldn't auto focus. It always has and thought that this was the only option. I found out after I got home there is a setting to set to manual. There were many more photos which I thought were going to be fine and looked like crap so I deleted them.

This is a hole in the top of the bridge that they put a mesh cover over so you could look down but not fall. Its much further than it looks.

This is right on the edge of the bridge looking down. As you can see from the ant size ppl that it is very far up. To the left is where the old pathway used to be before it was bought by the state (although you can't see it). That path is made of steps (made out of rocks if I remember correctly) and a chain which is attached to the cliff to hold on too. That's it. Not really easy to get up or down. On the right the dark area is water that is falling.

These next shots are of the water running down the bridge area. This is the same area that was on the right side in the last photo. From the first I am panning from left to right (where the actual bridge is).

I headed to the start of the old trail down. I figured they would have a way down there, but no closed.

Yes I know, if you click on on the picture it is blurry. Again I blame this on my lack of experience and ignorance. I headed back the way I came, across the top of the bridge and down Gowan Trail. I didn't take a ton of photos down the trail. There were many ppl and it is uninteresting.

As I am walking down the trail I keep looking back up at the bridge to see if I can get a good shot of the water that is flowing off of it.

Finally I get down to the path you saw in the early photo and I look like I'm ant size to them I'm sure.

Once I really got to the meat and potatoes I wanted to get some shots directly below the water. Its so beautiful to watch and relaxing to hear. I know I'm a bit insane taking my camera to close to the water. Don't get me wrong I was nervous but very careful where I walked.

Right in front of me the water is falling, however this time I'm under the bridge. There was quite a bit of wind so the water kept blowing in and had to be careful not to get the camera soaked.

The formations on the ceiling were really amazing.

What is even more amazing is what you can't see in this next photo. There wasn't a better spot for me to get in. I used to be able to climb to an area you could see it. There are Indian ruins up there at the top.

At this point I'm far from done. I'm not close to getting out of the bridge let alone being complete done with my hike.

It is complete impossible to walk under the bridge and not get even a little wet. I tuck my camera under my shirt and proceed.

Before the state owned this, ppl used to swim in here.

Still much more hiking to get out from underneath the bridge.

After getting thru all that I wanted to continue hiking. There are some cool looking caves (small tho).

Here is what might have been my money shots. I saw a squirrel that did not seemed to be too bothered by me. I walked very slowly and was just trying to get some good close up photos. I was talking to him and he looked like he was actually listening, it was quite humorous. Finally when I began to take the photos a lady and her boy ran up and scared the little guy away. The first shot you can see him, but the 2nd is only of his tail.

I refused to take the easy path, but rather the path that looked the coolest.

Nearing the end of the path I could see part of the Waterfall Trail and water coming right down the mountain. This looks like it was right out of Hawaii. So beautiful. I have never seen this area before so it was quite refreshing. Arizona never ceases to amaze me.

Tho almost all the way back up, one last shot of the area.

I get to the stop and there is still quite a walk back to the next area, the Waterfall Trail.

The path is very long and almost straight down, tons of steps. It was almost disappointing to walk all the way down for what little scene was about to come, but I still enjoyed it and got some great exercise. The kicker here was that just as I started down the path there was a couple I was about to pass. The guy stop and looks at me strange. He asked, "Don't I know you?" Honestly I don't recognize him and let him know that I wasn't sure. "You went to Peoria High School, didn't you?". Oh man, are you kidding? Neither of us really knew each other, but he knew my face and I knew is name. What a small world! We had a short conversation before I headed on down the path.

I get to the bottom and the trail cuts left on a metal platform. It was amazing. The water flowing down was awesome! I tried not to get to close with the camera, but was difficult not to.

This is the end of the trail. It did not have any loop in it, so I had to hike back the way I came. Quite a hike if you ask me. After I get to the top I proceed back to my bike, pack up and head out. What a day! Oh but its not over just yet. Another surprise was in store for me. I'm riding back up the same road I came from. Keep in mind it is a small 2 lane road. As I'm nearing the top I see what looks like a rubber speed bump that was put in my lane. Not the kind that are in parking lots but the kind that are just to detour you from going to fast. From the center 3/4 the way over to the right (not the full length). I'm cruising pretty slow both due to the curves and I am headed up this very steep road. At this time I'm thinking to myself why wouldn't they put the speed bump across the whole lane? Any why on did they put this on the uphill and not on the downhill? Didn't think to much into it, however I did slow down a bunch and pulled to the far right as to miss the speed bump. As I am almost right up on it, the speed bump moves. The far right side comes straight up. At this point I'm thinking what the hell is going on. Just as I am about to pass it, its a freakin SNAKE!!! And a huge one at that. I'm already pulled all the way over to the right but by reaction I pulled up my left foot off the floorboard and pass it. Nothing happened, no noise, he didn't try and strike me. But damn, scared the crap out of me. My adrenaline is going pretty fast right now, and enjoy the rest of my ride back to my parents place before heading home.


  1. Holy Cow that was beautiful! I have to come back so I can look at that again! Very Interesting...

  2. Wow, what a beautiful place. Your pics are awesome. Good jog brother.