With my semester over and finals out of the way (all A’s and A+’s, thank you very much), I thought, “Hey! I should get out of the Valley and check out a new trail!” So, with my two very good friends Matt and Becky in tow, I did! The destination of the day was the Mogollon Rim from a section of the Highline Trail just outside of Payson, AZ. We began at the See Canyon Trail Head and headed off on Highline. About 2.5 miles in we hit spur 291- Drew Trail which was then about 1.5 miles to the top. I am getting ahead of my descriptions here though, so I’ll back up.
Stepping out of the car into the pine forest, I immediately headed to the dump toilet at the parking lot because, well, I must always check out the facilities on any run. In this case, it was a toilet that was complete with toilet smell. Excellent. There was a chill in the air for this desert girl, so I grabbed my long sleeve shirt and jacket to bring along on the run in case I needed them. Then we stepped out onto the trail. We immediately came across a crisp mountain stream: real running water! There was a plank across it so I went on, but I knew on the way back I’d need to play there a bit. The trail we were on was tight and padded with soft dirt and pine cones. Grasses brushed our ankles and bushes caressed our shoulders. The breeze periodically tried to dig its cold fingers inside my skin and blew through the pines like a freight train. I was in heaven.
Along the entire trail we saw elk sign- mostly poop, but we also saw some great tracks and a possible tree rubbing.
The horny toads were out in force- I think I caught about four of them, but there were many more that we saw, along with some interesting long-bodied, stocky lizards. They were too fast for me to catch though.
We startled a coyote about twenty feet off the trail. It was beautiful- very filled out and healthy looking. The trail itself was great. We took Highline Trail, climbing through the trees, towards Drew Trail. We stepped over rocks, roots, and pine cones. Since all of us are so used to running at low elevation, we frequently could feel the effects of the higher elevation here in the climbs, but it wasn’t too bad. We powered along, alternating running with hiking and “oohing and ahhing”. There was also the occasional, obligatory pee stop. What adventure is complete without peeing in the wilderness?
From the descriptions we’d read online, we thought the 291 Drew Trail spur would be partially hidden and/or difficult to find. As it turned out, it was very easy to find since Highline barreled right into it upon crossing a fence. At this point, we headed up the side of the mountain. And up. And up. We stopped on a rock to eat a snack. Some tomfoolery ensued here upon the eating of some expired Cliff Shot Bloks. I have video, but unfortunately I have to pay to upgrade my WordPress account to allow video, and I am incredibly cheap. So you will just have to believe me that the shenanigans were hilarious and go with that.
We popped up on the Rim at a dirt service road and campground. The views out over the surrounding forest were amazing. While goofing around here, I just had to take a few token ultra-runner yoga poses.
We continued on Drew Trail until it T’d with what I believe was the General Crook Trail. There was a small meadow here where we stopped to look for wildlife, but we didn’t see anything.
The descent was a scream! All of the climbing up to the Rim (about 1700 feet of climbing) paid off coming down! We flew over all of those rocks, roots, and pine cones! Other than the speed, the trip back was uneventful until we got back to the creek (which I believe was Christopher Creek). I kicked off my shoes headed into the stream to play a bit and feel some dirt between my toes.
No adventure is complete without being topped off by an additional adventure in eating. As we passed through Payson on the way in, I’d seen a Mexican restaurant called El Mexicano that looked interesting, so we stopped there for a late lunch. When we arrived, there was one car in the parking lot and one couple inside. That couple soon finished up and left. With no one else in attendance at that time, I expected that the service would be exemplary, or at least good. It was meh. The waitress didn’t know the special and we had to ask for refills on our water and chips. The food was good though, and the company was great.
After lunch, we headed home with full bellies and another epic adventure under our belts. Yet another day for which I am truly thankful to call these wonderful people my friends.