Well, we had another great adventure this past weekend, 600 miles in the Expedition Celica, 250 plus of it on dirt roads. It was my birthday weekend, so my choice was to head north to hang out in Christopher Creek. The plan was formed last month, when we tried to go camping on the Rim, in March. My last minute addition to the trip was to go to take a tour at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (http://southwestwildlife.org/). We met a woman who works there as a vet tech about 1-1/2 years ago, while at a mutual friend's wedding. Timing was always off, tried making plans to visit last year, but got too busy and forgot about it, I suppose. Very nice place, with an aim at releasing as many animals as they can back into the wild. They don't have a ton of animals, but the ones they do are very well taken care of. We did a 10am tour, then headed north around 11:30 from there. Lunch in Payson, topped off the gas tank, then finished the drive up to Christopher Creek. We got settled into the cabin, relaxed a bit, took a walk down to the general store for a few things, before eventually going to dinner at the lodge.
The real adventure started after dinner. We jumped into the car around 7:30pm, heading for Old Rim Rd., up along Woods Canyon Lake. The idea was to get some fun night driving in up on the dirt roads up there. 3-1/2 hours and 100 miles later, we pulled back into town. We saw a lot of animals, elk, deer, jack rabbits the size of dogs, etc... The Celica has some amazingly bright HID driving lights, pretty much turn night into day in front of the car.
The next morning we slept in a bit, it was a vacation after all, don't always have to be on the move. Besides, the inside of the cabin was cold, so I figured it must be cold outside too. Wrong it was already 10-15 degrees warmer outside by the time we got up and headed down to breakfast. After breakfast, we headed back into Payson, top the car back up with gas and turned up 87 heading north towards Fossil Creek. We didn't make it up that far though. Instead we stopped at the Tonto Natural Bridge Park, wow, very cool place to hike around. Neither of us had been there, so it was a great surprise for us both. There's even a section along the hike up the ravine that looks like you're in Central America, very rain forest like with moss and vines everywhere. When we were done with hiking around, we just sat back, had a nice mid day snack and enjoyed the scenery while figuring out where to next. Our next turn was three more mile up the highway, another dirt road that headed back toward the east, about 30 miles long. Many hours later, we had taken mostly dirt road as far southeast as Young, and then back up to Woods Canyon Lake to look around there, still snow on the ground along the shore line. Just around sun set, we made our way back to the cabin, enough driving around for the day.
Sunday was a bit like Saturday morning, lazy to get up and get going, partially because I knew just how HOT it would be driving back into the valley with no A/C. Breakfast at the lodge was much tastier, fresh, homemade jams for our toast, clearly we should have eaten at the lodge Saturday morning. After packing everything up, checking out, we worked our way back into Payson one more time. Funny, I guess my credit card company didn't like me buying gas at the same station three days in a row. At this point, I think most people would have turned south down the BeeLine, but we headed north, up through Pine and Strawberry to take 260 across through Camp Verde. At I-17 we went south to 169, 169 south to Meyer, where we once again go onto the dirt roads. We wound around until we ended up on Crown King Rd, but rather than taking the long detour up into Crown King, we just took the road south until it popped back onto I-17 at the Bumble Bee exit. By the time we got home it was 1:30 and 104 degrees outside. What a trip...