By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/22/2019
Occurred: 1/24/2010
Topics/Keywords: #Arizona #Payson #PineTrail #Zachary Page Views: 1204
We travel north of Payson to play in the snow.

It's an ill wind that doesn't blow some good, and an ill storm as well. The weather that just blew through Arizona didn't disappoint; it left behind several feet of snow in Flagstaff as well as bringing us almost to normal water levels in our lakes and dams. That meant that a short, two hour drive was enough to take us to a snowy place to play, which we'd been promising Zach we'd do for a couple months now. So we took it, driving up the Beeline Highway to Payson and then a little farther, to where there was clean air, clean snow, and space for Zach and his friend, Lane, to play.

The last time Zach got to see snow in person was in March of 2008. That time, we also started at Payson and then took Highway 260 to the top of the Mogollon Rim northeast of Payson. This time I wanted to go somewhere different, at least slightly; and aimed for the higher elevations due north of Payson, near the small town of Pine.

But we'd barely left the house before we got to see snow, at least, at a distance. The storm had whitened the top of Four Peaks, something we seldom get to see.

Four Peaks with a snowy cap.

As we drove north on Arizona Highway 87 (the Beeline), we soon got to look up at the Mogollon Rim, a mile higher than us and, clearly, a lot colder.

The Mogollon Rim after the snowstorm.

We passed through Payson and stopped at the entrance to the Natural Bridge State Park. The Park was closed, but a number of cars were parked at the side of the road so we joined them. Zach and Lane couldn't get out of the car and into the white stuff soon enough.

Zach and Lane in the snow.

Zach excitedly pointed out that he'd never seen trees with snow on them before. These were the piñons and junipers that festoon the area.

Snow covered p˝ons and junipers enhanced the wintry scene. Michael in our trusty 4WD Ford Expedition.

Just as the boys had started a fort, a uniformed man came along and made everyone move so he could plaw the road. So we drove further north, to the town of Pine where we used the bathroom. We then retraced our steps a couple miles to a sign I'd noticed for the Pine Canyon Trail head. The road was still covered with snow, except for a pair of tracks that showed the snow here was only about a foot deep and the road beneath it was paved. I switched into four-wheel-drive and drove Pine Canyon Trail signpost.until we reached the trailhead parking lot.

This was a better spot anyway, much prettier and less crowded. The boys immediately returned to the task of building the fort while Michael took a nap in the car and I started up the trail a short distance to take some pictures.

The snow on the trail was pretty deep, a foot-and-a-half to two feet in some places; and, of course, I couldn't really tell if I was really on the trail at all. So I didn't go far. But I didn't have to, to get a look at Arizona that most people never even imagine when they picture our state.

Winter on Pine Canyon Trail. Winter on Pine Canyon Trail. Winter on Pine Canyon Trail.

Since Michael was still dozing when I got back, I asked Zach to take a photo of me so I could prove I'd actually been here.

Your Blogger at Pine Canyon Trailhead.

The corrals are for horses that people take on the trail. Zach and Lane had quickly discovered that, beneath the snow, was horse manure. So they had been forced to move their fort outside of what had falsely promised would be pre-existing defenses.

Zach discovered on his own that he could roll a small snowball around in the snow and it would get bigger. I suggested he try rolling it in a straight line instead and see how big it could get. The fresh snow was perfect for this, and Zach and Lane, following suit, soon had blocks of snow suitable for construction.

Zach and Lane rolling big snowballs for their fort.

I gave the boys a thirty-minute warning and they quickened their pace. Soon the fort was complete…

Fort Zachary Lane is completed.

…except for one last handful of snow, supplied by Papa Michael who had awaked from his nap.

Papa Michael contributes to the fort.

The hardest part of war is awaiting the attack.

Lane and Zach await the attack.

Just as I called "Time to leave!" the fort got initiated…along with Papa Paul.

Zach and Lane: Ready, Aim, FIRE!

Like the well-behaved young men they are, Zach and Lane left their creation behind. I pointed out that it would almost certainly outlast the untouched snow on the ground by a week or more after it warmed up a bit; that cheered them up a little. Zach thanked me for his "best day ever!" and they dozed off for most of the return trip.

But the adventure, it turned out, wasn't completely over. After we turned off AZ67 onto Bush Highway, which passes through the Salt River Recreation Area where we go on river floats in the summer, Michael suddenly yelled to me to stop. He'd spotted the herd of wild horses that lives there preparing to cross the road.

Usary wild horses cross the road.

I pulled over, grabbed the camera, and snapped away. As Michael promptly pointed out, wild horses couldn't drag me away from taking photos of such an event.

A straggler.

This wasn't the first time we'd ever seen the wild horses, but it was the first time I'd ever heard of them crossing the road so far from the river. I suspect it may have had something to do with the recent storms and resulting higher water levels, but in the river itself and in temporary ponds manifesting here and there.

In any case, we were now just 15 minutes from home. And so, with a double adventure under our belts, we retired for the night…except for Your Blogger, who had to crop the day's photos and post them here for your enjoyment.