November 7, Payson, Arizona

Since leaving San Diego, we have been encamped in a commercial RV park about 3 miles south of Payson, AZ. It's a nice park surrounded by the Tonto NF--no town closer than Payson. The forest here is mainly juniper trees (we've seen the Juniper Titmouse several times), the pines don't start until you go north into Payson. At any rate, we have a few hiking trails that we have taken advantage of, as well as using the motorcycle to explore the surrounding area. The town of Payson is medium size and has a movie theatre, grocery stores, Wal-Mart, etc.; in other words, everything we need. We've been to the movies twice to see Disney's "The Game Plan" and George Clooney in "Michael Clayton"--very different movies. We liked both. Probably the best thing Clooney has done lately.

We took a day trip on the cycle to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. The natural bridge is the largest travertine bridge in the world--very impressive. We did some hiking there and had a very pleasant day. Another day we drove up to the Mogollon Rim. We had a map showing there was a loop we could do--never like to retrace our steps! When we got to the rim road, we found it was about 25 miles of dirt. We went up it about seven miles to a campground, then turned around and came back. The road was just too lumpy to be comfortable on the cycle. We found several places where we could get out to the rim and look over the side, so we were satisfied. That same map showed several loops that could be traveled in this area, but every one of them had a long stretch of dirt, so we haven't been moved to try them.

Travertine formations on cliff wall

Tonto Natural Bridge

View from Mogollan Rim
On still another day trip, we rode down to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam; the weather was beautiful and we had a good time. The dam is the largest dam built completely of quarried stone, which was quarried on site from the cliff walls. The lake formed fills part of the Tonto Basin and is quite large. In the picture, you can see the quarried stone just above the water line. The upper stone is covered with a cement facing. The single-span steel bridge, spanning just over 1000 feet of Roosevelt Lake, is quite impressive too; it has been named one of the top 10 outstanding bridges in the nation.

Theodore Roosevelt Dam

Bridge over Roosevelt Lake

While still in San Diego, Ashley told us she and Channie would be visiting their Aunt Charlie in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix, the first week of November, and invited us to visit them there. So, on Nov. 4 we drove down to an RV park in Mesa and stayed for two nights. It was great seeing Ashley and Cleric again--Cleric has really grown--and, of course, we were thrilled to finally get to see Channie again after all these years (10). We had three very pleasant visits with them, and were happy that Charlie was so generous with us to share her time with them. We took Ashley and Channie to see John Cusack in "Martian Child," while Charlie kept Cleric. It was a very nice movie that we all enjoyed. Channie is so grown up; of course, she was just 3 years old last time we saw her. We are so happy to be in touch with these granddaughters once more.

Margie & Cleric

Ashley, Channie, Margie & Riley

Channie & Ashley


On the way back to Payson, we stopped at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and State Park. It is very beautiful. We had a nice hike up to Ayers Lake, which would have been even nicer if it had been about 10 degrees cooler--90+ degrees in November is discouraging. Evidently, this is not normal; we've been told it's usually in the 80s in Oct. and Nov. The desert plants grown here are all nicely labeled and some even come from deserts outside of Arizona. We were pleased to see a Boojum tree, successfully transplanted from central Baja, the only place it grows naturally.

View of arboretum landscape

Boojum Tree

I finished the quilt tops I started in San Diego, and was pleased to find that the recreation room here had enough floor space to lay out the quilt layers and get them pinned together--very handy. (I vacuumed first.) It was an interesting experience doing it in a public place. Every time someone came thru to go to the laundry room, I got to hear their personal quilt stories--it was fun. One fellow's laundry was quilts his grandmother had made. One was a flag, the other a very interesting combination of "around the world" in the center, bordered by "double wedding ring." I'd never seen one like it.

One Sunday we rode up to the small town of Pine to a Fall Festival, and the local quilting group was raffling off a machine-made quilt of Arizona designs which they had put together; each member designing and making a separate block. It was quite beautiful and huge (95" X 113"). We bought a $1 ticket but don't have much hope of winning. Drawing is Dec. 6 and they said if we won they would ship it to us. What a deal! The local library was having a book sale so naturally we bought a few--too many for the RV, but it was such a good deal ($1 per hardcover) that we couldn't resist. While eating lunch there, we talked to a couple who have a summer home nearby in the mountains. They said rainfall in the area has dropped from 15-20 inches yearly to 7-10 inches in the 30 years they have been living in the area. They've had to cut down some trees to keep from having all of them die for lack of water. This story made me feel that the beautiful pines we've been seeing, particularly in the Mogollon Rim area, will not be here much longer as the area turns to true desert. On the other hand, maybe it will start raining again. We can only hope.
We have enjoyed looking for birds wherever we happen to be, but have seen nothing unusual. The Arboretum is an "important birding area," but guess it's not the right season for them to be there as we saw very few. We did see an Abert's Towhee, which we don't see often, and that was nice. We will be heading down to stay at Patagonia State Park when we leave here this weekend with short stops in Tucson and perhaps Madera Canyon. There is always excellent bird watching at this park; perhaps we'll even get to see the Elegant Trogon once again. :-)
Margie & Riley

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