The August edition of Sunset magazine had an article about things to do around Payson. (Yes, not only do we now have a house, but I even subscribed to a magazine. Shocking!) While we were in the vicinity, we took the car and checked them out. First was the Tonto National Forest Paleo Site where you can dig for thousand-year-old fossils and keep what you find. We had a little trouble finding it since we were heading west and you can only get to it driving the other way. It's a large parking lot on the south side of 260 about 16 miles east of Payson. It actually does have a sign, and we had been by it many times, but we were always checking out the parking lot wondering if we could overnight there. (The answer is no, we wouldn't want to. It's on a section of SR260 with a steep hill and the truck engine brakes would be too noisy.)
Our big discovery was that we are not paleontologists. There are probably fossils there, but we have no idea how to find them. My excitement for the day was finding a few pretty rocks for my garden in Mesa. My thinking is since you can take the fossils, they wouldn't mind me taking some rocks.
And we admired these interesting wild flowers. Cute, huh?
Sunset magazine also mentioned Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, which is about 11 miles north of Payson on SR87. According to the magazine, this park was due to close the end of this month, so we had to go see it. (Actually, the park has received a stay of execution and will be open for another year. By then perhaps the Arizona budget problems will be solved. Yeah, right!)
This natural bridge is made of travertine - the rock that grows.
We walked down the Waterfall Trail to see the growth in action. Slowly, microscopic layer by layer, the minerals build up on plant life and turn to stone through a process of deposition and evaporation. Or so the sign said. I just thought it was pretty.
Oh, look! They have bears here. One stepped in the wet cement.
The natural bridge is believed to be the largest travertine bridge in the world - 150 feet wide, 183 feet high and 400 feet long. Natural Bridge of Virginia is higher at 215 feet, but not as wide or long.
We had a major disappointment when we discovered the trails down to Pine Creek were closed. Some silly thing about a safety inspection which could cause them to remain closed for awhile. Call first - 928-476-4202. The overlooks were nice, but I am always more impressed looking up at a bridge (and we didn't get any discount on the $5 a person entrance fee.) Nevertheless, I'm glad we saw it.
The travertine can form stalactites like those found in caves.
This is the view from the top of the bridge. It's a lovely area and a nice drive from Payson. The road into the park has a 14 percent downgrade, meaning I thought about those rocks in the trunk on the way back up.
On our way out we came across this cowboy. I had to wait for the cattle to move so I could get the pretty horse. It would have really been exciting if he had roped one while we were watching. The poor dog looked really tired.