Checking in from the Tonto National Forest, near Forest Lakes, AZ …
As my walk took me through the high country of the White Mountains of Arizona, we were in an area called the Tall Pines region. And tall pines there are; mile after mile of ponderosa pines. Somehow it looked familiar. With just a little imagination, you can see Adam, Hoss and Little Joe headed over the next ridge to meet Ben (Pa) Cartwright at the big cabin in the pines.
We spent a couple of nights in the area at a very homey RV park in Overgaard. The folks there were very friendly and interested in our journey. Most of the residents are there for the summer, enjoying the cool nights and escaping the heat of what they call the valley—Valley of the Sun or Phoenix area. They have a recreation hall and make their own entertainment–cards almost every night, pot luck dinners, special events. We enjoyed one of their twice monthly rituals, a country jam session. Eight musicians played and sang old standard country and western and gospel songs. Tunes from way back made famous by artists like Hank Williams, Don Gibson, George Jones and even a Dale Evans yodeling song. Can’t say the entertainment was world class, but the spirit was there and the audience including us had a good time. Simpler pleasures.
In the neighboring town of Heber, we experienced an authentic Mexican restaurant (as opposed to what passes for Mexican back east). The food at Casa Rosa was plentiful, spicy and very good. Brenda enjoyed the enchiladas while I had the grilled fish tacos. And, yes, we each had a margarita. Our treat for the week.
Leaving Heber-Overgaard, my path went on a steady climb from 5,200 feet elevation back up to 7,700 feet on the Mogollon Rim. The rim is a huge cliff area that extends for many miles, rising several hundred feet above and overlooking a wide and beautiful valley. The area is named for the Mogollon culture and people who lived in the southwest from approximately 150-1450 AD. The Mogollons were mostly annihilated by and somewhat assimilated into the emerging Apache nation. The views from the rim were truly spectacular. Be sure to check out some of the photos on Facebook at Heart Trek USA.
I am headed next to Payson on the center of the Rim on Hwy 260 with much of the walk downhill for a change back to an elevation of roughly 5,000 feet. After Payson, we tackle another tough part of our journey as we make our way down Hwy 87 through the Apache Indian Reservation and the Mazatzal Wilderness to the Valley of the Sun. Tough because there is very little parking or development for 80 plus miles.