Out to Rim Road
We have a casual start Saturday morning. There is no hurry. It takes about two hours of interstate and freeways to get to Highway 87 and wide-open spaces. On the other side of Phoenix, we pass along the highway sadly. Because of unprecedented drought, a fire has devastated mile upon mile of lush Sonoran desert. Two hundred year old saguaros are burnt and slowly dying among scorched dark hues of black and brown. The coating is like earth under a leaky car on the completely barren landscape.
Tall cottonwood trees, formally a riparian habitat, are black sticks on one side of the highway bridge, while it is still abundantly green on the other, accenting the contrast.
Having escaped the somber tone of the once great, the highway brings us into the dominion of the bushy pinion pine forest.
Soon, the town of Payson marks the beginning of the tall pines. We stop in a parking lot behind a real-estate office and cover our bodies for drive-through ice cream. After pumping gas, we head into the wilds, the great pine forest of the White Mountains. We are heading to a section of the Arizona Trail to camp. Tomorrow, we will leave that trail to explore a dry river to a lake reservoir.