After one of my dogs busted a paw last September, I felt it was best not to push my luck and waited to hike until Spring. Then several weekend obligations kept pushing back the date until today when I couldn't take it anymore. Threw everything I could remember to bring in the old Jeep and opted to take an easy, afternoon hike to Gordon Creek Falls. If I forgot anything, this hike wasn't going to make me suffer for it. I also decided that Romper and Stomper, my leggy and sheltered Staffordshire-Boxer brothers, should go on the first hike.
The hike is 1.3 miles south on Colcord Road, which is 25 miles east of Payson. Mare Czinar, who writes trail recommendations for Phoenix magazine, has an excellent description and directions at arizonaHiking.blogspot.com along with dozens of other hikes.
Roughly top two thirds of the hike is on a nicely sloped but primitive jeep trail. Not far from the top, the forest floor is filled with lovely blooming lupine flowers. Since it was already late in the day, I didn't linger to take pictures and kept moving to make it to the falls. With no cars at the trailhead, I decided it was safe to let Romper and Stomper off-leash and they loped ahead, always keeping me in sight. For those of you who don't recognize the term Staffordshire, it's one of the "pit bull" breeds and at 85 and 100 pounds respectively, these dogs are obviously intimidating. I look for little known hikes like Gordon Creek to give them off-leash time where we won't run into people.
After the first gate, you take the trail to the left and then make a right at the next junction. You'll pass the rusty hulk of a truck cab before you reach the next junction and take a left. As the trail on the right winds through a picturesque slope of grass, the trail to the left goes up a small rise. Beyond that, I started seeing large piles of wood. Not sure what the purpose is but guessing a proscribed burn may be planned.
Just as we reached the first part of the creek, I heard a snort and looked past the dogs, now frozen, to see a small herd of horses. I had not planned on this. While the dogs are big and young, they had already encountered cows last year and fortunately glued themselves together in my shadow to stay safe from the bovine beasts. I pulled out my stun gun to make enough noise to scatter everyone if anyone got aggressive. Stomper waited for me to catch up, but Romper surprised me and went ahead to investigate. I was nervous that he might be kicked into next Tuesday but the horses hardly noticed his sniffing at their ankles as they grazed. As I walked up a palomino mare moved in to greet me. I was still concerned about the dogs so I didn't linger with her and kept walking. The horses were non-chalant as the dogs skitted between them in close pursuit of my heels.
We left the horses and went on to find the falls. The trail passes through one more gate, then ends. From there you follow the creek and stay on it until you reach them. At that point I started seeing brilliant red cactus flowers here and there on the hillsides.
We reached the falls by crossing the stream a few times. The trail is overgrown but there are many ways to get there. The creek is flowing about a gallon per second and pouring nicely over the falls. The dogs explored while I had lunch and read for a bit.
Once we headed back up, we encountered the horses again, but only two at first. I attempted to approach them but they weren't having it and moved off, breaking into a gallop up the hill. We then came upon all of the herd and the horses walked over the trail and through us as we reached them. That was a moment I won't forget. The palomino again walked to me and let me touch her. She followed me a few steps so I scratched around her neck and she stretched seeming to enjoy it. She looked sad when I walked away. I heard a horse neigh in the distance and a horse from the herd replied. Soon after, the other horse came down and joined the rest. As I walked on, I looked up the trail and saw a truck pulling a horse trailer near a house in the distance to the right. The trail is not as remote as it seems.
I took a few shots of the lupine before we reached the road again. it was late afternoon and the sun had begun passing down behind the trees tops. In under three hours, I'd seen plenty of wildflowers and picturesque natural pastures, encountered horses with dogs but without incident and had lunch at the falls again.
Not bad for my first hike of the year.
||Wildflowers Observation Substantial