Alarm goes off at 4:30am, hit snooze a few times, gassed-up and on the freeway just as the sun starts coming up, about 6:45am. I really need to start packing and gassing the night before!
Driving up the Beeline Hwy towards Payson, the sunrise on the hills and mountains is beautiful. Lori tries to get some more sleep as I drive, but the road is pretty twisty and my old truck rides a like one of those blow-up bouncy castles these days.
Going to Payson is like visiting an old friend and I have a standard routine with some of the signs we pass by. I pronounce "Gisela" using a Wicked Witch of the West voice (Geeesela). Someday I'll stop at the motorcycle/moped/bicycle graveyard in Rye, but not this day.
Just as we're coming into Payson, the shuffle on my iPod comes up with Cowboy Junkies "Miles From Our Home" setting the mood appropriately:
"No one in sight for fifty miles
Sleeping fields sigh as I glide across their spines.
If I can just reach the crest of that hill
this whole day will tumble, out the night will spill."
Passing thru Payson onto 260 and back into my routine is "Dealer's Choice" in an old-timey card dealer's voice (it's hard to describe, but roll up heavy to the "D"). And of course the Heifer Strip Club in Star Valley is always good for a chuckle.
The See Canyon TH is just a short distance up FR284 which is flat and well maintained. Some campers are pulling up stakes as we put on boots and load up our packs. I have a tripod, DSLR fitted with a 10-24mm wide angle zoom, filters, an extra lens (cheap 50mm prime), trekking poles and water stuffed into an Osprey Atmos 65 (2007 model). So for all appearances, it looks like I'm ready for several days of backpacking!
We stopped for a few minutes so I could take tripod shots of the trees right at the See Canyon TH and then we're off. The weather is great, a little warmer than I expected but still perfect. Tried to get some pictures at the seep about 3/4 mile in. The "middle" stretch of trail between See TH and Drew TH is absolutely blazing with color! I didn't pull out the DSLR, but took some crappy video along the way. It seems like the trees and color go for about a mile. We stopped quite a bit just to soak it in. Lots of scat on the trail, I wish I knew something more about sh**. Mostly small piles with berries and various seeds, but we did see a large pile and what looked like a large cat paw print. No bells or smell of pepper.
Lori and I are still trying to get our legs back into the swing of things, so by the time we got to the Drew TH we were fairly tired, but I talked her into just grunting it out to the top of the rim. "It's only 900 feet elevation, according to Joe's trip report". We managed to crawl to the top of the rim and we find an empty campsite right across the road with a picnic table in the shade! A pic-a-nic table!! Usually we're trying to find a flat rock or a stump to share with the ants, so this was very nice. And, I finally have a complete GPS track to upload!
We ate our lunch and then booked it back down the hill to the truck. The sun was starting to go down a bit and the trees in the "middle" section were blazing once again. This is a really great hike this time of year! The trees looked to be about spent, but there was still some patches of green lingering on, so if I had to guess, I'd say it will last at least another week, maybe slightly longer. We saw some fresh boot and bike tracks on the trail, but otherwise we were completely alone, except for a gaggle of turkeys we scared up.
Rewarded with cold soda at the truck, and an ice-water soaked washcloth for my head, we put the Cowboy Junkies back on and headed back to Phoenix as the sun sets...
"The moon hangs like a question mark,
Pale as milk, bold as promise.
When will you share these sights with us?
When will we hold you in our arms?"
||Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial