July 7, 2010

Exploring Arizona: Taking the long way

The extended weekend gave us a chance to explore our new-ish homeland. The first stop on our adventure was Fossil Creek. As you may remember, this amazing water wonderland has been on the to-see list for a few weeks now. Proving my theory that most dirt roads lead to good things, Fossil Creek didn't disappoint. Awaiting those brave enough to make the 21-mile trek down the primitive path is a swimming hole straight out of a movie. Except this is a beautiful, real-life oasis in the wild.

From top left: Roosevelt Lake in the morning; Comfort and Cougar pride on the bank of Fossil Creek; The beginning of the dirt road to Fossil Creek; Me cooling off in Fossil Creek; Pretty rocks on the way up to Fossil Creek; desert blooms on the way to Fossil Creek; A cluster of cactus on the drive up to Fossil Creek; The fiance hanging out by the tent at our Roosevelt Lake campsite.

We spent Saturday night at Homestead, one of the campsites strewn along the creek, with the throngs of other people drawn to the natural playground. Surprisingly, the area was super busy. They're not scared off by dirt roads here in Arizona, apparently.

There were three levels to the campground, and we paid the price for arriving Saturday afternoon. The first and second levels, which were basically next to the creek, were full. So we set up our tent in the third level. Still it was only a short walk to the water. The fiance and I hung out under the stars, which looked like sparkly confetti in the sky, and then went for a dip in the creek in the dark. Being surrounded by the lush trees, grass and warm water was the perfect start to the holiday.

We packed up camp at about 9 in the a.m. on the Fourth of July and continued down the dirt road, not really knowing what to expect next. There were a couple areas along the creek where people were already swimming. We spotted a "Day-Use Only" sign and decided to check it out. And what we saw next took my breath away.


We had the entire spot to ourselves, too. But that didn't last for long. And within a few hours, it was packed. We spent the day enjoying the amazing area with lunch, a few brews, the floaty and some new friends.

Even though we didn't want to leave, we went in search of more campgrounds on the other side of the trailhead down to the waterfall part of the creek. An assent 4,500 feet up on a windy, sometimes one-lane gravel road is not for the faint of heart. And after all that, we found out there were no campgrounds on the other side. Not really wanting to go back down the sketchy road, we decided to postpone the four-mile hike to the waterfall until next time.

With no destination in mind, we broke out the map and looked for another campground to call our temporary home. We investigated a few spots deemed recreation areas, but they weren't what we had in mind. 

Forging on, this adventure-seeking duo headed down the highway an hour southeast to Roosevelt Lake, which appeared to have an abundance of campsites and opportunities for swimming. And it did, to a certain extent. But it's the type of place that is better suited for boating. The fiance said if we do bring our boat down from Washington, this would be the place to house it.

Unbeknown to us, we needed a "Tonto Pass" to stay at the campsites along the lake. Luckily, local businesses sell them for $6. After acquiring our pass from Boston's Lake House Grill, we settled in and enjoyed the sunset over the lake. Fireworks not included.

The 95-degree temp at bedtime made it difficult to sleep, and after two hours of tossing and turning, the fiance had a plan to combat the oven-like conditions in the tent. He took his last pair of clean socks and dunked them in the cooler. Instant wet rags for our foreheads.

The next morning we packed up and headed to a swimming area on the lake. We spent about an hour cooling off and made our way to the Tonto National Monument. There's an option to hike to Tonto's cliff dwellings, but we'll, hopefully, do that at a later date. The last stop on our tour of Roosevelt was Boston's Lake House Grill for lunch. I highly recommend the Green Monster Burger. You won't be sorry.

The conclusion of our road trip included getting pulled over by an Arizona State Patrolman. Apparently, we missed the speed-limit reduction sign and were going 13 miles over. The dude was pretty understanding after we explained we thought the speed limit was 55, not 45, thus somewhat justifying our 58 miles per hour speed. He issued us a warning and needless to say, we vigilantly watched our speed back through the East Valley into Phoenix.

What was supposed to be a trip to Fossil Creek and back turned into a 350-mile expedition. Despite not seeing much after Roosevelt Lake, we can now check a portion of Central Arizona off the travel to-see list. Taking the long way sometimes does have its perks.

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