Day 13 – Payson to Camp Verde, AZ

northern cardinal

We have finally come full circle driving from Payson to Camp Verde, AZ.

If you have been following our trip you’ll know what I mean. Here’s a link to the first post.

After leaving Payson we headed to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Having been there before, we thought we knew what to expect, but there were a few surprises.

First from Wikipedia:

Tonto Natural Bridge is a natural arch in Arizona, USA, that is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world.

It really is spectacular in size and the arch underneath.

As we arrived at the park there was 3 whitetail deer standing in the grass.

Once we had parked we found a group of Javelina consisting of mothers and babies.


The seemed totally unconcerned with us as I’m sure they are used to people, but we kept our distance just the same.

They were interesting to watch as the babies nurse from between the back legs of the mother and will do so even when she is walking.

Javelina and babies

After that excitement, we walked over to the bridge viewpoint and Rob spotted a chipmunk scurrying up and down a vertical cliff. Don’t know how they stayed on it but it looked like they were having fun.

Tonto Natural Bridge

On the other side of the bridge, you can actually walk down to the bottom and go underneath the archway. We both started down but I only went about 1/2 way and left Rob to do the rest.

He went right under the bridge and was passing people on the way up that were younger than he was.

below the bridge
Under the bridge (not Rob)

I was already back at the top when he arrived and we went and looked at the bridge from a different angle. It is one of those occurrences in nature that is well worth seeing and hearing the science behind it.

Tonto Natural Bridge landscape

As we walked back to the car I heard a bird chirping in the bushes and strained to see it. What I saw was a flash of red and I quickly took some pictures even though I couldn’t really see what it was.

Joy, joy, joy… it came out of hiding and I was staring at a Northern Cardinal. I have seen parts of them before hiding in the bushes but never the full monty.

northern cardinal

It posed and then climbed higher in the tree and posed again before flying off. Made my day.

After leaving the park we went through a town called Pine. It has 2500 people year round and it goes up to 6000 during the summer when people want to get away from the heat. Their elevation is 5,448 feet so it is fairly cool during the hottest time of year.

We stopped to get an ice cream and received the biggest ice cream cones that ever existed. Rob ordered a small cone and I ordered a small cup. Neither of us could finish them they were so big.

Really nice little town up in the pine forest.

Coming down in the Verde Valley down a very long hill we stopped at Clear Creek Park. We had discovered it on our previous trip and went for a walk along the water.

clear creek park

It was very birdy so while Rob went back to the car for a nap, I took advantage of the time with my camera.

There were a number of species including:

  • Hutton’s verio
  • oodles of Robins
  • black phoebe
  • dark-eyed junco
  • verdin
  • cedar waxwings
  • american goldfinchs
  • western bluebirds

western bluebird

western bluebirds
Western Bluebirds

My type of fun.

Got a room at the Camp Verde Suites, dropped off the luggage and headed back to Montezuma’s Castle for a walk and had an interesting talk with a man who plays the flute there and another lovely walk back in time.

Back at the hotel I stopped at the office and asked them about an Italian restaurant to see if it was any good. She indicated that it was the best food in town but forgot to mention that it wasn’t just a local diner, but was a high-end eatery.

Walking in the door in shorts and tee shirts we were greeted with black tablecloths, silver utensils and an atmosphere that would have been conducive to formal wear.

Most of the tables were reserved but they managed to fit us in and treat us in royalty.

It was one of the best meals that I’ve ever had and their dessert of tiramisu had won the award for best dessert of Arizona last year. I concur with their decision.

Relaxing after dinner and deciding what to do tomorrow.

See you then…


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