Immediately following Mother's Day, all hell broke loose, as
one illness after another kept us from our normally active lifestyle. It all
started with Mother's Day weekend, when Mary started coughing again, and all
of us came down with the stomach flu. Over the next few weeks, Mary's cough
continued to worsen, and soon she started to develop other symptoms, such as a
runny nose and crusty eyes. By the beginning of June, she had developed an eye
and an ear infection on top of that, so we immediately took her to the doctor.
Her pediatrician put her on antibiotics, but when she didn't respond to the
treatment, he ordered us to have her admitted to the hospital. A chest X-ray
proved that she had a touch of pneumonia. After spending twenty-four hours at
Scottsdale Healthcare, Mary finally started to recover, and she was allowed to
go home. Three days later, she was back at day care again; except for a
residual cough, she had completely healed!
As if that wasn't bad enough, I, too, became sick. Not only did I have the flu
for two weeks, but I also developed the same eye infection. Even after Mary
was able to return to day care, I was still at home, feeling like death warmed
over, with my eyes stuck shut and swollen to the point where it hurt to blink.
It wasn't until I stopped using the drops that had been prescribed to me that
I finally started to recover from the eye infection!
Having spent five weekends at home (or in the hospital), John and Mary and I
were finally well enough to get back into the outdoors again. Since we were
badly out of shape, we decided to pick something easy but also, something that
we had never done before. After consulting a book called Flagstaff Hikes, by
Richard and Sherry Magnum, we decided to do
Wildcat Springs, on the Mogollon
Rim. Although this trail had been recommended to us many times by John's
parents, we had never done it...
And we didn't know what we were missing!
On Sunday morning, June 26, John and Mary and I left the house at 6:00 a.m. to
drive to the Mogollon Rim. We stopped en route at Fry's to buy sandwiches for
the hike and at AM/PM for gas and coffee, but we didn't stop at Einstein's
because the shop doesn't open until 7:00 on Sundays. (It's okay to break with
tradition every once in a while, I guess!)
We traveled on SR 87 north through Payson up to the Mogollon Rim, a trip that
we have made multiple times in the past but one that we had not done in a long
time - at least, not without John's parents. Along the way, John and I
explained to Mary that, the last time we had taken her on top of the Rim, she
was only three and a half weeks old. Funny how things had changed in ten
months; back then, all she did was eat, sleep and poop! She is no longer that
tiny little newborn; now, she is a little baby girl, who does all sorts of
Another thing that had changed was the highway. The final phase of the SR 87
construction had been completed, and the new stretch of highway, between
Sunflower and the Slate Creek Divide, was finally open in both directions. How
nice it was to drive on that new section of the highway, over Kitty Joe Creek
and past Mount Ord. Although the drive through Sunflower is pretty, this new
road is indeed equally scenic.
We arrived on the Mogollon Rim around 8:30 a.m., and soon thereafter, we
turned onto FR 616 - the road to Pivot Rock Canyon. Our destination was the
Pivot Rock Canyon Trailhead, which is also the trailhead for Wildcat Springs -
the trail is located across the road from the campground, at the "Road Closed"
Our plan for the day was to hike the Wildcat Springs Trail, which was a short
and easy hike that would take us through what has been described as "Arizona's
Rain Forest". The trail was only 1.4 miles in length (2.8 miles round trip),
so it would only take us about an hour and a half to hike, despite how badly
out of shape we were. Then, after we were finished hiking that trail, we would
go across the road and hike all or part of Pivot Rock Canyon, for a total of
five to seven miles for the day. That would be a perfect way for us to get our
feet working again.
We parked in the Pivot Rock Canyon campground - which was surprisingly empty,
for as beautiful as the weather was that day - and around 8:50 that morning,
we began hiking the Wildcat Springs Trail. After passing by the "Road Closed"
sign, we followed the old jeep road that is closed to motorized vehicles as it
meandered along the creek. About a tenth of a mile from the trailhead, the
trail narrowed to a foot path as it entered a beautiful meadow, where we found
a campsite situated next to a very unique looking boulder. As soon as we found
it, we immediately knew what we would be doing next weekend! "This would be
the perfect place to camp," John said, "during the holiday weekend."
The footpath soon took us into what could best be described as a rain forest.
Partly shaded by tall ponderosa pines, the footpath broke through a dense
patch of tall ferns, poison ivy, and wild roses that lined the tiny creek. The
whole area was lush and green, and the air was thick and humid. As we passed
through it, we were dripping with sweat, despite that it was very cool
outside. It was very scenic and tranquil, and we were the only ones there to
At 0.7 miles, the trail emerged from the rain forest and into another grassy
meadow. Here, it was a little difficult to find the trail, because the
footpath merges with the old jeep road again. While we were looking for the
jeep road, we discovered that there were several side canyons that we could
explore - of course, we would have to have a topo map with us (which we
didn't), so we decided to save that for next weekend.
For the next 0.7 miles, we continued up the old jeep road until we arrived at
Wildcat Springs, which is the source of the creek that we had been following.
There was a large concrete tank there, from which the spring water trickles
into the creek. The area surrounding the spring is shaded by tall pines, so it
is very cool - that made it the perfect spot for us to stop and take a break.
The trail did not end there, but we weren't far from the end. While John
played with Mary, I walked to the end of the trail, which was not more than
five hundred yards from the spring. It ended at a forest road that appeared to
be a light duty road (possibly FR 149, but we wouldn't know without a topo).
My curiosity satisfied, I returned to the spring and sat down to rest with my
We stayed for about a half an hour and enjoyed the peacefulness of the area
while Mary played with the pine needles and whatever else she could find. At
one point, she found a twig that looked like a pretzel rod, but we had to take
it away from her after we discovered that she had bitten off a chunk of it!
(Mary has four teeth now, and it is amazing how strong they are!) I took
family pictures using the self-timer on the digital camera, and John talked
out our plans for next weekend as he kept an eye on the clouds that were
Just before 10:00 a.m., we decided to start hiking back to the trailhead,
because the clouds were beginning to threaten - and if we wanted to hike Pivot
Rock Canyon, too, we were going to have to do so before lunch, or we were
likely to get some rain. Along the way, John and I planned out next weekend:
we were going to hike either Kinder Crossing or the
Houston Brothers Trail on
Saturday, then we would backpack into Wildcat Springs and camp at that first
site that we had come to. By camping there, we would only be five minutes from
the van, in case we were hit by a severe monsoon storm that night. On Sunday,
before breaking camp, we would throw on our day packs and go explore some of
the side canyons along the Wildcat Springs Trail - John made sure to mark them
all on the GPS during the return hike, so that he could find them on the topo
We made it back to the van just after 10:30 a.m.; instead of stopping, though,
we continued hiking through the campground until we came to the Pivot Rock
Canyon Trail, which we had already hiked twice
before. Along the way, John
came up with an idea for an alternate hike. His father had told him that there
is a spur trail that goes to Pivot Rock Falls. Although he had vague
directions, John felt certain that he could find it, so he suggested that we
go there, because neither one of us had ever been there. "Okay with me!" I
said. I was feeling very good, and I thought it would be fun to see something
else new that day.
To get to Pivot Rock Falls, John explained that we would have to hike about a
quarter of a mile on the Pivot Rock Canyon Trail. Then, when the trail goes
down to the creek, instead of following the creek towards the cabins, we would
go in the opposite direction. When we actually reached that point, though, we
weren't sure which way to go, but, as we were determined to go explore
something new, we chose to go into the side canyon, off to the right. We found
a narrow game trail and followed it deep into the side canyon, uncertain as to
what we were going to find there.
The little footpath took us through a dense forest of ferns and wild roses and
other lush plants as it meandered back and forth across a tiny, trickling
creek. The little canyon almost immediately began to narrow as it came to a
spring, where there was a pool of clear water, next to a "garden wall", where
the canyon wall was covered with green vines. I was particularly fascinated
with this little area, because it was so very pretty.
After passing by that little spring, the trail continued upstream for another
mile. Here, the canyon began to widen out a little bit, though the foliage was
still very dense and tall - some of the ferns were over four feet tall! For
the most part, it was shaded by ponderosa pines, which, along with the cloud
cover, provided us with a nice, cool hike. Further up the trail, we
encountered aspen trees, something that we did not expect to find there. We
also found an old, rusted truck bed on the trail - it seemed that there was no
end to the discoveries to be made on this trail! It was turning out to be a
fun little trek.
Finally, around 11:30 a.m., we came to a group of people who were car-camping
just above the creek - we had reached the end of the line. We stopped just
short of their campsite and decided to take a break there, so that we could
feed Mary her lunch and change her diaper. (She was getting a little fussy,
probably because she had missed her morning snack.) We sat next to the creek
and enjoyed the fresh, cool air and watched the clouds continue to gather
"I think I'm going to name this Mary's Trail," John said. "I don't think that
anyone has ever done a write-up on this trail, so I'm going to give it a
He explained that he was going to look it up on the topo maps when we got home
that evening, because he was curious where it ended up. When he did so, he
discovered that the trail ended up at
Pivot Rock Springs and went back up to
FR 616, just beyond the campsite. For that reason, he decided to call it the
Pivot Rock Springs Trail instead.
At noon, we decided to start hiking back to the van - it was time to call it a
day, before we got stuck in a monsoon storm. On the way back, though, John
decided that he still wanted to try to find Pivot Rock Falls, so when we
reached the junction with Pivot Rock Creek, we went left instead of right and
followed the game trail along the creek. It turned out to be a spur trail off
of the Pivot Rock Trail, and after a quarter of a mile it took us back up to
The return trip took us about a half an hour, so we were back at the van
around 12:30 p.m. After loading up our gear, we started our long drive
home...but first, John needed to check something out. "What are you doing?" I
asked when he turned left instead of right onto SR 87.
"I'm going to see if the road to
Clover Creek is still open," he said. Last
year, the forest service had opened a new road, so he was curious to see if FR
142 was still open. So we drove north on SR 87 for a mile or so and turned
left onto Clover Creek Road, where John was surprised to learn that FR 142 was
still open. "Oh, well, that's all I wanted to know," he shrugged, and with
that, it was time to go home.
We were home by 3:30 that afternoon, leaving us enough daylight hours to do a
few household chores before dinner. That evening, we celebrated our return to
the outdoors with a nice dinner. It felt great to be back in the outdoors
again, and that deserved a celebration.