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Horton Springs Hike

by Nick Coons
May 26, 2004

A couple of weeks ago, I took a little trip from Phoenix. This isn't the same trip I've been talking about for the past few weeks. I was fortunate enough to spend nearly the entire day hiking through Horton Springs. My dad, sister, and I drove up SR 87, in the morning, up to Payson, then east on SR 260 to near Tonto Creek. We made it there easily before noon. I know for a lot of people that's not early, but keep in mind we're talking about my family. We always forget something, and we always have to turn back.

I was fortunate enough to take some very nice photographs of the area, which are all posted in the Photo Gallery on this site. The trail would have been very easy to follow except for one thing -- It was very rocky. And I don't normally get blisters. In fact, I think it's been several years since I can remember getting a blister, but this one got me. The rocks in the trail kept poking up on the bottoms of my thick boots; and it was worth every minute.

The trail is about four miles long, and generally stays within about 50 yards of the creek after the first half mile. We saw many little pools, small waterfalls, and ultra green rocks. That was on the way in. Once we made it to the springs where the water bursts out of the side of the mountain, the beginning of the creek, there was more green than not. This is a year-round spring, so you can imagine that all of the plants in the area uproot themselves in the middle of the night just to get a drink.

After enjoying the shade, the green, the splashing water, a quick lunch, and getting yet more pictures, we started heading back. This time, we tried taking a trail that was a bit closer to the water as there was a lot more shade. At some point, I was inclined to climb down a sharp decline. This was much more than 45 degrees, and consisted entirely of slippery dirt. While the idea of how to get back up crossed my mind, that wasn't important at the time. What was important was the photo opportunity that was available at the bottom of that climb. Once I collected those photos, I could then focus on how I was going to get back up.

This wasn't like rock-climbing where you have something distinct that you can grab hold of. This was climbing a pile of loose dirt where you would nearly slide down as much as you climbed up with each reach. Either way, I made it to the top and it was easier than it looked. We jumped back on the trail and resumed heading back. Just as we were walking along noticing things we hadn't seen before, we hear a very sharp rattle coming from the left edge of the trail. After jumping back from the quick startle, it was apparent that we had come across a rattlesnake. I had seen a baby rattle before, and it had no idea I was there, so it kept going with its business. Other than that, this was the first rattler I had come across.

After the initial shock, we just stared at this Arizona
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Black Rattlesnake in amazement. Again, I pulled out my camera and began snapping pictures, getting in as close as I could, though without wanting him to strike at me. Unfortunately at this point, he had moved just off of the trail and into some tall grass. The thought had crossed my mind to throw something in his direction to try and get him to move back on the trail, but my good sense told me not to, and I did the best with the position he was in. The best way I could describe this position was the "come any closer and I'll bite you" position. Eventually he became bored with us and took off into the grassy area, and we pressed on.

As usual, the hike back was longer than the hike in. If you don't hike often, then you probably won't understand this. Yet the entire day was eventful and completely worth the trip. I would highly recommend Horton Springs as a day hike. We even found some very nice camping spots, but I'm hereby reserving those for myself. If you see the words "Reserved for Arizona Paths
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