Monday, September 23, 2013

Horton Loop

Mogollon Rim
View south from The Highline Trail.

Rim country can be such odd country below the rim. Something I notice every time I visit. Last weekend's overnighter was no different. We started in the shade of towering ponderosas and gnarly alligator junipers on the Derrick Trail heading North/East. The ground was dry and the vegetation sparse, like if you had to go off trail for any reason, it wouldn't be terribly hard to do. But the scenery changed, and by the time we reached The Highline Trail the forest looked quite a bit different. 

Alligator Lizard
Alligator Lizard

Its like we entered some kind of transition zone. Now the forest was a mix of pines, junipers, and more of the plants you might associate with desert areas like manzanita and agave. In this area we came upon two Arizona Alligator Lizards duking it out in the middle of the trail. Amidst all the biting and squirming and teeth baring, I'm pretty sure it was just a male and a female making ready to get busy (if you know what I mean). I felt bad disturbing the festivities, but it was really awesome to see. It was the first time I had ever seen an Alligator Lizard in my life, and they are just gorgeous looking lizards. We ended up seeing quite a few lizards in this zone, including some really small Short-Horned Lizards that were about the size of a matchbox. They are very skittish at that size, which surprised me because the big ones I've seen are so calm.

Mugollon Rim
Mogollon Rim

Eventually the Highline portion of this trip levels out a little bit, and some nice views of the rim and the mountains to the south open up. 

Ferns

As the trail drops toward Horton Spring the ecology changed again to one more of a purely coniferous nature. Ferns carpet the ground in spots, and lichens grow on the pine trees. I know I've mentioned this before in other blogs about my trips to the rim, but it really reminds me of the Cascades at times.

Descent to Horton Spring

As we neared Horton Spring I could hear the sound of running water and a giant smile spread across my face. Every time I'm hiking parallel to a creek, or nearing a crossing of one, it reminds of the northwest. I rarely ever hear moving water in the woods down here in Arizona, so when I do, I just really appreciate it. Like wind, water makes such a soothing sound, and I love to sleep near it if I can. In fact, that's exactly what we did Saturday night. We camped not far from the mouth of Horton Spring where fresh (and delicious) water gushed right from the side of the Mogollon Rim. 

Horton Spring
Horton Spring

We followed Horton Creek all the way out the next morning. It made for a relaxing stroll, especially because the wind and the clouds kept the temps nice and cool. Overall, it was a great (albeit short) trip with some good company. This was my 3rd (I think) trip with the Arizona Backpacking Club, but everyone this time around was new to me. It didn't matter. It never does with backpackers. We all seem to get along pretty easily... Until next time.

Horton Creek
John looking down at Horton Creek