Horton Creek, Payson, AZ – May 22, 2016

Steven and I went to Payson and did a wonderful eight mile hike along Horton Creek Trail. Our goal was to reach Horton Spring. We left Phoenix at 7:00am and started hiking around 9:30am. The day was sunny and cool with a somewhat loud and perfect breeze, an opinion of my own 🙂

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Horton Creek Trail sign – Tonto National Forest

Horton Creek is located about 15 miles northeast of Payson in Tonto National Forest. It’s a wooded area and the main trees are ponderosa pine and juniper with the woody shrub manzanita in the understory. As soon as we arrived a Stellar’s jay swooped in front of Steven’s FJ Cruiser to check us out. After that a small flock of pygmy nuthatches were flitting around while we prepared to start hiking.

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A view of the Mogollon Rim from Horton Creek Trail

More birds were singing when we began hiking and I think some were yellow-rumped warblers. Soon after that I saw my first painted redstart, which turned out to be a pretty common bird on this hike.

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Hiking through a ponderosa pine forest
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The bark of a ponderosa pine smells like vanilla – Steven titled this photo “PonderosaJoe”

After a couple of hours Steven’s hips were bothering him and we weren’t sure if we were going to make it to Horton Spring. We decided that we would turn around at noon and start to head back. I knew that we had to be fairly close so I went ahead and sure enough, after a few switchbacks up a hill, arrived at Horton Spring. I saw two other hikers that were just leaving and asked them to give Steven some encouragement and tell him that he was really close. Sure enough, Steven arrived a few minutes later and said the hikers told him to keep trucking along.

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Horton Spring – worth the hike

We saw several lizards and as I was browsing through my photos I tried to identify them. I believe they are a greater short-horned lizard, either a Gila spotted or plateau striped whiptail, and a plateau lizard. The lizards really seem to like posing for pictures.

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Greater short-horned lizard
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Gila spotted whiptail or a plateau striped whiptail (I think)
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Plateau lizard (pretty sure)

Until next time… 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Horton Creek, Payson, AZ – May 22, 2016

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