Mesa Del Caballo is a small village about 5 miles north of Payson, AZ. Last year I found a secluded boondocking campsite along the Houston Mesa Road just a stones throw from the small village, and luckily, I found the same campsite open this year, too.
Payson is a good place to stay in the spring and fall. The winters are too cold and the summer too hot, but here in the middle of April, I have enjoyed most days in the high 70’s and nights hovering right around 50 degrees. I have been here a little over a week now and my plans are to return to Tempe this weekend for a Dr appointment and then down to Yuma for another dental appointment. Yuma may be brutal with the temperatures normally experienced this time of year, and I may be running my generator for air conditioning for part of the day.
When I first set up camp, I noticed the location I chose was trampled down to bare dirt and the cows had left calling cards all around my parking spot. As I looked around I noticed a salt lick left by the rancher very close to the place I liked to park. The next day I moved the salt block down away from my camp in hopes of encouraging the cows to congregate someplace else. That night several cows stood around my camp and complained that the salt block was no longer there! The next day I tried to explain to them that the salt block they coveted was only a few yards away and they should look harder to find it.
All was well until the rancher that manages the cattle here on the land leased from the national forest, pulled in with another salt block. We got to talking and he explained that the national forest managers wanted the salt block here by the crossroads so the cows wouldn’t congregate and destroy the vegetation in other places. He asked very nicely if I could move to another spot so the cows wouldn’t be agitated by my presence. I told him I would be happy to move to another spot. I understand that the national forest is for multiple use and we need to share and get along with each other. Before he left we both talked about our displeasure of people that bring trash back to the woods, and the neglect of some to close gates after they drive through.
Today, I rode a few miles north to hike back to the waterfalls along the second crossing of the Verde River. It is a very pretty hike along the river, offering views of tranquil pools and towering canyon walls. The waterfall was hard to see and not very impressive. It has been so dry this year that ponds, rivers, and reservoirs are all way below normal.
I was alone on the short hike to the waterfall and I couldn’t help feel a little sad and contemplative as I walked the path back into the canyon. Two years ago a flash flood caught an unexpecting family enjoying a hot summer day as they played in the pools of water. They had no chance to escape as a wall of debris and water swept several of them to their deaths. You are reminded of the tragedy as you pass several momentos left along the river to remember the family.