Drunken Trees: A Vacation Post

It was after 6am when I woke up today in a hotel room in Arizona. I can’t remember the last time I slept that late.

I stumbled upon something precious while exploring a creek in Northern Arizona yesterday and I was lucky enough to get a picture to share with you.

“Day Use Only” the sign posted on the spilt rail fence along the side of the road read. We had spotted a nicely maintained graveled road off the main highway with promising sign that read, “No camping within 200ft of river.”

I assumed that meant that camping elsewhere was ok, so we decided to explore the route more.

Two or three established spots along the road and then we find, “No camping beyond this point.”

Well…ok…we kept driving. The junipers here are tall and shaggy, not like the squat bushy ones around my area. Peeking out between them are grasses and prickly pear cactus growing in the cracks of large red rocks that look like an ancient sea bed pushed up toward the sky over millenia.

The road sloped downward and curved east and when we came around a bend we found… a day use area with river access and a bathroom!

Oooh! This is a gorgeous little picnic area! It was Saturday afternoon, the weather was gorgeous, but no one was there.

Maybe it’s haunted?

We keep heading down the road to see where it goes. Maybe there’s more camping further back?

We found another “No camping beyond this point. ” and then another. Confusing. Where is this point? Where CAN you camp?

“I think the sign is being moved. We keep driving slow. They think we’re looking for a place to camp so they move the sign.”


“The trees.”

Being in the bottom of a small canyon, along a river that flows all summer, there were a lot of trees. Junipers, sycamores, birch, and another tree that had tinee tiny pinecone looking seeds. It’s early spring here so the leaves are just starting to come out. The diciduous trees look fuzzy green with the evergreen shaggy junipers standing among them.

That’s when we came to the end of the road, for us anyway. The road went on but it became private at that point, a driveway to a ranch tucked back in the canyon. I imagined living there a hundred years ago or more, when it was likely established.

A small house, a large meadow near a river in the desert, shaded by the rocks of the steep canyon. Seems perfect for cattle.

That split rail fence we parked next to, you remember the fence don’t you? It has a break in it to allow humans (I think) access to the grassy bank along the river, so we took the invitation and walked down.

There was indeed a beautiful picnic area and some evidence of recent visitors; a broken pail, a crushed egg shell, a frayed rope from a overhanging branch (I assume some kids used to jump into the river and not the local ranchers used to hang horse thieves).

That is when I saw this.

Looks like these two had a bit of a bender last night, stayed out too late and ended up frozen like this as the sun came up. The juniper, always full of its tiny leaves, sap running all winter long, sidels up beside the sleepy sycamore.

Come on Harry. Wake up. It’s spring!

What? No, more week.

No, now. Look the creek is rising and the sun was so warm today that I can still feel its warmth in my branches.

Yawns and stretches…I suppose… one drink tonight and then I’m going back to sleep.

Yeah, that’s what he said every year.

Several hours and many drinks later, they’re swaying with their arms around each other, singing their hearts out to the sleeping canyon. And that’s how we found them.

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