"" Writer's Wanderings: Canyon Lake - Tonto National Forest

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Canyon Lake - Tonto National Forest

How can you see the name Tonto and not think of the Lone Ranger? If you're from my generation, or watched the reruns, you can't. I kept imaging the two of them riding their horses across the dry desert area we drove through as we made our early morning excursion to the Canyon Lake area.

The Tonto National Forest is over two million acres making it the largest of the six national forests in Arizona. The forest includes desert, mountains, lakes (mostly created artificially) and canyons. The part we were in had mostly large cactus (giant saguaro) and scrubby trees called, palo verde. But other parts of the park are supposed to have juniper, mixed fir, and ponderosa pine.

The Giant Saguaro are huge. Most are 10 to 20 feet in height. They can reach 30-50 feet when mature but they grow very slowly--about 15 years to reach one foot and 40 years to reach 10 feet in height when they can begin to bloom. They will continue to grow for a hundred years and can live to be 200 years old.

The roads were full of twists and turns and beautiful vistas that were tinted by the early morning sun. The huge rocks and walls of solid stone were an earthy rainbow of color.

When we arrived at Canyon Lake, we got out and walked around a bit in a deserted area that is probably teeming with people on the weekends. Lots of parking spaces but only a couple of cars that morning. The lake sits in a canyon and was created by a man-made dam upstream. It was so quiet that we could hear the conversation of some fishermen in a boat clear on the other side of the lake.

Traveling a bit farther along the road, we came upon Totilla Flats, a remnant of an old town along the Apache Trail--population: 6. It's Arizona's smallest official "community" with its own post office. A saloon/restaurant (whose BBQ was smelling really good early in the morning), gift shop/post office, little store, and a small area set up for park rangers made up the small strip mall like town. A fun stop along a gorgeous scenic route.

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