verde hot springs adventure :: pt.3

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part one
part two
At long last!!! We detour off the Great Western Trail onto the road that promises to take us to the Verde River. We pass through a small, quaint town called Strawberry, and look for the turn-off to the river. We all take turns reading through the hiker's testimonials of where they went once they got to Strawberry, but we're having difficulties finding the road they describe. We decide to not waste any more time and stop at a small general store to ask for directions. Luckily, we're informed by the friendly shopkeeper that the road we want is just a stone's throw away. We feel relieved, and feel confident that it's going to be smooth sailing from here on in. Back in the truck, just up the road a hair, we turn down the little road called "Black Bear Pass" or something like that, and are met with gravel and bumps again. Poor, poor, poor S. His stomach just can;t catch a break.

We drive for a short while more, then see 2 elderly men on the side of the road chatting. We stop to ask if we're heading in fact towards the river. One man steps forward and tells us that yes, we're on the right road, but that it gets "real, real rough" ahead. "If you want me to tell you about the road, I will," he says, and sort of anxiously gestures for us to pull over. Because it is much later than we would like now (3:30pm), and we're starting to feel a little like we're in a horror movie, we tell him it's ok... we'll go SLOW and be careful. We figure that after the road we were just on for several hours, it couldn't get any worse!

Of course, this road IS worse. It's even more narrow and perhaps even bumpier. It stretches alongside a cliff down the side of a mountain. There are no words to describe how high we are, and how far down the fall would be. The man had told us we had to drive 6-7 miles to get to the river. We hoped his estimation was more accurate than the Deliverance-esque creep we came across on the Great Western Trail.

Horrifically, however, it is farther than 6-7 miles, and the road is indeed treacherous. S announces that he's not sure that he can make it, but we were too close to turn back without seeing the hot springs. We continue down the mountain, passing a broken down camper along the way. It's battered and leans slightly to one side. It has "Mary Belle Family" sloppily handpainted on the front of it. Some other brave (?) travelers have stopped to help them. M steers carefully around them on, inches away from the cliff on this extremely narrow pass, and we continue on.

And then, AT LONG LAST.. we reach the Verde River! We see the campgrounds that the hiker's testimonials had told us about, and park our truck. It's a truly gorgeous sight to our weary eyes! I feel so happy to be here that I swear I hear a chorus of angels...
I take a snapshot of this remarkable scenery. Note... it is the last photo taken on this day. We then immediately scatter to find a place to... er... tinkle (again), hastily meeting back at the truck to throw a few things in our backpacks so that we can set off on our brisk hike to locate the springs. M & I exchange worried looks though, that suggest to the other it may well now be a little too late in the day to start said hike in the woods...
( be continued)

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