Quiet as a mouse, I close the door to the Flagstaff apartment. It is twenty degrees outside as I sit in the truck waiting for the windows to defrost. The snow atop Mount Humphrey is glistening in the moonlight.
An hour later, just outside of Camp Verde, I find the dirt road that leads to the Fossil Creek area. It is the last day one is allowed to enter for free, as April throughout October one must pay an entrance fee. Rumbling along for fourteen miles in the dust, I search for the trailhead.
Navigation is tricky out here in the remote wilderness, and more than once I stop and survey the area before realizing I am in the wrong place.
I come to a bridge with slow moving emerald pools beneath. I see a girl with a large pink flamingo floatation device. I must be getting close.
I snag one of the few remaining spots left to park, then chat with a forest ranger about the start of the Flume trail. He suggests walking up the road about a mile, cross the creek, and start hiking.
The river is moving swiftly, and for a spell I am dumbfounded as to where a safe place to cross would be. Perhaps the turquoise color of Fossil Creek has me under her spell. I take a chance and enter, finding a smooth river bed that is no more than a few inches deep. Quickly I am on the other side, my shoes soaked but no worse for wear. The Flume trailhead sign is before me.
I soon find myself up in the hills, the soothing sounds of Fossil Creek far below me. I wonder if this trail is what I was searching for, until the water comes back into view.
It is not a mirage, but a true oasis that I have found out here. Heading down the mountain, the sounds of Fossil Creek become, louder, clearer…..
Fighting my way through the thick underbrush, I find a spot next to the creek to have a bite to eat. Three girls appear beneath me, ready to go skinny dipping until they see me. I smile in a not-threatening manner, then wave goodbye and leave them to their own endeavors.