October 19th, 2019
East Verde River mm 308.9 to Pine Trailhead mm 327.5
Distance in miles: 18.6
It’s another town day. But first we must hike some miles along the bottom edge of the rim. We leave the Verde River headwaters as soon as we start but cross many more small streams along the way. People are camping near several of the streams, including what looks like a boy scout troop. I can see why this is now such a popular trail. Water makes all the difference.
As we wind in and out of the watersheds, the vegetation changes drastically. Mostly we are hiking through a dry scrub mix of juniper and mazanilla. It’s finally starting to look more like the desert. I also see some white-tailed deer, as opposed to all the mule deer we saw to the north. They look so dainty and swift. This area marks a major shift in the flora and fauna of Arizona. But there are still elk. I hear them bugling and then I come up on a herd dispersed on both sides off the trail. They all run to the left and a couple cross right in front of me.
There are a fair bit of ups and downs as we make our way along the fluted edges of the rim. But we get to the trailhead just in time for lunch. It’s only a short walk to the pub, conveniently located on the edge of town. We get burgers and peach cobbler, my favorite dessert. A man stops to chat with us and reveals that he’s an avid hiker and trail angel for the AZT. Matt gives us some good advice and then takes off. When the waitress brings us the bill, she tells us that he has secretly paid for our burgers! Thank you, Matt.
We are undecided what to do next. We would like to take showers, maybe wash some clothes. We call trail angels in town, Ray and Julie, who pick us up and take us to their place. They used to rent a yurt but there’s some problem with a permit so they offer for us to stay in their garage. The idea didn’t appeal to me at first but when we see the garage, we change our minds. Ray converted it into a wine tasting room and now it’s filled with the wood furniture that he makes. There’s a bathroom and shower inside, everything really nice. There are also beds to put on the floor.
In addition to the garage, there is a hot tub, treehouse, dog, and chickens. Any one of those things would have been enough to make me want to stay. Taken together, I may never leave. Ray and Julie are also having some of their friends over for the night. They are going to have a campfire with samples of Ray’s wines. He has a winery in his basement.
We get cleaned up and head back into town for resupplies and pizza from the deli. Ray lets us borrow one of his trucks. As we’re driving back, we encounter a herd of town elk…they live in Pine full time and are not shy. A few occasionally get picked off in a backyard but overall, they’re flourishing from an abundance of town food in the way of gardens and exotic shrubbery. Town elk are the cousins of town deer, which I don’t have a very high opinion of.
We come back to have beer and pizza in the treehouse and then join the party. It’s an eclectic group and we end up chatting with a lady that has hiked much of the trail and is also running for the Arizona State Senate. Felicia is a trail angel in Pine, as well. After meeting her, I wish that we could stay another night in Pine with her. But I have already told my friend Jon near Phoenix to expect us in 2.5 days.
Ray has a few wines out for tasting, including an Ocotillo wine and Honeydew melon/Yuzu wine, both of which I really like. He’s into making non-traditional wines and without the use of sulfates. He sells them on his website tridentwinery.com
The party winds down and then it’s hot tub time. Ray joins us and tells us about his wine business. He was a Navy Seal and has some other good stories. Then bedtime.