Arizona road trip: Tonto Natural Bridge, Strawberry, Jerome

I had a chance Sunday to get out of town for several hours and enjoy some parts of Arizona I hadn’t ever seen before. The weather was warm and the sky was clear. It was a perfect day for an Arizona road trip.

The morning started out great. My travel companion arrived at my place around 9 am with breakfast burritos from Filiberto’s, which I’d never had before. They are basically scrambled eggs, breakfast meat, potatoes and cheese, wrapped in flour tortillas. They were a perfect way to fill the stomach before setting out on the road.

We left my place around 9:45 am and headed northeast on the Beeline Highway via Payson to the Tonto Natural Bridge. It’s a place where water has carved a hole through rock, leaving a formation that resembles a bridge with a waterfall cascading over it. It was quite beautiful. We thought that it was something we were just going to see and leave, but it was really a formation that we could climb on and through, so we ended up spending a hour or longer hiking the trails that led to and around it.

After that, we were getting hungry, so we went to the nearby village of Strawberry for lunch. We had a decent lunch at the Strawberry Lodge. Our sandwiches were good, but the fries were out of a bag and the “homemade” status of the pie was dubious. However, the place did have a lot of character, and that’s worth something.

Since it was still early in the day, we decided to continue on to Jerome, a hillside mining town that is now popular with tourists, at least in part due to its spectacular view of the plateau below. We went in some of the shops there, and although I am not a shopper, I was moved to buy something in an antique store for the first time in my life. I bought two shot glasses with antique Bushmills logos on them. If you’ve just started reading recently, Bushmills is my favorite whiskey; the rest of you already know about my pilgrimage to the distillery in Northern Ireland.

By the time we were done shopping, it was getting pretty late, so we decided to head back to Phoenix. I decided to go via Prescott, which was probably a half-hour-long mistake. The return trip was relatively uneventful, and the traffic was relatively light. I put my antique shop purchase to work as soon as I got through the door.

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