Does hiking increase your chances for a long and healthy life? Well, if the exercise you get while hoofing five to 10 miles of trail isnt good for your heart, socializing with these fun-loving seniors while doing it will certainly help. I discover this as we hike the seven-mile East Fork Trail, from Winn Campground to the small mountain community of Greer.
Perfect weather surrounds us as we begin our hike along a retired forest road toward the trail. Open meadows display tall grasses and wildflowers, framing distant panoramic views. It is definitely safety in numbers as 35 of us hike single file, discussing weather, vacations and past and future adventures.
As we reach the gate, conversations come to a halt and we pause to watch two deer grazing. An elks bugle lets us know the rutting season has begun and elk viewing will be at its best soon.
A sprinkle of rain cools us as we cross the point and begin our descent toward the Little Colorado River. Spaces among this dense forest allow glimpses of distant knolls and valleys. The views are incredible. As we reach the bottom, the fast flowing waters of the river challenge our crossing, but we know lunch will be waiting for us at the Rendezvous Cafe in Greer and we cross quickly.
After drivers are shuttled back to their cars at Winn Campground, we meet at the cafe and have more time for socializing. The Up The Hill Gang is a great group to hike with. If you live here year round or just come up for the summer and like to hike, give Pat Caulkins a call at (928) 367-1593.
To find Winn Campground, from Pinetop follow Route 260 toward Sunrise Park Resort. turn at Route 273 and follow this road past Sheeps Crossing, cross the single lane bridge and the campground is about a mile on your left. Turn up the drive and veer off to the right before you enter the campground. Park at the beginning of this forest road and hike until it meets the trail and continue north. For more information, call the Springerville Ranger District at (928) 333-4372.