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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Hit the road for cooler paradise

    The setting of a university can, at times, be very stressful. The day-to-day activities of going to class, taking tests, meeting deadlines, reading, rushing and constantly revolving leave us all feeling like we’ve run a marathon by the end of the semester. The setting of Pinetop-Lakeside is as un-taxing as possible; you can breathe.

    Pinetop, Ariz., is about four hours from Tucson. It is a pleasant drive on Highway 77 to Highway 60; gradually watching the topography change from saguaros and creosote, to rivers and cottonwoods; then, on the final ascent, pine trees. From there, it’s a left onto Route 260 toward Pinetop and you’re home free.

    There are two great things about Pinetop: it is isolated and it’s quite cool. If there is a time to go, it is now. The summer monsoons have filled the lakes and streams; mallow, lupus and other wildflowers grow on all the trails; and the pines and oaks and aspen are all green as a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

    Susan Beesemyer has lived in Tucson for 22 years. This is her first time in northern Arizona and she was blown away by the change in scenery: “”It’s just like Montana,”” she kept saying.

    The best thing about Pinetop is the laid-back, small-town atmosphere. If you plan on staying in town, there are plenty of lodges and cabins and a few trailers for rent. Stop into Eddie’s Country Store, where you can buy delicious wine and fresh or barbecued meat. Your lodge will help you acquire permits and give you directions to the best places for activities. Your lodge will also be near trailheads and you can spend afternoons mountain biking or trailblazing through the forest. Just beware of poison ivy.

    If you want to be farther away still, stay on Route 260 running through town and continue east. You will drive through the towns of McNary and Hon Dah (where you can buy camping and fishing permits), small dwellings on the reservation, and up the mountain. It will gradually become cooler and you will need four-wheel drive and chains, but near the top of the mountain there are big plains surrounded by forest and you can pull off the road to Horseshoe Lake.

    Horseshoe Lake gazes across an expansive field at the mountain and forest rising across the lake. It is large enough to support canoeing or kayaking and is stocked with trout. Behind the lake are several trails and places to camp.

    This is the kind of place that you can gather with five or six friends around the campfire to drink beer and tell ghost stories. It is the kind of place that you won’t hear the distant sound of traffic or city noises. And because of the expansive field around the lake, there is no canopy obstructing your view of the sky, so you can actually see the stars. An arm of the Milky Way stretches across the sky. Stargazers will truly appreciate this dazzling array of constellations and assemblage of stars.

    It would behoove you to acquire a permit; it’s less costly than paying off forest rangers.

    The White Mountains will fulfill any intention you have — be it stargazing, fishing or hiking on the trails through the mountains. It’s the best of places to come relax for an anxiety-free weekend and its proximity to Tucson makes it a great escape for any weekend, not just Labor Day. So pack up your camping gear or make reservations at the local lodges and check out this hidden gem in Arizona’s unassuming crown.

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