The flooded river

The flooded river due to monsoons.

Eeesh. What is up with this humidity? We left Houston because we like a drier climate. Ugh! Guess that’s what we get with the monsoons. At least we are getting some rain this year. Boy, we could tell driving out to Payson this past weekend. The desert is definitely happy.

I’m getting ahead of myself again. I just get so excited. We decided to head north in hopes of cooler temperatures and chose the Water Wheel Trail in Payson. From North Phoenix, allow about two hours of driving time.

Get on I-10 east until you reach the 87 north and follow that to Payson. You’ll turn right onto Houston Mesa and look for signs. There’s a decent-sized parking lot, but you do have to pay a $10 daily use fee or display your National Park pass, which we did. Dogs are welcome on leash, and it has a human restroom. 

Like I said, the hills were green, and the wildflowers were smiling like it was spring. We saw remains of the wildfires, but the rain is thankfully helping the Earth to recover. Mom found this hike and read that it was easy, but we quickly disagreed. With all the heavy rains and flooding, there was no trail. Normally, you would follow the creek shore, but it was totally overflowing. Trees were knocked down, and we had to hike through a ton of debris.

The trail wasn’t as busy as we read it could be, and it wasn’t full of garbage like we were told. It was, however, a moderate to difficult climb up a bunch of boulders. Have I mentioned that I just love bouldering? Mom has a hard time keeping up with me as I bound up those rocks. In her defense, she only has two legs, and her ankle was bothering her again. 

If your dog is small or has short legs, there will be places you will have to lift the dog up. Again, is this the normal trail or results of the monsoons? We don’t know, but it is definitely a pretty area. We love being in the forest.

If you look up the Water Wheel Trail online, you will see pictures of crystal-clear streams, swimming holes, ponds and waterfalls. Well, today everything was chocolate brown. Now, I really felt like I was in Houston again. I always enjoy taking a dip into a stream, and dipped I got. I couldn’t see anything with the murky water and thought I’d walk in. Nope. I got dunked. I went completely under, freaking my mom out big time. She couldn’t see me, and she knows I hate getting my ears and tail wet. It’s a Shiba thing. Anyway, I came out of that water like I saw an alligator and did a major Shiba shake.

We continued to scamper our way up to the first falls, which is about 1.5 miles. It was really hard to tell. The water was flowing off of all the rocks, not just one specific waterfall, and the trail that allowed you to continue on to the Ellison Creek Cascades was flooded. 

With mom’s ankle bothering her, we opted to stay put and have a picnic. Other people braved the rapids to cross over and continue about 1/4 of a mile to see the cascading fall. Note: We discourage crossing rapids as you never know when the current will be too strong and can carry you away. We’ve already lost several people this year. Please be safe.

I think, when it is dry, the Ellison Creek Cascades is a must. But when everything is a raging river and waterfall, we didn’t need to go further. Mom, once again, packed us a nice lunch, and we watched the water and people. We met some really nice people from Washington state and Tennessee. I’ve never been to either, have you?

This entire area is prone to flash flood, thus the mess we saw. We kept our eyes to the sky and noticed dark clouds moving in. That was our sign to hike our way out as the boulders would be very slick in the rain. We hope everyone else got out before the storm. 

Mom was surprised when I took another dip into the creek. This time, though, I made sure I could touch bottom. I swam all the way across and back, redeeming myself, thank you very much. 

Once you get past the rocks and in the trees again (just before the parking lot), you will see the old Water Wheel that gives the trail its name on the right. 

Lorraine Bossé-Smith is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, executive recruiter, business consultant, coach, fitness expert and author of nine published books. More importantly, she’s the best doggy mom ever.

Read about Kuma at or @kumathedog on Facebook.