A trip to Workman Creek


Autumn at Workman Creek. Photo by Hal Korff

**

The plan for Sunday morning was to ride our dual sport motorcycles to Workman Creek, a lovely, hidden place that is spectacular in the fall. It is near Young, AZ, and Hal and I discovered it last year. We wanted to return this year and shoot some photos with the “good” cameras, and I think the color was even better this time.

After a slight delay, we decided to trailer the bikes to a road close to Workman Creek, Cherry Creek Rd. Although I almost always would rather ride, I couldn’t see the logic in riding 70 miles just to ride 20 miles of unpaved roads. I am burning through those off-road tires fast enough as it is, and the more pavement I ride with them, the more quickly they wear. Off-road tires are made of softer compounds and will not get the mileage that dual sport tires or road tires will get.

With the bikes on the trailer behind us, we were in the comfort of the Xterra, sipping coffee on our way to a proper breakfast. We stopped at Waffle House, and had to wait, as usual. Why don’t they make those places bigger? Every one of them is super-small, and no doubt that is why it isn’t as popular as some of the other restaurants. Waffle House has good food, but no one has time to wait that long. We were able to get in fairly quickly, though, and once we put our order in, it didn’t take long at all. Hal had a waffle that he had been craving for a while, and I had my usual energy breakfast of eggs and bacon, but this time instead of hash browns, I had fried tomatoes! Yay for that option – it makes it the perfect breakfast. This is our weekly breakfast ritual that we enjoy!

After breakfast, we got back in the car, then drove through Superior, Globe, and out of town toward the 288. We were going to park the Xterra in a pullout and then ride from there. We soon found our “spot,” unloaded the bikes, geared up, and then we were finally on our way to Workman Creek.

We climbed up into the Sierra Ancha mountains, spiraling up through the switchbacks, and soon we were into the forest. Hal pulled over into a day use area and asked me if I knew where we were going.

“Yes, I do!” I answered. We had agreed a while ago that I should be up front when we are in the dirt. I seem to have an ability to keep whole networks of roads in my head, and I usually know where I am going. So, I got up front and set the pace. I was getting impatient because we were wasting time, and the sun was already not as high as I wanted it to be. I was shooting in IR, and it’s all about the light with that camera. Fortunately, I thought we were very close to our destination anyway.

Once I took the lead, we got there quickly. I had guessed it was about 15 miles from the car, and it turned out to be 18. Once we entered the road that runs along Workman Creek, we slipped under the dark canopy of mature trees, and it was very beautiful. There were areas of spectacular fall color, and then there was the creek with its musical water and deep pools. There was so much to photograph, it was hard to know where to begin, and where the best places were to stop. Luckily, I had put my color camera into Hal’s capable hands, so I was able to concentrate on IR but still have color photographs from the trip as well.

I crawled down banks of the creek, slippery with leaves, clinging to logs and branches, I stepped into the water and mud at the edges, I climbed over boulders, all to get the perfect shots. I shot 147 images for the day, and later when I was able to look at them properly at home on my computer, I was pleased to find that many of them were “keepers.”

Hal also made some lovely images with the color camera, and I was pleased that now I had a new batch of amazing shots to look at. I shot last year’s with the little point and shoot camera, and there was no comparison, although at the time, I thought they were great images.

We stopped a few times on the way up toward the falls, but sadly, when we got on the road to ride up, we found the road already blocked for the season! The road goes up to Aztec Peak, and it can get deep snow. The sign said “closed from December 15 until March,” and it was neither of those months! I couldn’t figure that out; we’d been here about the same time last year and found it open. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip that time even though the waterfall was only a trickle.

Above: Red leaves. Photo by Hal Korff

It was getting late, and we headed back down. We stopped two more times, once so Hal could shoot a particularly spectacular tree with brilliant scarlet leaves. I was glad because I had seen the same tree going up, and knew the IR camera would not do it justice. Then, we stopped when we were almost back at the 288. There was a particular spot with many dark pools and also running water that I wanted to get, but when we first got onto the road, there were other people parked there. They were fishing, but I think they were just sitting there with fishing poles in their hands, soaking in the beauty. On the way back, the spot was deserted, and we were able to have it to ourselves to enjoy and shoot.

Above: The venerable saguaro cacti. Photo by Jodi Koller-Smee

The sun was already getting low in the sky when we came out, and then we rode on the 288 back to the Xterra. There is a reason the road is called the “Desert to Tall Pines” road. At the end, I shot a few photos of saguaro cacti, since we were back in the desert, including a rare crested saguaro that I will share later on my photography blog. Hal and I loaded up the bikes, then we got back in the Xterra for the 1-1/2 hour drive home. As we descended from Gonzales Pass on the 60 between Superior and Gold Canyon, we saw the valley floor laid out before us, the dust hanging in the air turning the mountains varying shades of purple as they faded into the distance. The sky above was brilliant gold and orange, the contrails toward the horizon glowing as they caught the last rays of sun.

We sat back in the comfortable seats of the Xterra, sipping coffee, and feeling the lovely glow of another great day of riding. What did we do next? We started planning next week’s ride, of course!

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