It is good to simply be – to be present, to be at peace, to be free.
This is something I try to give to my children: freedom, space for wonder, opportunity for exploration and self-determination, time to be young and wild among the wild things of the earth.
Chores, deadlines, busy schedules, impatient adults – they all can make it hard to leave no stone unturned in the quest for interesting bugs (not to mention that riparian areas tend to have much more fascinating bugs than our urban desert backyard!).
Home is good, and safe, and stable – but unless you go out adventuring you will never stumble across pools to wade in, rocks to splash, logs to climb, and leaves as big as your head.
And when you begin, you may find that every bend in the river is calling you forward, over boulders and brush, through shadow and sun, to discover the unknown ahead.
Or perhaps it is the curve in the path that beckons, as it winds through the grasses underneath an archway of leaves.
The wild around you may make you feel small, dwarfed by the solid rock beneath your feet and by the broad, tall trees rising overhead, in whose roots alone you could take shelter.
Yet it is that same grandeur and size that makes overcoming those wild obstacles such a meaningful feat, such a source of delight and satisfaction – no worksheet or artificial task can hope to compare.
You learn to ask for help when the problem is too large to handle alone; you learn to stretch and bend and serve when your friend needs help that you can give. And in the serving, you come to find joy, and in the receiving, you find joy as well.
And when you cannot find the trail that others made, you go where beauty and danger call, where the challenge and reward are equally great, and never count the loss of what might have been for the thrill of the wandering.
How to get there: As you may have guessed, we didn’t exactly follow a trail on this adventure! Instead, we used the Wet Beaver Creek day use area as our base and spent five hours exploring the surrounding area. To get there from the valley, take the I-17 N through Camp Verde, exiting onto the 179N toward Sedona at exit 298. Almost immediately, turn right onto FR618 and follow for 2.4 miles until you reach the day use area on your right. There are several one-lane bridges, but the road is paved the whole way. The day use area has no fees and a couple port-a-potties and picnic tables.
If you do want to take an established trail (and I’ve heard this one is good, although I didn’t locate it until we were leaving), you won’t need to stay on FR618 quite so long, instead turning left into the Beaver Creek Work Center and parking near Bell Trailhead. This is a 3.5 mile trail leading to a swimming hole, so it’s probably better for older kids.