A walk along the Willow Springs Lake trail

One of Nick’s “intriguing” mushrooms sticking out of a tree.

One of Nick’s “intriguing” mushrooms sticking out of a tree.

By Stan Bindell

The Observer

Author's note: Exercise and a healthy diet can help ward off diabetes and some other ills. The 100-mile club began on Hopi awhile back to promote healthy lifestyles. As a hiker, I do more than 200 miles per year. This year I hope to hit the 365-mile mark in order to average one mile per day. I know some hikers who average more than 100 miles per week. We each have to decide what is the right amount of exercise for us. To promote exercise, hiking, a love of nature and cool points of Arizona this weekly column will appear throughout the summer.

WILLOW SPRINGS LAKE, ARIZ. - Two good hikes can be found at Willow Springs Lake east of Payson. The first is a 3.5 mile loop around the lake. Willow Springs Lake is at the 7,510 feet altitude so it won't be too hot. This leisurely hike is a fisherman's trail and expect to find those fishing throughout the walk.

This is a dirt and rock trail. It is a very flat trail.

Pine trees go along the route and wildflowers can also be found along the trail. The trees and a few armadas also provide plenty of shade. Restrooms are also available.

The starting point can be found to the right side of the boating dock.

The second trail, an unmarked trail, begins just below the dam. The first two miles are a leisurely stroll next to a beautiful stream that has a good amount of wildflowers along the way. Trees provide shade along the way. Algae provides interesting shades of green in the water.

The grass and plants are a lush green. After the first half mile, the crowd at the lake is left behind and hikers probably won't run into anybody else at this point. Hikers may get a feel for wilderness.

After about two miles, a huge beaver-made dam appears.

"Wow, that's huge, the biggest beaver dam I ever saw," said grandson Nick Basham upon first seeing the sight.

One could climb to the top for a better view. The beaver dam created cascading water on the other side of the beaver dam and then there were more beaver dams further down.

After the beaver dam, it became necessary to rock hop to keep moving further down the stream. At this point, it's hard not to get the feet wet and with slippery feet, a few falls into the stream can be expected.

Basham and myself started late in the day so we turned around after going another mile of rock hopping. We made this into a hike of about six miles, but more adventurous spirits could go on for more miles.

Basham was also intrigued by mushrooms that were coming out of the middle of some trees. Mushrooms usually spring from the ground.

Two very different hikes, boating and fishing make Willow Springs Lake alluring enough to beat the heat.

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