One of my favorite places I have been is the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park in Arizona. It is an amazing ‘natural arch’ that sits down in a valley in the near dead center of Arizona.

It is beautiful and impressive, but is the conditions of how I came to visit it that make it one of my favorite places. Finding it was also special because the discovery of its existence and subsequent enjoyment was an entirely chance encounter.

My father and I had been on a trip, and had spent a few days in northern Arizona seeing the Grand Canyon, and other amazing spots (some of which were also amazing and serendipitous in their own right. We chose to take a different route back to the Phoenix area along State Route 87 .

I believe we had spent the night in state land near the South Rim, and we had started back early and had stopped for a couple brief hikes and it was around 4:00 PM when I saw a sign for the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. We had no set schedule, and we chose to drive in and see it. Our timing was close - the park closed at 5:00 PM.

So given the limited time, and no real understanding of what the park even held we rushed to the ‘hard’ part of the trail as described by the kindly staff.

Pictures never quite do justice to a natural wonder. The time of day was perfect - it was October so the sun was bright but a bit lower by 4:30 PM and provided beautiful color and shadow. Quite intentionally, the park keeps a stream flowing steadily over the mouth of the cave. A tree, and a great mass of green moss grow over this edge into space. It gives an impression of Pandora in Avatar.