A couple weeks ago, David and I ran away.
The folks at The Strawberry Inn invited us to come spend the night in one of their newly renovated rooms. Obviously we said yes! We recruited Grandma to spend the night with the kids, packed a bag, and headed north to Rim Country.
Of course, it’s never quite that simple when you’re parents. Figuring out a day to go that wouldn’t interfere too much with work was challenge enough. Then half an hour before we were supposed to leave, Margot allegedly stuck a pony bead in her ear, and I had to drag all three kiddos to the emergency room. That was fun. Eventually we found the bead under the couch—not in her ear as claimed, thank goodness—but we left later and grumpier than planned.
But we did it! We made it to Pine just before the last restaurant closed. And after gorging ourselves on delicious wood-fired pizza and a skillet cookie with ice cream, we made our way to The Strawberry Inn to crash. It was kinda frigid on the patio of the pizza place, so I was thrilled to snuggle in some of the fluffiest bedding I’ve ever slept in.
Living on the surface of the sun has apparently turned me into a thin-blooded pansy.
That morning we slept later than we have in ages and it was glorious. David fielded a few work calls, I showered, then we headed down to Pine. Everyone had suggested breakfast at the Randall House, so that was a given, followed by a peek into the little Farmer’s Market across the street. Things were pretty quiet since it was the off season and there weren’t any big festivals going on. The hot chocolate was excellent, though, and we found some yummy local honey to bring home.
Before leaving Strawberry/Pine, we got a little tour of the rest of The Strawberry Inn from Amber, its owner. It really is such a cute place! I hope she didn’t mind me doodling on the chalkboard in our room or taking about a million photos of the darling details.
Then we pulled on our hiking boots and headed off to Tonto Natural Bridge. Despite having driven past the turnoff countless times on my way to or from Winslow, I’d never been there. David hadn’t been since he was a kid, so it felt like a brand new adventure for him too.
Confession: I do not love hiking. AT ALL. But I do love David. And David loves hiking. Sometimes we compromise for the people we love, right? Since all the sources I found said this was a pretty easy hike, I figured it would be worth the risk.
It totally was.
I mean, I dropped my sunglasses in the water twice, soaked one foot completely, got “rained” on by the waterfall, and may have lost an 8GB memory card somewhere along the way. And I won’t pretend I didn’t struggle on the way out of the canyon. It was totally doable, though, and worth the effort. The path is well-maintained, there are benches to stop and catch your breath along the way, and David carried our water and camera so all I had to do was haul my out-of-shape booty up the hill.
Although if I hadn’t made it out, there are worse places I could spend the rest of my life.
We stopped in Payson for a post-hike lunch then cruised on home to see our babies…who, as it turns out, hadn’t missed us at all.
Maybe we need to run away more often.
Visiting Rim Country soon? Here are a few tips:
- The Strawberry Inn is small (only eight rooms!) and absolutely charming. Perfect for a romantic getaway (though not so much for a big family stay) or a quick escape from the Valley heat.
- Stores and restaurants close early. Payson is pretty close by if you need something last minute.
- The Randall House has excellent hot chocolate but only takes cash. Come prepared.
- The entry fee for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is $7 for adults, $4 for youth (7-13), and free for kids under 7. It’s open from 9 AM to 5 PM, with the last entry at 4 PM.
- If you plan to hike down into Tonto Natural Bridge, definitely bring water and sunscreen. Wear shoes that can handle slippery rocks and expect to get a little wet, if only from waterfall mist.
Full disclosure: our stay at The Strawberry Inn was comped, but we took care of all other expenses, and opinions are (as always) mine and mine alone.
And, BONUS! The Strawberry Inn has also generously offered a discount for those of you who want to stay there between now + the end of the year! I’m thinking another visit in August might be necessary. You know. For my health. Use promo code #reallife10 when making reservations to get 10% off your stay.
If you could take a quick 24-hour getaway, where would you go? The beach has been calling my name, but the mountains sure were nice…