Kim Quintero at Water Wheel

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- It’s no secret that monsoon 2019 has so far been a "non-soon" for Arizona.

It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Valley has been hotter than usual. In fact, Sky Harbor has hit 110 degrees or greater 27 times this summer. That’s the 6th highest number of days in a year on record for Phoenix.

This is also the driest monsoon on record for Flagstaff, with a rainfall total of just more than an inch since the start of the monsoon on June 15.

With such a lackluster season of cooling thunderstorms, we can either complain about it, or take advantage of it.


A couple of weeks ago, I made lemons out of lemonade and headed north.

Let's face it -- during the monsoon, it's hard to enjoy the high country with the threat of deadly lightning and flash flooding on a daily basis.

On this particular day, there was an Excessive Heat Warning issued for the Valley. The forecast high for Phoenix was 113. Storm chances across the state were near zero.

An hour and 30 minute drive later, I was at the beautiful Water Wheel Falls hiking trail near Payson. The mostly shaded 1.5 mile trail is located along the East Verde River and meets at Ellison Creek.

[RELATED: For summer hiking in Arizona, head up to the White Mountains]

During a normal Arizona monsoon season, this trail is in a major flash flood area. In fact, on a typical summer storm day in 2017, a family of 10 died when a disastrous flood hit.

[READ MORE: Hiking safety during the Arizona monsoons]

Knowing the risk, I only determined that it was safe to venture to this area after carefully examining the forecast. Do not, I repeat, do not go to this area when there is a potential for storms.

I had an insulated cooler backpack with about a liter of water, some snacks, a towel, sunscreen, my fishing pole and a container of worms that I picked up from a sporting goods shop on my way into Payson. I wore my waterproof hiking shoes, as the trail was slippery, and a swimsuit under my clothes.

Despite temps around 90 degrees in this area, the water felt a little too cold to swim in, so I took off my shoes and opted to fish from some rock slabs instead.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks this area with trout. Sure enough, within five minutes, I caught one. He was a good size. Within 15 minutes, another catch.

The excitement though, came to an abrupt halt.

As I picked up my towel to shake off some of the dirt that fell from the container of worms... plop!

I accidentally tossed both my work and personal cellphones into the river. They seemed to sink in slow motion, and yet, disappeared too quickly for me to save them.

Moral of the story, keep your phones away from the water. Second moral of the story, enjoy the warmth and beauty of the high country during this dry monsoon.

Directions to Water Wheel Falls:

From Phoenix, take SR 87 to Payson, then follow Houston Mesa Road northeast for about eight miles. The trailhead is well marked and has space for about three dozen cars. Overflow parking is available along the road. Plan to pay about $10 to park.

For more info, click here.


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